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If there were a 10th circle in Dante's vision of Hell it would be reserved for movies like "Vacation." Not only does the film feature a script that has less life than roadkill, a pacing that makes Los Angeles traffic look like the Indy 500 and as much humor as the mass funeral of orphans, nuns and kittens, it smears the good name of the 1983 Chevy Chase comedy, "National Lampoon's Vacation."
There must be a way to pay tribute to '80s comedy classics like "National Lampoon's Vacation" without using the opportunity to traffic in archaic sexism, gender panic and off-color racial jokes. The reboot of the franchise, "Vacation," does not take that chance. Instead, with a script lazily smeared with profanity and bodily fluids, it feels retro in the bad way. It quickly loses its edge and appeal, and this retelling of the family vacation gone wrong results in a sloppily-executed mess of a summer comedy.
The Stanford Prison Experiment still ranks as one of the world's most controversial psychological experiments even though it took place in 1971. Stanford psychology professor Philip Zimbardo wanted to find out what would happen if ordinary male students were treated as if they were in the penal system. Half were assigned as prisoners, the other half as guards, and a basement block of rooms, unused during summer break, was turned into a makeshift prison. Within 24 hours, the place became a collegiate "Lord of the Flies."
Good thing the National Lampoon label no longer exists or there surely would be yet another poo-related joke in the brandless reboot of 1983's "National Lampoon's Vacation," assumedly bringing the tally into double digits. I'm not sure; I wasn't counting, as a comedy that even creates the idea of keeping track of something like that is all kinds of depressing.
Parents need to know that "Pixels" is a sci-fi comedy starring Adam Sandler and Kevin James about a group of misfit video game lovers who end up fending off an alien attack (in the form of giant classic video game characters). As per usual, Sandler plays an immature man/boy, this time one who never got over losing a video game championship as a kid in the '80s and now gets to redeem himself. There's explosive, destructive action violence - Pac-Man eats his way through New York City, Centipede takes on Navy SEALs, a smurf gets shot with a laser and killed - as well as fighting, weapons, and some fairly raunchy (and sometimes offensive) humor. Sexual innuendo includes talk of a three-way (though nothing is shown), and one character slaps others' butts. There's also a fair bit of social drinking by adults and some aggressive yelling and swearing, including "bitch," "sluts," and "s--tballs." Fans of Sandler, James, and gaming may find this Chris Columbus-directed movie entertaining, but it's not for little kids.
CHICAGO Filmmaker Kris Swanberg is expecting her second child any day now. She is due soon ï¿½ and "Unexpected," her new film about pregnancy and impending motherhood, just opened.
A flurry of haymakers in the form of boxing movie cliches, "Southpaw" was conceived as a loose remake of "The Champ" - Wallace Beery in 1931, Jon Voight in 1979 - tailored for Marshall Mathers, also known as Eminem. The rage-iest rap star on the planet took the initial meetings with director Antoine Fuqua and screenwriter Kurt Sutter. Eminem eventually bowed out, affording Fuqua ("Training Day," "The Equalizer") and Sutter ("The Shield," "Sons of Anarchy") the leeway to rework the project for Jake Gyllenhaal.
Even if truth is stranger than fiction, sometimes fiction feels more real. Just ask the Indiana Pacers.
Adam Sandler's output has been so terrible for so long that the opening logo of his Happy Madison productions became the anti-Miramax. Viewing it before his movies promised that what you're about to see will be third-rate idiocy.
There's something incredibly satisfying about a well-executed high school film that hits all the right John Hughes-inspired sweet spots. "Paper Towns," adapted from a novel by "The Fault in Our Stars" writer John Green, does just that, with a twist. Concerned with the miracles, myths and mysteries that come with the end of high school, the film self-consciously engages with genre tropes, while also updating and evolving the formula, this time by inserting mystery into its central storyline.
The antichrist is a woman. This may sound like a belief held by misogynist men's rights activists, but it's also the thesis of the religious horror flick "The Vatican Tapes," and a rather clumsily, haphazardly executed one at that. An entry into the demonic possession horror sub-genre, "The Exorcist" this is not - it's the shoddy, worn-down VHS replica.
MIAMI You could never accuse Jake Gyllenhaal of not having a strong work ethic. The word "overachiever" may come to mind when talking about the 34-year-old actor's vast career.
Passing through security one morning on the way to her Chicago Public Schools classroom, the high school science teacher played by Cobie Smulders in Kris Swanberg's "Unexpected" has a distracted quality in her eyes.
Chris Columbus was in his 20s when the big arcade boom hit. While he was a little too old to load down his jeans with quarters and line up to play Donkey Kong or Ms. Pac-Man, he did get a taste of the video game crazy by playing the table-top versions that popped up in almost every bar.
"Let the nerds take over." This is an official order handed down by President Cooper (Kevin James) during an alien invasion where earth is being attacked by extraterrestrial life in the form of 1980s arcade games. In "Pixels," directed by Chris Columbus, the 40-something self-described losers who spent too much time at the arcade are the ones who will inherit the earth - led by their benevolent leader, Adam Sandler, of course.
CHICAGO This summer David Dastmalchian joins a small group of actors who have appeared in films from each of the two big competing names in comic books, DC and Marvel.
AMY. 4 stars. An extraordinary documentary about Amy Winehouse, the British singer who died in 2011, at age 27, a victim of too much drink, too many drugs and too much fame. Soul-stirring, heartbreaking, the film uses a trove of archival film, much of it shot on smart phones by friends, lovers, bandmates, roadies, record execs and fans, to trace the life and blazing career of the singer and songwriter with the trademark beehive, the tats and the fearsome talent. 2 hrs. 08 R (drugs, profanity, adfult themes) - Steven Rea
"Pixels" had promise.
After traveling through the unknown depths of the galaxy and dropping a city out of the sky, Marvel - now in the business of giving your favorite comedians abs - takes us to San Francisco, Calif. There, we meet Scott Lang (Paul Rudd), an expert criminal who is done with being in and out of jail and wants to stop being a terrible father to his daughter. Scott is recruited by Hank Pym (Michael Douglas), an aging scientist who really likes ants, to get into a super suit to get very small and start stealing stuff for him.