Sex Tape

July 18, 2014 by  
Filed under Cody, Reviews

Starring: Jason Segel, Cameron Diaz, Rob Corddry
Directed by: Jake Kasdan (“Bad Teacher”)
Written by: Kate Angelo (“The Back-Up Plan”), Nicholas Stoller (“The Five-Year Engagement”) and Jason Segel (“Forgetting Sarah Marshall”)

As far as nightmare scenarios go, it’s hard to imagine a fate worse than having a homemade sex tape being surreptitiously uploaded to a place where all of your friends and family can have it at their fingertips. It is a scenario that is, of course, technologically impossible, haphazardly thrown together and explained in the laziest way possible, a recurring theme in the new comedy “Sex Tape.”

In an effort to pull themselves out of a marriage that lacks in sex, Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) decide to film themselves during their most intimate moments. As they go to sleep, the video uploads itself to the Cloud and becomes available for all of their friends and family to view. In a panic, Jay and Annie go on a hunt to find and remove every copy of the video that exists.

In order to come up with a way that this ridiculous turn of events could have happened, screenwriters Kate Angelo, Nicholas Stoller and Segel invent an absurd circumstance in which, for whatever reason, Jay gives out an abundance of iPads to his friends, family and, in a joke repeated to death, the mailman. It’s the first in a series of baffling plot points that, despite tons of expositional dialogue, clearly don’t reflect how real life works. Is it really important that comedies be 100 percent factual? Probably not, but it is bothersome enough to be a distraction.

“Sex Tape” also falters by spending far too much time in places it shouldn’t. One example is in a scene involving Diaz and Rob Lowe in which Segel battles a dog. It’s a sequence that feels like it takes up half of the movie and has very little payoff other than a few bits of physical humor. As a result, supporting characters like the one played by Rob Corddry take a backseat and barely get a chance to do anything, despite some funny lines early on.

To their credit, Segel and Diaz go all out when it comes to piling on the sexual content, though there is almost always a completely PG-13 style of blocking nudity or anything too graphic. The film is very reliant on a mix of sexual dialogue and physical humor for laughs with the former being slightly more successful, though most attempts at humor miss the mark regardless.

Technological issues aside, the plot of “Sex Tape” becomes repetitive as the duo goes out of their way to remove every shred of evidence of their sex tape, only to have a far easier explanation explained to them. “Sex Tape” isn’t a completely unfunny movie, but the over-reliance on gross-out sexual humor is its ultimate downfall. Segel and Diaz are clearly having fun here, but perhaps the events of “Sex Tape” are better served as a hypothetical “What If” conversation with friends.

In a World

August 30, 2013 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Lake Bell, Fred Melamed, Ken Marino
Directed by: Lake Bell (debut)
Written by: Lake Bell (debut)

Satirical comedy is such a challenging genre to write, which is why when someone actually gets a tight grasp around their ideas without having to strain too much to make it funny, said writer is due some credit.

So is the case with actress Lake Bell (“It’s Complicate”) and her directorial debut “In A World,” a creative and often witty film that starts off strong before pumping the breaks midway. Before its slow descent into a more ordinary narrative, however, Bell is able to introduce audiences to an intriguing world very few people get the chance to see. It’s a clever look into part of the entertainment industry that literally speaks for itself.

In “In a World,” Bell stars as Carol Solomon, a struggling vocal coach who gets a break in her career when she books a gig to do a voice-over for a movie trailer. It’s a close-knit industry her father Sam (Fred Melamad) and the real-life (and now deceased) Don LaFontaine have monopolized for years, but one that is looking for a fresh new voice to lead a new generation of professional narrators. Hoping to be that voice, she must find a way to prove to her father (and studio honchos) that a female voice can flourish in a business just as well as any man.

As a writer, Bell’s script is filled with crafty cynicism and a sweetness that fits in well with a story that really doesn’t try be offensive in any way. More often than not (especially in the first half), the subtle jokes hit their target and Bell and company deliver their lines with a sort of awkward charm. Actors including Ken Marino, Rob Corddry, and Nick Offerman (all of whom have worked with Bell on the TV series “Children’s Hospital”) add to the gawkiness of the roster and do it effortlessly. As Carol’s father, Melamed is perfectly cast as the bass-voiced legend that is fine with the way the good-old-boy industry works.

While the voiceover industry and the struggles Carol faces are the most interesting aspects of the film, Bell tosses in a secondary storyline that follows her sister’s marital problem, which doesn’t quite work in the grand scheme of things. The subplot is funny, but takes away from what should have been the real focus of the story. Still, Bell and her cast have some hilarious one-liners and there’s enough social commentary about the way cutthroat Hollywood works to keep the film from sputtering out completely in the final act.

