Year 8, Day 285 - 10/11/16 - Movie #2,463
BEFORE: OK, now I'm done with NY Comic-Con AND my Jeopardy audition is over. I think the audition went OK, even though I was exhausted and I had a cold (the two are probably related) but whatever energy I had left in the tank, I tried to give them during my mock game and interview. They never told me to speak more loudly or more clearly, which they did for some contestants, so I think I nailed that part. And they made me take another written test, to prove that my score on the online test wasn't a fluke, or that I didn't have someone else take the test for me. I'm sure I didn't get a perfect score, but that's OK, nobody on the show gets everything right - this was more about appearances and whether I could be interviewed coherently. They implied that we were all part of the contestant pool now, but who knows. They take everyone's photo and information, and then over the next year and a half, they contact whoever they want - so it's largely out of my hands now.
While I was away, TCM ran three more "Frankenstein" films that I didn't have, so as a result my watchlist increased to 115 films - I'll have to start chipping away at that number again, but I can only do so much before the next break, and I've got a list of films that I want to ADD to the main list, which of course is counter-productive. But since this year's Halloween chain is already programmed, I probably won't get to those Frankenstein films until next year.
Dan Aykroyd, who had a cameo in "Ghostbusters", carries over and has a cameo here, too.
THE PLOT: When aliens misinterpret videos of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth in the form of video-game characters.
AFTER: I'm counting "alien invasion" as a Halloween topic, because in the past I've included films like "Invasion of the Body Snatchers" and "The Thing", so I think I'm justified in putting some alien-themed films into this year's countdown. Hey, I go where the linking leads me, for the most part. But I looked back on past Octobers' line-ups today, and it seems some years I avoided Halloween films altogether, I guess that was because I didn't have any left to work with at that time.
In this film, Kevin James plays the President - wait, the U.S. President? How did THAT happen? There are some obvious references made to George W. Bush, like showing him reading to a classroom full of kids and mispronouncing words, so that could mean that this film was in development for a LONG time. But I think they accidentally hit on something, by showing a fat, loud, incompetent President, the filmmakers might have predicted Trump as a candidate, and given us a glimpse into a potential nightmarish future. According to IMDB, Kevin James modeled his performance after Chris Christie, but all I saw was a Bush/Trump hybrid.
Another funny thing is that I was out at Barcade last night, which as you might imagine is a combination bar and arcade in Manhattan, for a burger and a couple of drinks with the friends who helped me load our stuff out of the convention center after Comic-Con. So I was playing QBert and a couple other arcade games 1 day before watching this. But I guess I knew it was coming up on the schedule, so that's not really much of a coincidence.
I can't help but notice the similarities to "Ghostbusters" - fighting other-wordly entities with high-tech gear, it just happens to be aliens here, and not ghosts, but the principle is much the same. I guess if you mixed "Ghostbusters" with "Independence Day", and threw in little bits of "Wreck-It Ralph", "Star Trek: The Motion Picture" and "Idiocracy", you'd have "Pixels".
But here's where the movie stopped working for me - the massive problems with the "Pac-Man" sequence. The first major battle against the aliens, which resembled the game of "Centipede", no problem. Because they were firing shots at mushrooms and a speeding, giant centipede - and that's exactly what you do during that video-game. But even if they knew that the next battle would be based on "Pac-Man", it would have made much more sense for the aliens to take the form of the four ghosts, because they are the antagonists of that game. Yet our heroes just happen to have four rigged Mini Cooper cars ready to go, painted in the colors of Pac-Man's four ghosts, as if they KNEW that the evil entity would be the yellow munching Pac-Man character himself, and there's just no way they could have predicted that.
I get that there are four human fighters, and it seems logical to put them in four cars, representing the four ghosts of the game, but as a result, the battle then varies wildly from the plot of the Pac-Man game. Instead of being the Pac-Man and chomping dots and escaping from ghosts, now we're rooting for the ghost characters who are trying to chase Pac-Man down, and that doesn't make any sense to anyone who played this game as a kid. They even act surprised when they see that "Hey, what gives, Pac-Man is the BAD GUY?" - but how can they be shocked by this, when they already have the "ghost" cars ready to go? Did they expect this scenario, or not?
Also, NITPICK POINT: there are simply NO "cheat codes" for Pac-Man. How would you even enter them into an arcade game? Cheat codes came along later, with home console games like Nintendo 64 and Sony Playstation. Pac-Man is just a joystick and a button, and you never even use the button during the game. So when a character uses a cheat code to gain super-speed during the Pac-Man sequence, I've got to call shenanigans.
NITPICK POINT #2: When the Earthlings win a video-game battle, they are given a "champion" from the other side as a reward. The second time, it's the Q*Bert character, which is fine, but the first time, it was the dog from "Duck Hunt". Duck Hunt was never an arcade game, it was first made for the Nintendo game system in 1984, which was AFTER the videos of the gameplay were launched into space - so there's no way the aliens would be familiar with "Duck Hunt". Same issue with the alien that looked like a Smurf - there were Smurfs in home console games, but no arcade games in 1982 had Smurfs in them.
NITPICK POINT #3: When Eddie beats young Brenner in the Donkey Kong tournament, they act like that record score was the highest score for the last 30 years, but anyone who watched the documentary "The King of Kong" know that isn't the case - players later learned the "Donkey Kong" patterns so well that they could play continuously and get such a high score that they "flipped" the digits back to zero. All the win meant was that Eddie was TEMPORARILY the Donkey Kong champ, not permanently.
I also spotted another screw-up, which the IMDB likewise referenced. The President says that Brenner "sucks at Donkey Kong", just because he lost the championship years ago. But he came in second, which means that he was at least the 2nd best player that year - that's not "sucking". Do we say that the team that loses the World Series "sucks at baseball"? No way, because they're the champion of their league, they just didn't win the interleague championship.
Also starring Adam Sandler (last heard in "Eight Crazy Nights"), Kevin James (last seen in "Grown Ups 2"), Michelle Monaghan (last seen in "Mission: Impossible - Ghost Protocol"), Josh Gad (last seen in "The Internship"), Peter Dinklage (last seen in "The Angriest Man in Brooklyn"), Brian Cox (last seen in "Trick 'r Treat"), Sean Bean (last seen in "Don't Say a Word"), Jane Krakowski (last seen in "Alfie"), Matt Lintz, Affion Crockett, Ashley Benson, Fiona Shaw, Denis Akiyama, with cameos from Lainie Kazan (last seen in "The Crew"), Serena Williams, Martha Stewart, Jackie Sandler (also last heard in "Eight Crazy Nights"), Dan Patrick (also last seen in "Grown Ups 2"), Nick Swardson (ditto), Robert Smigel, and the voices of Matt Frewer (last seen in "Night at the Museum: Secret of the Tomb"), Carlos Alazraqui (last heard in "Inside Out"), Billy West.
RATING: 5 out of 10 mushrooms