Reviews (The Watch, Magic Mike + Play It Again, Sam)

Here’s a bit of an eclectic mix:

So, one of these movies surprised me the most (in a good way)! Can you guess which one?

The Watch (Akiva Schaffer, 2012)

Honestly, I wanted to like The Watch so very badly. Primarily because of Richard Ayoade, who never misses a beat in The IT Crowd, The Mighty Boosh or even the recent Never Mind the Buzzcocks episode he hosted. I also quite like The Lonely Island (which includes director Akiva Schaffer) – dick jokes aside (or maybe including), they’re pretty funny.

But no, even with such comedic talents, The Watch is just plain bad. The Watch is about four men (Stiller, Vaughn, Hill, Ayoade) who start a neighbourhood watch after a grisly murder of a Costco employee only to uncover there’s an impending alien invasion. The storyline is pretty promising but it turns out to be dreadfully boring – which is disappointing, because I believe that any movie which incorporates unexpected Sci-Fi elements has the potential to be fantastic (Super 8, Midnight in Paris). There’s also utterly flat characters – Vince Vaughn is pretty much all over the place and there’s a stereotypical creepy neighbour who’s a pale imitation of any The Twilight Zone creepy neighbour ever. Schaffer’s highly restless camera techniques didn’t sit well with me either, I felt like he was perhaps distracting us from what a bad movie it actually was and he’s going “Look! Pans! Zoom-ins! Low angles! I’m so creative!”

Perhaps it was just me, but there was some racial undertones as well. I quite like Stiller’s cheeky opening monologue where he goes something like this: “I have tons of non-white friends. I don’t have a black friend yet, but I’m always on the lookout for that special one.” This suburban white guy stereotype could be lots of fun for Stiller to play with, but it falls flat about five minutes after. There’s also [Spoiler Alert!] a later revelation where Ayoade’s character is revealed to be an alien. It just seems very convenient, that the only non-Caucasian among the four leads is…well, alien and an alien.

The Watch is just not to be watched (sorry for the pun – it’s equivalent to how bad the film is!).

My rating: **

Magic Mike (Steven Soderbergh, 2012)

Magic Mike is one of those films with poor marketing. I mean, even its trailer makes it to be some cheesy, conventional Hollywood movie, but it’s surprisingly not. When it was first released, my two girlfriends walked out of the cinema halfway and told me “it was so bad”. I think it’s really not bad at all, in fact it’s actually pretty good – it was just marketed really differently from what the film’s actually about. In fact, I think this would be a more accurate poster of the film (although a bit of a crappy edit, sorry) to give you a better idea:

Do you see what I mean? Magic Mike can be seen as a “male stripper movie” but it has quite a lot of heart as well. Mike in stripper scenes are fun, it’s meant to draw the audience in, but Soderbough cleverly uses it to the film’s advantage, revealing it to be more of a drastic comparison between Mike as a stripper and Mike’s “real life”. The stripper scenes – with pelvic thrusts, harsh blue lighting, experimental camera techniques – is such a huge contrast with Mike’s “real life” – warm yellow tones and no choreography needed. Soderbough interweaves moments where Matt Bomer reveals his butt cheeks with a pleasant storyline that reveals an intimate romance. It’s the mark of an expert director, to turn a tacky subject of male strippers into something else completely different and it’s quite amazing.

I strongly suggest everyone to watch it – Hollywood ought to be more comfortable with male nudity (it’s as sexy as female nudity, if not done in poor taste) and the story’s very good. Even Channing Tatum is tolerable, so that’s saying something.

My rating: ***1/2

Play It Again, Sam (Hebert Ross, 1972)

As a homage to Casablanca, Play It Again, Sam acts out as any cinephile’s fantasy. I mean, who wouldn’t love a brooding Bogart following you day and night, giving you love advice? The last time I watched Casablanca was years ago, but it’s such a distinct film in cinema history, you’re bound to remember all its classic lines (or misquotes). Play It Again, Sam is one of the few films which Woody Allen did not direct, and it’s also his first film featuring Diane Keaton. I’m no Woody Allen expert to comment on any of these changes, but I can tell you one thing: Play It Again, Sam is an incredible film.

Woody Allen plays Allan, a film critic, who just divorced his wife of two years. His two best friends are a married couple – Dick (Tony Roberts) and Linda (Diane Keaton) – who attempt to get him out on blind dates to get over his ex-wife. Allan’s a highly clumsy, neurotic mess (duh) and often imagines Bogart and his ex-wife tailing him. Allan fails to find any girl out there suitable for him and eventually falls in love with Linda, but it soon dawns on him that their relationship is ultimately doomed (like Rick and Ilsa’s was in Casablanca).

The film’s climax is in its ending, which plays out as a delightful tribute to Casablanca’s final scene. There’s the misty fog, the looming aircraft and the trenchcoats that are all reminiscent of the film. Allan pretty much gets to live out his fantasy as he recites,”If that plane leaves the ground and you’re not on it, you’ll regret it, maybe not today maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of your life”. “That is beautiful,” Linda says, and Allan replies, “It’s from Casablanca. . . . I’ve waited my whole life to say it”. It’s charming, not cheap, and you can’t help cheering Allan on as he walks off into the foggy night.

Another thing I noticed – even for something you adore in a movie to happen in real life, it can only happen in a movie itself. I mean, can someone recite lines of Orson Welles everyday without getting strange looks? Or perhaps could a Rear Window mystery happen in your regular life (more scary than exciting)? Nevertheless, Play It Again, Sam skilfully appropriates a 1940s classic into a contemporary context, penning the ultimate love letter for Casablanca.

My rating: ****


2 thoughts on “Reviews (The Watch, Magic Mike + Play It Again, Sam)”

  1. I totally agree with your review of Magic Mike. The trailer does the film no justice – especially with the use of that Rihanna song. I went to see it for the physical aesthetic value, but the film proved to be beautifully directed, and I loved the humour and the darkness. I actually think straight guys would really love this film too, if they gave it a chance (but I can’t blame them for not giving it a chance).

    1. Thanks! That’s very true, I was pleasantly surprised as well to find out there was more to Magic Mike than just er, abs. It really does play into heavy themes as well, which is pretty interesting. I do remember watching an E! News segment on why straight guys should see the film and it was more like, “Hot girls in bikinis and threesomes!!!”

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