Aug. 11 2009 12:00 AM

Bruno. Sacha Baron Cohens follow-up to the hilarious “Borat" provokes half as many laughs in a seemingly less improvised comedy that goes twice as far as “Borat” in goosing sexual sight gags designed to make even the numbest audience members blanch. Cohens comic incarnation of Bruno is the flamboyantly gay host of an Austrian TV show called "Funkyzeit," from which the self-professed supermodel is fired for his shenanigans at a Milan runway show, where his self-made Velcro jumpsuit causes untold destruction. Determined to become "the most famous Austrian superstar since Hitler," Bruno travels to Hollywood to start his own celebrity talk show. An awkward interview with Paula Abdul in an empty house where Mexican immigrant workers sit in as literal furniture leads Bruno to realize that in order to be famous, he must convert to heterosexuality. Along the way, Bruno attempts to seduce politician Ron Paul, seeks advice from an effeminate Christian expert at converting gays into straights, goes on a hunting trip with some Arkansas good ole boys and auditions irresponsible parents for their babies to act in a movie with his own "adopted" black baby. Some set-ups work better than others, but the films main failing is in the contrived character of Bruno, who tries too hard to provoke the humorous rejection that the character so avidly demands. That said, Coen picks up where Tom Green left off as cinemas most cunning agent provocateur. (Universal Pictures) Rated R. 82 mins. (B-)

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs. Perhaps better able to disguise its lacking narrative cohesion when screened in its intended 3-D context, "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" never properly invites the audience into its messy world of familial trust. A saving grace comes with a more inclusive role than the first two "Ice Age" installments for Scrat, the saber-toothed squirrel whose obsession with obtaining an everelusive giant acorn is this time sidetracked by a frisky female member of his species. Vocal performances by Ray Romano and Queen Latifah leave much to be desired, and they enable John Leguizamo to steal the picture with his pitch perfect execution of Sid the Sloth, whose theft of several dinosaur eggs sets the story in motion. Very pregnant woolly mammoth Ellie (Latifah) and hubby mammoth Manny (Romano) go on an adventure with aging saber-toothed tiger Diego (Denis Leary), deep into an underground world of prehistoric dinosaurs, where a swashbuckler named Eddie (Simon Pegg) serves as a guide. Eddies pirate personality clashes with the tone of the story, which welcomes dinosaurs to the "Ice Age" that was, well, responsible for their species demise. For a kids movie with the potential to at least be somewhat historically accurate in the interest of informing children about landmark events in the Earths history, "Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs" fails to do even that. Rated PG. 93 mins. (C)

Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince. Teen desire and romance hit Hogwarts in the sixth Harry Potter film, and they go a long way in providing contrast to the skullduggery perpetrated by Severus Snape, Draco Malfoy and three Death Eaters that swirl around the story like exterminating angels. The actors have all aged well into their familiar roles, with Daniel Radcliffe showing evermore confidence in playing the "Chosen One" with a reserve of humor and restrained emotion. The ever-perfect Michael Gambon is a delight as Dumbledore, whose objective of undermining the evil Lord Voldemort with Harrys prodigious help sets the films tempo. David Yates returns after directing the last Potter film with a determinedly Gothic vision that allows emotional and visual color to emanate from JK Rowlings collection of lively protagonists. Jim Broadbent adds particular energy as Professor Horace Slughorn, who Dumbledore convinces to return to teaching magic potions at Hogwarts. Slughorns repressed memories of a student named Tom Riddle — later to become Lord Voldemort — provide essential insight into the nature of the beast that Harry must face in the next installment. "Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince" is the most balanced Potter film yet, perhaps because the right combination of screenwriter (Steve Kloves) and director has been established, along with the appropriate team of special effects wizards and talented production crew. Of course its the actors that make the magic happen, and every one, from Alan Rickman and Robbie Coltrane to Emma Watson and Bonnie Wright, cast a memorable spell. (Warner Brothers) Rated PG. 153 mins. (B )

My Sister’s Keeper. Nick Cassavetes threehankie weepy lurches during moments of music-video sequences and gratuitous voiceover from members of the Fitzgerald family, as they struggle with their terminally ill daughter Kate (well played by Sofia Vassilieva). Parents Sara (Cameron Diaz in the best performance of her career) and Brian (played by the ever-dependable Jason Patric) made an ethically challenging decision when they chose to conceive a second daughter, Anna (Abigail Breslin), as a genetically engineered resource to physically help keep leukemia-stricken Kate alive. At 11, Anna decides she wants to be legally exonerated from her bodily responsibilities to Kate, and she seeks medical emancipation with the aid of Campbell Alexander (Alec Baldwin), a successful ambulance-chasing attorney. A court battle, overseen by an especially perceptive Judge De Salvo (Joan Cusack) looms while Kate pursues romance with a cancer-suffering patient named Taylor (Thomas Dekker). The crux of the drama comes down to Saras ability as a mother to see beyond her involuntary urge to fight like a martyr for the life of a daughter whose pain and suffering must eventually come to an end. In spite of some of its less-than-elegant editorial decisions, "My Sisters Keeper" is full of terrific performances. Cusack is phenomenal as a judge recovering from the loss of her own daughter, and Breslin confirms her status as one of the most gifted young actors in the business. (New Line/Warner Bros) PG-13. 106 mins. (B )

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