Even in his golden era, Adam Sandler was still a largely polarizing force. Many of today's young adults revere the likes of Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore as the actor/writer's finest contributions to cinema, but careful recollection will supply open disgust on the part of those parties' disapproving parents. Today, kids seem to eat up Jack and Jill and Hotel Transylvania, while those same young adults shake their heads at an artistry gone stale. But what will today's kids think of Sandler's movies to come in 10 or 15 years? Is he losing his flare as time goes by, updating his routine to suit new generations, or simply only funny when you're below the age of 13? Sandler's imminent reunion with his old writing partner Tim Herlihy might help to answer this question: Deadline reports that the two are teaming for a Western comedy called Ridiculous 6 (a play on the classic The Magnificent Seven, presumably).
Sandler's and Herlihy's relationship dates back even before their showbiz careers — they were college roommates at NYU. Herlihy worked with Sandler during their coinciding days on Saturday Night Live and cowrote Sandler's films through the divergent eras of his big screen career. He has cowritten the universally acclaimed The Wedding Singer, fan favorites like Billy Madison and Happy Gilmore, the generally appreciated Big Daddy and Mr. Deeds, bottom-of-the-barrel efforts The Waterboy and Little Nicky, and whatever Bedtime Stories was. This considered, a Sandler/Herlihy reteaming could mean any number of things.
No word yet on who'll comprise the reminder of Sandler's titular Ridiculous 6, but all bets are on some combination of Rob Schneider, Kevin James, Allen Covert, David Spade, John Torturro, Peter Dante, Steve Buscemi, Jonathan Loughran, and Chris Rock. But fingers are crossed for Norm MacDonald to work his way back into the Happy Madison universe.
[Photo Credit: Visual/Wenn]
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As I expect every one of you is a Pixar fan (being otherwise is a sign of sociopathy), you might have noticed a similarity in the voices of characters like Toy Story’s Hamm, WALL-E’s John and Mack from Cars and its upcoming sequel, Cars 2. That’s because they, and six other characters spanning eleven movies and counting, are all voiced by John Ratzenberger. He might be the only performer to have held such consistency with this particular company, but he is not unique in being an actor who repeatedly works with the same people. In fact, we've come up with a list of nine other proverbial Ratzenberger's and their respective Pixar's:
MICHAEL CAINE & CHRISTOPHER NOLAN
Michael Caine is one of those rare immortal actors who is completely untouchable. I’ve never heard even the most contrarian of my hipster friends say that Michael Caine is overrated. As such, it’s no surprise why rising powerhouse Christopher Nolan has opted to stick him in his last four (and upcoming fifth) directing pursuits. Caine’s roles do not vary much between these films—he’s always wise, good-natured and the only person the much younger hero can trust. He’s always someplace between the movie and the audience. And he’s always got at least one scene-stealing quip at the protagonist’s expense. But can you really take issue with this repetitiveness? With a resume like The Prestige, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight, Inception and the unhealthily anticipated The Dark Knight Rises, how can you blame this dynamic duo for sticking with a formula that works?
STEVE BUSCEMI & THE COEN BROTHERS
The Coen Brothers. They’ve made some gold. They’ve made some silver. Throughout the 1990s, the Coen Brothers made five movies, and Steve Buscemi was in each one, as well as their short film part of a collaborative anthology, Paris Je T’Aime, in 2006. Buscemi had bit parts in Miller’s Crossing and The Hudsucker Proxy, a slightly larger one in Barton Fink, and was the second male lead to William H. Macy in Fargo. But, like everyone who went to college, I favor, of course, The Big Lebowski, and cherish every second Buscemi was onscreen as Theodore Donald Kirobatsos. He really tied the movie together.
J.K. SIMMONS & JASON REITMAN
If I may just start out by saying something entirely uncontroversial: J.K. Simmons is awesome. He is as typecast as you can get, and it seems that neither he nor we seem to have any problem with this. Jason Reitman: also awesome. Juno was awesome. I don’t care what you say, everyone I’ve ever met. I loved that movie.
Reitman is still relatively new to filmmaking. Aside from Juno, his feature resume up to this point consists only of Thank You For Smoking and Up in the Air. Coming out later this year is Young Adult: a drama about a young woman seeking romance after a divorce. This film, as well, will include Simmons among the cast (playing gruff-but-lovable, no doubt), and is written by Diablo Cody—who also wrote the screenplay for Juno. Which was awesome.
JOHNNY DEPP & TIM BURTON
Not all of these friendships produce good material. Tim Burton and Johnny Depp, both individually and as a pair, have indeed given us some memorable pieces of cinema. Some of the better projects on which they’ve collaborated include Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow and Ed Wood. I’ll even throw Corpse Bride into the Pros list. But as time went on, they began making a career out of defaming timeless works of art with Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Alice in Wonderland. Also, Sweeney Todd happened. But they’re not done yet. Coming up for 2012 is Dark Shadows: a horroresque film directed by Burton, about the adventures of a vampire (played by Depp) who encounters a slew of other mythological creatures. Nice change of pace, guys.
