Sunday, August 2, 2015

Pixels - Adam Sandler is a miserable human being who shuffles around with bitter contempt for his audience and humanity as he stares helplessly out with the eyes of one who is already dead. One day this guy is going be found rotting in the back of a Grand Rapids strip club half-eaten by mice after a cocaine overdose and nobody should be surprised. Nor should you mourn him.

So should you be surprised that a Happy Madison production ripped-off from a third of an episode of "Futurama" sucks?  Not really.

Usually the most half-assed and pointless part of any modern movie are the stale, generic CG effects.  "Pixels" flips that script and creates a visual style that is entirely unique with lovable and exciting digital creatures that will wow audiences of all ages.  Then the movie casts Adam Sandler and pals in the lead roles, meaning that every aspect about the story, the comedy, and the characters will be lifeless and depressing.  So "Pixels" is a unique experience where I spent half the movie in pure agony, with my hands clenched white knuckle onto my theater arm rests and my eyes shut begging the higher powers of the universe that I only vaguely believe in to end my suffering, but then felt something that was almost like joy when Adam Sandler shut up and let the animators do their jobs.  No, this is a not a good movie.

That Adam Sandler stopped caring about anything roughly around the second act of "You Don't Mess with the Zohan" is not a new revelation.  Sandler has made his character from "Funny People" literal.  Hell, I already reviewed "Jack and Jill" which proved beyond all doubt that he cares nothing about anything.  And yet even though anybody who cared about film saw through Adam Sandler's thin veneer long ago, he still makes roughly twenty movies a year and almost all of them turn a profit.  I don't review Adam Sandler movies very often not only because his films are unwatchable on any level but also because his existence turns me into the worst kind of misanthropic asshole.  If you ever needed proof that ultimately the average theater goer does not care about quality, Adam Sandler is it.  He is one of their own:  aging, lazy, and irrationally proud of ignorance and mediocrity.  From there it is only a few short steps to deciding that all of Western civilization has failed.  That's how bad Sandler's movies are:  don't examine them too closely or else you'll find yourself in Montana writing manifestos while stocking up on ammunition, fertilizer, and underage child brides.

"Pixels" is probably the best Adam Sandler vehicle in years if only because at this point he has become too lazy to even be a proper lead anymore.  He stopped trying to devise wacky characters for him to play ever since "Jack and Jill", instead defaulting to basically playing a wish-fulfillment version of himself.  Sandler gave up on any attempt at arcs or development in his characters.  Slowly he has been having less and less screentime in his own movies to allow his entourage of charity-case comic actors like Kevin James* to take up the slack.  "Pixels" is about 20% Adam Sandler, 10% Kevin James, 30% Josh Gad, 20% Peter Dinklage, and 20% Q*bert - I listed them in ascending order of funniness, by the way.  But every character in this movie is horrible, and "Pixels" would have been better served as a short film of nothing but CG characters destroying the world (as it was before Happy Madison got their hands on it).  If there is any enjoyment to be found here, it is months later once "Pixels" is out on video, where you have a fast forward button to skip past the zombie-eyed comedians dishonest attempts at entertainment to watch the parts with actual spark and imagination.

The animators for "Pixels" managed to take the retro look of early 80s arcade games into something new and colorful.  Classic characters like Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, and the Q*Bert are rendered into 3D with a bright voxel style**.  Their scenes of destruction are made charming by how they zap the world around them into digitized cubes.  So instead of cars exploding into Michael Bay horror they simply crumble into blocks of color.  You can see real care and energy in this design, which is a better and more loving throw-back to the arcade times of yore than any of the forced 80s references and toilet humor that permeates the rest of the movie.  This is what got the world excited about "Pixels", this is what bought my ticket, and this is what kept me sane enough to survive the rest of the movie and write this review.

Awww, giant death Pac-Man is adorable!
Now unfortunately, there has to be a plot to hang these exciting sequences of arcade games come to life around.  That plot involves Adam Sandler, playing a character whose name is not worth remembering, who once was the Pac-Man world champion back in 1982.  Since having lost to a young Peter Dinklage, he has done nothing with his life.  His best friend, President Kevin James - yes, President Kevin James - wants him to do something with his life, but Adam Sandler continues his myopia and dysfunction until luckily an alien invasion comes that requires his exact overly specific set of skills to overcome.  His character grows in no way and is never challenged by anything, at no point is he forced to examine the decades of ineffectual failure he has lived through.  The world simply owed Adam Sandler something and finally gave it to him by throwing a monster Centipede into London for him to shoot at.

