Why You Shouldn’t Be Rewinding “Sex Tape” Anytime Soon

Jason Segal & Cameron Diaz have some chemistry going on, but you'll see a little of it in terms of both real raunchiness and romanticism when it comes to the new film Sex Tape.

Jason Segal & Cameron Diaz have some chemistry going on, but you’ll see a little of it in terms of both real raunchiness and romanticism when it comes to the new film Sex Tape.

 

Where Did All of the Raunchy Comedies Go This Year?

The recently released “Sex Tape” starring Cameron Diaz and Jason Segal who have reteamed with their “Bad Teacher” director Jake Kasdan had me wondering if Hollywood has run out of fresh ideas when coming up with adult comedies with mature themes. BuzzFeed journalist Alison Willmore wrote a great article that basically called out “Sex Tape” for making sex seem so “taboo” that it comes across as unnatural and therefore scandalous when it’s really not. The whole premise of the film, the actual “sex tape” in question that Diaz and Segal’s characters attempt to film on their mobile device comes across as banal and boring and quite frankly when the film does show bits and pieces of the video at the conclusion of the movie. You wonder what the big deal was when they lose said video.

Let’s Start From the Very Beginning…Such As It Is

But let’s get to the origins of this story and what it all means for the plot. As written by star Segal, Kate Angelo, and Nicolas Stoller, nothing in “Sex Tape” advances into a maturely thought out storyline. The movie actually gets more ludicrous and quite frankly boring as our couple Annie and Jay get to the actual goal of “retrieving” their sex tape from the iPads they have given out to colleagues. We meet Annie and Jay in college. I swear Cameron Diaz does not age, but giving her curly hair and sweatshirts doesn’t make her look any younger than she really is in reality. It just makes her and producers that thought of having them meet and get it on in college look pandering and unrealistic.  We see Annie and Jay screw each other, a lot. We get the picture guys, if this is raunchy, I will take the ludicrous fake antics of The Hangover over this any day of the week.

And the Movie Goes On & On and Gets Worse & Worse

Annie and Jay’s lives continue, they get pregnant, they get married, they stop getting romantic. Mind you Annie and Jay’s kids don’t look very young, so we’ve fast forwarded here, but then again Diaz and Segal don’t really age. So we are clearly in the present time, which leads to more continuity errors here and there. Annie and Jay’s relationship is stagnant with the kids and their busy lives, Annie runs a blog and Jay does something in the music industry the audience is not alerted to. So what do they do when they celebrate Annie’s potentially selling her blog? They decide to shoot a sex video on their new iPad carrying out various positions as suggested in the book “The Joy of Sex.” They actually lose the video they recorded on their iPad of them having a night of so called ribald sex when someone mysteriously threatens them that they are going to share the video with the public.

What’s not to love here now that we all know that hijinks are going to ensue as Annie and Jay try to find out who is threatening them and how they’re going to get their video back? Don’t we all know how this one’s going to turn out? “Sex Tape’s” premise becomes so muddled in ridiculousness that honestly you don’t really care about Diaz and Segal’s characters’ lack of romantic chemistry and whether or not they make it as a couple in the end.

In fact the only part of the movie where the audience’s eyebrows may be raised is when Annie decides to literally snort a line of cocaine with her potential new boss (played by a way too excited Rob Lowe) as Jay tries to retrieve the iPad in Lowe’s character’s mansion as even more unrealistic physical comedy ensues. That scene took the debauchery to an unexpected and in my opinion an unnecessary level because it served no purpose but to shock and titillate where this movie does none of that for the rest of the film.

We're supposed to think that Cameron Diaz's character is fresh out of college in Sex Tape, but I'm not buying it. And neither should you.

Cameron Diaz thinks she’s fresh out of college in Sex Tape, but I’m not buying it.

So, Should You See This Movie?

