Friday Movie Roundup: Borat Is Back Edition

Jan 21, 2011 at 1:53 pm

It's kind of hard to evaluate this week's opening films when none of them were screened in advance for critics — or at least none of them were screened locally, a trend that's always more prevalent this time of year.

Surprisingly, early word on No Strings Attached — Ivan Reitman's sexually liberated romantic comedy featuring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher — is strong.—-

Elsewhere, Julie Taymor's take on Shakespeare's The Tempest and veteran filmmaker Peter Weir's long-awaited return — his last film, Master and Commander, appeared seven long years ago — to the scene, The Way Back, sneak into local theaters this week.

Finally, a bit of movie news: Paramount Pictures announced yesterday that Sacha Baron Cohen's next satirical comedy, The Dictator, will open worldwide on May 11, 2012. That's 2012, not 2011.

Cohen will again be joined by Borat and Bruno director Larry Charles to tell “the heroic story of a dictator who risked his life to ensure that democracy would never come to the country he so lovingly oppressed.”

Sound familiar? It should — The Dictator is inspired by the best-selling novel Zabibah and The King, which was supposedly authored by Saddam Hussein but which was probably ghost-written by those with ties to the former Iraqi dictator. (Kind of like anything supposedly written by Sarah Palin.)

Scott Rudin, perhaps the best producer in Hollywood right now (The Social Network, True Grit), is also on board for what will presumably be Cohen's first film to not rely on fooling his largely unwitting costars via his often genius gift for Andy Kaufman-esque performance art.

Opening films:

NO STRINGS ATTACHED — This thing's red band trailer — in opposition to its sanitized theatrical version — brings to mind a sexed-up late-night B-movie romp (complete with B-movie-chops-yet-somehow-still-a-multiplex-leading-man Ashton Kutcher) spruced up by the presence of an A-list star like Natalie Portman (who's likely to take home an Oscar in late March) and glossy, high-budget production values. The cast also includes indie darlings Greta Gerwig and Olivia Thirlby, as well as Kevin Kline. Even more curious is the presence of Ivan Reitman, a veteran director (Ghostbusters, Kindergarten Cop) who's better known these days as a busy producer and the father of filmmaker Jason Reitman (Up in the Air) than the guy who started his career with Meatballs and Stripes. (Opens wide today.) — Jason Gargano (Rated R.) Review coming soon.

THE TEMPEST — I couldn't resist quoting the first sentence of Leslie Felperin's review for Variety, which I reference in part because the film's distributor failed to screen it here in advance: “As if it were not disappointing enough to produce an intellectually undernourished version of Shakespeare's late romance, helmer Julie Taymor has gone one better by crafting a Tempest so kitschy, yet curiously drab and banal, that even supporters may hope she'll break her staff and drown her book.” OK, then. The cast includes Helen Mirren, Felicity Jones, Djimon Hounsou, Ben Wishaw, David Strathairn, Alan Cumming, Chris Cooper and Russell Brand. (Opens today at Mariemont Theatre.) — JG (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.

THE WAY BACK — Veteran director Peter Weir (Dead Poet's Society, The Truman Show, Master and Commander) returns after a seven-year absence with this true-life, World War II-era story of four POWs who escape a Siberian gulag and walk 4,000 miles to freedom in India. The cast includes Jim Sturgess, Ed Harris, Colin Farrell and Saoirse Ronan. (Opens today at Kenwood Theatre.) — JG (Rated PG-13.) Review coming soon.