Along the way Adam Sandler meets a slumming Michelle Monaghan to accompany him to a forced love story.  There are nineteen-year-old rookie actresses about to do their first lesbian threesome in a producer's jacuzzi for a low budget porn who have better chemistry than Adam Sandler and Michelle Monaghan.  Monaghan wants nothing to do with Sandler because he's a loser who works for Best Buy and she is a DARPA colonel, but slowly Sandler kicks ass at video games and eventually she becomes his trophy.  Meanwhile his friends all get their female prizes as well:  Peter Dinklage ends up with a few celebrity cameos, and Zack Gad marries Q*Bert.  That last bit sounds like a really random and funny plot twist but it is actually horrifying beyond words, trust me.

There are the occasional attempts at conflicts here or there, but the script is bare bones.  Brian Cox, a man who truly loves acting and still has energy and life unlike many of his co-stars decades younger than him, gives the most spirited performance in the movie as a furious general.  You would imagine that Cox and his traditional style would rub against Adam Sandler's slob routine, but no, not really.  It turns out that Peter Dinklage cheated at "Pac-Man"*** years ago.  But not much comes of that either, it simply validates the chip on Sandler's shoulder.  Josh Gad has a crush on a female video game character named Lady Lisa, who was invented for this movie since the writers could not think of any attractive women of early 80s arcades****.  She shows up and seems to be a villain, only to fall in love with him instantly.  There is just not a lot going on here, only long stretches of dead air punctuated by what appear to be jokes.

There could have been a wacky "Ghostbusters"-style comedy in "Pixels". They got Adam Sandler instead.

Sometimes there are moments that feel like they could have been funny if simply the comic timing was better, like Peter Dinklage demanding his own island and a date with Serena Williams, who appears later in the movie having been given her own island in order to date him.  It isn't funny, but you know, it is a callback, there is some structure to a joke there.  Kevin James's bumbling President seems to be a satire on George W. Bush.  That stopped being funny in 2008, but these are jokes that were at least funny at some point in time.  Then there are things that just don't make sense.  Michelle Monaghan works with a "Doctor Who"-esque cyborg with clockwork machinery instead of a brain.  Is that funny?  What is that?  Sometimes the script just seems to have been written with sections like "[fill two minutes up with Adam Sandler riffing on stuffy people here]" so Sandler gives a very tired freestyling mean-spirited routine at old people and a fat guy who just wants a sandwich.

Remember "Happy Gilmore"?  I only bring it up because that movie was funny.  I think at this point most audiences who watch Adam Sandler are not even watching his current movie, they're just re-running clips from "The Water Boy" in their head and pasting them over the deadness on the screen.

Now that said, "Pixels" did make me laugh a few times.  More often than not I was not laughing and instead planning bloody murder on my fellow theater goers who were laughing, but I did laugh a few times.  That did happen, I admit this.  Josh Gad gives a pretty spirited attempt here and there.  He has energy unlike Sandler and James.  Sometimes in the shouting you'll find a funny routine like his attempt to be an angry sergeant to marines twice his size that he seems to be attracted to.  Peter Dinklage's over-the-top gaming celebrity character works in theory as a parody of Billy Mitchell and Lucas from "The Wizard".  Even so, if Peter Dinklage is going to be choosing films like "Pixels" to star in, he should definitely be terrified for when "Games of Thrones" ends.  I'm already worried for him.

This is an actual frame from an actual movie. My God.
But when it comes right down to it, "Pixels" was meant to be a nostalgia trip for the 80s, with just enough color and light to bring in the children.  Kids will probably like it because to them life is a magical universe still full of possibility and wonder.  To us who have had our dreams and sense of joy trampled by previous Adam Sandler movies, we know better.  "Pixels" just never reads like it was made by actual people who loved 80s gaming.  Adam Sandler is not a gamer - he's barely an actor anymore.  The rest of the team are either making legitimately impressive light shows or hideous live action comedy.  I was born in 1991, to me arcades are sticky places on the Jersey Shore where you empty hundreds of dollars in quarters on "Resident Evil" or prize grabber machines.  I never saw the Golden Age that this movie is trying to conjure up, and after seeing "Pixels", I am no closer to understanding it. There's no real soul to this movie, not like "Wreck-It Ralph" had.

