David Mandel

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The Dictator Review

This may look like a wildly irreverent satire about a North African despot, but it doesn't take long to realise that the filmmakers' target is somewhere else.

And the biting script never pulls its punches, leaping us laughing at the audacity while making a serious point.

Aladeen (Baron Cohen) is the pampered dictator of Wadiya, who travels to New York to tell the UN to stop nosing around his nuclear "energy" plants. But his Uncle Tamir (Kingsley) is plotting to kill him and replace him with a double who will sign a democratic constitution essentially selling the country to oil companies. Aladeen manages to escape, but no one recognises him cleanly shaven, so he teams up with health-food activist Zoey (Faris) and a countryman (Mantzoukas) to get his country back.

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Eurotrip Review

Who would've thought, in this dreary month of studio-dumped product, that true joy could come in the form of Vinnie Jones and a busload of football hooligans barreling down a French highway in the wrong lane with Vinnie screaming, "Piss off! Drive on the right side of the road!" Well, me neither, but nonetheless Eurotrip manages to be that oddly rare quantity these days: the actually enjoyable stupid comedy.

Starring a bunch of nobodies, leavened with a few clever star cameos, and written and directed by guys you've never heard of, Eurotrip wastes no time with the setup and getting its young stars to Europe. Upon graduating from high school, Scotty (Scott Mechlowicz) gets dumped by his girlfriend (Smallville's Kristen Kreuk), who then makes out with the lead singer of the band playing at the graduation party (an oddly-placed Matt Damon, lip-synching a song called "Scotty Doesn't Know"). Simultaneously, Scotty discovers that his German e-mail pen pal, whom he thought was a guy, is actually an extremely hot blonde. Unfortunately, drunk and despondent, he has just told her to stop writing (thinking it was a guy coming on to him). Spiritually devastated, Scotty decides to head across the Atlantic with his friends - requisite crazy guy Cooper (Jacob Pitts), nerd Jamie (Travis Wester), and Jamie's tomboy sister (Michelle Trachtenberg) - to seek the Aryan beauty of his dreams.

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The Cat In The Hat Review

Make a movie about a black cat, and you're just asking to be cursed with a streak of bad luck. Yet even the most hardened cynic will be surprised at how far Universal's The Cat in the Hat strays from the childish antics of Dr. Seuss' original work. Judging from this humorless monstrosity, the Cat team spent 10 years working on their film's decorative appearance and a combined 10 minutes writing sleazy jokes and a catastrophic script that I wouldn't use to line a litter box.

Director Bo Welch and production designer Alex McDowell earn a few points for their visions. Welch perfected his craft on lavishly bizarre features like Edward Scissorhands and Beetlejuice, and McDowell's design work on Cat literally sets Seuss's story free from the page. The gorgeous sets form a pastel feast for the eyes. They're a sight to be seen, yet they're inserted into an unwatchable bomb that shouldn't be seen by anyone.

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