For the bulk of every Rocky and Bullwinkle episode, moose and squirrel would engage in high concept escapades that satirized geopolitics, contemporary cinema, and the very fabrics of the human condition. With all of that to work with, there's no excuse for why the pair and their Soviet nemeses haven't gotten a decent movie adaptation. But the ingenious Mr. Peabody and his faithful boy Sherman are another story, intercut between Rocky and Bullwinkle segments to teach kids brief history lessons and toss in a nearly lethal dose of puns. Their stories and relationship were much simpler, which means that bringing their shtick to the big screen would entail a lot more invention — always risky when you're dealing with precious material.
For the most part, Mr. Peabody & Sherman handles the regeneration of its heroes aptly, allowing for emotionally substance in their unique father-son relationship and all the difficulties inherent therein. The story is no subtle metaphor for the difficulties surrounding gay adoption, with society decreeing that a dog, no matter how hyper-intelligent, cannot be a suitable father. The central plot has Peabody hosting a party for a disapproving child services agent and the parents of a young girl with whom 7-year-old Sherman had a schoolyard spat, all in order to prove himself a suitable dad. Of course, the WABAC comes into play when the tots take it for a spin, forcing Peabody to rush to their rescue.
Getting down to personals, we also see the left brain-heavy Peabody struggle with being father Sherman deserves. The bulk of the emotional marks are hit as we learn just how much Peabody cares for Sherman, and just how hard it has been to accept that his only family is growing up and changing.
But more successful than the new is the film's handling of the old — the material that Peabody and Sherman purists will adore. They travel back in time via the WABAC Machine to Ancient Egypt, the Renaissance, and the Trojan War, and 18th Century France, explaining the cultural backdrop and historical significance of the settings and characters they happen upon, all with that irreverent (but no longer racist) flare that the old cartoons enjoyed. And oh... the puns.
Mr. Peabody & Sherman is a f**king treasure trove of some of the most amazingly bad puns in recent cinema. This effort alone will leave you in awe.
The film does unravel in its final act, bringing the science-fiction of time travel a little too close to the forefront and dropping the ball on a good deal of its emotional groundwork. What seemed to be substantial building blocks do not pay off in the way we might, as scholars of animated family cinema, have anticipated, leaving the movie with an unfinished feeling.
But all in all, it's a bright, compassionate, reasonably educational, and occasionally funny if not altogether worthy tribute to an old favorite. And since we don't have our own WABAC machine to return to a time of regularly scheduled Peabody and Sherman cartoons, this will do okay for now.
If nothing else, it's worth your time for the puns.
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The iconic direcor talked to us about his experience making The Wolf of Wall Street, fighting for creative freedom, and convincing himself he could still take on a film that required so much mental and physical energy to pull off. Read the full interview at Studio System News for more from the legend himself.
Paramount via Everett Collection
We got a chance to speak to Jonah Hill about his two Oscar nominations, for Moneyball and The Wolf of Wall Street, as well as how he won the role of Donnie Azoff in the latter, and two lessons he learned from Martin Scorsese.To read the full interview, read it at Studio System News.
Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
Costume designer Michael O’Connor has been to the Oscars twice, winning for The Duchess in 2009, and again as a nominee for Jane Eyre in 2011. He was recently nominated a third time for his work in The Invisible Woman. In this look into the nominated costume design from the film, we feature four key sketches from O’Connor’s vision and asked him to take us through his process. To read the full story, check it out at Studio System News!
The notion doesn't come up when we're tucked into a movie theater seat watching the latest and greatest big budget blockbuster, but making a movie is an evolutionary process. Take Oblivion, for instance.
The hiring an Oscar-winning screenwriter to take on an original idea is music to the ears of any moviegoer. In the case of Oblivion, director Joseph Kosinski's science fiction pitch, the sound was even sweeter. Rarely does Hollywood take a chance on an original blockbuster, but when William Monahan, Oscar-winner for Martin Scorsese's The Departed, was hired to pen the picture, the gamble made perfect sense.
Monahan signed on to the movie in 2010 when Oblivion was still at Disney. The script would be based off Kosinski's original ideas, first put to print in a graphic novel version of the pitch. Hiring Monahan was a promise: fans would be getting a fresh sci-fi tale from a visionary director, brought to life by a guy with golden proof of his skills.
Like with most films, writing Oblivion didn't stop at Monahan's initial draft. The movie eventually jumped from Disney to Universal, and between 2010 to 2012 when Oblivion began shooting, other writers including Karl Gajdusek (Tresspass) and Michael Ardnt (The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) were brought on to rewrite and polish the work. The real surprise is the crediting in the final film — while many writers who write the first drafts of a movie receive "Written by" credits, even if their work has drastically changed, Monahan's name is nowhere to be found.
