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HTF BLU-RAY REVIEW: Bruno
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Posted November 10 2009 - 07:29 PM
Film Year: 2009
Film Length: 1 hour 22 mins
Genre: Comedy/Reality Satire
Aspect Ratio: 1.85:1
BD Resolution: 1080p
BD Video Codec: AVC
English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1
English DVS Dolby Digital 2.0
Spanish DTS 5.1
French DTS 5.1
Subtitles: English SDH, French, Spanish
Film Rating: R (Strong and Crude Sexual Content, Graphic Nudity and Language, Punking)
Release Date: November 17, 2009
Starring: Sacha Baron Cohen and Gustaf Hammarsten
Based on the Character Created by: Sacha Baron Cohen
Directed by: Larry Charles
Film Rating: 2/5
brϋno is the third and final film to be based on characters from Sacha Baron Cohen’s popular HBO series D Ali G Show. For this final go-round, we spend just over 80 minutes with Cohen’s flamboyant German fashion showman, whose over-the-top manner usually results in his interview subjects literally running from the cameras. The film presents a story of sorts for Bruno, in which he is effectively blacklisted from Europe (after an admittedly hilarious bit where he literally crashes a Milan fashion show with a Velcro outfit and great slapstick timing) and seeks fame and fortune in the U.S. and anywhere else he can find it. His search for fame and love is expressed in a series of vignettes, most of which confront various on-camera celebrities and the audience with his overt sexuality, and range from an attempt to sell a new TV series to an appearance as an extra on Medium to an attempt to broker peace in the Middle East to an attempt to enlist in the National Guard in Alabama. The centerpiece of the film is Bruno’s attempt to conduct interviews in an unfurnished Hollywood house by using his gardeners as human furniture – with one naked man wheeled out dressed only in a garnish of sushi.
The results really depend on your sense of humor and whether you’re a fan of Cohen’s brand of “Candid Camera” confrontation. I know some people who find him to be hysterical, including my father. For myself, I find his brand of humor laced with a mean streak that renders it unpalatable. In his on-camera commentary with director Larry Charles, Cohen discusses his staged interactions with people as based on the psychological experiments of Stanley Milgrom. (For the uninitiated, Milgrom ran an infamous series of tests on people to see how far they would go in blindly following orders to administer electric shocks. The shocks weren’t real, but the test subjects didn’t know this – and many of them were apparently capable of issuing lethal punishment if they thought they were just following their instructions.) For Cohen in his various guises, as Ali G, as Borat, or here as Bruno, his on-camera scenarios usually involve celebrities or regular people being confronted with an offensive scenario to see how they will react. In many cases, they try to go along with the situation just as Milgrom’s subjects did. (In one particularly scary case here, several mothers are clearly prepared to allow Cohen to take photos of their infant children in a crucifixion tableau.) In other cases, his subjects become hostile or simply end the situation. (Paula Abdul bows out of the “human furniture” scene as soon as the naked guy with the sushi is rolled out, and Ron Paul ends his “interview” once he realizes he’s being set up for some kind of sexual display.) Some people will no doubt enjoy all of this. I simply couldn’t get much pleasure from the film, aside from a few moments of outright slapstick, like the aforementioned Velcro scenario. (I also note that many of the scenarios shown in the film are clearly staged, and are not the raw video that they appear to be. The Medium shoot, for example, has been shown to have been a setup involving the producers, cast and crew heads of the series. The National Guard scenario is an impossible one, given that Cohen is showing us video footage of himself in the barracks with his drill sergeant, something he could not actually do if he were really in boot camp.)
brϋno is being released on Blu-ray next week, with a high definition transfer in picture and sound, a bookmarking function and BD-Live access (including new “Pocket Blu” applications), an on-camera U-Control commentary with Cohen and Larry Charles, over an hour of deleted or extended material, and a quick interview with Lloyd Robinson, the real agent featured in the film.
