That’s My Boy (Film Review)

That’s My Boy (Film Review)

Adam Sandler movies used to be funny. I swear. His older work, like Billy MadisonHappy Gilmore, and The Wedding Singer really did provide a lot of foolish, teenage laughs. He even proved for a while that he could be a serious actor as well, with a strong turn in Punch Drunk Love.

We, the audience, grew up. Adam Sandler did not.

A problem with comedians of this type, that go for childish laughs, definitely have their place in entertainment. But the problem arises when the built in crowd for them becomes more mature for the audience themselves, and the old type of humour that made us roar when we were 16 just isn’t the same as it is when we are working schlubs in our 30’s. The same can be said for an actor like Jim Carey (which makes me dread what will happen with the upcoming Dumb and Dumber sequel).

Thats-My-Boy-is-an-Adam-Sandler-stinker-0G1M00S3-x-largeThat’s My Boy is a story about a grade 7 student who sleeps with his smoking hot teacher, and gets her pregnant. The result of this affair is a boy named Han Solo, played by Andy Samberg, who has spent his life avoiding his father, and dealing with the consequences of being raised by him. The father, played by Sandler, is an over-the-top drunkard with a poor Boston accent who is constantly on the verge of yelling (as are so many Sandler characters). The issue with Donnie, is that at this point, it is a tired gag. Donnie is a burn out, still trying to live off the fame he got when he was 13 from sleeping with his teacher. He continues to wear old band t-shirts, and drive his Pontiac Fiero, and he successfully comes across as being quite pathetic. But not enough so that we actually sympathize with him as a character.

There are no real laughs in his movie. Maybe the slightest snicker, or under your breath “Huh,” but that is about it. Take this movie back to 1998, and it probably would have been a lot funnier, especially the brother who is in the military and wants to keep his secret “Tickle Time” a secret. There could be laughs there, but just not for the mature audience.

Maybe I shouldn’t dislike a movie just because I am too old to truly enjoy it. But it’s happening. Being older doesn’t mean that nothing is funny anymore, but it seems to mean that Adam Sandler isn’t funny anymore.

Not that you would turn on Netflix to watch this movie expecting a great plot, but it is pretty ridiculous, based around Donnie needing money by the end of the long weekend to keep himself out of jail and the IRS off his back. His son is now a successful businessman, about to get married to the attractive Leighton Meester. If Donnie can get his son to the prison to see his mother (the teacher), then he will be given $50,000 by a news company that will be there covering the story. Ridiculous? You bet. Worth watching, just to see what happens? Not really.

As with most Sandler movies, he cannot sustain comedy for the entire thing, so he tries to inject some heart into it. Will Donnie really come through and be the father that he never was to his son? The fact is, we don’t really care.

There really isn’t much here to be worth a recommendation to watch it. Instead of wasting your time with That’s My Boy, you would probably be better off re-watching Happy Gilmore, and enjoying Happy going to-to-toe with Bob Barker once again.

Alpha House (Film Review)

Alpha House (Film Review)

I decided to fire up Alpha House on Netflix looking for a terrible movie to pass a little bit of time. With the majority of these types of films, there are certain expectations going into it: a couple of laughs, some epic party scenes, and some customary nudity. Alpha House provides one of these: the nudity. Aside from that, this is perhaps one of the worst films ever.

It exceeded all my expectations of being a terrible movie, and what it is instead is an incredibly misogynistic, terribly written, amateurly directed, and awfully acted movie.

alpha2I genuinely feel bad for the actors that signed up for this film. They are no-names that are trying to make their way in the tough business of Hollywood, but starring in this drivel will do nothing for their careers. The males, who are trying to adapt to having to share their frat house with a sorority, are all weak caricatures that fail even at creating the most cookie-cutter of characters. The poor girls, who were seemingly cast for their cup size instead of acting ability, engage in demeaning scene after demeaning scene, hyper-sexualizing themselves for a series of unfunny scenes. They engage in stereotypical activities that are not only demeaning to women, but to all viewers of this film.

Yes, there is plenty of nudity in Alpha House. But there is a part of you that just feels sad for the poor girls who were willing to take their tops off time and again.

Plot wise, there is actually nothing here. The concept is ridiculous from the start, and there are holes here that you could drive a truck through. There are some other characters involved, such as the crusty old dean that appears in every film of this type.

If you are feeling like watching something stupid, there are a ton of better options out there. Avoid Alpha House. Go watch something else, like Road TripAmerican Pie: The Naked Mile, or Fired Up. These are all dumb films, but they are all miles better that Alpha House. Avoid this one at all costs.

