REVIEW: THE DICTATOR


CAST

Sacha Baron Cohen (Grimsby)
Ben Kingsley (Exodus: Gods and Kings)
Anna Faris (Mom)
Sayed Badreya (Iron Man)
Megan Fox (Transformers 1 & 2)
Jason Mantzoukas (Bad Neighbours)
Chris Parnell (Anchorman)
Jessica St. Clair (Bridesmaids)
Anna Katarina (Batman Returns)
Fred Armisen (Easy A)
Chris Elliott (Groundhog Day)
J.B. Smoove (Date Night)
John C. Reilly (Cyrus)
Garry Shandling (Iron Man 2)

For years, the Republic of Wadiya (located in the Horn of Africa, supplanting the actual nation of Eritrea) has been ruled by Admiral General Haffaz Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen), a childish, tyrannical, sexist, anti-western, and antisemitic despot who surrounds himself with female bodyguards, sponsors al-Qaeda (specially giving shelter to Osama Bin Laden after “they killed his double one year ago”) and is working on developing nuclear weapons to attack Israel. He also refused to sell Wadiya’s oil fields, a promise he made to his father on his deathbed. After the United Nations Security Council resolves to intervene militarily, Aladeen travels to the UN Headquarters in New York to address the council.

Shortly after arriving, Aladeen is kidnapped by Clayton (John C. Reilly), a hitman hired by his treacherous uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley), whom Aladeen’s father passed over as successor in favor of his son. Tamir then replaces Aladeen with a dimwitted political decoy named Efawadh (Baron Cohen), whom he intends to manipulate into signing a document nominally democratizing Wadiya while opening the country’s oil fields to Chinese and other foreign vested interests. Aladeen escapes after Clayton accidentally kills himself in a botched torture attempt; when his corpse is discovered Tamir thinks Aladeen has been killed. However, Aladeen is practically unrecognizable as Clayton shaved off his trademark long beard prior to his death.

Wandering through New York, Aladeen encounters Zoey (Anna Faris), a human rights activist who offers him a job at her socially progressive, alternative lifestyle co-op. Aladeen refuses the offer and encounters “Nuclear” Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas), the former chief of Wadiya’s nuclear weapons program, whom Aladeen thought he had previously executed over an argument about the warhead’s shape. Aladeen follows him to New York’s “Little Wadiya” which is populated by refugees from his country, and meets him in Death to Aladeen Restaurant, run by and visited by numerous people whom Aladeen had personally ordered executed. Nadal saves Aladeen from nearly being recognized by angry refugees and reveals that rebels infiltrated the secret police, and all the condemned were sent into exile instead of being executed. Nadal agrees to help Aladeen thwart Tamir’s plot and regain his position as ‘rightful’ dictator, on condition that Aladeen makes him head of Wadiya’s WMD program again. Aladeen agrees and accepts Zoey’s job offer, as she is catering at the hotel where the signing is to occur. Aladeen grows closer to Zoey after she refuses his sexual advances and teaches him how to masturbate, and eventually falls in love with her after seeing her angry. Turning around Zoey’s struggling business, Aladeen begins imposing strict schedules on everyone, forming a personality cult around Zoey and intimidating an inspector into giving the store a good review.

However, Aladeen’s relationship with Zoey becomes strained after he decides to be honest with her and reveal his true self; she cannot love a man who was so brutal to his own people. After acquiring a new beard taken from a corpse, Aladeen ziplines into the hotel and tells Efawadh he has recovered (his double being fooled into thinking the Supreme Leader was ill). At the signing ceremony, he tears up Tamir’s document in front of the UN delegation, and holds an impassioned speech praising the virtues of dictatorship, drawing unintended parallels to current issues in the US. However, upon seeing Zoey in the room, he declares his love for her and, knowing Zoey’s strongly held views, vows to democratize his country and open up Wadiya’s oil fields for business, but in a way where the general populace will benefit. Angry with Aladeen staying in power, Tamir attempts to assassinate him but Efawadh jumps in front of the bullet and survives, as it is his job “to be shot in the head”. Tamir, afterwards, is arrested.