So that's really the final point here:  "Pixels" has no reason to exist on any level because the world already had "Wreck-It Ralph".  Go see something - anything - else.

* Kevin James, if you have any illusions about your place as a comedy actor, let me break them for you:  you're the new Rob Schneider.  Enjoy.

** Yeah, there are no pixels in "Pixels", these are technically voxels.  There is a difference.  That difference does not matter in the slightest in the context of this movie, but I have to know everything at all times.

*** Dinklage puts in a cheat code, which he has saved on his sunglasses.  There are no cheat codes in "Pac-Man".  There is actually no cheating at all in "Pac-Man".  Also, in the real life sequence where they are driving Mini Coopers, Peter Dinklage's car teleports since he used the cheat code... which makes no sense for about a trillion reasons.  You know, you can't teleport cars?  And even if his cheat code worked back in the day, he wasn't playing as one of the ghosts, so why would this code help him now?  I could go on for 2,000 words on this shit.  It's fucking stupid, okay?

**** You know, other than Princess Daphne from "Dragon Lair", who was seriously hot.  But that game came out in 1983, when the creatures from this movie are supposed to be from 1982.  But then again, the characters from "Duck Hunt" show up and they were from 1984, and the aliens make reference to Madonna who would not be popular for years, so the rules don't matter.  I just don't get why they invented a video game character for a movie whose main draw is based on nostalgia.  Couldn't you use Pauline from "Donkey Kong" or Ms. Pac-Man or the naked Indian girl that gets raped in "Custer's Revenge"?  You know, the classics.


  1. Yeah, when i heard about this movie, I should have been excited by the concept. But when i hear the name Adam Sandler, then I know I should not be hopeful.

    Not too broken up that is crap, not like something like Singularity which could have been a amazing film preparing people for the technological singularity, but just turned it into Luddite propaganda.

    Oh by the way, you mentioned Jack and Jill are you still planning to review "Saving Christmas" as the Razzie 2014 winner. Its been 8 months now?

    Pretty please :)

    Sword Of Primus

  2. Oh my god, you actually posted something! I was worried you died or something!

  3. Yo, have you seen It Follows? Probably my favourite of 2015 so far, would love to hear your thoughts.

  4. You had a good run, Blue Highwind.

  5. Okay its been three weeks now.

    I think we have to get desperate to get Bluehighwind back.

    Now its obvious that Pixels have damaged Bluehighwind's soul pretty badly.

    So we have to resort to unorthodox means to restore it.

    Since Pixels harmed so quickly, I say we kidnap Adam Sandler, sacrifice his to predict the future, rip out his organs and from those figure out how to heal Bluehighwind.

    Just like the ancient Greeks !! :)

    ....Okay that dark tirade aside, we all miss you Bluehighwind and hope to see you soon.

    Oracle Of Primus

  6. We miss you Blue! I know I'm not a frequent comment-er, more of a lurker really, but we miss you.

  7. Goodbye Blue. It was a good run.

  8. What to say about Blue Highwind? He was, Blue Highwind.

    I first encountered Blue Highwind on my first run of Final Fantasy 7, in a time when Wikia sites actually wouldn't crash my web-browsers, and in the prime of my youth (read: high school) and being too stupid to get past a certain boss I forgot which who turned out to be actually super easy. It was a long, strange trip, but the guide was super helpful and somehow oddly entertaining so I decided to give FFXII a go since here was this random guy on the internet claiming it to be the best FF of all time and I was thinking to myself "No fucking way," 'cause I had played it a few years before and I was way too stupid to really appreciate it for what it was. And so there went another bizarre adventure in the world of FF, with Blue as my guiding voice and guy who bitched about Vaan on every page of the walkthrough (to be fair tho wow vaan is so bad).

