*THROWBACK REVIEW* BLENDED REVIEW

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If you still like or even love Adam Sandler movies, then this one is for you. For everybody else, move on. There has been a lot of cynicism and “hate-watching” surrounding his last entries. A good portion not completely unjustified. (That’s My Boy, Jack and Jill and Grown Ups 2, I’m looking at you!)

Let’s be honest, they are guilty pleasures. (Apart from Sandler’s more serious acting ventures; Reign Over Me and Punch Drunk Love). The story lines were always predictable, corny and OTT but as long as they were funny, I was happy to let that slide. I know, me letting a film slide?

So what did I make of Sandler’s latest offering? One that seemed to take a huge hit at the box office? Well, I can’t believe I’m saying this but it’s actually not that bad. A vast improvement from the Grown Ups movies (I did enjoy the first one. What?). I went in, anticipating the worst and came out surprised.

So what’s it about? After a bad blind date, a man (Sandler) and woman (Drew Barrymore) find themselves stuck together at a family resort in Africa, where their attraction grows as their respective kids benefit from the burgeoning relationship. Awww . . . yuck.

Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler reunite for their third outing (The Wedding Singer/50 First Dates). The chemistry is still there and they work well together yet again. You can see at certain points that they are improvising by the cheeky grins and little jibes.

The plot set up is incredibly lazy in how the families end up in Africa. Even when I heard it, I thought why they don’t just meet up by accident? Still corny but a lot less ridiculous than Barrymore’s mate (Wendi McLendon-Covey – Rules of Engagement) giving up her vacation with Sandler’s boss and kids (the number of kids that make up the two families – yeah that’s right). Long winded and stupid.

Anyhoo, we get the set up and see both families all with their neuroses and issues; Bella Thorne battling with her sporty persona crushing her femininity as she keeps being mistaken for a boy, Barrymore’s dicey divorce and Sandler coping with loss and grief. Inevitably, both sets of kids are in need of a mother/father figure.

The divorce arguments contribute nothing to the movie as they are so predictable and you know the inevitable will happen. What was well done was how both families dealt with the issue of death and loss. A scene in which Emma Fuhrmann’s character Espn (named after Sandler’s favourite sports channel – Tut, tut, tut) saves a seat and plate for her mum is touching. Corny but touching. A well-acted scene between her and Sandler was unexpected but endearing. For the cynics, a big no, no but for everyone else, very good.

It’s not perfect. Certain jokes fall flat as a dead zebra carcass. A joke in which Barrymore struggles to carry her son and keeps bumping his head against the wall, while funny the first time, soon dies a death when she keeps doing it. If not for a punchline from Sandler, it would have been a complete write off. The inevitable ‘getting together’ of Barrymore and Sandler will always be hanging over moments where they walk away or hurt each other’s feelings.

However, there are some cracking moments and to be honest, it was the one liners that got me. Terry Crews (The Expendables/Brooklyn Nine Nine) pops up, Michael Jackson thrusting and bursting out into song with his African choir in tow every time the movie looks like its slackening. Hilarious. Some might find them irritating, I thought it was brilliant.

Along with Crews, there are a few Sandler stalwarts that pop up and provide a good old chuckle. Shaquille O’Neal as his crazy work colleague, Kevin Nealon (Weeds) as the horny vacationer and a cameo from Allen Covert (Mr Deeds/Wedding Singer/Anger Management). Shame the Schneider/Sandler cameos stopped. Was there a fall out or something? Or did they both hate each other’s movies?

Joel McHale’s (Community) character was very stocky and generic as Barrymore’s ex. The kids were irritating to begin with, but I think that was the point. They soon grow on you, eventually. Well they have to, I guess. Alyvia Alyn Lind was adorable and came out with some of the more surprising quips that got everybody chuckling.

It was great to see a Sandler film actually use some people from the community and actual country they are filming in, who get to deliver some cheeky punts at the tourists. A joke involving Brad Beckham’s resemblance to a hobbit had me in stitches.

It’s corny, cheesy, ridiculously OTT and predictable but it’s funny, at times endearing and better than you think. If you’re a cynic who likes their comedies subtle and clever, then firstly why are you reading this? Secondly, if you’re a struggling Sandler film aficionado, you might be surprised. I was.

3/5

BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP REVIEW

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Before I Go To Sleep . . . I must tell you to go see this crafty little thriller.

A woman (Nicole Kidman) wakes up every day, remembering nothing as a result of a traumatic accident in her past. One day, new terrifying truths emerge that force her to question everyone around her.

From the opening, it felt like a cross between Memento and 50 First Dates. Especially when Christine’s (Nicole Kidman) husband Ben (Colin Firth) had to introduce himself and explain her condition.

I loved the fact it got straight to business. Presenting a dozen questions and leaving you just as baffled as the protagonist. It established the set up quickly and set the game afoot as Christine tried to piece together her memories.

The initial sequences in which Kidman is re-told the same story, only for her to forget again were a little repetitive. BUT you felt for Christine and also her husband. Reliving the same thing day after day. Thankfully, things picked up when Dr Nash (Mark Strong) made an introduction. Strong delivered a sterling supporting turn in the minute role.

Providing Christine with a video camera to record her thoughts at the end of each day, hoping to improve her memory (Pretty much like Memento minus the Polaroid. Ironically, snapshots were plastered all over the bathroom wall). As she digs deeper, little flickers and images trigger more memories.

With thrillers, it’s always a tough one. To get characters you care about. Mysteries that intrigue. Twists that make sense. And an ending that doesn’t spoil it all. The cast were superb. Nicole Kidman was finally given a better character with a far better story to work with. Delivering another underrated performance. She had great chemistry with the scene stealing Firth (Reunited after their fantastic turns in The Railway Man).

The premise was hardly original. BUT the unravelling and mystery element of the film was highly watchable as Christine gets closer and closer to the truth. Director Rowan Joffe (28 Weeks Later/The American) excelled in delivering the suspense and tension.

The only problem however was that with a small (if incredibly talented) cast, there wasn’t enough red herrings in the story. A lumbering middle act did hamper the pace and some parts were predictable and quite easy to guess

Once the BIG TWIST (Don’t worry, NO SPOILERS) was revealed, I still found myself surprised. The twist may have been slightly obvious but it was HOW that twist was revealed that won me over. Earning its plaudits. It also allowed for a tense and nail biting finale.

This was never going to top Memento. An exceptional thriller. BUT this film certainly made my contender list for the top films of 2014. A well acted and taut thriller that makes this one not to forget.

3.5/5