Tag Archives: Adam Sandler

Movie reviews: ‘Pixels,’ ‘Southpaw,’ ‘Paper Towns’

Pixels (photo -- Sony Pictures)

By Tim Lammers

“Pixels” (PG-13) 2 1/2 stars (out of four)

Adam Sandler and Kevin James take a byte out of their pasts as a pair nostalgic video arcade game nerds in “Pixels,” a visually-pleasing action comedy that will quickly make you forget the painful “Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2” from James, and about the last 10 movies from Sandler. It’s far from a perfect movie, but under the steady direction of Chris Columbus, “Pixels” is entertaining and nostalgic enough to more than pass as pleasing summer popcorn fare.

Sandler stars as Brenner, a home theater set-up man whose never quite been able to live down his loss in an arcade championship to video game hotshot Eddie (Peter Dinklage).While his life has gone sideways, his longtime friend, Cooper (James), has gone straight to the top as president of the United States. Still close with his arcade buddy, Cooper calls on Brenner and his expertise when aliens take the shape of 8-bit, ’80s video game characters and begin to attack different places throughout the world on their way to the nation’s capital.

A combination of “Wreck-It Ralph,” “Independence Day” and “Ghostbusters,” “Pixels” will be a huge trip down memory lane for arcade enthusiasts, as the pixilated characters from such video game creations as “Centipede,” “Pac-Man” and “Donkey Kong” come to life. Visually, it’s stunning, even if the story  gets sillier as the film goes along. It’s clear from the outset that “Pixels” isn’t supposed to be deep, just fun.

The best part about “Pixels” is its ensemble cast, as Sandler and James step back from their normal lead roles to let people like Dinklage and Josh Gad (as another one of their early ’80s video arcade buddies) do the heavy-lifting, comedy-wise. Gad is especially hilarious as a conspiracy theorist who has long lusted after Lady Lisa, the video game warrior babe of his dreams. Filling out the cast is the always sweet Michelle Monaghan as Violet, a single mom who holds a top military position at the White House, and her son, Matt Lintz as Matty, a pre-teen who takes an immediate liking to Brenner and roots for him to win his mom’s heart.

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“Southpaw” (R) 3 stars (out of four)

Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a bruising performance in “Southpaw,” a gritty boxing drama that delivers some devastating blows, yet ultimately is a by-the-numbers “Rocky”-inspired sports movie that benefits from a stellar cast.

Gyllenhaal stars as Billy Hope, the undefeated light-heavyweight world champion whose career appears to be on the ropes as he emerges from his latest bout bloodied and battered. Taunted by a would-be challenger Miguel Escobar (Miguel Gomez) for a shot at the title, Billy’s hot-tempered response leads to a tragic personal loss; and before too long, his once charmed personal and professional life is a complete shambles.

Left destitute and suspended from the ring after an ill-advised comeback, Billy is literally left with nothing as his young daughter (Oona Laurence) is taken by child protective services and all of his assets are taken. Befriending  former trainer Tick Willis (Forrest Whitaker) at his small-time inner-city gym, Billy slowly rebuilds his life, personally and professionally, and with any luck, he’ll get a shot at his former glory.

Gyllenhaal is ferocious as Billy, and clearly put his all into physically and mentally transforming into the battered former champion. Apart from one wicked left hook in the narrative early on, the plot is hopelessly predictable; yet the energetic direction by Antoine Fuqua (“Training Day”) and inspired supporting performances by Whitaker, Laurence and Rachel McAdams (in a small but pivotal performance as Billy’s wife) contribute to the film’s big payoff.

“Paper Towns” (PG-13) 3 stars (out of four)

“The Fault in Our Stars” author John Green has scored another big-screen winner with “Paper Towns,” a poignant, coming-of-age dramedy that’s not quite as emotionally heavy as the teen cancer drama  starring Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort, yet is as emotionally satisfying.

Nat Wolff, one of the pivotal co-stars in “The Fault in Our Stars,” takes the lead role in “Paper Towns,” which chronicles the longtime friendship of  Quentin and Margo (Cara Delevingne) — a pair who bonded as youths but drifted apart as teens as Quentin stayed in his comfort zone and Margo’s free-spirited, adventurous ways grew. Literally strangers as their senior year draws to a close, Quentin and Margo — whom he instantly fell in love with the day they met — are oddly reunited, leading to Margo’s planned disappearance and her potential suitor’s search for her to reveal his true feelings for her.

Smartly scripted by “The Fault in Our Stars” scribes Scott Neustadter and Michael H. Weber, “Paper Towns,” while ultimately a coming of age dramedy, manages to avoid the trappings of most of today’s teen movie fare. It’s sweet, meaningful and poignant material, which is punctuated by terrific performances by Wolff and Delevingne, even though the latter’s screen time is limited. It’s also a road-trip movie with unpredictable results, which is refreshing in the world of the Hollywood retreads that populates today’s theaters.