Throwback TV: Veronica Mars Season 3

Throwback TV: Veronica Mars Season 3

The final installment of the beloved Veronica Mars TV series shifts our characters out of Neptune High, right into Hearst College, Neptune’s premier institution of higher learning.

All of the characters that we have learned to love over the first couple of seasons are back for the third go round. They have continued to develop from the events of season 2. For example, we have the lovable lout Dick Casablancas, who has been deeply affected by the criminal activity and death of his younger brother, Cassidy. In typical Dick fashion, his method of coping involved booze, partying, and women.

BELLNow that Veronica has moved along from high school, it doesn’t take long before she begins making enemies at her new school. Being smarter that the rest of the students in her criminology class doesn’t exactly endear her to her new classmates, or her new TA, the former prized student of her respected professor.

But, as we know, it won’t take long until people all over campus are asking her for favours, creating the small mysteries that move the series along. And of course, we have our large-scale mysteries that serve as the undercurrent for the year. An on-campus rapist, a mysterious suicide/murder, and Veronica’s tumultuous relationship with Logan Echolls, keep our heroine busy, all while trying to remain a successful student, work a part-time job, and continue helping out her father at Mars Investigations.

Veronica Mars remained nicely consistent throughout its three season run. The same things that worked in the first season continue to work in the third, and it is a formula that viewers have come to enjoy and love. Personally, I didn’t find the third season as engrossing as the first two, but that doesn’t mean that there is really an kind of drop in quality in the show. The last year is every bit as enjoyable as the first two, even if the mysteries aren’t quite as all encompassing or impactful on Veronica as they were the first couple of times around.

As always, the relationships are what make this show great. Logan and Veronica. The introduction of new roommate characters in Piz and Parker. The old standbys in Veronica and her father Keith, Mac, and Wallace. These relationships have been built up for three years, and we are not disappointed in the way that they have developed over the course of time.

Season 3 of Veronica Mars does not disappoint. The only sad thing is that there wasn’t more after the end of this season. On the DVD version, you can see the sneak peak of what would have been season 4, where Veronica would have been an intern at the FBI. Perhaps it was a good thing that the show ended after its three years. Veronica Mars was never destroyed by soap opera plots, or uninteresting side plots. It remains something that is always an entertaining viewing. This is one of those series that can be re-watched time and again, every few years. The wit and humour always remains, and the standout performance by Kristen Bell is never diminished over time.

If you have gone through the first couple of years of VM, you will not be disappointed by the third. Keep watching, marshmallows!

Runner Runner (Film Review)

Runner Runner (Film Review)

To be quick and basic about this film review, Runner Runner is a hot mess. The story of a gambling-savvy Princeton student who goes to Costa Rica when he feels like he has been cheated while playing online poker, is far too fast and very much underdeveloped.

The pace of this film is way off, and there are large gaps where we, as viewers, are left wondering what is happening, and how things have progressed so quickly. The protagonist, played by Justin Timberlake, goes to Costa Rica to complain about the discrepancies he found in the gambling website, and before we can blink, he has a job with the site, is able to bring his friends down, is making tons of money, and is basically the #2 man behind the leader of the site and central villain, played by Ben Affleck. Then with lightning speed, he is in trouble with the FBI, there are some foggy details about what the site is doing to cheat its players, and Affleck is turned from smart businessman to evil genius in the turn of a script page. Throw in a less-than-believable love story, and the film is complete.

runner2One of the biggest errors made by the producers of Runner Runner is that there was a lot of detail that would have been really interesting to know about. Tell us more about the way the site works, how the odds are made and defied, how one would launder money, etc. I felt left wanting for all of these things, because they would have made the movie a heck of a lot more detailed, and far more interesting. I am tired of having these details brushed over, and we are just supposed to believe that the things he is doing with money is bad. This comes across as treating the audience as an uneducated group.

The acting is poor through the majority of the film, as well. Timberlake, who has become one of the more likable celebrities out there, has shown that is able to act, but he needs to stick with roles based on humour, like in a romantic comedy. Consider how he has pretty much become the best Saturday Night Live host over the past few years, and then try and make him act serious. It doesn’t work. Gemma Arterton, the love interest, while attractive, came across as a completely flat character. Affleck, who is one of my secret favorites, is only okay with a thin script that he is given. When he yells, he is convincing, but let’s be honest: this role is not one that as much depth to it, and it is basically calling for him to be cool, then mean, then yell. Then be more mean, and yell some more.

Runner Runner tries to have a little bit of Rounders in it, and a little bit of 21. But it falls flat on both of these attempts. With the short running time (about an hour and a half), there simply isn’t enough time to develop anything: the plot, the characters, the background information. For this reason, you can probably skip this film and find something that is of a similar subject, but done much better.

