Saturday, October 15, 2016

Vampire's Kiss

Year 8, Day 289 - 10/15/16 - Movie #2,467  

BEFORE: Now for the second of the two last-minute vampire/comedy/romance additions to the line-up, and it's an easy link from Jim Carrey to Nicolas Cage (last heard in "The Croods"), because they co-starred in "Peggy Sue Got Married" back in the day.  

THE PLOT: After an encounter with a neck-biter, a publishing executive thinks that he's turning into a vampire.

AFTER: At first this just seems like the flip-side of "Once Bitten" - young guy, beautiful seductive woman bites him, he starts to wear dark colors and sunglasses and crave the taste of blood.  The only difference is that this one's set in the dating scene of NYC, not L.A., so the main character has a shrink and a ton of neuroses, plus a corner office.  

But the key word in that plot-line is "thinks", he THINKS that he's turning into a vampire.  But he's not, right?  It's kind of confusing.  Because if he is turning into a vampiric thrall, then he's not responsible for his actions.  But if he's wrong, then he's just an out-of-control asshole.  And then we've got to deal with the parts of being a vampire that are even ickier than drinking blood, and that's how they stalk women and are quite rapey, when you think about it.  I mean, hypnotizing women, putting them to sleep and introducing chemicals into their bloodstream?  Dracula is so old-school he never even heard that "no means no".  

Yes, admittedly things are a little different when we've got a female vampire seducing men, because girl power, sexual freedom, vampire sisters are doing it for themselves.  But while that was the case in "Once Bitten", what's going on here is something completely different.  By the end of the film, we're not even sure what's real and what isn't, because the main character is shown to be hallucinating, and that calls everything into question.  That should put this in the category of "American Psycho" or "Jacob's Ladder", but at the same time, it does a great disservice to the viewer.  "Hah!  Whatever we showed you in the last half hour didn't even happen!"  Well, congratulations, you fooled me, thanks for wasting my time.  

Is this just madness, or some kind of metaphor for love gone wrong in the modern world?  Can this publishing executive just not handle dating rejection, and was it easier for him to create a new reality where he was "bitten" (hurt, rejected) by a one-night stand and then doomed to be forever under her spell?  Harming every other woman he encounters as a safety measure, or because the voices in his head told him to?  Which reality is easier to accept?  

Either way, there's just no excuse for bad behavior.  Forcing his secretary to work long hours, searching for a contract that must have been misfiled, and then alternately befriending and berating her when she can't track it down - these appear to be sociopathic behaviors, but is the perceived vampirism just an excuse at that point?  Maybe he's just a dick, annoyed by everything and everyone around him, and then taking it out on her.  

The other alternative explanation here is that there were huge gaps in the screenplay, forcing the director to go back to this "lost contract" well, again and again.  Or letting the actors improv, and without any material to work with, well, it's back to the only bit of story that we have.  Keep upping the stakes (so to speak), though, and eventually his management style becomes sexual harassment, and beyond.  Not cool.  

This form of delusional vampirism eventually leads to him buying plastic vampire teeth (really?), and wandering the streets, repeating "I'm a vampire, I'm a vampire" and begging someone to put a stake through him.  By this point in the film, I wished for that sweet release as well.  Just put me out of my misery.  The only possible narrative explanation for this head-scratching nonsense is that maybe the bat seen at the start of the film did bite him, only it was a real bat that gave him real rabies, and we then watch him go insane over the course of the film.  It's the only way out. 

Also starring Jennifer Beals (last seen in "Four Rooms"), Maria Conchita Alonso, Elizabeth Ashley, Kasi Lemmons (last seen in "The Five Heartbeats"), Robert Lujan, Jessica Lundy, with cameos from John Michael Higgins (last seen in "Pitch Perfect 2"), Marc Coppola, Amy Stiller and David Hyde Pierce (last seen in "Down With Love").

