No Strings Attached

Reel Sex

If we assume the past twelve months in film reflect the time we’re living in now, then it would be easy to claim the year has been all about kinky sex and full-bodied sadness. Now, before you start preparing your arguments against my simple summation, let me clarify what I mean. On the surface the great films garnering attention (that masterpiece Jack and Jill aside) right now are in our consciousness more for the depiction of pretty people having crazy sex, rather than how the films are trying to expose the troubling nature and consequences of sex. Yes, we all know sex has consequences outside of disease and pregnancy, but the shear amount of filmmakers willing to show more than the grey, Hollywood sexual consequences (the above, plus violent Law and Order: SVU style stranger-rape) has been substantially small until this past year.

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Culture Warrior

The cinematic doppelganger effect seems to happen on a cyclical basis. Every few years, a pair of movies are released whose concepts, narratives, or central conceits are so similar that it’s impossible to envision how both came out of such a complex and expensive system with even the fairest amount of awareness of the other. Deep Impact and Armageddon. Antz and A Bug’s Life. Capote and Infamous. Paul Blart: Mall Cop and Observe and Report. And now two R-rated studio-released romantic comedies about fuck buddies played by young, attractive superstars have graced the silver screen within only a few short months of each other. We typically experience doppelganger cinema with high-concept material, not genre fare. To see two back-to-back movies released about the secret life of anthropomorphic talking insects, a hyperbole-sized rock jettisoning towards Earth’s inevitable destruction, a Truman Capote biopic, or a movie about a mall cop seem rare or deliberately exceptional enough as a single concept to make the existence of two subsequent iterations rather extraordinary. Much has been made of the notion that Friends with Benefits is a doppelganger of No Strings Attached (the former has in more than one case been called the better version of the latter), but when talking about the romantic comedy genre – a category so well-tread and (sometimes for better, sometimes not) reliably formulaic that each film is arguably indebted to numerous predecessors – can we really say these films are doppelgangers in the same vein as the high-concept examples, or […]

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This Week in Blu-ray

It’s been a long time since the world has held gaze upon This Week in Blu-ray, that much is true. But it’s back for a Saturday run in a big way — tons of Blu-rays, many of which are worth a rent or better, and a guest appearance by Rob Hunter. Since we’ve been away for the last two weeks, I’m including a few of the notable releases from both weeks. So prepare yourself (and your wallet) for an onslaught of awesome. Get through it this week, as next week appears to be just as good. And that’s where we’ll meet again, but on Tuesday this time. I Saw the Devil A South Korean government agent (Lee Byung-hun) is devastated when his fiance is murdered and dismembered by a madman (Choi Min-sik), but after a brief mourning period he sets out for a twisted and very unorthodox revenge. As in he catches the killer, hurts him severely, then lets him go… only to repeat the cycle over and over again. It’s a brutal game that sees the supposed hero bypass catharsis in favor of the dangerously unthinkable. Director Kim Jee-woon’s latest is easily the darkest, saddest, and most violent of his career but still every bit as fantastic as The Good the Bad the Weird and A Tale Of Two Sisters. Scenes of heart-pumping thrills exist side by side with stretches of excruciating dread. Magnet’s Blu-ray offers a crisp and beautiful transfer as well as an audio track that does […]

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This Week in DVD

This week doesn’t feature much in the way of high profile releases, but there are two genre titles hitting shelves that are worth a blind buy for fans of quality international cinema. And violence. Lots and lots of fantastically gruesome and bloody violence. One’s even in English for those of you unwilling (or unable) to read. I Saw the Devil and Black Death may be the best titles hitting shelves today, but they’re not alone. Other new releases include Blue Valentine, No Strings Attached, Dahmer vs Gacy, and more. As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. Black Death The black plague works its way across Europe, but when word comes of a village that has rescinded God’s favors and is free of death the bishop sends his best men to bring back the lead heretic for punishment. Sean Bean heads up the mission and recruits a young monk to help guide their way, and the group is soon waist-deep in mystery, madness, and dead bodies. Director Christopher Smith has delivered a dark exploration of faith, both what it means to retain it as well as what it takes to let it go. The action is a well-choreographed mix of metal on metal when it’s not slicing its way through flesh, and the ending packs a solid punch as well.