On the Road (Film Review)

On the Road (Film Review)

It always seemed like it would be impossible to adapt Jack Kerouac’s sprawling, seminal, stream-of-consciousness novel about the freedom of the road and the adventures of Sal Paradise and Dean Moriarty without losing some of the basis of the novel. Some of the feel; some of the freedom.

Over the years, there have been numerous attempts to make On the Road, perhaps the most important work from the Beat Generation, into a movie. There were a bunch of different casting choices, some of them seeming pretty good and interesting, and a whole bunch of different directors who were poised to stand behind the camera to bring this important work of American literature to the silver screen. But it never panned out, for differing reasons. One being that it was always too hard to get a story on the screen that could encompass what Kerouac penned in the early 1950’s, finally getting published in 1957.

On the Road is a book about escape and freedom. About getting away from what the world expects, and getting out there into America, or all the things that America can be, and looking for something else. Something better, perhaps, but something different. It is the desire for adventure.

Sal and Dean in Mexico.
Sal and Dean in Mexico.

Newly added to the Netflix lineup, the film adaptation of On the Road is worth a watch. The reviews for it are not surprisingly mixed, but the writers, director, and actors manage to do their best to bring life to the words in the book.

For those who don’t know, the story is basically about the struggling writer Sal Paradise (a thinly veiled version of Kerouac himself), and his travel adventures with his friends across America. Namely, with the crazy, adventurous, love-to-hate him and hate-to-love him Dean Moriarty. Throughout the story, they travel the country, getting themselves in a number of wild situations, always fueled by cigarettes, booze, and benzedrine. Our characters were willing to push the limits of what their bodies were able to handle, the amount of fun and craziness they could endure, but at the same time, their goals were often simpler. To see what their country really was.

The main characters are played by relative unknowns, Sam Riley and Garrett Hedlund, but the supporting cast is filled with bigger name actors, who play minimal roles in the film. Kristen Stewart has a larger role as one of Dean’s girls, Marylou, and there are appearances by Kirsten Dunst, Amy Adams, Elizabeth Moss, Viggo Mortensen, and Steve Buschemi. A pretty good cast, but some of them are painfully underused. Our main actors do a good job, however. Riley, with his deep raspy, accented voice, brings a strong look to Paradise, allowing us to see him as an observer, a follower of Dean, never quite able to step into the foreground of his own life. Hedlund, as Moriarty, is able to bring the wild coolness that we could only expect of his character. He is charming and vicious, all at the same time, and it is difficult to watch him make poor choices that lead to his sad downfall towards the end of the film. He lives on the edge of his own crazed ideas, and he hooks those around him into his lifestyle. He is memorable to the point that all of those who know him will drop their lives, just because Dean is in town. He has created a legend for himself, and this comes across well with the casting of Hedlund.

Kristen Stewart, usually the sullen, mopey, teenager, excels in her role in this film. I would like to have seen more of Marylou, even though she was just a secondary character. A free spirit with simple values, Stewart bring life to her role, and it was nice to see her letting lose a little bit, away from her single expression used in the majority of her other films. To see Stewart laughing, smiling, and dancing during a great New Year’s Eve scene was something to behold, like we were truly seeing someone else on the screen instead of the famous Twilight actress we have become used to. She was good, and with the little screen time and dialogue she was offered, she was able to complete the character of Marylou. She seemed to embrace the character, the ex-wife of Dean, still drawn to him despite knowing that he would never stay with her. Stewart went all in for the role, doing her first nude scenes on film, which does help out who Marylou is.

Perhaps Kristen Stewart's most memorable scene.
Perhaps Kristen Stewart’s most memorable scene.

The supporting cast is all strong, again, despite their miniature roles.

Some of the strengths of this film include the musical soundtrack, which is incredible at bringing to life the music of the Beat Generation, the thumping bass and angst-riddled saxaphone of the jazz bands, the pulsating tunes that helped guide Paradise on his adventures in sex and drugs. This would definitely be a soundtrack worth owning, it is that good. A highlight is the New Year’s party. A sweaty, drunken gathering, with blaring music, dancing, and singing along to songs. It defined the film, and put a stamp on the idea that for the people of the time, this was a defining moment in their lives.

