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July 29, 2015

Birthday + Pixels

Hey everyone! Yesterday, I went out and watched Pixels. My review is soon, but before that, I have an announcement. Today... is my birthday. You could say it's rather convenient that my blog's anniversary and my birthday are separated by only ten days; and yeah, that's pretty convenient, though it was really not the intention. In fact, that's just a coincidence; I was just really, really bored on July 19th, 2013, tired of looking for stuff to write about, and so I started checking what I could do as a blog. Yes, Planned All Along as created on the spur of the moment. And so far, it's probably my biggest personal project ever. I must say I'm quite proud of it. And now, how old am I? Well, I'll be 23 this afternoon. Yep, like Scott Pilgrim. But enough about me, let's talk about a trainwreck.



No, I meant Pixels.


Yeah, THAT... wasn't as horrible as I thought it would be. But it's still bad. Parts of it are good, other parts are awful.  Follow me on this one, it's gonna be complicated.

It's not terrible. It's not bad. It's not great and it's not good. It's Meh. I said, in my earlier article about this movie, that I was on the fence, I couldn't decide whether this would be good or bad. Simply putting "Adam Sandler" in anything's credits ensures people will approach it with caution. The hate may even start before anything is released. Sandler is kind of a hype killer. "Wow, this looks awes- Adam Sandler? Crap!"

So, a quick look at the plot: Sam Brenner, played by Adam Sandler, ends the very first video game competition second, losing only to a guy called Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage), whose ego in winning made him quite the insufferable jackass. (Did I mention I hate that type of people? You'll see more of those in the reviews I'm working on.) Anyway, footage of the games was taped, and sent into space in a probe along with more video footage of events and culture from the early 80's. Sadly, an alien species interpreted these as a declaration of war. Cut to present day, where Adam Sandler (why bother calling him by his character name?) installs electronics in other people's homes for a living. His friend, William Cooper (Kevin James), has become President of the United States. What are the odds? Also, the woman he's installing electronics for is a military weapons developer, Violet van Patten (Michelle Monaghan). And they both get called to the White House at the same time. What are the odds? Anyway, Cooper is almost universally hated as a president, but he still does his best against this new crisis. The aliens have attacked a base in Guam, and from Sandler's point of view, the attackers came from the 1982 version of the Galaga arcade game. Turns out the aliens are using the video game creatures as ways to attack Earth, and are giving three chances, like three lives; if the humans lose three of the battles against them, the aliens win; if the humans defeat the aliens three times, the humans win. And of course the aliens almost exclusively attack with games Sandler was good at. Gee, what are the freaking odds? Adam Sandler then gets help from another childhood friend, Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad), who's a conspiracy theorist and a freaky loner (Thanks for the stereotype, assholes!). They even end up having to ask for help from Eddie Plant... not knowing that adding him to the team will bring more troubles than actual moments of help. And of course, in the middle of that, we have political drama around Cooper's presidency. a trigger happy general who doesn't take kindly to being outclassed by NERDS (Again... thanks for the stereotype...), a trophy given to mankind after one of their victories becoming a character all to himself (it's Q*Bert! And he's pretty awesome until the ending... which has the worst joke of the bunch, really), a character with a massive love for a video game character (Take a guess what happens), and of course the good guys win. There, I spared you the need to watch the film. Good guys win. Which, admittedly, is a much better thing than the original short's ending, where HUMANITY WAS COMPLETELY AND UTTERLY ERASED BY ROGUE VIDEO GAMES, but still...

Okay, so that's the plot. First off, the good things about this movie: The special effects are amazing. The pixel monsters look great, and as much as I hate to admit it, the destruction looks great as well. Yes, that includes the people getting pixellized, though in this movie it appears to be more a form of teleportation for living creatures than it's used for outright killing. That's also how the aliens warp to and from their ship the trophies they "earn" from or give to mankind.

After that, the action scenes are pretty great. One could make the joke that Sandler's character is at his strongest when he's NOT speaking. That's sorta true. The action is great, whether it's the fight against the Centipede, the one against Pac-Man, or any other action scene that comes after that (and no, I'm not spoiling them).

