Box Office Preview: Board Games, Pregnancy, and something like ‘Borat’ 2


The Dictator

At this point if you don’t know what you’re getting walking into a Sacha Baron Cohen movie, you’ve probably never seen a Sacha Baron Cohen movie. That’s not to say “The Dictator” won’t be funny, but if you’re expecting 100 percent originality, you might want to look elsewhere.

“The Dictator” is the story of a North African, you guessed it, dictator, who’s called to answer for his crimes in front of the UN in New York. Believe it or not, it’s loosely based on a romance novel allegedly written by Saddam Hussein. Yeah, that Saddam Hussein, and yeah, romance. Anyway, when John C. Reilly strips him of his beard, nobody believes he’s a dictator anymore, so he has to find his way working in a food co-op with Anna Faris.

Fish out of water on the mean streets of America? Sounds an awful lot like “Borat,” but if it’s funny, who cares? I guess that raises the question, is “The Dictator” funny? The film is sitting at a 63 percent on the Tomatometer, so it’s probably more “Borat” (good) than “Bruno” bad. One thing the film has to set it apart from Baron Cohen’s previous work is that it’s not in his trademark interview-heavy mockumentary format. This probably means “The Dictator” sacrifices the more outrageous comedy that comes from duping public figures and nobodies alike for a semi-coherent plot.


Battleship

Now “Transformers” I get, theoretically anyway. There are characters, good guys and bad guys. It’s shit, but it makes sense, and more importantly it had Megan Fox. But a movie based on Battleship, the board game?

Apparently “Battleship” has a plot, but I’ll leave that explanation for Jason in his Bullz-Eye review. I imagine there are ships involved. Anyway, this movie looks like a turd. It’s at a 35 percent on the Tomatometer, and the consensus over there is that the film is “too loud, poorly written, and formulaic to justify its expense.” Jason’s viewpoint was a bit more optimistic:

But while the film does feel a little bit too much like a Michael Bay explosion-rama at times, to my surprise, it works remarkably well as a mindless piece of popcorn entertainment. It won’t wow you in any way, but “Battleship” knows that it’s big, dumb summer fun, and it doesn’t pretend to be anything more.

If that’s the case, so be it. But I have a question, and I’m being completely serious here: what is the world of Hollywood writing coming to when we’re getting movies based on 70-year old board games? What’s next, the Monopoly man going on a Godzilla-like rampage through the streets of Tokyo? Terrorists knocking down buildings with a voodoo Jenga tower? Thank you Screencrush for the ideas, but sad as it may be “Battleship” is a real thing, so there’s no more time for mockery, moving on.


What to Expect When You’re Expecting

It’s a romantic comedy, so already we know what we’re getting into here, don’t we? There will be cliches, love, a second act rife with conflict, and ultimately, a happy ending. But every once in a while a movie comes along that breaks the mold, throwing all those banal stereotypes into a pot and coming out with something great. This is not that movie. Let me repeat again, because I know eyes can wander over a word or two: this is not that movie.

That fact is especially unfortunate when you look at the film’s star-studded cast, which includes Cameron Diaz, Jennifer Lopez, Elizabeth Banks, Chris Rock, Thomas Lennon (“Reno 911!”), Rodrigo Santoro (like 4 episodes of “Lost”), as well as the recent success of “Think Like a Man,” which was also based on a self-help book.

If I could guess, and I can, “What to Expect When You’re Expecting,” tells the story of a number of couples, each with their own relationship problems centering around pregnancy and child-rearing. It really doesn’t matter, this movie is at a 23 percent on the Tomatometer. As such, you should avoid it like the plague.

If you’re looking for a recommendation this weekend, I’ll say “The Avengers,” just like last week and the week before, and yes, even if you’ve already seen it. Now, last week I also recommended “Dark Shadows” to big Johnny Depp or Tim Burton fans. The same goes here, “The Dictator” is sure to be enjoyable for fans of Sacha Baron Cohen’s work.

  

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A roundtable chat with Topher Grace and Teresa Palmer of “Take Me Home Tonight”

TAKE ME HOME TONIGHT

Usually, I start roundtable interview pieces with a rather large amount of biographical information about whoever’s involved. In the case of Topher Grace, former star of “That 70’s Show” as well as movies like “In Good Company” and “Predators,” I’ve already covered him pretty thoroughly in my one-on-one interview with him over at Bullz-Eye.com. Nevertheless, it’s worth noting that as a hands-on executive producer and coauthor of the film’s story, he has a lot riding on the profitability of “Take Me Home Tonight,” a comedy about post-collegiate growing pains in the 1980s. Although I liked the film quite a bit, my review is but one, and to be honest, I appear to be something of an outlier. The good news for actor-producer Grace is that reviews mean next to nothing commercially for youth comedies, and people are laughing in screenings.

