Archive for Sacha Baron Cohen

Alice Through the Looking Glass

Posted in Action/Adventure, Family, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on June 14, 2017 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

In this trippy sequel to the 2010 blockbuster “Alice in Wonderland,” young Alice returns from several years at sea and again passes through to the magical landscape, where she ends up journeying into the past to try to save the Mad Hatter.

What people are saying:

“A solid kids’ movie in the old style. One with something to say about something real – family and time- and a willingness to admit consequences, even as it serves up goofy humor, mild thrills, and slippy-slidey accents from slumming stars.” 2 stars

“It deviated from the actual book, but that doesn’t mean it was not entertaining. It had good messages about positive attitudes for women not to be victims of circumstance. A much needed improvement from much of the stuff many kids are watching now. ” 5 stars

“The charm found in the first Alice in Wonderland is definitely missing in the sequel. The story is a mix match of going in the past future time etc. The plot that is way too confusing for most children even some adults. The acting isn’t anything great most of the actors you can tell look like they’re in front of a green screen. Some of the special effects were nice and there’s some creativity to be found in this movie but in the end it just didn’t come together very well.” 2 stars

“I never read the Alice in Wonderland books, but I doubt this is one of them. Yes, it has that zany twisted quality you expect in Wonderland, but there is a theme running through the movie that gives it a scifi depth, “Why can’t I go back in time and change the past?” Most of the characters from the first movie are back and Cohen’s Time fits in Wonderfully. ” 5 stars

“the most offensive kind of film…one that spends an enormous amount of money yet seems to have nothing on its mind but money. You give it, they take it. And you get nothing in return but assurances that you’re seeing magic and wonder. The movie keeps repeating it in your ear, and flashing it onscreen in big block letters: MAGIC AND WONDER. MAGIC AND WONDER. But there is no magic, no wonder, just junk rehashed from a movie that was itself a rehash of Lewis Carroll, tricked out with physically unpersuasive characters and landscapes and ‘action scenes’, with blockbuster ‘journey movie’ tropes affixed to every set-piece as blatantly as Post-It Notes” 1 star

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Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted

Posted in Animation, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on May 8, 2013 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

After four years since bidding the penguins goodbye, Alex the lion has a nightmare about himself and his friends still stranded in Africa and finding they have all gotten old. He then wakes from his nightmare on his birthday, and the animals present him with a miniature model of New York City out of mud. Alex suggests to Marty the zebra, Melman the giraffe, and Gloria the hippopotamus that they should go to Monte Carlo to get the penguins to fly them back to New York City, which they agree to.

In Monte Carlo, Alex and his gang’s attempt to reach the penguins and King Julien blunders and sparks chaos in the Monte Carlo Casino, where its security calls the captain of Monaco’s animal control, Chantel Dubois, to deal with the animals. A high-speed chase around the streets of Monaco ensues between the relentless Dubois and the animals in a truck driven by the penguins to reach their aircraft and they depart on the plane, barely escaping Dubois.

In the skies of France, the plane’s gear assembly fails and the plane crashes into a suburban rail yard as the authorities close in. They come across a circus train and knocked on it, desperately trying to get in. Seeing their only chance of escape is on the circus train, they desperately claim that they are circus animals themselves, which convinces Stefano the sea lion and Gia the jaguar to let them in despite the protests of Vitaly the tiger. The animals soon learn from Stefano that they are performing in Rome and London, where they plan to impress a promoter to get them on their first American tour. Before the zoo animals’ claim is discredited, the penguins suddenly appear with a deal to purchase the circus themselves, resulting in the pleased departure of all the humans. Afterwards, Julien finds himself falling in love wth a tricycle-riding bear name Sonya. Meanwhile the others prepare for the performance at the Colosseum in Rome. Unfortunately, to the zoo animals’ horror, the show proves to be a disaster. The angered audience demands refunds, right to going to the point of chasing the circus to the departing train to London.

En route to London, Stefano soon reveals to Alex that Vitaly was once their inspiration. Once a professional ring jumper who used to leap through incrementally smaller hoops to excite crowds and was always pushing himself to the limit, his attempt at an impossible jump through a flaming pinkie ring ended in disaster when he burned his fur, which he had coated in extra virgin olive oil in order to slip through the narrow opening, destroying his confidence in his talent and the whole circus suffered by his example. An inspired Alex then has the train make a stop in the Alps and convinces the performers to rework their act to become the opposite of the world-famous human-only Cirque du Soleil as an animal-only lights and acrobatic show. Heartened by Alex’s vision, the zoo animals and the circus animals develop sophisticated acts together and become closer friends in the process, especially Alex and Gia who find themselves falling in love.

Meanwhile, Dubois is arrested in Rome after causing problems with the local police officers while chasing the animals out of her jurisdiction, but escapes and discovers that Alex was the missing lion from the zoo in New York. Once free, Dubois recruits her injured men and they head toward the Alps, forcing the animals to proceed to London despite incomplete rehearsals. In London, the troupe prepares for the promoter in the audience, but Vitaly is discovered packing to leave. Alex convinces Vitaly to stay by reminding him of how he enjoys performing the impossible and suggests that he uses hair conditioner as a safer lubricant to perform his flaming ring jump. As a result, Vitaly’s stunt is performed perfectly, which proves to be the opening of a spectacularly successful show and Alex and Gia grew closer to each other. After the impressed promoter arranges for an American tour, Dubois shows up with a paper showing that Alex was missing. Though the penguins are able to foil Dubois’ plan, Alex is forced to confess that the four of them are just zoo animals trying to get home, disappointing the others who feel used and lied from the four of them. Also, Julien breaks up with Sonya, telling her that he can’t be a part of the circus.