In a word, no. There’s nothing to see here folks and Annie and Jay as played by Diaz and Segal have very little chemistry going on so quite frankly you don’t care who’s threatening them or if they figure out how to get their video out of the cloud. And no matter how much makeup they Cameron Diaz puts on she still looks her age, not that there’s anything wrong with that. The fact the producers chose not to own it is disappointing. “Sex Tape” comes across as a schmaltzy message film which attempts to explain how our haggard lives interfere with our not only our “sex lives” but how we are supposed to maintain our lives as a romantic couple despite the lack of romance. But none of the plot points are realistic. From a “where has he been lately?” Jack Black popping up as a porn producer with inexplicable family issues of his own to Annie and Jay’s blackmailer conveniently giving back said “sex tape” to Annie and Jay for perhaps the most banal reason possible. This movie is filled with so much clichéd storytelling, ridiculous plotting and derivative characters that “Sex Tape” should be left back in its case and not “rewound” so to speak.

Advertisements

Is “Think Like a Man” Franchise A Sign Of Things To Come?

Kevin Hart headlines the sequel to the hit comedy Think Like a Man Too. You may wish he didn't.

Kevin Hart headlines the sequel to the hit comedy Think Like a Man Too. You may wish he didn’t.

I was recently able to watch both Warner Brothers’ new musical Jersey Boys and Sony Picture’s new comedy sequel Think Like A Man Too starring comedian Kevin Hart on consecutive days. To my amazement I found myself liking the sequel directed by a relative unknown by the name of Tim Story than the adaptation of the Tony Award® winning Broadway hit musical directed by four time Academy Award winner Clint Eastwood.

Make no mistake neither film is going to win any Academy Awards® next February. But if found myself falling more for the wacky Vegas adventures on a wedding weekend among a diverse group of characters that made up another adaption based loosely on the premise of comedian’s Steve Harvey’s hit book “Think Like a Man.” Both movies certainly had their flaws. Jersey Boys was a too strictly by-the-book adaptation while Think Like a Man ironically veered too far away from the original source material. This version of “Think” came across like a poor man’s “The Hangover” with considerable less sex and debauchery, but more heart and sentimentality, clearly to appeal to the female viewers no doubt. And this is not a bad thing.

So What’s the Big Deal?

“Think” came across a funny take on sentimentality and heart when a couple enjoys dueling bachelor and bachelorette parties and an eventual wedding during a weekend in Vegas. Long story short, as usual with any Vegas movie, signals get crossed, hijinks occur, people get crude and nude and in the end the wedding actually takes place with a lot of aw shucks earnestness you would actually expect out of a Steve Harvey self-help book. Lots of happy endings abound and your left wondering how the story is supposed to advance for the inevitable third sequel of this comedy showcase which revolves around a group of predominately African American friends.

The one well intentioned caveat was the not so common story this movie was trying to tell. That of the wild adventures of a diverse group of friends who are upper middle class to upper class enjoying their lives. That’s it period. No other stereotypes were being exploited. Sure Kevin Hart laid out his traditional “if I’m loud enough, you’ll think I’m funny” routine. And since his star is on the rise since the original Think Like Man movie came out I was not surprised to see his character basically take the lead and help bring all of the other storylines together. Thanks to Think Like a Man Too I was reminded how rarely this kind of story is told. This point was especially brought home when I recently caught a showing of movie The Best Man Holiday on HBO.

The cast of "The Best Man Holiday" live up a life in luxury in their latest sequel. But why don't we see more of this in movies?

The cast of “The Best Man Holiday” live up a life in luxury in their latest sequel. But why don’t we see more of this in movies?

It Pays To Be Rich

One caveat I noticed in both “Think” and “Holiday” is that they both showcase financially well off African Americans. For example, Hart’s character Cedric spends a huge amount of money on a lavish suite a Caeser’s Palace, and Taraji P. Henson’s character of Lauren is promoted to the COO position of her company. Over at “Holiday” Morris Chestnut’s character is living in the lap of luxury thanks to his high profile football player Lance Sullivan enjoying success on the field. At the same time, all of the other characters in both films are enjoying their peak working professional lives successfully coexisting with their personal lives.

So What’s The Problem?

