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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TCA Press Tour, Summer 2010: Day 8

Much as the CBS family of networks split their efforts into two days worth of panels – one for CBS, the other for Showtime and The CW – so did Fox give us some breathing room by placing their presentations for FX’s slate of new programming on a separate day. (I wish to God NBC / Universal would take a cue from their peers. I’m so sick of being rushed through a mishmosh of NBC, USA, Bravo, and SyFy series in one long can’t-stop-won’t-stop day.)

Executive Session

Your personal mileage may vary, but for my money, John Landgraf is one of the nicest network heads currently in the game. He’s very low-key, but he’s always ready to give you a quote when you’re looking for one. Today, he offered up the following bits and pieces about the future of FX.

* “Louie” has been renewed for a second season of 13 episodes.

* Ben Garant and Tom Lennon, late of “Reno 911!,” are going to do a pilot for FX called “The USS Alabama.” It’s another partially-scripted, partially-improvised series, and, according to Landgraf, “It takes place in space on the USS Alabama with a crew of spacefarers who might not be too much brighter than the cops in ‘Reno 911!’”

* There are two other pilots in the works as well, the first being “Outlaw Country,” which will star Mary Steenburgen. “Some really talented young actors have joined that cast,” said Landgraf. “That goes into production in, I think, six weeks. It’s a fantastic script. Something we’re really, really excited about.” The other is “Wilfred,” a comedy pilot based on an Australian comedy series, which completed principal photography last week.

* The “Damages” deal done with DirecTV is different from the one that was done with “Friday Night Lights” in that FX will not be offering up the episodes after they’ve run on DirecTV. “The season that has aired, which was the third season of ‘Damages,’ is the last season it will air on FX,” said Landgraf. “For us, we’re also producers on ‘Damages.’ We’ve been co-owners and co-producers through FX Productions, and DirectTV felt very strongly. They were willing to underwrite it, and to a very substantial amount financially, they enabled it to move forward. That was the deal that Sony worked on very aggressively, but they wanted it exclusively, so this was really the best and only way for ‘Damages’ to move forward. So we stepped aside as a network entity, and we’re still involved as a production entity.”

Sons of Anarchy

I don’t know that there’s any series currently on the air that I feel worse about not watching than “Sons of Anarchy.” Everyone tells me it’s fantastic, I have every reason to believe that those people are right, and yet I just haven’t had the time to go back and revisit the show’s first two seasons. But that won’t stop me from bringing you the info that creator Kurt Sutter and his cast provided to us during the show’s panel, of course.

As far as the “big bad” for Season 3, as it were, Sutter says, “We have a couple dual storylines going in Charming and as well as in Belfast, but I guess if you had to pin it down to one specific adversary, I would say that it’s probably the Titus Welliver character, Jimmy O.”

What of the theme of the new season? “I don’t know if there’s one specific overriding theme,” said Sutter. “I think the theme is always about family and Jax sort of defining his role as a father and as a partner and as a son and as a member of this club, and the Abel storyline drives us through pretty much the entire season, and…I don’t want to give anything away in terms of what that means and where that takes us, but, you know, the thing is our seasons, the actual span of time within our seasons is very short. It’s potentially a couple, two or three weeks. So there isn’t a lot of time that passes where you can have a lot of things unfold organically. So it is a very concentrated period of time which I think helps feed, I think, the sense of urgency for the tasks that they have at hand this season.”

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What Else Ya Got? “17 Again”

It’s been awhile since we’ve done one of these here on Premium Hollywood (recently, they’ve been combined into my sometimes-weekly Blu-ray column), but with the DVD version of “17 Again” disappointing fans with, as Edwin Starr would say, absolutely nothing, it seemed like a good idea to break down just what exactly HD fanatics will be getting for the seven dollar upcharge.

“Zac Goes Back”

Your standard EPK-style production featurette, this 12-minute collection of interviews features the cast and crew talking about what it was like to work with one another on set. Along with explaining how Zac Efron became attached to the project to begin with, the interviews also expose Efron’s attempts at mimicking Matthew Perry’s various acting habits in order to properly portray him as a youngster.

Going Back to 17

Cut from the same set of interviews, this brief collection of footage asks the cast and crew about their own high school memories (complete with childhood photos), as well as whether or not they would accept the chance to experience it all over again. You can probably guess what the unanimous answer is.

Way Cool Tell-All Trivia Track

Certainly not as way cool as its title suggests, this pop-up track features trivia from the making of the film and general facts about the 80s. It’s probably the most interesting extra on the disc, but it’s only something that diehard fans will want to sit through the whole thing. Thankfully, the pop-ups aren’t at all distracting, so you can actually enjoy the movie while learning a few things along the way.

Breakin’ Character Outtakes

No surprise here, as Thomas Lennon steals the show with a series of funny adlibs and cast crack-ups – especially Zac Efron, who can’t seem to keep a straight face when working opposite the improv veteran.

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Ken Marino is in “The State” of DVD bliss

Ken Marino is a busy working actor — his recent gigs include stints on the CW’s unjustly slain “Reaper” and the Starz Network’s “Party Down” — and is doubtless usually too focused on whatever project’s in front of him to look back. This week, however, sees the long-sought DVD release of “The State,” the sketch comedy series that Marino (along with Michael Ian Black, David Wain, Joe Lo Truglio, Thomas Lennon, Ben Garant, and many more) did for MTV way back in the young and innocent ’90s. Never a huge ratings success, “The State” has nonetheless acquired cult status in the years since its cancellation, and its arrival on the home market is the answer to many fans’ prayers — making Will Harris’ recently conducted interview with Marino something of a “State” retrospective (and a perfectly timed one, at that). As it turns out, Ken hasn’t seen those old episodes in years — and wasn’t all that hopeful about seeing them on DVD:

“David (Wain) kind of headed the campaign to get it done, and he dealt with the outside forces that were trying to put it together or to block it or whatever, so I would just get E-mail updates. At a certain point, I just got numb to that. I was just, like, ‘Oh, it’s never gonna happen.'”

Reminiscing about his State days, Marino opened up about the writing process, the troupe’s battles with MTV, the origins of the infamous phrase “I want to dip my balls in it,” and the long-lost album the State recorded for Warner Bros.:

“”From what I remember, it’s a drunken mess. We were, like, ‘Okay, if we take all our money and get tickets and go to the Bahamas to record it at a recording studio down there, we won’t really make any money, but we’ll be in the Bahamas for two weeks. You wanna do that?’ If you listen closely on a number of the pieces, you’ll hear ice in our glasses making noise, because we were constantly drinking whatever local flavored drinks were around.”

To read the rest of the interview — including Ken’s thoughts on a “Reaper” movie and Jane Lynch’s recent departure from “Party Down” — click here!

  

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