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)
Kathryn Hahn (Bad Moms)

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.
THE DICTATORA 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.

Advertisements

REVIEW: ZOOLANDER

zoolander

CAST

Ben Stiller (Dodgeball)
Owen Wilson (Wedding Crashers)
Christine Taylor (Tropic thunder)
Will Ferrell (Elf)
Milla Jovovich (Resident Evil)
David Duchovny (The X-Files)
Jon Voight (Transformers)
Jerry Stiller (The Heartbreak Kid)
Judah Friedlander (Meet The Parents)
Nathan Lee Graham (Hitch)
Alexander Skarsgård (Battleship)
Christian slater (Hollow Man 2)
Cuba Gooding Jr. (Jerry Maguire)
Natalie Portman (Thor)
Davie Bowie (Labryinth)
Garry Shandling (Iron Man 2)
Lukas Haas (Inception)
Justin Theroux (American Psycho)
Andy Dick (Dude, Wheres My Car?)
Jennifer Coolidge (2 Broke Girls)
Nora Dunn (New Girl)
James Marsden (Superman Returns)
Patton Oswalt (Caprica)
Sandra Bernhard (Footsteps)
Stephen Dorff (Blade)
Vince Vaughn (The Break-Up)
Billy Zane (The Scorpion King 3)

The dim-witted but good-natured Derek Zoolander is ousted as the top male fashion model by the rising star, Hansel, and his reputation is further tarnished by a critical article from journalist Matilda Jeffries. After his three roommates and colleagues are killed in a “freak gasoline-fight accident” (where they spray each other with station gasoline and one of them lights a cigarette), Derek announces his retirement from modeling and attempts to reconnect with his father Larry and brothers Luke and Scrappy by helping in the coal mines. Derek’s delicate methods make him an impractical miner, and his family rejects him.
Meanwhile, fashion mogul Jacobim Mugatu and Derek’s model agent Maury Ballstein are charged by the fashion industry to find a model who can be brainwashed into assassinating the new progressive-leaning Prime Minister of Malaysia, allowing them to retain cheap child labor in the country. Though Mugatu has previously refused to work with Derek for any show, Derek accepts Mugatu’s offer to star in the next runway show. Mugatu takes Derek to his headquarters, masked as a day spa, where Derek is conditioned to attempt the assassination when the song “Relax” by Frankie Goes to Hollywood is played. Matilda, feeling partially responsible for Derek’s retirement, becomes suspicious of Mugatu’s offer and, tipped off by an anonymous caller, tries to enter the spa, but is thrown out. Matilda tries to voice her concerns to Derek once he leaves, but he ignores her.
Matilda follows Derek to a pre-runway party, where, upon being challenged by Hansel, Derek loses to Hansel in a “walk-off” judged by David Bowie. Matilda receives another anonymous call to meet at a nearby cemetery. Matilda along with Derek find the anonymous caller is hand model J.P. Prewett, who explains that the fashion industry has been behind several political assassinations, and the brainwashed models are soon killed after they have completed their task (J.P. escaped because he himself is a hand model and so is smarter than the “face and body boys” like Derek.) Before J.P. can explain more, Katinka, Mugatu’s tough henchwoman, and her aides attack the group, forcing Derek and Matilda to flee. They decide to go to Hansel’s home, the last place they believe Mugatu will think to look, and Derek, Hansel, and Matilda bond. Matilda admits the reason she hates models is because, as a child, she was bullied for being overweight and developed bulimia, and she believes models hurt people’s self-esteem. Derek and Hansel resolve their differences while partaking of Hansel’s collection of narcotics and participating in group sex with Matilda and others. While recovering, Derek also finds that he is falling in love with Matilda. Derek and Hansel break into Maury’s offices to find evidence of the assassination plot, but cannot operate his computer to find them. Derek leaves for the show, Hansel following later with the computer in hand, believing that, as told to him by Matilda, “the files are in the computer”.
Matilda tries to intercept Derek before the show, but Katinka thwarts her attempt. As Derek takes the runway, Mugatu’s disc jockey starts playing “Relax”, activating Derek’s mental programming. Before Derek can reach the Prime Minister, Hansel breaks into the DJ booth, and switches the music to Herbie Hancock’s “Rockit”, breaking Derek’s conditioning. Hansel and the DJ have a brief “breakdance” fight before Hansel eventually unplugs the system, moments before Derek was about to snap the Prime Minister’s neck. Mugatu attempts to cover up the incident, but Hansel offers Maury’s computer as evidence, smashing it to the ground which he believes would release the incriminating files. Though the evidence is destroyed, Maury steps forward and reveals he had backed up the files, and offers to turn over the evidence of the assassination plot after years of guilt for his complicity in the conspiracy. Mugatu attempts to kill the Prime Minister himself by throwing a shuriken, but Derek stops him by unleashing his ultimate model look, “Magnum”, that stuns everyone and causes the shuriken to freeze in the air in front of Derek’s face and fall harmlessly to the ground. At Derek’s hometown, Larry is watching the event on TV, and proudly acknowledges Derek as his son. Mugatu is arrested, and Derek is thanked by the Prime Minister.
In the film’s dénouement, Derek, Hansel, and Maury have left the fashion industry to start “The Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good and Wanna Learn to Do Other Stuff Good Too”. Derek and Matilda are shown as now having a son named Derek Zoolander, Jr., who has already developed his first modeling look.

