Archive for May, 2012
Dictator General Admiral Aladeen (Sacha Baron Cohen) of the Republic of Wadiya (a fictitious North African country rich with oil) is set for a visit to the U.S. in a false effort to appear peaceful in front of the U.N.. But, in a strange twist of unbelievable events Aladeen finds himself replaced by a body double; meanwhile, Aladeen’s brother Tamir (Sir Ben Kingsley), has plans to overthrow the republic and install democracy, export oil, and lead a puppet government for his own gain. Now it’s up to Aladeen to find his own way back into power and continue the oppression of the Wadiyan people. But what of his love for Zoey (Anna Faris), an empowered woman fighting for liberal justice, so many difficult choices to make, how will Aladeen pull it off? Ah, satire, a dish best served cold, and Baron Cohen hands it out liberally poking and prodding at just about every fascist, dictator, liberal, conservative, communist, and everything else in between. Plus, dashes from some of Hollywood’s racier comedian actors, Bobby Lee, and John C. Riley come to mind, the table seems set for a comedic smorgasbord. And that happens….sort of…in a confusing manner. It’s as though for all of his intelligence, wit, and humor that hits 1000 on the truth-o-meter, Baron Cohen still feels compelled to drop the humor I.Q. to one tick above broccoli with cheap and tasteless blue jokes that’ll drive ‘mericans wild, the kind of humor that the lowest common denominator will just suck up like a sponge. Still, there’s barely enough material to make a reasonably entertaining film 83 minutes long. Maybe a matinee but really more of a rental. The Dictator is rated R.
Barnabas Collins (Johnny Depp), turned into a vampire and locked away for nearly 200 years by a love scorned servant and witch named Angelique (Eva Green) in Collinsport, Maine. Now, 1972, Barnabas is mistakenly freed from his coffin, returns to Collinwood Manor to find his home almost in ruins and his descendants dysfunctional to the point of disgrace. Meanwhile, for two centuries Angelique has been undermining the Collins family seafood business for her own benefit. Now it’s up to Barnabas to set things straight, with a little help from Elizabeth Collins-Stoddard (Michelle Pfeiffer), Carolyn Stoddard (Chloe Grace Moretz), Dr. Julia Hoffman (Helena Bonham Carter), groundskeeper Willie (Jackie Earle Haley), and David Collins (Gulliver McGrath). But not everything in Collinsport is shrouded in darkness, in addition to stopping Angelique, the lovely Victoria (Bella Heathcote), has caught the eye of Barnabas, how to win her heart is perhaps the bigger dilemma? Sounds like the cast of Tim Burton film eh? Well you’d be right, although the story comes from different writers and is actually inspired by the original TV series from the 60’s and 70’s, that being the case, the usual art direction of Burton is largely kept in check, and interestingly enough the score from Danny Elfman seems largely uncharacteristic of his usual bag of tricks. Although for both Burton and Elfman I would suppose there’s only so many times one can go to the well and maintain fresh creative flow, so perhaps this change is good. Meanwhile, given that the film is based off a daytime drama, there of course have to be a few steamy scenes as well, something of a rarity in Burton’s catalog; naturally, the material is treated tongue in cheek which in some regards almost negates the steaminess and feels more in keeping with what Burton fans are used to. And, given that the film’s overall tone is comedic this all still fits together nicely. Sadly, what doesn’t fit together so nicely is the finale. As the storyline devolves to a relatively mundane showdown between supernatural beings, the film’s real sense of fun and purpose feels lost and ends with a fizzle rather than a bang. Still, fun and perhaps a matinee, Dark Shadows is rated PG-13.
All set with their own reasons for leaving England, an unlikely group of retirees converge in India to what they have been told is a newly restored retirement hotel. Upon arrival fast talking but well meaning hotel manager Sonny (Dev Patel) is quickly set into action to appease his new guests; but, charming this group will take every ounce of energy and to what end? Of the group, Evelyn (Judi Dench), Graham (Tom Wilkinson), Douglas (Bill Nighy), Jean (Penelope Wilton), Muriel (Maggie Smith), and Norman (Ronald Pickup) who will stay, and what of the pending and untold foreclosure of the hotel? Romantic comedy for a slightly older demographic, yes, but that’s not to write this one off to other audiences either. Good acting is still good acting and when you’ve got the above names involved, you’re bound to get something good no matter what. And, where the cinematography isn’t what we might hope for now that we’ve seen successful films that truly catch the frenetic nature of India, Danny Boyle’s Slumdog Millionaire comes to mind, the general spirit of the culture is still present. Overall, there are some genuinely touching and emotional moments and interesting story arcs. Still worthy of a matinee or perhaps a rental later, The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel is rated PG-13. On a side note, I’m still convinced Bill Nighy can do no wrong, too damn cool.