THE DICTATOR (2012)

Directed by: Larry Charles
Written By: Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg, David Mandel & Jeff Schaffer
Cinematography By: Lawrence Sher
Editor: Greg Hayden & Eric Kissack

Cast: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Ben Kingsley, Bobby Lee, Aasif Mandavi, Jason Mantzoukas, Joey Slotnick, Kevin Corrigan, Chris Elliott, Kathryn Hahn, Megan Fox, Ian Roberts, Jon Glaser, Chris Parnell, Chris Gethard, Fred Armisen, J.B. Smoove 


The Republic of Wadiya is ruled by an eccentric and oppressive leader named Hafez Aladeen. Aladeen is summoned to New York to a UN assembly to address concerns about his country’s nuclear weapons program, but the trip goes awry. 


It seems most of the time the only real comedy in this film is more the shocking aspects of the material. As the regular, more comic nature gags seem like they go well on paper, but physically fall flat.

The film plays like a Saturday Night Live skit character who gets their own film But struggles to fill out the premise. So that the film feels like a collection of skits tied together with a rather thin plotline. Soon the envelope is pushed so far all the outlandish details become common. You start to wonder if anything will be considered sacred. 

Unfortunately when it comes to Sasha Baron Cohen who is a gifted comedic performer. His best ability that has so far been shown is his ability to stay in character while improvising around and off of real people not in on the joke, With hilarious awkward, and shocking moments. As others around him seem to drop their guard and open up themselves mostly to his questions and suggestions that have worked for him so far. While he has defined characters he also became more recognizable. So with small roles in other films the natural next plateau was to try to create feature films with characters though more scripted. Though try to feature the same type off the cuff comedy. With a certain looseness in the filmmaking leaving room for happy accidents. In this film he seems to be the only one allowed to do anything really funny, others try but are either cameos that go nowhere or just weak. So this film feels almost like a vanity project. 

He is funny and a good performer, but he is also better than this material. Which only seems to only be shocking to be shocking. No real reason it can’t be funny without going to such extremes. It’s like stand-up who’s act is full of offensive and shocking scenarios. Just no real jokes or sense of humor. Though everything said is supposed to be in some type of humor. Which is a shame especially when you have a cast that is full of funny actors. 

It feels like a mash-up of Different Charlie Chaplin scenarios and scenes from his films only updated badly. –It seems that Sasha Baron Cohen is the closest that we have to a modern Peter Sellers as he totally allows himself to truly be lost in character and there seems to not be any breaking and not know where one ends and where another begins. Also, his films tend to revolve not only around characters that he plays but almost exclusively around him and his character. There are other comedians and characters but most of the humor revolves around only his and others’ reactions to him. 

His previous films that play more off of hidden cameras and regular people reacting to his antics are a bit more powerful as they reflect more of a social satire with a reality. This film is more sketch than anything else scripted satire that is made to look off-kilter but is obviously more formulaic. It’s a shame as the film shows peaks of comedic brilliance and some interesting ideas that are quickly dropped for more traditional comedy in the form of just trying to make the jokes way too offensive and shock humor. 
Which seems to be on the rise in the form of comedy instead of humorous jokes and situations. Comedies seem to be more of a barometer of how much they can get away with that is off-color. There are of course exceptions, but Comedies seem to be going the way of horror with torture porn. The more shocking and graphic it seems the better. 

Like the film, it seems to be inspired by just a bit Charlie Chaplin’s THE GREAT DICTATOR it has a great speech at the end that tries to inform and send a message. It’s more didactic and not inspiring like its influence. 

The film has a love story that doesn’t work nor is it really needed, but since it seems that most films today have one whether they are needed are not have one involved in the film. Why not this one? 

