Reviews

Who's Watching 'The Watch'? You Should Be

Though it doesn't live up to the pedigree of its cast, The Watch is elevated from groans to grins by Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill.


'The Watch'

Director: Akiva Schaffer
Cast: Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, Jonah Hill, Richard Ayoade, Rosemarie DeWitt, Will Forte, R. Lee Ermey, Billy Crudup
Length: 102 minutes
Year: 2012
Distributor: Fox
MPAA Rating: R for some strong sexual content including references, pervasive language and violent images
Release date: 2012-11-13

Expectations play such an important part in enjoying a film. For example I'm so ridiculously excited to see Silver Linings Playbook, it pretty much has to be as good as The Fighter, David O. Russell's last movie, or I'll be wretchedly disappointed. Should I temper my expectations for a better experience? Probably, but I don't want to ignore my natural instinct to get super, incredibly, off-the-wall excited for what I whole-heartedly expect to be one of the best experiences of my life.

Plus, when it pays off, the insurmountable joy is unforgettable. Thank you, Looper.

Expectations work the other way, too. Usually, if you're not excited about a movie, you just won't watch it. If somehow you do stumble across it, though, because, let's say, you have to write a review on it, and it's better than you anticipated, then you're going to have a darn good time. Sometimes, you can oversell it simply because you went into the film expecting so little and you came out with so much more.

I must say I found myself in this exact same scenario when I sat down to watch The Watch, a film I was dreading with almost every fiber in my being (one or two fibers were excited for the train wreck). I read the terrible reviews. I saw the box office plummet. I knew what I was in for—or so I thought.

Let me first say The Watch is not a great film. It's much closer to a good film than a bad film, though. The story is as conventional as they come: an overly involved citizen forms a neighborhood watch group after an attack in his small town, and the group is soon overwhelmed with their newfound responsibility. Throw in some aliens and you’ve got the whole movie. There aren't too many surprises in this script.

Luckily, there needn't be. The selling point for this film was and is its cast. Ben Stiller, Vince Vaughn, and Jonah Hill are all A-list comedians, and getting them together for one film where they're all on screen together for the majority of the movie is a minor miracle. It's just not done that often anymore. Usually live-action comedies are made on the cheap with only one major celebrity, two tops.

It would have been preferable if they'd joined a prestigious project worthy of their talents, but I'll settle for watching them make a mediocre comedy into a jocular at-home experience. Ben Stiller plays the straight man asked to be responsible for reigning in the rest of the men. It's no easy task. Vince Vaughn is a party animal—an older, more obligated animal with a daughter he loves, but a good-time Joe nonetheless. Jonah Hill is a bit... off. Not enough to be wholly off-putting, but he's noticeably deranged to the point of threatening high schoolers with a knife.

Stiller's quirks are much more relatable, which seems like a character flaw for an outrageous comedy like this one. After all, we don't want one of cinema's most sharp-witted comedians relegated to the role of the wet blanket. Luckily, he grows out of it as the gang becomes more and more rambunctious. Vaughn spouts lines at a mile-a-minute. Hill mumbles obscene absurdities under his breath. Stiller goes from zero to 60 with authentic charm. Everyone joins in the fun, and it allows the audience to fully engage, as well.

If anything, The Watch is shorter than it needs to be. As illustrated by the 24 minutes of deleted scenes included on the Blu-ray, the comedy could have been much longer. A few of the scenes are obviously extraneous—I'm all for getting as much Will Forte as possible, but his one-on-one scene with Stiller does not work—but there are also a few expository gems that fill in a few minor story gaps.

Tack on all of Jonah Hill's extra lines (the director said they weren't sure how weird they would make them so they just let the cameras roll at the end of each scene), and this could have been a monstrous movie. Again, chop-heavy editing isn't anything to flip out about, but it made the final product all the better.

The Blu-ray edition also comes with a short gag reel, a 12-minute making-of featurette that actually features more interviews than clips from the film, and a spoof video where a reporter interviews the alien from the film as if he was a real actor. There's also a theatrical trailer and a two-minute video asking the cast and crew how they would handle an alien invasion.

For how poorly the film did at the box office, it's surprising to see this number of special features and this much quality within the bonus content. I don't want to say The Watch wildly surpassed my expectations, but it repeatedly proved itself better than its lowly reputation. If only it was as easy to surpass the high bar.

5

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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Music

The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.


In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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