"Sex Tape" (R) **1/2 (out of four)
The title pretty much explains it all with "Sex Tape," a free-wheeling, hit-and-miss romantic comedy that finds a couple scrambling to save their reputations after recording three hours of dirty deeds with an iPad camera – only to mistakenly share the video to a cloud server and ultimately have it fall into the wrong hands.
Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel star as Annie and Jay, a couple who once enjoyed a very active sex life, only to see it completely disappear once they got married and had kids. Desperate for new ways to jump-start their romantic relationship, the two decide to videotape a marathon tryst on Jay's new iPad, not realizing that a cool new app he's downloaded automatically shared it to the previous iPads he's owned. The problem is, the old devices have been given to family, friends and other people close to the family, and Jay and Annie's video is only one click away.
Recovering the iPads, though, is the least of the couple's worries: One particular recipient of the Jay and Annie's sex video is threatening to put it on the Internet for everybody to see – a plan that can only be stopped with a $25,000 bribe – and the couple isn't having any of it.
If you're offended by nudity and sex scenes on the big-screen in any way, stay far away from "Sex Tape," because there's plenty of both – especially when the couple is in their courtship phase and, of course, then the content of the video is finally revealed. The funny thing is, while Diaz and Segel only bear their backsides, the notions of implied sex and lots of dirty talk makes "Sex Tape" feel a lot more steamier than it really is.
While Diaz's and Segal's comedy scenes are fairly predictable in "Sex Tape," it prevents itself from being a one-joke movie with a pair of unexpected scenes from Rob Lowe (yes, the grandfather of the sex tape clearly has a fantastic sense of humor about his past misgivings) and Jack Black. Showcasing their talents in a couple of unexpected detours in the film, Lowe is hilarious as Diaz's potential new boss (a gee-whiz, straight-laced CEO of a mega family values corporation who leads a seedy double life), and Black (as an online porn king) spins a wonderfully funny yarn about why people make sex tapes in the first place.
While "Sex Tape" is far from perfect, director Jake Kasdan ("Orange County") throws just enough curveballs in the film to make it stand apart from two horribly overrated formula films this summer with "Neighbors" and "22 Jump Street." Overall though, "Sex Tape" doesn't help the genre rise above what has been mostly a mediocre batch of summer comedy offerings. Where's another "Hangover"-type surprise when you need it?
"Planes: Fire & Rescue" (PG) *** (out of four)
Disney revs up its Pixar-like "Cars" formula once again for "Planes: Fire & Rescue," a solid sequel to "Planes" and a respectable offering in this year's slate of animated family films.
Dane Cook returns as the voice of Dusty Crophopper, a crop-dusting plane-turned-aerial racing champ whose days in the fast lane come to a screeching halt when a broken gear box in his aging metal body can't be replaced. Causing a near-disaster in his town and putting the fire department in jeopardy because of a lackluster response to it, Dusty enlists in a program to fight wildfires, learning along the way that saving his fellow planes' "lives" is a lot more important that any trophies he could win.
The coming-of-age tale of "Planes: Fire & Rescue" feels distinctly familiar to "Cars," where Lightning McQueen (Owen Wilson) learns some life lessons from a car (Doc Hudson, voiced by Paul Newman) with a mysterious past. In this film, however, it's Dusty learning from rescue helicopter Blade Ranger (Ed Harris), who, once again, is hiding a lot under his hard-bodied exterior. Of course, there are gaggles of other talking vehicles too, which makes "Planes: Fire & Rescue" feel like you're back in Radiator Springs, with the main difference being the vehicles mostly have wings or rotors.
Despite the familiarity, "Planes: Fire & Rescue" still manages to be a nice fill of family-oriented entertainment, thanks to the movie's exhilarating flying scenes and sparks of humor from the likes of Julie Bowen, who plays a flirty chopper at Dusty's firefighting school.
Better yet, the flying sequences are punctuated by some spectacularly-staged forest fire scenes, the details of which are so rich that you feel like you're right in the midst of action each time a plane or chopper drops water or a batch of red flame retardant on top of the blazes. With Pixar head John Lasseter involved in Disney's standalone animated efforts now, there's no doubt that the films are all the better because of it, and this sequel to "Planes" has some steady wings.
Tim Lammers is a veteran entertainment reporter and a member of the Broadcast Film Critics Association. He annually votes on the Critics Choice Movie Awards. Locally, he reviews films for BringMeTheNews, “KARE 11 News at 11” and various Minnesota radio stations.