Tag Archives: Sex and the City

This Means War – Review

This Means Photoshop

Remember McG? The barely named director was seen as a Hollywood wunderkind in the early 2000s after his kinetic, girl power nonsense take Charlie’s Angels was released. One intelligence-insulting sequel and a Terminator reboot with more plot holes than six viewings of Inception later, McG has managed to keep himself in the game by producing semi-popular schlock TV, such as The OC and Supernatural.

Now he’s back in the director’s chair with this self-important action comedy. This Means War is a confused film that attempts to be the ultimate date movie, pitting two best friend super-spies against one another for the hand of the girl they both fancy. Dripping in eye candy for women and full of Sex and the City-style “witticisms” about penises while boasting less-than-inspired action, few men are likely to come out of this feeling they got a fair share.

Chris Pine and Tom Hardy play FDR and Tuck, two top CIA agents reduced to deskwork after a mission goes awry. FDR is cocky and up for anything. Tuck wants to settle down and is inexplicably English. One day, at separate times, the pair each meet Lauren (Reese Witherspoon), a feisty, no-nonsense girl who is fed up with disappointing men. Tuck falls head over heels. FDR finds he may want more than just a quickie for the first time ever.

Of course, the friends soon realise they’re dating the same girl, and a high-tech pissing contest soon begins as they use the CIA’s facilities to recon their target, find out what she likes and sabotage each other’s efforts to woo her. It’s entirely as morally inexcusable as it sounds. Not only have they bugged her apartment, but their competitiveness over her reduces Lauren to little more than a sack of meat prize with all spoils going to the victor.

Of course, Lauren is hardly free of blame. Bolstered by her jealous, seemingly miserable married best friend (Chelsea Handler), she proceeds to date two men at once because, sure, guys do it all the time.

This Means Awkward

This Means War really is about as sexist as a film can get these days. Women are portrayed as irrational, self-centred, needy and borderline bipolar. Sure, men get it pretty bad too – they’re portrayed as being aggressive, competitive and insecure – but comparatively these character defects seem hardly as negative. The film is so convinced it is a modern tale about a woman getting to choose between two near-perfect men, but really it’s more conservative than It’s a Wonderful Life and without a fraction of the charm.

And all this might be excusable if it was well made, but it isn’t. The writing is simply abominable, featuring some of the laziest dialogue you will find. The agents’ boss talks like a mission guide between computer game levels. One of Chelsea Handler’s Carrie Bradshaw-est moments, where she compares a man’s penis to a poltergeist, sounds like it was written by picking nouns at random out of a bowl. Determined to ruin the manlier aspects of the film too, the shaky action sequences are shot by a cameraman who appears to have a bee inside trousers. One sequence, a strobe light-heavy shootout in a strip club, seems determined to seek out the person in the audience with epilepsy and give them the seizure of a lifetime.

In fairness to the actors, the three leads are all up for it, and give their portrayals far more effort than the material deserves. Chelsea Handler brings down the tone enormously however, injecting sheer misery into the film as its “comic” relief.

While the sabotage scenes are fun, they’re not enough to save a film so utterly out of touch with its audience that when the villain wants to track down the film’s two heroes, he goes to FDR’s London-based tailor to find out where the owner of his one-of-a-kind suits lives.

Nothing can go wrong when we wear suits this nice...

No one would care about the film being a sexist tale of the sex-lives of the wealthy if the thing were at least entertaining. Realistically the only viewers who could enjoy this film will be those with uncontrollable lust for Messrs Hardy and Pine and pop culture academics revelling in the simmering homoeroticism at the heart of the movie’s bromance.


(originally published at http://www.filmireland.net)



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The Sorrow and the City

Sex and the City

It must be quite reassuring for producers to make a movie based on a popular TV show. It’s pretty much a sure-fire success. Provided the original show is not too long forgotten (*cough* The X-Files) and you can get enough of the show’s original cast involved you’re more or less guaranteed a huge box-office draw.

Take this film for example. It was based on a show that was not only popular, but managed to change the culture of its time. It changed the way people talked, the way people consumed and what people did with their spare time. Those who didn’t watch it and didn’t want to watch it were utterly aware of its existence and knew it couldn’t realistically be avoided. There’s no doubt it was a phenomenon.

The film could exist because the show made its fans cry out for more. Even if the film could win no new viewers, at least the fans would come in droves. The film was thus utterly critic proof.

