The Watch


 

The Watch

Ben Stiller finds another teen who thought Night at the Museum sucked.

(2012) Comedy (20th Century Fox) Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte, Mel Rodriguez, Doug Jones, Erin Moriarty, Nicholas Braun, R. Lee Ermey, Joe Nunez, Liz Cackowski, Johnny Pemberton, Billy Crudup, Sharon Gee. Directed by Akiva Schaffer

 

There are things that define a neighborhood that we seem to have lost sight of for the most part in the 21st century. Neighborhoods were once places where neighbors looked out for one another; where we shared lives with those who lived around us. Those kinds of neighborhoods are becoming increasingly rare.

Not in Glenview, Ohio though and that’s why Evan (Stiller) loves it so much there. He and his wife Abby (DeWitt) emigrated from New York to escape the cold, impersonal big city life and find a place where they could raise their children the right way – not that they have any children quite yet but they’re working on it.

When a security guard (Nunez) is gruesomely murdered in the Costco that Evan is managing, that galvanizes Evan. He has already founded a running club and a Spanish club in his neighborhood; now it’s time for something a little more useful – a neighborhood watch. The police, in the person of Sgt. Bressman (Forte), are doing little to find the killer and in fact Bressman thinks Evan is a strong suspect.

However, his neighborhood is less enthusiastic – only three other guys show up to the meeting that he calls. Bob (Vaughn) is a contractor with an epic man-cave who sees the Watch as an opportunity to hang out with the guys and drink plenty of beer. Franklin (Hill) is a bit of a nutcase who failed the psychological tests in order to join the Glenview Police Department; he lives with his mom and longs for police-like action. Then there’s Jamarcus (Ayoade) who sees the Neighborhood Watch as a means to meet women. Not exactly the battalion of crime fighters Evan was looking for.

Still, they are at least willing to play along for the most part, although much of their crime work has beer involved, and much talk of male penises. Bob and Evan start to bond in an odd way; Evan confesses that the reason he and Abby haven’t been able to conceive a child is because he’s sterile; Bob expresses his frustration over his teenage daughter Chelsea’s (Moriarty) increasing infatuation for Jason (Braun), a super-arrogant teen with designs on just one thing – the thing most teenage boys have designs on.

In the meantime, their investigation is leading them to the killer – and that killer isn’t local. And by not local, I mean not of this earth. When their beloved Glenview looks to be ground zero for an alien invasion, can these four screw-ups suck it up and become earth’s last line of defense?

Veteran SNL director Schaffer has a script co-written by Seth Rogen to work from but this isn’t one of his better efforts. Mostly what the problem is here is the unevenness. The movie has some genuinely funny moments, but not of the sort that will leave you sore from laughter as the better comedies will. The sci-fi aspects are for the most part pretty cheesy; why does every alien have to have lime green goo dripping from them? Just saying.

In any case, the two don’t mix well. At times we have some pretty odd moments of a joke in the middle of a serious scene that cheapens the drama; at others, a more dramatic episode in the middle of some of the more really funny moments. The effect is to keep the audience off-balance and not in a good way.

Stiller, Hill, Ayoade and particularly Vaughn are some of the most talented comic actors on the planet and they actually perform pretty well here. Vaughn is memorable even though his shtick is pretty much the same one he usually uses – the loud and aggressive manly sort with a heart of gold – we see the latter most clearly in his relationship with his daughter which is, as most dad-teenage daughter relationships are is a bit on the love-hate side. However, the relationship is depicted here a bit simplistically.

And what’s the deal with all the phallic references? There are so many references to the male sex organ that you have to wonder if there’s some sort of fetish being played out here. Hey, I’m as proud of my equipment as the next guy but sheez, I don’t feel the need to mention it quite so often.

So what we have here is a sci-fi comedy with some talented people in it (and lest we forget, the very sexy DeWitt who has some nice moments here) and simply not living up to its own potential. As much as I like Vaughn, Stiller and company, I think that talent like theirs deserves more than just an onslaught of dick jokes to deliver. So do we.

REASONS TO GO: There are some funny moments. Vaughn is one of my favorite comic actors at the moment.  

REASONS TO STAY: Much of the humor feels forced. Serious and funny stuff don’t flow well, leading to some jarring moments.

FAMILY VALUES: There’s a lot of sexual content and a bit of sci-fi violence. The language is universally foul.

TRIVIAL PURSUIT: The movie was originally titled Neighborhood Watch but the title was changed due to sensitivity over the Trayvon Martin shooting.

CRITICAL MASS: As of 7/30/12: Rotten Tomatoes: 15% positive reviews. Metacritic: 35/100. The reviews are uniformly negative.

