The reviews out for The Watch, the latest film written by the Superbad/Pineapple Express team of Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg, have so far been pretty dismal. I wasn’t able to catch the local press screening, but even just watching the trailers, it feels apparent that some of the freewheeling charm of those films seems to be missing from this story of a bunch of dads who start a neighborhood watch program only to get more than they bargained for when they uncover an alien plot for world takeover. But even as much as this looks like it’ll be disappointing, I’m likely to see it, and the reason for that has nothing to do with the three familiar faces on the poster (Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill). It’s that fourth guy, Richard Ayoade, likely unfamiliar to most US eyes, whom I’m counting on to make this a salvageable experience.
Whatever failings the movie might have, I can’t help but feel a little goodwill towards it for potentially raising the profile of Ayoade, a British comic actor/writer/director well known in the UK for The IT Crowd and The Mighty Boosh, and who wrote and directed his debut feature, Submarine, last year. Ayoade is an actor with an extreme gift for deadpan and generating laughs while displaying the least possible amount of emotional affect, which is why his casting is particularly interesting here, given that Chris Tucker—pretty much Ayoade’s stylistic opposite—was originally considered for the role. So if you do catch The Watch this weekend, notice the new face in the foursome and let this be your gateway drug to seek out more of Ayoade’s work.
These days, if you’re headed to the theater to see a film that’s nearly three hours long, it probably features super-powered heroes in capes. But in 1988, the notion of the sprawling romantic epic (which I’ve argued was essentially killed off by Titanic) was still alive and well, and that year director Philip Kaufman tackled Milan Kundera’s complex existential novel about Czech society in and around the Prague Spring of 1968. Daniel Day-Lewis stars as a doctor in Prague with two lovers, played by Juliette Binoche and Lena Olin, both of whom have other sexual affairs of their own. All of these personal dramas are set against the political upheaval of the Soviet invasion of Czechoslovakia and the difficulties faced by the country’s intellectual and artistic classes in the face of oppression. This Sunday’s screening at the National Gallery will be preceded by a discussion with Columbia University professor Annette Insdorf, who recently wrote a book on Kaufman’s work; a signing will precede the discussion and screening.
Continue reading the rest of my picks for this week over at Washingtonian.
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