Category Archives: Movie Theaters

Railroaded and Blended: Thirstless in a Bloodthirsty World, Sober in a Laughless One

Railroaded and Blended: Thirstless in a Bloodthirsty World, Sober in a Laughless One

Every day, our children are mesmerized by computer games where they hunt down and kill. TV shows go from violent to horrific—all echoing a world made increasingly more warlike as the war games of children grown into the war games of politicians and financiers who seek political and financial gain by first vilifying and then “going after” their enemies.

It is not my dreams, but rather my waking world that’s tortured by the bloodthirst of our world. At night, in my bed before sleeping, I fear for my own breathing and have to go outside for the comfort of cool night moving air. That scene from “The Bridge” where a child is buried alive with water slowly filling his crypt—will not go away. I am stuffed to strangling with earth’s cruelty.

My dreams remain my own, so it is not sleep I fear, but rather that time before sleep when I release hold of my consciousness and let my mind drift into worlds I am half-conscious of. That’s when I give way to thoughts of my own death, jerking myself back from fears of what comes next.

I don’t share the world’s appetite for torture, violence, killing and revenge. I want to scream “Please! Stop!” and run in the opposite direction, for I can’t follow where the world’s mania leads us. And this is why, when a friend asked me to go to a movie with her and suggested “The Railway Man” with Colin Firth and Nicole Kidman, I pleaded for a chic flick instead. My uncle died in the death march on Bataan. I saw the “Bridge on the River Kwai,” “A Town Like Alice” and have read about how the real life and death of women prisoners of war was minimized by “Paradise Road.” I’ve read of the horrors of those Australian nurses marched into the sea and shot, the rapes, deprivation, starving and executions.

This is why I said, “No more!!!” when my friend asked me to see that particular movie, wherein former POW Colin Firth goes in search of one of his Japanese captors. This year I have read two books dealing with the tortures of the slave trade and two more about the Spanish inquisition. I simply cannot take any more tales of torture and man’s inhumanity to man, and so it was that I chose the movie “Blended” starring Drew Barrymore and Adam Sandler and my friend agreed to attend this “light comedy” with me.

This is how we came to be sitting in a theater in Ajijic, Mexico, with approximately ten other viewers similarly misinformed as to the utter dross and simplistic humorlessness of this movie!!!!! (Suffice it to say that all tortures are not physical in this world.) This was the singularly worst movie I have ever seen in my life. I love Drew Barrymore and most of Adam Sandler, but the script and acting in this movie were horrible! Add to that the ridiculous slapstick of the sterotyped African Disneyland that passed as an African adventure. I would add “offended” to the other adjectives that describe my reaction to this movie: namely, “unamused, bored, sickened and amazed.” The children were obnoxious, the plot implausible, the African characters one-dimensional stereotyped farces. What was that African singing group that showed up at any given moment furnishing a (not-funny) Greek chorus effect during various mini-climaxes during the movie?  Not since the black-faced minstrel has such an offensive stereotype been presented.

I must admit that my friend loved the movie. She laughed throughout, and must have wondered why I sat unsmiling and laughless throughout the entire movie. There is a certain amount of insult in finding fault with a book or movie or TV show that someone else loves, and I felt like a Scrooge when I was asked how I liked the movie and had to admit I HATED IT! Fed up to the eyebrows with the violence and torture that seems to be increasingly necessary to hold our interest in both our media and games, it was I who had suggested we go to this movie instead, and perhaps I was forced to pay for my need to bury my head in the sand for a few hours.

Not wanting to be influenced by what I read, I have deliberately not gone to IMDB or Rotten Tomatoes to see whether the critics agree with my review of this horrible movie, but as I draw toward the end of my diatribe, I will now do so and be right back with some of their thoughts:

Rotten Tomatoes Review: “Lurching between slapstick and schmaltz without showing much of a commitment to either, Blended commits the rare Sandler sin of provoking little more than boredom.”

Washington Post, Stephanie Merry: Each sweet moment is inevitably punctuated by some in-your-face joke that’s at least as stupid as the preceding moments were heartfelt. Blended has other problems, too, including some faulty editing and a typically predictable finale.

Reel Views, James Berardinelli: “What’s missing from Blended? Two key ingredients: it doesn’t touch the heart and it doesn’t tickle the funny bone (at least not often enough). “

Entertainment Weekly, Jeff Labrecque: “In Blended, his (Sandler) comic flab has never felt as thick, and this hackneyed “family-friendly” entertainment feels less like a movie than a bad sit-com re-run.”

