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 KING OF STATEN ISLAND (2020)

Directed By: Judd Apatow

Written By: Judd Apatow, Pete Davidson & Dave Sirus

Cinematography: Robert Elswit

Editor: Jay Cassidy, William Kerr & Brian Olds

Cast: Pete Davidson, Bill Burr, Marisa Tomei, Steve Buscemi, Bel Powley, Moises Arias, Carly Aquilino, Maude Apatow, Kevin Corrigan, Pamela Adlon, Rich Vos, Keith Robinson, Jimmy Tatro, Dominick Lombardozzi, Colson Baker, Ricky Velez, Lou Wilson

Scott has been a case of arrested development since his firefighter dad died. He spends his days smoking weed and dreaming of being a tattoo artist until events force him to grapple with his grief and take his first steps forward in life.


This is not Writer/Director Judd Apatow’s worst or most disappointing movie, but disappointing to a certain degree.

Saw the somewhat similar BIG TIME ADOLESCENCE where Pete Davidson played a similar aimless character who seems stuck in arrested development and mental illness. That film had a more straight to the point story whereas this seems to be comfortable in the moments. Wherever they go. Which is great for the performers, for the audience it can go either way. Which might be why this film isn’t as good as I had hoped as it feels a little familiar.

One of Judd Apatow’s talent is always getting comedic actors who he wants to work with to kind of write their own stories and movies that are a bit autobiographical and then they can try to tie it to a more central plot-oriented conceit. Allowing them to bring out the talents and charm of the actors. As well as make it feel more real as it is partly based in the leads life. This helping to bring out the best in them and showcase their talents. Usually giving them more depth and heart then they have ever been allowed before. 

He has become so good at mixing comedy and drama he feels like a modern-day James L. Brooks. Strangely Judd Apatow movies are also always reminiscent of John Cassavettes films. As he always wants to cut to the truth of the scenes and characters. Where he also let’s then scenes flow freely from comedy to devastating drama. This usually works when his films are further away from formula. 

It also helps that the characters in these movies might be more comedic and therefore humor but they also feel loved in more than just actorly in performance. 

This is one of the few films he has made that is less high concept. Usually there is a concept and users the comedians personality, charm and instincts to make it more of a character piece.

The film is big yet the main character is aimless. Things happen throughout making the film more eventful but leaving the film still kind of formless. Even with a skeleton underneath. As the film is too long. 

Pete Davidson is pretty much playing a less successful version of himself or his public persona. He is a charming knucklehead who seems charming and fun. Yet has presence and you would be friends with. It never totally understands. 

The cast gives it all but feels like a pilot. As it seems to set up a lot but never quite pull the trigger. so that there seems to be more room for development amongst the characters. 

The film offers comedian Bill Burr a great role close to the leading man and he is excellent in the role.

One wishes Pamela Adlon was in the film more and had more to do. The same with Marisa Tomei. As the film comes off more like a boy’s club. It’s the same fate As well for bel Powley as she is funny and sexy in her role. As a sometimes love interest who gets tired of being used and taken for granted.

The film doesn’t seem to know where it wants to go. As it leads us to various places. Sometimes it stays around, but often makes a pit stop and then moves forward going along and not really looking back too much and it doesn’t really have an ending. An Especially  satisfying one 

Once a plot does rear its head. The film stays with it then takes a turn to allow for some more wandering. Which leaves the film entertaining but makes it feel endless. 

The film leaves a lot of plates spinning. Where some characters appear and then disappear. Which works as it shows once away from the lead their influence is on existent. Their lack of importance to the main character is that small of an important overall to the Film and they almost come off as forgotten by the end. 

Grade: C

BIG FAN (2009)

Written & Directed By: Robert D. Siegel
Cinematography By: Michael Simmonds
Editor: John Trank

Cast: Patton Oswalt, Kevin Corrigan, Michael Rappaport, Matt Servitto

A hard-core New York Giants fan struggles to deal with the consequences when he is beaten up by his favorite player.


This film feels like a dark odyssey but it’s one that takes place in a lake, not an ocean or river. A hard-core New York Giants fan struggles to deal with the consequences when he is beaten up by his favorite player.

This is a film that I wanted to love but I ended up only liking a lot. It appealed to me but scared me at how much the main character resembles me and my life. Only I hope not as depressing.


In full admission, I am one of the biggest fans of Patton Oswalt. I actually met him while he was in town filming this movie. It’s a darkly comedic film where all the characters might fit a few stereotypes but they felt real. No one was perfect they all had flaws, They all had good things and bad things about them. 

The Writer-Director of the film is Robert Siegel who also wrote THE WRESTLER. In his direction Siegel is a simple storyteller he doesn’t use visual trickery or distracting angles, He still gets his point across. The film’s low budget also adds to the film’s believability. In his writing, at first, you could write him off as someone interested in characters in sports but each film goes deeper than the actual sport, Which ends up only plays a small part in the overall stories, as the film is showing the in’s and out’s of the sport. 