As for the striking, Australian-born Teresa Palmer, she’s still something of a newcomer to the American screen, having gotten good notices in the otherwise critically bashed, “I Am Number 4,” as well as Disney’s “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” and “Bedtime Stories.” She shows every sign of becoming a more familiar face to audiences — and her face is definitely one of the prettier ones you’re likely to see right now.

While one journo tried to use a then-upcoming holiday to pull some personal info out of Palmer and Grace — at more than one point in the past, the pair have been rumored to be dating — the business and pleasure of making a youth oriented comedy was the chief topic during this mass interview from the “Take Me Home Tonight” junket.

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Friday morning red band trailer: “Take Me Home Tonight”

Via IGN and the movie’s publicists comes this NSFW for language, drugs, and brief boobies trailer for the retro-themed, hi-jinks strewn and presumably R-rated romantic comedy, “Take Me Home Tonight.” I’m happy to report that this try is more promising than the one we ran a while back on a day when I was apparently in maximum snark mode. I’m glad it’s better because I’m seeing it tonight. Topher Grace, Anna Faris, and Dan Fogler star. The story was cowritten by Grace, who also gets an executive producer credit.

More Take Me Home Tonight Videos

Alert! Alert! Dan Fogler made me laugh. History has been made this morning.

  

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Wednesday trailers: Two coming of age tales for the price of one!

The single most crowded genre in the history of film, television, literature, theater, and most definitely popular songs is getting a little bit more crowded next year.

First, “Tree of Life,” the new film from talented but way-too-contemplative-for-my-taste director Terrence Malick, threatens to be dramatic enough that I might actually like it — assuming he doesn’t spend 3/4 of the film shooting sparrows nesting in nearby trees and if can keep his reliance on endless, pretentious narration under control. (I’m still scarred by the drama-free-war-melodrama-cum-nature-documentary that was “The Thin Red Line.”) Or maybe he can make another serial killer film some day, because “Badlands” was pretty great. The pictures are very beautiful, however.


Tree Of Life
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So, handsomest-man-in-the-world Brad Pitt and willowy Jessica Chastain have a baby and he grows up into Sean Penn. Boy, and I thought I didn’t fare too well in the genetic lottery. A big h/t to Film Drunk and commenter Larry:

Malick has the worst narrators since the voice in my head that tells me to burn things.

Next, we have the first starring role in a while from Topher Grace. I think Grace is a hugely underrated actor with a gift for comedy. The movie, however is called “Take Me Home Tonight” and what you are about to see is even more familiar than the title of a bad hairband song. Also, why do people want to relive the 80s? I wasn’t so crazy about them the first time.

The good news is that, at 32, Grace is getting a bit old for this kind of material. I’m also fairly sure the very hot (I mean career wise) Anna Faris could probably do a lot better than this. Dan Fogler, on the other hand, is at approximately the correct level. Actually, the scene with the cuckold guy and the glamorous but slightly strange looking redhead was the first small chuckle he’s elicited from me so far, so there’s always hope for improvement.

  

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Lifelike Yogi

yogi-bear

Sometimes a news story falls through the cracks and, since I don’t have Lewis Black working for me, they just kind of stay there until someone points them out. In this case, the fine cinephile blogger Peter Nellhaus of the well-named Coffee, Coffee and More Coffee alerted me via Facebook that I’d missed this item on the possible casting of Anna Faris, Dan Aykroyd, and Justin Timberlake for an upcoming CGI/live-action adaptation of the really not all that classic Hanna-Barbera cartoon adventures of Yogi Bear. (Any fond childhood memories I had left were quickly erased by actually trying to watch one.)

Admittedly, this idea for a film kind of sets my teeth on edge, but at the same time, that’s how I reacted when I heard they were doing a new “Battlestar Galactica” TV show. The first was so horrible, why revive it? “To make it really good this time” turned out to be the answer. Ideas are just ideas, the execution is where it’s at, and this could be brilliant for all any of us know, though the immutable laws of the entertainment universe — and a seemingly less than inspired choice for the director — indicates that it has at least a 90% chance of stinking. I have to say that the idea of Justin Timberlake doing the voice of Boo-Boo does kind of make me smile, however.

Only time will truly tell, but I’m using this opportunity to present an ancient video for “Life Like Yogi,” the anthem of the long defunct, highly ironic Hanna-Barbara obsessed punk bank, Stukas Over Bedrock — a group whose mid-Wilshire home I used to sometimes hang out at a long, long ago — led by my esteemed fellow cinephile John P. Garry III. A real walk down Punksville’s memory lane.

Ursine bonus videos after the flip.

*****

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