Finally, both the zoo animals and the circus arrive in New York City. Likewise, the zoo group and Julien finally arrive at the gates of the closed Central Park Zoo, only to realize that their adventure has changed them too much to return to captivity and that they were “home” when they joined the circus. The zoo animals resolve to return to the circus and reconcile with their new friends, but they are then tranquilized and captured by Dubois. The zoo staff, delighted by Alex’s reappearance, thank Dubois, incorrectly believing that she was returning the missing animals. Unnoticed, Julien manages to reach the circus (despite being darted by Dubois) and the penguins realize that the group had been ambushed. Upon learning about the zoo animals’ plight, Gia and Vitaly convince the circus animals to rescue their friends and they set out for the zoo, performing aboard a flying circus.

Meanwhile at the zoo, Alex awakens to find that he along with Marty, Melman, and Gloria are in their enclosures, surrounded by tall chain-link fences. Dubois steps on stage to receive a million-dollar check of appreciation from the zoo, which she rejects, and secretly loads a poison-filled dart into a gun which she hides inside a foam finger in preparation to kill Alex. The circus animals arrive in time to stop her and a massive brawl occurs where the circus uses all of what they had developed as part of their revamped act. As the group tries to leave, DuBois attempts to kill Stefano, who is stranded at the zoo. However, Alex saves Stefano by performing a performance he describes as the “Trapeze Americano”, proving that it is real, and all the animals then defeat the insane DuBois, and escape.

Heartened by this valiant demonstration of their new friends’ love, Alex and his friends decide to join the circus permanently to start their American tours across the country. Meanwhile, DuBois and her men find themselves inside shipping crates on a cargo ship bound for Madagascar, thanks to Skipper (just like in the first film).

REVIEW:

There comes a point with films like Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted that you truly must sit back and wonder if it was made to tell a good story or just grab a few $$$ from kids and their parents. I happen to believe this is more of the latter, but I could be totally wrong.

What is this about?

Having ended their African adventures, Alex and his friends set their sights for New York City — this time, hitching a ride with a traveling circus. But as they make their way through Europe, they run into their fair share of roadblocks.

What did I like?

Animal control. In both previous films, it seems as if the humans just let the animals rum amok with little to no effort to control them. Yes, they did make an attempt to capture them, but that was obviously just to have a villain or two. This time around, we meet Chantal Dubois, a French animal control officer who is apparently very competent, as she has never not captured her target. It is about time we got someone like this to give them a run for their money!

No king. I found the character of King Julien to be a bit over the top and too much. Then again, he is voiced by Sacha Baron Cohen, so I really shouldn’t be surprised. In this film, he and his “subjects” get very little screentime. I guess focus groups felt the same way and the filmmakers decided to scale him back.

Circus and balance. I must say that the circus scene was quite impressive. I’m not quite sure that I loved it, but there was a definitive entertainment factor there. A note must be made about the balance in the film’s tone. Make no mistake that this is a kid’s film, but there are moments in there that adults can enjoy as well, without having to lower their IQ to understand something.

What didn’t I like?

Character design. In the first Madagascar, there was a look to the characters. It was almost as if they were crude cut outs or something. That look is still here, but they’ve smoothed it out so much, that you can barely tell. They might as well just have been animated normally. When you have something that makes you unique, then why change it?

3D. I didn’t see this in theaters, but it was obvious some of the scenes they wanted to utilize the technology with. The circus was one, but also there is a scene with Melman, the giraffe, where he extends his neck directly toward the audience. Some people may eat this stuff up, but not me. 3D is supposed to be for special, grand things, not just whatever you can throw at the screen.

Afro circus. I’m sure we all saw the commercials for this thing over the summer with that annoying “Afro circus” song. While it isn’t featured as heavily as you would imagine, it is in here a few times and just as annoying. I guess if I were about 8 yrs old, I might feel different, but good lord was I about ready to puncture my eardrums just so I would never have to hear that thing again!

There has been some debate as to whether Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted is the best of the franchise. I think it has the best plot of the 3, but the first seems to be more my cup of tea. That is a personal preference, though. Do I recommend this? Yes, as a matter of fact I do. It is one of the better family films that was released last year (note I said better, not the best). You can sit the whole family down and watch this one, so enjoy!

4 out of 5 stars

Les Misérables

Posted in Movie Reviews, Musicals with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on December 30, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1815, convict Jean Valjean (Hugh Jackman) is released on parole by prison guard Javert (Russell Crowe) after serving a nineteen-year sentence. He is offered food and shelter by the Bishop of Digne (Colm Wilkinson), but later steals the Bishop’s silver during the night. He is caught by the authorities, but the Bishop says that the silver was given as a gift, and secures Valjean’s release. Ashamed by the Bishop’s generosity, Valjean breaks his parole and vows to start an honest life under a new identity. Javert swears he will bring the escaped convict to justice.

Eight years later, Valjean has become a factory owner and mayor of Montreuil-sur-Mer. Fantine (Anne Hathaway), one of his workers, is discovered to be sending money to her illegitimate daughter, Cosette (Isabelle Allen), who lives with the unscrupulous Thénardiers (Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter) and their daughter Éponine (Natalya Angel Wallace), and is dismissed by the foreman (Michael Jibson). Left with no option, Fantine turns to prostitution. During an argument with an abusive customer, Javert, now a police inspector, arrests Fantine, but Valjean intercedes and takes her to a hospital.

Later, Valjean learns that a man believed to be him has been arrested. Unable to condemn an innocent man, Valjean reveals his identity to the court before departing for the hospital. There he promises a dying Fantine that he will look after her daughter. Valjean finds Cosette and pays the Thénardiers to allow him to take her, and promises to be like a father to her.

