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Peanuts and Popcorn

Peanuts and Popcorn

‘Pixels’ Should Be More Fun

posted by jtotey
Brenner (Adam Sandler) and Ludlow (Josh Gad) show what it takes to beat "Centipede."

Brenner (Adam Sandler) and Ludlow (Josh Gad) show what it takes to beat “Centipede.” (Sony)

Do you remember when you were a kid and you went to the arcade to waste away all your quarters on your favorite video games like PAC-Man, Galaga, Donkey Kong and Centipede? Remember how you had to wait in line behind the better, more experienced players before you got your turn? Sure, it’s fun to watch them play their game … for a bit. After awhile, it gets a little old. That is pretty much the same feeling you get while watching Adam Sandler’s Pixels.

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It’s not that Pixels doesn’t have its funny moments, it does. And the special effects are pretty cool too. When the aliens start hitting things on earth and they disintegrate into flashing cubes, it is fun to watch and is full of mystery. But overall, the film feels unfinished and it appears that the makers are unsure who their target audience is supposed to be. Like the example up above about the local arcade, younger generations cannot relate to it. If you are of a certain age, you experienced when video games went from playing “Pong” to “Donkey Kong.” This film seems to appeal to that generation, while also extending an olive branch to younger viewers, but the result is uneven at best. Being that this film was directed by Chris Columbus (Night of the Museum, Harry Potter), I expected more.

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Pixels begins in the early ’80’s where Brenner and Cooper, (young Adam Sandler and Kevin James look-alikes) are kids attending the grand opening of a new video arcade. To Brenner’s surprise, he finds that he has a knack for following the patterns and conquering the games. Cooper encourages him to sign up for a video game competition. It is there that they meet Ludlow the “Wonder Kid” (a lonely brainiac who finds conspiracies everywhere and falls in love with a computer game character) and his ultimate opponent, Eddie, who challenges him to a game of Donkey Kong that doesn’t end well.

The Dream Team: Violet (Michelle Monaghan), Brenner (Adam Sandler), Ludlow (Josh Gad) and Eddie (Peter Dinklage). (Sony)

The Dream Team: Violet (Michelle Monaghan), Brenner (Adam Sandler), Ludlow (Josh Gad) and Eddie (Peter Dinklage). (Sony)

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Fast forward to 2015, Brenner (Adam Sandler) now works as an electronics installer for a Best Buy-like store. His best friend Cooper (Kevin James) is now the president of the United States and the two meet up regularly just like out times but with secret service. Suddenly, the world is being attacked by aliens in the form of video games. The aliens choose to speak their messages to the inhabitants of earth by using old ’80’s footage of various celebrities and basically challenge Earth to a duel. The aliens will send down real life versions of former video games and it’s going to take a few Davids to match this Goliath. Of course, it is up to Brenner to lead the battle against the electronic beasts with the help of a grown up Ludlow (Josh Gad) and Eddie (Peter Dinklage, in a role that doesn’t do him any favors). The rest of the film is a fantasy adventure that doesn’t live up to its potential.

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Yes, Pixels is built on an unbelievable premise, but even so, movies are made all the time with unbelievable premises, but they succeed because they feature a storyline and characters that we actually care about. Pixels comes with all the right characters including the hot but unapproachable leading lady who happens to be mom on the brink of divorce (Violet played by Michelle Monaghan), the young son whose parents are getting a divorce and could really use a male role model (Matty played by Matt Lintz), the nice guy who never reached his potential (Brenner), the bad guy who hasn’t changed over the years (Eddie), the misunderstood genius (Ludlow) and others, but doesn’t do a whole lot with them and what’s worse, we don’t really care. Some of the star’s talents, namely Dan Aykroyd and Jane Krakowski, are wasted in forgettable roles.

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The biggest flaw with Pixels is its story. We never really learn how objects are turned into pixels, if things can be turned back and if they are lethel. An explanation on why the earth is being attacked is given early on, but it is done in a way that the audience has to trust the movie-maker. The movie seems to break it’s own rules as it goes. The story is too simple for adults and probably too confusing for young ones. For the climax, it is as if the writers just gave up and threw every computer game character on the screen because they didn’t know what else to do.

