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Borat

Kazakhstan’s No. 1 TV reporter Borat is handed a very special assignment.  Instead of hosting this years’ ‘Running of the Jew’ marathon, he is asked to travel to the ‘US & A’ to learn about their culture, bringing his newfound knowledge back to his people.  Upon arrival, he comes across a TV show featuring Pamela Anderson, becoming determined to find her and make her his wife.  With the aid of Azamat the cameraman, an ice cream truck and a bear, Borat stumbles his way across America interviewing the unsuspecting public all for the glory of his great nation.
Sacha Baron Cohen has built up a dedicated and loyal following for portraying characters with very ‘un-pc views’, shocking guests and fans alike.  The character, Borat, is one full of prejudices and jingoism, which Cohen uses to draw out the same traits in his ‘victims’.  The pleasure is how he unintentionally rebels against what is meant to be ‘normal behaviour’, and the often incredulous reactions he receives.  The idiocy of some of his participants who actually believe he’s a real person either induces mirth or horror from the audience. 
The films’ plot is paper thin, allowing the humour to be more spontaneous.  Cohen has clearly learnt his lesson from his previous film, Ali G In Da House, which had the story controlling the character.  This time the character controls proceedings with a scene at a redneck rodeo perfectly capturing how Cohen manipulates the crowd to greater comedic advantage.  The people he meets often seem more weird than he does, with the only ‘normal’ person being a black prostitute.
There are a lot of very funny moments in the film with Cohen giving himself totally to the role.  No stone is unturned, with political correctness thrown out the window.  Comedians like Cohen should be cherished, as his skills at being an agent provocateur seem rare in the current stifling comedy climate.  With the proliferation of ‘friendly comedians’ with no backbone, Cohen is brave enough to go out on a limb to tackle any subject he fancies.  Some scenes are outrageously shocking, but these test the audience to question their own view of what is meant to be ‘a normal life’.
Borat effectively mixes together broad comedy with cutting satire.  The mostly ad-lib style of the film works to keep audiences on their toes as to what happens next, making for a refreshing change from most blandly scripted comedies.  Cohen has returned to the anti-establishment roots from which comedy first originated.  Here’s hoping Borat returns to the US & A to wreak more comedic havoc.
Rating out of 10:  8

The Prestige

Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), is a budding magician eager to learn the trade from mentor Harry Cutter (Michael Caine).  Robert Angier, (Hugh Jackman), is also mentored by Cutter, leading to a rivalry between the two young magicians.  After various family tragedies befall both, they become consumed by the magical world of their own creation.  When Angier witnesses Borden performing one of the greatest magic acts seen, his obsession to find out how it was done becomes paramount.  Bordern’s own equal desire to protect his secrets shows how far both men are willing to go for the sake of the mystical arts.
Director Christopher Nolan explores themes of commitment and secrecy that fuels both men’s determination.  In their quest to become masters of their craft, the sacrifice of their loved ones becomes a trick both men could not have foreseen.  Their rivalry leads them to manipulate their friends and stealing ideas, making them less than whole people.  The title refers to shocking unforseen twists and turns, of which there are many.
The behind the scenes look at how magic tricks work is very interesting, with the showmanship of each performance being fascinating.  Where The Prestige loses traction is in its weak mid-section, which repeats various plot points.  The films’ momentum takes awhile to recover but the very smart conclusion wraps things up in a suitably enigmatic fashion.  Nolan’s photography of certain scenes shows his own sense of trickery, carefully shuffling the time frame around as if creating a cinematic jigsaw.  This allows the audience to participate more in working out ‘the prestige’ angle of the film.
Bale and Jackman both infuse their roles with genuine intensity.  Both characters come from different social backgrounds, with the actors enjoying adding this to their parts.  Bale delivers his usual steely performance, with Jackman having one of his stronger roles as his nemesis.  Michael Caine gains much sympathy, as a man helplessly watching his two protégés in a seemingly eternal quest for ultimate deliverance.  David Bowie appears as an engineering wizard, giving a memorable performance that suits the mysterious world into which the audience has been invited.
The complexity of the script mirrors the tumultuous ego tripping of the main characters making for absorbing viewing.  Whilst the drawn out midway section and the under use of some actors is disappointing, the general atmosphere of the film never falters.  The Prestige is a very interesting puzzle that audiences should enjoy piecing together.
Rating out of 10:  7