For many people, especially those who troll around in the more unsavoury corners of the Internet, the first exposure to celebs like Paris Hilton and Kim Kardashian came from that most modern form of celebrity introduction: the sex tape.
Paris and Kim’s videoed sexcapades weren’t the first tapes to become public — in 1988 Rob Lowe was embarrassed when VHS images of him and two women popped up on the news — and they weren’t the last.
This week in Sex Tape, Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz are Jay and Annie, a married couple who try to spice things up in the bedroom by videotaping themselves. All goes well until Jay forgets to erase the tape and mistakenly stores it on the Internet. “Our sex tape has been synced to several devices,” he says, “all of which are in the possession of friends!”
Given how many actors have appeared in sex tapes it’s not surprising that several movies have used the raunchy videos as a plot point.
In Brüno, the titular Austrian fashion reporter (Sacha Baron Cohen) tries to make a name for himself in America by making a sex tape with another famous American, U.S. Congressman Ron Paul. Trouble was, Paul wasn’t in on the joke. “I was expecting an interview on Austrian economics,” said Paul. “But, by the time he started pulling his pants down, I was like ‘What is going on here?’ I ran out of the room. This interview has ended.”
The 2006 comedy Drop Box has production values not unlike that of an actual sex tape but despite its low budget it offers up the funny and often brutal story about Mindy (Rachel Sehl), a big-time bubblegum pop star (think Britney or Miley), who accidentally returns her homemade sex tape to her local video store instead of Glitter, the movie she rented. Realizing her mistake, she tries to re-rent the tape.
Clocking in at just 80 minutes, it’s a character study about a spoiled pop princess who butts heads with an unmovable force in the form of the uncooperative and inquisitive clerk (David Cormican).
Finally, Auto Focus exposes sex tapes’ dark side. Hogan’s Heroes star Bob Crane’s (Greg Kinnear) all-American public persona hid a secret obsession. “I’m a normal, red-blooded American man,” he says. “I like to look at naked women.” According to the film, he liked making sex tapes with women, usually without their knowledge. The movie speculates his 1978 murder may have been related to this unlawful pastime.
Synopsis: Based on the book The Monuments Men: Allied Heroes, Nazi Thieves and the Greatest Treasure Hunt in History by Robert M. Edsel, the movie stars George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban and Hugh Bonneville as a motley crew of art historians, engineers and museum directors recruited to locate and rescue priceless art works stolen by the Nazis. When two members of their team are killed they are no longer observers but active participants in the war.
• Richard: 2/5
• Mark: 3/5
Richard: Mark, this is a wartime comedy. Think Hogan’s Heroes by way of Leonardo Da Vinci and you’ll get the idea. It has some mild laughs — the biggest giggle, for Canadians anyway, comes from the Parisians who blame Matt Damon’s terrible French on having spent too much time in Montreal — but also a great deal of reverence for the art and the work of the real-life monuments men. But what might have been an edgy, exciting look at an under-reported slice of World War II history is reduced to an elegantly directed but somewhat dull film.
Mark: Richard, I was really looking forward to this movie. Three of my major obsessions are George Clooney, Nazis and art, although not necessarily in that order. But you’re right; the movie is kind of a snooze in parts. There are some great scenes, but they don’t quite add up. And at no time did I feel much of a sense of danger, probably because the war is ending and the Germans are already on the run. The great cast is mostly split up during the movie, so the expected camaraderie is absent. But there’s one great reason to see this movie, and that’s the prominent role of prickly nerd Bob Balaban.
RC: The cast is terrific. Balaban is a great actor, and an underused one, so it’s always cool to see him trotted out in anything, but for me Bill Murray shows, once again, in a brief scene in a shower (no spoilers here), how his understated style can move an audience. No problems with the acting, but co-writers Clooney and longtime collaborator Grant Heslov appear to have taken a dose of sentimentality pills before putting pen to paper. The earnest, reverential tone is reinforced by old school pacing that focuses on the character and art over action and a rousing soundtrack that sounds airlifted in from a classic wartime era movie.
MB: Bill Murray, as always, proves that less is indeed more. There’s a quasi-romance between Matt Damon and Cate Blanchett that seemed forced to me, not to mention she wears the ugliest pair of shoes in the history of cinema. But all through the movie there’s a moral dilemma that keeps being rammed down our throats. Is art valuable enough to risk human life for? The movie tells us over and over that it is, but to be honest, Richard, I’m not so sure. And if you’re not sure, the urgency falls apart.
RC: It seems like you noticed Blanchett’s shoes more than the art. Therein lies the movie’s central problem.
MB: Well, I’m more of a modernist anyway. When they tell the story of how the Germans burned the Klees, Braques, and Picassos I nearly wept. This isn’t a bad movie, Richard. I just hoped for a great one.
Auto Focus is basically like a nicely acted, snappily directed episode of E! True Hollywood Story. The account of sitcom star Bob Crane’s rise to fame, first as a DJ, then as the lead in television’s Hogan’s Heroes and fall into the pit of sex addiction and (every actor’s nightmare) dinner theatre has all the elements of great tabloid trash. Top that off with a brutal murder – that may or may not have been a direct result of his years of skirt chasing – and you’re mining pop culture gold. Auto Focus, however, takes itself a little too seriously to be great trashy fun. The movie could have been a wild romp, but director Paul Schrader chose to unfurl the film in a clinical way, which avoids the pitfalls of exploitation, but also sucks some of the fun out of the story. Greg Kinnear plays against his usual good guy type and delivers a vivid portrait of Crane as a superficially smirky shallow man only interested in his hedonistic sex life. Willem Dafoe has the art of playing the villain down to a science and hands in a creepy performance as John Carpenter, the seedy audio/visual salesman who introduced Crane to the world of orgies, swinger’s bars and the naughty possibilities of video tape.