I began thinking why aren’t these stories told more often? Where financially well-off people of color are burning the candle, so to speak, at both ends. This is where our main source of story, at least in the two movies I just watched, come from. For one, I question why directors like Tim Story and “Holiday’s” Malcolm D. Lee aren’t given more opportunities to work with more actors of color and not just their niche African American repertoires they tend to work with? Why aren’t more screenwriters allowed to tell more stories about well off characters of color? Is it because studio heads aren’t of color and don’t think a majority of audiences will relate?

Fiction vs. Reality

The Best Man Holiday had a lot of hijinks this time around but it also had a considerable amount of sorrow. This rollercoaster of emotions allowed director Malcolm D. Lee to tell a fully realized story with actual characters with real emotions no matter how maudlin it really got towards the end of his film. On the other end of the spectrum, director Tim Story showcased through Think Like a Man Too as a wacky PG-13 rated adventure movie  while ending the movie with a romanticized story that left many of our couples with happy endings with fully accomplished dreams still to come.

These stories aren’t being told enough, and that’s a real shame. For once I’d love to see biracial couple’s experience life’s adventures beyond their race or ethnicity. Hopefully this can be possible with a more diverse group of writers, directors and producers in Hollywood. But in reality it will only happen if more open-minded studio heads will consider this a reliable option. Because in the end, if a movie makes money, sequel can’t be too far off. That’s not a bad thing for me it just needs to have purpose.

Why Re-Envisioning the Fairy Tale of Maleficent Was the Wrong Way To Go…

Angelina Jolie was perfectly cast, perhaps too perfectly, for the title role of the memorable Disney villainess. She was born to play this right?

Angelina Jolie was perfectly cast, perhaps too perfectly, for the title role of the memorable Disney villainess. She was born to play this right?

I was among the many fans who could not wait to see how Disney chose to re-imagine the backstory of one of their most dastardly villains of all time in the update of  “Sleeping Beauty” in their latest film Maleficent. With much trepidation, I am not afraid to admit I was woefully disappointed by this latest retcon of a classic fairy tale. Of course Disney has done this before to a lesser degree with live action adaptations of Alice in Wonderland and Oz: Great and Powerful. But with this one, I was expecting more and what I got was somewhat less. Don’t get me wrong, Angelina Jolie was made for this role. With her dark and mysterious look and coloring not to mention the energy and aura she constantly gives off, I could not imagine anyone else taking on this challenging role. But the storyline and characterization did not sit right with me who has been a fan of this fairy tale for years. So why didn’t it deliver?

The Storyline

Spoiler Alert! Without giving too much away…unlike Sleeping Beauty…Maleficent focuses on (surprise!) our apparently not-as-evil-as-we-thought title character and her origins and the tale of how she came to shape young Sleeping Beauty’s (aka Princess Aurora’s) life. The movie is set up as it is something that takes place in the middle of J.R.R. Tolkien’s middle earth where we have warring kingdoms and fairies and goblins and huge tree creatures that somehow communicate with Maleficent, who try to defend their territory.

From this we get a backdrop of Romeo and Juliet, where Sleeping Beauty’s father King Stefan, as a boy, comes from the other kingdom but he is a poor orphan who as a child befriends Maleficent, who represents sort of larger scale fairy/sorceress with huge wings and horns manages to fall in love with this mere mortal. The kids grow up, and grow apart, wars continue to happen until Stefan’s predecessor insists that whomever kill the adult Maleficent (now played by Jolie) they will inherit his throne. Stefan (now played by a unbelievably miscast Sharlto Copley of District 9 fame) decides he wants the crown for himself and will kill his former true love himself in order to get to the throne. Instead of killing Maleficent, Stefan drugs her and cuts off her wings (in one of the most alarming scenes based on a fairy tale, trust me you will be hearing Jolie voice shrieking in your nightmares long after seeing this film) and returns, claiming to have killed her.