RATING: 2 out of 10 broken mirrors

Friday, October 14, 2016

Once Bitten

Year 8, Day 288 - 10/14/16 - Movie #2,466     

BEFORE: This is a last-minute substitution - this film (and tomorrow's) ran on cable in early October, and I was planning on saving them for next October, but then I noticed that Megan Mullally has a small role as a high-school student in this film, and I could carry her over from "Hotel Transylvania 2", which saves me from doing a weird link from Adam Sandler to Abbott & Costello.  (Oh, it exists, but this is more direct.)  

As a bonus, I can keep the vampire theme going for another two days.  I apologize, however, if you were expecting Mel Brooks to carry over into "Dracula: Dead and Loving It".  Turns out, I have my limits.  

But since I already had a schedule that would take me through to the end of the year, and to film #2,500 - if I add something to the 2017 plan, I have to take something away.  Most likely it will be the Spencer Tracy "Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde", and a documentary I had planned for December.  I think I may also want to add the three Frankenstein films that TCM just ran, because I can link easily in and out of that chain - which means I have to postpone "Nosferatu" and "Faust" until 2017.  Hey, I wasn't really looking forward to watching those anyway.  Germans, am I right?  So dark and depressing.

THE PLOT: A vampire Countess needs to drink the blood of a virgin in order to keep her eternal beauty. It seems that all is hopeless, until she bumps into Mark Kendall.

AFTER: Now, I realize there was a whole wave of these films in the 1980's, when everyone from George Hamilton ("Love at First Bite") to Geena Davis ("Transylvania 6-5000") tried to make vampires fashionable and glamorous (Glam-pires?) to varying degrees of success.  This time it's Lauren Hutton, who for some unknown reason can't survive on just human blood, there's some kind of reset in the system so that if she doesn't drink a virgin's blood on three successive occasions before Halloween, then something bad will happen.  What, she dies?  Loses her powers?  Is forced to move out of Los Angeles?  

There are many, many plotholes in this scenario.  Mainly because having sex does not alter a person's blood chemistry in any way, not as long as they use protection, anyway.  Umm, yeah, this was made in the 1980's for sure.  At a time when people were just coming to terms with herpes and AIDS, why not make them concerned about vampirism as well?  Only this is a bit of a spin, where having sex might be dangerous, but hey, at least it will keep beautiful vampires away.  Wait, is that a good thing or a bad thing?  

I guess this is a debatable point, because high-schooler Mark Kendall has a steady girlfriend, but one who won't have sex with him.  And the beautiful woman he meets in a nightclub will take him home and fool around with him, but she also wants to drink his blood.  (Which he confuses with oral sex, mainly because either action will make him pass out.)  

That L.A. nightclub is a little weird, because every table had a phone on it, and it seems that if you found someone attractive you could call their table and arrange a face-to-face meeting.  This is not only moronic, I don't think it was ever a thing, because why couldn't you just walk over to that person and start talking, why did you have to call them first?  Maybe this is what people did before speed dating and Tinder, but I kind of doubt it.  

As in "Lost Boys", the main character finds himself turning into a vampire, although it takes him a LONG time to figure it out.  Doesn't he wonder why he no longer enjoys his burgers well-done, but raw instead?  Isn't he the least bit curious why the sunlight suddenly burns his skin, and he has to wear sunglasses all the time?  I mean, this is right up Jim Carrey's alley, it's like his character from "Dumb and Dumber" is suddenly craving blood and can't figure out why.  

Outside of Hutton and Carrey, the acting here is just abysmal.  The high-school buddies are total horndog stereotypes, because someone thought that vampire movies needed to be more like "Porky's" or "Fast Times at Ridgemont High".  And the girlfriend character is dumber than dirt, even when the solution to keeping her boyfriend safe is so freakin' obvious (umm, just sleep with him already) it takes her an eternity to land on this as a solution.  The scene where she asks for advice from the (oddly-accented) bookstore owner (because hey, who knows more about vampires...) was just painful to watch.  "Wait, do you mean that a vampire could drink the blood of a person, like a high-school student?"  Oh, God, honey, put the pieces together, already!  

