The Dictator

The Dictator is one of those rare instances where a film can be so offensive that its impossible to like the main character. Sacha Barron Cohen portrays the fictional dictator named General Aladeen who is the leader of a country called Wadiya. He is ruthless in the same way Kim Jong Il was cruel to the people of the Republic of China. General Aladeen is called to the United Nations to address concerns that Wadiya may be developing nuclear weapons. During his trip to the United States, an attempt is made on General Aladeen’s life because his adviser Nadir (Sir Ben Kingsley) wants to take over Wadiya. As a result of this assassination attempt, General Aladeen’s beard is shaved off rendering him unrecognizable to people of the United States and the UN. He is forced to interact with all of the people and things he has been against his whole life in order to get back into the United Nations and confirm that he has nuclear weapons and wants the country of Wadiya to continue as a dictatorship.

 

I strongly dislike this film. The Dictator is offensive in so many ways that it can be hard to watch. I love that Sacha Baron Cohen has comedy that can be frank and honest but this was a bit too much. I know how to take a joke but in this film almost every joke he uses feels old and played out. I found Anna Faris as the love interest of the film to be a complete waste of time. Anna’s character Zoey serves as the love interest for Aladeen and frankly Zoey has no reason to like him. She spends the majority of the film reprimanding Aladeen for the numerous ways he insults her and other people he has interaction with throughout the film. Aladeen doesn’t really even begin to change the way he treats people when the third act reaches its climax. The only thing that matters to Aladeen is continuing his reign of terror and that is not enough for me to consider this comedy funny.

 

The one thing I did like about this film is its last five minutes. In those 5 minutes Aladeen makes a speech addressing the United Nations that highlights all of the faults of the United States. He outlines the problems with our politics, the way we treat people, how destroyed our financial system is and its hilarious because he does all of this without directly saying that these are issues that the United States fails to deal with. I found myself wishing that the film had more moments like that speech all throughout the film’s run time.

 

Sacha Baron Cohen reminds me of a younger and more crude version of Peter Sellers. His characters are always naive and clueless but never lovable. If Cohen could make a lovable offensive character that has a journey then I’d be completely on board, but this scripted style of offensive humor where the jokes are planned and the humor is too harsh has soured my opinion of this comedian and his antics.

 

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The Avengers

The Avengers is one of the most highly anticipated films of the summer.  The hype Marvel flooded consumers with was well worth the wait for the film’s release.  Joss Whedon of Buffy: The Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and Dollhouse fame writes and directs this superhero team up movie.  The plot involves something called the Tesseract, a cosmic cube that has unknown potential energy.  Thor’s brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) decides to steal the cube and use it to open a portal with another world to start an invasion and war that very well may destroy Earth.  Director of S.H.I.E.L.D. Nick Fury decides that after being bested by Loki when the Tesseract was stolen that it is time to initiate the Avengers initiative.  This initiative involves bringing together Earth’s mightiest heroes to do battle with Loki and his army to save Earth.  This means Thor (Chris Hemsworth), Captain America (Chris Evans), Tony Stark (Robert Downey Jr.), Bruce Banner (Mark Ruffalo) and two S.H.IE.L.D. agents Hawkeye (Jeremy Renner) and Black Widow (Scarlett Johansen) all need to work through their egos and play nice to preserve the greater good.

The main positive of this film is that if anyone enjoyed one of the previous Marvel films from the last four years, each hero gets his or her own moment in the spotlight.  My favorite thing about this film is its visual style.  The film very much resembled the look of those first Avengers posters with battles going on throughout parts of Midtown in New York.  Another thing that struck me about the film is how funny it was.  Yes, Robert Downey Jr. does have some great lines in the film but everyone gets a chance to crack a moderately funny one liner even the Hulk.  It almost goes without saying that I love seeing all of these heroes on screen together fighting to save the Earth, but the thing I was most impressed by was the event that really forced them to put their egos aside and work together.  The moment comes rather unexpectedly in the films run time and it is a moment that has a level of emotional resonance for anyone who has watched any of the previous four films.

The only problem I found with The Avengers is that the first act was very slow and did not build the anticipation for the team up.  I found Loki’s entrance into the story boring until he tricked Nick Fury and his S.H.I.E.L.D. agents.  The biggest surprise of the film has to be Mark Ruffalo’s performance as both Bruce Banner and The Hulk.  The Avengers is the first film that has ever been able to successfully capture the emotional turmoil that Bruce Banner is constantly in due to not being able to live a normal life.  The biggest strength Ruffalo gives this character is that you know Bruce Banner is constantly in a fragile state and that the years of running he has been doing have both exhausted him and left him emotionally raw.  This may also explain why he clings to his love of science so much.  Banner’s scenes with Tony Stark are a highlight of the film and it warms my heart to know that Banner was able to meet a kindred spirit in Tony Stark.

With a solid story and engaging characters The Avengers is a well assembled movie and well worth your money and time in the theater.  Make sure to stay through all the credits for a hint at what may happen to the Avengers next.

 

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