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Pixels (Blu-ray Review)

PixelsFrom Adam Sandler’s Happy Madison Productions and Director Chris Columbus (Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone) comes the visually spectacular action-adventure PIXELS, debuting on Digital HD Oct. 6, and on Two-Disc 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack, Blu-ray and DVD October 27 from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment. When aliens misinterpret video feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war, they attack the Earth in the form of the video games and it’s up to Adam Sandler (Grown Ups 2), Kevin James (Paul Blart Mall Cop 2), Michelle Monaghan (Source Code), Peter Dinklage (“Game of Thrones”) and Josh Gad (The Wedding Ringer) to save the world!  PIXELS also features Sean Bean (“Game of Thrones”), Jane Krakowski (“30 Rock”) and Ashley Benson (“Pretty Little Liars”).  The PIXELS Blu-ray is also exclusively presented with new Dolby Atmos audio, remixed specifically for the home theater environment, which delivers captivating sound that places and moves audio anywhere in the room, including overhead.

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Film 

When aliens misinterpret video-feeds of classic arcade games as a declaration of war against them, they attack the Earth using games like PAC-MAN, Donkey Kong, Galaga, Centipede® and Space Invaders as models for their various assaults. President Will Cooper has to call on his childhood best friend, ’80s video game champion Sam Brenner to lead a team of old-school arcaders to defeat the aliens and save the planet.

Pixels isn’t…that bad?  Or…isn’t as abysmal as its been deemed.  Most critics hear “Adam Sandler” and already are deciding just how awful the review should be.  Granted, yes, the dude has made a more than a handful of crappy films.  Personally, I’m indifferent.  He’s made some films I’ve really enjoyed over the years, and some I may see their faults but still enjoy.  With Pixels he looks to be doing something different for the first time in years.  He’s been doing movies that look like they’re just an excuse for him and his buddies to take a tropical vacation.  With Pixels, its an action/adventure/nostalgia hybrid that kinda sorta looks like those involved are actually trying this time around.

One of the most glaring issues with the film is that it should have been a PG family film.  And that really seems to be what they are going for.  There are a few crude jokes that would go over a child’s head anyway as well as some stuff that could easily have been trimmed without compromising anything.  There’s a sense of fun and with colorful big graphics that would easily attract kids to this.  But, when you have the rating of PG-13, that locks some of them out from being able to see it.  Yeah, I know that PG isn’t “cool” but it should be applied or gone for when its appropriate, and this is that situation.  Sandler has his diehards still, even though they’ve been dwindling, but something of a family spectacle summer adventure/action film could have won some back and opened it up to a new audience of sorts.

Pixels features some fun action set pieces driven with some comedy that I actually found myself enjoying well enough.  The characters range from fine to a tad ridiculous.  Kudos for casting Michelle Monaghan as she is criminally underutilized and I’m happy to see her in movie big or small no matter what it is.  Also, Brian Cox was absolutely hilarious in the film.  I actually thought he may have been the funniest involved.  I had no idea Sean Bean was here, but that’s fun.  On the opposite end of that spectrum is Josh Gad.  In what may be one of his better performances, this movie would still have been exponentially better had he not been in it.  He starts out decent, but then just gets to be too much, distracting and hampers the film.  His character also has a subplot that winds up making no damn sense in terms of this film’s rule and should have either been dropped or taken in some other direction.

I’m not saying “Hey, go see Pixels!” but if your kid or somebody you know decides to share the film with you, you’ll be just fine.  You’ll roll your eyes, but I think you’ll also find enough to not feel like you completely wasted an hour and forty minutes or so on it.  People tend to be overly harsh on Adam Sandler’s output, but there are obvious many more that enjoy him.  Pixels did bomb here in the US, though, but I’m just saying that he’s been going for two plus decades strong and is just now on the decline with his Happy Madison output.  If you know some young ones though, maybe this is something they’d really like even if they’re not too knowledgeable on the games here.  The CG is pretty fun and the video game stuff can be educating.  But, if you never see this movie, you’re not missing out on a thing.