Ben Stiller and Owen Wilson are back again in this hilarious insight into the male modelling profession.  this film is not to be taken seriously and all thoughts of realism should be left behind before you press play. ‘Zoolander’ has a great array of characters, each with their own comedic style and a certain amount of quirkiness. ‘Zoolander’ is a great comedy film .

REVIEW: CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE WINTER SOLDIER

 

CAST

Chris Evans (The Losers)
Samuel L. Jackson (Jurassic Park)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Robert Redford (The Sting)
Sebastian Stan (Spread)
Anthony Mackie (The Hurt Locker)
Cobie Smulders (How I Met Your Mother)
Frank Grillo (The Purge 2)
Maximiliano Hernandex (Warriors)
Emily Vancamp (Revenge)
Hayley Atwell (The Duchess)
Toby Jones (The Hunger Games)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble0
Alan Dale (Lost)
Chin Han (Arrow)
Garry Shandling (Over The Hedge)
Steven Culp (Jason Goes To Hell)
Gary Sinise (Deception)
Thomas Kretschmann (Dracula)
Elizabeth Olsen (Godzilla)
Danny Pudi (Powerless)
Aaron Taylor-Johnson (Kick-Ass)

Two years after the Battle of New York, Steve Rogers works in Washington D.C. for the espionage agency S.H.I.E.L.D. under Director Nick Fury, while adjusting to contemporary society. Rogers and Agent Natasha Romanoff are sent with S.H.I.E.L.D.’s counter-terrorism S.T.R.I.K.E. team, led by Agent Rumlow, to free hostages aboard a S.H.I.E.L.D. vessel from Georges Batroc and his mercenaries. Mid-mission, Rogers discovers Romanoff has another agenda: to extract data from the ship’s computers for Fury. Rogers returns to the Triskelion, S.H.I.E.L.D.’s headquarters, to confront Fury and is briefed about Project Insight: three Helicarriers linked to spy satellites, designed to preemptively eliminate threats. Unable to decrypt the data recovered by Romanoff, Fury becomes suspicious about Insight and asks senior S.H.I.E.L.D. official Alexander Pierce to delay the project.
On his way to rendezvous with Maria Hill, Fury is ambushed by assailants led by a mysterious assassin called the Winter Soldier. Fury escapes to Rogers’ apartment, and warns Rogers that S.H.I.E.L.D. is compromised. After handing Rogers a flash drive containing data from the ship, Fury is gunned down by the Winter Soldier. Fury dies in surgery, and Hill recovers the body. The next day, Pierce summons Rogers to the Triskelion. When Rogers withholds Fury’s information, Pierce brands him a fugitive. Hunted by S.T.R.I.K.E., Rogers meets with Romanoff. Using data in the flash drive they discover a secret S.H.I.E.L.D. bunker in New Jersey, where they activate a supercomputer containing the preserved consciousness of Arnim Zola. Zola reveals that ever since S.H.I.E.L.D. was founded after World War II, Hydra has secretly operated within its ranks, sowing global chaos with the objective of making humanity willing to surrender its freedom in exchange for security. The pair narrowly escape death when a S.H.I.E.L.D. missile destroys the bunker, and realize that Pierce is Hydra’s leader within S.H.I.E.L.D.Rogers and Romanoff enlist the help of former USAF pararescueman Sam Wilson, whom Rogers befriended, and acquire his powered “Falcon” wingpack. Deducing that S.H.I.E.L.D. agent Jasper Sitwell is a Hydra mole, they force him to divulge that Zola developed a data-mining algorithm that can identify individuals who might become future threats to Hydra’s plans. The Insight Helicarriers will sweep the globe, using satellite-guided guns to eliminate these individuals. Rogers, Romanoff, and Wilson are ambushed by the Winter Soldier, who kills Sitwell. During the fight, Rogers recognizes the Winter Soldier as Bucky Barnes, his friend who was captured and experimented upon during WWII. Hill manages to extract the trio to a safehouse where Fury, who had faked his death, is waiting with plans to sabotage the Helicarriers by replacing their controller chips.
After the World Security Council members arrive for the Helicarriers’ launch, Rogers broadcasts Hydra’s plot to everyone at the Triskelion. Romanoff, disguised as one of the Council members, disarms Pierce. Fury arrives and forces Pierce to unlock S.H.I.E.L.D’s database so that Romanoff can leak classified information, exposing Hydra to the public. Following a struggle, Fury kills Pierce. Meanwhile, Rogers and Wilson storm two Helicarriers and replace the controller chips, but the Winter Soldier destroys Wilson’s suit and fights Rogers on the third. Rogers fends him off and replaces the final chip, allowing Hill to take control and have the vessels destroy each other. Rogers refuses to fight the Winter Soldier in an attempt to reach his friend, but as the ship collides with the Triskelion, Rogers is thrown out into the Potomac River. The Winter Soldier rescues the unconscious Rogers before disappearing into the woods. With S.H.I.E.L.D. in disarray, Romanoff appears before a Senate subcommittee and Fury, under the cover of his apparent death, heads to Eastern Europe in pursuit of Hydra’s remaining cells. Rogers and Wilson decide to find the Winter Soldier, while Rumlow, who was a double agent for Hydra, is hospitalized following the Triskelion’s destruction.
In a mid-credits scene, Baron Wolfgang von Strucker, at a Hydra lab, proclaims that the “age of miracles” has begun as scientists examine an energy-filled scepter and two prisoners: one with superhuman speed, the other with telekinetic powers. In a post-credits scene, the Winter Soldier visits a Bucky memorial at the Smithsonian Institution.