Warm Bodies

February 1, 2013 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Nicholas Hoult, Teresa Palmer, John Malkovich
Directed by: Jonathan Levine (“50/50”)
Written by: Jonathan Levine (“50/50”)

Zombie movie purists beware. “Warm Bodies” will make your head explode.

Now, don’t get me wrong. Unique twists to the sometime tired genre are always welcomed. There are only so many underlying political issues George A. Romero can cover before things start to feel repetitious. So, when original zombie ideas like “Warm Bodies” rear their ugly heads, you can’t help but take a bite.

In the last decade, we’ve seen a masterpiece like “Shaun of the Dead” and solid comedies like “Zombieland” and “Fido.” These kinds of movies can be done and done very well. Unfortunately, “Warm Bodies” doesn’t rise past its quirky synopsis. It’s a zombie romantic comedy (zom rom com) at a loss for believable plot devices and consistent laughs.

The film follows a zombie named R (Nicholas Hoult), a somewhat self-aware young zombie male who isn’t really feeling his new lifestyle now that the world has ended by way of zombie apocalypse. His emo-esque internal monologue conveys his desire to connect with people again and express himself. A zombie, however, isn’t much of a conversationalist.

Things begin to change for R when he meets Julie (Teresa Palmer), a survivor who is ambushed by the undead during a mission to find medicine for the other humans living in a safe concrete compound. During the attack, R saves Julie and somehow persuades her through his moaning and grunting that she would be better off escaping with him instead of doing what any sane person would do and run away.

These are the kind of lazy plot holes that plague “Warm Bodies.” Although they allow the narrative to move forward, some of the script choices simply don’t make any sense. Why doesn’t Julie drive away in the car available to her at any point of the movie? Why can some zombies smell human flesh and others can’t? Why do some zombies run like the dickens and others move in slow-mo? “Warm Bodies” is bold in making up its own rules, but it should be labeled a cheater when it changes those same rules so the story can proceed.

The most shameful disregard for the screenplay comes with the fact that during R and Julie’s time together, R begins to change back into a human. Sure, that’s probably plausible in zombie world, but why do the other zombies who are unaffected by Julie in any way also begin to transform? Unless director/writer Jonathan Levine (“50/50”) is trying to make a point by saying that love, too, is infectious, it doesn’t add up.

While there are a few chuckle-worthy scenes between R and his best zombie friend M (Rob Corddry), “Warm Bodies” is more smart-alecky than it is smart. The combination of horror, romance and comedy might be less of an acquired taste than it was a few years ago, but this kind of fleshy meal just isn’t very appetizing without more substance. Brains, perhaps?

Hot Tub Time Machine

March 26, 2010 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: John Cusack, Craig Robinson, Rob Corddry
Directed by: Steve Pink (“Accepted”)
Written by: Josh Heald (debut), Sean Anders (“She’s Out of My League”), John Morris (“She’s Out of My League”)

Until “The Hangover 2” hits theaters sometime next year, comedy lovers will be itching to find a male-bonding movie as juvenile and riotous as the original Las Vegas romp of last year. The closest they’ll get so far this season is with “Hot Tub Time Machine.” Despite its similar comedic elements and disregard for levelheadedness, the blast-from-the-past flick doesn’t have more than obvious jokes in its arsenal.

Like “The Hangover,” “Hot Tub” features four friends who find themselves on the biggest misadventure of their lives. Instead of Sin City, however, Adam (John Cusack), Nick, (Craig Robinson), Lou, (Rob Corddry), and Adam’s nephew Jacob (Clark Duke) are vacationing at a Nevada ski resort where the three middle-aged friends used to party back in high school.

Bored with their lives, the trio wants to recapture the glory days when they were all younger, dumber, and full of aspiration. Their trip takes a bizarre twist when the foursome climbs into a mysterious hot tub and are magically transported back to the year 1986 for one more chance to relive their adolescence.

Not only do the boys travel back in time, they also transform back into their teenage bodies (with the exception of Jacob who is already a teen). Since Jacob hasn’t technically been born yet (and since he begins to flicker like Marty McFly in “Back to the Future”), they guys realize if they don’t do exactly what they did 24 years prior, Jacob might disappear and never be born.

The whole idea of the “butterfly effect” is used loosely throughout the film as Adam, Nick , Lou and Jacob search for the hot tub repair man (Chevy Chase in a wasted role) who can get them back to the present day (think Don Knotts in “Pleasantville” without the personality) and run around the resort trying to remember specific aspects of their past so they can keep the future intact.

Most of “Hot Tub” is a one-joke homage to the 80s. It has a number of hilarious moments (especially when Robinson is involved), but wears out the nostalgia after a while. Yes, cassette players and Jheri curls have their place in a movie like this, but why fixate on the obvious?  It’s one thing to create an 80s-inspired world and build a comedy around it, but “Hot Tub” relies too much on the references to get the bulk of its laughs. Legwarmers are funny, but not that funny.