The film let’s you get inside they’re heads and what is going on and affecting them in their immediate life. It shows the characters and the trouble they find themselves inevitably in usually done to themselves and the fact that the world is cruel. And of course, when it rains it pours. 

Not a fan of the film’s ending but if it ended any other way it wouldn’t have made the impact or told it’s the message the way it clearly wanted do. The film is a downtrodden character study that seems to revel in its misery and you feel it deeply as the situations and characters feel more realistic, then fabricated for the story.  

Of course, the film will be compared to the better TAXI DRIVER. But the film has an identity of its own and lends itself to the 70’s era type of filmmaking. Where character comes before story and plot. The reason I believe those films are so well remembered is that the films felt real and believable and the people who made the film wanted to tell stories and not show off they’re technical know-how and care more about pleasing studios, audiences, and box office returns than making a memorable film and maybe art. 

What this film does cleverly leads you down a dark road. That shocks you and fills you with despair the further you go and at each pit stop you think you know and feel dread thinking you know where it’s going to lead. It goes in that direction, But then gives you a detour. Making it all the more revealing. It’s a Must see but it is not a film that needs to be in your film library.  

GRADE: B+

CYMBELINE (2014)

cymbeline

Written & Directed By: Michael Almereyda
Based On The Play By: William Shakespeare
Cinematography By: Tim Orr
Editor: John Scott Cook & Barbara Tulliver 


Cast: Ed Harris, Milla Jovovich, Delroy Lindo, Ethan Hawke, Kevin Corrigan, Penn Badgely, Anton Yelchin, Dakota Johnson, Bill Pullman, John Leguizamo, James Ransone, Vondie Curtis-Hall, J.D. Williams, Spenser Treat Clark 


 A gritty story of a take-no-prisoners war between dirty cops and an outlaw biker gang. A drug kingpin is driven to desperate measures. You would need a big name cast to keep the audiences interest. Unless you have Shakespeare purist fans. As there is no real style and feels closed in and claustrophobic


So with this cast other than Ed Harris, Ethan Hawke. you have actors who are more on the mainstream leading roles. Challenging themselves and trying to show they are more than pretty faces by tackling Shakespeare in a more contemporary way and trying to make it more of a crime story.

Though this is one of few times Ed Harris really get to play a leading role. Even if he is barely in the film his presence is always felt. Where as Ethan Hawke is an accomplished stage actor and leading man. So it is not strange to see him In This film. In more of a smaller but pivotal role. Though both heavily featured on the poster. they seem to leave it a showcase for the other actors. As most of the tale revolves around the younger supporting characters. They still revolve more around Harris’s character.

Though it still comes off as slow and claustrophobic. Throughout the performances feel more forced and never quite natural. I understand the language might be out of place, but usually in successful adaptations the actors still find a way to make it convincingly theirs. The material never seems to come alive. Even with such a violent tangled tale.

It’s a shame as the film has a good recognizable cast and strong material that doesn’t feel like it ever comes full circle and maters by their presence. Small scale can be realistic in a kitchen sink drama way. Here that style adds very little, but is definitely a stylistic choice.

The film offers us glimpses of the underworld they operate in but never quite fully explained. Yet we see constant back deals behind closed doors. That every so often becomes a little confusing. Though by the third act it all becomes more clear.

The film feels like an experiment. While also trying to follow the popularity of Shakespeare and the adaptations of it. It tries to stick to it’s more indie roots by choosing a play that is less well known. So that maybe fewer audience members can find fault with it.

This is Director Michael Almereyda’s second attempt at a modern shapespeare tale. He directed an adaptation of Hamlet with Ethan Hawke that similarly had mixed but better results.

Strangely this is one of the few of Shakespeare’s tragedies that has more of a happy ending. Once you get through some deaths and a general massacre.

The film comes off more as a rich fairy tale. That seems inspired by the show SONS OF ANARCHY, with it’s dirty cops and criminal biker gang. Just as that show was inspired by the tale of HAMLET.

Grade: C

DETROIT ROCK CITY (1999)

Detroit-Rock-City-1999-00-23-31

Directed By: Adam Rifkin
Written By: Carl V. Dupree
Cinematography By: John R. Leonetti
Editor: Mark Goldblatt & Peter Schink 


Cast: Eddie Furlong, Sam Huntington, Giuseppe Andrews, James DeBello, Lin Shaye, Natasha Lyonne, Melanie Lynskey, Emanuelle Chriqui, Joe Flaherty, Nick Scotti, Gene Simmons, Ace Frehley, Paul Stanley, Peter Criss, Lindy Booth, Ron Jeremy, Kevin Corrigan, Shannon Tweed, Steve Schirripa, Kristin Booth 


Four members of a high school band called Mystery do everything they can to attend a KISS concert in Detroit. In order to make it to the show they must steal, cheat, strip, deal with an anti-rock mom and generally do whatever it takes to see the band that has inspired them to be musicians.

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