Movie Review: “Men, Women & Children”

Starring
Adam Sandler, Rosemarie DeWitt, Jennifer Garner, Kaitlyn Dever, Ansel Elgort, Olivia Crocicchia, Judy Greer, Dean Norris, Elena Kampouris
Director
Jason Reitman

It’s never fun seeing a filmmaker you enjoy stuck in a rut, but that’s exactly what seems to have happened with Jason Reitman, who tainted his near-flawless body of work with last year’s soapy romance “Labor Day.” And though his latest movie isn’t nearly as bad, it’s a fairly mediocre drama that doesn’t completely succeed in its attempt to be a merciless social commentary on communication in the digital age. “Men, Women & Children” might as well have come with the subtitle, “Or Why the Internet is Really Bad,” because that’s pretty much the message that Reitman is preaching. Is it a little heavy-handed, melodramatic and obvious at times? Sure, but it also features some great performances and an intriguing multi-story narrative that doesn’t pull any punches in its denunciation of the internet.

Adam Sandler stars as Don Truby, a middle-aged schlub whose sex life with his wife Helen (Rosemary DeWitt) is so non-existent that he’s resorted to watching porn on his teenage son’s computer. Bored with the lack of excitement in his marriage, Don hires an escort from an online service, totally unaware that Helen is using a website for married people seeking affairs to have one of her own. Their son Chris (Travis Tope), meanwhile, has become so desensitized from watching porn at a young age that he’s unable to perform when he hooks up with sexpot cheerleader Hannah (Olivia Crocicchia), whose own mother (Judy Greer) has been enabling the wannabe actress by posting provocative photos of Hannah on her modeling website. And the worst part is that she doesn’t think she’s doing anything wrong.

The other kids at school are just as messed up. Fellow cheerleader Allison (Elena Kampouris) has resorted to anorexia in an attempt to win the affections of the school hunk, while star quarterback Tim (Ansel Elgort) has been taking his mother’s recent abandonment so hard that he’s quit the football team and rechanneled that energy into playing an online role-playing game. Having lost most of his friends as a result of that decision, Tim forms a bond with shy girl Brandy Beltmeyer, whose mother Patricia (Jennifer Garner) is so obsessed about the potential dangers of the internet that she monitors all of Brandy’s online activity and tracks her every movement with her phone. So when Patricia discovers that Brandy has been secretly hanging out with a boy, she doesn’t think twice about the ramifications of her constant meddling.

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Movie Review: “Blended”

Starring
Adam Sandler, Drew Barrymore, Bella Thorne, Terry Crews, Kevin Nealon, Wendy McLendon-Coven
Director
Frank Coraci

Adam Sandler hasn’t made that many good movies in his 20-year career, but the ones co-starring Drew Barrymore are some of his best, so it’s no surprise to see the duo teaming up again for a third romantic comedy with “Blended.” It couldn’t have been a very hard sell for Barrymore, who probably jumped at the chance for a free trip to Africa, even if it is their weakest collaboration yet. And while “Blended” isn’t as aggressively terrible as the actor’s recent crop of films, it’s not very funny either – a dumb and uneven rom-com that can’t seem to find a balance between Sandler’s typical man-child antics and his rarer, more grown-up side.

It’s been a long time since Jim (Sandler) and Lauren (Barrymore) have been on a date, and their inexperience shows when they agree to be set up by some mutual friends. It doesn’t go very well (or about as well as you’d expect for any blind date that takes place at Hooters), and they vow to never see each other again. After all, their lives are already busy enough with their kids – Jim is a widowed father of three daughters and Lauren is a recently divorced mother of two boys – whom they’re having difficulty raising on their own. But when a unique opportunity arises to take their respective families on an incredible vacation getaway to Africa, Jim and Lauren can’t wait to tell their children, completely unaware that they’ve both landed the same deal. Worse yet, because of the nature of how they got the trip, all of their activities and meals at the resort are planned together, and you can pretty much guess what happens from there.

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A Chat with Nick Swardson

It would be fair to say that the comedy of Nick Swardson is an acquired taste, as anyone who’s seen his films, including “Grandma’s Boy” and “Bucky Larson: Born to Be a Star,” or his TV series, “Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time,” can tell you. With the latter now back in Comedy Central’s Wednesday night line-up for its second season, Swardson took a few minutes to chat with Bullz-Eye about what we can expect from Season 2 of “Pretend Time,” what he thinks of his lack of critical love, and more.

Bullz-Eye: To start off by kind of stating the obvious, I’m sure you’re psyched about your show returning for a second season.

Nick Swardson: Yeah, I am. I’m really excited, ‘cause I feel like, no matter what happens, this is the show I wanted to make.

BE: So what are the origins of “Nick Swardson’s Pretend Time,” anyway? Did you pitch them the idea, or did they come to you with the idea?

NS: My friend Tom (Gianas) actually pitched me the idea. He created “Human Giant” and ran that show on MTV, and he did “Tenacious D” on HBO. He’s an old friend of mine. He directed “Gay Robot,” this original pilot that I did years ago. He’s really, really brilliant, and he came to me with this idea. I’ve always wanted to do sketch comedy, and I trust Tom a lot, so I was, like, “All right, let’s do it.” And we just jumped into the show. We pitched it to the network, and they bought it off the pitch. We didn’t even get a pilot. They ordered six episodes. Which was kind of good and bad. I kind of wish we had a pilot, because it was kind of a tricky show to make. (Laughs) We didn’t really have that trial by fire. We were just kind of thrown into the volcano.

BE: You have a pretty vocal fanbase. I presume you’ve gotten some advice, either helpful or otherwise, as far as where to take the show in its second season.

NS: Yeah, it’s been interesting, because people didn’t really know what to expect from the show. My fans were kind of, like, “Well, wait, what is it? Is it stand-up? I don’t understand what it is.” They were kind of confused. Obviously, comedy’s subjective, and people either bought the show or they didn’t. (Laughs) But the people who got it, they loved it.

BE: So is Season 2 along the same lines as Season 1, or do you think you’ve kind of fleshed it out a bit more as far as what you want from the show?

NS: Um… (Long pause) I mean, it’s more aggressive. Like, there’s some really crazy stuff. (Laughs) It’s really aggressive. But we’ve kind of counterbalanced this season with doing more of a live element and more storytelling than stand-up.

BE: How much flexibility do you have with Comedy Central as far as your vision for the show? Has there been any point when they were, like, “Uh, can you dial it back a bit?”

NS: Uh, yeah. (Laughs) At the beginning, they were, like, “This is way too aggressive.” But that’s the whole point of having and doing a show. Why not make it the most aggressive thing you can do? I just didn’t want to play it safe. I wanted to just throw it against the wall, and hopefully it works. Hopefully people will dig it.

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