Long story short, Stefan becomes King, gets married, has a child named Princess Aurora. Eventually, driven by revenge and a fierce desire to protect “the moors” kingdom over which she presides, Maleficent cruelly places an irrevocable curse upon the Stefan’s newborn infant Aurora. As the child grows, Aurora is caught in the middle of the seething conflict between the forest kingdom she has grown to love (she comes across thinking it’s all some dream) and the human kingdom that holds her legacy (but of course she doesn’t know this). It is at this point where the movie gets even more choppier if it hasn’t already, Maleficent not only interacts with Aurora, throughout the rest of the film, she sort of become obsessed with the young girl. This is because we are lead to believe, Maleficent realizes that Aurora may hold the key to peace in the land and decides to take drastic actions that will change both worlds forever.

Eventually more fighting occurs, including an unbelievable fight sequence with Maleficent and Stefan, and it all culminates with the most absurd rewrite of history of who really wakes up poor Sleeping Aurora.  Everyone winds up happy (well, sort of) in the end, but with a lot of burning questions still unanswered, but the screenwriters leave us to think who cares as long as we get a “happily ever after.”

Maleficent has got her smoke and special effects ready to roll. Jolie was ready to play ball but in the end the script writers were too pandering with their story. I ask, why does there have to be a happily ever after?

Maleficent has got her smoke and special effects ready to roll. Jolie was ready to play ball but in the end the script writers were too pandering with their story. I ask, why does there have to be a happily ever after?

But where is this story going?

Both of my problems with Maleficent clearly have to do with the film pandering to the intended audience, mainly young women and fantasy fans, instead of galvanizing the modern fairy tale by turning the concept on its head, the screenwriters John Lee Hancock and Linda Woolverton, gave us a young female empowerment tale with no purpose or center.

First, let’s start with the setup of warring factions between the mortals and the creatures in the night, which is ripped right out of a traditional fantasy playbook. My main issue with this storyline is that it shades it’s characters in too broadly painted strokes. Maleficent is portrayed as all knowing and kind, that is until she gets jilted by her misunderstood lover Stefan, who himself goes from rags to riches once he becomes an adult, and he decides to turn on Maleficent in order to get what he wants.

When this happens, Maleficent becomes the apparent victim and uses that victim card to become a villain herself, making sure she gets revenge on everyone who scorned her namely King Stefan. My question is why did we have to demonize Stefan in order to make Maleficent our hero? Wouldn’t it have been more interesting to show different shades of characters and find out what motivates them to do the things that they do? Perhaps I’m reading too much into this fantasy, but when you have a story as legendary as Sleeping Beauty you have to deliver.

My second problem is with Maleficent’s apparent obsession with young Aurora from birth to when she grows into a teenager. She’s around her all of the time, and eventually becomes more of an advisory figure and best friend to young Aurora. Granted as Aurora, Elle Fanning wanders around like an woodland imp not realizing who she is as a person or the motives of others around her. I wanted her to get some sort of clue.

But for me the motives of our lead Maleficnet had the oddest and most abrupt change of characterization throughout the entire movie. First, Maleficent is hell bent on getting revenge, then later she’s mentally fallen in love with this young girl who supposed to represent everything she hates. Did she just grow a heart again all of a sudden? This climaxes with the pivotal moment of how young Aurora is awakened with the most ludicrous scene I have seen in some time. But I realized after everything that has previously happened in the movie’s storyline, it was actually quite predictable.

The sets and costumes were spot on. Too bad the dialogue and storyline couldn't keep up with them.

The sets and costumes were spot on. Too bad the dialogue and storyline couldn’t keep up with them.

The Bottom Line

Maleficent is director Robert Stromberg’s first feature film as a director. He actually delivers on the fast-paced action scenes and with his background as production designer on such films as Alice in Wonderland and Oz: Great and Powerful you can tell by the details he put into his film he was focused on creating a sumptuous display of sets, costumes, and makeup. Where Maleficent is involved, there is no higher peer on how this movie comes across visually. Obviously I had major issues with the storyline and the follow through.

Then again, if you and your family want to be entertained by a less-than-deep fairy tale told in a way that suits certain factions better than others then go out and see it. I personally take my fairy takes with a grain of salt and when they are “updated,” I still hold out hope they aren’t reaching too far in order to satisfy certain parties over others. This is where I think fairy tales are supposed to deliver, but Maleficent sadly does not.