A year later, Wadiya holds its first democratic elections, although they are rigged in favor of Aladeen (who has now added the titles President Prime Minister to his previous Admiral General). Afterwards, he marries Zoey, but is shocked when she crushes a glass and reveals herself to be Jewish; throughout the film he was shown vowing to “destroy Israel”. Scenes during the credits show Aladeen’s convoy, now consisting of eco-friendly cars, visiting a reinstated Nadal, and later Zoey revealing in a television interview that she is pregnant with the couple’s first child. Aladeen responds to the news by asking if Zoey is having “a boy or an abortion”.


Unrated version

The unrated cut of The Dictator runs an additional 15 minutes from its original 83-minute theatrical version. Much of the added material is additional sexual content and dialogue. There is a scene following Aladeen falling asleep in the back of the store where one of his bodyguards, Etra, tries to kill him by beating him with her enlarged breasts. Another added scene is Mr. Ogden, the manager of the Lancaster Hotel, talking to Zoey at The Collective and canceling the catering contract because of Aladeen.


The Dictator is funny. It is silly and slapstick at times but wrapped up in some biting political satire. There are some down moments but for just under an hour and a half of banter and barbs it is a fun film. Not in the same class as Borat but well worth seeing nonetheless.

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REVIEW: SWEENEY TODD: THE DEMON BARBER OF FLEET STREET

CAST

Johnny Depp (Into The Woods)
Helena Bonham Carter (Fight Club)
Alan Rickman (Harry Potter)
Timothy Spall (Rock Star)
Sascha Baron Cohen (Grimsby)
Jamie Campbell Bower (The Prisoner)
Lucy Michelle Kelly (Goddess)
Jayne Wisener (Boogeyman 3)
Anthony Head (Buffy)

In 1846, Benjamin Barker, a barber, arrives in London, accompanied by sailor Anthony Hope. Fifteen years earlier, he was falsely convicted and sentenced to penal transportation by the corrupt Judge Turpin, who lusted after Barker’s wife Lucy. Barker adopts the alias “Sweeney Todd” and returns to his old Fleet Street shop, situated above Mrs. Nellie Lovett’s meat pie shop. He learns that Turpin raped Lucy, who then poisoned herself with arsenic. The couple’s daughter, Johanna, is now Turpin’s ward, and is the object of Turpin’s lust. Todd vows revenge, and re-opens his barber shop after Mrs. Lovett returns his straight razors to him. Anthony becomes enamored with Johanna, but is caught by Turpin and driven away by his corrupt associate, Beadle Bamford.

Todd denounces faux-Italian barber Adolfo Pirelli’s hair tonic as a fraudulent mix and humiliates him in a public shaving contest. A few days later, Pirelli arrives at Todd’s shop, with his boy assistant Tobias Ragg. Mrs. Lovett keeps Toby occupied while Pirelli identifies himself as Todd’s former assistant, Davy Collins, and threatens to reveal Todd’s secret unless Todd gives him half his earnings. Todd kills Collins to protect his secret, and hides his body in a trunk.

After receiving advice from Bamford, Turpin, intending marriage to Johanna, visits Todd’s shop for grooming. Todd shaves Turpin, preparing to slit his throat; they are interrupted by Anthony, who reveals his plan to elope with Johanna before noticing Turpin. Turpin leaves enraged and Todd vents his rage by killing customers while waiting for another chance to kill Turpin, and Mrs. Lovett bakes the victims into pies. Todd rigs his barber’s chair with a pedal-operated mechanism that deposits his victims through a trap door into Mrs. Lovett’s basement bake-house. Anthony searches for Johanna, whom Turpin has sent to an insane asylum upon discovering her plans to elope with Anthony.

The barbering and pie-making businesses prosper, and Mrs. Lovett takes Toby as her assistant. Mrs. Lovett tells an uninterested Todd of her plans to marry him and move to the seaside. Anthony discovers Johanna’s whereabouts and poses as a wig-maker’s apprentice to rescue her. Todd has Toby deliver a letter to Turpin, telling him where Johanna will be brought when Anthony frees her. Toby has become wary of Todd and tells Mrs. Lovett of his suspicion.