Nine years later, Jean Maximilien Lamarque, the only government official sympathetic toward the poor, is nearing death. Students Marius Pontmercy (Eddie Redmayne) and Enjolras (Aaron Tveit), together with street urchin Gavroche (Daniel Huttlestone), discuss fomenting revolution. Later Marius catches a glimpse of Cosette (Amanda Seyfried), now a young woman, and instantly falls in love with her. Meanwhile, despite Cosette’s questioning, Valjean refuses to tell her about his past or Fantine.

At a café, Enjolras organises a group of idealistic students as Lamarque’s death is announced. Meanwhile, Éponine (Samantha Barks), now Marius’s friend, leads him to Cosette, where the two profess their love for one another. Lamenting that her secret love for Marius will never be reciprocated, Éponine fatalistically decides to join the revolution. Later, an attempted robbery of Valjean’s house makes him mistakenly think that Javert has discovered him, and he flees with Cosette. As they leave, Enjolras rallies the Parisians to revolt, and Marius sends a farewell letter to Cosette.

The next day, the students interrupt Lamarque’s funeral procession and begin their assault. Javert, disguised as one of the rebels, spies among the revolutionaries, but is quickly exposed by Gavroche and captured. During the ensuing gunfight, Éponine saves Marius at the cost of her own life, professing her love to him before she dies. Valjean, intercepting the letter from Marius to Cosette, goes to the barricade to protect Marius. After saving Enjolras from snipers, he is allowed to execute Javert. When the two are alone, Valjean frees Javert and fires his gun to fake the execution. Initially disbelieving, Javert wonders at Valjean’s generosity.

With the Parisians not joining the revolution as the students expected, they resolve to fight to the death. Everyone is killed but Marius, who is saved when Valjean drags his unconscious body into the sewers. Thénardier, scavenging the dead bodies, steals Marius’s ring. Valjean recovers and escapes the sewers carrying Marius, but is confronted at the exit by Javert. Javert threatens to shoot Valjean if he doesn’t surrender, but Valjean ignores him. Unable to reconcile the conflict between his civil and moral duties, two things which he always considered the same, Javert commits suicide.

Later, Marius mourns for his friends but Cosette comforts him. Revealing his past to Marius, Valjean tells him he must leave because his presence endangers Cosette, and makes Marius promise never to tell her. Marius and Cosette marry; the Thénardiers crash the reception and testify that they saw Valjean carrying a murdered corpse in the sewers. Thénardier unwittingly shows Marius the ring that he stole from him as “proof.” Recognising the ring, Marius realises that it was Valjean who saved his life. Marius and Cosette rush to Valjean after being told his location by Thénardier.

As Valjean sits dying in a local convent, he perceives the spirit of Fantine appearing to take him to Heaven. Cosette and Marius rush in to bid farewell. Valjean hands Cosette his confession of his past life, and the spirits of Fantine and the Bishop guide him to paradise, where he joins the spirits of Enjolras, Éponine, Gavroche, and the other rebels at the barricade.

REVIEW:

My freshmen year of college, we opened our marching band show with the music from Les Miserables. It may come as a surprise to some, but up until a few minutes ago, I had no idea what the songs were that comprised that 2 1/2 minute medley. I just listened to it again, and found myself singing along, as if I knew the words as well as an Earth, Wind, & Fire song.

What is this about?

Based on the novel by Victor Hugo, ‘Les Miserables’ travels with prisoner-on-parole, 24601, Jean Valjeun, as he runs from the ruthless Inspector Javert on a journey beyond the barricades, at the center of the June Rebellion. Meanwhile, the life of a working class girl with a child is at turning point as she turns to prostitution to pay money to the evil innkeeper and his wife who look after her child, Cosette. Valjean promise to take care of the child, eventually leads to a love triangle between Cosette, Marius who is a student of the rebellion, and Eponine, a girl of the streets. The people sing of their anger and Enjolras leads the students to fight upon the barricades.

What did I like?

Stage to screen. In the Golden Age of Hollywood, musicals were all the rage. Some of them were real close to their Broadway counterparts, while others shared only the name. I cannot say for certain, but it seems as if this film didn’t try to do anything special with the sets, other than find and/or build real life version of what was used in the stage version. You have to give them credit for that, as audiences these days want bigger, better, more, as opposed to simplistic and authentic.

Better than the rest. Earlier this year, when the Grammys were on, someone asked me, “I wonder how it feels to be Adele and know that you are hands down the most talented singer in that entire room, and probably the world?” The same thing can be said for Anne Hathaway and Hugh Jackman. They are far and away the most talented members of this cast, though, I see some budding young musical talent in Samantha Parks and Aaron Tveit.

Casting. In the good old days, actors were actually trained, as opposed to being picked up off the street because they had “the look”. This is how we got people like Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, Julie Andrews, Ginger Rogers, and their ilk. These talents were trained to not only act, but sing, and possibly dance. These days, that is such a rare occurrence, but Hugh Jackman has proven over the last few years, that it may be a good idea to go back to those days. This whole cast, with the exception of Russell Crowe, seems as if they were trained in musical theater. A couple of them, I know for sure, have been starring in London’s version of Broadway (I forgot what it is called, sorry). The one weak link is Russell Crowe. I’ll get to him shortly. Also, how perfect casting can you get than Anne Hathaway and Amanada Seyfreid. They both have those big “anime eyes” and could actually pass for mother and daughter because of some similar facial structure. Don’t forget young Cosette, who I think they did an exhaustive search to find someone who looks that much like Seyfreid. There is no way they could have been that lucky to have just come across her.