VIDEO QUALITY 3/5
brϋno is presented in a 1080p AVC 1.85:1 transfer that reflects the various cameras used to record the scenarios and locations. Some scenes are quite sharp and detailed, and others are a lot murkier. This feels accurate to what Cohen and director Larry Charles had in mind for the look of the film, so the transfer is a solid one. I should note that I am watching the film on a 40” Sony XBR2 HDTV. If anyone is watching the film on a larger monitor and is having issues, please post them on this thread.
AUDIO QUALITY 3/5
brϋno is presented in an English DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix in English, as well as standard DTS mixes in Spanish and French. As should be expected, the mix mostly lives in the front channels, for the dialogue between Bruno and his various interview subjects. The subwoofer and the surrounds come to life as the thumping bass of the techno soundtrack fills various transitions.
SPECIAL FEATURES 3/5
The Blu-Ray presentation of brϋno comes with an on-screen U-Control commentary with the Cohen and Larry Charles, along with over an hour of deleted material and a quick interview with Bruno’s unsuspecting agent. There is also some enhanced BD-Live functionality and the “My Scenes” bookmarking feature.
Enhanced Feature Commentary with Sacha Baron Cohen and Larry Charles – This scene-specific commentary with Cohen and Charles is actually quite informative, in that it allows them to explain their opinions about what was really happening during the various shoots. Their description of the Milan photo shoot has a lot of colorful details, including Cohen’s arrest by local gendarmes that should raise some eyebrows. As the commentary is conducted under the “U-Control” function, they are able to actually stop the film at various points so they can take a bit longer to discuss what we are seeing, and even show on-set video to help with the discussion. At the same time, I am forced to point out that their comments cannot be relied upon in all cases. Their discussion of the Medium scenario asserts that the only person aware of what was really happening was an exec at NBC Universal. This is false. In fact, Cohen’s appearance at the series was carefully planned, with a special courtroom scene written to allow him to appear as a juror, and with everyone appearing on camera in the segment having signed papers to do so. Even Miguel Sandoval’s on-camera frustration with having to repeat his monologue over and over again is a bit of hamminess by Sandoval, who was having fun playing straight man to Cohen. Granted that, this commentary is a lot of fun to watch – just don’t believe everything you see or hear.
Alternate Scenes (1080p, 5:42) – A pair of alternate scenes are presented here, including the “human furniture” situation as endured by Pete Rose, and the Ron Paul scenario as thrown at John Bolton and Tom Ridge.
Deleted Scenes (1080p, 40:45) – These scenes include the “human furniture” situation as done with LaToya Jackson and a longer interview with fashion model Heather Hahn. (Hahn’s interview is possibly one of the funniest bits in the movie, and it’s a shame the additional material here wasn’t included in the original release.) An exclusive deleted scene for the Blu-ray release adds more footage to Bruno’s exploits in the Middle East.
Extended Scenes (1080p, 22:39) – Several extended versions of scenes from the theatrical release are included here, starting with an agonizing bit where Bruno first works with real Hollywood agent Lloyd Robinson. An extension of the National Guard sequence is included as a Blu-ray exclusive.
An Interview with Hollywood Agent Lloyd Robinson (1080p, 5:32) – This brief interview with Robinson has the agent admitting he had no idea that Bruno was a fictional character when he was filmed for the movie. He’s a good sport about the situation, which isn’t surprising, since at the least, the film could provide him with some free publicity.
BD-Live - This Blu-ray includes access to Universal’s BD-Live online site, allowing for the viewing of trailers online. There is also some new added functionality, including a “Pocket Blu” application for use with an iPhone or iPod Touch.
Subtitles are available for the film and the special features. A full chapter menu is available for the film. The Blu-ray menus also include the “My Scenes” bookmarking feature and a BD-Live User Guide. As an added bit of fun, the menus are primarily done in German, with an English translation shown to the right of each item. When the disc is first put in the player, the viewer is given the option to choose between the enhanced commentary or just a straight movie presentation.
IN THE END...
brϋno is definitely not for everyone. Fans of Sacha Baron Cohen will likely want to get this to complete their triptych of full-length examinations of his characters. More casual viewers may not want to go on this ride, though. People that like this kind of thing will have a great time, but anyone of a different taste should think carefully before spending the time in this world.