Bamford arrives at the pie shop, informing Mrs. Lovett that neighbors have been complaining of the stink from her chimney. He is distracted by Todd’s offer of a free grooming and is murdered by Todd. Mrs. Lovett informs Todd of Toby’s suspicions, and the pair search for Toby, whom Mrs. Lovett has locked in the bake-house. He has hidden himself in the sewers after seeing Bamford’s body drop into the room from the trap door above, as well as finding a human toe in a pie. Anthony brings Johanna, disguised as a sailor, to the shop, and has her wait there while he leaves to find a coach.
A beggar woman enters the shop in search of Bamford. She recognizes Todd, but upon hearing Turpin’s voice, Todd kills her and sends her through the trap door. As Turpin enters, Todd explains that Johanna had repented and offers a free shave; when Turpin finally recognizes Todd as Benjamin Barker, Todd stabs him several times before cutting his throat. Upon seeing Johanna, Todd prepares to slit her throat as well, not recognizing her as his daughter. Hearing Mrs. Lovett scream in horror as a dying Turpin grabs her dress, Todd instead spares Johanna’s life.
Todd discovers that the beggar woman was his wife Lucy, whom he believed to be dead, and that Mrs. Lovett misled him about her death. Todd pretends to forgive her and dances with her before hurling her into the bake-house oven, then cradles his wife’s dead body in his arms. Toby climbs from the sewers and Todd allows Toby to slit his throat with his own razor. He leaves the basement as Todd bleeds to death all over his dead wife.Depp and Bonham Carter are both excellent and it’s down to their performances that I never quite lost sympathy with them in their descent into madness, blood lust and cannibalism.

REVIEW: PLUGHEAD REWIRED: CIRCUITRY MAN II

CAST

Vernon Wells (Power Rangers Time Force)
Debroah shelton (Hunk)
Jim Metzler (One False Move)
Dennis Christopher (Django Unchained)
Nicholas Worth (The Naked Gun)
Traci Lords (Blade)
Paul wilson (Office Space)
Tom Kenny (The Batman)
George Murodck (Star Trek V)
George Flower (Power Rangers In Space)

Plughead is reawakened by an agent(Traci Lords)and uses her to help him “seize souls” in a desert outpost. Plughead’s gun-toting henchmen tour the desert for undesirables so that he can suck their minds. An FBI agent with an attitude, Kyle(Deborah Shelton)releases asylum inmate, synthetic, Danner(Jim Metzler, returning from the previous film)to assist her in a mission to find and upend Plughead for the murder of her colleagues. Meanwhile, prisoners Leech(Dennis Christopher)and Rock(Nicholas Worth)wish to escape their chains(..they are “rebuilding the earth” by planting trees)so that they can steal “longetivity chips” from Plughead..as fate would have it, they’ll get that chance. Meanwhile, detectives Beany and Squaid(Paul Willson and Andy Goldberg, playing keystone cops pretty much)are also out to make their arrests, hoping for promotions.
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While receiving star treatment, Vernon Wells, returning as Plughead, is basically in a supporting role tormenting Lords who is forced against her will to operate a machine that drains the minds of the “derelicts of society no one cares for”, attempting to fight his power, often unsuccessful. Shelton and Metzler get the most of the screen time, in their attempt to survive on the difficult journey to Plughead’s lair. Christopher & Worth, along with Willson & Goldberg, service the film as the comedy..mostly inept, stupid characters poked fun at. The film is directed in a black-humored, tongue-in-cheek manner. Again, the earth is polluted without the proper oxygen and this problem is showcased throughout as Kyle and Danner often run into difficulties when it comes to air. The film is almost entirely shot on the surface, the environment a desert wasteland where nothing much lives except humans with oxygen canisters and maybe rodents who have adapted somehow. We see in this film that a certain root can provide a type of ingredient which will provide temporary sustenance in regards to oxygen for Kyle and Danner when their tanks run out. Plughead has a sinister plot to use a DNA sequence buried in Danner’s mind..and there’s a second “link” climax in a surreal world within Plughead’s mind where twisting wires resemble thorns as his face is quite demonic.

