Movies out today: Despots, rock stars, cults and dysfunctional parents

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Hooray! After a dud few weeks we’re back to being spoiled for choice when it comes to high profile new cinema releases.

The Dictator:
My personal pick of the movie debuts is the latest politically incorrect comedy from love-him-or-hate-him satirist Sacha Baron Cohen. This time the Ali G, Borat and Bruno star plays an eccentric Middle Eastern dictator forced to hide out as an ordinary citizen in New York after a kidnapping attempt. Hippie activist Anna Faris takes him under her wing. Also with Ben Kingsley and John C Reilly.

Baron Cohen films are never for the faint-hearted, so if you like harmless, kid-friendly giggles you’re better off watching Mad Buddies. With an aggregated Rotten Tomatoes rating of 58% Fresh, outrageous The Dictator is apparently very hit and miss. When the film is on form though it’s mercilessly brilliant, as these praise-filled quotes from prominent reviewers and publications suggest.

Rock of Ages:
Whoo hoo! It’s Guitar Hero: The Movie! Alright, not quite… but this big screen adaptation of the hit jukebox musical is certainly packed full of poofy-haired 80s rock classics. From the director of Hairspray comes this tale of aspiring musical performers (Diego Boneta, Julianne Hough) who meet in 1987 while working at a club on Hollywood’s notorious Sunset Strip. There’s trouble in paradise though when a politician’s wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones) tries to shut down the Strip, while the likes of Alec Baldwin, Russell Brand and rock idol Stacee Jaxx (Tom Cruise) try to defend their free-spirited lifestyle.

With a soundtrack that includes the music of Def Leppard, Poison, Guns N’ Roses, etc, Rock of Ages is likely to a be a musical that song-and-dance resistant guys can enjoy. Just don’t expect realism or depth. The film is purely exuberant, superficial silliness wrapped around a predictable plot.

Sound of My Voice:
Showing in select Ster Kinekor cinemas is this acclaimed psychological thriller with sci-fi overtones. A couple of investigative journalists (Christopher Denham, Nicole Vicius) penetrate a suburban cult, only to find themselves sucked in by the charismatic cult leader (Brit Marling) – who claims to come from the future. You can watch the first 12 minutes of the film on the official site here.

By the sound of things, Sound of My Voice sticks to the indie tendency of leaving things ambiguous and unexplained – which will likely grate some cinemagoers. This said, if you can handle a movie that leaves you with more questions than answers, it’s an eerie, intelligent and mesmerizing examination of cults and their power over the individual.

Friends with Kids:
Also screening in limited release is this ensemble comedy about a group of friends (a good chunk of whom appeared in Bridesmaids) who find their lives upended by parenthood. When the last 2 singles in the group decided to have a child together – despite not being in a relationship – their unusual experiment impacts on everyone in their social circle. With Adam Scott, Jennifer Westfeldt, Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph, Chris O’Dowd, Edward Burns and Megan Fox.

Indie effort Friends with Kids is apparently smart, raunchy and touching for the most part, before finally giving in to romcom cliche. Probably still a decent alternative to glossy What to Expect When You’re Expecting though.

Last Updated: July 6, 2012

Noelle Adams

Sometime Tomb Raider. Full-time Pop Culture fanatic and Geekaissance Woman. Most often spotted outputting Pop Culture opinion pieces, writing fanfic and original genre fare, cosplaying and bringing the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu smackdown. Editor of the Comics and Toys section.

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