BRUNO

If any recent movie deserved an NC-17 rating, it would have to be Sacha Baron Cohen’s latest dirty joke masquerading as a satiric comedy. Unfortunately, the MPAA (Motion Picture Association of America) awarded an R designation to this appalling example of cinematic poor taste.

Flamboyant globetrotting Austrian fashion reporter Bruno (Baron Cohen) crashes a fashion show in Milan while wearing a velcro suit, and then traipses off to Los Angeles to become a superstar, But he ruins the filming of a “Medium” episode and then crashes and burns with his lurid, disgusting TV pilot “A-List Celebrity Max-Out with Bruno.”:

Director Larry Charles (“Borat”) once again utilizes guerrilla-style filmmaking in this vulgar, offensive, but occasionally funny movie. Some outrageous but humorous segments include the “Mexican chair people,” Bruno’s stroll through a Hasidic neighborhood in Israel and the gay Austrian’s stint in a U.S. Army boot camp. An episode filmed in Carrollton, Texas finds Bruno on a Jerry Springer-type talk show where the fashionista introduces his traded-for-an-Ipod African baby. Despite the racist nature of the locally-lensed scene, it remains a relatively tame part of the hard-to-watch gross-athon.

With his exaggerated portrayal, Baron Cohen will probably irritate everyone with nudity, graphic representations of heterosexual and homosexual sex acts, tributes to Hitler and religious insults to Christians, Jews and Muslims alike.

Celebrity guest stars include Paula Abdul and former presidential candidate Ron Paul.

Rated R 1 and 1/2 Stars

THE HURT LOCKER

Usually the best war movies come out years or sometimes even decades after the fact. But in the mix of more than a dozen fiction and nonfiction contemporary cinematic depictions of the Iraq conflict, filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow’s “The Hurt Locker,” which was shot on location in Jordan, deserves special praise as an outstanding depiction of modern warfare. With heartpumping reality, director Bigelow presents the faraway combat zone where a U.S. Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal (EOD) squad searches out an endless supply of Iraqi bombs.

After the death of Sgt. Matt Thompson (Guy Pearce), replacement bomb-removal expert Staff/Sgt. William James (Jeremy Renner) joins Sgt. J.T. Sanborn (Anthony Mackie) and jittery Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) in the EOD squad. Unlike the always-cautious Thompson, James recklessly barrels into potentially dangerous spots, seemingly disregarding the bomb removal manual. Through tense, frustrating and potentially deadly situations in urban areas, a battle in the desert and moments of black comedy, the bomb team emerge as real people who happen to serve in an especially dangerous wartime occupation.

Other notable players include Ralph Fiennes as a British contractor, David Morse as Col. Reed, Evangeline Lilly as James’ wife and Christopher Sayegh as an Iraqi boy called Beckham.

The Best Picture winner at the Venice Film Festival, this universal war scenario continues to win rave reviews from film critics and audiences. In addition to Bigelow, kudos go to screenwriter Mark Boal, who actually was a journalist embedded with a bomb squad in Iraq, and to actors Renner, Mackie and Geraghty.

Rated R 3 and 1/2 Stars