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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.

You can follow us on Twitter @moviebuffs and on Facebook as well.

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This Weekend at the Movies: Transform Your 4th of July, Hanks Style

There are big weekends, and then there are MASSIVE weekends. The release of a new Michael Bay movie, the third film in the TRANSFORMERS franchise at that, makes this a gigantic weekend. But if robots aren’t up your alley, maybe Tom Hanks is. If not them, perhaps Selena Gomez. If none of those, screw you!

Transformers: Dark of the Moon

When director Michael Bay was out stumping for the first Transformers film, he said that he’d love to make a small, character-driven film, just for a change of pace, but that he can’t help but make these huge gigantic movies because he’s afraid they’ll just stop making them. And while that seems absolutely insane with summer blockbusters trying to outdo each other year after year, there doesn’t seem to be any bigger movie this summer than Transformers: Dark of the Moon. Sporting a relatively modest Rotten Tomatoes score of 36% (the first scored 57, the second a mere 20), reviews tend to be on the side of “it’s fun, sure, but c’mon, robots?” Though even the negative reviews mostly note that the climax – a nearly hour-long rampage through downtown Chicago - is staggering to behold. And in 3D. In a relatively modest summer at the box office, with few breakaway hits, this could be one of the few huge ones.

Larry Crowne

I was always disappointed that Tom Hanks didn’t direct another movie after That Thing You Do, one of the most assured directorial debuts and a very fine music film that also, miraculously, gave us one of the greatest pop songs of all time. And while Larry Crowne is kind of taking a beating in the press, scoring lower than Dark of the Moon on Rotten Tomatoes, I know I’m not the only one perfectly happy to head out for a new Tom Hanks movie. This one concerns a middle-aged man (Hanks) who, after getting fired from his job for having never gone to college (which seems like a bad reason to fire somebody, but I guess we’ll see), sets out to do just that. And maybe kiss Julia Roberts in the process. MAYBE.

Monte Carlo

In a plot that could ALMOST be a screwball comedy, Selena Gomez is mistaken for an heiress and taken on a whirlwind tour of, you guessed it, Monte Carlo. The difference is that Selena Gomez plays two roles. And that the movie also provides a launching pad for a new hit single. Claudette Colbert would have none of that. NONE OF THAT.

Stay tuned next week for an ensemble comedy with a great cast, and a family “comedy” with Kevin James.

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Stop me before I summarize the movie news again

It’s like a disease, I tell ya’…

* THR’s Borys Kit has the shortlist of actors being considered for the new Marc Webb “Spiderman” and, not surprisingly given Webb’s good taste in actors, they’re a pretty strong bunch, with the biggest name being the one-time “Billy Elliot” and the Tintin to be, Jamie Bell.

Megan Fox* Much as I am not a fan (I’m not sure who is, exactly), it was once tempting to think that maybe Michael Bay was perhaps showing good judgment by letting Megan Fox go from the next “Transformers” flick. If Jeff Schneider at the Wrap has his facts right, however, it might just be another reason to think even less of him and also, maybe, to worry about her. And is it really possible that the earlier reports were part of a bluff, which Fox has now called? Oy. H/t The Playlist.

* More from Borys Kit. I’ve written about Carl Erik Rinsch a couple of times here. He’s a very interesting commercial director who’s a protegee of Ridley Scott and who has an arresting visual style of his own. Now, it appears possible that his first feature film could be that new version of “Logan’s Run,” which maybe someone other than me remembers was actually based on a book — way better than the lame seventies movie, if my teenage opinions can be trusted — written in 1967 by William F. Nolan and George Clayton Johnson. Rinsch definitely has a feel for science-fiction, I think.

* The Frairs Club’s next roastee will be one Quentin Tarantino. Expect cursing, but perhaps better written than usual. Lots of geek and pot-smoking jokes too, no doubt.

* If  you’re a killer, but forget you’re a killer, are you still a killer? And if you remember, can you start over and drop your bad habit? Those are the questions that appear to be the topic of “Jack,” which John Cusack has just signed on to. No word on who’ll be playing his no doubt brilliant and beautiful, yet vulnerable, doctor.

