The Watch

"Costco is for members only."

Believe it or not, this line practically brought down the house. Quickly changed from "The Neighborhood Watch" after the 2012 Stand Your Ground tragedy in Florida, this one actually is about an alien invasion, so don't worry.

This R-rated raunch-fest is vulgar, profane, crass, bloody, lewd, horrific, gruesome, and very, very funny. The young men in our screening audience had a blast! And yes, I admit that I too, laughed out loud... more than once.

These guys made it happen:
  • Ben Stiller ("Tower Heist") is Evan, the tightly wound manager of a local Costco. He is happily married but has become a com- pulsive joiner. It's his idea to form a neighborhood watch group when the night watchman at his Costco is mysteriously murdered.
  • Vince Vaughn ("Wedding Crashers") is Bob, the motormouth father of a teenage girl. His idea of a neighborhood watch group is more like a frat party and his humor is very anatomical.
  • Jonah Hill ("21 Jump Street") is Franklin, an officer wannabe; rejected by the police and fire departments, he still lives with his mom outside of town. But this neighborhood watch thing might give him a chance to wear a uniform.
  • Richard Ayoade (lots of British TV) is Jamarcus, a recent immi- grant who thinks being in a neighborhood watch group might be a good way to get acquainted.
  • Rosemarie DeWitt ("Your Sister's Sister") is Abby; she would like a baby, but hubby Evan doesn't keep their appointments.
  • Will Forte ("Rock of Ages") has made a career out of playing dim-bulbs on television, and he is in top form with this one.
The movie, written by Seth Rogan, Jared Stern and Evan Goldberg, is about friendship, loyalty, marriage, parenting and community. No sweaty bodies, but lots of gunfire and blowie uppie stuff....and Costco....and giant cartons of Trojans....
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Here is a link to a trailer:
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Step Up Revolution

A flash mob in Miami is attempting to score enough You-Tube hits on the Internet to go viral, because the video with the most hits during a given period wins a big prize. As a result, we see elaborate productions with witty choreography, inventive settings, creative costumes and high- energy dancing. (Their closest You-Tube rival is a singing cat!) What the dancers lack in formal training they make up for in youthful exuberance and athleticism.

Things get sticky when a real estate developer unveils plans to tear down their part of the city to make way for a swanky new waterfront hotel. Now our gang wants The Mob to be political, too!

This is the fourth in a series; Channing Tatum was in the first. This time, we see:
  • Kathryn McCormick ("Fame" 2009) as Emily, a young woman new to Miami who quickly falls for our hero. Two problems: 1) she wants to be a ballerina and 2) her father is that awful developer!
  • Ryan Guzman (in his film debut) is Sean, waiter by day and entrepreneur in his spare time. He and his chum Eddie, are the creative brains behind all those flash mobs.
  • Misha Gabriel ("Center Stage: Turn it Up") as Eddie, Sean's best pal "since forever!" He does NOT take it well when Sean starts hanging out with Emily.
  • Peter Gallagher ("Idolmaker") is Mr. Anderson, that evil developer and Emily's father. He can't tell her how to dance, so she can't tell him how to run his business.
You will see all the usual suspects, as many of the faces were both familiar, AND welcome, to the big appreciative audience of tweens. This flashy, cliché-ridden, PG-13 musical, bulging with eye-candy, made them very, very happy. AND it was done with no profanity, sweaty bodies or gunfire. The vehicular mayhem was limited to modified cars that could rear up on their back wheels in time to the beat! You had to be there....

In my opinion, there is a particular thrill watching a flash mob convene. We spot some of the faces, admire how they are disguised and can hardly wait to see the reactions of the people they have come to surprise.
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Here is a link to a preview:
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Neil Young Journeys

Neil Young's music was always a mystery to me. (Remember Buffalo Springfield? Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young? I don't.) After watching this documentary filmed by Jonathan Demme, I figured it out: He bores me! He plays the same five notes in various combinations, with clichéd lyrics, many of which are about drugs, wailed in a minor key to wildly appreciative audiences. This shows you how out of step I have been most of my life!