SAMUEL L. JACKSON & QUENTIN TARANTINO
Samuel L. Jackson is an interesting case. He has appeared in four of six of the feature films over which Tarantino played director, but in two instances, he was never seen. Those two are Kill Bill: Volume 2, in which he played a bit part as Rufus, the pianist at the church wherein Uma Thurman’s character intended to be married, and who existed to the audience only as a silhouette with a cigarette (that’s a pretty good band name).
His second faceless performance was in Inglourious Basterds, when Jackson performed a single voice-over segment to introduce Til Schweiger’s character, Hugo Stiglitz. Aside from these, Jackson has played Ordelle Robbie in Tarantino’s oft forgotten Jackie Brown, and (do I even need to mention?) the career-defining Jules Winfield in Pulp Fiction. Jackson is also set to play a major role in Tarantino’s upcoming Django Unchained.
RUSSELL CROWE & RIDLEY SCOTT
Crowe and Scott pair together quite naturally. Both are responsible for some fantastic pieces of cinema, and neither would you be entirely comfortable inviting into your home. Since their initial collaboration on the 2000 Best Picture Gladiator, Crowe and Scott have paired up on four additional films—earning praise for American Gangster, dissatisfaction with Robin Hood, and… Did anyone see Body of Lies? Or the other one? I think it was about a house, or a garden…
OWEN WILSON (OR BILL MURRAY) & WES ANDERSON
Owen Wilson is undoubtedly more famous for his roles with the proverbial Frat Pack, especially frequent collaborator Ben Stiller. But the actor with the agonizingly mellow voice has appeared in almost every feature film directed by Wes Anderson, a college friend of Wilson’s, to date.
Anderson, a favorite director of all the people who think they're better than you, has created Bottle Rocket and The Royal Tenenbaums, both of which Wilson co-wrote. In addition to these, Wilson had major roles in Anderson’s The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Darjeeling Limited, and the director’s first animated movie, The Fantastic Mr. Fox. Wilson also co-wrote Anderson’s 1998 film Rushmore, which (along with each of the above movies with the exception of Bottle Rocket) included Bill Murray as a member of the cast. Both Murray and Wilson are rumored to appear in Anderson’s next film, Moonrise Kingdom, about two parents’ efforts to recover their runaway daughter.
LEOBERT DeNIPRIO & MARTIN SCORSESE
For the better part of his career—and I mean that in every way—De Niro was Scorsese’s key player. Starting with 1973’s Mean Streets, the duo forged a working relationship that lasted twenty-two years. Their most recent collaboration was Casino, in 1995. However, Scorsese and De Niro have been in talks to develop a new project called The Irishman and, if you can believe (or stomach the idea of) this, a sequel to Taxi Driver.
For the time being, it seems as though Scorsese has replaced De Niro with a younger, sparkier, ruffled good-guy: Leonardo DiCaprio. Since 2002, DiCaprio has starred in four Scorsese films. Scorsese is even going as far as to cast his new muse, whom everyone I know seems to either love or hate, in a role sure to earn him a great sum of scrutiny: in a developing biopic called Sinatra, as the Chairman of the Board himself.
EVERYONE IN THE HAPPY MADISON UNIVERSE
Adam Sandler has a greater reputation of working with his friends than anyone in the business. His production company, Happy Madison, has developed fifteen films starring Sandler since its first film and half of its namesake, Happy Gilmore. Three of Sandler’s major starring roles, Billy Madison, The Waterboy, and The Wedding Singer, were produced independently from Happy Madison. Over the course of his career, Sandler has wavered from accusing his girlfriend of adultery with fictitious penguins. He has played romantic leads, PTSD-sufferers, and cancer survivors. One consistency throughout his years onscreen, however, is in his supporting casts. Sandler's confidants, rivals, and comic reliefs are often actors who have played similar roles in other Happy Madison films. Included in the recurring clan of Sandler's screen partners are Rob Schneider, Allen Covert, and--the guy you probably never noticed--Jonathan Loughran, who have each played behind the man in nine different films. Although none reach this level of dedication, other impressive numbers belong to Peter Dante with eight films, once again to Steve Buscemi, with six (this is clearly a loyal guy), to Kevin Nealon with five, and to Henry Winkler and Kevin James, with four movies each. And these are just the Sandler-starring films. There are dozens of other Happy Madison Productions that include these and other recurring actors.