I guarantee that after watching Plughead Rewired things will never ever be the same again.

REVIEW: COMMANDO

CAST

Arnold Schwarzenegger (The Terminator)
Rae Dawn Chong (The Colour Purple)
Dan Hedaya (The Ussual Suspects)
Vernon Wells (Power Rangers Time Force)
James Olson (Amityville II)
David Patrick Kelly (The Crow)
Alyssa Milano (Charmed)
Bill Duke (Hoodlum)
Drew Snyder (Cruel Intentions)
Michael Delano (Ocean’s Eleven)
Chelsea Field (Masters of The Universe)
Branscombe Richmond (The Scorpion King)
Bill Paxton (Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.)

Retired Delta Force operator Colonel John Matrix (Arnold Schwarzenegger) is informed by his former superior Major General Franklin Kirby (James Olson) that all the other members of his unit have been killed by unknown mercenaries. The mercenaries, among them Bennett (Vernon Wells), an Australian ex-member of Matrix’s team fired for overt brutality in service, attack Matrix’s secluded mountain home and kidnap Matrix’s young daughter Jenny (Alyssa Milano). While trying to intercept them, Matrix is also overpowered by the mercenaries.

It is revealed that Matrix is needed to carry out a political assassination for a South American former dictator named Arius (Dan Hedaya), who wishes to lead a military coup in his home country of Val Verde. Arius, who was deposed by Matrix in the course of one of his missions, has chosen the colonel because the current president trusts him implicitly. With Jenny’s life on the line, Matrix reluctantly accepts the demand. After boarding a plane to Val Verde, Matrix manages to kill his guard, Henriques, and jumps from the plane just as it is taking off. With approximately 11 hours’ time (the period of the flight), he sets out after another of Arius’ men, Sully (David Patrick Kelly). He then enlists the aid of an off-duty flight attendant named Cindy (Rae Dawn Chong), and instructs her to follow Sully to a shopping mall. Cindy first assumes that Matrix is a maniac, but after seeing him desperately trying to get his hands on Sully, she has a change of heart and henceforth assists him in his endeavor. After a lengthy car chase, Matrix catches up with Sully whom he drops off a cliff to his death. Taking a motel key from Sully’s jacket, Matrix tracks down and confronts Cooke (Bill Duke), a former Green Beret in Arius’ employ. He kills Cooke in combat and learns where Jenny is being held after searching Cooke’s car.

Matrix breaks into a surplus store to equip himself with military weapons, but the police arrive and Matrix is arrested. Cindy helps him escape with an RPG and, after commandeering a seaplane from a nearby marina controlled by Arius, Matrix and Cindy land the plane off the coast of Arius’ island hideout. Matrix instructs Cindy to contact General Kirby and then proceeds to Arius’ villa, where he embarks on a killing spree. Matrix stabs a number of soldiers, dispatches tens of Arius’ men with his machine gun, fights further opposition from within a shed utilizing gardening tools before then taking possession of the dead soldiers’ weapons and proceeding to the main building, shooting every single man he encounters on the way. Matrix then faces Arius man-to-man in a furious gunfight, and even though Arius has the high ground, Matrix outsmarts and shoots him dead.

Matrix locates Jenny in the basement of the villa, where she has fled, and encounters Bennett. After a fierce struggle during which each is injured, Matrix finally impales Bennett with a steam pipe, finishing him once and for all. However, Kirby arrives with a military detachment and asks Matrix to rejoin the Special Forces Unit, but Matrix declines with “No chance.” and departs the island aboard the seaplane with Jenny and Cindy.

The great thing about this film is that Arnold goes though at least 60 extras who are all shooting at him, they miss him and he kills them all. But it’s just fun to watch, as unrealistic as it is.  Commando is a great action film that anyone could at least get a good kick out of.