Portland Oregonian, Stephen Whitty: “He(Adam Sandler) plays it so low-key there’s nothing much for him to do, apart from the clueless-dad shtick and some awkward comedy.”

NY Times, A.O. Scott: “Most of Blended has the look and pacing of a three-camera sitcom filmed by a bunch of eighth graders and conceived by their less bright classmates. Shots don’t match. Jokes misfire. Gags that are visible from a mile away fail to deliver. “

Meta critic, B. Jackson: “I loved earlier comedies by this duo but this looks like they were here just for the paycheck. Also, based on the screenplay, the writers must have been working on a tight deadline for their high-school drama class.”

USA Today, Caludia Puig: “You have to work hard to make an African vacation seem unpleasant. And Adam Sandler nearly pulls it off in Blended.”

Not all critics hated this movie and some fans, including my friend, loved it. Having lived and traveled in Africa for years, I perhaps found the Africa scenes more insulting and deprecating than most. But this movie lost me long before it got to Africa!

The Prompt: When was the last time a movie, a book, or a television show left you cold despite all your friends (and/or all the critics) raving about it? What was it that made you go against the critical consensus?



The Nickelodeon Theater in Santa Cruz, CA, is the only theater I’ve ever known where one can literally just show up and watch whatever movie is coming up next and not be disappointed. (And unlike most modern theaters, starting times for movies are staggered so no matter what time one arrives, it is never necessary to wait longer than 20 or 30 minutes for a movie to start.) An old building with some of the viewing rooms so small that they only accommodate 60 people, others the size of a regular small theater, they show foreign and independent films as well as films suggested by viewers in a big book left in the lobby for customers to record their comments.

Santa Cruz is a small town on the ocean where new hippies are still being born—a town whose university is built on a mountainside covered with redwood trees. The school boasts an organic farm, a succulent garden, and running tracks where joggers are known to have encountered jaguars. It is the town where deadheads used to hang out between tours and where a local restauranteer went to jail countless times for opening up a free soup kitchen for the homeless on the street and another man went to jail for routinely putting quarters in the lapsed parking meters of strangers.

Obviously, the town government was not always in sync with the thoughts of its citizens, but the Nick always was. This is where I watched “My Life as a Dog” and “Bagdad Cafe” three times each, as well as “Killer Klowns from Outer Space” and “The Lost Boys”—two bizarre little films shot in Santa Cruz and featuring familiar locations such as the boardwalk and beach. A small town girl who traveled for 4 years after graduating from college and who then moved to another small town, I had never lived in a town with alternative theaters until I moved to California, and although I had occasionally seen art and independent films, in an era before computers and savvy television made the whole world of film available to viewers, the Nickelodeon was a mind-expanding experience.

Now I live in Mexico, where what foreign and art films are available tend to be dubbed in Spanish. Yes, one can get almost any film on one’s computer now, but it is not the same as sitting in a small room chuckling and crying, surrounded by an audience of 60-300 of one’s peers, munching giant tubs of popcorn covered with brewer’s yeast (offered in shakers right next to the salt)—a tub that comes along with promises of a free refill for those with an unlimited appetite for popped corn.

A year after I Ieft Santa Cruz, The Nick bought the Del Mar—a regular theater with three much larger viewing rooms. That theater continued the tradition of showing movies unavailable in other venues and had the same policies, but the smaller theater continued to function and whenever I went back to Santa Cruz—once for a wedding and other times just to visit friends—it is the original theater I headed for. Some things just can’t be improved upon. The Nick has now expanded its family to include the Aptos Theater. All three theaters continue the tradition of showing wonderful indie, art and foreign films.

I love Mexico, but other than friends from El Norte, the Nick is probably the thing I miss most about my former home. In a minute, it is the feature or landmark I’d choose first to have transported to Ajijic. I’d position it near our own malecón that runs along the lakeside near the pier and I would happily leave my own big screen Smart TV and drive for 15 minutes to join once again with others ready to be delighted by whatever offerings it presented.

Daily Prompt: City Planners. If you could clone one element from another city you’ve visited — a building, a cultural institution, a common street food, etc. — and bring it back to your own hometown, what would it be?