COMPARISON SHOPPING: A Night at the Museum

COSTCO LOVERS: Evan is the manager at the Costco and the climax takes place there; as you might expect there are several jokes about bulk buying throughout the film.

FINAL RATING: 5/10

NEXT: Sympathy for Delicious

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New Releases for the Week of July 27, 2012


July 27, 2012

THE WATCH

(20th Century Fox) Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Rosemarie DeWitt, Richard Ayoade, Will Forte, Billy Crudup, Doug Jones, Erin Moriarty, R. Lee Ermey. Directed by Akiva Schaffer

A group of bumbling neighborhood watch guys led by a paranoid homeowner who thinks aliens are invading stumble into a conspiracy theory that proves him right. The question is now how to protect their beloved suburbia from a race of extraterrestrials hell-bent on conquering them who have a technological superiority.

See the trailer and clips here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy

Rating: R (for some strong sexual content including references, pervasive language and violent images)

Step Up Revolution

(Summit) Ryan Guzman, Kathryn McCormick, Misha Gabriel, Peter Gallagher. A Miami dance crew who specialize in elaborate well-choreographed flash mobs dreams of winning a contest for a major sponsorship opportunity but put those dreams on hold when they take on a businessman with plans to convert their neighborhood into a multi-million dollar development. In the midst of this, the daughter of the businessman falls in love with the leader of the flash mob.

See the trailer and a clip here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard, 3D

Genre: Urban Dance

Rating: PG-13 (for some suggestive dancing and language) 

Your Sister’s Sister

(IFC) Mark Duplass, Emily Blunt, Rosemarie DeWitt, Mike Birbiglia. A young man is still grieving the loss of his brother a year earlier. His brother’s ex, who is heartbroken to see him like that, ships him off to her family’s lakeside vacation home to be alone and maybe get himself together or at least pick up some of the pieces. When he gets there he finds her sister who is undergoing a trauma of her own. After an evening of drinking tequila and the predictable results, the ex arrives unannounced, touching off unexpected revelations and shifting dynamics. This played the Florida Film Festival earlier this year.

See the trailer here.

For more on the movie this is the website.

Release formats: Standard

Genre: Dramedy

Rating: R (for language and some sexual content)

Four-Warned: July 2012


July 2012Every month I’m going to look at every movie on the release schedule and try to assign them a numerical value corresponding to how anxious I am to see it. The lower the number, the more I want to see it. A one means I would walk through hell and high water to see it; a four means there’s no interest whatsoever. The numbers are not arrived at scientifically but they aren’t arbitrary either.

The numbers aren’t a reflection of the artistic merit of any of these films, but merely a reflection of my willingness to go to a movie theater and see it. The top four scores will be gathered as a means of reflecting the movies I’m anticipating the most; you may use that as a guide or not.

Each entry is broken down as follows:

NAME OF FILM (Studio) Genre A brief description of the plot. Release plans: Wide = Everywhere, Limited = In selected markets. RATING A brief comment

Keep in mind that release dates are extremely subject to change, even at this late date.

FOUR TO SEE
1. THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (1.0)
2. THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (1.2)
3. THE WATCH (1.8)
4. SAVAGES (2.0)

FOUR TO SEEK OUT (FILMS NOT IN WIDE RELEASE)
1. HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI (1.4)
2. RUBY SPARKS (1.5)
3. PLANET OF SNAIL (1.6)
TIE. SACRIFICE (1.6)

RATING SYSTEM: 1) Must-see, 2) Should-see, 3) Perhaps-see, 4) Don’t-see

JULY 3, 2012

THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (Columbia) Genre: Superhero. A young man searches for clues to his parents disappearance while dealing with his own nascent superpowers and a lizard-like creature terrorizing New York. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 1.2 One wonders if this reboot of the franchise will live up to the previous trilogy but I have faith in director Marc Webb.

JULY 5, 2012

KATE PERRY: PART OF ME (Paramount Insurge) Genre: Concert. Follows the quirky pop chanteuse on her 2011 California Dreams tour. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 3.8 While I admire her personally for her perseverance and her determination to be who she is, her music just isn’t my personal cup of tea.

