Blended (2014)

BlendedReleased: May 23, 2014. Directed by: Frank Coraci. Starring: Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Wendi McLendon-Covey. Runtime: 117 min.

Adam Sandler and co bring us a rom-com that’s heavy on the romance, light on the comedy. Six or seven good laughs throughout the feature is no impressive feat, but is okay for Sandler’s current streak, considering six laughs is around my personal combined tally for how many times I laughed during That’s My Boy, Jack and JillGrown Ups 2 and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan. You could say the film is funny on occasion. Sandler portrays Jim, a family guy with no wife and three daughters. He goes on an awful blind date with Lauren (Drew Barrymore), as his first attempt at dating since his wife passed. When Lauren’s best friend Jen (Wendi McLendon-Covey) breaks off her relationship with Jim’s boss, Lauren pounces at the opportunity to take her kids to Africa. Jim does too, and the trip is conveniently a getaway just for blended families! 

Blended is pretty much Just Go With It with a twist: the characters hate each other at first, but everyone’s still just bonding on vacation in an exotic place. Writers Ivan Menchell bring so many components of Sandler’s previous films to get Blended, which is a film that just steals from stronger movies. At least Sandler knows what works to still get work. Some of the laughs that hit are amusing song choices, at least when they’re not completely obvious. Before I get onto what jokes do work, I’ll say what doesn’t make this a family-friendly movie. There are so many sex jokes and some of this is just plain gross. Some of it’s even worse than a deer pissing on Sandler’s face in Grown Ups 2. Take this for example: A giraffe’s very long tongue goes down a character’s throat, practically, when a character is going in for the kiss. This abysmal attempt at comedy is cringe-worthy.  

What work best are some cameos and bit roles. Shaquille O’Neal shows up in a not that funny cameo, because his acting is as strong as his free throwing ability. Terry Crews constantly shows up to sing a song about blended families and whatever else is on the caricature’s mind. He is funny at first, but the film gets a bit desperate to use him so many times during the film. It’s somehow amusing on a minor level throughout, even after his signature titty dance. It’s partly due to his energy, and partly due to the fact that the film gets boring and energy is welcome. I’ll keep the most amusing cameo under wraps. 

It seems to me that Sandler is trying to get laughs by channeling aspects of his comedies that have worked in the past. I counted seven occasions where characters channel aspects from his other films. I guess if it works, many people won’t notice – but those who do, it’s going to seem a bit lazy. Sandler brings slapstick humour and adult-oriented jokes that get the bigger laughs, while parents will think “As if this looked family-friendly.” Kevin Nealon portrays one half of a strange Canadian couple. He channels his character from Happy Gilmore at times. His wife is a bimbo named Ginger; a character who doesn’t get one laugh. She shimmies a lot, which makes Lauren’s eldest son Brandon horny. 

He’s a walking joke; as he resembles Frodo, he’s a masturbating fiend, and he calls his mom hot on two occasions – which might be a subconscious reason for his hostility against Jim. I detect an Oedipus complex. Lauren’s other son Tyler is a temperamental kid who might only have few lonely brain cells left, due to the amount of times his mother hits his head on walls in one week’s span. Barrymore can’t save this because she gets only about two laughs. Her chemistry with Sandler is only able to give audiences so much enjoyment because it’s gotten old. It also doesn’t help that they don’t like each other for the first half. Wendi McLendon-Covey is cast in a lame sidekick role where she can’t exhibit much talent, and Joel McHale portrays Lauren’s ex. He’s been largely unfunny in every film I’ve seen him in thus far. I think he’s funny on TV’s Community, but now that it’s been cancelled – he needs to be picking stronger roles to star in, now more than ever. His schtick seems to be asshole characters, but he’s just not funny as them. 

Bella Thorne’s character Hilary is a tomboy who only sportswear and is nicknamed Larry by her father. Can you tell he wanted a boy? She experiences an ugly duckling arc, which isn’t believable because even with that hideous curly bowl cut wig, she’s still mildly pretty. Put some extensions on her and slap on some make-up, and wow, she now has confidence because no one will mistake her for a boy or an ugly lesbian! The song choices for her transformation are obvious and just not that funny. Sandler’s middle daughter Espn (idiotically named after his favourite network ESPN) has a strange arc: She carries on conversations with her dead mom. Emma Fuhrmann’s performance helps it ring true occasionally, and it adds sincerity to the film, but it’s weird throughout. I guess there’s a big problem when the weird girl’s arc is the strongest. 