Why? Hollywood.com reached out to the writer to see exactly why the movie opted out of including his name. According to Monahan's reps' official statement:
"William Monahan did not seek screen credit on Oblivion. He did one contractual draft two years ago and there have been other writers under Joe's specific direction since then, as well as creative work between Joe and Tom. He regards the picture as Joe's baby, hopes he was of some assistance in realizing a long-standing ambition to bring Oblivion to the screen, and wishes Joe and Tom and Universal all success. He looks very much forward to seeing the picture."
Those who caught Oblivion in theaters likely saw a version that took cues from Monahan's script, but either enough of it was altered or Monahan didn't see enough of his work in the finished film to feel a credit was deserving. Luckily for Kosinski, Oblivion still gets to pack the "Oscar-winning writer" credit: Ardnt picked up an Academy Award in 2007 for his work on Little Miss Sunshine.
Follow Matt Patches on Twitter @misterpatches
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Sorry, everyone, but Tuesday night the only thing you will be allowed to watch on television is the results of the presidential election as they slowly roll in from across this great nation of ours. Yes, that means field reporting, concession speeches, red and blue states on a big old poster behind the anchor desk, and pundits turning red in their faces when the races don't go their way.
Even if you can't tell the difference between Barack Obama and Mitt Romney and a donkey and an elephant fighting over pizza and burritos, you're going to have to watch something. But what? Here are all your major choices, broken down by what to expect and what is the best for you. If you're going to be stuck with journalists, you might as well find some that you like.
Talent: Diane Sawyer, George (copy, paste) Stephanopoulos, Barbara Walters, and Katie Couric
Pros: Sawyer and Stephanopoulos have both actually worked in the White House, so that is some real K Street cred right there. With Walters and Kouric they'll have a nice balance of hard and soft news. Also, they have a lot of female reporters. It's almost as if they had a binder, and it was full of women, and that's who they put on the show.
Cons: Walters and Kouric have devolved into daytime chatterers. They might not be able to deliver the gravitas an occasion like this merits. And seriously, can't we just put Barbara Walters on Social Security already and make her give up a place at the anchor desk? Oh, wait, not if Mitt Romney wins and there is no more Social Security. Never mind.
Watch This If...: You think The View is hard-hitting journalism.
Talent: Scott Pelley, Bob Schieffer, Norah O'Donnell, John Dickerson
Pros: Bob Schieffer moderated one of the debates, so he might have some insights. The network will be using virtual reality models to display the election results. I don't know what that means, but "virtual reality" always sounds like the future.
Cons: What is a Scott Pelley? Who are these people?
Watch This If...: You are old and can't find NCIS.
Talent: Brian Williams, Tom Brokaw, David Gregory, Savannah Guthrie, Andrea Mitchell, Tamron Hall
Pros: Everyone will be reporting from a place called Democracy Plaza, which sounds like what the inside of a voting booth should be like. Either that or a politics-themed restaurant in Times Square. There will be a lot of really deep voices, so your dog won't be able to hear a thing. It's also the only major network to bring back a returning anchor, so thanks, Brokaw. Oh, and have you seen Brian Williams on 30 Rock? He brings the funny.
Cons: Tamron Hall will be reporting from the Rockefeller Center Ice Rink. We are already embarrassed for her. Also, no one likes Savannah Guthrie (especially Ann Curry).
Watch This If...: You want to be like the cast of Girls.
Talent: Bill O'Reilly, Greta Van Susteren, Brit Hume, Chris Wallace, Sarah Palin, Karl Rove
Pros: If Mitt Romney loses, they'll freak out so bad it will look like a million nervous breakdowns at once.They're the only ones to have a former candidate in the newsroom.
Cons: That candidate is Sarah Palin. Also, Karl Rove, a lugey of human phlegm that came to life, will share his evil ways. That could be insightful but is also like making out with Emperor Palpatine. And, just like MSNBC, this broadcast has a political bias. Unlike MSNBC, they're not bothered by those little things called facts.
Watch This If...: You hate truth, liberty, and the American way.
Talent: Wolf Blitzer, Anderson Cooper, Candy Crowley, Erin Burnett, Paul Begala, James Carville, Alex Castellanos, Ari Fleischer, Margaret Hoover, Van Jones, Roland Martin and Ana Navarro. Is there anyone they didn't hire?