This highly acclaimed guy has been entertaining since 1960 and has influenced popular music ever since. I am willing to admit he is a skilled musician. I was fascinated by the technology brought into play for this concert. The guy in the control booth is as much an artist as Mr. Young; together they make this one-man band sound like an orchestra. For this project, Young is the only person on stage, surrounded by a pump organ, guitars, amplifiers, speakers, a statue, a harmonica, and a piano.

I found his studiously unkempt appearance to be off-putting. Doesn't anyone shave anymore? And that hat! It seems like a prop to show us he is a Man of the People. But the ultra-close close-ups using a tiny camera on his harmonica "stand" reveal every whisker, every tooth, every wrinkle and leave us with every illusion shattered.

This little personally guided tour of Omemee, his Canadian home town, complete with candid and entertaining memories from his childhood, ends at nearby Massey Hall in Toronto where he performs complete, uncut versions of (if I remember correctly):
  • Rock and Roll is Here to Stay
  • Helpless
  • Ohio
  • After the Gold Rush
  • My My, Hey Hey (I Believe in You)
  • Love and War
  • Down By the River
  • Hitchhiker
  • Leia
  • You Never Call
This is strictly for Neil Young fans. They will relish those full-length versions of his songs and the humorous anecdotes from his rascally boyhood. I appreciated his skill, even though his music left me cold.
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Here is a sample:
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The Dark Knight Rises

Last week I saw a clever turn of phrase in a review in the New Yorker magazine, and wondered if I would ever get a chance to plagiarize it. Low and behold, as I squirmed through a couple of scenes in "The Dark Knight Rises," I realized that I truly am Lachrymose Intolerant.

Director Christopher Nolan (the Batman trilogy) is skilled enough to wring out every last ounce of emotion and affection we have developed over the years for his tragic hero. He brings us huge set pieces loaded with CGI (Computer Generated Imaging), and then scales down our focus to intimate scenes laced with humor and humanity. The dialogue is witty, the equipment is hi-tech, and the story is pretty much what we expected: Entertaining and well executed.

At the crashing finale of our previous movie, Batman took the rap for Harvey Dent's villainy. As a result, he has gone into a seven-year self- imposed exile. Isolated in his mansion, Bruce Wayne is crippled, bitter and disillusioned, while Gotham City celebrates "Harvey Dent Day" to honor the deceased hero they were lead to believe cleaned up organized crime in their city.

Last of the trilogy, we see:
  • Christian Bale ("The Flowers of War") is Bruce Wayne/Batman, our lonely and damaged hero.
  • Michael Caine ("Inception") is Alfred, Wayne's faithful valet and majordomo. He tearfully admits he has failed his charge and apologizes to Wayne for his tragedy-filled life.
  • Gary Oldman ("Lawless") is Commissioner Gordon, the lawman who perpetuated the myth of Harvey Dent's heroism, to his ever- lasting shame. Now he hopes to redeem himself.
  • Anne Hathaway ("One Day") sleek in her leather onesie, plays the clever thief Selina; BTW those thingies on her head are antennae, not cat's ears. In fact, Catwoman is NEVER mentioned!
  • Marion Cotillard ("La Vie en Rose") is Miranda, a socialite who is wealthy in her own right; Bruce Wayne realizes he can trust her with his business because she has no axe to grind.
  • Tom Hardy ("Warrior") is Bane, the disfigured villain who makes a speech that is right out of Occupy Wall Street. In fact, it's hard to disagree with much of it even though we know he is simply saying words to placate the citizens before he destroys them.
  • Morgan Freeman ("Dolphin Tale") is back in the essential role of Fox, the ingenious provider of all those gadgets, gizmos and gee- gaws for our hero.
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt ("50/50") is Blake, a cop promoted to de- tective who is loaded with righteous indignation; he tries to pro- tect his orphanage after Wayne Industries drops the ball.
  • Cillian Murphy ("Red Lights") is Scarecrow, the judge who passes sentences in the kangaroo court. He keeps emphasizing, this is no trial, only sentencing!
  • Jillian Armanante ("Bad Teacher") is the clerk whose comment launches the satisfying final montage.
And this is only the tip of a massive iceburg! You will recognize face after familiar face. That is always so much fun for me. This is a HUGE PG-13 movie that lasts 164 minutes with very little profanity and no sweaty bodies but tons of vehicular mayhem, endless scenes of people pounding the daylights out of each other and never-ending blowie uppie stuff.

