Tag Archives: Ben Kingsley

The Dictator

18 Nov

Director: Larry Charles

Writers: Sacha Baron Cohen, Alec Berg

Stars: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris and Ben Kingsley

Motion Picture Rating: 15

Runtime: 83 minutes

 

 

The dedication for this film is to the late Kim Jong Ill. The last time that dictator made me laugh out loud in a movie was in the brilliant 2004 comedy “Team America”. That’s an appropriate link as this film also looks to satirise modern geo-politics and to laugh at the hypocrisy embedded in western foreign policy. As a Sacha Baron Cohen film it does so with big laughs and in a highly non-pc manner (which reflects what Trey Parker and Matt Stone did with their puppets 8 years ago).

After playing a small-time street gansta (Ali G), an idiotic political envoy (Borat) and a hyper camp fashionista (Bruno), Baron Cohen this time is General Aladeen, the ruler of the rogue North African state of Wadiya. Aladeen is one part Saddam Hussein and one part Colonel Gaddafi. He rules with an iron fist, has a desire for nuclear weaponry, splashes cash on western vices and has a line of stand-in doubles for those trickier engagements. During the film’s first 15 minutes, as we are introduced to the dictator, there are some wonderful gags. The hit frequency once Aladeen gets to New York to address the UN diminishes slightly, but it is amusing throughout.

In New York, as the result of scheming by his not so loyal uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley), Aladeen is stripped of his title, shorn of his beard and thrown on to the street. The pauperized ex-ruler seeks solace in Brooklyn as opposed to Queens which harboured Eddie Murphy’s Prince Akeem in rather similar circumstances in 1988 (“Coming to America”). Aladeen takes shelter in a vegan market run by the very pc Zoey (a perfectly cast Anna Faris) where his dictatorial approach quickly upsets colleagues and shoppers alike.

This is a very funny film. It is short, sharp and entertaining. It does borrow from films such as “Team America” and “Coming to America” and there is a sense of Mike Myers in some of the set ups. It’s not original as such, but Baron Cohen pushes the odd boundary, openly questions the US approach to countries such as Iraq and is typically unafraid of bad taste (as per the birthing scene on the floor of the market). He is not yet and may never be a genius like Peter Sellers, but Baron Cohen is a fine comedic actor with a knack for fully embodying the most ludicrous of characters.

Hugo

8 Apr

Director: Martin Scorsese

Writers: John Logan (screenplay), Brian Selznick (book)

Stars: Asa Butterfield, Chloë Grace Moretz and Christopher Lee

Motion Picture Rating: PG

Runtime: 126 minutes

 

 

 

 

Martin Scorsese is a part-time film historian and a full-time film devotee. When interviewed about his own films he often references past masters and he talks in awe and wonder about his first cinema going experiences as a child. With Hugo we have both a referential history lesson about cinema and an awe-inspiring film filled with warmth, love and care for the medium. This is a love letter to film by a great master.

Hugo is the story of a young orphaned boy who lives alone in the Gard du Nord train station in Paris in the 1920’s. This film is adapted from a popular children’s book (“The Invention of Hugo Cabret”) and it is a rich story of boyhood adventure. Hugo’s dead father was a clock-maker and his uncle set the clocks around the station before disappearing. That role now falls to Hugo who lives and roams in the back rooms, crawl spaces and hidden passages of the station. The opening shots of the film trail Hugo around Gard du Nord and it is breath-taking cinematography. The film conjures up a bustling and fascinating ‘playground’ for lonely Hugo.

The sweeping camera shots and the sepia-tinted sets add grandeur and a sense of nostalgia. It is in keeping with the 1920’s period and it supports the ‘history of cinema’ sub-plot. That strand is headed by Ben Kingsley (revealed to be Georges Melies) as a shop owner in the train concourse that takes an interest in Hugo. It was Melies that followed the Lumiere brothers in Paris from the 1890’s to invent cinema as we know it today.

Kingsley is excellent and well supported by Asa Butterfield as Hugo and Chloe Grace Moretz as his niece and Hugo’s only friend. Sacha Baron Cohen hams it up nicely as the station inspector and other British character actors pop up here and there. It’s a good ensemble, but the film succeeds because of the enchanting story and the beautiful camera work. It reminded me in parts of Amelie and that is high praise where I come from. This is a terrific family film and highly recommended.

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