Dream. Susuan Boyle made us all sing “I Dreamed a Dream” all over the place a couple of years ago but, believe me when I say this, Anne Hathaway will blow you away with her rendition. Once you see the context in which that song is placed and watch Hathaway give, arguably, the performance of her career as she tears your heart out with each note, showing that she is more than a pretty face, but a true acting and singing talent.

What didn’t I like?

Length. I don’t believe they cut anything from the original stage version, so this is pretty much the same show you would see on Broadway, just on a grander scale, obviously. However, and this may because yesterday I sat through two nearly three hour movies and have a two more sitting in the living room waiting to be watched, but I felt that this was a scoche long. Having said that, I can’t really say where you could cut anything out.

Opera. Since there are very few lines not sung in this musical, some have called it an opera. I won’t go into a big spiel on the actual definition of an opera, but just because everyone is singing doesn’t make it an opera. Think about it like this, the Star Wars saga (that includes the prequels that people seem to hate so much) is often called a space opera, and other than that weird singing alien George Lucas added in to Jabba the Hutt’s palace, there is no singing, that I can recall, except the Ewok celebration after everything is over.

Opera mouth. Keeping on the subject of opera, I have to mention this because it sort of bugged me. Eddie Redmayne has some real chops, but he needs to do something about his facial movements when he sings. Watch a Broadway or opera singer perform, or you can watch Jessica Simpson sing, she does the same thing. You’ll notice that they move their mouth when they sing long notes, and so does Redmayne. It wouldn’t have been such a bother, except no one else does it!

Crowe. Russell Crowe impressed me with his singing skills. With this and his role in the upcoming Man of Steel, it looks like the guy is on his way to reviving his career. Here is the problem, though, his vocal chops don’t do him any good, especially against the likes of Jackman. He wasn’t as bad a Piece Brosnan in Mamma Mia!, but I still cannot help but think they should have gone with someone else. I’m sure Gerard Butler wouldn’t have minded dusting off his singing chops for this, or they could have gone with Paul Bettany, who was rumored to have originally been cast in the role.

Comic relief. I’m the last person to have issue with comic relief, especially in something that’s more on the serious side, as this film is. However, if you’re going to have comic relief, they cannot be a nuisance, but I found Sacha Baron Cohen and Helena Bonham Carter’s characters to be nothing more than your typical lowlife vagrants. I’m not sure if that is how they are actually written in the book and/or musical, but I wasn’t a fan. Seems to me that they could have done something else, like be funny narrators, for instance.

Accents. This whole film is set in France, except maybe the opening scene, but I think that is just off the coast of France. At any rate, here we have these French people all speaking with British accents. I cannot be the only one that noticed this! I don’t get why they chose to give them all British accents. The little street urchin, Gavroche, has a cockney accent, as do the hookers and other peoples that mess chop off Fantine’s hair and send her to a life of, shall we say, less that wholesome living?

The few complaints that I have about Les Miserables are minor and can be considered nitpicky. I don’t intend to come off as if I didn’t enjoy the film, because I did. A few tweaks here and there and this very well could have been a stronger(er) contender for my top film of the year. I believe that the niche audience for this will not be disappointed and neither will the general public. This director was ale to find a way to please everyone. Maybe he should try his hand at a comic book movie! I highly recommend this, so go see it NOW!!!

5 out of 5 stars

The Dictator

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on August 22, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

For years, the North African Republic of Wadiya (pictured on maps in the location of Eritrea) has been ruled by Admiral General Shabazz Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen), a childish, lecherous, misogynous, anti-western and antisemitic despot who surrounds himself with female bodyguards, refuses to allow Wadiyan oil to be sold internationally and is working on developing nuclear weapons. After the United Nations Security Council resolves to intervene militarily, Aladeen travels to the UN Headquarters in New York City to address the council. Shortly after arriving, he is kidnapped by Clayton (John C. Reilly), a hitman hired by his treacherous uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley). Tamir then replaces Aladeen with a mentally-challenged political decoy named Efawadh, whom he intends to manipulate into signing a document democratizing Wadiya and opening the country’s oil fields for business. Aladeen escapes after Clayton accidentally burns himself to death, but his huge beard has been shaved off by Clayton, making him practically unrecognizable. He encounters activist Zoey (Anna Faris), who offers him a job at her alternative lifestyle co-op. Aladeen refuses the offer and travels to New York’s “Little Wadiya”, located near the Marcy Avenue station, which is populated by refugees from his country. There, he encounters “Nuclear” Nadal (Jason Mantzoukas), the former chief of Wadiya’s nuclear weapons program and head procurer of women, whom Aladeen thought he had previously executed. Nadal explains that Wadiyan rebels infiltrated his intelligence unit, sending into exile all the people he had ordered to be executed.

Wanting his old job back, Nadal promises to help Aladeen thwart Tamir’s plot and regain his position as ‘rightful’ dictator, on condition that Aladeen makes him head of Wadiya’s W.M.D. program again. Aladeen agrees and accepts Zoey’s job offer, as she is catering at the hotel where the signing is to occur. Aladeen falls in love with Zoey after she refuses his sexual advances and teaches him how to masturbate. 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 reveals his true self. After acquiring a new beard taken from a corpse, Aladeen infiltrates the hotel and incapacitates Efawadh. 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 within the United States. 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 “he was only shot in the brain”.

A year later, Wadiya holds its first democratic elections, although they are rigged in favor of Aladeen. Afterwards, he marries Zoey, but is shocked when she crushes a glass and reveals herself to be Jewish. 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”.