Elsewhere, there is sporadic sweetness in the film – but the film’s attempt to tackle realities of today’s day and age are forgettable, and the writers stretch it when they attempt to show that even in nature, families are blended. (A tiger and lion proceed to eat a baby hippo.) For Blended, predictable is fiercely boring and all the extraneous crap makes this run at nearly two hours. Films like these just shouldn’t be that long, unless it’s entertaining.

Score: 45/100

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Box Office Predictions: 7/12-7/14; Monsters & Robots vs. (Apparently) Funny people vs. the Minions

I say ‘apparently funny people’ in the title because I’m not sure how funny the guys of ‘Grown Ups 2’ will be this time around…

There are two new releases coming out this weekend, and those are “Pacific Rim” and “Grown Ups 2”, the sequel to Adam Sandler’s 2010 box office hit.

Pacific Rim“Pacific Rim” looks freaking awesome (I mean, it’s monsters vs. robots – what’s not to like?), and even though the tracking has been low, I’m staying optimistic. Though, if “Grown Ups 2” wins this weekend, I’ll weep. Movies similar to “Pacific Rim” open to $44.63 million. While this film doesn’t have much leading star power, it has an intriguing and original premise, something for fanboys to feast on, a well-respected director found in Guillermo Del Toro, and supporting star power found in Idris Elba and Charlie Day. Like I said, I’m staying optimistic for this movie’s earnings and even though it’ll be a bonafide hit overseas (mostly in Asia), it’s a little harder to predict it for here, especially since the tracking is so all over the place – so I’m going to predict $45 million. (I have this lower than “Despicable Me 2”, but I wouldn’t be mad if this won the weekend. At all. But I will be mad if “Grown Ups 2” beats this.)

GROWN UPS 2The main competition of “Pacific Rim” is “Grown Ups 2”. And as much as the first “Grown Ups” is a guilty pleasure of mine, there’s only one genuine joke in the trailer. The trailer’s also very lazy to me. I think this will make a good amount of money, but I don’t want it to be… But, audiences do like their audiences simple. Though, the first “Grown Ups” that earned $40.5M in its opening weekend came before his awful films such as “Jack and Jill” and “That’s My Boy”. Sandler has an opening average of $24.95 million. This one looks a lot less funny or fresh than the first, and a lot more noxious (the first was PG and this is PG-13). It looks like the main joke is celebrity cameos from Shaquille O’Neal and Taylor Lautner. I guess that’s the first trick in Sandler’s book: Make Taylor Lautner an obvious presence in the trailer, and attract many female pre-teens. Movies similar to “Grown Ups 2” open to $25.57 million. I’m going to predict this one at $38.5 million.

Here’s how I see the Top 10: 

Title/Prediction

1. “Despicable Me 2”: $46, 350, 000 (Review)

2. “Pacific Rim”: $45, 000, 000 (My review will be up tomorrow or Saturday; I’ll try to post it tomorrow, but I’m way too tired to write it now.)

3. “Grown Ups 2”: $38, 500, 000

4. “The Heat”: $15, 750, 000 (Review)

5. “The Lone Ranger”: $13, 980, 000 (Review)

6. “World War Z”: $10, 900, 000 (Review)

7. “Monsters University”: $10, 600, 000 (Review)

8. “Man of Steel”: $7, 025, 000 (Review)

9. “White House Down”: $6, 900, 000

10. “Kevin Hart: Let Me Explain”: $6, 250, 000

What movies are you seeing this weekend? 

My Top 25 Films of 2012

2012 saw some great films, and some real stinkers. I have seen 68 of them. These are my top 25 favourite films of 2012, and also the ten worst.

Oh and, some of these films don’t have the highest scores, but they’re higher up on the list. This is because some films (like The Hobbit) have grown on me a lot since I’ve seen them. Click on the title in the caption to get to review (and the titles in the ‘worst of’ list). Anyway, here’s the list, starting with #25:

Pitch Perfect is a fairly original (at least in cinema) and entertaining Glee-inspired musical comedy that may be predictable, but it’s a toe-tapping experience that has a fine plot, great music, some strange characters (most notably Lilly, a character who looks like that creepy big-eyed girl from Frankenweenie), show-stealing performers (like Bridesmaids‘ Rebel Wilson who portrays Fat Amy) and a memorable ensemble cast.

#24 - This is 40

#24 – This is 40

This is 40 is not quite as good as Knocked Up, but it’s a satisfying sort-of sequel. This is sometimes over-dramatic because of the numerous conflicts, but it is driven by fresh, laugh-out-loud comedy that helps Apatow get the message, of overcoming family differences and a mid-life crisis, across very well. Laughs, conflict, and advertisements for iPhones, Apple products, TV’s Lost, and a good role for Megan Fox are all present.

