Pixels review

August 7, 2015

My obsessive animosity toward Adam Sandler’s movies all started when I was a child. Day after day at as a student at Bishop’s Peak Elementary School, I would listen to my classmates repeating out-of-context quotes like “t-t-t-today, junior” and laughing at the Hebrew words used and Jewish celebrities mentioned in Sandler’s “Hanukkah Song,” despite myself being the only Jewish person they knew. As I grew older, I learned that while some of Sandler’s films such as Happy Gilmore and The Wedding Singer are quite funny and that he has astonished with some of his dramatic roles such as those in Punch-Drunk Love and Reign Over Me, the vast majority of Sandler’s output are undisputed bombs. The man has talent, he just is too lazy and overpaid to use it more than once a decade anymore. The Onion’s A.V. Club has an recurring theory that Happy Madison films are nothing more than paid vacations for Sandler and his friends and family. If this is true, Pixels is a paid vacation to Washington, D.C., London, and meaningless nostalgia for the early 1980s.
Pixels is apparently set in an alternate universe where Obama lost the 2012 Presidential election to Will Cooper (Kevin James), an illiterate goofball and childhood friend of Sam Brenner (Sandler), a former Pac-Man prodigy who now works as a software installer. Brenner shares a series of awkward love-hate moments with a recently divorced client named Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), before discovering that she is a Lieutenant Colonel and, along with President Cooper, planning to attack alien life forms which have transformed into the designs of 1980s arcade games. The problem is, neither Van Patten nor Cooper have any video game knowledge, which is where Brenner’s once obsolete gaming skills come in.
Pixels’ cast is rounded out by stereotypical conspiracy theorist Ludlow Lamonsoff (Josh Gad) as well as Eddie Plant (Peter Dinklage), Brenner’s former gaming rival whose mannerisms are styled after the antagonist of The King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters, a superior arcade gaming film in every regard. While children of the 1980s may enjoy cameo appearances by Max Headroom and a Smurf, even casual gamers may grimace at the lack of care and thought taken in replicating the designs of the games themselves; Donkey Kong and Mario/Jumpman both appear as villains while Q-Bert is inexplicably an obnoxious comic relief character in the ranks of Jar Jar Binks and Scrappy-Doo. Female characters besides Lt. Col. Van Patten are limited to a sexualized Xena-esque warrior (Ashley Benson) and cameos by Serena Williams and Martha Stewart who Lamonsoff and Plant disturbingly “win” in two of the film’s many cases of misogyny. Pixels shrugs off the reality that female gamers exist while reveling in its superficial and pathetic middle-aged male nerd-dom. With few laughs or clever ideas, Pixels joins the Super Mario Bros. and Pokemon films as one of the most pointless video gaming movies of all time. It’s like a broken arcade game that eats your quarter and your time.

Ted 2 review

July 28, 2015

After last being seen attracting the attention of the Anti-Defamation League at the 2013 Oscars, Seth MacFarlane’s foul-mouthed, bong-hitting teddy bear is back and blander than ever. When his failed plans to adopt a child result in government scrutiny, Ted is stripped of his rights as a person and is recognized only as property, making void his marriage to “Boston trash” Tami-Lynn McCafferty (Jessica Barth). Ted sets off to secure his equal rights with help from his newly divorced “thunder buddy” Johnny Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) and novice defense attorney Samantha L. Jackson (Amanda Seyfried), the latter of whom serves as a lackluster replacement for Mila Kunis’ character from the first film. Meanwhile, disgruntled Hasbro janitor Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) schemes to capture and mutilate Ted in hopes of duplicating his sentient nature for mass consumption in a subplot that ultimately goes nowhere. While the main premise and one heartfelt if trite courtroom scene from Morgan Freeman may attempt to convince audiences that Ted 2 embraces the idea of equal rights, the film is typically filled with MacFarlane’s swill of so-called “hipster racism” including a middle-aged black woman’s ¬repeated use of the oxymoronic phrase “white n*gg*rs” as well as tired jabs at the disabled and other minority groups. Add in dozens of forgettable pop culture references to Star Wars, Star Trek, The Lord of the Rings, Rocky, Mr. T, and Superman, unfunny cameos by Jay Leno and Liam Neeson, several obnoxious running gags that become staler with every recurrence, gay jokes, dick jokes, shit jokes, and weed jokes, and you have one of the laziest and most insipid comedies of 2015. As another MacFarlane vehicle, Family Guy’s Brian Griffin once said, “swing and a miss.”

