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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.

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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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Pocket monsters to be pitied, pocket monsters to be despised!

Forgive my Edward D. Wood, Jr. paraphrasing above but, while I’ve had about zero interest in the whole “Transformers” thing, I’d pay money to see a feature version of “dark and gritty” Pokemon fan film below.

H/t to JoBlo.com, though I’m not sure everyone there, both commenters and blogger Paul Tassi, is really in on the joke. I was laughing through all of this. I think I was supposed to. Also, considering this was obviously made on a shoestring, I was personally impressed by the often very funny effects, too.

And one final thought, I admit I’ve never actually watched more than a couple of minutes of “Pokemon” at a time, but how is Ash really any different from Michael Vick?

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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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Raimi & Spidey part company; Hanks to direct again with Roberts in tow; history repeats on “Thor”; an auteur departs; ASC, WGA, and ACE noms; Nikki Finke makes a friend

Spiderman

My highly esteemed colleague Will Harris has been right on top of  the huge small screen stories that seem to be breaking right and left at the TCA conference this week. Still, it’s not like there hasn’t been any news in movieland. It’s almost hard to know where to start.

* The Hollywood Reporter as well as Nikki Finke and new stablemate Mike Fleming (more on that below) are carrying the news that, in the wake of ongoing script problems, the kibosh has been put on Sam Raimi’s “Spiderman IV” with Tobey Maguire and Kirsten Dunst and a 2012 reboot, written by James Vanderbilt (“Zodiac“) announced. The new film will feature a once-again teenage Peter Parker, so Taylor Lautner is no doubt already in touch with his agent.

THR says the script problems had something to do with a disagreement over supervillains between Raimi and Sony and/or Marvel Studios. Finke also notes that the fourth installment would probably not have been in 3-D and it seems reasonable that that might have been a factor, given the current mania for the process.

* In another apparent scoop for new Deadline team member Mike Fleming, Tom Hanks is returning as a writer-director for the second time since making his 1996 charmer, “That Thing You Do!” A comedy, “Larry Crowne” will reteam him with his “Charlie Wilson’s War” co-star, Julia Roberts. Like “Up in the Air,” according to Fleming it’s somewhat topical in that’s it’s about a middle-aged guy forced to reinvent his career at a time when past generations where just starting to settle down.

tom-hanks-and-julia-rober-002

While he’s at it, Fleming also has the word on Shia LaBeouf not going agentless after all and signing with CAA. Agents around the world can all breathe easier now.

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