Blu-ray and DVD Review: “Pixels,” “Southpaw,” “The Gift” and “Max”

DVD Reviews:

October 27, 2015 (Gephardt Daily) — New DVD and Blu-ray releases are out today.

Photo Courtesy: Sony Pictures

Starring: Adam Sandler, Michelle Monaghan, Josh Gad
Directed by Chris Columbus
Rated PG-13

As kids in the 1980’s, Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) and Will Cooper (Kevin James) saved the world thousands of times – at 25 cents a game in the video arcades.

Now, they’re going to have to do it for real.

In “Pixels,” when intergalactic aliens discover video feeds of classic arcade games and misinterpret them as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth, using the video games as the models for their assaults .

Now U.S. President Cooper must call on his old-school arcade friends to save the world from being destroyed by PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede, and Space Invaders.

Joining them is Lt. Col. Violet Van Patten (Michelle Monaghan), a specialist supplying the “arcaders” with unique weapons to fight the aliens.

There are a few laughs in the movie, but not enough. The special effects are anemic and the story is bland and moronic. Just skip this one. It gets a D and is rated PG-13.

Photo Courtesy: TWC

Starring: Jake Gyllenhaal, Rachel McAdams and Forest Whittaker
Directed by: Antoine Fuga
Rated R

“Southpaw,” the film focuses on boxer Billy Hope, played by Jake Gyllenhaal, who turns to a legendary trainer to help him get his life back on track after losing his wife in a tragic accident and his daughter to child protection services.

Gyllenhaal turns in an amazingly deep performance in “Southpaw.” And that performance is underscored by the terrific performances turned in by co-stars Rachel McAdams and Forest Whitaker.

“Southpaw” is a gritty, must-see film. Period.

It gets an A and is rated R.

Photo Courtesy: STX Entertainment

“The Gift”
Starring: Jason Bateman and Joel Edgerton
Directed by: Joel Edgerton
Rated R

Simon and Robyn are a young married couple whose life is going just as planned until a chance encounter with an acquaintance from Simon’s high school sends their world into a harrowing tailspin.

Simon doesn’t recognize ‘Gordo’ at first, but after a series of uninvited encounters and mysterious gifts prove troubling, a horrifying secret from the past is uncovered after more than 20 years.

Jason Bateman, long known for his “average guy” roles he plays in comedies, offers up a darkly confident performance as an overachiever who now has been caught with his hand in the preverbal cookie jar.

Edgerton, who makes his directorial debut with “The Gift,” is deliberately awkward and creepy counterbalancing Bateman’s character and deftly ignites the story’s fuse.

In the final reel, “The Gift” really delivers and is one of the best suspense / thrillers of the year.

It gets an A- and is rated R.

Photo Courtesy: Warner Bros

Starring: Thomas Hayden Church and Josh Wiggins
Directed by: Boaz Yakin
Rated PG

The story centers on a bomb-sniffing military dog named Max who is in trauma after witnessing the death of his handler, Kyle. Left alone and feeling abandoned, Max is soon taken in after returning to the US, by his handler’s family. During his stay with them, he begins to heal from his psychological trauma with the help of Kyle’s brother, Justin.

The film is a pedestrian look at the relationship between an angry teen and the dog his soldier brother trained. The film, which was promoted as a “hero’s story,” never comes close to focusing on the actual hero … Max. What could have been a story of honor, friendship and understanding ends up a big unnecessary mess.

I found the characters comically stereotypical as well; from the straight-laced, hard working dad, whose worried his youngest son is ruining his life to the overly concerned mom, who just wants to let her son know she loves him. And then there’s the fast-talking best friend and his tough-as-nails cousin, who is also the sweetest girl in the world.

The film jumps from plot to plot trying to establish and reestablish characters and becomes unintentionally funny in the process.

What it boils down to is a silly, overly sentimental, badly-written, squeaky-clean movie, being promoted as a “family film.” And, well yes, it is a family film, but not a very good one.

“Max” gets a D and is rated PG.


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