#23 - Ted

#23 – Ted

Ted‘s screenplay may be crowded but we must understand that MacFarlane’s comfort zone is a mere 22-minute slot, while this is a whole 112-minute feature. The end product turns out to be better than anyone would think a buddy comedy between a talking teddy bear and an immature man could be, and Wahlberg and Ted’s chemistry help make this one of the best buddy comedies of the year. I’m excited to see what else first-time director MacFarlane has in store for the silver screen, and I say bring on the sequel.

The film starts out fairly slow, but once the games come around the bend, it instantly becomes intensely engaging and entertaining. The screenplay maintains the fascinating theme of propaganda [and how corrupt the government may become], but doesn’t capture the extreme violence that we fans handled in the novel itself, and there isn’t quite enough bonding time with select characters. The adaptation is nonetheless great, and since it was not followed to a tee, there is room for surprise. Anyone who is willing to accept this fresh experience will enjoy it, as it is a promising beginning to a new teen franchise.

Rise of the Guardians is a slightly flawed, but wildly inventive, animated adventure that may have some deeply thematic material and action sequences that could be midly scary for small children. The main flaw is the disorganized beginning – but it finds its pace soon enough. The concept is a sort of edgy animated feature, but is a great end product. This is one of the most original animated features of the year, mainly because of the alterations to the beloved Guardians, like making Santa Claus look like a Russian biker, are very fresh. This is a great message to teach the kids this holiday season – don’t only believe in Santa around his season, also believe in all the other heroes, at least when their time comes around the bend.

#20 - The Grey

#20 – The Grey

The dialogue of this film allows characters to be thoroughly developed and compelling concepts to arise. When the characters aren’t talking, it gets engaging and thoroughly thrilling. The anti-climactic ending says Carnahan has learned to resist throwing full-throttle action at us, and he instead resists the urge and keeps the astounding and exciting survival film as tame as could be. The mostly unknown actors make the spotlight shine directly on the star: Liam Neeson.

#19 - Lincoln

#19 – Lincoln

Spielberg seems like, at this point in his career, is interested in making ambitious biopics instead of blockbusters like Jaws. The intelligent monologue-filled feature intricately throws information at you, and at times it can be quite a bit to absorb, but it is usually engaging. The cast of Lincoln is impressive, most notably Daniel Day-Lewis, who delivers a kind-hearted, endlessly charming performance that adds layers to one of the greatest figures in American history. Day-Lewis captures Lincoln’s will to get things done, and his genuine and kind self.

Killing Them Softly is a clever mafia tale of violence and despair with a great leading performance from Brad Pitt; with his mysterious character delivering us plenty of violence to keep us happy. This tale is also a social commentary on the local criminal economy in 2008, before Obama stepped into office – the concepts are complex, but there are not difficult to comprehend. The not-so-subtle message may be annoying to some, but the story is very engaging. It is a thought-provoking film brought to life by Andrew Dominik’s stylish and artistic direction.

#17 - End of Watch

#17 – End of Watch

The abrupt ending keeps this from being flawless, but this is a stellar crime story with intelligent writing by writer/director David Ayer (who previously wrote Training Day) with some of the best chemistry I have seen all year. End of Watch does for the real lives of cops what Ladder 49 did for fire fighters, but it’s about twenty-six times better.

#16 - Chronicle

#16 – Chronicle

Chronicle is one of the most surprisingly amazing features of 2012. The rushed pace is its main flaw, but it is an awesome experience for the 84 minutes it stays around. It obtains must-see status because of its thoroughly thematic and disturbing content. It is the most must-see found-footage feature of 2012, perhaps of all-time.

Seven Psychopaths has a clever screenplay and is a fantastic second feature from writer/directer Martin McDonagh. It is equal parts brutal, brilliant and hysterical. It is extremely memorable and has great characters and a superb ensemble cast. It is one of the most original screenplays of the year, and it’s another comedy that proves 2012 is one of the best for that genre.

The story may have ideas crammed in the feature, it undeniably has a very emotional core. If the actors weren’t singing the vast majority of their dialogue, the film wouldn’t be quite as exciting or engaging. This combines a great period piece with a profound musical, and it makes this one of the best features of the year.

Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum create a superb chemistry, and this is one of the finest comedy ensembles of the year. The comedy is always funny, and this is the best action-comedy of the year. The real bite about this is that no one expected it to be very good, and yet, it is a hilarious and exciting ride.