I appreciated the elegant touch of using the final speech from Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities. (You know, "Tis a far, far better thing...") And you'll smile at the blatant foreshadowing, even though we know full well that neither Nolan nor Bale will be back.

A happy audience exited the theater!
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Here is a link to a preview:
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Ice Age: Continental Drift

Okaaaaay... Third outing of a PG-rated franchise.... But this one has the VERY BEST FINAL CREDITS ... EVER! I've complained about final credits and cheered when we are given the name, the face and the character. This time we SEE the characters and the actors wearing headsets as they record their voices:
  • Chris Wedge (a professional voice actor) is the familiar Scratt, our frustrated little guy who is on an eternal quest for that elusive acorn. He inadvertently starts the breakup of Pangaea, the origi- nal single landmass that eventually divided into the continents as we know them today.
  • Ray Romano ("Ice Age" franchise) is Manny the daddy mam- moth, separated from his family by the splitting of the land mass. He is on an ice floe and is frantically trying to reach a land bridge in time to rejoin them.
  • Queen Latifah ("Joyful Noise") is Ellie, the distaff side of the mammoth couple and Mama to Peaches.
  • Keke Palmer ("Akeelah and the Bee") is Peaches, their adven- turous daughter whose best friend is a mole...
  • Josh Gad ("Love and Other Drugs") voices Louis, the (sorta) mole/hedgehog who is Peaches' best friend. The animation for this little guy is awesome, because the emotions are so subtle.
  • Nicki Minaj ("Glee") is Steffie, one of the gang of adolescent mammoths who exclude Peaches.
  • Denis Leary ("The Amazing Spider-Man") is Diego the lovesick saber-tooth tiger with the soft heart.
  • Jennifer Lopez ("The Back-up Plan") is Shira the lovely saber- tooth pirate who has captured Diego's affections.
  • John Leguizamo ("The Lincoln Lawyer") is Sid the hapless sloth, saddled with the responsibility of trying to keep Granny out of trouble.
  • Wanda Sykes ("Rio") is Granny, who is so hard of hearing she thinks "We are fa-mi-lee" is really "We are ham and cheese." (Children loved that!)
  • Peter Dinklage ("Game of Thrones") plays Captain Gutt, an ape who really needs to brush his teeth! This tipped us off that he was very, very, bad!
The children in the screening audience were engaged, vocal and appre- ciative all the way through. Of course the adults laughed too, but the children had a blast.
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Here is a link to a preview:
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Romantics Anonymous

Please remember what I say about clichés: Clichés work or they wouldn't have become clichés in the first place. "Les émotifs anonymes" is a goofy little 2010 French romantic comedy (English captions) about two painfully shy chocolate makers. It is sweet (...smile...), predictable and absolutely loaded with nuts... er ... I mean odd people. This means we have no doubt as to how it will end, but know we'll enjoy the journey.

Our two leads are both so shy he is in therapy and she attends sessions much like AA or NA, but hers is called "Romantics Anonymous."