The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water review

February 26, 2015

Explaining the widespread appeal of the long-running animated Nickelodeon children’s series Spongebob Squarepants to those who take displeasure in its self-proclaimed “nautical nonsense” is one of the most difficult tasks a person can embark on.

It is a challenge that brings to mind the sentiments of Grateful Dead bandleader Jerry Garcia, who claimed that everyone either loved or hated his equally trippy and folksy musical concoctions with no in-betweens. Therefore, The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water, the series’ second feature length incarnation, will convert no skeptics to embrace the sponge.

Yet for those who enjoy the quirky cartoon and 2004’s confusingly, similarly titled The SpongeBob SquarePants Movie, this film will not disappoint. Though the departure of showrunner and marine biologist Stephen Hillenburg resulted in years of mediocre episodes, Hillenburg has returned, and Sponge Out of Water is up to the standards of the show’s 
golden age.

Like many episodes of the show, Sponge Out of Water sees the optimistic and spontaneous SpongeBob (Tom Kenny) saving the reputation of fast food establishment the Krusty Krab from the conniving and inconsistently miniscule rival business proprietor Sheldon Plankton (“Mr.” Doug Lawrence), who persistently plots to obtain the coveted Krabby Patty secret formula in a hapless way not unlike Wile E. Coyote.  Unfortunately, for both of them, a much more competent third party in the form of the outrageous live-action pirate Burger Beard (Antonio Banderas) steals the formula instead, causing the fast food-addicted citizens of the underwater town of Bikini Bottom to destroy their civilization and enter an anarchic post-apocalyptic lifestyle. With even his dim-witted best friend Patrick Star (Bill Fagerbakke) betraying him in a gluttonous rage, SpongeBob teams up with his former foe Plankton in a quest for the lost formula.

This loose and unusual plot allows for a plethora of styles of animation, including a hallucinogenic series of time travel sequences and ultimately a mixture of CGI and live action in which SpongeBob and friends step onto a beach and interact with human beings, which the naïve sponge mistakes for “land porpoises.” Add in a handful of pleasantly forced references to early episodes and a superhero showdown complete with Patrick’s superpower being the ability to conjure ice cream cones, and you have one of the most entertaining, if inessential, children’s films of the year.


February 23, 2015

In my lonely hours I find myself fueled to the stomach by a most bitter gas
Though I attempt to love my peers, I instead chase them out with a child’s garden of retorts
Then I wonder why I am excluded from activities while pitying myself as a suburban sage
Too blind to see that while I hate because I am alone, I am alone because I hate

Accomplishments of others are lambasted and lampooned by my whirling cyclone of a mind
This is because I cannot grant praise for them due to my own personal insecurities
Then I wonder why I am excluded from activities while pitying myself as a suburban sage
Too blind to see that while I hate because I am alone, I am alone because I hate

How much longer will I fail to fulfill my potential of decency in lieu of my petty threatened ego?
And why do I keep on claiming to have grown when I still have a long way to go in development?
And why do I wonder why I am excluded from activities while pitying myself as a suburban sage?
Still too blind to see that while I hate because I am alone, I am alone because I hate.

Lunch Poem 1

December 16, 2014

I’d like a footlong cold cut combo please on wheat
Pepper jack cheese, not toasted
Lettuce, tomatoes, pickles, olives, jalapenos, and banana peppers
Mustard, oil, vinegar, salt, and pepper
Chips and a small drink, for here please.