It all culminates in one of the most pointless chase scenes ever, as Mark and his girl dash around the Countess' mansion, with vampires attacking from every side, without ever harming them.  Because really, what could vampires possibly do to people?  All they do is hiss a bit, and then when they're defeated (by the power of teen sex, of course...) well, they just let our heroes go, of course.  Ironically, this is a vampire story with no teeth.

Also starring Jim Carrey (last seen in "Dumb and Dumber To"), Lauren Hutton (last seen in "American Gigolo"), Cleavon Little, Karen Kopins, Thomas Ballatore, Skip Lackey, Richard Schaal, Peggy Pope (last seen in "9 to 5"), Peter Elbling.

RATING: 3 out of 10 beef patties

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Hotel Transylvania 2

Year 8, Day 287 - 10/13/16 - Movie #2,465   

BEFORE: We had a large spider out on on our back porch for about two weeks, and it would spin a web over our kitchen door and sit right in the middle, which put it in the middle of the door's window, and it scared me the first few times I saw it, so much that I was afraid to go out on the porch and feed the two stray cats in my backyard, for fear that the spider would get in the house while I did that.  My wife said that if the spider got in the house, she'd be moving out shortly after that. I swear, this spider was so big, when it stretched its legs out, it looked like a small king crab.  

When I finally opened the back door after a few days of guilt-inducing stares from the cats, the door ruined "Crabbie's" web, and she would run up one of the web-lines and perch on the flood-light, right over the door.  This wasn't much of a better situation, because I felt that if I stepped outside, Crabbie (assuming she was a deadly brown recluse spider, which I had concluded was a definite possibility) could possibly jump off the light-bulb, fall into my shirt via the neck-hole, bite my throat and I'd die, leaving her to build whatever size web she wanted on our porch.  So I was very careful when I stepped out onto the porch to make sure I had eyes on the spider, and she stayed up on the light.

I imagine that Crabbie got sick of me destroying her web, throwing two or four legs up in the air in frustration each time, because last Saturday, while I was at Comic-Con, my wife told me that the spider had left the porch, and set up a new web between the neighbor's phone cable and the fence.  It was a rainy day, maybe this was a better place to catch mosquitoes, I don't know.  But we can see her from the bedroom window (and that's, like, 20 feet away - I told you, she's a big spider...) and I'm glad she moved of her own accord.  I just thought it was funny that during a time when many people are decorating their porches with fake spider-webs for Halloween, we had the real thing.  

Now I realize why my brain put "Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2" next to this one, because both films are set in hotels (one in Las Vegas, one in Transylvania) and both feature overprotective fathers as their central characters.  Kevin James carries over for his third film in a row, and provides the voice of (I'm guessing) the incorrectly named "Frankenstein" character.

A couple of months ago, the cable system's On Demand feature was really screwed up, I guess nothing would play for a week or two, and to make up for it, all the TW customers affected got a coupon for a free premium movie.  I thought about getting "The Hateful Eight", just because its length would have made it the best value for the coupon, but I rented this film instead, just to make sure I'd have it in time for a place in this year's chain.  

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Hotel Transylvania" (Movie #1,567)

THE PLOT: Dracula and his friends try to bring out the monster in his half-human, half-vampire grandson in order to keep his daughter Mavis from leaving the hotel.  

AFTER: Another day, another sequel.  I re-read my review of the first "Hotel Transylvania" film, and it seems that even though I thought the movie was a lot of fun, and clever in its set-up of monsters running a hotel, I was down on the way it reduced a bunch of scary movie monsters to a set of child-friendly running gags.  Because it's part of what I see as the "dumbing down" of America, plus the way that my generation has coddled the millennials, collectively keeping our kids away from anything that can harm them, upset them or even inconvenience them, which has created a generation of entitled millennial slackers who can't handle even the slightest bit of hardship.  I hate to sound like an old fogey here, but you damn hipsters are just so weak and soft

In response to my complaints (and presumably, those of other people), this franchise has now refocuses its aim against the millennial generation, presenting a (presumably) Baby-BOO-mer Count Dracula, who's out of touch with the modern generation of kids.  In the first film he couldn't see eye-to-eye with his daughter's boyfriend Johnny, partially because Johnny was human, about 100 years younger than her, and for some strange reason, his daughter refused to drink his blood and turn him into a zombified vampire slave.  Kids today, what are you gonna do with them?