We enjoy:
  • Benoît Poelvoorde ("My Worst Nightmare") is Jean-René van Den Hugde (the "g" is silent), a pathologically shy owner of a chocolate factory. His company is going broke, his name is always mispronounced and he sees a psychologist regularly, but he hires her on the spot to be his company's new outside sales rep.
  • Isabelle Carré (''He Loves Me, He Loves Me Not") is Angélique Delange, a brilliant and original candy maker who is "The Hermit," an anonymous maker of boutique chocolates. She hides behind anonymity because meeting people face-to-face makes her faint; the elderly distributor of her chocolates has died so she needs a new job. She is NOT a good choice for an outside sales rep.
  • Lorella Cravotta ("Amélie") is Magda, a long-time employee in the chocolate factory who is sad to see her nice employer's business going under.
  • Lise Lamétrie("What War May Bring") is Suzanne, another canny employee who can see that the newly hired outside sales rep looks very, very tasty to her boss.
  • Stéphan Wojtowicz ("The Hedgehog") is a psychologist who assigns our hero exercises designed to help him learn how to interact more easily with others.
Between our two leads shuffling and stammering their way into mutual attraction, the therapist's haywire recommendations, and the group therapy sessions, it's a wonder anyone keeps his or her sanity; but we enjoy every step along the way.

This DVD should be available through all of the regular sources.

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Here is a sample for you to nibble:
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The Amazing Spider-Man

Andrew Garfield rules! I have only one minor quibble with this exciting, funny, satisfying, special-effects laden, and ultimately heart-wrenching film. It should be called "Spider-Boy: The Genesis" because the most appealing elements are the scenes where our hero blunders into his spider-like abilities, learns how to use them, and then matures as he comes to grasp the heavy responsibilities that go with them.
  • Andrew Garfield ("The Social Network") is Peter Parker/Spider- Man, left by his parents with an aunt and uncle who must raise him when, for some mysterious reason, Mom and Dad never return. Naturally, he wants to know why.
  • Emma Stone ("The Help") is Gwen Stacy, a very bright classmate who intercedes when Peter is bullied. Turns out she is not only smart, she is also resourceful, brave and clearly likes him.
  • Rhys Ifans ("Anonymous") is Dr. Curt Conners, a former partner who had worked with Peter's father on cross-species genetics research.
  • Denis Leary ("Rescue Me") is Captain Stacy, Gwen's father, out to catch that oddly dressed vigilante who is complicating things on the streets for the police department.
  • Sally Field ("Brothers and Sisters") is Aunt May, a practical soul who keeps the home fires burning, even when Peter forgets to buy eggs.
  • Martin Sheen ("The West Wing") is Uncle Ben, who should write the book on child rearing. He is the right balance of strict, funny and loving. Peter Parker is a lucky boy.
  • C. Thomas Howell ("Southland" remember him in "E.T."?) is Jack's Father who watches that oddly dressed vigilante rescue his son Jack from certain drowning. He starts the heart-warming bit. ...smile...
This charming and involving PG-13 version has far more aerial battles than I like, but hey! It's "Spider-Man!" The final act would never work with an actor of lesser calibre than Garfield. As far as I'm concerned, he can sell anything.

When the film ended, we hung back, knowing how Marvel likes to add teasers, and sure enough, there IS one. That means we can look forward to a second installment. That makes ME happy!
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Here is a link to a preview:
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To Rome With Love

