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AUGUST 26TH, 2014

BLENDED // Looking at the progression from “The Wedding Singer” to “50 First Dates” to the newest installment in the pairing of Adam Sandler and Drew Barrymore, “Blended”, it is made painfully clear how far off base the quality of the films have fallen. Where “The Wedding Singer” had likable characters and somewhat edgy jokes, “Blended” has flat, one-dimensional characters and is about as tame as comedy gets. The biggest comedic moments are slapstick, with Sandler being tossed from an ostrich and Barrymore falling from the sky while parasailing. The only sequences I found mildly amusing were the running gags, including a chorus line headed by Terry Crews, chiming in at great points throughout the film, and a musical gag where different pop songs played from different people’s perspectives. Imagine, for instance, Sandler’s tomboy daughter (played by Bella Thorne) walking out for dinner looking gorgeous as “I’ll Make Love To You” by Boyz II Men plays from the love interest’s point-of-view, while “It’s The End Of The World” by R.E.M. plays from Sandler’s perspective. Even with some humorous additions, all of these jokes are few and far between and offer very minimal laughs.

The problem with Sandler’s new family brand of comedy is that the plot becomes so convoluted that the payoffs feel stinted. Jim (Sandler) and Lauren (Barrymore) are both single parents who find themselves on a horrible first date together. Fast-forward through a third of the film and both of their families end up at the same vacation destination where, instead of separating and enjoying their trip, they do everything together and are mostly miserable, eventually working through it “for the kids” and, you guessed it, falling madly in love. Although providing beautiful scenery for Sandler and Barrymore to chew, having the film set in South Africa feels like gimmickry, providing a brochure tour complete with safaris and tribal dances rather than any semblance of what one might actually do on vacation there. One gets the sense that the film was set in South Africa just to give Sandler a vacation from his normal surroundings. As mentioned, Terry Crews stands out with great comedic timing, even fitting in his dancing pectoral muscles, while Kevin Nealon also adds a stellar supporting role, but neither Crews’ muscles nor Nealon’s comedic chops can raise this film up from what it is, which is a half-hearted family comedy with zero chemistry and forced laughs.

Belle-header

BELLE // Having starred in countless television movies and adding small supporting roles to recent films like “Larry Crowne” and “Odd Thomas”, actress Gugu Mbatha-Raw makes her first breakout leading performance in Amma Asante’s first film in almost a decade, the period piece titled “Belle”. Based on a 1779 painting of the real life Dido Elizabeth Belle next to her cousin, Lady Elizabeth Murray, the film is just as much about extrapolating on what Dido’s life could have been like as it is about introducing the unflinchingly gorgeous Gugu Mbatha-Raw to the world. With such exotic features, I found myself hypnotized as she effortlessly strolls around in some of the most vibrant and intricate dresses and sets of that period, stealing every scene that she graces. The character of Dido Belle is also the perfect launching point for Mbatha-Raw, as she plays a strong-willed, opinionated beauty who floats between the world of the high class society, including her aunt, uncle, and cousin, and the world of the maids, using the perfect line “how can I be too high in rank to dine with the servants, but too low to dine with the family” to encapsulate this sentiment.

Alongside her is an amazing supporting cast, offering some of the best casting in the history of period pieces. Playing her aunt and uncle are Emily Watson Tom Wilkinson, who both have a harshness about them that works perfectly in the progression of Belle winning them over as a child. Her cousin is played by the equally gorgeous Sarah Gadon, who is also allowed to shine in many of her scenes. Briefly playing Belle’s father is Matthew Goode, whose appearance, though limited, does beg the question why he is not featured more prominently in many more films. Embracing his villainous side, Tom Felton plays one of the wealthy brothers courting the two women, who is never able to see past his hatred for the color of Belle’s skin. Lastly, drawing the obvious line to “Downton Abbey” even clearer is the casting of Penelope Wilton, longtime “Abbey” alum, as the spinster of the household, Lady Mary Murray. Together, helping to lift Gugu Mbatha-Raw to her best possible performance, “Belle” feels like an event rather than a “Downton Abbey” ripoff, complete with moral dilemmas and pertinent subject matter about race and justice all while providing a glimpse into the 1700’s. With such a huge career ahead of Gugu Mbatha-Raw, “Belle” marks one of the best stepping off points an actress could ask for.

New Releases
Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas 2-denied2-small
Belle (2013)
Blended
The Double
Legends Of Oz: Dorothy’s Return 2-denied2-small
Love Punch 2-denied2-small
The Normal Heart
Trust Me

TV Box Set

  • Criminal Minds: Season Nine
  • Elementary: Season Two
  • The Equalizer: Season Two
  • Haven: Season Four
  • The League: Season Five
  • The Musketeers: Season One
  • Portlandia: Season Four
  • Revenge: Season Three 
  • Sons of Anarchy: Season Six 
  • The Virginian: Season Nine
  • The Walking Dead: Season Four 
Special Editions/Other Releases
  • Aces High
  • Aftermath  2-denied2-small
  • All that Jazz: Criterion
  • Angry Kelly
  • Blood Glacier 2-denied2-small
  • Bluff
  • Bongo Killer Clown
  • The Bus
  • Cast a Giant Shadow
  • Cat Run 2
  • Cinemanovels 2-denied2-small
  • Circle the Wagon
  • A Clown’s Recovery
  • Don’t Look Down (1998)
  • Dysmorphia
  • The Elephant Man
  • Exposure
  • Fall Away
  • Fear in the Night
  • Forbidden Girl
  • Friendly Fire
  • Ghost Bird
  • Glacial Balance
  • Greencard Warriors
  • Heatstroke 2-denied2-small
  • High School Confidential
  • The Hills Run Red
  • House of Mirrors
  • I Am Happiness On Earth
  • I’ve Always Loved You (1946)
  • It Was You Charlie
  • Jackpot 2-denied2-small
  • Jersey Shore Massacre 2-denied2-small
  • Lowlife
  • Lucky in Love
  • Morbid (2013)
  • My Fair Zombie
  • My Gal Sunday
  • On the Beach (1959)
  • PMS Cop
  • The Possession of Michael King 2-denied2-small
  • Pot Zombies 2
  • President Wolfman
  • A Promise
  • Queen Margot 2-denied2-small
  • Quicksand
  • River of Skulls
  • Rulers of Darkness
  • Sanctuary: Quite a Conundrum
  • Sherlock Holmes And The Shadow Watchers
  • The Siege of Leningrad
  • Sonno Profondo: Limited Edition
  • The Stream  2-denied2-small
  • Stress Position
  • Triad
  • Xingu
  • Young & Beautiful 
  • Zombex
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