The Dictator

   Director: Larry Charles, Paramount Pictures, Rated MA, 84 mins

Unlike his previous personifications as Ali G, Borat and Bruno, Sacha Baron Cohen portrays a diabolical dictator of the fictional African nation of Wadiya where his every word is supreme.
   As the ruthless Admiral General Aladeen (Cohen) with his characteristic black beard covering most of his face, he executes anyone disagreeing with him by using his signature “head chop” signal.
   To demonstrate his point, Larry Charles (the director of Cohen’s other movies) depicts Aladeen staging his own version of the Olympics and being awarded all the gold medals, even showing him winning his race after shooting all his competitors.
The Dictator
   After declaring that he has weapons of mass destruction Aladeen is summoned to the United Nations (UN) to address the world body.
   On his arrival in New York, Aladeen is seen seated on a camel, in full military uniform with medals pinned all over his person and flanked by a number of attractive female soldiers, oblivious to the plot being hatched by his uncle Tamir (Ben Kingsley - Hugo) to have him replaced by a dumb double named Efawadh (Cohen).
   Having escaped from his would-be assassins and disposed of his beard, Aladeen meets and falls for the protester Zoey (Anna Faris - Yogi Bear) who employs him in her shop that provides a unique catering service to the UN - unaware that she is a fervent human rights advocate.
   Zoey ultimately plays a pivotal role in Aladeen regaining his dictator position as well as contributing to him adopting a more compassionate and democratic approach in his nation.
   Unlike most of his shocking roles in other movies, Cohen has taken on a comedic role, portraying himself as a ludicrous dictator who changes after his encounter with Zoey.
   Despite some racist and sexist overtones, including a couple of unpalatable scenes, The Dictator is certainly entertaining and funny, containing plenty of laughs and great settings that should make this movie Cohen’s best effort to date.
VIC'S VERDICT:         3 ½ Rubber Stamps

Bel Ami

   Director: Declan Donnellan & Nick Ormerod, Hopscotch Films, Rated MA, 102 mins

After featuring in the penultimate Twilight Saga movie, Breaking Dawn Part 1 Robert Pattinson heads the cast in another romantic drama where he plays a former French soldier George Duroy, intent on making his mark in French society by manipulating and seducing three of the most influential and wealthy women - Madeleine (Uma Thurman - Kill Bill Vol 1 and 2), Clotilde (Christina Ricci - After.Life) and Virginie (Kristin Scott Thomas - Salmon Fishing in the Yemen).
Bel Ami
   Beautifully filmed by first time directors Declan Donnellan and Nick Ormerod (formerly involved in producing plays), and based on Guy de Maupassant’s saucy 1885 novel, the movie opens with an impoverished Duroy (Pattinson) coming across a former army colleague, Charles Forestier (Philip Glenister - Kingdom of Heaven) who subsequently invites him home for dinner where he meets Charles’ wife Madeleine, as well as Clotilde and Virginie.
   After initially being rejected by Madeleine, George agrees to work as a journalist at Charles’ newspaper, beginning an extra-marital affair with Clotilde until Charles’ sudden death when he decides to marry Madeleine - his first big step up the social ladder.
   The marriage crumbles once George learns of Madeleine’s affair with an elderly but wealthy Frenchman who leaves her a large inheritance.
   Unfazed, George rekindles his affair with Clotilde, at the same time as commencing one with the older Virginie but drops her for her young daughter who he ends up marrying much to the displeasure of Virginie and her husband.
   Both directors have successfully recreated the settings envisaged in de Maupassant’s classic novel of 19thcentury Paris through some lavish costumes and designs as well as assembling a great cast, especially of leading female actors - except for Pattinson who unfortunately is miscast, adopting his brooding Twilight persona that really does not fit the Duroy character of a gigolo.
   As a period drama filled with political intrigue the movieappears to spend more time on Duroy’s dalliances than developing a more interesting storyline.

VIC'S VERDICT:         2 ½ Rubber Stamps

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