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Friday, August 31, 2012

The Dictator - Review (2012)

Sacha Baron Cohen emerged on the US scene in 2003 with "Da Ali G Show" a hilarious, satirical show that had Cohen interviewing unsuspecting guests with his alter-egos.  Some of the funniest stuff on TV.  Often cruel, but almost always able to provide a few laughs and even make you think.  A few years later Cohen really made a splash with the feature film, "Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan," or as most people call it, "Borat."  That film made audiences take note and also lead to numerous catchphrases which your friends have probably repeated until they became just slightly less grating than the Austin Powers and Napoleon Dynamite lines they can get past.  After his much less well received "Bruno," Cohen is now taking a shot at scripted comedy.

"The Dictator" is a fish-out-of-water tale of an evil middle eastern dictator and tyrant who comes to America only to be mistaken as a civilian.  As he attempts to return to his throne he learns about our culture, humanity  Yep, it is as bad as it sounds.  Although the plot is nothing you have not seen done a dozen times before, some of the jokes deliver.  The film has the feel of an average Adam Sandler film (an average Sandler film is barely tolerable while sober) and some of the Ali G skits that started his career.  The problem is acting out scenes where unsuspecting people are forced to interact with an irreverent person are not nearly as funny as when they are actual candid interactions, especially when the jokes are bounced off of a bizarre looking Anna Farris (her bad wig and outfits make her look like Pinocchio has grown up and chosen to work in an organic food store.)  

There are some hilarious moments and in pieces it is entertaining - the problem is, it never comes together as whole.  The story is too obvious and the volume of jokes is too high - with about 50% success rate.  These jokes range from the slapstick to political satire to the standard genitalia humor found in Cohen's films.  Perhaps if he choose to focus on more the high brow political humor than pubic region the film would gain some consistency.  I am not sure if Cohen knows it, but the majority of people that come to his films are not interested in seeing his penis, pubic hair or any old man ass.   If that message was delivered and he listened to it his audience would be growing instead of shrinking.  5.5 out of 10

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Girl Who Played With Fire - Review (2009)

The second film in the Swedish version of the Swedish book trilogy that is also currently also being remade by American filmmakers while still setting the films in Sweden... got it?

I hate to be the guy that bases a review on how the film was compared to the book (or anything else,) so I won't (yet.)   Let me first review it as just a film and a followup to the first film.  This film continues the story of Lisbeth Salander (Noomie Rapace) and Mikael Blomkvist after their first venture together.  Blomkvist has gained a famed and Salander has disappeared... alive but purposely keeping a low profile, even avoiding contact with the whose life she saved.  As Blomkvist is readying a massive expose that could bring down numerous officials, a series of murders occur with all evidence pointing toward Lisbeth.  What we get is an entertaining, but not all that satisfying film.  Many of the "mysteries" are revealed too early turning what could have been a whodunit to a predictable series of events.  The acting is still great, Rapace is the main attraction here.  It is just, as this story is told it never reaches the high points it should have.

Not a substitute for the book.  Some of the best moments are glazed over and others do not even exist.  I understand this is what happened when a book is adapted for the screen.  It is just that some of the decisions on storylines/characters/scenes to omit are quite questionable.  To say it felt abridged would be an understatement.  6 out of 10

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Test Your Brain - Figure Out These Movies With Countries In Their Names

Exporting Raymond - Review (2010)

An interesting and humorous documentary following the the creator of "Everybody Loves Raymond" (Philip Rosenthal) as he attempts to re-create for Russian television.  The draw here is the not the behind the scenes look at Russian television production (which is in a surprising way exactly what you would expect,) but rather the culture clash of an outsider trying to make a successful version of his show for a country of people that have a different idea of humor.  Who would have thought that the physical comic reaction to getting kicked in the groin could change the feel of an entire scene so drastically?  As Rosenthal makes great attempts to retain the the spirit and style of his show, the Russian production company seems just as determined to restrict the comedy to that more recognizable by Russian viewers.  I would like a sequel that covered all future attempts to export the show allowing us to see the hurdles they had to overcome when exporting it globally - Poland, Mexico, Italy, etc.  I am sure each would have their own interesting stories.  6 out of 10

Monday, August 20, 2012

Cloud Atlas Trailer - To quote Plato, "Oh yeah, it's the shit!"

This may be the worst f'n movie ever, but it is also the best trailer in awhile. Maybe it is the IPA speaking or maybe it is the IPA's ability to strip away the hate, anger, stress, concern and madness of life that allows me to enjoy this trailer... I am not sure. I am sure of one thing, I will be in a theater seat in October seeing this film.

Monday, August 13, 2012

The Change-Up - Review (2012)

Chocolate pudding.  Yep, chocolate pudding.  That is what got this film off on the wrong foot.  I did not go in with high expectations and chocolate pudding lowered them.  The scene is a father (Jason Bateman) struggling while changing a diaper - as he bends down to pick up the diaper the baby craps on him.  Not funny.  And the bigger crime, the gag is not even gross out funny.  The reason, the director wimped out and used what is easily identifiable as chocolate pudding.  That simply will not work.  It is not funny, not gross, not good.  When a filmmaker cop-outs so early in a film it prepares you for the worst - where else will he/she cut corners.

The story is about two life long friends with very different lifestyles, one a successful, responsible business/family man, the other a jobless, responsiblity-less bachelor (Ryan Reynolds) magically swap bodies after peeing in a fountain at the same time while muttering how they wished they had each other's life.  Sadly, this overused premise is never engaging, delivers few laughs and even less storyline surprises.  The jokes are tame and the few that would have been offered a chuckle were used for the trailer.  It just makes me think it is time to revert to some of the older trailer techniques.  Today's trailers not only use the funniest moments while they could simply tease them, they also tend to spoil the film.  Sure we may not see the resolution, but at times we are exposed to almost everything leading up to it.  Let me get back on track though - this film is a disappointment.  There are plenty of jokes, they just are not intelligent or funny...mostly just crude.  The whole time the director must assume the audience is as dumb as the characters he put on screen, otherwise he would not have made such a stupid film.  Besides that, none of the characters are likable and this re-hashed story has been done better before.  Want to watch a good identity swapping film watch "Big," "Face-off" or "Trading Place." 4 out of 10 stars. 

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Lockout Review (2012)

A falsely convicted government agent must be successful taking on a huge mission if he wants to earn his freedom.  It is simple all he has to do is BREAK INTO A PRISON. An MAXIMUM SECURITY prison.  A maximum security prison IN SPACE.  And all he needs to do is save some guy's daughter.  Oh yeah, that guy just happens to be THE PRESIDENT OF THE UNITED STATES!  So, the premise sounds like a joke.  It is not- at least not one the filmmakers are in on.  It is not nearly 1/3 as much fun as it should be.  The plot ends never moves beyond the inane premise.  That would be fine if the correct tone was ever found.  It is not thrilling, it is not funny and it is not interesting.  They should have pushed for a much more tongue-in-cheek approach.  As for the effects, they look low end at best.  Guy Pearce is the lone bright spot of the film - if he had more to work with he could have pulled it off.    3.5 out of 10

The Messenger - Review (2009)

Woody Harrelson and Ben Foster have one of the worst jobs in the world - notifying families that their family member have been killed in warfare.  It is a devastating film at times, but luckily the story shifts and becomes more about the two men than the work they do. When the film shifts it isn't much lighter but rather than their work you are exposed to the deeper scars of war left on its warriors.  Like many films about war it only makes me prouder of those who fight for us (if we agree with the wars or not.) Not every many can leave his family to take on such a huge commitment.  8 out of 10