As a defining moment in the film, however, one feels that it should have been as the title suggests: On the Road. While there was plenty of great, and well-shot scenes of the group being actually out hitchhiking, or driving, it seems that too much of this film was based in the confines that our characters were trying to escape. Perhaps they could have elaborated more on Sal’s days out picking cotton, instead of having him in houses, or apartments. This type of freedom is the very defining theme of the book, after all. Eventually, there is a fair amount of time spent in the car, literally on the road, but it feels like it could have been more about their discovery of America. For me, it seemed that the characters were always on their way somewhere, when reading the novel, I always felt that they had no agenda, and would get home whenever they ended up getting home. Perhaps this is only my interpretation of it, but on the ultimate road trip and journey of self-discovery, they didn’t really discover much about themselves. This is the point of an epic road trip, is it not?

There is little doubt that this novel would be difficult to turn into a film. But here, we have what I would call a pretty good version of it. Paradise struggles to write the book that he so dearly wants to create, Carlos Marx struggles to find his voice in his poetry, Dean leads a life of wildness that leaves him broken and alone, and Marylou is seeking a simple life of love and family among the craziness of the people she knows best, and loves the most. On the Road is probably only a film for those who have read the book. It would seem almost nonsensical for those who haven’t, especially as minor characters are thrown at us, and we are pretty much expected to know who they are, as we had met them first in the novel.

Watching this, you are not going to get the feeling and the passion of Kerouac on the screen. But there is something there, a feeling of the era, that is able to take us away. Not a perfect film, not a perfect film adaptation, but something worth watching.

LA Kings Win Stanley Cup

LA Kings Win Stanley Cup

The heavily favoured Kings completed their two-month long quest on Friday night, taking home the Stanley Cup with a thrilling double-overtime victory over the New York Rangers in Game 5 of the final series. Justin Williams won the Conn Smythe Trophy as the playoff MVP, coming through as one of the league’s leading playoff scorers and one of several Kings that were deserving of the award.

kings3Perhaps the Rangers deserved a better fate, having had two goal leads in three of their losses, only to lose the leads, and the games, to the resilient Kings, who have been battling and scrapping since their first round series against the San Jose Sharks. This Kings team never quit, and it always felt that when they fell behind, they would assuredly find a way to come back, and to end up winning the game. By the time they had made the Finals, it had the feeling of inevitability that they were going to win the Cup. They had taken such a difficult road to get there, perhaps the most difficult journey to the Finals ever, that it seemed like nothing was going to stop them once they got there.

New York was a good team, and deserved to be playing for the championship. But in the end, they were over-matched. There was too much depth on LA’s bench, too many good players that could get the job done.

So, many of the still young Kings were able to raise the Cup over their heads for the second time in their careers. Drew Doughty, at only 24, has now won two Cups and two Olympic gold medals. Controversial captain Dustin Brown has now been the first to hoist the grail over his head twice now in his career, something not too many captains have been able to say over the past 20 years.

At the beginning of the playoffs, perhaps the Kings were not the odds-on favorite to win the whole thing, but they were never dismissed as a team that didn’t have a chance. We all knew they did, and that they were a significant threat to all those they would be facing. They were not really underdogs, but the teams lined up against them would be a daunting task, even for the best teams out there.

Well, they proved that they were the best, and conclude the 2013-14 NHL season as the Champions.

Eating Edmonton: The Common

Eating Edmonton: The Common

Downtown, on 109th street, one of the many newest places to eat and drink in Edmonton is The Common. Not the hugest restaurant/bar around, The Common does very well to use all of its space properly, to get as many people in there, while still maintaining a level of comfort and not getting terribly overcrowded.

The best things about The Common, and one that sets it apart from other new, hipster-ish places downtown, are the prices. They are actually reasonable. If you manage to hit happy hour (prior to 6PM during the week), you will get $2 off pints of beer, which is a pretty solid deal. And to begin, their beers aren’t nearly as expensive as an alternative, such as Craft Beer Market. There is a decent selection of drinks available, including a personal, and hipster, favorite, of having Pabst Blue Ribbon on tap. It’s just so good!

common2The food is also quite good there. It is a tad expensive, but it is similar to other places of this ilk. Pub grub plus. The usual stuff, but it is far better, and more high-end. Something like the short rib poutine will definitely hit the spot, and for a price that won’t destroy your wallet.

The Common has a cool vibe to it, good design (the two sides of the bar seem to be different places, and tend to have a different feel), friendly wait staff, and usually quick service, regardless of how busy it gets.

The patio is small, and on the 109th side of the street, which makes it pretty noisy, but it is still nice, allowing us to get outside in our incredibly short summer season. There aren’t many tables out there, only one row of picnic tables, that can accommodate four people each. There doesn’t seem to get more people in there if you have a larger group, unless you really want to squish into those tables.

Overall, The Common is a top choice among downtown establishments that are focused on grabbing the attention and business of those who like beer, a variety of beer, and decent food at prices that won’t slaughter them for the month.