Box office: ‘Pixels’ wins Friday, on track for $23 million weekend

25 Jul 2015 | Author: | No comments yet »

Box Office: Adam Sandler’s ‘Pixels’ Stumbles With Mediocre $9.2M Friday.

The top new movie, and the top movie overall for Friday, was Pixels. Adam Sandler and Kevin James’ latest action comedy, Pixels, about aliens who invade the planet as vintage 80s arcade games, was not loved by critics.Based on the short film that inspired it, Pixels follows enlarged versions of classic 80’s arcade video game characters such as Pac-Man, Donkey Kong, Centipede and others who attack Earth.Because it seems that YouTube critic MovieBob really wasn’t too keen on the movie, in which Sandler finds himself having to fend off an invasion of earth from aliens disguised as classic arcade game characters.As moviegoers decide whether or not to insert coin for Adam Sandler’s arcade-game-themed comedy “Pixels” this weekend, critics are giving it anything but high scores.

Currently hip comic performers like Amy Schumer, Louis C.K., Lena Dunham and Melissa McCarthy make Adam Sandler look dumb and dated in comparison — but he’s been making this bed for himself for a long time.The opening of Adam Sandler comedy “Pixels” is heading for a moderate $25 million opening weekend in the U.S., comfortably ahead of teen romance “Paper Towns,” but trailing superhero holdover “Ant-Man.” According to projections Friday, Disney and Marvel’s “Ant-Man” could notch its second first-place finish. Sony’s $90 million sci-fi comedy, about a group of former arcade players who are recruited to save the world from aliens who attack in the form of 80′s coin-op classics, comes courtesy of director Chris Columbus and star Adam Sandler. Well, it’s not so much a review as a 10-minute vitriolic rant in which he swears no less than 60 times and attempts to convince his listeners, that this might just be the worst film ever made. The majority of reviews say the movie — which stars Sandler as a middle-aged joystick jockey enlisted to fight off an 8-bit alien invasion — wastes a clever idea (borrowed from a 2010 short film) with shoddy execution.

Adam Sandler’s name on a film was never a guarantee of either yuks or bucks, but once upon a time — back when Saturday Night Live’s Opera Man was transitioning to the big screen in occasionally charming fare like The Wedding Singer — it inspired more hope than dread. We rounded up the best critic slams of the movie. “Some movies are so interminable that it seems they might never end, while others are assembled with such indifference that you are essentially left waiting for them to start. In fact Bob barely pauses for breath during his merciless attack, during which no-one is safe – not Sandler, nor co-stars Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad as he questions what on earth they’re doing there. Today, with Pixels getting burnt by critics and his latest moneymaking enterprise, Grown Ups, a two-fer of nearly unbelievable badness, the contemporary comedy scene is passing him by. Sony’s “Pixels” is on track for roughly $10 million at 3,723 locations on its opening day, leaving it in line with recent projections in the mid-20s.

And just when you think he can’t possibly find any more scathing insults to hurl at the movie he manages to drag out several more in the space of just a few seconds – describing the film as ‘cinematic strychnine…celluloid chlamydia.’ ‘Director Chris Columbus has finally made a movie worse than Nine Months…it demands some sort of new metric below the stars or thumbs scale, such as how many fingers should the people responsible for this piece of s**t be allowed to keep?’ ‘I wanted to run this movie over with my car, repeatedly. And it’s “all the more frustrating for the few stray interesting ideas that are left hanging because they would require thinking and work to draw them out.” The Associated Press’ Sandy Cohen agrees that “the core concept is clever” but the execution “is a mess. The script might as well have been penned by the same clueless aliens doing the invading.” “Pixels is also insanely sexist, culminating with the winning male characters each rewarded with a woman.

This disappointing comedy falls apart before it begins because no one would behave the way its characters do, and their ridiculous choices drive the action.” Part of the problem, Cohen continues, is that “it’s unclear who the filmmakers think their audience is. Sony, which has had a tough year so far with “Aloha” and “Chappie,” has had only one release hit $100 million domestically at the box office since last summer (“The Equalizer”). They literally call one a trophy.” “A dimwitted ’80s nostalgia trip best appreciated by those who have waited years for Adam Sandler’s fine-grained intelligence and Chris Columbus’ filmmaking mastery to finally converge.” “Even on its own silly terms, Pixels is not a very good movie; it’s painted up like a Ghostbusters-style fantasy-comedy but plays like so many slapdash Happy Madison productions before it.” However, with Pixels this is not the case as it’s clearly evident that either Sony or Sandler have learned their lesson, with the filmmakers making sure that the Blended star treads carefully.