REVIEW:

Sacha Baron Cohen has made a name for himself playing over-the-top characters that test the limits and boundaries of what we, as a society, perceive to be “politically correct.” The Dictator continues that tradition but, this time, it is in a scripted form, as opposed to the mockumentary format used in his other films.

What is this about?

Supreme ruler Aladeen (he has like 4 or 5 different titles), has been in control of the small country of Wadiya since he was 16. During this time, he has accumulated a massive amount of oil wealth, not of his own volition, mind you, and had numerous people executed.  The day comes when the U.N. Security Council insists he appear before them in person and explain his warmongering actions. On his trip to the U.S., he is kidnapped and his beard, the thing that he is most recognized for, is shaved off.

Aladeen is then forced to wonder the streets of New York as his uncle/advisor and political decoy (who is beyond stupid) run things. Aladeen must find a way to stop his uncle and regain his throne and, at the same time, avoid any run-ins with the law, because racial profiling is very prevalent in (this version) New York City.

What did I like?

Premise. It seems like we are afraid to laugh at anything  to do with the middle east, but will jump at the chance to think of them as dark, evil people. Just because a select group of them attacked out buildings is no reason to pigeon-hole them all in the same stereotype, especially when there ar much better stereotypes!

Same, but different. It is always hard to impersonate someone, or at least it looks that way, but to play a character who is supposed to be impersonating your character is just short of impressive, if I do say so myself.

Use what you go. There have been tons of jokes about Megan Fox and her promiscuity, as it were. Well, early on, there is a scene with her that plays up her sexuality. It is the kind of scene that makes you jealous of Cohen (in real life he’s married to Isla Fischer, and now he gets to be in bed with Fox!)

What didn’t I like?

Predictability. Lord have mercy was this thing predictable. It was quite obvious what was going to happen. The uncle was going to betray him (more on that in a bit), he was going to meet some chick who was going to change him and they end up falling in love, blah, blah, blah. Come on people, change something up!

Sir Ben. I have a tremendous amount of respect for Sir Ben Kingsley, but I have to question his roles lately. Not everything is going to be equal to his Oscar-winning Ghandi role, but he seems to be stuck in a rut of playing the evil uncle, as in Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time, and these middle eastern characters.

Sandler. Maybe it was just me, but I felt that the character of Efawdh was nothing more than Cohen’s impersonation of Adam Sandler. At times, I thought it was Sandler. Maybe the two of them should star in a film together, especially since Sandler’s middle eastern comedy, You Don’t Mess with the Zohan, was far superior to this. Maybe Cohen could take some pointers.

Anna. I love Anna Faris. In most of her films since about 2007 or so, she has been looking hot as hell, and proven that she’s a genuine comedic talent. This was a step back to her Scary Movie franchise days, though. She just wasn’t funny, they uglified her, and in a pivotal scene made her change Aladeen’s ways just by a look. *SIGH* she deserved so much better than this.

The Dictator is a valiant attempt to make light of some topics we don’t often joke about. For that, I give it all the praise in the world. However, the film itself doesn’t deliver on the comedic genius that is Cohen.Honestly, I do think that has this have been a mockumentary, it might have been better. Someone said it in another review best. The guy is too recognizable for these kind of characters to work, anymore, though. On top of that, there is the false advertising we get from the trailer. If you will recall, the scene with John C. Reilly is heavily featured in the trailer, but it is just one scene in the film. I really hate it when filmmakers do that. In the end, though, this is still a funny flick, just not something you should be going out of your way to see. Watch at our own risk.

3 1/3 out of 5 stars

Ali G Indahouse

Posted in Comedy, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , on May 23, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

Ali G is the leader of Da West Staines Massiv, a fictional gang composed of a group of wannabe gangsters from Staines (a suburban town in north Surrey, to the west of London); their chief rivals are Da East Staines Massiv. Ali and Da West Staines Massiv are heartbroken to learn that their beloved local leisure centre (where they like to chill out and also where Ali teaches his “Keep it Real” classes) will be demolished by the local council. Ali and his friends decide to protest this injustice. After he goes on a hunger strike and is spotted chained to some railings by the nefarious Chancellor of the Exchequer/Deputy Prime Minister David Carlton (Charles Dance), he is drawn into a world of seedy political intrigue, as the Deputy Prime Minister tries to use Ali as a tool to destroy the Prime Minister’s credibility. Ali is put forward as a candidate to be the next MP for Staines in a crucial by-election and manages to alienate most who cross his path, including feminists and the elderly. During a debate with his rival candidate, Ali tries to insult his rival by claiming that he “sucked off a horse”. Unknown to Ali and the public, it turns out that the rival did indeed do such a thing, and trying to explain it away, he claims when he was out hunting with a friend he slipped, and his mouth landed on a horse’s penis, which due to the mating season was erect. Ali then wins.

Although originally seeming out of his depth as a Member of Parliament, Ali’s bizarre behaviour and solutions seem to actually work. He visits a Customs checkpoint in Dover, as a delegate compiling a report (though all he does is steal confiscated pornography and drugs). Through ideas such as making more “relatable” education and selectively ensuring the immigration of attractive (or “fit”) women into the UK, Ali becomes incredibly popular, meeting the Prime Minister’s intentions and bringing his percentage lead in the polls up twenty two percent. With this the Prime Minister offers to save Ali’s leisure centre. First though, Ali accompanies the Prime Minister to a United Nations peace conference to avert war between the central African states of Chad and Burkina Faso. The USA and Russia back opposite countries and both threaten nuclear attacks. It gets to the point where World War III is almost declared when Ali sneaks into the catering area and puts an entire bag of marijuana, which he had stolen from Customs earlier, into the delegates’ tea and orders that they be served it right away. He throws the empty bag into a nearby rubbish bin. A side-effect is that the two opposing African presidents become allies (in fact they begin to kiss lovingly). The Prime Minister says that Ali has saved the world. However, Carlton’s secretary Kate Hedges figures out what Ali has done and retrieves the empty marijuana bag (which has “Ali’s stash. DO NOT NICK” written on the back), which she mails to the press. Upon his return to the UK, Ali is forced to leave parliament.