* Steve Carrell playing the big-in-the-Philippines songwriter of “We Built This City”? Works for me.

* Speaking of signing on, the new editorial director of THR aka The Hollywood Reporter is the former editor-in-chief of Us Weekly. Anne Thompson wonders just how complete a shift to celebrity journalism this might mean for the venerable trade pub, which may not really be a trade for very much longer if her pessimistic/realistic guess is right.

* Ever wondered why the residents of Skull Island bothered to put a Kong-sized door in that giant wall meant to keep the big ape out? Greg Ferrera has a theory.

* I didn’t even know this was happening, but the John Williams Blogathon is under-way at Edward Copeland’s place, celebrating easily the most famous film composer of our era. Yes, his work on “Jaws,” “Star Wars,” etc. is pretty great, but there’s he’s got more musical quivers in his bow than you might think.

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A warning to Michael Bay and the folks behind “Transformers 3″

Do not replace Megan Fox with Hayden Panettiere. Nothing good can come of it.

I had only halfheartedly followed the whole “Megan Fox is out of ‘Transformers 3′ story,” mostly because I didn’t grow up playing with Transformers toys and therefore have no particular affinity for the film franchise beyond the “it looks cool” factor, but when Bullz-Eye’s beloved CEO called me today during lunch and casually mentioned how he’d heard that former “Heroes” cheerleader Hayden Panettiere was one of the names being bandied about as one of the many possible replacements for Fox, I almost gagged on my PB&J.

I don’t know that you’ve followed my feelings on Ms. Panettiere over the course of my three encounters with her at the TCA Press Tour, but let’s just say that she necessitated the institution of a Three-Strikes-And-You’re-Out rule…and I don’t even have anyone else on my list with two strikes!

Here’s the story of my experiences with her, as related in my wrap-up of the 2009 tour:

In 2007, I managed to ask her precisely one question, which she answered lazily before wandering away.

In 2008, I waited patiently for an interview as she finished a casual conversation, and although both she and her publicist clearly saw me, they both turned and walked in the opposite direction when the conversation was over. I unintentionally but audibly said, “Oh, no, you didn’t,” at which point her publicist attempted to pacify me by assuring me that she had to go to the ladies room and would be back. (She wouldn’t be.)

This year, I decided I’d give it one last shot.

As I was steeling myself for her impending indifference, a colleague came up and said, “Do you want to double-team her?” Just as we were heading her way, another critic beat us to the punch by calling Hayden’s name…and I saw Hayden’s eyes roll as far back as she could muster, then turned and offered about the most fake smile imaginable, in no way hiding the “I don’t want to be here, let alone answer your questions” look in her eyes. My colleague and I approached nonetheless, and we watched as several other writers entered the newly-created scrum. After the fourth or fifth time Hayden reacted to a new tape recorder as if someone was thrusting a knife at her, I finally just said, “Screw this” (albeit under my breath), and bailed out.

Seriously, Michael Bay, you don’t want Hayden Panettiere in your film. You’ve just gotten rid of one moody coquette. You don’t want to replace her with another one.

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All the movie news that fits my schedule

With Cannes starting to wind down — or with people probably starting to leave in the manner of Hollywood folk at lengthy fests much in the way Los Angelenos leave sporting events early — maybe the news will start to slow down a bit as well. In any case, it’s looking like I won’t be around to cover it tomorrow, and then comes the weekend movie preview, so this will have to tide you over for a bit.

Megan Fox in * Our top story tonight, however, is far away from anything likely to screen in, or even out of, competition at the world’s most famous film festival. Seems that Megan Fox, who you might remember compared director Michael Bay to Hitler some time ago, will not be returning in “Transformers 3.” Apparently Bay has finally realized there are lots and lots of unnaturally attractive young women in Hollywood and some of them can act a little.

In any case, Nikki Finke brings you a crash course on the apparent Fox/Bay hate affair, while AICN’s Merrick reminds you of some of those other unnaturally attractive women.

Read the rest of this entry »

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