There are two ways to watch a film like Just Go With It. The first is to look at the characters and situations as if they existed in the real world. Through this lens as with most Hollywood productions the story is far-fetched and trite the characters too stereotypical to stomach. However even if you leave practicality at home and well just go with it it’s hard to find anything to enjoy in Adam Sandler’s new movie about a playboy plastic surgeon that convinces his assistant to pose as his ex-wife in an attempt to woo a new lady friend.
Danny Maccabee is afraid of having his heart broken like it was when he was in medical school so he uses his would-be wedding ring from a disastrous engagement as a chick magnet because you know all single ladies love married men. However when he finally meets and beds the girl of his dreams the tactic backfires as she thinks she’s just wrecked a home. Enter Katherine (Jennifer Aniston) Danny’s ordinary (well ordinary when compared to bombshell Brooklyn Decker) office mule who is lured into an ever-expanding web of lies so that he can win his Ms. Right.
The film’s weakest link is its script from writers Timothy Dowling (Role Models) and Allan Loeb (The Switch). Their simple story relies heavily on Sandler’s tried-and-true formula of physical gags and broad family humor offering the audience nothing they haven’t seen before and virtually no organic comedy. While the premise and principle players are very predictable the supporting cast injects some life into the picture most notably young starlet-in-training Bailee Madison whose cutesiness is the only thing I didn’t get sick of throughout the film. Honorable mentions also go to Nick Swardson as Sandler’s crazy cousin and Nicole Kidman who ought to try her hand at comedy more often.
Unfortunately their charm doesn’t compensate for the film’s uneven pacing. I was incredibly bored throughout the second act which is hampered by scenes that play longer than they should but biggest conundrum is Sandler himself: the main draw in Just Go With It as well as its most unlikable element. His character’s arc not to mention his performance is about as artificial as the breasts he gives his clients. Not only is Maccabee a self-centered liar; his deceptions go unpunished as he coasts through the film’s climax into happily-ever-after territory. Some will accept even embrace the Hollywood ending but the conclusion is a loss for Aniston’s character who is otherwise pleasant to watch. A dignified single mother she’s at first reluctant to help Danny due to the immoral nature of his plan but falls for him because he eventually develops a relationship with the kids. I guess she didn’t see him throw them in the mud earlier in the movie.
Generally speaking the greatest strength a contemporary romantic comedy has is its funny factor but director Dennis Dugan unexpectedly creates a comfortable quixotic vibe in Just Go With It which is surprising considering his past endeavors with Sandler (among them I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry and Grown Ups). It doesn’t make up for the lack of natural laughs but will sate the target audiences’ appetite for a harmless and forgettable Valentine’s Day snack.
As the fifth year at Hogwarts begins most of the wizardry world is having a hard time believing Voldemort (Ralph Fiennes) has returned further propagated by the Ministry of Magic who refuses to recognize anything evil is brewing and blames all the hullabaloo on Harry (Daniel Radcliffe) and Dumbledore (Michael Gambon). The Ministry even interferes with Hogwarts business by making Ministry employee Dolores Umbridge (Imelda Staunton) the new Defense Against the Dark Arts professor whose outwardly sweet demeanor hides a sadistic streak a mile wide. She thinks the children should only learn about the Dark Arts “theoretically” and tortures all those who disagree. But the Voldemort threat is a reality and Dumbledore has re-formed the Order of the Phoenix a group of witches and wizards that prepares to battle the Dark Lord. Harry is unfortunately being kept in the dark for his protection of course even as his connection to Voldemort grows stronger and he’s royally peeved at being ignored. Urged on by Hermione (Emma Watson) and Ron (Rupert Grint) he forms his own order of Hogwarts students called Dumbledore’s Army to teach them what defenses against the Dark Arts he has already learned. Oh yeah Harry also shares his first kiss but make no bones about it—love is the furthest thing on Harry’s mind when the crap hits the fan. War is imminent. Everyone steps up their game in Order of the Phoenix. Radcliffe Watson and Grint have shed their adolescent whininess and aw-shucks goofiness to give their characters the greatest depth so far. They are forced to grow up pretty quickly in Order with little time for any playfulness and the three actors handle the seriousness with aplomb. Of course both Radcliffe and Grint have already ventured out of the Potter world—Radcliffe shed more than just adolescence on stage in a production of Equus while Grint lost his virginity in the indie Driving Lessons--and their extra experience shows in Order. Also good are Matthew Lewis as the usually clumsy Neville Longbottom who shows his mettle in more ways than one and newcomer Evanna Lynch as the slightly off-kilter Luna Lovegood who proves to be a loyal member of Dumbledore’s Army. But the kids have to keep up with the talented adult cast especially Oscar-nominated Staunton (Vera Drake) as Umbridge. The veteran actress’ interpretation of one of J.K. Rowling’s nastiest characters so far in the Potter