Everything about the show made the film a good idea, right down to the characters portrayed in it. The lead is confident, even arrogant at times, but there’s an endearing quality on show that wins viewers over. Then there are the three best friends; the sex-mad one, the feisty, sarcastic redhead and the cute adorable one who, no matter what people claim is really everyone’s favourite. Yes, from the very get go, Pokémon: The First Movie was always going to be a hit.

What? You thought I was talking about something else? Fine then. If I must.

So I finally allowed the opposite sex to drag me to see Sex and the City just as it was disappearing from the cinemas. However, I had rather atypical reasons (i.e. other than my being male and straight) for being apprehensive. It was not just the modest reviews and overwhelming box office gross that made me cautious. I didn’t want it to undo the good that had already been done.

Yes, that’s right, I like Sex and the City. It’s a good show. At the best of times it was a very good show. Unrealistic it was, but there was enough sass and attitude on display, dressed up in colourful and (I can only assume) “fabulous” designer decor that it stood out from all other comedy and drama shows. HBO’s use of real locations instead of constant sets made the show a visual breath of fresh air. Very often plots seemed to be written around a climactic pun, but the plots were fine and the puns were funny. Sex and the City was, and reruns still are, perfectly entertaining viewing.

So what about this film then? Well it’s not as bad as some have suggested. The problem is that given the budget, the length and the hype this should have been essentially “the best episode ever”. But it’s not. It might just about make it into the top 10.

Sex and the City: The Movie is surprisingly low on jokes, and overbearingly high on drama. Sex and the City was a funny show. This is not a funny film. The wit that was half the appeal of the TV series has been replaced with obvious gags – leg waxing humour, what can women dress as for Halloween humour, dogs having sex humour – with the only laugh out loud moment, when prissy Charlotte soils herself, seeming more at home in a Farrelly brothers screenplay. The event is later mentioned again as if to say “come on, laugh once more at the one joke we’ve offered you”. It’s a harsh criticism to throw at the film, but since the show was funny, one expects the film to follow suit.

However, the actual emotional drama on show, notably Carrie’s never-ending suffering with Mr Big but most evident in Miranda’s break-up with Steve, may in fact be stronger than what was on display in the series. There’s a lot of heartfelt stuff going on; regardless of how obnoxious you may find the characters, you can’t help but feel sorry for them.

Of course, the show was always able to balance the four characters between episodes; two would have emotional crises while the other two would have amusing sexual/relationship hi-jinks. Here, over nearly two-and-a-half hours, there are three emotional crises and one boring pregnancy. This is part of the reason Sex and the City: The Movie fails; it’s really, really grim.

Carrie, Miranda and Samantha all go through hell for 140 mins (not just 35 as we were once accustomed to) before everything turns out ok in the end. Regardless of how happy the ending is, it’s all a bit heavy for light entertainment. It may be ambitious, but it’s a bit dull, and if it isn’t dull for some, they can hardly call it life affirming. Sex and the City was a show that brought people out of slumps and cheered them up, here we have to see Carrie so emotionally demoralised that she has to be spoon-fed yoghurt. It’s enough to make every single and spoken-for woman on earth throw themselves off the nearest available precipice. Most of the men might as well too out of sheer guilt.

Miranda and Steve’s relationship issues are a great story unto themselves; by the resolution of their subplot we can mostly agree that both had faults, both have suffered and both will be happier staying together. It’s not exactly profound but it does the trick. In between, however; OH THE MISERY!!! Miranda, like Carrie, cries and cries and cries. They cry with one another, they cry alone, they cry and scream at their lovers. It’s all just far too heavy.

Samantha’s story is even worse, as she regresses to a character she was before the show finished and seems happier that way. Her perfect love story falls utterly flat, as she (allegedly, I saw no signs of it) gets fat due to being miserable with her more successful boyfriend. As she repeatedly teleports across America to see her friends, we’re left praying she’ll just shut up and stay there, so she can be happy, we can have less misery dumped upon us and we no longer have to have that scene where the girls all scream because Samantha has suddenly appeared in New York, for like the eighteenth time.

Charlotte meanwhile is too lovely to have sad things happen to her. Everything goes lovely for her. Unfortunately it is really dull and we see practically nothing of it. Worse still, the show’s best character, Charlotte’s husband Harry, is inexcusably absent throughout most of the film. Sex and the City no longer wants us to have fun.

Yes, in the end everything works out for close to the best, even for the token Oscar winner (see what I did there?) who finds dull love with her dull first boyfriend back in her dull home city. But as Carrie narrates about important love and friends are, we suddenly realise we’ve been here before. The ending is pretty much the same as that of the TV series.