Pros: Since it's a news network, you can watch it all darn day so you can get all the sweet political news you need to stay alive. Also, it tries to be fair and balanced, which is nice. You never know when Cooper is going to lapse into a fit of the giggles and Begala and Carville are the funniest talking heads in all of punditville.
Cons: Who wants their news balanced? Tell me what to think, news! I'm stupid and need some opinions. Also, remember last election when Wolf Blitzer talked to a hologram. Yeah, that's gone. I already miss it.
Watch This If...: Like Anderson, you'd rather be watching Real Housewives.
Talent: Rachel Maddow, Chris Matthews, Rev. Al Sharpton, Lawrence O'Donnell, Ed Schultz, Steve Schmidt
Pros: If there was ever a pro, it's Rev. Al Sharpton. If Obama wins, he'll go crazy. If Romney wins, he'll go double crazy. Stay tuned! Also, Matthews will yell and Maddow will say lots of smart and vaguely mean things that are totally right.
Cons: There doesn't seem to be any virtual reality, holograms, reincarnated robots of William Taft, or anything. Where are the bells and whistles?
Watch This If...: You wear glasses.
Pros: Well, it's unfiltered, unbiased coverage of the democratic process.
Cons: That sounds more dry and boring than a dump truck full of Shredded Wheat.
Watch This If...: You hate fun.
Talent: Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert
Pros: Screw taping, these guys are going live! That means the funny is going to be fast, furious, and possibly NSFW (damn those seven-second delays). Also, Colbert's half hour is called Election 2012: A Nation Votes, Ohio Decides; The Re-Presidenting of America: Who Will Replace Obama? ‘012!. Yup, I'd watch that. Oh, and he'll have Andrew Sullivan too.
Cons: Their coverage starts at 11 PM, so you have nothing to watch until then. But, then again, if you have a life outside of watching boring political reporting on TV, then that is actually a pro. They each only get 30 minutes. Boo!
Watch This If...: You think The Onion is real.
Follow Brian Moylan on Twitter @BrianJMoylan
[Photo Credit: Getty Images (2), Comedy Central]
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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Widening the thematic scope without sacrificing too much of the claustrophobia that made the original 1979 Alien universally spooky Prometheus takes the trophy for this summer's most adult-oriented blockbuster entertainment. The movie will leave your mouth agape for its entire runtime first with its majestic exploration of an alien planet and conjectures on the origins of the human race second with its gross-out body horror that leaves no spilled gut to the imagination. Thin characters feel more like pawns in Scott's sci-fi prequel but stunning visuals shocking turns and grand questions more than make up for the shallow ensemble. "Epic" comes in many forms. Prometheus sports all of them.
Based on their discovery of a series of cave drawings all sharing a similar painted design Elizabeth (Noomi Rapace) and Charlie (Logan Marshall-Green) are recruited by Weyland to head a mission to another planet one they believe holds the answers to the creation of life on Earth. Along for the journey are Vickers (Charlize Theron) the ruthless Weyland proxy Janek (Idris Elba) a blue collar captain a slew of faceless scientists and David (Michael Fassbender) HAL 9000-esque resident android who awakens the crew of spaceship Prometheus when they arrive to their destination. Immediately upon descent there's a discovery: a giant mound that's anything but natural. The crew immediately prepares to scope out the scene zipping up high-tech spacesuits jumping in futuristic humvees and heading out to the site. What they discover are the awe-inspiring creations of another race. What they bring back to the ship is what they realize may kill their own.
The first half of Prometheus could be easily mistaken for Steven Spielberg's Alien a sense of wonder glowing from every frame not too unlike Close Encounters. Scott takes full advantage of his fictional settings and imbues them with a reality that makes them even more tantalizing. He shoots the vistas of space and the alien planet like National Geographic porn and savors the interior moments on board the Prometheus full of hologram maps sleeping pods and do-it-yourself surgery modules with the same attention. Prometheus is beautiful shot in immersive 3D that never dampers Dariusz Wolski's sharp photography. Scott's direction seems less interested in the run-or-die scenario set up in the latter half of the film but the film maintains tension and mood from beginning to end. It all just gets a bit…bloodier.