Bowling for Corralberg

November 23, 2014

Detective Paper held this morning’s issue of The Corralberg Chronicle in his callused hands as he sipped a venti cup of decaf coffee. After battling insomnia for multiple months, Paper’s doctor had recommended he switch to decaf, which he found insipid and bland, much unlike the headline on the front page: “Corralberg Bowling Alley Reports Record Number of Gutterballs.” Corralberg historically had the best bowlers in the entire state of Calpurnia, so how could they manage to achieve so many gutterballs with so much athletic talent? Paper didn’t know, but he sensed a conspiracy and hoped the rest of his detective agency did too.
“Pass me the cream,” said Officer Laura Palmhair, Paper’s partner in criminal investigation with benefits, from across the grungy table. Their mutual friend, Junior Detective Bernard, sat hunched in the corner of the room, content with a cold Pop Tart.
“Sure,” said Paper, sliding the condiment across the table. “Laura, how would you like to investigate the Corralberg gutterballs with me?”
“I don’t know, I remember they weren’t pleased when we attempted to investigate the firebombing of their Little Italy back in June,” said Laura, seasoning her coffee with a few dashes of cream. “They have a very rigid, not to mention religious police force who want no foreign detectives embarking on their soil.”
“They did,” corrected Paper. “Unfortunately for them, the Corralberg killer, Keef Smite, offed their two most intrusive officers, Conner and Dustin last year before being given a lifetime sentence in the Tijuana Jail.”
“How’d he get to Tijuana again?” asked Laura.
“It’s very complicated and confusing. I found a book about it in the library a while back and quit reading after the first twelve pages or so,” said Paper. “Same way everyone gets to Tijuana, I guess. But that’s not important now.”
Bernard finished his Pop Tart and eagerly smiled at his two superiors. “Can I go to Corralberg too?”
“Ask your mother,” joked Paper, neglecting the fact that Bernard was currently in his mid-20’s and long free from his overprotective mother’s clutches. “I don’t see much of a problem with it, as long as you remain completely discreet. No using skinheads’ heads as bowling balls or any monkey business like that.”
“Why would I do that?” asked Bernard. “Just because I’m Jewish, huh?”
“God, boy, it was just a joke,” said Paper. “We like to have fun here in Brixton, much as they do in Corralberg. Or San Narciso. Frankly, everyone everywhere likes to have fun, except you for some reason. I don’t know why that is, and we all have more important things to find out. So are you coming or not?”
“I’m coming,” said Bernard. “I haven’t been to Corralberg since my days of Jewish summer camp high in the Corralberg Hills.”
“You were high?” laughed Paper.
“No, the hills were,” snapped Laura. “C’mon, Paper, no more goofing around. We have a mystery to solve and the next bus to Corralberg leaves in 30 minutes, unless you want to walk 600 miles and end up sleeping in hotels in crap towns like Kling City.”
“I’ve got a cousin in Kling City,” said Bernard.
“Well, Bernard makes a pretty convincing argument for Kling City, but I’ll be danged if I’m not taking the bus,” said Paper, and joined his colleagues on a bus trip to Corralberg.