Wait a second! After all that, 140 more minutes of not first rate TV, we’re right back where we left off? Carrie is with Big (does it matter that they’re married now?), Miranda is with Steve, Charlotte has just got a baby, Samantha is sassy and carefree. We went through all that just to end up exactly as we were back in 2004, if not slightly worse off?

Nope, it’s true, after all this time things are not as good as they once were, and we’ve gone through boring emotional hell to get there. No amount of Carrie’s pseudo-philosophical pap can disguise what is essentially a tragic ending disguised as a happy one.

Every story should serve its purpose, and since this film makes the TV series’ finale less truly happy than it seemed four years ago, one gets the sense that the film serves no function other than to make money. Where has the city gone? New York was once a character in this show, now it’s all set indoors or in Mexico. All direction has been lost in order to make the film essentially on the cheap (the Mexico scenes in particular look like they might as well have been filmed on Long Island). Indeed, the fashion shoots and fashion shows that litter this picture serve no purpose as their equivalents did in the TV series, they are just time-wasting distractions that beg you to remember happier times.

And they were happier times. It was a happy fun show. But it grew up, and when it did, it finally stopped being interesting. That’s the saddest part of all.

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Mmmm… Caramel…


When one might expect audiences to be utterly abuzz with Indy 4 mania, it cannot be ignored that the Sex and the City film is really what people, and by that I mean women, girls, their boyfriends and gay men, are talking about the most, despite its release being a week behind the latest Jones adventure (Indiana that is, not Samantha).

It might seem odd therefore that while the 19-year wait for Kingdom of the Crystal Skull has given audiences a flavour of nostalgia, Sex and the City is still fresh enough for the story to be picked up right where it left off after its 3 year absence. Certainly a dead horse is still being flogged here, but this one has suffered far less decomposition and is wearing Manolo Blahnik hooves.

Not for a moment do I have any faith that the Sex and the City film will be worth seeing; although familiar with and regularly amused by the show I find it hard to believe that this will be any more than an exercise in commercialist audience-driven drivel. SatC lost its appeal when the three interesting girls (Carrie being too despicable a human being to deserve life support after a motor accident) all entered relationships with men who were far better written than they were, and far too good for them.

It is sad therefore that women in Ireland and Britain will be flocking in gaggles and gangs to SatC when what is likely to be the sweetest girl’s movie of the year, Caramel, is still in (albeit selected) cinemas.

Caramel, or “Sex and the Lebanon” as I’ve dubbed it, is a gorgeous little story about the effects of Lebanese culture and society on the women within it. Centred on a Westernised beauty salon, the four women whose story it tells bear their own similarities to the HBO girls on the other side of the world. Layale has dreams of finding the perfect combination of love and sex, but with a married man who can never really be hers. Nisrine is a sweet girl excited about her forthcoming marriage, and so willing to please her husband that she will go to extreme lengths to disguise that she is not a virgin.

With less crassness but just as much bite as SatC, Caramel is as much a satire on the cultural landscape of Beirut as it is on the strengths and weaknesses of women; all wrapped up in a sweet little package that looks absolutely gorgeous in sun-drenched natural colours.

Adding an extra layer to the film is a parallel storyline about a local elderly seamstress, Rose, who embarks on the first romantic episode of her entire life having spent her whole life looking after her sister, who is somewhat unbalanced but sweetness personified.

The story lacks any of Carrie Bradshaw’s pathetic puns and philosophical waxings (the only waxing done here is of leg hair), it is simply what it is, a lovely slice of women’s lives.

The soundtrack also adds a great texture to the film, and the considerable wit on display (a bickering couple in their car at night are arrested for indecency, a splendid moment of editing makes light work of a cringe-inducing medical procedure) is of a kind rarely seen in English-language features these days. Many of the finest moments centre on policeman Youssef, who is enamoured of Layale; in one scene he watches her on her phone through a window and imagines it is him on the other end of the line, later, having been shaved by her in the salon, he strokes his upper lip where his moustache once was with the delighted expression of a young teenager who, having shaved for the first time, remembers the softer skin of their childhood.

Perhaps most impressive of all is that the film was written and directed by the 34-year-old Nadine Labaki, who also plays the lead role of Layale. A remarkable achievement for her first feature film.

While the hordes can surely not be dissuaded from rushing to see Carrie and Co.’s feeble attempts to still be young, fabulous and relevant, perhaps some can be convinced to make a trip to see this too. So soon after Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis, it looks as though honest stories from the Middle East may have more to say about women globally now than the collected adventures of a woman whose sole talent is to match her shoes and dress with a hat that looks like a triffid.


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