Views & Reviews From Writer Steve Miller
Formerly Reviews and Stuff at Rotten Tomatoes, 2005 - 2009.

Currently Showing at Cinema Steve

Monday, May 21, 2012

Music from the soundtrack of 'The Dictator'

It's official. "The Dictator" is a bomb. Maybe if Sacha Baron Cohen had given some edge to this funny movie, it would have flown. But, alas, he did not.

The soundtrack, both in the preview and the film itself, is interesting in the way it uses both real examples of hybrids of eastern and western popular music, as well as spoofs of said hybrids.

One track that shows up in the preview and in the film is Panjabi MC's "Mundian To Bach Ke." There's the original video for the song. I have no idea what's going on in the lyrics... but I feel confident in saying that you're not likely to encounter a more effective sampling of the original "Knight Rider Main Theme" ever.

And here's the version that plays during the closing credits of the film, as well as the previews for the films. Personally, I prefer the original version above. (Interesting note about the previews for "The Dictator"... there are jokes in them that don't actually appear in the film itself.)

And here's another track and video from Panjabi MC, "Snake Charmer." It was referenced in the entirely unnecessary Jay-Z addition to "Mundian To Bach Ke."... very cool stuff.

But... to return to the subject at hand. Here's the actual "General Alladeen: The Next Episode," the "rap theme" from the movie. Not work safe, but hilarious. I'm not sure what the lyrics are about... but it's clearly a fitting tribute to the great General Admiral Alladeen and the fact that he has more style than all rappers in the U.S. put together. Although I do have the distinct impression that he might be hogging the weed....

Friday, May 18, 2012

'The Dictator' is like Cohen's apology for 'Bruno'

The Dictator (2012)
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen, Anna Faris, Jason Mantzoukas, Bobby Lee, and Ben Kingsley
Director: Larry Charles
Rating: Eight of Ten Stars

The crazy dictator of a North African nation, Alladeen (Cohen), is thrust from power during a coup attempt while he is visiting New York City. He must rely on the kindness of an all-around Leftist who's never seen a cause she wouldn't protest for or against (Faris), and a scientist he once ordered executed (Mantzoukas) if he is to prevent his corrupt brother (Kingsley) from being democracy to his nation and selling out its oil reserves to China and international oil companies.

After the mostly unfunny and completely gross "Bruno", I had given up on Cohen, writing off as another Tom Green whose talent for comedy had rotted through celebrity. I wasn't going to waste any more time on him.

But when the previews came out for "The Dictator", I found myself laughing. What's more, I found myself curious as to whether the film would compare to Charlie Chaplin's great movie with the same title.

It comes close, but, unlike Chaplin, Cohen pulls his punches when it comes to the targets that Hollywood studio chiefs and Cohen's fellow filmmakers are either too scared of, or too wrapped up in some multicultural fantasy version of reality... the targets that wrap themselves in the cloak of Islam.

In the end, Cohen doesn't quite live up to Chaplin's legacy. He skewers the American political machine and international businesses dead-on, but he dances around the edges of the rot and corruption infesting the other side. Unlike Chaplin, he doesn't have the courage to buck the politics prevalent in the film industry and attack all sides of the most burning and deadly problems in geo-politics.

And it's too bad, because he might as well have attacked all sides equally, because those who sympathize with the unifying factors in the governments and organizations that Cohen treads somewhat gently around--Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Egypt and their proxies like the Taliban, Hamas, Hezbollah, and whatever Muslim Brotherhood-sponsored North African Terrorist Group of the Month hasn't been blown to bits yet--are starting to cry as if he HAD done the right and brave thing. But, unlike Chaplin, Cohen ultimately chickens out.

But that failing aside, this is a very funny movie. I don't think two minutes didn't go by where I wasn't chuckling or outright laughing. From the "Dedicated to the Memory of Kim Jong Il" through the extra footage and bloopers during the end credits, it's non-stop funny.

I feel a big reason this film succeeds where some of Cohen's other films have failed is because Alladeen, the dictator, isn't a total idiot like Bruno and Ali G.; he's just ignorant. And when he starts to realize how ignorant he is, he actually tries to change. A little. He remains the same generally mean-spirited character he was when the film started, but his horizons have been broadened and he has learned from his experiences, something which other Cohen characters have been too stupid to do.

It also helps that Cohen plays nicely off the supporting cast members like Faris and Mantzoukas. When it seems like the burgeoning romance between Alladeen and Zoey is going to fail, viewers actually feel for both of them, which is unexpected in a Cohen film.

Unless you're one of those people who secretly think it's A-OK for governments to oppress and massacre their citizens but too chicken-shit to come out and express your beliefs (and therefore will cry and scream about how this film is "disrespectful to Arabs", despite the fact that Cohen went as far as he could to coddle your sensitivities), you'll find much in this movie to laugh about... it runs the gamut from the lowest of the low humor to borderline sophisticated. It's a lot of fun.

Ernie Chan (aka Ernie Chua) dead at 71

This is the second favorite artist of mine to pass away this month. May is starting to suck.

Ernie Chan is best know to comic book readers as a frequent inker of John Buscema on Marvel's Conan. In fact, Chan's style so meshed with Buscema's that when he drew Conan solo, it was hard to tell that Busceme wasn't there in the background.

Chan (drawing as "Ernie Chua") also produced many, many images that readers of DC Comics in the mid-70s probably remember. Between the years of 1975 and 1977, Chua was DC's main cover artist and he drew hundreds of covers, each one as eye-catching and graphically pleasing as the one before.

Chan retired from comics in 2002, but here is a recent painting he did:

Chan passed away on May 16, 2012.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

A Weird "Night and Day"

A friend Tweeted a link to this video with the comment, "I feel safe to say this is the weirdest thing you've seen all day, possibly all week."

Ha!, I thought. I can out-weird that easily.

But, once I watched, I felt humbled. That WAS the weirdest thing I've seen all week... perhaps even all month. And I'm including in this the bathroom at the Middle of Nowhere gas station in Idaho. I will never think of that classic Frank Sinatra song in the same way ever again.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

The Avengers

I don't have much to say that hasn't already been said just about everywhere else about this film. I won't bother with a full review, but I rate it Nine of Ten Stars.

I will also add this:

1. If you love classic SHIELD, this is the Marvel Movie for you. (Heli-carrier... HELL YEAH!)

2. I appreciated the fact that Samuel L. Jackson actually played Nick Fury instead of just doing Samuel L. Jackson schtick.

3. For those who reading this who play in my "Star Wars" campaign... Black Widow is a good visual for what it looks like when the likes of Shahda, Jenna, Ohna or Bretahl open their respective cans of Mark Four Woop-ass. :)

4. Stay for ALL the credits! There are two tags this time around.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Remembering Osama bin Laden

Honoring the hero of millions of Muslims and zoophiles the world over, on this, the first anniversary of his death.