The Watch

LEGO

Something I always try to remember when annoyed with product placement is that our whole, real world is itself filled with product placement. It’s just that there’s a level to its presence that we tolerate, and anything beyond that level in a movie is where we get uncomfortable. We don’t talk to each other in sales pitches, for instance, the way Laura Linney does to Jim Carrey, satirically, in The Truman Show. But we see products and are conscious of them as such every single day. We see LEGOs in any child’s playroom or pediatrician’s waiting area or Star Wars fanboy movie critic’s office. They’re as much a staple of life as the Mac computer I’m typing on or the can of Coke Zero I’m drinking or the nameless but recognizable trademark of Polo Ralph Lauren on the sweatshirt I’m wearing. The LEGO Movie is more than mere product placement, though. The whole thing involves a world made out of the product. It’s like that classic Tootsie Roll commercial where everything is made out of Tootsie Rolls. Hershey has done a number over the years featuring worlds of chocolate, too. But those are commercials, and The LEGO Movie is not. It’s something we pay to see rather than something paid for in order for us to see it. Still, the world of the product idea makes it kind of okay. We’re not seeing our world invaded by life-size versions of the product, a la Transformers. We’re seeing a different universe, […]

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worldsend08

It’s pretty clear that Edgar Wright and his sometime co-writer/star Simon Pegg are movie junkies. Their series Spaced was all about allusions to their TV and film favorites, while the first two installments of the “Cornetto trilogy,” Shaun of the Dead and Hot Fuzz, were tributes to zombie and action flicks, respectively. With The World’s End, the homage and referencing continues. Even though the message of the movie is to move forward not backward, and even though it’s apparently a veiled criticism of Hollywood’s own nostalgic impulses, it’s okay for a movie this clever to have its influences and predecessors as long as the acknowledgment is through nods to the past works rather than a recycling or cloning of them. One key difference between what Wright does and what the remake/reboot machine does is he provides a gateway to older movies and the machine creates a substitution, a replacement. As a true movie lover, Wright is known for hosting programs of beloved classics and cult classics, usually in hopes of introducing his fans to stuff they’ve never seen. He also likes to name other films that have informed his work and are worth checking out either prior to or after seeing his movies. The following list is not all selections that he has credited nor that he would necessarily endorse. It’s a combination of some of his picks (found mentioned elsewhere) and some of my own, some obvious and some not, some great and some just worth a look for […]

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Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Nitro Circus: The Movie Nitro Circus is a group of friends who routinely perform dangerous stunts for their own entertainment, and the roster includes folks with names like ‘Street Bike’ Tommy, ‘Special’ Greg Powell and Arron ‘Wheelz’ Fotheringham. They’re like the Jackass crew, but instead of stapling frogs to their nut sacks or seeing who can fart the biggest fireball these guys (and one gal) do actual stunts involving motorcycles, cars, modified Big Wheels and more. It’s a massive difference, because instead of wanting them to get hurt you’re wanting to see them succeed. They also truly appreciate each other before, durring and after the stunts as opposed to trying to humiliate each other on camera. This is a fun and suspenseful watch, but as a reminder Pick of the Week status doesn’t necessarily mean it’s a recommended buy, just that it’s a release worthy of attention. Also available on Blu-ray. [Extras: Deleted scenes, featurettes, interview]

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Culture Warrior

In the wake of the horrific shooting that occurred almost two weeks ago at a multiplex in Aurora, Colorado during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Bros. made several last-minute cuts to their upcoming period action film Gangster Squad. The scene in question, which was featured prominently in the now-removed first US trailer and can be seen very briefly in this international trailer, depicted a bevy of gangsters or cops (as the original scene is difficult to find, I don’t recall) shooting bullets from tommyguns through the back of a movie screen. Reportedly, this scene is rather instrumental to the film’s plot, so several very late-in-the-game re-shoots will take place to allow the film to make sense without the now-controversial scene in question. This resulted in the film’s release date being pushed back from September 7, 2012 to January 11, 2013. Altering films and their advertising campaigns has become common practice in recent Hollywood. After the Colorado shooting, many ads for The Dark Knight Rises that focus on the film’s violent moments were removed from the airwaves. This weekend’s The Watch, which opened to middling box office and mostly negative reviews, had its title and advertising campaign altered from the original Neighborhood Watch after the shooting of unarmed minor Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman in Florida this spring. Several movies also incurred changes, delays, and alternative ad campaigns after 9/11. In public relations terms, such changes are typically framed as a gesture of sensitivity to […]