Despite all the negative, the film does feature some feel-good moments including a few cameos (the best is Matt Frewer reprising his Max Headroom persona) and the addition of Denis Akiyama playing the role of Professor Iwatan, the creator of PAC-Man. The movie is fairly unoffensive and has a few good one-liner. The film will be good for a rental, but not much more. In short, the film should have been more creative and fun given its source material.

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Meet a More Charming Sherlock in ‘Mr. Holmes’

posted by jtotey
Roger (Milo Parker) and Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) outside Sherlock's farm house. (Miramax)

Roger (Milo Parker) and Sherlock Holmes (Ian McKellen) outside Sherlock’s farm house. (Miramax)

In all of the incarnations of Sherlock Holmes, from the traditional to the more modern, one personality flaw is consistent. Sherlock has a personality disorder. He is often in his own world, has little tollerance for others and doesn’t really understand how offensive he can be. However, in Mr. Holmes, probably the 142st version of the myth, he has never appeared so human. That is not to say that Ian McKellen’s Sherlock isn’t without fault. He is self-obsessed as ever and bluntly speaks his mind, but it is the addition of ten-year-old Roger (Milo Parker) that brings out the older one’s charm. Mr. Holmes also presents a much older version of the sleuth than we are used to.

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Based on the book, A Slight Trick of the Mind by Mitch Cullin and directed by Bill Condon, Mr. Holmes shows Sherlock as retired and is living in an old farmhouse in an isolated area in Sussex. The 93-year-old is a beekeeper of all things. Currently living in his residence is his fairy new housekeeper, Mrs. Munro (Laura Linney) and her son Roger. Holmes is in poor health, though he denies it. His sharp memory is beginning to fail him and it appears that he will eventually die as a bitter old man. Of all the cases that he solved over the years, it was his last one that still haunts him for he feels that he failed the client despite what his friend, Dr. Watson, had wrote about it in his last book. Holmes desperately wants to retrace his steps to figure out what went wrong, but his memory comes and goes. He is constantly writing notes to help him remember things.

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The movie is told partially in flashbacks where we get to see Holmes in action on his last case. The case involves Thomas Kelmot (Patrick Kennedy), a man who is suspicious of his wife Ann (Hattie Morahan) who appears to have a secret life and evil plans in store for her husband.

In the present, we get to see how Sherlock deals with fame and how annoyed he gets that people expect him to be the same man who wears the funny hat and smokes a pipe. Those were embellishments that Watson threw in his stories to add to inspector’s personality he says.

Sherlock is pestered a bit by Roger who thinks that the older man is fascinating, to the chagrin of his mother. She doesn’t trust Holmes for some reason and really doesn’t want to be working for him. Roger brings out the best in Sherlock and the two become close friends. It’s clear that each of them need each other.

Though some diehards will disagree, this story of Sherlock is, in my opinion, is flawless. Ian McKellen has never done better. The film is bittersweet. It is sad to see the super sleuth in his twilight years but it is heartwarming to see the budding friendship between him and the boy who will no doubt follow in his footsteps.

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‘Game of Thrones’ in the Lead for 2015 Emmy Awards

posted by jtotey
Emmy Awards

Emmy Awards

This morning, the nominations for the Primetime Emmy Awards were announced and coming on top of the heap is HBO’s Game of Thrones with five nominations. With recent events surround Caitlyn Jenner, it is no surprise that the controversial comedy, Transparent is up for four awards. Mad Men has also done very well with four nominations including Best Actor, Best Actress and Best Supporting Actress. Other nominations worth noting is that husband and wife, William H. Macy and Felicity Huffman, are both up for awards (he for Lead Actor in a Comedy and she for Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie) as well fictional married couple Ty Burrell and Julie Bowen for their roles in Modern Family. And while Lily Tomlin has been nominated for Lead Actress in a comedy (Grace and Frankie), her cos-star, Jane Fonda did not.