In fact only former arcade favourite Q-Bert seems to get off lightly – and even his portrayal in the film doesn’t totally emerge from the review unscathed. Worse for Sandler, by the mid 2000s moviegoers were meeting a new breed of man-child that had more to offer: Some (Will Ferrell) were so imaginative they could seem more like Surrealist performance artists than comedians; some (Seth Rogen) simply were better suited to the quick, quippy, improvisational requirements of the Apatow Age. It’s basically up to Sandler’s co-stars Gad, Dinklage and James – who effortlessly overshadow the star, particularly Gad, who somehow steals the show despite his over-the-top performance becoming a little tiresome after a while – to drive the film along. But if you were in any doubt as to his opinion of the whole thing, stay tuned until the end when he rounds things off by angrily telling us: ‘F**k this movie, f**k everyone who made this movie and if you pay money to watch this movie f**k you too…’

With renowned filmmaker Chris Columbus (director of the first two Harry Potter films) at the helm, Pixels is well structured as the film has a fair amount of action, humour, drama and never deviates from its story. Universal’s holdover “Minions” looked likely to finish in third with about $21 million — enough to push the animated comedy past $260 million by the end of the weekend. I still think that PG-13 was a mistake, but at this point targeting kids harder would have put it in the path of Universal/Comcast Corps.’ Minions and Walt Disney’s “also shoulda been PG” Ant-Man.

He has cowritten some of his material, but never had a voice as distinctive as Tina Fey or Amy Poehler — much less the confidence to create a whole world as a writer/director, as Lena Dunham has. Insiders said it’s unclear if Thursday night’s tragic theater shootings in Louisiana during a “Trainwreck” screening would hold down business during the weekend. “All of us at Universal Pictures send our heartfelt sympathies to the victims of this senseless tragedy and their families in Louisiana,” the studio said in a statement. I can’t fault Sony marketing, and I’m not just saying that because Sony has a bunch of interesting films lined up for the rest of the year that I want to see as early as possible (not just Spectre, but yeah, totally Spectre).

Now clichéd is not always necessarily a bad thing, as there are many films that while predictable, are still able to enthral and entertain audiences at high quality levels. Pixels features innovative action sequences that completely stand out and will almost certainly entertain viewers as it’s a mesmerising visual feast for the eyes. As mentioned above, Pixels is quite a balanced film (and so is the action), so maybe if Sony had instead broken the balance and thrown in more action (yes, the action is that good), then Pixels might’ve benefitted more as this could’ve easily made it a better film. He had fourteen $100 million domestic grossers between 1998 and 2013, and I imagine he’ll have another one this September with Hotel Transylvania 2 (also Sony).

He clearly knows this, which is part of what fueled his move to Netflix, but he was a pure face-on-the-poster movie star before, during, and after a seismic shift in Hollywood and its would-be star system. Pixels’ action sequences are the only thing captivating about the film, with the humans running amok in a big city fighting off well-known arcade game characters by actually having to play the game in a real-life context. Anderson for 2002’s Punch-Drunk Love, he seemed to have found a smart path: Take the bottled-up rage and hurt that had often been the subtext of his performances and call them to the surface. That picture earned just over a tenth of what The Waterboy did, but instead of using it as creative, if not commercial, fuel, Sandler responded by making the witless Anger Management with Peter Segal, one of a handful of mediocre directors — others being Dennis Dugan, Steven Brill, and Frank Coraci — who appear to know they can keep working for Sandler so long as they don’t ask him to do anything new. To be fair, Sandler has always been in an odd position where his better movies earned the worst box office, almost to the point where he was being penalized for trying.

Lately he’s gotten scorned for trying (You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Funny People, The Cobbler) and then scorned for not trying (Grown Ups 2, Just Go With It, Blended). On the other hand, its action sequences, special effects, humour and nostalgia are the complete opposite; with the action in particular being quite innovative.

Brooks on Spanglish or his old roomie Judd Apatow on Funny People, dealing with 9/11 trauma to powerful effect in Reign Over Me — he has rebounded with lowest-common-denominator fare like I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry. Having said that, I can only wonder if a film with as surefire a concept as Pixels starring any number of other comic stars (Seth Rogen comes to mind) would have resulted in a better movie and maybe a $30 million weekend instead of a $24m one. You have to wonder if Sandler (combined with that PG-13, with the reviews confirming that it was mostly for smarmy material) acted as a slight anti-draw among certain demographics.

My daughter wants to see this, but the reviews and the PG-13 turned it from a “will make a point to check it out over the weekend with both of my older kids so my wife can rest” to “will take her to see it if she remembers it exists and if we have time.” But that’s an impossible bit of speculation. Alas, the two were not their generation’s Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, much less Tracy & Hepburn. 50 First Dates certainly had its moments, and might have worked in hands more capable than Peter Segal’s; but practically nobody bought Blended.

But a big budget, high-concept, sci-fi action comedy opening just below Jack and Jill and just above Funny People (with fewer tickets sold) says grim things about Sandler’s once untouchable star power. Sandler’s jokes have grown even cruder and his tone more bullying; he continues to cling to a juvenile boys-versus-girls mentality even while claiming to espouse family values; and he seems wholly uninterested in learning anything about the kinds of people in the world who aren’t almost exactly like himself. Except in the most superficial ways (“kids these days, with the texting and the videogames!”), Sandler shows no interest in a society that has changed quite a lot since he was on Saturday Night Live (contrast this with his SNL pal Chris Rock).

Sandler’s seeming indifference to racial sensitivities, which led to several Native American actors walking off the set of his upcoming Western The Ridiculous 6, is only the most obvious manifestation of this. One suspects the way for Adam Sandler to rehabilitate himself is to spend several years doing nothing but other people’s movies, taking advice from talented people instead of hacks, and not looking at the grosses. To work at being a bright point in ambitious pictures, and not rebounding to Doofusville — even if, like the recent Men, Women & Children, they fail.

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