Grade: D

THE BATTERY (2012)

Written & Directed By: Jeremy Gardenr 

Cinematography By: Christian Stella 

Editor: Michael Katzman & Alicia Stella 

Cast: Jeremy Gardner, Adam Cronheim, Niels Bolle, Alana O’Brein, Larry Fessenden

Two former baseball players, Ben and Mickey, cut an aimless path across a desolate New England. They stick to the back roads and forests to steer clear of the shambling corpses that patrol the once bustling cities and towns. In order to survive, they must overcome the stark differences in each other’s personalities. Ben embraces an increasingly feral, lawless, and nomadic lifestyle while Mickey is unable to accept the harsh realities of the new world and longs for the creature comforts he once took for granted. A bed, a girl, and a safe place to live. When the men intercept a radio transmission from a seemingly thriving, protected community, Mickey will stop at nothing to find it, even though it is made perfectly clear that he is not welcome.


More of an odd couple in a zombie landscape. Watching how the two characters survive, the situations they find themselves in while trying to find food and safe shelter along the way. Not real direction to a location.

The film also shows the forming of the relationship of friendship between the lead characters whose personalities constantly clash.

The film is darkly humorous at times and stark. It casts a spell on you with charm and depending on how you feel about the characters. Is probably how you will feel about the film.

The film feels like THE WALKING DEAD only focusing on two characters and leaves a lot of questions unanswered. More like a character study mixed in a zombie apocalypse film. Even though the zombie market is over-saturated on all kinds of the media market. It’s nice To see other views and stories to tell. It’s up to you to decide if they are worth watching and pursuing.

Its limited budget makes the lesser amenities on display give the film a realistic pallor and impresses with what is achieved with so little funding. Creating a vision and world. Director Jeremy Gardner raised the $6,000 budget for this movie by asking ten different friends for six hundred dollars each.

I really enjoyed this film. Even with it’s more modest kind of hipster touches that dips into Mumblecore a bit, but quickly redeems itself with its own identity and creating a cult character worth rooting for.

There are really only two characters though there are lots of scenes that have no dialogue though provide a catchy fun soundtrack of score that sets the scenes and mood.

Composer Ryan Winford used such unconventional instruments as a toaster and a beer bottle for the score.

What the film does effectively creates a world that you want to see more of, but cleverly does it on such a small scale it keeps you off guard to the rules and boundaries of it.

The film keeps managing to surprise as it’s tone turns from light comical to surprisingly dark with unexpected problems and resolutions. That feels more realistic than fantasy. Since it leaves you slightly off base.

Is it is only a coincidence that the four main characters are unintentionally named after famous mice. Ben (from Willard), Mickey, Jerry (from Tom & Jerry), Annie (from the Annie Mouse books)?

The film also leaves you with questions and ends with a kind of mystery that leaves it open for more or with a quaint ending that leaves more to explore and a knowledge that people still Inhabit it.

It leaves room for either a sequel or to further explore the world it is set in.

Grade: B-

GHOST RIDER: SPIRIT OF VENGENCE (2012)

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Directed By: Mark Neveldine & Brian Taylor; Neveldine/Taylor
Written By: David S. Goyer, Scott M. Gimple & Seth Hoffman
Story By: David S. Goyer
Cinematography By: Brandon Trost
Editor: Brian Berdan

Cast: Nicolas Cage, Johnny Whitworth, Violante Placido, Anthony Head, Cirian Hinds, Idris Elba, Christopher Lambert

Johnny Blaze, a man who made a deal with the Devil who called himself Roarke at the time, is on the run trying to make sure no-one is harmed by his alter ego, The Ghost Rider. He is approached by a Monk named Moreau who tells him that he can help be him free of the Rider, but first, he needs Johnny’s help to protect a boy, whom Roarke has plans for.