    Fast-forward a passage of time in which I cannot remember in exact detail. Here I am on Blogger, checking things out and making my own blog and stuff, and for a while I was into clicking on the random "Next Blog" finder thing, when, in a weird twist of fate, I stumbled upon Planet Blue, run by the familiar name of Blue Highwind. Ever since then, in 2010 I believe, I've followed Blue Highwind through the turn of a new decade. I can never forget (truthfully I actually did forget and went back to look up some of these) such classic lines as "If you love trainwrecks, if you love plane crashes, if you loved the Presidency of George W. Bush, this is your movie," (in, "The Last Airbender"), or " This means that thanks to the government shut down, which has made you a household name now, you personally owe me and the rest of the American people seventy-six dollars and forty six cents. I can accept cash or check." (in, "An Open Letter to Ted Cruz").

    This was a wonderful blog for the five years I've followed it. During this time, Blue Highwind's strange Q? series inspired me to write my own bizarre nonsensical adventure, which is actually being made into a video game that'll never see the marketing light of day but still. Feels strange to go back about four years ago and see Blue Highwind squeeing at the announcement of the Game of Thrones series, back in a time when literally nobody else I knew spoke of it. On my own personal blog, I followed Blue's "Batman Movie Batdown" to TDKR and watched each of those films as well, and given how much fun that was, I plan to do the same for Star Wars Episode VII (yes, even with George Lucas's Fanfiction Trilogy). Every year, following the Oscars and E3, I'd hop on my computer to read what Blue Highwind had to say about these events. I only wish I could've seen a full post on this year's incredible E3, but that's life I guess. I also remember the strange takeover, by Red Highwind... yeah, that was awkward. And while I'm here I'll admit I was responsible for the strange raid by that STinG guy who came in and took a massive shit all over the first Amazing Spider-Man in the comments of Blue Highwind's review of that movie. I'm not actually friends with the guy, I just happened to show this blog to somebody I know who knew that guy and subsequently told that guy that Blue Highwind was his soulmate. Alas, that ended weirdly.

    That's my obituary for Blue, which I doubt and do not expect anybody to care to read, but I've been a follower for a long time and owed it to myself to hop in. Even though it seems Blue Highwind's soul still lingers around on Twitter -- a possible front for his soul's descent into madness -- may he find rest in the realms of Q?, or something.

    Official Cause of Death: The "movie" Pixels, and, particularly, a relationship of seething hatred with Adam Sandler. RIP in Pepperoni. 1765(???) to 2015.

    1. Man, I love those FF walkthroughs, that is some funny-ass-sh*t. Blue is probably busy with work, party and getting laid or something, hope he gets to post something whenever he finally gets some free time.

    2. Aw, I might be late to the memorial service, but I happened to find Blue on a random Google search and found him on a tirade against PETA on one of these posts. It was so funny, charismatic and interesting that I stuck around for a while, I'm still haunting this place every so often, wondering if Blue will show up again. He's writing a book, according to a few posts back, and I hope I get to read it. Until then, or if you ever update again, stay gold, Blue Highwind, and may the tides of fortune carry you to wherever you want to be.

    3. The Final Fantasy IX walkthrough was a brilliant display of pathetic childishness. God rest its soul. I wanted to read it again.

  9. ....I hate to say it, I really hoped that I was wrong.
    But I think the dream is dead, it has been 4 months now.
    Bluehighwind has never left us this long, now while there was some activity on his Twitter last month, there is nothing now.

    I think we have to accept one of 3 possibilities:
    1.For some reason Bluehighwind can not access his blogspot account. Unlikely as he has not updated his facebook/twitter/youtube account explaining the situation.
    2.He is incapacitated in some way that would prevent him from being to go online
    .....This extends to the sad possibility that he is dead.
    3. He is tired with his blogspot and has moved on. Sadly this might be one of the most likely possibilities.
    If the case best of luck in his future endeavors.

    So if this blog is dead, let us use its corpse for something great.

    If there is anybody who is good with coding, let us end the career of the one who destroyed this blogspot.


    ...Goodbye Bluehighwind if this the final goodbye between you and your readers

    Sword of Primus

  10. He shows up on FFWiki occasionally. I think the last post was like a week ago.

  11. Merry Christmas Blue. I hope we see you again someday in the vast, long reaches of this cruel world.

  12. Where? Where has he gone? I can't see Blue not updating any of his accounts, even if just to say he's leaving. I feel like he might have died. How would we know? It's weird.

  13. We miss you Blue! Just please, drop us a line.

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