REVIEW: The Cobbler

20 07 2015

The CobblerTom McCarthy may soon bear an ignominious distinction in the history of my sight, going from making my #1 film in 2011, “Win Win,” to likely one of the worst in 2015 with “The Cobbler.”  This adult fairytale, co-written with Paul Sado, makes “Click” feel like it possesses the profundity of an Aesop’s Fable.  It’s all of the magic with none of the heart.

Adam Sandler stars as Max Simkin, a pickle-munching mensch on the Lower East Side, who reluctantly becomes the “guardian of souls.”  It’s a title not only better deployed within the context of a Marvel movie but also a pretty terrible pun since Max is a cobbler who works with soles.  In a strange turn of events, Max discovers that he can literally walk around as his clients if he walks arounds in their shoes … because magic.

Shockingly, Sandler’s character takes a whopping half-hour to discover the potential of the shoes for sex.  “The Cobbler” bops around from episode to episode, most stupid but a few touching, all the while squandering a great opportunity for an obvious message. The premise of the story effortlessly lends itself to discussing cultural differences and the understanding we can gain by learning through experience.

But sadly, this isn’t a Tom McCarthy movie, not really.  It’s an Adam Sandler movie.  In his movies, social commentary would never get in the way of entertaining genre fare.  Shame on us for assuming anything might be different here.  C2stars





REVIEW: Men, Women & Children

16 12 2014

In 2009, Jason Reitman added a potent subplot to his film “Up in the Air” that dealt with some of the alienation people feel in a depersonalized, technology-laden society.  Five years later, he arrives with “Men, Women & Children,” a dark and moody spiritual cousin to his masterpiece.  It goes beyond the obvious stating that people live text message to text message or email to email.  Underneath it all, they are clearly living orgasm to orgasm.

Reitman finds a new writing partner, Erin Cressida Wilson, to adapt Chad Kultgen’s novel, which is perhaps the only truly honest novel about the realities of living in a digitally mediated society.  The story follows a group of teenagers and their parents, each age group struggling with the temptations of carnality made available at their fingertips.  They all seek intimacy, a rarity in a sea of screen addicts, yet cannot seems to escape their enmeshed existence in the World Wide Web.

It seems as if Reitman, likely by commercial imperatives, had to pull some punches and soften the impact of his film.  How blistering can an excoriation of an Internet pornography obsessed society be if those toxic images are never shown?  How shameful can sexual deviance feel if the acts themselves are artfully avoided?  Reitman did not have to go full NC-17 to make an effective film on this topic, and “Men, Women & Children” suffers from his cautious moves.

Still, the message gets across pretty clearly, provided the audience can put down their iPhones for two hours to listen to it. For once, the youth are neither a fountain of hope nor a convenient object for blame; they are just exploring normal curiosities in the same way that their chief role models did.  In fact, the adults of “Men, Women & Children” are every bit as clueless and juvenile in cyberspace as their kids.  Society is all in this battle together, and no one is above it because it brings out the worst in everyone.

Read the rest of this entry »





REVIEW: Just Go With It

12 02 2011

Adam Sandler sure has fallen a long way since the glory days of “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore” – and those days weren’t even that good.  Fifteen years later, we are invited to just go wherever with the comic who has long since worn out the welcome mat with “Just Go With It,” a typical Sandler comedy that might have been fairly amusing if it had been made a decade ago.  It’s a step above last summer’s “Grown Ups” but probably only because there is a strong female presence to whip him in line.

Taking a fairly unique premise, the movie follows Sandler’s Los Angeles plastic surgeon (cue some scary and derivative jokes involving lots of Joan Rivers-esque figures) Danny and his morally suspect way of picking up women without a hitch – pretending to be married.  It works out great for him until he meets the incredibly well-endowed, good-natured, and much younger Palmer (Brooklyn Decker), and he has to start an elaborate lie to keep her.  The ruse, which eventually requires index cards, grows to include his divorced assistant Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) and her two annoyingly precocious children as well as his horndog brother (Nick Swardson).

All things considered, this could have been more than just mildly entertaining, which is what the end product settles for.  There are a few chuckles, usually accompanied by a groan but thankfully not with eye-rolling.  So by all means, if you want to see Adam Sandler re-enact the movies from his prime, “Just Go With It” should provide you with what you’re looking for.  But you’re probably better off dusting off one of his older flicks so you can have the faintest hint of nostalgia of a time when these jokes and formulas weren’t stale.  C





Random Factoid #523

2 01 2011

Still living in 2010 with the factoid column as a report of celebrity death hoaxes hit Entertainment Weekly and caught my eyes.  They said that in the past year, the Internet has carried false death claims for Owen Wilson, Eddie Murphy, Adam Sandler, and Morgan Freeman.

I’m never one to believe these things, largely because I don’t have a Twitter or check it ever, so I’m not exposed to these false claims.  Only when a celebrity actually dies do I notice it on Facebook because suddenly everyone posts statuses.

I’ll never forget when Michael Jackson died and “RIP Michael” flooded Facebook.  If I recall, his death was the biggest spike in Internet traffic ever.  I remember I was on my way to see “Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen” when I heard he had collapsed, and then I got a text from my mom on my shattered iPhone that he had died.

And I’ll also never forget when Heath Ledger died.  I was having my second driving lesson of Driver’s Ed, and while sitting in the backseat, the radio DJ announced that he had died.  At first I didn’t believe it, but then they kept saying it between songs and I realized it had to be true.  Every high school girl died a little inside that night, and they took to Facebook with their grief.

