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Review Roundup: Bruno, Last House on the Left, Crank 2

The second of a two-part segment as promised. I gave a thumbs up, thumbs down, and thumbs in the middle between these 3 movies. Lam Test: without reading further, can you guess what got what?

Bruno

I was pretty disappointed with this movie. I loved the Bruno character in the Ali G tv show. Back in second year university, me and my roommate would play random episodes of the show and friends would congregate to our room to watch the antics of all his characters. I had high hopes with this movie, as I loved Borat and was hoping this movie would achieve similar levels of laugh-out-loudness. It had good moments, but they just weren't as sustaining.

There's not much of a story. It's basically Sascha Baron Cohen playing his gay character trying to become more famous in the US. He has some pretty funny scenes with Ron Paul (or Ru Paul so he thinks) and Paula Abdul. I think the funniest moment for me was a scene where he tried to be a straight guy while at a swingers party. One of the attenders was "dealing" with his subject, while Bruno stared at him and requested that the gentleman look into his eyes. LOL.

I think what detracted me from this movie was the number of scenes that were scripted. In Borat, his interactions with the common folk were what made the movie so great. It could be that Borat had as many scripted scenes, but they made it in a way that it seemed more "real". In Bruno's case, it didn't help that so many celebrities were in it which made it seem all the more disingenuous.

While Bruno was a more polished movie, I thought Borat was an infinitely more funny film. This may have been because Borat is a more sympathetic character than Bruno. Borat doesn't seem to understand when he's doing something wrong, whereas Bruno doesn't seem to care when he's doing something wrong.

(This movie got the thumbs down.)


Crank: High Voltage

Crank: High Voltage is the product of the video game generation. Everything about this movie is as campy as one of those wacky action video games (something like Crackdown comes to mind). They even use tons of visual cues within the movie to remind us that this is something like a video game. This is the sequel to the 2006 sleeper hit Crank, and in this movie, they Crank'd things up tenfold. This is a movie that was on ecstasy.

The movie picks up where the first one left off. Someone's jacked Jason Statham's heart and he ends up chasing gangster after gangster looking for it. That's pretty much it for the story.

The movie is action scene after action scene, there's barely a dull moment. Statham is fitted with an artificial heart that requires electricity every now and then, and he experiments all different sorts of ways to charge himself up. Everytime he charges up, it's like hitting the Nitro button in a Need For Speed game. He basically goes apeshit in Los Angeles, much to our delight. This movie made Grand Theft Auto seem grounded.

What's amazing about this movie is that they shot it with a bunch of handheld HD video cameras (the type you can buy off the shelves at Best Buy or Futureshop) to keep the costs low. I think I read on AICN that in any given scene, they had 5 guys running around Jason Statham just shooting. So basically, you too can shoot a movie that looks like Crank... although you might need some post-production skills. The movie is all eye-candy onscreen and I couldn't believe the quality of the movie given their tools.

I had a lot of fun with this movie and if you're willing to turn off your brain for an hour and a half, then check out Crank: High Voltage.

(This movie got the thumbs up.)


The Last House on the Left (remake)

Another remake of a Wes Craven classic (there's more to come apparently). I saw the original Last House on the Left a few years ago, and I liked it, but didn't love it. What hurt it was the low production value which made it look like a 70's porn movie without all the sex, although it could be that their budgets were similar. (Trivia Note: I read an interview with Wes Craven a few years ago, and he said something to the degree that he did direct a few porn movies early in his career when he was a nobody, but under a pseudonym).

In short, here's the plot as provided by IMDB: "After kidnapping and brutally assaulting two young women, a gang led by a prison escapee unknowingly finds refuge at a vacation home belonging the parents of one of the victims -- a mother and father who devise an increasingly gruesome series of revenge tactics."

So this movie is basically what the 1972 version would look like with millions of dollars in budget. It's virtually the same movie except for one HUGE change they made in the plot.

Much like the original, the movie gets your adrenaline flowing when the parents realize what's happened to their daughter and exact their plan of revenge unbeknownst to our band of criminals. What I really love is all the grisly kills we get to see in this movie. The kills are brutal, bloody, vicious, and creative; something that lacked in the Friday the 13th remake. However the downside is that since there are only so many characters, we are limited to the number of kills we get to see. So I guess they make up in quality rather than quantity.

I think it was a huge mistake to make the HUGE plot change that they did. I'm not going to spoil what it was, but it's for this very reason that we feel for the parents and really get behind them as they go about with their revenge.

The movie is also unfortunately forgettable. It's a remake so it doesn't reinvent the wheel, but at the same time the quality looks and feels like any of the other horror remakes that studios have spewed out in recent years. There's nothing that really grips you and says "holy shit, I'm not gonna forget that!".

The only other thing to note is that I love Tony Goldwyn who plays the girl's father. He was so good in playing a dick-bad-guy in Ghost with Demi Moore, and also received such a bad-ass kill in Friday the 13th Part VI: Jason Lives. I hope he gets more headlining roles in mainstream movies.

So check it out if you want, you're not really missing something if you don't.

(By process of elimination, of course this movie gets the thumbs in the middle. Thanks for playing.)

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