Sex Tape Review

The Plot

Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz star in this romantic comedy in which a couple try to spice up their sex life by filming it on their iPad. But when they realise the next day that the video has been synched to all other linked devices owned by friends, bosses, family members and a postman, they must race to delete the footage before anyone sees it.

The Good

Considering the extremely recent news of Apple’s iCloud hacking scandal, Sex Tape echoes real life in an incredibly surreal way that it almost feels like the film was released this week specifically to coincide with the news stories. This of course is not the case, yet still, it couldn’t possibly have been any luckier with its release date.

A host of comic actors keeps Sex Tape endearing enough, with the aforementioned Segel and Diaz heading up the film as the unfortunate couple, Annie and Jay. Asde from the two likeable leads the film also offers up the familiar comedic charms of The Office’s Ellie Kempar and Hot Tub Time Machine’s Rob Corddry,  popping up occasionally in supporting roles. Then there’s Rob Lowe, who appears as an almost extended guest appearance for much of the middle act.

While it’s nice to see such comical talent throughout the 94 minute runtime, it’s Segel who gives most in Sex Tape. No matter how weird and wacky the film gets, Segel’s loveable goofiness is sure to keep you distracted sporadically. It’s just a shame that the cast can’t entirely rescue the film.

The Bad

The main idea behind Sex Tape is almost passable. A couple film themselves doing the dirty, but when the footage is saved, it ends up saved on other devices. It’s a believable story that could realistically happen to anyone. However all the plausibility of the script is soon stripped away when it’s revealed just who has access to the footage.

First and foremost is Annie and Jay’s children. OK. Credible enough. Why wouldn’t the family be all connected on the same network at home. Next up are their best friends. Again, credible enough. After all iPads are pretty nifty gifts and Annie and Jay are well off enough to give them as such. Then there’s the postman. Which is where Sex Tape moves from silly to absurd. However we don’t get to see much of this plot thread bar one or two shots of the man. Instead, the film focuses on Rob Lowe’s character, who also has access to the video. Lowe plays Hank, a possible future boss of Annie’s who seems to be given an iPad almost instantly after their first meeting.

Though the excessive generosity does seem ludicrous, it is at least explained through Segel’s character in a few throwaway lines about him having gone through so many iPad’s in his job as a music producer that he is able to give them away freely and often. Yet this isn’t the films most nonsensical plot point. The winner of that particular award goes to the incredibly dismissed and unquestionable drug use between Diaz and Lowe.

All this and yet we haven’t even touched upon what instantly appears to be the main point of the whole film. To sell Apple products! An agenda which admittedly is handled well enough. Even if the plot revolves around the fact that using iPads can be dangerous when it comes to privacy, the solutions come simply after the script takes some time to poke fun at the fact that technophobic Segel has gone to so much trouble when the answer was in front of him the whole time.

If you’ve seen the trailer then you know exactly what to expect as far as the laughs go, it’s a mostly lazy combination of obvious innuendo and slapstick physical comedy. The couples desperate quest to avoid embarrassment is a predictable series of awkward moments interrupted by angry guard dogs and falling onto/over things.

The Ugly Truth

Not even an admittedly talented comedic cast can save this extended Apple advertisement from a substandard script that could have been tweaked easily enough to deliver a more believable and satisfying end product. Segel is as always a likeable saving grace but is certainly not enough to elevate proceedings beyond being a guilty pleasure, albeit a very topical one this week.

Sin City: A Dame To Kill For Review

The Plot

Robert Rodriguez and Frank Miller team up again to bring a second dose of stories from Miller’s ever popular graphic novel. Bruce Willis, Powers Boothe and Mickey Rourke are among the returning faces, whilst newcomers Joseph Gordon-Levitt, Josh Brolin and Eva Green are added this time around.

The Good

It’s been 9 years since cinemagoers were first introduced to the beautifully shot streets of Sin City, with its nods to film noir and incredibly well adapted scenes which, quite literally brought Frank Miller’s comic book series to life. But finally Robert Rodriguez and co-director Miller have managed to gather the previous actors together as well as add in a few new faces for a selection of more stories from the city where ‘you go in with your eyes open, or you don’t come out at all’ as Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Johnny so eloquently puts it.

This is perhaps the best way to describe Sin City: A Dame to Kill for. It’s certainly a wonder to watch as Rodriguez and Miller bring the same beauty that made the first film such a hit. The stories explored this time around feature the aforementioned Gordon-Levitt in The Long Bad Night as Johnny a smug young gambler who swaggers into Sin City in the hopes of embarrassing Powers Booth’s Senator Roarke in a game of poker. We also have Eva Green joining the film in the titular storyline, A Dame To Kill For as femme fatale, Ava Lord who has Dwight McCarthy (with Josh Brolin replacing Clive Owen as a younger version of the character) wrapped around her little finger in the way that someone only of Green’s calibre could do.