Before the Leisure Centre can be saved, a video emerges of Ali and his girlfriend having sex in the Prime Minister’s bedroom at Chequers. As Ali was wearing items of the Prime Minister’s clothing at the time, the media believe the video details the Prime Minister with a prostitute, forcing his resignation. This results in Deputy Prime Minister David Carlton being made Prime Minister. Carlton, who despises Ali, orders the destruction of the aforementioned leisure centre. He has also bought all available real estate in Staines in the knowledge that the town is to be destroyed to make way for a new terminal for Heathrow Airport, which will make him super wealthy. After turning down an offer to have sex with Kate Hedges, in exchange for “keeping his mouth shut” about the videotape, Ali and the West Staines Massiv must race against time to find the master copy of the CCTV tape proving the former Prime Minister’s innocence, extending the olive branch to all the gangs all over Staines and neighbouring Berkshire (even to the East Staines Massiv) to help them break into the vaults and retrieve the said tape. They do this successfully and manage to reinstate the original Prime Minister, save the Leisure Centre, and all live happily ever after when Ali is posted as the British ambassador to Jamaica. Staines is saved from destruction, with the reinstated Prime Minister declaring that Slough is to be destroyed instead.

REVIEW:

I toyed around with the idea of going to see The Dictator this past weekend, but opted to save my money and see Men in Black III this coming weekend. Hopefully, I won’t regret that decision. In the meantime, a friend of mine recommended I watch The Ali G Show, as it showcases Sacha Boren Cohen at his finest. I couldn’t find it on-line, though Netflix does have it, just not streaming, and I’m just not into renting entire series from them. As a consolation, for lack of a better term, I did find Ali G Indahouse. The question is, should I have just watched the show instead?

So, what worked?

Comedy, as advertised. Some people may find this flick offensive, but I actually thought it was pretty funny. Of course, if you’ve ever seen any of Cohen’s films, then you know this is how he works.

Committment. One thing that can be said about this flick is that it commits to the gag of Ali G “wannabe gangsta” persona, even when he becomes part of the political landscape. Other films would have probably made him change to fit the “norm”. I think the non-change is what made this film so enjoyable. It is such a shame that we don’t have anyone like that in today’s politics.

What you wouldn’t expect. Character actors such as Michael Gambon and Martin Freeman star alongside Cohen and in roles that are a bit out of their comfort zone, well maybe not.

What didn’t I like?

Hot, but wasted. Kate Beckinsale’s look-alike, Rhona Mitra, plays a fairly major role as some kind of secretary/assistant, but for some reason, they don’t really use her to full potential (although getting her to nearly strip down was nice).

Forgotten plot device. It takes about 30 minutes for this film to finally get to the plot, which I can somewhat live with. However, there is this secondary plot involving the youth center that is merely touched on and used more as a blackmail device than anything else. I don’t know, for me, it felt as if they could have done something more with it, especially at the end.

Large members. There are a few scenes where we see Ali G’s large member. Maybe it is just me, but I just don’t think there was a reason to show this, especially more than once!

Ali G Indahouse is not one of those films that one will be watching over and over again, but it is one of those flicks that is entertaining every now and then. To quote a friend of mine, this is “a good time…if you’re drunk”. I don’t highly recommend it, but I won’t lose any respect for you if you decide to give it a shot. Don;t forget to look for a certain cameo about halfway through. I won’t say who it is, but when you see him, you’ll know.

3 1/2 out of 5 stars

Hugo

Posted in Action/Adventure, Movie Reviews, Sci-Fi/Fantasy with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on March 10, 2012 by Mystery Man

PLOT (spoiler alert!!!):

In 1931, Hugo Cabret, a 12-year-old boy, lives with his widowed father, a master clockmaker in Paris. Hugo’s father takes him to see films and particularly loves the films of Georges Méliès. Hugo’s father dies in a museum fire, and Hugo is taken away by his uncle, an alcoholic watchmaker who is responsible for maintaining the clocks in the railway station Gare Montparnasse. His uncle teaches him to take care of the clocks and then disappears. He is later discovered to have drowned.

Hugo lives between the walls of the station, maintaining the clocks, stealing food and working on his father’s most ambitious project: repairing a broken automaton, a mechanical man who is supposed to write with a pen. Convinced the automaton contains a message from his father, Hugo goes to desperate lengths to fix it. He steals mechanical parts to repair the automaton, but he is caught by a toy store owner, Georges Méliès, who takes Hugo’s notebook from him, with notes and drawings for fixing the automaton.

To recover the notebook, Hugo follows Méliès to his house and meets Isabelle, an orphan close to his age and Georges’ goddaughter. She promises to help. The next day, Méliès gives some ashes to Hugo, referring to them as the notebook’s remains, but Isabelle informs him that the notebook was not burnt. Finally Méliès agrees that Hugo may earn the notebook back by working for him until he pays for all the things he stole from the shop.

Hugo works in the toy shop, and in his time off manages to fix the automaton, but it is still missing one part—a heart–shaped key.