31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: CABIN FEVER (2016)

CAST

Gage Golightly (The Asylum)
Matthew Daddario (Delivery Man)
Samuel Davis (Machete Kills)
Nadine Crocker (Deadgirl)
Dustin Ingram (Sky High)
Randy Schulman (Wild)
George Griffith (Insecurity)
Louise Linton (The Echo)
Teresa Decher (The Waiting List)

While not a shot-for-shot remake (the angles and cinematography are different), this remake uses the same script as the 2002 original with slight alterations. Despite this seemingly pointless exercise, I was prepared to give it a chance and not hate it for failing to aspire to anything original. I’ll go on the record saying I -wanted- to like this film, despite some unease after watching the trailer. I’m sad to say it fails to live up to the original in nearly every regard.

What sets this remake apart from it’s 2002 predecessor is the lack of any chemistry between the actors. It’s not that any one particular actor is singularly bad, it’s that none of them feel like they’re in the same movie. It literally feels as if they pulled random strangers off the streets and asked them to make-believe they were friends for a weekend. I simply couldn’t buy that any of them would take off for a weekend together, much less have known one another for years, as is the case for at least two of the characters. They feel like strangers and it doesn’t help that all of them seem to be acting as if they’re in completely different films–the disconnect is that apparent. It’s upsetting that, despite having many of the same scenes and lines as their original characters, everyone in the cast feels so disconnected from the script that they utterly fail to bring any of their characters to life. They’re the ghosts of what we saw in the original film, the acting completely lifeless. It’s as if none of them wanted to be there.

Roth’s trademark humor is also excised in favor of a few random throwaway jokes, delivered in such a deadpan tone by the actors that each one falls flat on its face. This time around, the director goes for a more serious approach to the material (a mistake, I believe) and attempts to paint the film as a tragedy. Nothing attempts to sell this more than the overly-ambitious music score, which is so epic at times that it feels like it belongs in a big-scale war movie. The composer feels the need to John Williams this thing up at times, which just leaves the viewer scratching their heads at why such a big spectacle of a score is being utilized for a film that largely takes place in a single cabin.

As if to keep from being too familiar, the deaths are altered just enough to qualify as being original, as long as you don’t count on being surprised. Practically everything is telegraphed a mile in advance thanks in no small part to the reliance on the original script so that even the prospect of new deaths isn’t enough to warrant much excitement.

Perhaps the biggest blunder is the recasting of Deputy Winston as a woman, played by an actress with zero comedic timing (although this doesn’t stop her from being handed humorous dialogue). The character is a painful reminder that no one invested in this remake knows how to bring life to their character.


The entire film is permeated with a depressing lack of passion on or off camera. It’s as if no one wanted to be doing this. Roth’s Original  film, while certainly underrated by many, at least felt as if it was made by someone who cares. This is a lifeless remake.

31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: CABIN FEVER 3: PATIENT ZERO

CAST

Sean Astin (Lord of The Rings)
Currie Graham (Agent Carter)
Ryan Donowho (Broken Flowers)
Brando Eaton (American Sniper)
Jillian Murray (Never Back Down 2)
Mitch Ryan (Groupie)
Sally Duran (A Dark truth)
Lynda Hearst (The Barber)
Claudette Lali (Falling Up)

The story centers about the initial outbreak of the virus. On a remote island, a prisoner named Porter (like Typhoid Mary, he is a carrier unaffected by the virus) is being held in a lab by scientists trying to create a vaccine. In an attempt to free himself, Porter forces a lockdown of the station and spreads the virus outside of the lab by infecting a mouse.

When four friends on a bachelor party boat ride land on the island, two of them are infected by swimming in the contaminated water. Searching for help, they make their way to the science lab but find everyone inside infected or dead. The remaining survivors, Marcus and Camila leave the island with Porter. Tricking them into drinking contaminated water and destroying the motor, following with an unknown ending.. Porter is the only person to leave the island in the end.