Writer/director Christopher Nolan delivers us an impressive and atmospheric piece of cinema that has incredible thrills, great plot execution and great direction, character development that has room for improvement and a slow build-up that leads to an incredible climax. It is also a thoroughly impressive end to a great trilogy, it’s a slight step-down from the high standards set by The Dark Knight, but it is better than Batman Begins.

#11 - Skyfall

#11 – Skyfall

Skyfall is a compelling experience with great pacing, a great story and great humour. Javier Bardem is simply astounding. His presence is really worth the wait. He is one of the greatest criminal masterminds of recent memory, comparable to both Heath Ledger’s The Joker and Anthony Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter. He is the second best villain of the year, right behind Leonardo DiCaprio’s Calvin Candie in Django Unchained.

#10 - Looper

#10 – Looper

Looper offers an entertaining and memorable action experience with a great story and characters, making it a film that should be cherished. Looper is slightly flawed because of a sometimes crowded screenplay and numerous antagonists, but it has a complex story that’s surprisingly easy to follow, with great characters like Jeff Daniels’ nice-guy-ruthless-when-he-wants-to-be crime boss.

The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is a thoroughly satisfying start to a new Middle Earth trilogy. Its usually silly undertone may frustrate some, but to most, like myself, it makes for a great experience. The many expendable dwarfs may get a lot of the attention, but it is very much Bilbo Baggins’ show. That is until the show-stealing Gollum shows up for one of the best scenes of the feature. I cannot wait to see what the trilogy looks like when all of the films are released.

#8 - Life of Pi

#8 – Life of Pi

Life of Pi is interesting because it is not afraid to bring in concepts of faith and religion. It is also visually beautiful, sometimes funny, thought-provoking, magnificent, terrifying and saddening. There is also a  great story, great direction, wonderful cinematography, great conflicts and relationships present. The actors bring it all to the table, and a short list of performers carries the film very well. This is one of the best films of the year that will be a large Oscar contender. If you’re going to see this, see it in its full 3D glory.

#7 - Flight

#7 – Flight

The drama is solid and the overall film if profoundly enjoyable, compelling, emotional, sometimes funny and often gripping. The suspenseful scene at the beginning is the only action scene in the feature, and it soon turns into a character study, with fascinating concepts of addiction. Those who find the concept of addiction fascinating will enjoy this even more.

Many may think it is simply just another teen slasher, but what gets thrown at you is surprising, extremely fresh and endlessly entertaining. This is one of the most original horror films of all time, with signature bites of comedy from Joss Whedon.

Wreck-It Ralph is the finest animated feature of 2012 and is generally one hell of a nostalgic and enjoyable film. This is like the Toy Story for a new generation. Disney has delivered us a great film yet again, and mashed two generally loved things together: their acclaimed animation, and video games. I had high expectations for this film, and this really rocked my world.

#4 - Argo

#4 – Argo

One of the most captivating things about the nerve-racking Argo is the boiling suspense of the situation, and the viewer can just feel it build throughout. Argo plays out like an assassin giving you his first choke-hold, he’s inexperienced and you may feel the grip loosening from time to time, but then it strengthens again and doesn’t let go until the very end.

Silver Linings Playbook is hilarious, beautiful, meaningful, sad, emotional, and very dramatic at times. It is a truly magnificent blend. One thing that helps the film is the impeccable writing by David O. Russell, and Matthew Quick who originally wrote the novel. The viewer may not be able to relate to the exact situation of these characters, but they could fully understand their motivations – and most may have felt similar emotions that these characters express on a daily basis.

The profound analysis of teenage angst is accurate, brilliantly touching, and heartbreakingly poignant. The performances are great, the story is awesome, and the atmosphere it offers is perfect. This is a film that I’d like to watch over and over. That’s one heck of a definition for an enjoyable experience.  It’s a fine, under-seen classic of 2012 that can define a generation as well as John Hughes could.  If it comes to your town, get off the couch, grab a few friends – but if you don’t have any, it’s okay to be a wallflower – and go see this movie!

Django Unchained is a modern masterpiece, and is Tarantino’s finest film yet (even if I’m the only one to think so). It’s a great story about survival and it has great themes of racism and slavery, that Tarantino explores expertly. The performances, the writing, the soundtrack the direction and the themes are all immaculate. Leonardo DiCaprio plays the best villain of the year.

The ten worst of 2012:

10. The Watch

9. Chernobyl Diaries

8. Silent House

7. ATM

6. Red Dawn 

5. Dark Shadows

4. Mirror Mirror

3. Project X

2. The Lucky One

And the true test of patience…

Well, there you have it. Hopefully you agree with some of my picks, like them, dislike them, or even detest them. Feel free to leave comments!

