The Watch

You are hereby officially notified: This is a bad movie.

The setup: Ben Stiller is manager of a Costco store in a small town in Ohio. When his night watchman is brutally killed. Stiller sets up a community watch team.

Stiller is joined on the team by Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill and an unfamiliar actor, Richard Ayoade. Ayoade is interesting because of his mixed ethnicity, British accent and vaguely intellectual look. He’s a decent enough actor who may have a future in film comedy.

The watch team eventually discovers that what they are up against is… aliens! But their battle with aliens isn’t enough to fuel a whole movie, so we get somewhat lame subplots about infertility, wild teenagers and arrogant small-town cops.

In comparison to other R-rated movies with dirty language (such as “Ted”), this movie seems to bring the raunchiness just for the sake of raunchiness. Yes, there are some laughs along the way, but much of the script languishes in that zone between “almost funny” and “ecccch.”

SNL vet Will Forte’s roles this summer in “That’s My Boy,” “Rock of Ages” and now as the smart-ass cop in “The Watch” (along with his bizarre role on “30 Rock”) appear to have positioned him as a go-to guy for comedy character roles. Rosemarie DeWitt appears as Stiller’s wife.

Unless you feel obliged to see every single movie that Stiller, Vaughn or Hill make, watch this one in a year or two on cable or Nexflix. Believe me, you can wait.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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The Dark Knight Rises

This is one of the all-time great films. The story, the screenplay, the soundtrack, the acting, the directing, the stunts, the effects—all winners!

It’s the story and its telling that give TDKR a specialness that the other Christopher Nolan Bat movies didn’t have. The others had bombast and standout performances, but TDKR has more heart and soul. Christian Bale as Bruce Wayne/Batman is heroic, to be sure, but is presented here as more human and more vulnerable (in numerous ways). His transition from a limping, Howard Hughes type recluse back to Bat mode sets the film in motion.

Nolan and Nolan (director and co-writer Christopher and his co-writer brother Jonathan) give memorable lines to several of the key players. Michael Caine as Alfred is in tears as he advises Wayne not to go back into the Bat suit. Joseph Gordon-Levitt as police officer John Blake, a longtime Wayne admirer, tells Wayne his emotional story of life in an orphanage. Gary Oldman as Commissioner Gordon hesitates to tell the truth about Batman, lest he mar the legacy of Harvey Dent.

The ladies are better in this Bat movie. Anne Hathaway as Selina Kay/Catwoman is a beguiling mix of evil and good. Plus, she looks terrific in the leather jumpsuit. Marion Cotillard as Wayne Enterprises board member Miranda Tate shares a romantic interlude with Bruce Wayne and is a key character in significant plot points.

Tom Hardy is evil incarnate as Bane, the terrorist who brings fear and havoc to Gotham. His mask and haunting voice bring to mind classic bad guy Darth Vader. Bane’s violent acts will prompt recollections of NYC’s 9/11 terrorist attacks. His band of thugs commandeers certain defense assets to do harm to Gotham and its defenders.

If this is a movie you plan to see, get into your movie house sooner rather than later. TDKR has content you want to enjoy on the big screen (IMAX, preferably) instead of a small screen. This review contains no spoilers, but others will. Be careful monitoring online forums and social media feeds, so as not to be burned by those who tell too much.

“The Dark Knight Rises” has iconic scenes and dialogue that will endure in my personal movie memory scrapbook for a long time. Expect multiple awards nominations and wins at year’s end. The movie adds another notch to Christopher Nolan’s reputation as one of our great movie storytellers. Like his “Inception,” TDKR is a movie to be enjoyed many times over. But don’t wait for the DVD or Blu-Ray. Witness true greatness at a theater near you ASAP.

Savages

Good and evil—sometimes the lines get blurred.

Two good-looking guys who are big buds also grow big buds. In fact, their pot is so potent that a Mexican drug gang wants to distribute their product. The two men, played by Taylor Kitsch and Aaron Johnson, are such good friends that they share a gorgeous blonde girlfriend, played by Blake Lively.

These two drug dealers are the apparent good guys. Sure, they are committing felonies on a daily basis, but they are also sending money to Africa and Asia to help poor kids and they provide their killer weed to a crooked DEA agent (played by John Travolta) whose wife who is in pain, dying from cancer.

Then you have the Mexicans who are the apparent bad guys. The Mexicans include Benicio Del Toro and Salma Hayek. We are introduced to them via a gruesome decapitation video. They torture people, they shoot people, they kidnap people. Worst of all, they refuse to negotiate. Their offer to our “good guys” is a “take it or leave it.” When the good guys leave it, the bad guys kidnap the blonde.

That’s when things get really ugly. That’s when good goes bad. That’s when bad, well, doesn’t exactly go good, but shows some human emotion.

Director Oliver Stone’s depictions of violence are direct: sadistic, brutal, and bloody. And they are more realistic that the stylized scenes of violence in a Tarentino film.

In “Savages,” the story we see and the changes the characters undergo are really more important than the film’s ultimate conclusion. If you like a good action film and can handle some violence and gore, take a deep hit of “Savages,” get Oliver Stoned and enjoy the buzz.