The Ridiculous 6: A Slapstick Video Game Western

It could be seen as tiresome for a joke about taking knives to a gun fight to last almost two hours, as does The Ridiculous 6, but then a slapstick comedic attempt at a video game western could be forgiven for a having too much of a mediocre thing.

Adam Sandler and company in The Ridiculous 6

It could be seen as tiresome for a joke about taking knives to a gun fight to last almost two hours, as does The Ridiculous 6, but then a slapstick comedic attempt at a video game western could be forgiven for a having  too much of a mediocre thing.  Fans of Adam Sandler, may   enjoy this star studded offering, while others may want to do as “Smoking Fox” suggests and  “gouge their eyes out,” after 159 minutes of nonstop Sandler.

Perhaps the biggest issue with this “comedy” western, apart from the blending of genres and entertainment mediums, is that it feels like one long Saturday Night Live skit.  Like the vast majority of Sandler’s films that all have the same feel and similar formula.  The Ridiculous 6 could have been called “Happy Gilmore Goes West” and lost nothing.

Starring Chandler, Nick Nolte, Harvey Keitel, Taylor Lautner and Luke Wilson, along with the ever-present Danny Trejo, The Ridiculous 6 has a impressive pedigree of actor mixed in with SNL alumni who fill out the cast; Jon Lovitz,  Rob Schneider. With a  cameo by Steve Buscemi as a dentist/barber/doctor and John Turturro as Abner Doubleday one can only wonder what Sandler held over these performers to entice them to be in the film.

Sandler plays “White Knife” and/Tommy depending on what hat he wears, who goes to save his re-discovered father Frank Stockburn (Nolte) and along the way finds five men who all share his paternal genes.  Sandler’s idea of a taciturn western character is to growl in a low tone while gazing laconically at the camera.

For all about the film that annoys,  bores and (typical of Sandler’s one note humor) is too silly for words, there are funny moments that stand out.  There are also performances that lend themselves to praise.

For instance, Taylor Lautner has well and truly left the horrid verse of Twilight behind and shown that he can do comedic impressions. As Lil’ Pete,  Lautner gets to keep his shirt on and do his version of a simpleton Ashton Kutcher.  The actor is funny and this is either one hell of a homage to Mila Kunis’ new hubby or one massive “mickey take.” Whichever way, Taylor is leaning in his performance, he does leave his mark.

On a sidenote, the film looks great. Very “western-y” all pole corrals, proper looking saloons and outfits that fit.  It must be this “focus” on authenticity that moved the “True West” magazine’s “film critic” to speak so favorably about the film.

Standout gags:

Steve Buscemi and the ointment gag, not once but twice.  Buscemi manages to make one jar of ointment as disgusting as possible. Cringingly funny.

Luke Wilson and Harvey Keitel with the glass gag. Wilson’s character annoys Smiley (Keitel) who proceeds to beat the dickens out of Danny (Wilson). The saloon owner throws the man about like a giant rag doll and punches him repeatedly, all the while not one drop from the half-full glass is spilt.

Harvey Keitel, again as the headless Smiley.

The entire “Danny backstory” about Abe Lincoln.

Nick Nolte single-handedly populating most of the old west

Terry Crews and his red Michael Jackson outfit.

Brit English entertainment reporter Robin Leach providing the “voice” of Herm (Lost actorJorge Garcia)

Jorge Garcia as Herm.

The entire Left-Eye Gang buried in the dirt, up to their heads, and the crow, ants, lizard and snake…

Nick Nolte’s “Sh*t happens,” line.

The brilliant actor Steve Zahn and his cock-eye performance as Clem.

Honorable Mention:

Taylor Lautner’s scene on the gallows.

Annoying things:

The “Native American” gags are nowhere near as funny as Sandler seems to believe.

Sandler’s preoccupation with Let’s Make a Deal and Bob Barker.

The taking a knife to a gunfight gag that runs throughout the film and the fact that the star and his director feel the need to actually point out the joke in case we missed it.

The Assassin’s Creed style of climbing walls.

The giant gold nugget that was light enough for a single man to carry.

Adam Sandler’s vocal delivery.

Rob Schneider’s Mexican accent.

The entire Mark Twain, Gen. Custer and Wyatt Earp poker game and the “gangster-speak.”

The apparent nod to Annabelle.

There were bits that missed the saddle completely. The end credits, with their Spaghetti Western animation a’la A Fistful of Dollars felt that is belonged to a different film completely. The Ridiculous 6 had nothing to do with Leone-esque type westerns or any other oater genre.

Sandler had issues with a number of his Native American cast walking off in disgust at his humor.  Amazingly, there were no non-Native American cast members who left for the same reason.   It really does beggar believe as to how Sandler got actors like Keitel and Buscemi, and Nolte to sign up.

The Ridiculous 6 is an uneven affair that has moments of hilarity, tediousness and forced humor.  This comedy western is a “straight-to-Netflix” effort, funded by the site, and it feels right at home in the medium.