Woody Allen glamorized London ("Match Point" and "You Will Meet a Tall Dark Stranger"), Paris ("Midnight in Paris"), and Barcelona ("Vicky Cristina Barcelona"), so why not Rome? He mixes together a disparate group of people, stirs lightly, and out comes:
  • Penélope Cruz ("Volver") as Anna, a hard-working high-end hooker with a heart of gold.
  • Jesse Eisenberg ("The Social Network") is Jack, an architectural student trying in vain to stay focused on blueprints.
  • Ellen Page ("Juno") as Monica, a faithless friend with plenty of shenanigans to distort a guy's focus.
  • Alec Baldwin ("It's Complicated") as John, an observer and sometimes unwelcome commentator. We are never sure when he is real....
  • Roberto Benigni ("Life is Beautiful") is an ordinary office worker who unexpectedly becomes a Kardashian for 15 minutes of fame. Of course he is swamped by gorgeous women, all of whom are desperate to bed him. Yuck!
  • Allison Pill ("Milk") as Hayley who miraculously meets the love of her life on her very first day in Rome.
  • Flavio Parenti ("I Am Love") as Michelangelo, trying to protect his naïve father from that capitalistic American, who might become his future father-in-law!
  • Fabio Armiliato (TV roles) as Giancarlo, who sings amazingly well in the shower. He threatens to be the next flavor of the month.... In a collection of absurd stories, his is the most absurd.
  • Judy Davis ("Eye of the Storm") as Phyllis, an acerbic wife who describes her avant-garde husband with a resigned sigh, "He's just ahead of his time."
  • Woody Allen ("Scoop") as Jerry, the angsty father who travels to Rome with his wife to meet their daughter's future in-laws. Allen has a couple of really funny lines, but this movie lasted 102 minutes.
There far too many other characters to name, people who come and go, leaving very little impression except a faint hope that maybe THIS one might be the story we can relate to. No such luck....

This scatter-shot script bounced around and left us feeling more than a little confused. How many days were involved? We saw one fellow turn off his alarm at least four mornings in a row, but that bride wasn't lost overnight, was she? How can an architectural student afford an extended vacation in the Mediterranean? How do some of these people support themselves? Who pays for all this? Who can see Alec Baldwin's charac- ter? Does he become invisible?

In the past, I have generally viewed Woody Allen's amusing films as mildly entertaining intellectual masturbation. This one I would call an old man's wet dream, but that would be rude, so I'll just say he's out of step with today's sexual morés and expectations. While it's clear that he views infidelity as therapeutic, and I DO appreciate his observations about pseudo intellectuals, Reality TV and fame, it occurred to me as we exited the theater that I didn't like any of the people we had watched ...although I DID appreciate the soundtrack. To me this was blandly diverting, but scattered, inconclusive, and left me vaguely dissatisfied. ...Yawn...
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Here is a link to a trailer:
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Director Oliver Stone ("W.") brings us an R-rated violent, bloody, repug- nant visualization of the contemporary drug business in California and Mexico. We already know the death toll approaches 50,000 for the last six years. (Why do Americans keep buying drugs and by so doing, contribute to the deaths of Mexicans, many of whom are innocent?) An unlikely but inseparable trio of "peaceful, California pot growers" go up against a Mexican drug cartel.
  • Taylor Kitsch ("John Carter") is Chon, Special-Ops trained but derailed by the two people he loves.
  • Blake Lively ("Gossip Girl"), a California blonde, is O, a delec- table dimwit who loves BOTH of the guys in their little ménage à trois. When taken hostage, her chronic drug use backfires on her.
  • Aaron Johnson ("Albert Nobbs") is Ben, the soulful botanist who has developed a highly marketable (i.e., potent) variety of marijuana.
  • John Travolta ("From Paris With Love"), sporting one face-lift too many, is Dennis, the go-to guy in the government, who plays all sides against the middle.
  • Benicio del Toro ("The Wolfman") is Lado, an hombre with slip- pery loyalties. His character seems to take pleasure in devising creative ways to torture and kill.
  • Salma Hayak ("Grown Ups") is Elena, the jefa of a major cartel. She has political, economic and geographic concerns but remains in charge.
  • Emile Hirsch ("Milk") is Spin, the tech whiz who can create a paper trail that will lead the best tracker astray.
Man's inhumanity to man is singularly repellent to me. Even though I tried to avoid looking at the screen, I came out with enough chaotic images of drug use, sexual encounters, beheadings, whippings, tortures, gunfire and blowie uppie stuff to last me a lifetime. I don't know, and I don't want to know, these methods, so I recoil from the images.

Near the conclusion, Stone pulled a cinematic trick that triggered a col- lective groan from our screening audience. As we exited the theater, we realized that none of us knew exactly how it ended...nor did we care...
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Here is a link to a preview:
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