Hugo introduces Isabelle to the movies, which her godfather has never let her see, while she introduces Hugo to a bookstore whose owner initially mistrusts Hugo. Isabelle turns out to have the key to the automaton. When they use the key to activate the automaton, it produces a drawing of a film scene. Hugo remembers it is the film his father always talked about as the first film he ever saw (Voyage to the Moon). They discover that the drawing made by the automaton is signed with the name of Isabelle’s godfather and take it to her home for an explanation.

Hugo shows Georges’ wife Jeanne the drawing made by the automaton, but she will not tell them anything and makes them hide in a room when Georges comes home. While hiding, Isabelle and Hugo find a secret cabinet and accidentally release pictures and screen boards of Georges’ creations just as Georges and Jeanne enter the room. Georges is upset and feels betrayed.

Hugo and Isabelle find a book on the history of film and are surprised that the author, Rene Tabard, refers to Méliès as having died in World War I. Tabard himself appears, and the children tell him that Méliès is alive. Tabard, a devotee of Méliès’ films, owns a copy of Voyage to the Moon.

Hugo, Isabelle and Tabard go to Georges’ home, and at first Jeanne tells them to go before her husband wakes. However Jeanne accepts their offer to show Voyage to the Moon when Tabard compliments her as one of the actresses in Georges’ films. While watching the film, Georges appears and explains how he came to make movies, invented the special effects, and how he lost faith in films when World War I began, being forced to sell his films to get money, and opening the toy shop to survive. He also believes the automaton he created was lost in the museum fire and nothing remains of his life’s work.

Hugo goes back to the station to get the automaton to surprise Georges, but he is cornered by the station inspector and his dog. Hugo escapes and runs to the top of the clock tower and hides by climbing out onto the hands of the clock. Once the inspector is gone, he runs for the exit with the automaton, but he is trapped by the inspector and the automaton is thrown onto the railway tracks. Climbing onto the tracks, Hugo is almost run over by an approaching train when the officer saves him and detains him as an orphan without a guardian. While Hugo pleads with the officer, Georges arrives and says Hugo is in his care. The officer lets him go.

At the end of the movie, Georges gets a tribute ceremony to his movies with Tabard announcing that some 80 films have been recovered and restored. Georges thanks Hugo for his actions and invites the audience to “follow his dreams”.

REVIEW:

If you’ve watched any DVD over the past few years, before the previews start, there is a short feature of Martin Scorsese, and some other people, saying how we need to save and restore old films. Hugo furthers that cause by giving us a bit of a history lesson along with a fantastic visual feast.

This film is supposed to be proof that “regular” movies can work in 3D, as well. As you are more than aware, I am no supporter of 3D, but I will say that this flick looked like it would have been worth the price.

As far as the goal of proving non-animated films can work in 3D, I just don’t think it accomplished that goal, but it did give a valiant effort. I just don’t see something like say, Moneyball or The Help working in this format, as opposed to The Lorax orThe Avengers.That’s just how it is.

I was sitting here watching this and there are scenes when I honestly thought it had done that creepy motion capture stuff like they did in The Polar Express and Beowulf, then it started looking live action. I do question the dog, though.

I had heard a few things about this book, but usually from people forced to read it in Literature class. If you’re assuming that their view is slightly skewered because of it being an assignment, you wold be correct. I have not had the chance to read it yet, but I think I’m going to head to the library sometime next week to see if it can be found.

I found the tale to be very interesting, moreso when I fond out that George Méliès was a real person and that this wasn’t very far from the truth as far as what happened to his movies. That really is a shame, especially for such a revolutionary filmmaker as he.

The visuals in this film are great, especially the ammont of detail that went into making the automaton. I couldn’t help but think about those plastic anatomy figures they used to have back in the day where you could see the inner workings of the human body everytime I saw him.

The cast is great, especially the young leads. It must truly be a daunting task to be so young and shoulder a massive film like this with a legendary director at them, as well. They handled it like pros, though.

Now, this film is not without its faults. First off, for me, interest waned in and out. I don’t know if this was because of the long day I’ve had or if it the fault of the film or some combination of both, but I wasn’t captivated from beginning to end like I should have been.

Insanely cute and talented Emily Mortimer, who plays Isabelle, the flower girl, had only a handful of lines, and mostly appeared to look longingly at Sacha Baron Cohen’s character. I don’t know if her character was so non-existent in the book, but it seems to me if you’re going to bring in a name actress like that, then you should use her for something, anything other than looking pretty (which she does without having to try).That’s just my train of thought, though.

Hugo is a really good film. There is no wonder why it was nominated for so many awards and is a critic’s darling. However, for us “regular” folk, it is probably not going to have the same profound effect. Still, it is one of those cinematic masterpieces that is not to be missed!

4 1/2 out of 5 stars

Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa

Posted in Animation, Comedy, Family, Movie Reviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 21, 2010 by Mystery Man

PLOT:

As a cub, Alex the Lion was called Alakay and was the son of Zuba, the alpha lion. Though Zuba tries to teach Alakay to be a hunter, the cub is more interested in dancing, and is captured by poachers when Makunga, Zuba’s rival, challenges Zuba to a fight for the position of alpha lion. Alakay is forced into a crate, and though Zuba tries to rescue his son, he is shot in the ear and fails. The crate falls into the ocean where it drifts to New York. There, Alakay is renamed Alex and sent to the Central Park Zoo where he grew up, meeting Marty, Melman, and Gloria. The events of the first film are then described through a series of news flashes.