Then, the soundtrack. I don't know for the others, but when We Will Rock You started playing (twice in the film, the second time with an orchestral arrangement for the final fight scene), it hyped me. That just added to the awesome.

Finally, the video game cameos, references, etc. It was probably very difficult to put all of this into a 3D medium (movies), since all the games at that time were basically in 2D, so they managed it rather well. If you played any of those arcade games, you will recognize many of the characters.

It's all great until you see the bad stuff in this movie. First off, the characters. Let's do a roll call.
-Adam Sandler as the role he most commonly plays, a manchild who is generally nice but who can be a major dick when provoked, a guy who makes mistakes but damn if he's trying. Oh, and a geek on top of that with a big slice of 70's/80's nostalgia.
-Kevin James as the reasonable guy who coordinates what everyone else does, who is more often than not exasperated by the stupidity surrounding him, effectively sharing the emotions some viewers have towards the other characters in this film.
-Josh Gad as a loner with little to no social skills, a freak, a conspiracy theorist, a guy who slips gay innuendos when trying to insult soldiers, and on top of that he's such a huge nerd he's in love with a video game character. Which, by the way, I couldn't tell what this film's stance was on fans having "waifus" or crushes on fictional characters; is this movie supportive of this geek thing? Is it against it? It appears to make fun of it, but I can't tell if the jokes were meant to be polite or mean to this category of geeks.
-Michelle Monaghan as an ice queen who warms up to our protagonist, because fuck it, thisis a movie, therefore it needs a romance. A rather awesome character, though one could make the argument she's not that great, what with crying about her husband leaving her and stuff... whatever. She's also the brains of the group. She also has a son who she brings to the military base with her, never mind the danger this puts him in.
-Peter Dinklage as an asshole who reluctantly helps. That's basically it. Hey, at least they have the decency of not making much jokes about his height. Also, of the crew, he's the one who treats women like trophies the most. I'll get back to that.
-Some old, annoying army general or colonel or whatever who decided anything standing in the way should just get blown to bits. You know, the old fart who respects nothing and respects even less the people who do better than him.
-Q*Bert, who is sent down to Earth as a trophy after the team wins a fight against the aliens. He's quite possibly the best character in the film, being given a complete voice, and clearly enjoying his time down here, eventually siding with the humans against his kind. The final jokes about him in the film will make you want to slam your head in the nearest wall, or with the palm of your hand. I know I cried "COME ON!" when it happened. I actually booed the movie at that moment.

Either way, what I'm trying to say is that the characters are, for the most part, stereotypes, and not the fun kind.

One coud also say that the willing suspension of disbelief has a hard time with this one. This can play for the movie (as is the case with many so-bad-it's-good movies who say, "Screw logic, we're having fun") or against it (which leads to viewers being unsure what's happening, or questioning the logic). But compared to the rest, that's minor.

Now, the so-so points. Two things bugged me in this film, but they're both great and terrible at once, so I keep a section for them.

First off, the plot. Again, willing suspension of disbelief works in overtime to allow this to work (I mean, WHAT ARE THE ODDS?). My mind tends to fill in some blanks, it just does that with anything I watch; as you may have noticed, I like to theorize quite a lot in my reviews. This plot is so convoluted and complicated you might not catch everything on first viewing. Oh, sure, it gets clearer after a while, but the plot juggles so many elements (as I basically show at the end of my re-telling of the synopsis) that you'll miss quite a bit. It's not exactly a great story, but it's not exactly a terrible one either; its concept is pretty great, and the idea is executed rather well, but then we see the characters... and a story can't do anything without characters... so ultimately this story gets sunk down by the more-or-less likeable characters/stereotypes that were chosen to push it forward. Oh, and what else sinks it down?

