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Movie Reviews: One of the foulest films of the year


SERIOUSLY UNFUNNY: Sex Tape, staring Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz

SERIOUSLY UNFUNNY: Sex Tape, staring Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz

Deirdre O'Kane as Christina Noble in the film Noble

Deirdre O'Kane as Christina Noble in the film Noble


SERIOUSLY UNFUNNY: Sex Tape, staring Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz

Reviewed this week: Sex Tape;

Sex Tape, Cert 16

Timing is everything, they say. Sex Tape's release coincided with the recent furore over leaked nudie pictures of Hollywood darlings, its yarn about a lewd home video hitting cyberspace rhyming eerily with news headlines. Jake Kasdan's film, however, would never have been able to fully capitalise on such serendipity simply for the reason that it is one of the foulest to darken auditoria this year.

Currently rocking an 18pc rating on review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes, Sex Tape is stymied from the get-go by its couch-potato approach to comedy writing and its apparent fondness for smut-fuelled, gender-stereotypical relationship flaps that would make even dating teenagers roll their eyes.

Apple must be thrilled, though. Jay (Jason Segal) works in the music industry but (unfathomably) gives iPads to friends and family as gifts. Wife Annie (Cameron Diaz) is about to become a professional blogger. Their heady days of hourly bonks have given way to parenthood and the stresses of white-picket affluence. A sex tape is filmed to spice things up, but it gets synced to the tablets. Off they go to retrieve them.

Mouths open and inane noises come out. It's so dire, so unfunny, you actually feel embarrassed for the cast and crew. Diaz now seems content with a career in which removing clothing and grinning manically are enough to pay the bills. We are more disappointed in Jason Segal, who must forget this whole episode and get back to being a likeable comedy leading man.


Now showing


Noble, 15A

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Christina Noble's life story is a remarkable one, full of highs and lows, awfulness, loss, joy,  adventure and triumph. The one word that describes it, and the woman as I imagine her to be, is 'resilience.' No matter what happened, she kept going and when she saw a purpose she went after it. It is this that saw her go from extreme poverty in Dublin in the 1940s through a busy and often difficult life to Vietnam in 1989 on foot of a feeling she had had many years before.

Writer-director Stephen Bradley (who made Sweety Barrett and Boy Eats Girl) opens the story in Vietnam in 1989 where the recently arrived Christina (Deirdre O'Kane, right) wanders the city trying to work why she has for so long felt compelled to visit. She feels an instant affinity with the many street children, but cannot see a clear purpose or way to achieve anything specific, so finds a church and has one of the frank discussions she has been having with God since her childhood.

The film returns then to young Christina (Gloria Cramer Curtis) a little girl who ditches school to sing Doris Day songs in competition. A difficult childhood under a feckless father (Liam Cunningham) does not lead to good things for her (Sarah Greene plays 'Middle Christina') but the film never strays into schmaltz. The facts of the story imply the emotional loading, it is not slathered on. There is a lot in this story, the three Christinas are very good and although the script wavers on occasion overall the film works very well, it feels emotionally honest and is a fitting tribute to a woman it's impossible not to admire.


Opens next Friday


Manuscripts Don't Burn, No Cert

Dissident Iranian director Mohammad Rasoulof's thriller is based on true events, and filmed in a clandestine fashion to avoid the agents of state interference. The drama is played out against the backdrop of contemporary Iran where state oppression and surveillance are everywhere and the pen is fighting a rearguard action against the sword.

Enter Mortesa and Khosrow, a couple of grisly freelance hit men tasked with ensuring that manuscripts detailing a state-sponsored plot to eliminate a number of Iran's intelligentsia never sees the light of publication. The plan involved careering a busload of Iran's intellectuals, travelling to a conference in Armenia, into a ravine.

The plot may have failed but the fall-out still reverberates for the main players years later. Having recognised the Orwellian "error of his ways," one of the intended victims is now a powerful state censor. He now oversees the cover-up of the crime and that he once had a relationship with those he now oppresses adds a riveting dimension to their interactions.

A searing indictment of the current regime in Iran, this daring and brave piece deserves as wide an audience as possible. It's testimony to the heroism of all involved that, for fear of reprisals, the cast and crew are uncredited. Not to be missed.


IFI and Selected Cinemas


The Boxtrolls, PG

Laika Studios' previous offerings, Coraline and Paranorman, were well-received and very popular, their Tim Burtonesque animation and quirky characters appealed to audiences of all ages. Laika's latest offering, The Boxtrolls, does not hit the same marks.

The Boxtrolls are seemingly exclusively male creatures who are so named because they wear cardboard boxes and live in the cavernous underground of Cheeseville. Widely feared, they have been blamed for the kidnap, some years before, of Baby Trubshaw, a name every Cheeseville child is threatened with, and they are suspected of countless other atrocities.

Vermin controller Archibald Snatcher (Ben Kingsley) is a Red Hat who longs to belong to the city's cheese-quaffing elite, the White Hats. Such is the fear of the Boxtrolls that the city is under curfew. But Snatcher, cut from very similar cloth to the Childcatcher in Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, negotiates a deal whereby if he can capture all the Boxtrolls he will ascend to White-Hatted glory. While his employees (Nick Frost and Richard Ayoade) debate the morals of their role, and if they are performing a service or are mere evil henchmen, Snatcher keeps his eye on the prize.

But Baby Trubshaw has not met the fate popular myth would suggest, and in his bid to save the Boxtrolls he has unlikely support in Winnie (Elle Fanning), daughter of the town leader. The film looks fabulous, but on many levels it fails to launch. The central conceit is not well enough, or early enough, explained for children to understand, the humour in it doesn't work, although a great cast does try, a lot of the good lines are thrown away so that not even the most willing-to-be-amused child (or adult) will laugh too heartily or often. But by far its biggest downfall is the characters, they are simply not very appealing.


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