In the present time, Alex, Marty, Melman, Gloria, King Julien, Maurice, the chimpanzees, Skipper and his fellow penguins board a repaired airplane in the hopes of using it to fly back to New York. Mort tries to board the plane but King Julien doesn’t want him on board and locks him outside. The plane takes off and starts with a relaxing journey. Alex later spots Mort clinging to the wing of the plane and waves to him (causing Mort to wave back and fall off the wing into the sea). The plane soon ends up crash-landing in continental Africa when it runs out of fuel. In Africa the animals are amazed to find more of their kind. Alex is reunited with Zuba and his mother. Marty quickly fits in with a herd of zebra who all look, sound, and talk exactly like him. Melman takes on the position of witch doctor amongst the animals. Gloria, interested in finding a mate, attracts the attention of a smooth-talking but shallow hippo named Moto Moto.

Meanwhile, the penguins set about repairing the plane. They carjack several jeeps from New Yorkers on vacation under “Operation Tourist Trap”, leaving the tourists stranded and lost in the jungle. Taking charge of the group is Nana, a tough old woman known for having beaten up Alex before he was first shipped out of New York in the first film, reminding them that they are New Yorkers and survivors.

The next morning Mort washes up on the shore of Africa and sets off to find King Julien, chased by a hungry shark.

Unfortunately, life in Africa is not as wonderful as it first seemed. Makunga, still determined to take the position of alpha lion, reminds Zuba that Alex must complete a traditional lion coming-of-age challenge that he did not complete. Alex, thinking that the challenge is a dance contest (it is actually a fight) competes against the strongest lion, Teetsie (who was recommended by Makunga) and loses quickly. To avoid being forced to banish his own son for failing, Zuba relinquishes his title as Alpha lion. Makunga immediately takes the position and banishes Alex and his family, much to Zuba’s anger at Alex. Marty, meanwhile, begins to feel upset that all of the zebras are exactly the same as him, leaving him with nothing unique. Melman is happy as a witch doctor until he learns that he has the same spot that had apparently caused the previous witch doctor to die. Melman is also upset about Gloria dating Moto Moto, as Melman has secretly loved her for a long time. Gloria goes on a date with Moto Moto, in a lake, and quickly realizes that he only loves her for her body.

The next day, the animals are in a panic when they discover that the watering hole has dried up. Determined to make up for his earlier failure, Alex and Marty decide to risk being shot by hunters and leave the reserve to discover what has happened. The pair discover that the stranded New Yorkers, under the instruction of Nana, have dammed up the river and built a primitive civilization. Alex is subsequently captured by a trap, causing Marty to abandon him to seek help. Meanwhile, Zuba hears from Makunga what Alex did and goes to rescue him.

Back on the reserve, King Julien suggests that the animals sacrifice one of themselves at the volcano to appease the water gods and regain their water supply. Believing that he will die soon, Melman volunteers to be sacrificed. Gloria stops him just in time and Marty arrives to tell them about Alex. The trio, the penguins, and several chimpanzees use the newly-fixed plane to execute a rescue.

However, Alex has already managed to rescue both himself and his father by dancing for the New Yorkers, who quickly recognize him from the zoo. The other animals arrive to pick them up with the plane, and together they all destroy the dam, freeing the water.

Meanwhile, back at the volcano, King Julien complains to Maurice about the sacrifice plan not working (“The science seemed so solid”). Mort turns up and is overjoyed to see King Julien, although Julien is less than thrilled to see him. The shark that was chasing Mort also arrives but falls into the volcano, completing the sacrifice (with Maurice saying “I hope the gods like Seafood”) and causing King Julien to think that he brought back the water.

As the watering hole restores, Makunga angrily reminds Alex and Zuba that all this won’t change anything. However, Alex manages to remove Makunga from power by tricking Nana into attacking him, and she drags him back to the other marooned tourists. Zuba steps down from being Alpha Lion, giving the position to Alex, but Alex in turn refuses, resulting in both father and son becoming the leaders.

The movie ends as Skipper marries a bobble-head hula doll from the plane and leaves on a honeymoon in Monte Carlo with the chimpanzees, and a huge tub of diamonds and gold, leaving Alex, Marty, Melman, and Gloria to happily remain in Africa with Alex’s parents.

REVIEW:

It isn’t very often that a sequel lives up to or surpasses it’s predecessor, but Madagascar: Escape 2 Africa happens to do just that.

The original Madagascar is one of the best animated films I’ve seen to come out of a studio not named Pixar, and the sequel takes everything that worked for that film and improves on it.

When you set out to set a CGI animated film in the lush landscapes of Africa, you better be ready to get the details down to the last..um…detail. The animators did an excellent job of making the audience belive they were in Africa. Did I happen to mention they did this without the use of 3D?

The relationship between the characters is just as magical as the first, though there is a bit of staleness between Alex and Marty. What I mean by that is in the first film Marty got his panties all twisted about something Alex did or didn’t do and the same happens here. If/when they make a third film, they need to not use this plot device a third time. On the flipside, Melman’s love for Gloria and his fear of telling her is still there, but it is cute, so I have no issues with them using it again.

The comedic timing of these actors is great. There are no jokes that would go over a kid’s head, yet at the same time the film doesn’t seem so dumbed down that older viewers would be bored to tears.

The voice casting is terrific. Ben Stiller, David Schwimmer, Chris Rock, Jada Pinkett Smith, Sacha Boren Cohen, and Cedric the Entertainer all reprise their roles and are joined by Alec Baldwin, will.i.am, Sherri Shepherd, and the late Bernie Mac. None of them give anything less than their best. Having said that, a herd of Chris Rock zebras is a nightmare!

Madagascar 2: Escape to Africa is good fun for the whole family. The humor, animation, and everything about this flick make it quite enjoyable for everyone. I would have liked for there to have been more of the penguins, but since they have their own show now, I guess I shouldn’t complain. I highly recommend this to everyone, so go check it out!

5 out of 5 stars