The comedy. Okay, I'll be the first to admit a LOT of jokes were funny in this movie. A lot of winks to video game culture, that's for sure. And even some character-based jokes were funny... that is, the ones that weren't offensive. And sadly, there's a lot of those in here. Yes, stereotypes again (I mean, it's kinda hard to miss that), but there's a slightly better hidden underlying theme in the jokes: women as trophies. Oh, no, not the ones sent and taken by the aliens; in fact, the three humans abducted by the aliens are male; two men, and a child. And the trophies sent are the Duck Hunt Dog (???), whose gender is never a question, and Q*Bert, who I'd say is male, judging by the voice... So, no trophy women there. But hear me out: The trophy women are used in a different way here. For starters, yes, Sandler's character ends up with Violet, because romance. Romance romance romance romance gotta have romance in a film romance romance romance romance. One could say he earned her affections. Then there's Josh Gad who ends up with the video game chick he loved, and of course she falls for him... Spoilers ahead, highlight at your own risk (lots of yelling, lots of vulgarity). Q*BERT TRANSFORMS INTO HER, NO ONE KNEW HE COULD DO THAT, THIS IS THE BIGGEST BULLSHIT EVER, AND SO FOR SOME REASON GAD'S CHARACTER MARRIES HER AND NOT ONLY THAT, HE'S APPARENTLY ABLE TO FUCK HER AND HAVE KIDS... WHICH ARE ALL Q*BERTS. WHAT THE FUCK, MOVIE? WHAT THE FLYING FUCK? WHEN I SAID Q*BERT HAD THE DUMBEST JOKES AT THE END OF THE FILM, THIS IS WHAT I MEANT. HERE GOES ANOTHER "EARNED" "WOMAN". I AM SO ANGRY AT THIS THAT I KEPT CAPS LOCK ON PURPOSE. Phew, sorry about that. Oh yeah, and Peter Dinklage? For helping save the world, he gets his dream threesome with Serena Williams... and Martha Stewart. Yes, for secks. Because girls, and he has a penis, so I guess that means he deserves to bang. What? He earned them, didn't he? NO HE FUCKING DIDN'T!

I have already mentioned I was not a fan of the "trophy women" thing. I mean, there was Gideon Graves, then there was Francis... how the Hell did this movie manage to be so relevant to the themes explored in my latest reviews?

Whatever, In the end, this Adam Sandler movie suffers from the exact problems many Sandler-led movies have had in the past years: Offensive humor for the sake of having offensive humor, without a point, except maybe the one to piss off the politically-correct people. And even then... Whatever. As I said before, this idea had potential, great potential. It got sunk down by stereotyped characters, some awful comedy... and that's a shame, really, seeing as most of the rest of the film is actually fine. Like I said, the effects are amazing, the action scenes are just as great, and it's a great nostalgic trip... And if it contained none of what makes Adam Sandler and his productions hated, this would be a great video game film. My expectations were pretty low when I entered the theater, which may explain why I wasn't disappointed by the ride. Maybe I should have kept my expectations at a normal level, so I would have been able to judge this movie even better... but I think I did a good enough job here. In the end, while I think this movie is a tiny bit better than what most people say about it, that still doesn't mean I think it's good.

Now, is it worse than:
-Gamer: No. It's not worse than Gamer. There is no video game movie out there worse than Gamer, It just does not exist. It must not exist. Gamer is, and will most likely always be the worst video game movie I have ever seen.
-Spy Kids 3D: Hm, hard to choose... I'd say Spy Kids 3D is the better film, due to not being offensive.
-The Super Mario Bros. Movie: Oh boy, another tough choice. I'd say the Super Mario Bros. movie is worse, but then again... My guess is that in many years, Pixels will be a cult film the same way the Super Mario Bros. movie became one, and we'll laugh at Pixels in a similar way, with riffs and stuff like that. Hey, we never know...
-Wreck-It Ralph: No contest, Wreck-It Ralph wins.
-Scott Pilgrim VS. The World: Again, no contest, Scott Pilgrim wins. At least in that series, the guy collecting girlfriends like trophies is a bad guy.

Should you go watch this movie in theaters? I'm tempted to say yes, but if you feel offended by the geek stereotypes and the "trophy women" thing, don't go. In fact, just don't. Wait till you can watch it somewhere for free, like on Netflix. Don't go watch it in theaters.

Wow, this was a LONG review. Well, I hope you enjoyed. The review of Super Paper Mario should continue Friday, and the Monday after that, to end on the following Friday.