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The Reject Report

Not really. However, this week does see the release of concert footage from the Bieb (along with his life-long struggle to become famous and have Ellen Degeneres’ haircut). Plus, Adam Sandler adds to his tally of generic romantic comedies and Ed Helms finally makes it out of the house. The big question – which one of these masterpieces will take the top spot?

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I’m going to share something with you. I have a sick obsession with sex movies. I don’t mean I always watch them with salacious intentions, because I have to draw the line between art and pornography somewhere. Let me be clear, I really enjoy a movie whose sole purpose is to titillate a viewer so much that they question what they are really watching. I’ve spent many nights snuggled up on my couch cringing my way through Catherine Breillat’s many sex shockers. I made a boyfriend attend a viewing party for the highly controversial, yet exceptionally boring, 9 Songs. I’ve even gotten into fights with Netflix over its recommendation of Salo based on my high rating of Irreversible. Those last two movies have nothing in common, by the way. Sex-centric dramas have been a secret, back alley passion of mine. But in all my years devouring these movies, I rarely see comedies that both deal frankly with sex and show it. Sex is usually the butt of a joke in comedies, rather than a catalyst for moving a couple forward.

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The Reject Report

Good for Leighton Meester, Minka Kelly, Cam Gigandet, and all the other oddly named people involved in The Roommate. Not only did it come out #1 on this Super Bowl weekend, not only was it able to beat out the James Cameron-backed Sanctum, but it was the only film this weekend to even get into double digits. I’m not sure if that says a lot for The Roommate, the current slate of movies available for the masses, or the power of the Super Bowl draw away from the movie theaters. You can’t really put much of the blame for the weekend’s weak numbers. The past three years have had films open in the $20 or $30-million area. In 2009, Taken opened on Super Bowl weekend with $24.7 million, and that can’t even be considered counter-programming to the big game. Not like last year or 2007 when Dear John and Hannah Montana/Miley Cyrus: Best of Both Worlds Concert Tour opened to a $30.4 and $31.1 million, respectively. So the Super Bowl was a draw away from the movies.

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The Reject Report

A year ago last week, James Cameron’s groundbreaking Avatar beat out Titanic to be the highest domestic grossing film of all time. Cameron just happened to be the director on the monstrously successful Titanic, too. You all know this. What you might not have known is that Cameron is back, and this time, he’s going spelunking. Sanctum is sure to be Cameron’s next grand excursion into box office glory and could very well beat even Avatar’s record breaking numbers. What’s that? Cameron didn’t direct Sanctum? He just produced it? But the trailers…oh, never mind. Tank.

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The Reject Report

That wacky Anthony Hopkins sure knows how to turn ‘em in. With his broad hijinx and penchant for silly string gimmicks. The devil might have had something to do with it, too, as The Rite opened to number one this weekend. It’s opening wasn’t as big as you might expect, but it did a decent job. With a reported budget of $37 million, it should be fine with its mid-teen debut. That is unless you’re going by Kevin Smith math, in which case, the film is a serious dud. That’s a digression for another time, though. The Rite will do just fine, and Hopkins is sure to make many more stinkers films before his days in films have come to a close. His Hannibal days have long since passed, and you aren’t likely to see many more $100-million films from him beyond any franchise work.

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The Reject Report

Sometimes timing really is everything. Blue Monday (it’s a real date) came and went, and moviegoers were looking for something to make them laugh. Something that didn’t include Kato vision and Christoph Waltz shooting people in the face. Add into that the love Natalie Portman is raking in for her own downer performance in Black Swan, and you’ve got a formula for success in No Strings Attached. The romantic comedy was anything but a monster success. It claims the biggest opening for an Ivan Reitman film besides Ghostbusters II. It’s a long ways from being the biggest opening for either Portman or her co-star Ashton Kutcher. You do have to remember she was in the Star Wars prequels, each of which made more in their opening day than what No Strings Attached pulled in the last three days. Nonetheless, the R-rated rom-com succeeded in opening in the #1 slot and pulling in a bit more than what was expected. With a reported budget of only $25 million, the film is already well on its way to being a decent success. Because Kutcher needs more success in his life. Poor guy.

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The Week That Was

Like sands through the hourglass, these are the weeks of our lives. Two points if you know what soap opera that’s from. Minus one point for knowing what soap opera that’s from. As if thematically appropriate, this week was a lot of high drama here at FSR. Big casting news was abound, big editorials were written and one of our biggest yearly events, the Sundance Film Festival, kicked off. If you’re a regular reader of this site, it was a great week to be visiting us. If you’re not a regular reader of this site, here’s a list of all the great stuff you missed.