Wrapped around these stories we also have the return of Mickey Rourke looking and sounding as gruff as the last time we saw him as Marv, in Just Another Saturday Night where he has a run in with some frat boys attacking a homeless man. And finally, Bruce Willis returns as John Hartigan along with Jessica Alba’s Nancy Callahan in Nancy’s Last Dance.

Each of the four stories weave effortlessly in and out of each other with characters popping up here and there before taking the stage for themselves in their own stories. While it’s nice to see Willis and Rourke back, the highlights this time around are undoubtedly Eva Green and Joeseph Gordon-Levitt. Gordon-Levitt becomes instantly likeable as the cocky Johnny but Green eventually tops him as she charms the audience just as easily as she does Brolin’s Dwight.

The Bad

The nine year gap has not helped Sin City in the long run. Though it is just as amazing to watch as it’s predecessor, A Dame To Kill For doesn’t have anything really new or ground-breaking to warrant it’s existence. If it had been released maybe a year or two after the first, we could have had a strong franchise on our screens by now. However as entertaining as a third instalment would be, if the gap between films is even half as long next time round, interest will surely have died out altogether.

Another wrong move in the sequel is the cameo’s. While Christopher Lloyd just about gets away with his, the appearance by Lady Gaga feels incredibly out of place. This is a film which certainly doesn’t need cameo’s like this to keep it interesting so why Rodriguez bothered to include her for such a blink and you’ll miss it scene is just plain confusing.

The Ugly Truth

Joeseph Gordon-Levitt and Eva Green shine brightest in the long overdue sequel to the dark adaptation of further stories from Sin City while Bruce Willis and Mickey Rourke bring a sense of familiarity with them. Although it has issues with the lengthy gap between the first instalment and this one, and it’s unnecessary cameos (mainly Lady Gaga’s), fans will definitely get a kick out of returning to the beloved setting.

Lucy Review

The Plot

After being inadvertently drawn into the trafficking of an experimental new drug, a typical young woman called Lucy is exposed to a massive dose of the strange blue substance, allowing her to unlock the full capacity of her brain and bringing with it seemingly unlimited superhuman powers. She has to quickly unlock the scientific and philosophical mysteries of her transformation with the help of renowned scientist, whilst doing battle with the criminal organization responsible.

The Good

Director Luc Besson has an impressive track record for films about strong women (Nikita, Leon) and deceptively intelligent science fiction fun (The Fifth Element). Evidently Lucy combines both those areas of cinematic expertise with impressive and original results.

Those that mistakenly dismissed the premise of the film because of its superficial similarities to Bradley Cooper’s recent ‘magic brain pill’ movie Limitless will be especially surprised. Lucy is far more unashamedly philosophical and poses many sincerely provocative questions about what it means to be human and our ultimate potential as a species.

Though the film is often propelled by simple plot points and action set pieces, it consistently delivers moments of legitimately profound intelligence. Among the spectacle of superhuman car stunts and superfluous gunfights, Scarlett Johansson and Morgan Freeman in particular trade memorable insights into human existence and the true meaning of life.

Scarlett Johansson is simply perfect casting for Lucy, playing a character that quite literally evolves from a naïve and traumatized young girl to an unstoppably lethal god-like genius. Her performance and accomplished special effect are what truly makes her character’s transformation seem so profoundly believable and meaningful. She packs convincing emotion amongst mono-tone monologues about human existence.

Morgan Freeman likewise provides the familiar voice of calm scientific credibility in his typical professorial role. It’s another major asset for the film which keeps it on track as it take increasingly dramatic chances with ambitious special effects and ideas.

The Bad

Lucy will disappoint and most likely confuse anyone hoping for just another film where Scarlett Johansson dispatches bad guys with guns and eye pleasing martial arts. What sets this film apart from her recent costume clad Avengers adventures is a wealth of sophisticated ideas and highbrow philosophy. Ironically, not everyone will appreciate this effort to be so ‘clever’.

The film does demand more from audience’s imaginations as Lucy’s new powers exponentially grow. Quick reflexes or newfound language skills don’t require as much of an appetite for science fiction as telekinesis, body morphing and time travel.  Some will find the bold direction the film takes captivating, while others will find it just gives them a headache. Be warned the film requires some real thought.

The Ugly Truth

Lucy is a pleasing mix of Direcor Luc Besson’s best known and admired work. It’s so much more than the Limitless copycat some may have feared. Scarlett Johansson and a solid supporting cast keep Lucy entertaining and believable as it explore strange and thought provoking new territory. Well worth watching on the big screen for the special effects alone.

The Guest Review

The Plot

When David (Dan Stevens – Downton Abbey) visits the Peterson family to pass on a message from their recently deceased son and his old comrade, he’s almost instantly welcomed as part of the family and invited to stay a few days. But as people start dying, daughter Anna (Maika Monroe) starts to suspect that David might not be the charming young man everybody believes he is…

The Good

After the warm reception from Your Next it’s no surprise that Adam Wingards latest is this years opening film for Frightfest. And quite deservedly so. The Guest has enough humour, gore and shocks to kick off the five day festival that it barely give the other films a chance.