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RED TAILS (2012)

Directed By: Anthony Hemingway
Written By: John Ridley & Aaron McGruder
Story By: John Ridley
Cinematography By: John B. Aronson
Editor: Ben Burtt & Michael O’Halloran

Cast: Nate Parker, David Oyelowo, Michael B. Jordan, Marcus T. Paulk, Elijah Kelly, Bryan Cranston, Terrence Howard, Cuba Gooding Jr. Gerald McRaney, Tristan Wilds, Lee Tergesen, Andre Royo, Method Man, Ne-Yo, Daniela Rush

A crew of African American pilots in the Tuskegee training program, having faced segregation while kept mostly on the ground during World War II, are called into duty under the guidance of Col. A.J. Bullard.

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THE SAMARITAN (2012)

THESAMARITAN

Directed By: David Weaver
Written By: David Weaver & Elan Mastai
Cinematography By: Francois Dagenais
Editor: Geoff Ashenhurst 


Cast: Samuel L. Jackson, Ruth Negga, Gil Bellows, Luke Kirby, Tom Wilkinson, Deborah Kara Unger

After twenty years in prison, Foley is finished with the grifter’s life. When he meets an elusive young woman named Iris, the possibility of a new start looks real. But his past is proving to be a stubborn companion.

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THE INTOUCHABLES (2012)

theintouchables

Written & Directed By: Oliver Nakache & Eric Toledan
Cinematography By: Ludovico Einaudi
Editor: Dorian Rigal-Ansous

Cast: Francois Cluzet, Omar Sy, Audrey Fleurot, Anne Le Ny, Clotide Mollet

In Paris, the aristocratic and intellectual Philippe is a quadriplegic millionaire that is interviewing candidates for the position of his caretaker with his red-haired secretary Magalie. Out of the blue, the rude African Driss cuts the line of candidates and brings a document from the Social Security and asks to Phillipe to sign it to prove that he is seeking a job position to receive his unemployment insurance. Philippe challenges Driss and offers a period of adaptation of one week to him to gain experience helping him. Then Driss would decide whether he would like to stay with him or not. Driss accepts the bet and moves to the mansion, changing the boring life of Phillipe and his employees.

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THE MAN WITH THE IRON FISTS (2012)

themanwithiron

 

Directed & Story By: Rza
Written By: Rza & Eli Roth
Cinematography By: Chi Ying Chan
Editor: Joe D’Augustine 


Cast: Russell Crowe, Rza, Lucy Liu, Jamie Chung, Rick Yune, Dave Bautista, Byron Mann, Zhu Zhu, Pam Grier

On the hunt for a fabled treasure of gold, a band of warriors, assassins, and a rogue British soldier descend upon a village in feudal China, where a humble blacksmith looks to defend himself and his fellow villagers.

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THE AMAZING SPIDER-MAN (2012)

amazingspiderman

Directed By: Marc Webb
Written By: James Vanderbilt & Alvin Sargent & Steve Kloves
Story By: James Vanderbilt
Based on Characters Created By: Stan Lee & Steve Ditko
Cinematography: John Schwartzman
Editor: Alan Edward Bell, Michael McCusker & Pietro Scalia 


Cast: Andrew Garfield, Emma Stone, Rhys Ifans, Denis Leary, Martin Sheen, Sally Field, Irrfan Khan, C. Thomas Howell, Campbell Scott, Embeth Daviditz, Chris Zylka, Amber Stevens, Tia Texada, Hannah Marks, Vincent Laresca 


After Peter Parker is bitten by a genetically altered spider, he gains newfound, spider-like powers and ventures out to save the city from the machinations of a mysterious reptilian foe.

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COSMOPOLIS (2012)

Cosmopolis

Written & Directed By: David Cronenberg
Based On The Novel By: Don Delilo
Cinematography By: Peter Suschitzky
Editor: Ronald Sanders 


 Cast: Robert Pattinson, Sarah Godon, Juliette Binoche, Paul Giamatti, Kevin Durand, Matthieu Almaric, Samantha Morton, Jay Baruchel, Zeljiko Kecojevic

Riding across Manhattan in a stretch limo in order to get a haircut, a 28-year-old billionaire asset manager’s day devolves into an odyssey with a cast of characters that start to tear his world apart.

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