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This year, the special will be aired on September 20 on FOX with Andy Samberg hosting. The awards will be given out from the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles. This year’s nominees are:

Outstanding Drama Series:
Better Call Saul, Downton Abbey, Game of Thrones, Homeland, House of Cards, Mad Men and Orange is the New Black

Outstanding Comedy Series:
Louie, Modern Family, Parks and Recreation, Silicon Valley, Transparent, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Veep

Lead Actor, Drama:
Bob Odenkirk for Better Call Saul, Kyle Chandler for Bloodline, Kevin Spacey for House of Cards, Jon Hamm for Mad Men, Jeff Daniel for The Newsroom and Liev Schreiber for Ray Donovan

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Lead Actress, Drama:
Taraji P. Henson for Empire, Claire Danes for Homeland, Viola Davis for How to Get Away with Murder, Tatiana Maslany for Orphan Black, Elisabeth Moss for Mad Men, and Robin Wright for House of Cards

Lead Actor, Limited Series or Movie: Timothy Hutton for American Crime, Ricky Gervais, for Derek Special, Adrien Brody for Houdini, David Oyelowo for Nightingale, Richard Jenkins for Olive Kitteridge and Mark Rylance for Wolf Hall

Lead Actress, Limited Series or Movie:
Felicity Huffman for American Crime, Jessica Lange for American Horror Story, Queen Latifah for Bessie, Maggie Gyllenhaal for The Honorable Woman, Frances McDormand for Olive Kitteridge and Emma Thompson for Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street

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Lead Actor, Comedy:
Anthony Anderson for black-ish, Matt LeBlanc for Episodes, Don Cheadle for House of Lies, Will Forte for The Last Man On Earth, Louis C.K. for Louie, William H. Macy for Shameless and Jeffrey Tambor for Transparent

Lead Actress, Comedy:
Lisa Kudrow for The Comeback, Lily Tomlin for Grace And Frankie, Amy Schumer for Inside Amy Schumer, Edie Falco for Nurse Jackie, Amy Poehler, Parks And Recreation and Julia Louis-Dreyfus for Veep

Reality Competition Series:
The Amazing Race, Dancing With The Stars, Project Runway, So You Think You Can Dance, Top Chef and The Voice

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Variety Series:
The Colbert Report, The Daily Show With Jon Stewart, Jimmy Kimmel Live, Last Week Tonight With John Oliver, Late Show With David Letterman and The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Limited Series:
American Crime, American Horror Story: Freak Show, The Honorable Woman, Olive Kitteridge and Wolf Hall

Variety Sketch Series:
Drunk History, Inside Amy Schumer, Key & Peele, Portlandia and Saturday Night Live

Television Movie:
Agatha Christie’s Poirot: Curtain, Poirot’s Last Case, Bessie, Grace of Monaco, Hello Ladies: The Movie, Killing Jesus and Nightingale

Supporting Actor, Drama:
Ben Mendelsohn for Bloodline, Jim Carter for Downton Abbey, Peter Dinklage for Game Of Thrones, Alan Cumming for The Good Wife and Michael Kelly for House Of Cards

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Supporting Actress, Drama:
Joanne Froggatt for Downton Abbey, Lena Headey for Game Of Thrones, Emilia Clarke for Game Of Thrones, Christine Baranski for The Good Wife, Christina Hendricks for Man Men and Uzo Aduba for Orange Is The New Black

Guest Actor, Drama:
Alan Alda for The Blacklist, Michael J. Fox for The Good Wife, F. Murray Abraham for Homeland, Reg E. Cathey for House of Cards, Beau Bridges for Masters Of Sex and Pablo Schreiber for Orange Is The New Black

Guest Actress, Drama:
Margo Martindale for The Americans, Diana Rigg for Game of Thrones, Rachel Brosnahan for House Of Cards, Cicely Tyson for How To Get Away With Murder, Allison Janney for Masters Of Sex and Khandi Alexander for Scandal

