Out in cinemas this week: Stiller and Vaughn face off against aliens, while a mild-mattered writer conjures true love from the pages of his own novel.
The Watch (2012)
Most people kniow this used to be called Neighborhood Watch, before a certain event in Florida; fewer people have noticed that this Ben Stiller/Vince Vaughn/Jonah Hill/Other Guy comedy with the super-innovative premise of socially dysfunctional man-children coming up with excuses to get away from their families and responsibilities only to experience an adventure that makes them value families and responsibilities is actually a sci-fi yarn (i.e., the guy who played Silver Surfer is in it, as an alien). The previous work of the director you're most likely to have seen in the SNL music video skits "Lazy Sunday" and "Dick in a Box." Original writer Jared Stern's previous credit is Mr. Popper's Penguins, but the screenplay was later rewritten by Seth Rogen and Evan Goldberg.
The story: Suburban dads who form a neighborhood watch group as a way to get out of their day-to-day family routines find themselves defending the Earth from an alien invasion.
Starring: Ben Stiller (Evan), Vince Vaughn (Bob), Jonah Hill (Franklin), Richard Ayoade (Jamarcus), Rosemarie DeWitt (Abby), Will Forte (Sgt. Bressman), Mel Rodriguez (Chucho), Doug Jones (Hero Alien), Erin Moriarty (Chelsea), Nicholas Braun (Jason), R. Lee Ermey (Manfred), Joe Nunez (Antonio Guzman), Liz Cackowski (Carla), Johnny Pemberton (Skater Kid), Sharon Gee (Mrs. Kim).
Directed by: Akiva Schaffer.
Ruby Sparks (2012)
This is a movie about a writer who falls in love with the woman he's writing about in his novel who then becomes real, written by the actress who plays the woman who was made real. All that's missing for this to become a Mobius strip is if Zoe Kazan (It's Complicated, happythankyoumoreplease) turns out to have been, in fact, originally created as a work of fiction. The strangest thing about this charming movie from the directors of Little Miss Sunshine, with a talented supporting cast (Antonio Banderas, Annette Bening, Steve Coogan, Elliott Gould, Aasif Mandvi, Wallace Langham), is that hasn't gotting much in the way of publicity. It's certainly better than the last romantic comedy I saw Banderas in on Netflix (My Mom's New Boyfriend, with an over-botoxed Meg Ryan), even if the subject matter--a writer's obsession with his own characters--might be one of the more narcissistic tropes in fantasy cinema. Fortunately Dano and Kazan have a history (they worked together on Meek's Cutoff), which adds to their mutual rapport.
The story: A novelist struggling with writer's block finds romance in a most unusual way: by creating a female character he thinks will love him, then willing her into existence.
Starring: Paul Dano (Calvin Weir-Fields), Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks), Chris Messina (Harry), Annette Bening (Gertrude), Antonio Banderas (Mort), Aasif Mandvi (Cyrus Modi), Steve Coogan (Langdon Tharp), Toni Trucks (Susie), Deborah Ann Woll (Lila), Elliott Gould (Dr. Rosenthal), Alia Shawkat (Mabel), Jane Anne Thomas (Saskia), John F. Beach (Adam), Eleanor Seigler (Mandi), Emma Julia Jacobs (Party Goer at Langdon's), Wallace Langham (Warren).
Directed by: Jonathan Dayton and Valerie Faris.