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Borat vs. Brüno: Ali Da Movies Of Sacha Baron Cohen

Sacha Baron Cohen, Sasha, Borat, Bruno, Ali GAfter seeing Brüno, me figured it was a good time to re-watch the two other movies spawned by Da Ali G Show, Sacha Baron Cohen’s cult TV classic. On Da Ali G Show, Baron Cohen established three distinct and hilarious (although not equally) characters, each of which has become the basis for a full-length film: Ali G, a wannabe white rapper who puts the ill in ill-informed; Borat Sagdiyev, a clueless Kazakhstani television reporter; and Brüno, a gay, self-absorbed fashionista.

On Da Ali G Show, the road to laughs was simple. They put each of Baron Cohen’s characters into interview situations with real people, who definitely aren’t in on the joke. Comedy ensues as Baron Cohen’s characters ask outrageous questions and violate social taboos, while getting the interviewees to reveal their own ignorance and predjudices. The results have been at times brilliant, crude, and often fearless. And understandably, not everyone’s cup of tea.

Baron Cohen deserves a lot of credit for melting into each character (when he’s Brüno, you forget he’s Borat, and vice versa) and his ability to stay in character and milk the comedy from whatever outrageous situation he’s created. By the way, if you think that’s easy, try and watch without saying (or thinking), “Oh my God, I can’t believe they’re doing this!” They are. And I suspect that even after the cameras are off, Baron Cohen still doesn’t let those people in on the joke.

One thing you have to remember if you want to try and rank Sacha Baron Cohen’s Ali G  movies is the effect they had on you the first time you saw them. That “Oh My God” factor has to be accounted for. It’s a different experience once you know what’s coming. So here we go, it’s the Sacha Baron Cohen countdown:

3 – Ali G Indahouse (2002) – This was the first of Da Ali G Show characters to be made into a feature. It went straight to DVD, and deservably so. On this one, they made a major swerve from their formula. It’s an entirely scripted story, as opposed to the unscripted tactics of the TV show (and the basis for the two other films). So what you get is one of those “vehicles” where they try and shoehorn an established character into an awkward movie. In that respect, it might as well be Weird Al Yankovic in UHF, or Mr. T in DC Cab. It makes no difference that Baron Cohen co-wrote the script. The movie simply tries too hard. Ali G was always the least interesting character from the original show. D

2 – Brüno (2009) – It was the number one movie at the box office this last weekend, and deserveably so. Crude, vulgar, uncomfortable (a ri-dong-ulous amount of full-frontal male nudity), and funny! Ten times more outrageous than Borat. I’m not surprised by that. In a way, you have to top yourself if you’re Baron Cohen. Even with the thinnest of plots (Brüno searches for a way to become “uber-famous”), this movie finishes stronger than Borat. My original fear was that I’d only like this movie about 60% as much as Borat. I’m not sure where I got my formula for that. But I liked this one a lot–and more and more as I think back on it. B

1 – Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006) – Still my favorite Baron Cohen movie. I watched it for the umpteenth time yesterday. Yes, it’s been surpassed by Brüno on the raunchiness. But I still laughed my ass off watching two grown men–one of them very fat–wrestle each other naked, then chase each other nude through a hotel and into a packed convention ballroom. It’s even funnier because this stuff really happened. Everyone involved signs release forms ahead of time without knowing what to expect once filming begins. It’s said that the police were called no less than 91 times during the making of Borat. The thing Borat has over Brüno is heart. You root for this guy. He’s likeable. Which is saying something of a character who’s both misogynistic and anti-Semitic. A

Finally, if you enjoy any of the above, check out Da Ali G Show, which aired on HBO in the U.S. Both seasons are available on DVD.

Greg Valentine
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New Transformers Ready For ‘Prime’ Time?

optimusSaw Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen last night. I enjoyed the first film, and was ‘optimistically primed’ for this one. I should say I’m far from a ‘Transformer’ expert. So this isn’t so much a review. Just a few random thoughts.

  • If you watch most of your TV shows on DVR like I do, then you know this phenomenon: fast forwarding through commercials, keeping the button pressed a half second too long, going back to regular speed and letting the show continue, even though you’ve just skipped over a part of a scene. Every Michael Bay movie reminds me of this. Michael Bay doesn’t have time to tell a story. More like, he suggests a story and leaves the rest up to us.
  • IMAX is my favorite format for the big action movies. As long as you’re not sitting in the second row. Those were the only seats we could find at the sold out 11pm showing. When you’re that close, you literally can’t take in the whole screen with your eyes. At best, I saw two-thirds of this movie.
  • If you decide to see this movie at 11pm on a school night, you’ll probably agree it’s a skosh too long.
  • They had one of those Camaro’s parked outside the theater. That’s a sweet ride! Speaking of sweet rides…
  • Apparantly, I know more about girls than Transformers. There’s a big cheer when Megan Fox makes her first appearance on screen. That I get. Later during some of the battles, I don’t always know which Transformer is which enough to start clapping when the rest of the audience does. Every Transformer should have it’s own exclusive color (like the ‘yellow one’) so idiots like me can follow.
  • There’s more comedy in this one than the first movie. Some people will like that. My guess is some ‘purists’ will probably grumble that big metallic beings from another planet who can fly through space and change shapes who also have senses of humor is sooooo unrealistic.
  • The special effects are amazing. The explosions are awesome. The cars and trucks are downright sexy. The trademark Michael Bay slo-mo? A way to guarantee you leave the theater 20 minutes later than you could have.

Verdict? Impossible to make one based on my experience last night. Yes, I will see it again. Hopefully not so close to the screen that I feel like I’m inside John Turturro’s nose! Plus, there’s at least a third of the flick that will be new to me.

Greg Valentine
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