“Dang good decaf here in Corralberg,” said Paper as he sipped perhaps the best decaf he had ever tasted the next morning in the Corralberg Motel.
“Dang good cherry scone,” said Laura.
“Dang good nut log,” said Bernard. “That nut log lady really knew what she was talking about.”
“So how far is it to the Corralberg Bowling Alley?” asked Paper.
“I just got off the phone with a guy named Dave Warson, who’s a youth bowling instructor there. He said that we can’t get in without lifetime memberships,” said Laura.
“Lifetime memberships? What kind of hogwash is that?” exclaimed Paper. “I’ve probably been to three dozen bowling alleys in my life, and I’ve never paid a single one of them a cent in memberships.”
“Paper, don’t worry about money. I already told you, I got enough from my brother Nick’s inheritance.”
“I feel like that’s dirty money, but what the hey,” said Paper, who had always had disdain for Laura’s brother Nick.
“No, dirty money is what the Corralberg Bowling Alley is probably making, fixing the bowling alleys so that even the most talented of bowlers consistently wind up with gutter balls instead of strikes or even spares. The lifetime membership fee is only the tip of the iceberg,” said Laura.
“Have you ever bowled?” Paper asked Bernard.
“A couple of times in college,” said Bernard. “Didn’t your parents die in a bowling competition?”
“Jeez, talk about insensitive questions,” snapped Paper. “No, they died en route to a bowling competition in the Bermuda Triangle. Can you please never talk to me about that again?”
“I’m sorry, my curiosity got the best of me again,” said Bernard.
“Let’s hope that it doesn’t happen again,” said Paper.

Dumb and Dumber To review

November 20, 2014

The Farrelly brothers’ darling dimwitted duo of Lloyd Christmas (Jim Carrey) and Harry Dunne (Jeff Daniels) are back, and this time the laughs are few and far behind.
When Lloyd, who has spent the past 20 years faking catatonia in a Rhode Island psychiatric institution, is approached by Harry about his own pressing medical concerns—a desperate need for a kidney transplant—Lloyd declines in typical inconsiderate carelessness for the only human being on Earth who even gives him the time of day, so the numbskulls set off to find Harry’s old flame, the intrepidly named Fraida Felcher (Kathleen Turner), whom they believe to be the mother of Harry’s long-lost daughter Penny (Rachel Melvin), who rivals Lloyd and Harry in her idiocy.
However, in ways which succeed at nothing but mild nostalgia of the first film, the shabby plot soon convolutes into a combination of insipid bathroom humor and both uninspired and ultimately irrelevant villainous threats from bumbling antagonists Adele Pinchlow (Laurie Holden) and Travis Lippencott (Rob Riggle), who plot to put the nitwit pair out of their misery.
Even devotees of the first Dumb and Dumber will likely shake their heads in shame at this shoddy excuse for a sequel, as it easily fails to live up to both its predecessor and subsequent Farrelly brothers efforts such as There’s Something About Mary and Kingpin (the poor man’s Big Lebowski).
While the first film at least featured amusing throwaway dialogue like “the Monkees, they were a major influence on the Beatles” as well as memorably asinine soundtrack material including Green Jelly’s piss-take on “The Bear Went Over the Mountain,” the Butthole Surfers’ reverb-heavy caricature of Donovan’s drippy hippie anthem “The Hurdy Gurdy Man,” the sub-Primus bass funk of the Lupins’ “Take,” and even an unexpected appearance by Nick Cave’s sinister epic “Red Right Hand,” audiophiles and audiophobes alike will find little to appreciate here except a brief reprise of Apache Indian’s reggae goof “Boom Shak-A-Lak,” the unofficial theme song of the first film.
Indeed, every flashback to the 1994 film becomes progressively staler, from a tired reference to the infamous “most annoying sound in the world” to a post-credits cameo by retired hockey player Cam Neely as the trashy trucker Sea Bass. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

Banana Split Serenade

November 11, 2014

The coffeehouse tonight was a living hell
When the attractive young barista called me a monkey
And I forcefully retreated to the jungle
In pursuit of bananas and cream.

Other Lives

November 11, 2014

While we may barely glance at some people

Each of them plays a vital role in one of our other lives.

Doing It For Her

November 11, 2014

Even though we only meet other week
I find my lost pulse in her
Every conversation brings me back to life
I become the man I used to be
The man people love and miss
With bounce in his step and a smile on his face
And when she leaves me, I start to die again
Wither into nothingness, feel less than a life
Still I do it for her when she’s gone
Because I know she wants me to carry on.