JULY 6, 2012

COLLABORATOR (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. A reunion between childhood friends goes horribly wrong. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks a bit like a black comedy crossed with a crime drama; could be a winner.
CRAZY EYES (Strand) Genre: Drama. An L.A. rich kid who’s smack dab in the middle of the Hollywood party scene finds the demands of real life increasing. Release Strategy: Los Angeles only. RATING: 3.3 I’m not sure I can get behind the poor little rich kid drama here.
THE DO DECA-PENTATHLON (Fox Searchlight/Red Flag) Genre: Comedy. A pair of ultra-competitive brothers engage in a twisted Olympics-style competition during a family reunion. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 From the Duplass Brothers who have done several admirable films including Cyrus and Jeff, Who Lives at Home.
LAST RIDE (Music Box) Genre: Drama. A boy is bundled into the family car in the middle of the night by his dad and they take a frightening journey into the unknown. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.1 Looks extremely compelling and with Hugo Weaving in the lead, I’m all in.
THE MAGIC OF BELLE ISLE (Magnet) Genre: Dramedy. An aging writer of Western novels whose alcoholism has led to a decline in his skills finds inspiration in the family next door when he rents a lakeside vacation home for the summer. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.9 I love Morgan Freeman but somehow I just don’t see him as a bitter old man who’s given up on life.
THE PACT (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. A pair of sisters staying in their mother’s old home after she passes away discovers dark secrets about her past even as unexplained things begin happening in the house. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.3 I just love haunted house movies and this looks like a good one.
SAVAGES (Universal) Genre: Crime Thriller. A Mexican drug cartel tries to intimidate a pair of high-end pot growers to supply them by kidnapping their woman. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 2.0 Looks a bit like Oliver Stone is doing his version of Traffic.
STARRY STARRY NIGHT (China Lion) Genre: Drama. A young girl falls in love with a young boy even as her parents’ divorce and her grandfather lies dying; on a journey to her grandparents home together they embark on a journey more profound than they could imagine. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.7 Looks imaginative and visually striking; can’t wait to see this one.

JULY 11, 2012

EASY MONEY (Weinstein) Genre: Crime Drama. Three people on the fringes of the Swedish underworld collide over a stolen cocaine shipment. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 This Swedish film got universal acclaim and is already being remade by Martin Scorsese.

JULY 13, 2012

ALPS (Kino Lorber) Genre: Drama. A company specializing in playing roles of the deceased to family, friends and business colleagues begins to fall apart when one of its members goes off-script. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.5 A look at the grieving process that is certainly out of the box.
BALLPLAYER: PETOLERO (Strand) Genre: Sports Documentary. The brutally competitive world of major league baseball camps in the Dominican Republic is just the beginning of the cost of achieving baseball stardom. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.2 Looks far from being a whitewash and sheds some light on a corrupt system.
FAMILY PORTRAIT IN BLACK AND WHITE (First Pond) Genre: Documentary. Ukrainian foster mom Olga Nenya, raising 23 foster kids as a single woman, is profiled. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.9 Looks compelling and complicated as racism – as well as how love sometimes condones it – enters the mix.
FAREWELL, MY QUEEN (Cohen) Genre: Drama. The final days of Marie Antoinette as seen by one of her ladies in waiting. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Looks sumptuous and sexy; could be worth seeking out.
ICE AGE: CONTINENTAL DRIFT (20th Century Fox) Genre: Animated Feature. When the Pangaea continent splits into the seven we know today, Manny, Diego and Sid are split from their families and must find their way back. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, 3D, IMAX 3D). RATING: 2.7 The franchise looks to be losing a bit of steam in its fourth installment.
THE IMPOSTOR (Indomina) Genre: Documentary. After a young boy is kidnapped from his Texas home, he is found alive and well in Southern Spain years later with an incredible tale of torture and survival, but all is not what it appears to be. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.0 Looks so bizarre and compelling it has to be true – and it is.
RED LIGHTS (Millennium) Genre: Thriller. A paranormal researcher specializing in debunking charlatans and hoaxers is determined to expose a blind psychic as a fraud – but may wind up having to re-examine his own core beliefs. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks pretty spooky, but something tells me it isn’t; still a cast that includes Sigourney Weaver, Robert De Niro and Cillian Murphy has got to have something going for it.
TRISHNA (Sundance Selects) Genre: Drama. The daughter of a poor family working at a resort falls in love with the son of the resort’s only; when they become a couple the deep schism between classes in India threatens the relationship. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.9 An adaptation of Tess of the D’Urbervilles set in India.
UNION SQUARE (DADA) Genre: Drama. A pair of estranged sisters collide as one is about to be married and the other is in the midst of a nervous breakdown. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 Kinda looks like indie neurotic New Yorker hipster chic.

