Thursday, 9 July 2009

Brüno (2009)

In 2006 Sacha Baron Cohen introduced the world to Borat, a reporter from Kazakhstan who shocked the USA when traveling around and looking for Pamela to make her his wife. The "semi-documentary" style movie gained Cohen an Oscar-nomination for Adapted Screenplay and many considered Borat the best comedy of the year.

This year Cohen brings his third character, a gay Austrian fashionista named Brüno, to the big screen. This time however it is not as easy to make the movie as documentary in style because Cohen's face is so well known all over that it's hard to fool people.

In Austria Brüno runs his own tv-show called Funkyzeit, but when he creates a disaster in the Milan fashion week, he gets fired and even his boyfriend dumps him. Deeply hurt Brüno decides to move to L.A. and become a celebrity there. His assistant Lutz (Gustaf Hammarsten) is the only one who has faith in him, and comes along.

In L.A. Brüno finds out it is not easy to become a celebrity, especially with his style - stereotypic gay guy who is not afraid to show a talking penis in his tv-show. Lessons are learned though, and as people become famous for their charity work, Brüno decides to bring peace to Middle-East. When even that does not work, he adopts a baby from Africa. And when even *that* does not work, he decides that to become a celebrity, one must turn heterosexual, like "Tom Cruise did".

Brüno is one of the funniest comedies this year. It is one of those that really make you laugh out loud. But it is not a movie to everyone as it's goal is clearly to shock conservative people. The story flows in a similar manner as does the story of Borat - Brüno travels around, meets real people and makes his moves to shock, irritate and question people, their openness and morals. This includes meeting a preacher who turns homosexuals to heterosexuals, a couple of PR-blondes, a bunch of hunters and a talk show audience.

Some parts are clearly staged but most of the movie is still hilarious, and especially the final scene in the wrestling ring made me cry out of laughter. And it is not just Cohen who makes the audience laugh, it is also the counter shame that one feels for the people who meet Brüno, who has totally no limits.

But despite its controversial theme, is Brüno himself homophobic? The stereotypic gay and the extreme sex scenes may be translated as homophobic as well.

Final verdict: Extremely funny and controversial comedy of a gay Austrian fashionista by Sacha Baron Cohen. Brings up the prejudices many people have against gay people and shocks with the open sexuality.

Directed by Larry Charles
Written by Sacha Baron Cohen, Anthony Hines
Cast Sacha Baron Cohen, Gustaf Hammarsten

by Paivi

Wednesday, 8 July 2009

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (2009)

Directed by David Yates
Written by Steve Kloves, based on J.K. Rowling's novel
Cast Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson, Rupert Grint, Tom Felton, Michael Gambon, Alan Rickman, Jim Broadbent, Bonnie Wright, Helena Bonham Carter


Reviewed by Paivi

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince, the sixth installation of the Potter -series is a story of Harry's (Daniel Radcliffe) sixth Hogwarts wizard school year. The evil lord Voldemort has gained more and more strength and his impact has reached even the muggle world - bridges are collapsing and people are dying because of the work done by his Death Eaters. This affects also the wizarding school and the school is covered by extra protective spells to prevent the evil from coming inside the school grounds. However, even the best is not always enough, the evil has its ways, and this leads to events that make Harry once again lose someone important to him.

Voldemort and his Death Eaters are not the only pain the students in Hogwarts face. They are growing up and it is no less than sex that causes them trouble and heartache.

Hogwarts school gets a new Potions teacher, professor Slughorn (Jim Broadbent) and former Potions master, professor Snape (Alan Rickman) gets to teach the Defence against the Dark Arts (it's a pity all of the actual classes have been cut of the movie). Slughorn is not asked to Hogwarts by professor Dumbledore (Michael Gambon) without a reason, but he holds a secret Harry must find out, as this secret may help in destroying lord Voldemort.

Finally - professor Dumbledore takes Harry along with him in the action. The headmaster gives Harry a lot of new information on Voldemort and together they continue discovering the Evil Lords secrets in their attempt of destroying him once and for all.

Half-Blood Prince continues the Potter-saga in a very similar fashion as the couple of previous movies have done - it leaves most of the book's complex plotlines out. This is good in a way that it is impossible to squeeze everything from those enormous novels into a bit over 2-hour-movie. But even though something has been gained, something is also lost in this process, and Half-Blood Prince feels a bit hollow, as if it was made without a heart totally involved. The biggest flaw is probably the fact that even though the name of the movie is Half-Blood Prince, the mystery around the Prince is totally left out and the discovery of the Prince in the final scene seems almost corny.

The pains and sorrows of growing up are very prominent in the movie, so much it made me ask were they really that important? That so many scenes were included in the movie in the expense of the actual Harry-Voldemort -story? I would have preferred a deeper digging into the storyline that really matters, and leave the love life of the young ones less visible - after all it is not that much visible in the original story either.

The main trio of the saga have really grown up, but they still fit into their roles as before. Emma Watson (Hermione Granger) has grown up to be a total stunner and Rupert Grint's (Ron Weasley) talent as a comedian has strengthened on. Radcliffe has always had a bit stiff style of acting, and he continues the same way. Tom Felton (Harry's arch enemy Draco Malfoy) however looks perfectly like his father's son in his suit. Rickman as Snape and Gambon as Dumbledore are brilliant as always. It is wonderful to see these classic actors work so well in a movie targeted to young audiences.

Half-Blood Prince offers the fans of the saga a nice and working piece of magic and action, but don't expect to see a masterpiece.