Accompanied by a fantastically fitting electro soundtrack, Dan Stevens works his way through the film with the help of his instantly appealing approach to the role. Starting off as a pleasant young man visiting his ex partners family to give them his condolences, David really does seem like the perfect house guest. However the constant glint in his eyes tells us that this probably won’t continue for too long.

As David works his way through the family gaining their trust one by one, his crazy side soon starts to come out as he tries to help each of the Petersons with the problematic people in their lives. Starting with assisting young Luke with the senior students who are bullying him before moving on to fixing Anna’s boy trouble. Each mend David makes brings a worse result than the last until finally building up to the thrilling finale.

The main highlight is undoubtedly found in the films final act. Wingard uses a ridiculously over the top setting to its extent. Although it’s absurd, its still a riot and rounds off the film with dazzling cinematography and a beautiful palette of colours. It’s clear that he has fun with the surroundings of the horror filled setting, using jump scares and keeping that brilliant soundtrack going to give the audience as much entertainment as possible.

The Bad

Apart from the slight distraction of Brendan Meyer looking like a male doppelganger of Chloe Grace Moretz, there isn’t too much to moan about with The Guest. Although it could have done with some tweaks here and there in regards to plot and characters, Stevens’ performance alone is enough to distract from these minor problems. And while it may have benefitted from a less lavish finale, with perhaps a more toned down setting for the conclusion, The Guest will surely have hooked you in well before the moment comes that you’ll just be having too much fun.

The Ugly Truth

If you liked Your Next you’re sure to like The Guest. Adam Wingard brings his winning formula of comedic timing, jumps and carnage to the screen again while finding a previously unseen side to Dan Stevens which is sure to win him more fans. Simply put, it’s a riot.

Alleluia Review

The Plot

Smooth, sophisticated hustler, Michel (Laurent Lucas) meets his match when he tries to woo single mother, Gloria (Lola Duenas) out of her money. After she offers to stay with him and help him flatter other women out of their money, Michel soon finds that his new found partner in crime may be crazier and more lethally dangerous than he ever expected.

The Good

Alleluia begins almost like a pleasant romance as Gloria is forced into a date with a Michel after they meet online. But as act one (of four) ends, things take a sudden sinister turn and Duenas’ character makes an incredible transformation, quickly becoming barely recognizable as the unsure single mother she started out as. As each act progresses to the next, with Michel moving onto his next target, Gloria becomes increasingly unstable and deranged as she  struggle with having to watch the man she loves romancing other women.

Whilst Laurent Lucas is just as talented an actor as his co-star, his effortless seduction techniques are somewhat upstaged by Duenas. Together they make a great team, with the chemistry between the two displayed naturally. But when looking at the two main stars singularly, Duenas’ Gloria is surely the dominant half of their on screen partnership. Her conversion from single, insecure parent to controlling, powerful killer is performed so subtly and yet so suddenly, leaving the audience suitably sunned. Thinking back to the film’s opening scene will leave audiences bemused how things slipped so quickly and subtly into nightmarish horror.

Director Fabrice du Welz accompanies this beautifully, approaching the violence with a ‘less is more’ attitude for the most part, with emphasis on the ‘more’. For while violent scenes are relatively gore free, du Welz still manages to make the experience as shocking as possible.

The Bad

A few problems with the script does bring Alleluia down a touch. Certain scenes and events just don’t seem to have been thought out as clearly as they should have been. The major one being an out of the blue musical performance by Duenas as she serenades her lover. Although it manages to finish with a fantastic bit of dark humour, the scene still feels out of place and somewhat distracting as an unexpected and inexplicable sudden shift in tone.

Just as confusing is the way in which Gloria’s daughter is swept out of the story in one simple scene which seems rushed to some degree. Almost as if the writer had forgotten that the young girl couldn’t fit into the rest of the story at a certain point and so quickly went back and slotted in a few lines of dialogue without thinking it through.

As well as this, Lucas’ character development seems rather unrealistic in regards to his reaction to Gloria’s horrific transformation. This is partly why Gloria’s development feels so shocking by the films end, as Michel appears to let her get away with an awful lot before he even attempts to do something about it. And when he does wake up to the fact that Gloria is essentially sabotaging each and every hustle he tries, his initial attempt at solving the problem is so incredibly feeble.

The Ugly Truth

Lola Duenas is the undisputed star of the show, with Gloria’s psychotic transformation quickly proving the film’s captivating main attraction, as she dramatically overpowers the film’s supposed villain in every way. Whilst Alleluia is not without it’s odd and uneven moments,  overall it’s still an entertaining watch with some light touches of dark humour.