My feeling now is that this is really pretty clever, the human/vampire disconnect is subtle code for any major difference between two people, whether that's their race, religion, sexual orientation, etc.  The second film starts with Mavis and Johnny's wedding, where the guests are half monster and half human, and references are made throughout to "mixed" marriages.  But this married couple faces some of the same challenges that any young couple might face - which set of parents should we live closer to?  Where should we spend our holidays?  (In this case, it's easy - Halloween in Transylvania, then Christmas in California, duh.)  And when a baby comes along, how should it be raised, as a human, or as a vampire?

The film fast-forwards through four years of baby Dennis's life - which at first seems like a mistake, and to explain it the plot arbitrarily states that the child may not display any characteristics of being a vampire until the age of 5, but if he doesn't seem like a vampire on his fifth birthday, he'll never be one.  Many things here seem counter to the rules of vampirism.  First off, who knew vampires could be pregnant?  The usual traditional way to make more vampires is just to bite some more humans, right?  But I guess Dracula and his late wife did have Mavis the "natural" way, so I'll concede this point.  But then who can say whether a human and vampire can even HAVE a child together?  Are they even still the same species?  And why five years old, and why such a hard cut-off for displaying monster-like tendencies?  And if he's not a vampire by age 6, can't his mother just bite him and turn him into one, why isn't that regarded as an option?

Ah, but then I realized (through my experiences watching my niece and nephew) why the film sped through the first four years of Dennis' life.  Because babies, on a whole, are not that interesting - despite what their parents all seem to think on Facebook.  Newsflash, from all people without babies to those with - nobody cares.  Your kid with a bowl of oatmeal dumped on his head is not remotely interesting, or funny, he's just a klutz.  At least kids who are five can talk and think for themselves - before that, they can barely function, they can't feed themselves, and some of them don't even know how to use a toilet!  They're just poop machines and germ factories - where is the appeal of that?  Geez, if I spent that much time hanging out with people who were incoherent, prone to spitting up and soiling their pants, I'd think I was back in college...  Bottom line, I just don't get the baby thing. Finally my niece and nephew are seven, and I can discuss things like comic books and "Star Wars" with them.

I get that we're all looking for common ground, and a way to connect, and this movie gets that.  And if you had trouble connecting with your kids, imagine how much harder it must be to connect with your grand-kids!  While some of the gags here are low-hanging fruit - like, Dracula's an older guy, so he can't figure out how to send a text message (really?) some of it does go a bit deeper.  When Drac learns that his daughter is thinking of raising Dennis in California, he encourages her to go and check out Santa Cruz (Spanish for "Holy Cross", how ironic) while he's got another plan in motion - he and his monster buddies take the little boy out to their old "haunts", to show him how monsters act.

Wouldn't you know, the monsters have become all old and tired, and they've forgotten how to be scary.  People would rather take a selfie with them than be scared by them - I guess they're just not as scary as terrorist attacks or Presidential elections.  The Werewolf would rather chase a frisbee than kill his prey, and the mummy can't even summon a decent sandstorm anymore.  If you're watching this film with your kids, you may see a bit of yourself in these characters - if so, my condolences. Even taking the kid out to Vampire Camp is a big bust, because the kids don't play competitive sports any more (I guess they all get participation trophies now) and even the flying lessons are done with excessive safety equipment.

The whole thing culminates with Dennis's fifth birthday party, to which Dracula's father gets mistakenly invited, and he turns out to be REALLY old school, like he still bites humans and drinks their blood, ugh, how barbaric.  So he regards humans as food, and willing subjects for possession, how will he react when he learns his granddaughter is married to one?