Jon Spaihts' and Damon Lindelof's script doesn't do the performers any favors shuffling them to and fro between the ship and the alien construction without much room for development. Reveals are shoehorned in without much setup (one involving Theron's Vickers that's shockingly mishandled) but for the most part the ensemble is ready to chomp into the script's bigger picture conceits. Rapace is a physical performer capable of pulling off a grisly scene involving an alien some sharp objects and a painful procedure (sure to be the scene of the blockbuster season. Among the rest of the crew Fassbender's David stands out as the film's revelatory performance delivering a digestible ambiguity to his mechanical man that playfully toys with expectations from his first entrance. The creature effects in Prometheus will wow you but even Fassbender's smallest gesture can send the mind spinning. The power of his smile packs more of a punch than any facehugger.
Much like Lindelof's Lost Prometheus aims to explore the idea of asking questions and seeking answers and on Scott's scale it's a tremendous unexpected ride. A few ideas introduced to spur action fall to the way side in the logic department but with a clear mission and end point Prometheus works as a sweeping sci-fi that doesn't require choppy editing or endless explosions to keep us on the edge of our seats. Prometheus isn't too far off from the Alien xenomorphs: born from existing DNA of another creature the movie breaks out as its own beast. And it's wilder than ever.
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
There's probably still someone somewhere that would fall for one of Sacha Baron Cohen's weird and wooly scenarios but let's face the facts: the days when Ali G. could snag an interview with Pat Buchanan or Gore Vidal are long gone. 2009's Bruno definitely let some steam out of Borat's tires not to mention the ensuing lawsuits. But it's refreshing to see Cohen and his Borat/Bruno cohort director Larry Charles flex their muscles in the fictional universe of The Dictator a vehicle that doesn't skimp on their signature cringe-worthy humor.
The world of The Dictator gives them the leeway to create crazy spectacles — at one point Cohen's General Aladeen rides down Fifth Avenue on a camel surrounded by a giant motorcade. Having a plot helps too; although part of the genius of Sacha Baron Cohen's schtick is how the viewer is made culpable by proxy by our amusement and horror at how he tricks and torments people who aren't in on the joke The Dictator continues the self-reflexive satirical bite. We're certainly not off the hook. Aladeen says and does truly outrageous things but they're also exaggerations of the world we live in. It might be a stretch to call Sacha Baron Cohen the British Lenny Bruce or George Carlin in a face merkin but rest assured that no topic is off limits. If you are offended by jokes about abortion rape feminists body hair race religion politics STDs war crimes ethnic cleansing necrophilia and/or bestiality don't even bother. However if you like the kind of comedy that makes you hide your face in your hands feeling like each laugh is being pried from you against your will you're in business.
Cohen eats up the screen as both General Aladeen and his incredibly dumb body double; the latter prefers the intimate company of one of his goats to a human while the former is a fairly stupid ruthless dictator whose own people are so disloyal to him that they actually ignore his commands to execute people. (He really likes to execute people.) When he arrives in New York City to attend a summit at the UN his uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley) has the two switched so he can easily manipulate the "General" into signing a treaty to make Wadiya a democracy and reap the financial benefits. Aladeen finds refuge with Zoe a hairy-pitted activist who thinks he's a political dissident and is excited to be able to give him a safe haven in her touchy-feely Brooklyn grocery co-op. Instead of being typecast as another blonde dummy Anna Faris is finally given room to play as the wide-eyed naïf who takes Aladeen's very serious statements as jokes or simple miscommunications. She's a great foil to Baron Cohen who is easily half a foot taller than she is and has a wolfish grin. Their banter is often the most politically incorrect of the bunch but also the funniest.
Alas the plot. It's a bare bones situation to get a very broad character from A to B. Aladeen is obviously an outlandish mishmash of modern dictators; he spouts racist misogynist rhetoric endlessly and after a while...yeah we get it. However like all of Sacha Baron Cohen's humor The Dictator also takes a direct shot at Western countries (specifically the United States) which would be all fine and dandy if he didn't wedge an expository speech in about it as well. The problem with making a traditional narrative movie is that with some exceptions you've got to play within the guidelines. The Dictator isn't trying to do anything fancy; all it needs a few big beats and a neat ending to wrap it all up. It doesn't quite manage to tie it all together in a way that makes The Dictator more than an hour and a half or so of laughing and cringing.
Besides Faris and Kingsley there are a number of cameos by a very wide variety of comics and actors. Megan Fox plays herself Kevin Corrigan appears as a creepy dude who works at the co-op John C. Reilly is a racist security guard and Fred Armisen runs an anti-Aladeen café in New York's Little Wadiya district. The very funny Jason Mantzoukas has a large role as Nadal the former head of rocket science who was supposedly executed for not making Aladeen's nuclear warhead pointy. It's a good ensemble and hopefully Sacha Baron Cohen's next feature-length film will build on The Dictator's weaknesses.