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Supporting Actor, Comedy:
Andre Braugher for Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Adam Driver for Girls, Keegan-Michael Key for Key & Peele, Ty Burrell for Modern Family, Tituss Burgess for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Tony Hale for Veep

Supporting Actress, Comedy:
Mayim Bialik for The Big Bang Theory, Niecy Nash for Getting On, Julie Bowen for Modern Family, Allison Janney for Mom, Kate McKinnon for Saturday Night Live, Gaby Hoffmann for Transparent, Jane Krakowski for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt and Anna Chlumsky for Veep

Guest Actor, Comedy:
Mel Brooks for The Comedians, Paul Giamatti for Inside Amy Schumer, Bill Hader for Saturday Night Live, Louis C.K. for Saturday Night Live, Bradley Whitford for Transparent and Jon Hamm for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

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Guest Actress, Comedy:
Christine Baranski for The Big Bang Theory, Gaby Hoffmann for Girls, Pamela Adlon for Louie, Elizabeth Banks for Modern Family, Joan Cusack for Shameless, and Tina Fey for Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Supporting Actor, Limited Series or Movie:
Richard Cabral for American Crime, Denis O’Hare for American Horror Story: Freak Show, Finn Wittrock for American Horror Story: Freak Show, Michael Kenneth Williams for Bessie, Bill Murray for Olive Kitteridge and Damian Lewis for Wolf Hall

Supporting Actress, Limited Series or Movie:
Regina King for American Crime, Sarah Paulson for American Horror Story: Freak Show, Angela Bassett for American Horror Story: Freak Show, Kathy Bates for American Horror Story: Freak Show, Mo’Nique for Bessie and Zoe Kazan for Olive Kitteridge

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Batkid Begins: Best Batman Movie Ever?

posted by jtotey
Miles Scott (Batkid) and Eric Johnston (Batman) save the day. (Warner Bros.)

Miles Scott (Batkid) and Eric Johnston (Batman) save the day. (Warner Bros.)

We are all fairly familiar with the organization, Make-A-Wish. For the most part, these people work hard to give seriously ill children a chance to do anything they want. Some ask to go to Disneyland. Others want to meet their favorite baseball player. But what do you do when your client wants to be Batman for a day? You give him the world.

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Batkid Begins is directed by Dana Nachman and was written by Kurt Kuenne. It is a thoroughly entertaining documentary that follows 5-year-old Miles Scott, a cancer survivor, and the large group of people who went to work making his fantasy a reality. Initially, the project wasn’t supposed to be that big. Make-A-Wish thought if they could get 200 people to volunteer, that would work out just fine. They wanted a crowd after all. Instead, what they got were thousands of volunteers wanting to help.

In a very short time frame, the Make-A-Wish people were able to recruit a “Batman” (Eric Johnston) to lead the younger “Batkid” (who in turn recruited his friends to be villains and his wife to become a damsel in distress), find a Batmobile, get the city of San Francisco to transform itself into Gotham City and to shut down many streets for the day, get the local news to create “breaking news” stories, recruit the mayor to play, etc., etc. etc. Soon, she was getting calls from celebrities and from people from across the country wanting to fly in for the occasion and shout “Help us Batkid!”

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Especially touching are the scenes between Scott and Johnston, who served as his mentor. The two became fast friends. One scene in particular that is amazing is when little Miles looks out a window and watches a sea of fans chanting and dancing. He turns to “Batman” and asks, “What are they doing?” Johnston replies, “They’re dancing. They’re dancing for you.” It is truly amazing how many people not only helped, but wanted to help and create this fantasy world for a little boy even for just one day.

Though the running time of the film is about 15 minutes longer than it needs to be, it moves at a brisk pace and has some nice touches like having the family tell their story about when Miles was diagnosed with Leukemia at 18 months old and how he went through two years of chemo therapy in the form of a comic book.

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By the end of the film, you’ll be exhausted just like the real people who made it all happen, but you’ll be inspired to step out of your comfort zone and reach out to help others. Note: Though this story is about a 5-year-old, young children probably won’t get too much out of watching this film, but this would be excellent introduction to older children in how serving others can actually be fun and rewarding.

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