This is a 3.5 out of 5 stars, earning such a high mark because the gags that do work are hysterically funny.  Fans of Sandler will love this effort and should go over to Netflix now and watch it. Others may want to give this a miss, although there are bits which tickle the funny bone. People who do not think that Adam Sandler is that funny will definitely want to avoid this film,  instead of gouging out eyeballs.

Smoke, Smoke, Smoke That Cigarette…

Meg and I have been watching the first season DVD collection of Boardwalk Empire. A superior bit of television drama produced by HBO and starring Steve Buscemi, Kelly MacDonald and Michael Shannon. It is set in the 1920’s; that era of flappers, Eddie Cantor, the Charleston, Prohibition and “oh you kid.” It was also a time of deep-seated corruption in government, both local and not-so-local.

The sets and the costumes are brilliant. The casting, so far, has been beyond admirable; the choice of the Liverpudlian actor Stephen Graham as Al Capone exceeds genius. Of course giving Steve Buscemi the chance to shine and show just what he really has to offer as an actor, goes without saying. But despite my utilizing over 120 words to talks about the series, its plot, and its stars, that is not what I wanted to talk about. And to be honest none of these aforementioned things was what caught my eye.

The thing I noticed above anything else was the smoking.

Now those of you who follow my blog already *and to you good people, I say thank you from the bottom of my slightly malfunctioning heart.* will know that I finally gave up the devil weed after having a heart attack and two subsequent surgeries to save my life. The surgery has left me with a damaged Aorta and this fact alone has made me more health conscious than ever before in my 54 years of treading upon this earth.

My doctor and the lovely “smoking cessation” nurse feed my ego every time I go to my local clinic. I smile and nod each time they praise me on my abstinence and write me a prescription for more nicotine gum. But as I’ve told everyone, the urge to smoke pretty much dissipated after the heart attack. I actually had three (or maybe more) cigarettes on the morning of the heart attack; accompanied by about three cups of coffee. Now this nicotine (and countless other poisons) and caffeine intake was not before the heart attack, it was during it.

But the entire incident was so damn traumatic and bloody painful that I’ve had no real problem staying off the “fags.” That’s not to say I don’t want one, because I do. There is not a day that goes by where I don’t think about how great it would be to take out a cigarette, light it and drag real deep on it. Fortunately for me I a) don’t have any of the damn things in the house, and b) the thought only lasts for a split second.

I always snap back to reality pretty quickly and remember that not only are the damned things really bad for my heart, but they are also a lung sapper. I don’t fancy carrying an oxygen bottle around with me. Of course the amount of stress I am going through at the moment with my, pretty much, forced ill-health retirement and my sudden drop in income of around 23,000 pounds per year has guaranteed that I need to continue taking the blood pressure medicine irrespective of my heart issues.

I’ve just realised that not only have I taken the “long way around the barn,” but I’ve also taken the journey via a “slow boat to China.” I will get to the point I promise.

As every “ex-smoker” knows when you watch television or a film you notice every time an actor lights up and starts smoking a cigarette. In fact it looks like the entire cast of Boardwalk Empire chain smokes. They don’t just chain smoke, they also smoke filter-less cigarettes, which of course they would.

And don’t forget that tasty strychnine and cyanide!

This was the era of Lucky Strike and Camel and Chesterfields and all the other brands that helped America to fill their passion for smoking. Adverts are everywhere along the boardwalk of Atlantic City and everyone, it seems, smokes like there is no tomorrow. While watching the pilot episode I noticed that the actors were smoking a fag and then putting it out. This was followed by immediately lighting up another one.

At one point during the pilot episode I turned to my daughter Meg and said, “Just watching those guys’ makes my chest hurt.” But people smoked like that back then, and by back then I mean when smoking was not the leprous activity that it is considered now. I remember when I was a kid; people had cigarette boxes (or cigar boxes) with a “communal” lighter in their house for guests. Ashtrays adorned every room and you grew up getting acclimatized to the smell of smoke and ash.

Now it’s different, shockingly so. As I watch the remainder of the first season my heart goes out to the actors. I think about the amount of un-filtered cigarettes that they are alternatively puffing on and inhaling via someone else’s smoke and it does indeed make my chest hurt. That is, unfortunately, one of the hazards of the acting profession. I know that the Canadian actor who worked on the TV series The X-files as the Cancer Man (titled that by David Duchovny’s character) smoked herbal cigarettes through the entire series. Very commendable until you realize that herbal fags smell horrible and taste even worse. So while it might have been healthier, it stunk far worse than real cigarettes do.

I just wonder if I would have noticed the amount of folks smoking and the astronomical numbers of cigarettes being smoked in the TV series if I had not quit in August. I have a feeling that I probably would not and that I probably would have enjoyed the show that little bit more. But be that as it may, I’ll continue to watch the show and keep trying to figure out brand names are on the cigarette packet. Not that I’m looking all that hard…

1920’s deadly sophistication.