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Video 

Encoding: MPEG-4 AVC

Resolution: 1080p

Aspect Ratio: 2.39:1

Clarity/Detail:  This is a superb, crisp image.  The objects and characters are plenty sharp and look so good and 3-dimensional here.  Detail is ridiculous as you can see every bit of clothing texture, scuffs on surfaces and all that jazz.  The CG effects also look awesome here and don’t falter at all coming to home video.

Depth:  This film was shot for the 3-D and even in 2-D you get plenty of good spacing and 3 dimensional work going on throughout the film.  Movements are very smooth and no blur present at all.

Black Levels:  Blacks are deep and accurate.  Blacks give a big assist in sharpening and defining images.  No detail lost and no crushing witnessed.

Color Reproduction:  Colors are rich, varied and pop right off the screen.  Nothing bleeds and every shade looks bold and full.

Flesh Tones:  Skin tones are natural and hold onto that throughout.  Facial detail is like looking through a window.  You get every scar, wrinkle, stubble hair, facial crack, make-up line and piece of stubble available at any framing distance.

Noise/Artifacts: Clean 

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Audio 

Audio Format(s): English Dolby Atmos (English 7.1 Dolby TrueHD default if no Atmos), French 5.1 Dolby Digital, Portuguese 5.1 DTS-HD MA, Spanish 5.1 Dolby Digital, Thai 5.1 Dolby Digital

Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, Spanish, Portuguese, Cantonese, Indonesian, Korean, Mandarin (Simplified & Traditional), Thai

Dynamics:  This 7.1 track is loud and commanding.  The pixelated action sequence are outstanding here and carve a life of their own making the viewing experience quite enjoyable.  Regardless your thoughts on the film, you’ll at least be engaged due to this track.

Low Frequency Extension:  Explosions, gun blasts, DONKEY KONG roars, barrels getting bashed, engines revving…you name it.  This one packs a wallop.

Surround Sound Presentation:  All the speakers get in on the fun here.  Action from all around the room, sides and rear included (This review covers the 7.1 track).  Action is accurately depicted and the volume placement is terrific.

Dialogue Reproduction:  Dialogue is at a nice rate.  Its clear and all, but lacking a slight crispness.  Its fine, but I just wanted to point that out.

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Extras 

Pixels comes with an UltraViolet Digital Copy of the film.

Pac-Man (HD, 4:32) – A featurette focusing on the Pac-Man action sequence in the film.  Features interviews, on-set footage, behind-the-scenes footage and effects testing/production.

Donkey Kong (HD, 4:07) – Like the Pac-Man piece, but about the film’s finale.

Centipede (HD, 3:36) – Lather, rinse, repeat for this one.

Galaga (HD, 3:33) – Making of for the Galaga sequence.

Dojo Quest (HD, 4:20) – Talks about the one game they created for the film and the character of Lady Lisa.

Qbert (HD, 2:32) – Shows how they did Qbert in the movie.

God of the Machine (HD, 1:36) – A little bit on the creator of Pac-Man’s cameo in the film.

“Game On” Music Video by Waka Flocka Flame ft. Good Charlotte (HD, 3:59)

The Space Invader (HD, 1:40) – About the guy who won the 2014 San Diego Comic Con Space Invaders high score for a walk on role in the film.

Photo Gallery – 41 promotional stills from the film.

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Summary 

Well, I didn’t hate watching Pixels.  There are some fun effects-driven action scenes in the movie and a gag or two had me chuckling.  If you despise Adam Sandler movies, this isn’t going to convert you, if you’re indifferent you’ll make it and if you love his movies I’m gonna guess this will satisfy.  Despite your thoughts on the film, this Blu-ray is outstanding, with its top of the video and audio quality.  Bonus features look like a lot but are all really short and harmless.  For fans of the film, this is a great Blu-ray to represent it.

Pixels-Blu-ray

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Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

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