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This week, Fat Guy Kevin Carr trolls around hospitals looking for a scorching hot young doctor who doesn’t want a real relationship but would rather have someone she can have copious amounts of sex with many times throughout the week. Upon returning from that fantasy land, he heads to a job-placement agency to rub elbows with laid-off corporate executives who have trouble making ends meet so they can pay the lease on their Mercedes. Kevin is handing out grades for No Strings Attached and The Company Men, and the grades are not good.

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There’s a sweet romance developing in No Strings Attached that’s infused with equal parts hope, humor, and hesitation. Both the characters and the actors bringing them to life are funny and capable of expressing their desires and doubts with brief exchanges and glances that feel honest and heartfelt. But unfortunately for the movie (and the viewers) the romance in question is not the one featuring Natalie Portman and Ashton Kutcher. Instead it’s a couple of supporting characters who manage to do in fifteen collective minutes of screen-time what the leads fail to accomplish throughout the entire film. Adam and Emma (kids here, but soon to be played by Kutcher and Portman) first meet at summer camp where he tries to turn sympathy over his parent’s impending divorce into a sexual opportunity, but she finds his emotional needs even less appealing than his offer of a good old fashioned fingering. They meet in passing a couple more times over the years, but their story proper begins when Adam awakens naked one morning on a couch belonging to Emma and her three roommates. He’s an emotional mess after discovering his ex-girlfriend is now dating his father (Kevin Kline) and she’s an overworked doctor uninterested in relationships, so the duo decide the best course of action is a ‘friends with benefits’ arrangement. And the downside is…?

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The Reject Report

Yeah. Now get that song out of your head. Good luck with that. When you’re done, head on out to see a movie. There isn’t much new to partake in this weekend, but, if you’re a big fan of Natalie Portman, Bruce Willis’ son, or Olivia Thirlby (we can just assume on that last one), then you might want to check out the lone candidate for new releases. You enjoy the rest of the report. I’m gonna continue to sing Pinocchio songs to myself.

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We realize that you’re probably sitting at home right now, chewing your own nails off and wondering what movies are coming out this month. Maybe you’re even wondering why no one on the entire internet has said anything about them. Strange, we know. Fortunately, Rob Hunter and Cole Abaius spent the entire month of December combing through Wikileaks, calling Cleo, and building balsa wood trailers to make sure that you, dear reader, are in the know about what’s coming out in January. You watch movies, so this guide’s for you.

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There’s a lot of trailer action this morning as Hollywood executives are just now waking up from their Hybernol-induced winter comas, but the funniest one out there (counting the past few months even) is hands down this new red-band trailer for No Strings Attached. The premise is simple and as old as sex itself, but when you toss in Natalie Portman staring at Asthon Kutcher’s penis with 3D glasses on (a commentary on the fad if there ever was one), a metric ton of clever cursing, and Ludacris making a self-reference to every “Ho” pun-themed song he’s written – the world has a little bit more brilliance in it. In fact, the catalyst for the pair getting together will make you look at your own father in a gross and terrible new way. Don’t put yourself in Ashton Kutcher’s character’s place. Don’t do it. Just don’t. Seriously, don’t.

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Director Will Gluck had a fairly middling (yet harmless) introduction with the world through Fired Up! but his follow-up, Easy A, has earned him a place as one to watch. With more eyes on him, he’s chosen to make Justin Timberlake perform oral sex on Mila Kunis while singing a Semisonic song. Ivan Reitman, on the other hand, is a veteran. He’s the man who directed every movie you liked in the 80s. He’s hit a snag as a director recently (with My Super Ex-Girlfriend), but he’s on fire as a producer. Friends with Benefits is the Casual Sex Between Friends Armageddon to No Strings Attached‘s Deep Impact. Both movies deal with the same exact plot, both involve incredibly attractive people that in no way would ever realistically be hurting for carnal pleasure, and both come out around relatively the same time. Who will come out on top? Probably Kunis, but you should check out both trailers and weigh in for yourself.

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published: 11.21.2014
D
published: 11.21.2014
B+
published: 11.19.2014
C+
published: 11.19.2014
B-, C


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