JULY 20, 2012

30 BEATS (Roadside Attractions) Genre: Romantic Comedy. A summer heat wave triggers a series of sexual encounters in New York City. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.6 A hot, steamy, Big Apple-centric version of the French classic La Ronde.
THE DARK KNIGHT RISES (Warner Brothers) Genre: Superhero. Batman returns from self-imposed exile and outlaw status to once again rescue Gotham, this time from the clutches of the madman Bane. Release Strategy: Wide (Standard, IMAX). RATING: 1.0 Hopefully Christopher Nolan’s final visit to the world of the Dark Knight will exit with a bang.
HARA-KIRI: DEATH OF A SAMURAI (Tribeca) Genre: Drama. A samurai requests an honorable suicide of his liege lord, prompting the revelation of unexpected secrets. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.4 From legendary director Takashi Miike comes this gorgeous looking samurai film.
THE QUEEN OF VERSAILLES (Magnolia) Genre: Documentary. Timeshare multi-millionaires set to build the largest private home in America only to fall victim to the economic crash. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.1 Seems like a look at how divorced from reality the 1% really is.

JULY 25, 2012

PLANET OF SNAIL (Cinema Guild) Genre: Documentary. The story of a blind and deaf Chinese poet and his beautiful wife who communicate through finger Braille and have created an amazing, beautiful life for each other. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 1.6 Much of the film is set to his poetry; this looks like one of those movies which might sneak out of the really small indie distributor sets to make a real impact.
RUBY SPARKS (Fox Searchlight) Genre: Fantasy. A lonely young author suffering from writer’s block breaks through it by writing about a fictional girl who shows up in his apartment. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.5 Reminds me a little bit of Stranger Than Fiction.

JULY 27, 2012

AI WEIWEI: NEVER SORRY (Sundance Selects) Genre: Documentary. In honor of a Chinese photographer under house arrest for photographing people flipping the bird at symbols of injustice in his homeland, this film shows artists and activists around the world doing the same. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 3.2 Explores the link between art and activism and how each can bring about change.
BIG BOYS GONE BANANAS!* (WG) Genre: Documentary. A documentary about the abuse of Nicaraguan plantation workers is subjected to the bullying tactics of a multinational corporation. Release Strategy: New York City (opening in Los Angeles August 3). RATING: 2.2 A sobering look at how major corporations can subvert freedom of speech using the legal system.
KILLER JOE (LD Distribution) Genre: Thriller. A drug dealer whose mother steals his stash must come up with six grand or die; when he discovers his mother’s insurance policy will more than cover it he hires a hitman who will accept the dealer’s sister as sexual collateral. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.0 Looks delightfully twisted and Matthew McConaughey is as badass as he’s ever been in the title role.
KLOWN (Drafthouse) Genre: Comedy. A man kidnaps his pregnant girlfriend’s nephew in order to prove to her that he is father material and gets caught up in the 12-year-old boy’s sexual misadventures. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.5 This was one of the most talked about (in a good way) movies at this year’s Florida Film Festival.
NUIT #1 (Adopt) Genre: Drama. Two seemingly mismatched people hook up after a rave and instead of going their separate ways the morning after they stay and divulge their innermost secrets to one another. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 2.8 An unconventional love story from the French Canadian perspective.
RITES OF SPRING (IFC Midnight) Genre: Horror. The kidnapping of the daughter of a wealthy socialite sharply divides the kidnappers in the abandoned school they’re using as a hideout, paving the way for a mysterious creature that requires ritualistic sacrifices. Release Strategy: New York City only. RATING: 3.2 Looks a bit cliché.
SACRIFICE (Goldwyn) Genre: Martial Arts. After a power-mad general wipes out a rivals entire family, the surviving newborn is protected and raised by the doctor that delivered him as an instrument of his own revenge. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 1.6 A powerful tale of sacrifice and vengeance from legendary Chinese director Chen Kaige.
SEARCHING FOR SUGAR MAN (Sony Classics) Genre: Documentary. A couple of South African fans seek the true story of Rodriguez, a legendary rocker from Detroit who released one album in the 70s that bombed and disappeared into obscurity. Release Strategy: Limited. RATING: 2.4 Looks like it can be one of those rock and roll mythologies where the truth is even better than the legend.
STEP UP REVOLUTION (Summit) Genre: Urban Dance. A well-known Miami flash mob decides to use their creativity to help thwart a greedy developer’s attempts to raze a neighborhood for a new hotel. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 4.0 Dance movies as you can tell by my rating leave me stone cold.
THE WATCH (20th Century Fox) Genre: Sci-Fi Comedy. A neighborhood watch group discovers that an alien invasion is underway and their neighborhood is ground zero. Release Strategy: Wide. RATING: 1.8 I probably should be a little more leery after the last Ben Stiller-led all-star ensemble film.

SCHEDULED TO BE REVIEWED HERE AS NEW RELEASES
The Amazing Spider-Man, Savages, Ice Age: Continental Drift, The Dark Knight Rises, The Queen of Versailles, The Watch.