That’s My Boy (2012)

That's My BoyThat’s My Boy

Release Date: June 15, 2012

Director: Sean Anders

Stars: Adam Sandler, Andy Samberg, Leighton Meester

Runtime: 116 min

Tagline: The story of a child… and his son.

Sandler should be put in jail for theft, for the theft of my time, that is!
While in his teens, Donny (Adam Sandler) fathered a son, Todd, a.k.a. Han Solo (Andy Samberg), and raised him up until Todd’s 18th birthday. Donny’s irresponsibility is transferred to his adult life, where he is ignorant enough not to pay his taxes for a few years. He must come up with $43, 000 within a week’s notice, or else he’ll have to face jail time. He then finds this TV host who says he’d pay Donny that sum of money if he could get his son and the the former teacher that “molested” him to do a reunion show.

That’s where it all begins. Donny must find his son and try to convince him to do the show, but he then tries to desperately reconnect with his son in some way. He shows up in his son’s life inappropriately right before his wedding, right when all the in-laws and friends are down. Everyone thinks Todd’s parents died in a car accident, and they think Donny is only Todd’s best friend.

Oh yeah, it’s the old generic tale: Find the son. Try to bond, but the son’s reluctant. He feels the father never cared for him. The father shows him he cares in some way. They’re all content with being each other’s lives. Something happens. Then in the end, you’re taught that family is the most important thing. You get the picture, yada-yada. Leave it to Adam Sandler to use one of the most generic comedy formulas in the book.

You may be asking yourselves – why would I voluntarily put myself through this?

Do I like self-inducing pain onto myself? Not particularly. Was I sort of curious as to how bad, or how good this might turn out to be? Moderately. Most of all, I wanted my brain to take a vacation with a simple-minded comedy. Usually, when I want to watch a generic and predictable comedy, I like my brain to just turn off practically completely. But you know, not to a point where I’m dead. It helps me relax. But, with this one, my brain couldn’t turn off. Yes, it was simple and mindless – but it was also obnoxious and pointless. I just kept thinking; this is so bad. When is it going to end?

Think of my brain vacation like this: I like my brain to take a vacation to an exotic place like Hawaii or something. A place that can offer me plenty of laughs, some fun, sexy girls, and one that could offer me entertainment throughout. Instead, my brain sort of went to a town in Eastern Europe that no one likes. A place that is dirty, pointless, nightmarish, a place that no one would want to go to,  and a place you just want to get out of; there are a few sexy women in here, though, so regarding that – it’s Eastern Europe with sexy women.

Adam Sandler tries to return to his roots here by bringing back that child in a man’s body character. He tries to mix it with the modern crude and rude comedy of today, and it doesn’t really work. Unlike the great characters of Happy Gilmore and Billy Madison, Donny is obnoxious – but in an unfunny way. The jokes are tasteless and I might have laughed once or twice in a near-two hour feature. The plot is just ridiculous, and when a plot line of incest gets brought into the picture, I draw the imaginary line in the sand.

The characters are poor. Especially the character of Donny and Todd. They both try to be funny, but they’re both not. Also, Leighton Meester hasn’t yet started to dish out any likeable characters (with the exception of her character in Country Strong). Everyone else isn’t notable. The cast is only okay, but you won’t get Oscar performances from an Adam Sandler comedy. However, apparently there will be Oscar nominees and Oscar winners in here. How on earth did Sandler convince one-time Oscar nominee James Caan and Oscar winner Susan Sarandon to be in this?

It’s nice to see that Sandler tried to make his own project, here. He didn’t involve many of his buddies – there was only Nick Swardson, Blake Clark and Will Forte. Also, the director, Sean Anders (Sex Drivehasn’t worked with Sandler before this feature. I doubt he’ll want to work for him again, though.
That’s My Boy tried to be funny, but it’s really one of the stupidest movies I’ve ever had the misfortune of sitting through. There is a few laughs to be had, but that’s about it. The laughs that come are one from Sandler and one from the cross-eyed caveman looking Swardson. I should really put “I finished That’s My Boy” on my resumé, I’m pretty sure I’d get hired anywhere. It shows real patience, because I just kept waiting for it to get good. Guess what? It never came. This is an improvement on last year’s Jack and Jill or Bucky Larson (but that isn’t really an impressive feat, everything’s a step up from those) but it’s worse than Grown Ups (laugh-wise, this one at least had a plot line – no matter how pointless). This is just yet another film that says Sandler’s career is in a hole, and I really hopes he finds that shovel, to dig him out of it, sometime soon.

Consider yourselves warned. 

20/100