Wednesday, October 28, 2015

Pixels 3D / 2D Blu-rayReview

Reviewed by Jami Ferguson
When aliens misinterpret video-feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war against them, they attack the Earth using games like PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede and Space Invaders as models for their various assaults. President Will Cooper (Kevin James) has to call on his childhood best friend, ’80s video game champion Sam Brenner (Adam Sandler) to lead a team of old-school arcaders (Peter Dinklage and Josh Gad) to defeat the aliens and save the planet. Based on the short film by Patrick Jean and screen story by Tim Herlihy with a screenplay by Tim Herlihy and Timothy Dowling, PIXELS is directed by Chris Columbus.
Film (3 out of 5 stars)
Sam Brenner and his best friend William Cooper are pleased to see an arcade open up in their neighborhood. William struggles with the games, but Sam is a natural. He sees the patterns and predicts the movements in Pac-Man, Galaga and many other games. Sam enters a competition and he finishes Donkey Kong, but comes in second to a young man named Eddie Plant. Fast forward to the present day and the boys are all grown up. Cooper (Kevin James) is now The President of the United States. Sam (Adam Sandler) is an electronics installer and Plant (Peter Dinklage) is incarcerated.

In 1982, footage of the video game championship was part of a package sent into space. Someone got the message and took it as a declaration of war. The aliens challenge the earth to a series of challenges with three lives each. When the attacking entities come in the form of Galaga, it’s clear that military are ill-prepared and only Sam and his fellow nerds can save the planet. As a fan of 80s games, its pretty cool to see Galaga, Pac-Man and Centipede in “real” life. You do recognize their characteristic movements. As the military elite tries to defeat the centipede in the sky it is frustrating to watch them not realize that the creature will change directions after it hits a mushroom. The alien invasion even comes in levels. You don’t just have to defeat a centipede you have to defeat its level which reset exactly as it would in the game.

If you want to pick apart this film it’s easy to do. It’s pretty unlikely that aliens will attack in the form of old video games. It’s even more unlikely that Kevin James would be the leader of our country. Michelle Monaghan plays a beautiful single mom who turned down Sam’s advances that very morning, and then she ends up being one of the military officials in charge. Part of Sam’s crew is a friend from childhood who is now a conspiracy theorist (Josh Gad). For me the film was worth watching simply for the scene when Gad is helped out of a military vehicle and held like a giant baby. This film is typical of Adam Sandler’s brand of comedy with the amazing addition of Peter Dinklage as the former gaming champion. No one should ever go into a movie starring Adam Sandler and expect it to be plausible. It should be entertaining, and Pixels' entertainment value is much higher than I had hoped.

Back in the 80s, video game nerds (like me) would often claim that the games were good for us. They increased hand-eye coordination, stimulated your brain, and dissecting their patterns would make me smarter. None of those claims worked well on my parents, and I know I wasn’t the only kid to try. With Pixels, Director Chris Columbus implies that all my claims were valid. In fact, the skills I was developing playing Pac-Man, Galaga and Centipede could actually save the world. .Pixels definitely leans toward silly comedy and isn’t directed only at 80s gamers. If you’ve never played a video game in your life you won’t be lost. You just won’t pick up on the detail and accuracy related to the 80s games. 
Video (4 out of 5 stars)
The 2D Pixels Blu-ray quality is exceptional. With the bright alien bricks flying around, the 3D effects are pretty neat but you lose some clarity. The non-action dialogue scenes are where you’ll notice the biggest difference. As a viewer, you’ll have to decide if you’re looking for an action experience or a high quality picture. Having both the 2D and 3D versions is nice so you can watch different versions for different audiences. Sam’s orange uniform is significantly brighter in 2D.
Audio (4 out of 5 stars)
Pixels' 2D presentation features a Dolby Atmos soundtrack but in 3D you’re limited to DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 sound. The differences are minor and there is not as big of a gap in the audio as there is in the video presentations. The action scenes offer a dynamic range and you’ll hear the invaders sweep across your living room. Dialogue is intelligible and not overpowered by the action.
Extras (2 out of 5 stars)
The 3D disc contains previews for Hotel Transylvania 2 (starring Adam Sandler), The Walk and Goosebumps. With the Pixels play along game app, viewers can get in the action to battle their favorite video game characters in a second screen experience.

Blu-ray and DVD bonus features include the following:
  • Q*Bert (2:32): A featurette that takes a look at Q*Bert who comes to life in the film.
  • Dojo Quest (4:20): A featurette devoted to Lady Lisa’s “classic” game. 
  • Game On Music Video (3:59) by Waka Flocka Flame featuring Good Charlotte
Blu-ray exclusive featurettes
  • The Creator of the Machine (1:36): Toru Iwatani, inventor of Pac-Man talks briefly about his experience on set and his reaction to the film.
  • The Space Invader (1:40): A look at the Space Invaders contest winner who was granted a walk on role.
  • Pac-Man (4:32): A look at the Pac-Man action including the mini-cooper ghosts and related visual effects.
  • Donkey Kong (4:07): A look at the stunts involved with the giant Donkey Kong action sequences.
  • Centipede (3:36): The special effects and live action required to bring the classic game to life.
  • Galaga (3:33): A behind the scenes look at the Galaga attack on Guam.
Summary (3 out of 5 stars)
Pixels is not a movie that asks to be taken seriously. Aliens have come to fight for the Earth using 80s video games. They send threatening messages from Madonna, Fantasy Island and Ronald Reagan. If you’re going to pick apart the believability of the film, you should definitely just skip it. Pixels is certainly something you’ve never seen before. Its silly, its fun and I enjoyed it. For those of you wondering if it would be appropriate for your children the answer is maybe. The characters use terms like “slut seeking missiles” with a few expletives thrown in. If your child is mature enough not to repeat such things at school, the movie is probably fine. Pixels is rated PG-13 and would be okay for a mature 10 year old. The action/violence is not bloody or gory. People are attacked and become pixelated themselves. The film will likely hit home with men and women in their 30s and 40s who remember playing Pac-Man and Galaga in an arcade long before everyone had a game system in their home. It’s a goofy film, typical of an Adam Sandler project. Although short on special features, the film looks and sounds good in 2D and 3D and I recommend the purchase.

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