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It can be difficult making friends once you’re past a certain age because the older people get the more set in their ways they become. Youth offers any number of bonding experiences that bring people together from grade school up through college, but once you enter the real world those opportunities start to dwindle. Husbands and wives, children, jobs, existing friends…these things tend to limit the time you have for meeting new people, becoming familiar with them and building new relationships. Past the age of thirty a catalyst of some kind is required to draw people together on short notice. Something big is good. Something of planetary importance is even better. Evan (Ben Stiller) is constantly on the lookout for friends and has formed more clubs than Tracy Flick ever dared to dream. He keeps busy with running club and Spanish for Senior Citizens, but when one of his Costco employees is viciously murdered Evan decides to form a Neighborhood Watch. Franklin (Jonah Hill) failed every test the police department threw at him, so the opportunity to join a “vigilante squad” appeals to him greatly. Bob (Vince Vaughn) is a recent transplant to town with his wife and teen daughter, and he jumps at the chance to hang out with the guys. And Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade) is simply a responsible newcomer to our American shores. Together they form a local neighborhood watch. Together they will decide Earth’s fate as they discover and attempt to stop an alien invasion. Together, if […]

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Life comes before art, always. When life is lost – the first priority is the people who were most affected by it, and being respectful of the loss they had to endure. Because of this, the upcoming film Gangster Squad has opted to possibly eliminate or re-shoot an entire scene that touches a little too close to the heartbreak which occurred last week in Aurora, Colorado. It is a difficult situation that you can look at from two very different perspectives, both of which are quite valid. The first is the aforementioned need for respect, which does take precedence over everything else. However there is also the need to carry on, to not let a singular son of a bitch affect our lives so much that we’re completely submitting to the melancholy to the point of letting it win the day. That said – it’s just a movie, and it can be changed. After all, it’s happened before…

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The Dark Knight Rises

Alright, so June didn’t exactly kick us into high gear the way it should have. We didn’t get another Avengers, a movie everyone lost their nuts over. From the blockbusters to the little guys, there was a lack in unanimous love and praise to be found. We did finally get Prometheus, a movie which could go down as this summer’s main topic of movie conversation over whether “It was awesome! No, it sucked!” but we get those all too often during this time of year. If we’re going to get one movie to feed the millions with true, big summer entertainment where all the harshest critics will be beaten across the world, then we got one ‘lil superhero movie coming up that may provoke such a reaction… The Amazing Spider-Man! Actually, no, but Marc Webb‘s reboot does pass the time nicely and, at the very least, gives us a new Peter Parker we can care about. But that doesn’t mean it made this list. Find out what did:

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After five long years of waiting for Akiva Schaffer to direct a big screen follow-up to his ludicrous 2007 comedy, Hot Rod, the teaser trailer for his new film, Neighborhood Watch, finally hit the Internet back in February, promising more hilarity to come. But before excitement could really build for the film, its marketing efforts hit a pretty huge snag. A Florida teen named Trayvon Martin was shot and killed by a member of his local neighborhood watch, the story became national news, and suddenly Neighborhood Watch’s teaser – which featured its protagonists suspiciously eying and threatening neighborhood children – looked to be in really poor taste. In response to the incident, the trailer was pulled from theaters. Though the aftermath of the Martin shooting is ongoing and is still fresh in everyone’s minds, Schaffer and company still have a movie to promote, so Neighborhood Watch is back with a new title and a new red band trailer. From this point forward the film seems to be going by the name The Watch, and its new marketing has shifted its focus away from a group of overzealous men terrorizing their neighborhood and turned the spotlight more toward its alien invasion elements.

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