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Reviews: Tim Lammers talks ‘X-Men: Days of Future Past,’ ‘Blended’ on KARE-TV

X-Men Days of Future Past
Hugh Jackman, Michael Fassbender and James McAvoy in “X-Men: Days of Future Past” (photo: 20th Century Fox).

Tim reviews the Marvel superhero adventure “X-Men: Days of Future Past” with Bryan Piatt on KARE 11 TV (NBC) in Minneapolis.  See the review of the film, starring Hugh Jackman, Jennifer Lawrence, James McAvoy and Michael Fassbender, below, as well as a review of the new Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore comedy “Blended.” You can also read the print version of the reviews on BringMeTheNews.com. Also, click HERE to read Tim’s interview with Hugh Jackman.

Tim also reviewed the films with John Williams on WCCO AM 830 (Click HERE to listen: audio begins at 3:30) and Rider and Eric Perkins on 96.3 K-TWIN. Listen to the K-TWIN audio below.

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Interview: Frank Coraci talks perfect blend of Sandler, Barrymore

Sixteen years after the smash romantic comedy “The Wedding Singer” charmed moviegoers, the film’s stars and director are blending seamlessly once again in three-part harmony.

The stars, of course, are Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, who have reunited with director Frank Coraci for the family comedy “Blended.” In a recent interview, Coraci, who went on to direct Sandler in “The Waterboy” and “Click” after “The Wedding Singer,” said he was thrilled to finally get both Sandler and Barrymore together in one film again because the three click so well.

“It was such of a great feeling. We stayed friends over the years, but sometimes you don’t see each other as much as you’d like to,” Coraci said. “It was not only a great chance to all hang out again, but do what we do well when we’re all together.”

Frank Coraci, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore on the set of 'Blended'
Frank Coraci, Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore on the set of “Blended” (photo: Warner Bros.)

Opening in theaters nationwide Friday, “Blended” stars Sandler and Barrymore as Jim and Lauren, a pair of single parents who briefly meet on a disastrous blind date, only to be serendipitously thrown together with their kids on a vacation at an African resort.

Coraci said the timing of “Blended” couldn’t have been any more perfect, because Sandler and Barrymore, who ended “The Wedding Singer” as a new couple, have each grown into important phases in their personal lives.

“Adam and Drew both have kids, so it really helped the storyline in every way because they understand what it’s like to be parents,” Coraci said.

Naturally, there are some romantic sparks that fly between Sandler and Barrymore in “Blended,” but the movie also addresses how important it is for parents to put their kids first in their personal lives.

“The movie does not fall into the typical cliches of a romantic comedy. They don’t fall in love over the typical things you see in movies, they fall in love because each realizes how great the other one is as a parent,” Coraci said. “They really need each other because Drew’s character has two boys and they really need a father figure, and Adam’s character has three girls. But when you see the way the girls dress and have bad haircuts, yet are trying to grow up into women, they need some guidance and Drew is a great person they need in their lives.”

Coraci said for the preview audience members who have seen the movie already, the “kids first” narrative has resonated the most.

“That’s the core that people really love the most, that it was a whole different way for two people to appreciate and fall in love with each other,” Coraci said.

While the chemistry between Barrymore and Sandler was instant, Coraci said what really added to the magic of the production was the fact that the cast and crew filmed the bulk of the movie on location in South Africa.

“We were all there together and it really felt like we were a family. We’d doing things on the weekends like go on safaris with the kids. It was great,” Coraci said. “There was something really special about being on location there. Africa has such an amazing rawness as a backdrop. There’s not only the nature, but a spiritual thing there. We put a lot of great African music in the movie. We really went beyond the next level of what we did in ‘The Wedding Singer.'”

Fans of “The Wedding Singer,” Coraci added, will notice a big change in the dynamic between Sandler and Barrymore, and the director couldn’t be any more thrilled about it.

“For Drew, I have to say, when we did ‘The Wedding Singer,’ comedy was a newer thing to her,” Coraci recalled. “But with ‘Blended,’ she is the total champ. The comedy stuff she does in this is unbelievable. She does a lot of the heavy lifting with the physical comedy. It’s so great to see her and Adam together because they know each other so well. There’s a confidence and fearlessness between them when they’re together. There’s a section of the movie where they don’t like each other so they get to make fun of each other, and because they’re such good friends they were really able to go for it.”

The release of “Blended” comes on the heels of the debut of Coraci’

s new Travel Channel series “Chow Masters.” Each week on the show, which airs Tuesday nights, the director and his longtime friend/celebrity chef Sammy D. pit three chefs in different cities across the U.S. to come up with the tastiest and most creatively cooked comfort foods.

In Tuesday night’s episode, which travels to Los Angeles, the production promises Coraci and Sammy D. will chow down with a “major Hollywood superstar” and “another celebrity pal.”

Could it be that Sandler and Barrymore are the ones who will be added to the “Chow Masters” mix? Coraci is tight-lipped about that idea and any other celebrity appearances planned for the show, but the prospect for some delicious cameos are certainly looking good.

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