There are massive story problems with the "Bela" character - what is it?  What's his connection to Great-Vampa Vlad?  He looks more bat-like, so is he a pet, a family friend, Vlad's boyfriend?  It's unclear.  The addition of this character seems like a cheat, basically splitting the older generation character into two pieces, one of which ultimately approves of the human/vampire marriage and one that doesn't.  One serves as the villain that gets defeated in the action sequence, and the other gets to be the loving old-timer who finally sees the light.  It's like the screenwriter couldn't decide which way to go and said, "Screw it, let's do both things."

Someone also apparently paid attention to my complaints about confusing "Frankenstein's Monster" with "Frankenstein" the doctor, because the monster here does take the time to explain that it's not really his name, that people often make this simple mistake.  But then, during the rest of the film, he's called "Frank" by everyone.  Why, because it's easier to just keep giving in to ignorance?  Come on, be bold, take a stand, prove that you know more than the audience does!  (Try it, it's fun!)  So points for making the attempt, but these points are NEGATED by not being consistent throughout the rest of the movie.

NITPICK POINT: The character this film calls "Bigfoot" is WAY out of proportion - sure, a joke can be funny when taken to extremes, but this makes no sense.  We see a foot, but the rest of the character is so big, it's out of frame.  My guess is that they intended to call the character "King Kong", but then got a call from another company's lawyer, so they had to change the name.

NITPICK POINT #2: For the 2nd time in the series, we're shown a vampire's birthday party.  But if you're an immortal vampire, you don't age, right?  So why do they need a birthday?  And now tonight we see a baby vampire grow up, at a regular human rate.  So which is it, are vampires immortal, they age slowly, or they age regularly?  This gets more confusing the more you pick it apart.

Also starring the voices of: Adam Sandler (last seen in "Pixels"), Selena Gomez (last heard in "Hotel Transylvania"), Andy Samberg (last heard in "Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2"), Steve Buscemi (last seen in "Big Daddy"), David Spade (last seen in "A Very Brady Sequel"), Keegan-Michael Key (last seen in "Tomorrowland"), Asher Blinkoff, Fran Drescher (last seen in "The Big Picture"), Molly Shannon, Megan Mullally (last seen in "About Last Night..."), Nick Offerman (last seen in "In a World..."), Mel Brooks, Rob Riggle (last seen in "Dumb and Dumber To"), Dana Carvey, Chris Kattan, Jon Lovitz (last heard in "Eight Crazy Nights"), Robert Smigel (also last seen in "Pixels"), Nick Swardson (ditto), Chris Parnell (last seen in "Sisters"), Luenell.

RATING: 6 out of 10 Slurpee flavors

Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2

Year 8, Day 286 - 10/12/16 - Movie #2,464

BEFORE: For anyone who might think, "What's this film doing here?  It's not a horror movie!"  Umm, I respectfully disagree, I'm guessing it's a horror in its own way.  But I taped it to fill up the DVD with "Pixels", and I've got no other place to put it, except between two Kevin James films that ARE more Halloween-based.  So it's here or nowhere - though I'm guessing I'll have preferred "nowhere" before the night is over.

There's going to be another film I watch during October that is also not a horror film, but I'll explain that one when the time comes.

FOLLOW-UP TO: "Paul Blart, Mall Cop" (Movie #572)
THE PLOT:  After six years of keeping our malls safe, Paul Blart has earned a well-deserved vacation. He heads to Vegas with his teenage daughter before she heads off to college. But safety never takes a holiday.

AFTER: I watched the first "Paul Blart" film back in 2010, in a chain that included a bunch of other cop & heist films, like "Training Day", "Firewall", "The Bank Job", "The Real McCoy" and the similarly-themed security guard films, "Observe and Report" and "Armed and Dangerous".  Now this sequel is sandwiched between two Halloween films, and honestly, I couldn't care less.  It's too hard to maintain both actor linking AND thematic linking, one of them's got to give.