I enjoyed the suspense of the film which usually occurs throughout the first half of most horror film and loved the story build up. However, I never expected the events which is always a plus to any horror fan. I’d have to say though that because you don’t really suspect the ending, you’re left with many questions and assumptions which isn’t necessarily always bad but sometimes can keep the viewers attention on other aspects of the film rather than what is really being portrayed. Although a fourth outing was planned it would later be scrapped in favor or a remake.

31 DAYS OF HORROR REVIEW: CABIN FEVER 2

CAST

Rider Strong (Pulse 3)
Noah Segan (Looper)
Alexi Wasser (Choose)
Rusty Kelley (Dear Pillow)
Marc Senter (Starry Eyes)
Giuseppe Andrews (Two Guys and a Girl)
Michael Bowen (Kill Bill)
Judah Friedlander (The Wrestler)
Lindsey Axelsson (The Killing Jar)

ojqv78Sometime after the events of the previous film, a very disfigured Paul (Rider Strong) escapes from the creek and wanders through the woods, leaving pieces of his own flesh along the way. When he finally manages to make it to the highway, he is splattered and killed by a school bus. His remains are checked by Deputy Winston Olsen (Giuseppe Andrews), the local policeman from the previous film. Winston assures the shocked bus driver that he had hit a moose. The creek Paul was lying in turns out to be connected to a bottled-water company and the infected water was distributed to the local high school.  John (Noah Segan), a senior at the high school, is deciding whether to go to prom with his long-time crush Cassie (Alexi Wasser) or stay home. His friend Alex (Rusty Kelley) is against going until he hooks up with a girl named Liz (Regan Deal). She says if she can get off work that night, she will meet him there.  John asks Cassie to go to prom but she refuses. Meanwhile, Winston is at a restaurant where a worker from the bottled-water company dies from the infection. He then realizes the creek got heavily contaminated and goes to the water plant to tell the officials that the water is contaminated. The worker he informs is quickly killed by a group of CCD (Contamination Control Division) soldiers in NBC suits. Winston leaves before they can get to him.
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At the high school the infection begins to spread slowly. Frederica (Amanda Jelks) dies in the swimming pool from the infection and Rick (Thomas Blake, Jr.) is killed when he drowns after hitting his head on the side of the pool and falling in. Alex is disappointed that Liz did not come, while John gets into a fight with Cassie’s boyfriend Marc (Marc Senter). Principal Sinclair (Michael Bowen) then kicks John out. Cassie follows him and John angrily confesses his love to her. CCD then forces John and Cassie back into the school. The CCD locks all of the main exits from the school and kill Principal Sinclair when he demands to know what is going on. The infection then begins to kill the students in the gym at an alarming rate. The gym is then gassed from the outside. Cassie, John, and Alex watch in horror as all the students are killed. Winston is picked up by his cousin Herman (Mark Borchardt), ready to leave town.

Alex discovers he is infected and that the disease is incurable necrotizing fasciitis. The only way to stop the infection is to amputate the infected limb. However, Alex’s infection is already too severe and he stays behind. John begins to show signs of the infection too and lets Cassie amputate his hand to stop it. Cassie’s boyfriend Marc then comes out of nowhere, hits Cassie with a hammer, and tries to kill John but Cassie recovers and kills him with a nail gun. The two leave the school only to be ambushed by the CCD. John stalls them, allowing Cassie to escape. She finds herself on the highway and stops Herman’s van. Winston and Herman take Cassie with them. The camera shows her back where she is starting to show signs of infection.
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Meanwhile, Alex’s date Liz is at her workplace. She is a stripper at Teazers and she spreads the infection to the customers, who in turn spread it further around the country and even to Mexico. Liz arrives home later that night, sick, and goes to bed, thinking “I should’ve fucking gone to prom.” After the credits, Dane and Darryl are shown watching television and Dane says “Prom blows.”Cabin Fever 2 is definitely worth the watch. It has one of the best opening sequences in b-movie history, and you can tell by the cinematography that Ti West not only knows his stuff, but has a deep love for the genre. I wish they would have given him creative freedom, as I feel this would become a cult classic, but as it stands, we’re left with a competent, gory, fun romp at the prom, with a bloodbath that makes “Carrie” look like Babe.