So go away celebrity death hoaxes.  No one’s ever going to believe them unless they hear it from all angles.





REVIEW: Grown Ups

19 07 2010

In “Grown Ups,” Adam Sandler and friends have three stages: childish, adolescently juvenile, and grown up.

When they are childish, the movie is old and trite.  We’ve seen all the bathroom humor, boob humor, fat humor, hot girl humor, and racial humor Sandler can throw at us.  It was funny in the ’90s whenever movies like “Billy Madison” and “Happy Gilmore” were rocking the comedy scene.  But Sandler hasn’t changed his game much since then, and it’s time to move on from the silly and stupid just to get a quick laugh.  In fact, I usually just groan now.

When they are adolescently juvenile, the movie takes flight.  I assume that a lot of this is outside the lines, improvisational stuff.  I felt like I was watching them brainstorming one-liners for SNL in the writer’s room.  It’s like they are reaching out and including us in these creative sessions as they just rattle off joke after joke.  They have some clever wordplay and witty situations when they are at this level, and it’s where they should dwell more often.

When they are grown up, the movie is corny and laughable.  There’s that obligatory “oh, we’ve been joking the whole time, let’s grow up quickly and have a lesson” scene towards the end that derails all the comedic momentum the movie built up.  And this one is so bad and so out of place I can only hope Sandler and pals meant it to play off as a giant joke.

All comics are not created equal, as the movie shows us.  Sandler writes the best for himself, making he and his wife, played by the gorgeous and incredibly out of place Salma Hayek, the only normal ones.  Compared to him, the successful Hollywood agent, we are supposed to assume that everyone else is a loser in comparison to him.  There’s the Mr. Mom played by Chris Rock, the obese therefore butt of jokes played by Kevin James, the creepy bachelor played by David Spade, and the just plain creeper played by Rob Schneider.  Spade’s bits are stale, Rock is fair, Chris Farley’s doppleganger James is good enough not to make us yearn for the late star, and Schneider is as good as he’s ever been – which is to say that he wasn’t funny then and he’s not funny now.

So in the end, it’s that creative spark that comes from just reeling off one-liners and playing off each other that saves the movie from being a total disaster.  It’s that more refined immaturity that we don’t get nearly enough of that keeps us coming back to Sandler’s movies.  Because we don’t want Adam Sandler to grow up so much as just move on.  C /





Random Factoid #326

19 06 2010

I don’t watch much late night TV, not even the talk shows.

How does this tie in with the movies, which I tie everything into?  Well, I watch Letterman, Leno, Jimmy Fallon, and Jimmy Kimmel whenever there is a big comedic movie coming out with a whole lot of stars doing the promotional parade.  The campaign has to take them to late night, so I buy in and watch them talk.  It’s pretty entertaining stuff.

The last time I made a concerted effort to watch a lot of guests was at the release of “Funny People” last summer when Adam Sandler, Seth Rogen, Leslie Mann, Jonah Hill, and more were doing the rounds.  This summer, I’ll be watching around the release of “Grown Ups” with its five stars that will most likely be lighting up the late night circuit.  It kicked off last night with David Spade on Leno, and I’m sure it will be in full force next week.

But let me share the three top moments of the “Funny People” cast’s appearances from last summer.

3. Seth Rogen gets rejected by Megan Fox

2. Jonah Hill and his fake Twitter account

1. Leslie Mann likes to Google herself





SAVE YOURSELF from “Punch-Drunk Love”

20 04 2010

I see a lot of movies, and not all of them are good.  However, I don’t really have a system of reviewing them here.  So, I decided that I needed a feature on “Marshall and the Movies” that allowed me to post reviews of bad movies.  I enjoy informing you what’s worth seeing, but I also think it to be my duty to steer you clear of the awful ones.  (In addition, people seem to get more riled up when you don’t like things than when you love them.)

The name of this series is “SAVE YOURSELF!”  Consider it the anti-“F.I.L.M. of the Week.”  These are movies that no one should be forced to sit through; a “F.I.L.M.” is a movie that everyone should see.

The inaugural pick of this series is “Punch-Drunk Love,” Paul Thomas Anderson’s quirky “comedy” that scored him the Best Director award at Cannes in 2002.  Critics loved it, and so I figured I would give it a chance after PTA’s “There Will Be Blood” left me somewhat disappointed.

After watching “Punch-Drunk Love,” I was definitely disappointed.  But it was more than the usual disappointment – I was also baffled.  These are 90 of the most bizarre minutes of my moviewatching career.  Anderson’s script dabbles in some of the strangest situations – being ripped off by a phone sex operator, exploiting a loophole in a pudding rewards system, finding a harmonium in the middle of a street – which baffle more than they entertain.

I had heard that “Punch-Drunk Love” was a fresh take on the romantic comedy.  I’ll agree with that statement, sans the romance or the comedy.  There isn’t the slightest chemistry between leads Adam Sandler and Emily Watson.  I admit that it’s not supposed to be your typical couple seeing as how Sandler’s character has some serious mental issues, but the relationship that blossoms feels so … wrong, if that makes any sense.  And as for the comedy, Anderson’s humor left me dumbfounded and cringing instead of laughing.

There are plenty of people who love this movie; I even found a fan site exploring “Punch-Drunk Love” as a piece of expressionistic art.  I don’t mind “artsy” movies, but when they are so focused on the art that they forget entertainment and captivation, then I lose interest.  Unless you are the “film snob” type, I would strongly recommend that you stay far away from “Punch-Drunk Love.”