Walking Dead Fever…

So this year, Meg and I decided (in between everything else going on) to devote a huge amount of time playing video games as we’ve both been a bit slack in that area of fun for a while now. First on the agenda (or play list) was The Walking Dead: The Game.

I had been watching the developer’s on-line “diary” of this game as they updated on a regular basis what they had done and where they were in the whole process. Telltale Games, the developers in question, were trying to push the boundaries a bit and not only come up with a game that would resonate with the existing Walking Dead franchise, but, they were also trying to breathe new life into the old “adventure” game.

Walking Dead is a “point and click” game with echoes of role play ala Mass Effect. The gaming community received the games release with a kind of euphoric instant acceptance that appears to be more for the “subject” of the game than the actual game itself. The Walking Dead has been popular with folks first as a graphic novel series, then as a television program based on the novels for quite some time.

Just one snapshot of the ever changing group in The Walking Dead.

The game does not follow the telly program, which did surprise me a lot, but the next iteration of The Walking Dead game verse will. Fans of the books will be pleased with the game though. It looks like you have stepped into a volume of them. The art work screams graphic novel and it works extremely well for the game.

The game play itself is a bit of a mixed bag. In some ways it is simple and direct, but in other ways it can be stupidly frustrating. It was probably just me, but I had a hell of a time moving the R3 and L3 together for “easier” movements and object searches. In the area of shooting the infected, it was too easy. When you pulled your gun and got ready to send a “walker” to zombie heaven, all you were given was a “box” like aiming area, no cross hairs or aiming features like Uncharted for example.

This caused me no end of problems at first. I kept dying as I tried to aim at a walker head. It took me literally ages to figure out that as long as you kept the zombie in the box, you were going to hit it. Once I got used to it, however, I was despatching walkers with the ease of an Annie Oakley shootist. Of course, then it got too easy and the end consequence was that it lost a lot in enjoyment value.

Like other games that are flooding the market at the moment, The Walking Dead has more than its fair share of glitches. Most of them were downright funny. Lilly with her invisible rifle, Omid lying in mid-air, to name just two; but some interfered with game play and were infuriating. There was an apparent frame rate issue that slowed action (or stopped completely) changing the outcome of that particular challenge.

It frustrates me that a company like Telltale Games will spend so much money on publicizing their product but will so obviously cut back on expenditure of quality assurance checks to make sure the game play flows smoothly. Anytime that a glitch changes the outcome of an event in the game, the glitch then becomes non-acceptable from the player’s point of view; and player is spelt C-O-N-S-U-M-E-R guys.

My overall experience with The Walking Dead was positive. I enjoyed the game, the story, and the graphics. I did not enjoy the glitches and the obvious “copying” of the role play element that worked so well in the Mass Effect verse. And copying it most definitely was, the difference being that you really did not change any of the “important” elements of the game by your decisions.

*And before I get my head bitten off here, yes I know that ultimately, when you finished ME3 your choices did not count for squat either, but, originally that was not the plan.*

What does confuse me is how The Walking Dead garnered so many awards, accolades, and almost universal acceptance as being the crème de la crème of all the games released in 2012. I can only shake my head and wonder if it has to do with “cross-merchandising” between the novels and the television series.

I haven’t said a lot about the story, but really there is no need to spend a lot of time here. The main protagonist is Lee, who is on his way to prison after murdering his wife and her Senator boyfriend. After the officer driving hits a “walker” and crashes, you play as Lee and eventually meet and befriend Clementine. Once you two “hit the road” you meet the first of the many folks you will encounter on your mission of trying to unite Clem with her folks.

The group dynamics change and flow as there are power struggles and leadership questions. Just as changing are the members of the group, who die off either getting munched by one of the undead or by natural causes. Not really any different from any zombie apocalypse film you seen or game you’ve played or book you’ve read.

Stepping back from the game for a moment and looking at the entire “verse” of The Walking Dead, I think that the existing popularity of a fictional world that the public already laps up has contributed firmly to the high rating given the game. Which is why I think the next game in the “Walking Dead” franchise that is due for release in 2013 as a “prequel” to the TV series will be instantly accepted and raved about.

Pre-order you prequel now…

Regardless of its merits or glitches or game play, the 2013 version of Walking Dead will hit the ground running and not lose one step in its stride towards “Game of the Year 2013. It is so obvious that Telltale Games want to further cash in on the success of the TV show. Of course when the name of the “real” game is making money, you cannot blame them.

I’ll leave you with two things (or maybe three). Am I the only person who wants to see how Clementine (Worst choice of a character name ever, I hear that “Oh my darling Clementine” in my head every time I hear the kid’s name) turned out after the events of the game? And who else besides me, thinks that “actor Anthony Lam” is really Steve Buscemi?

Will these questions ever be answered? Who knows, but I do think that Clementine is already a pistol toting, zombie killing, little momma who will be able to shoot the ears off of any walker who gets too close.

I would have to give this game a 4 ½ stars out of 5 (if I did a star rating system) just for the fun, if not frustrating at times, game play and story.

“Go ahead, make my day.”