Watching this film was just plain excruciating, mostly because the character is so clueless and wrong about everything - like being an overprotective dad, and walking around with this overblown, sense of self-importance.  I don't care if he's covering up his own inadequacies, or this is how he deals with tragic losses, he still comes off like a jerk.  And I don't want to watch a movie about a jerk.  Sure, he's got a good heart, cares about his daughter, blah blah blah, he's still a jerk.  

But he's good at his job, right?  That's what we're supposed to remember about Paul Blart?  Only he succeeds accidentally, right?  Or fails upwards?  Gad, this is confusing, and it's really not worth the time needed to figure out his personality profile.  And who exactly is this movie marketed to, kids?  Right, because kids really want to watch a film about a single parent struggling with a security guard job and his diabetic sugar levels.  Make sure to add some plot points about paying union dues and saving money into retirement accounts while you're at it - kids love that sort of thing.  

Here Blart goes to Vegas for a convention of security professionals, after tragically losing his mother in a milk truck accident.  I think the actress who played his mother made a really smart move by being written out of this sequel, and only appearing in flashback.  Other actors were not so lucky.  But in between carrying in his own luggage (pointless joke) and acting as the "cooler" at the craps table (another bit that goes nowhere), Blart stumbles upon an art heist at the Wynn Casino.  

Or, I should say that his daughter stumbles on it, but this draws him in to the action.  After he finishes giving the emotional keynote speech about the dedication needed to work in the security field.  Again, how does this appeal to kids, who all want to grow up to be astronauts and firemen and politicians and sports stars?

It's just a collection of random things, mostly, like the attack of that weird crane bird, perhaps the most random thing of all.  Plus, Kevin James falls down. Like, a lot.  Beyond that, there's no rhyme nor reason, and the acting is about as subtle as you would expect from people who cut their teeth on Disney Channel comedies.  Zero time is spent on HOW the criminals manage to steal the art, because it scarcely matters.  They've just got gizmos that disable the security, OK?  Let's move on.

When, oh WHEN is Paul Blart going to realize that he's at a security guard convention, with a few hundred other people who could help him defeat the bad guys?  When is he going to remember all the cool technology that was shown to him, quite blatantly, at the convention, with the marbles and the cannon of sticky goo and the tasers and such?  Geez, these plot points had everything but big giant circles around them, or arrows reading "Hey, remember THIS later in the film, everyone!"  Oh, the movie does get there, but it takes WAY too long to do so, and yet somehow, it's only 90 minutes long total. 

The film should simply land on a direction and stick with it, for things to be funny.  Either Paul Blart is completely clueless about reading situations and "figuring out" people, or he's not.  Like the beautiful security guard that he "assumes" is into him.  It's funny only because she's not into him, she's a hottie and he's a schlub, so there's a disconnect between his reality and ours.  But then she DOES fall for him, which is really unlikely, but also a tiny bit funny.  But they can't BOTH be funny in the same film, because they negate each other.  If she really does fall for him, then he wasn't clueless in the first place, and therefore he IS an expert, which has no comedy juice attached to it. 

Also starring Raini Rodriguez (last seen in "Paul Blart: Mall Cop"), Neal McDonough (last seen in "RED 2"), Daniella Alonso (last seen in "Black Knight"), Eduardo Verastegui, David Henrie (last seen in "Grown Ups 2"), Shirley Knight (last seen in "Our Idiot Brother"), Gary Valentine (last seen in "Stuck on You"), Ana Gasteyer (last seen in "Fun Size"), Nicholas Turturro (last seen in "I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry"), Loni Love, Shelly Desai, Vic Dibitetto, D.B. Woodside, Bas Rutten (last seen in "Here Comes the Boom"), Lauren Ash (last seen in "Lars and the Real Girl") with cameos from Jackie Sandler (also carrying over from "Pixels"), Bob Clendenin, Steve Wynn, and the band Mini-Kiss. 

RATING: 3 out of 10 peanut m&m's

Tuesday, October 11, 2016


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