lore is spot-on down to the pink wool suits and irritating twitter “ahem” she uses when she wants your undivided attention. Helena Bonham Carter also makes an impression however over the top it is as the evil Voldemort follower Bellatrix Lestrange. Does she ever want to look pretty onscreen? Then there’s the laundry list of Brits whose time onscreen may be short but is nonetheless memorable including Alan Rickman as the sneering Prof. Snape; Gambon as the wise but flawed Dumbledore; Gary Oldman as the kindly Sirius Black Harry’s only real family; and of course Fiennes as He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named. His late-in-the-game appearance once again throws you for a loop. It stands to reason that at five movies in moviegoers would have a favorite Harry Potter flick by now. Those who love those Triwizard Tournament special effects might feel The Goblet of Fire was the best; or Prisoner of Azkaban for its time-bending action. Yet The Order of the Phoenix may be the one movie that speaks directly to the fans of the books. Without as much wide-eyed wonderment or wizardry flash the story is still chockfull of compelling details that are absolutely pivotal to the continuing Harry Potter saga. Screenwriter Michael Goldenberg (Peter Pan) and director David Yates (HBO’s The Girl in the Café) manage to wade through this volume of information and cut successfully to the chase with great effect. Yates who has signed on to do the sixth movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince even shows an affinity for action in the final dramatic confrontation between good witches and wizards and bad ones. But overall Order of the Phoenix may leave audiences not as well-versed in the novels a little itchy for some good old-fashioned wand-waving and Disney special effects. Thing is it’s just going to keep getting darker and darker for Harry and his crew. The days of happy fun playtime are over.
According to Anger Management's resident anger expert Dr. Buddy Rydell (Jack Nicholson) there are two kinds of temperamental personalities: explosive and implosive. An explosive personality is the guy who yells at the cashier when his coupons aren't accepted. An implosive personality is the cashier who takes the abuse day in and day out then snaps suddenly and shoots everyone in the store. Apparently this second type aptly describes our hero Dave Buznik (Adam Sandler) a nice enough fellow with a cute girlfriend (Marisa Tomei) who believes in him--and he needs that since he has a problem standing up for himself especially when his boss abuses him or the airline stewardess won't give him his headset. When he's sentenced to join Rydell's anger management program over some wildly concocted misunderstanding the abrasive and confrontational doctor quickly decides that the problem is obvious: Dave is a walking time bomb. He diagnoses him with TAS (Toxic Anger Syndrome) and vows to help him come to terms with his demons. At first Dave plays along but when Buddy moves in with him for some intensive therapy--and systematically turns his life upside down--Dave reaches his breaking point. It's time to make a stand and be the man he knows he can be--without killing the good doctor in the process.
Sandler and Nicholson fans have to be wondering: Can two stars known for their highly volatile characterizations blend their unique personalities to create a lasting chemistry? Happily yes. Sandler and Nicholson most assuredly click and more importantly look like they had a ball making the film. Nicholson plays the wacko Rydell at full tilt almost going over the top but reining it in when it's required while Sandler handles his straight-man character as carefully as he can. You let out a little sigh of relief however when the comedian finally does let loose because a Sandler movie without one or two great meltdowns just isn't a Sandler movie. Management is also full of actors who've played angry people once or twice in their careers including John Turturro (Do the Right Thing) and Luis Guzman (Traffic) who along with sports fanatic Nate (Jonathan Loughran) and two adult film stars Gina (January Jones) and Stacy (Krista Allen) are members of Rydell's therapy group the "Fury Fighters." Of course no movie about anger would be complete without bringing in some of the real world's most famous bad tempers so Anger Management features cameos by college basketball coach Bobby Knight tennis pro John McEnroe and New York Yankee Roger Clemens. In fact the film is just riddled with cameos--see how many you can spot.
I wish I could have been a fly on the wall when screenwriter David Dorfman pitched the idea to Sony Pictures: "OK it's about two guys who have problems with anger. One who doesn't know he has a problem ends up being treated by the other who dealt with his anger issues by becoming a therapist. But here's the kicker! We'll get Sandler to play the hapless patient and Nicholson to be his doctor!" The studio exec's eyes light up money is exchanged and boom! You've got Anger Management. Yes this combination seems like it should flow like honey from a hive but the story relies too much on its two stars and too little on the overall concept. Like the studio exec we expect a side-splitting comedy; what director Peter Segal (Nutty Professor II: The Klumps) delivers are some hysterical moments for Sandler and Nicholson--the duo sing West Side Story's "I Feel Pretty" while holding up traffic and kick the bejeezus out of a monk who used to be Dave's childhood tormentor (played by John C. Reilly)--coupled with a barely credible premise and stereotypical characters.