Seeing Cap and Black Widow banter about his dating life,  plays on the established chemistry between Evans and Johansson, working both the humor and the inherent pathos that defines their roles. That Mackie and Redford both effortlessly slide into this established dynamic is testament to what skilled performers they are. There is also some nice continuity to having the same writers return from The First Avenger to craft its sequel. There are plenty of parallels and callbacks here. when  watched back to back, you not only get to appreciate the original more, but enjoy how they connect.

 

REVIEW: IRON MAN 2

 

CAST

Robert Downey Jr. (Sherlock Holmes)
Gwyneth Paltrow (Contagion)
Don Cheadle (Traffic)
Scarlett Johansson (Lucy)
Sam Rockwell (Galaxy Quest)
Mickey Rourke (Sin City)
Samuel L. Jackson (Jackie Brown)
Clark Gregg (When A Stranger Calls)
John Slattery (Mad Men)
Garry Shandling (Over The Hedge)
Paul Bettany (Legion)
Kate Mara (Fantastic Four)
Leslie Bibb (The Skulls)
Jon Favreau (Swingers)
Stan Lee (Avengers Assemble)_
Olivia Munn (Zoolander 2)
Seth Green (Family Guy)

 

Robert Downey Jr. and Scarlett Johansson in Iron Man 2 (2010)After the initial trepidation followed by the overwhelming box office success of the first Iron Man film, a second was a foregone conclusion. However as part of a larger trilogy, not to mention a subsequent Avengers film, the challenge of advancing some of those storylines along with giving people what they liked in the first one would be difficult, to say the least.Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 2 (2010)Jon Favreau returns to direct the second film, based on Justin Theroux’s (Tropic Thunder) screenplay. Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr., Sherlock Holmes) and his businesses continue to thrive, in part because as Iron Man, he’s promoted the longest stretch of global peace in quite some time. There is a small cottage industry that tries to capitalize on Stark’s success, with the main one being Justin Hammer (Sam Rockwell). Hammer tries to mimic Stark’s technology and gain an advantage over it, but the results seem to wind up being disastrous. It’s as if he’s the Wile E. Coyote of defense contractors who want to make their own Iron Men. However the biggest threat to Stark’s Iron Man may be Ivan Vanko (Mickey Rourke, The Wrestler), a Russian whose father worked with Stark’s, and may be as familiar with the technology of Iron Man as Tony is.Robert Downey Jr. and Gwyneth Paltrow in Iron Man 2 (2010)Not knowing of Vanko, Tony continues to live the good life. He continues to get along well with his assistant Pepper (Gwyneth Paltrow, Se7en), despite the addition of the younger and equally attractive Natalie (Scarlett Johansson, He’s Just Not That Into You) into the fold. Despite these women sparring for Tony’s affections, he has bigger things to be concerned about. The arc reactor device in Tony’s chest is slowly turning his blood toxic and in effect, killing him. He doesn’t tell the women, or his best friend Lt. Col. Rhoades (Don Cheadle, replacing Terrence Howard from the first film). And when Vanko confronts Tony, in Monaco of all places, it leaves Tony with a sense of doubt and a lack of purpose that might have long-lasting ramifications.Iron Man 2 (2010)With Favreau juggling the different storytelling balls, including an increased role from Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson, Pulp Fiction), he gives the audience new and different ways to enjoy the action and fighting sequences. And I have to admit, they’re exciting and damned fun to watch, starting from the opening sequence when Tony jumps out of a military plane into his “Stark Expo” highlighting his company’s ware. He twists and turns through the night sky, avoiding fireworks and other air obstacles to make his grand entrance. The confrontation with Vanko is also entertaining and keeps you on the edge of your seat.Don Cheadle and Robert Downey Jr. in Iron Man 2 (2010)It’s ambitious in what it wants to accomplish, and it succeeds on many levels.