This week’s new films reviewed

Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz in Sex Tape
Jason Segel and Cameron Diaz in Sex Tape

Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel’s raunchy comedy Sex Tape

SEX TAPE (15)

All publicity is good publicity and the rise of “leaked” celebrity sex tapes has certainly extended the fame of media darlings far beyond the allotted 15 minutes.

Katie Price and Dane Bowers, Pamela Anderson and Tommy Lee, Paris Hilton and Rick Salomon and Tulisa and rapper Justin Edwards all faced a trial by media when their amorous antics suddenly materialised in the public domain.

Sometimes, these homemade escapades jeopardized careers.

Chart-topping singer R Kelly faced a protracted legal battle in relation to a video featuring an underage girl and, in the 1980s, actor Rob Lowe’s image was badly tarnished after footage surfaced of a sexual dalliance with two women aged 16 and 22.

Lowe subsequently poked fun at himself when he hosted Saturday Night Live and he continues to wedge tongue in cheek with an eye-catching supporting role in Jake Kasdan’s potty-mouthed comedy.

Sex Tape is the raunchy tale of a happily married couple, who drunkenly agree to perform every position in The Joy Of Sex on camera for their private delectation.

When they first meet, Jay (Jason Segel) and Annie (Cameron Diaz) cannot keep their hands off each other and enjoy an impressively gymnastic sex life.

Two children later, there are few opportunities for amorous one-on-one time.

With their cherubic offspring (Sebastian Hedges Thomas, Giselle Eisenberg) safely entrusted to grandma (Nancy Lenehan), Annie and Jay excitedly agree to make a sex tape.

Unfortunately, the exhausted husband forgets to erase the video file and it uploads to the cloud and syncs to several iPads, which the couple have given away as presents.

Jay and Annie are horrified when they realise their energetic efforts are available to download to friends, family, the postman and Annie’s soon-to-be-boss, Hank (Lowe).

When pals Tess (Ellie Kemper) and Robby (Rob Corddry) learn about the existence of the recording, they are aghast, especially Robby, who cannot believe Jay performed for three hours.

“That’s the length of the movie Lincoln!” he gasps enviously.

Time is of the essence and Tess and Robby join Jay and Annie as they race through the night to delete the incriminating video file from the iPads and spare their blushes.

Sex Tape is a tease that fails to arouse belly laughs or a deep emotional connection to the beleaguered characters.

Diaz and Segel, who previously locked horns in saucy comedy Bad Teacher, are an attractive pairing, but the script short-changes them both.

A protracted sequence at Hank’s palatial home outstays its welcome, replete with escalating animal cruelty.

Jack Black cameos late in the film as a porn website proprietor and makes the point that Jay and Annie could have resolved the situation with a simple email or telephone call rather than racing around town like lunatics.

A truncated, 20-minute version of Kasdan’s film has undeniable appeal.

RATING: 4/10 BEFORE I GO TO SLEEP (15)

There has been a rich harvest of taut thrillers in 2014, including the independent American features Blue Ruin and Cold In July and gritty British films Locke and Starred Up.

With David Fincher’s adaptation of Gone Girl looming on the horizon, this is undoubtedly a year when audiences will catch themselves returning to filthy habits and furiously biting their nails in the dark of an unbearably tense cinema.

Before I Go To Sleep is guaranteed to jangle nerves and drop a few jaws as summer mellows into autumn.

Based on SJ Watson’s bestselling novel, this ingenious thriller places us in exactly the same hellish predicament as the heroine, who wakes up each morning without any memory of the past, including her own identity.

Through the eyes of this terrified wife, we absorb scraps of information from supposedly reliable sources and try to piece together the truth, unsure if writer-director Rowan Joffe is leading us a merry, sadistic dance.

Following a car accident, 47-year-old Christine Lucas (Nicole Kidman) is diagnosed with anterograde amnesia.

Each morning, she wakes in a strange bed next to a man she does not know and creeps into the adjacent bathroom where a series of photographs on the wall begin to fill in the blanks, letting her know that the man is her husband Ben (Colin Firth) and they have shared many happy years together.

“You store up information for a day, wake up, and it’s all gone,” explains Ben, whose love for his wife holds strong.

He leaves for work and Christine continues to learn about her past from information in the house.

Then she receives a mysterious telephone call from someone called Dr Nash (Mark Strong), who instructs her to look in the wardrobe.

“We’ve been keeping a video diary. I’m not sure Ben knows,” confides the medic.

The subsequent footage casts doubt on the facts that underpin Christine’s fragile existence.

“Don’t trust anyone!” whispers Christine to herself in the video diary, tears glistening in her eyes.

As Christine reconnects with Claire (Anne-Marie Duff), who is supposedly her best friend, contradictory testimonies drive her to the brink of insanity.

Before I Go To Sleep drip-feeds us fragmented flashbacks, clouding our judgement of characters as they orbit Christine, purportedly out of love.

Kidman captures the fragility of a woman at the mercy of her condition, who knows she must stare into the abyss before sleep robs her of a day’s detective work.

Firth and Strong offer sterling support and Joffe cranks up the tension masterfully with each hairpin twist.

The guessing game of who to trust is part of the film’s diabolical appeal and the script engineers some wonderful bluffs until a gasp-inducing big reveal that should have audiences teetering precariously on the edge of their seats.

RATING: 8/10

THE HUNDRED-FOOT JOURNEY (PG)

Made to a tried and tested recipe laid out in Richard C Morais’ novel, The Hundred-Foot Journey is an uplifting comedy drama charting the battle of wits between two restaurateurs in a close-knit French village.

It’s a familiar story of feuds and reconciliation, love and loss, laced with the heady spices of one family’s proud Indian heritage.

Screenwriter Steven Knight (Dirty Pretty Things) offsets the sweetness of the central narrative with tart one-liners, and garnishes with crowd-pleasing performances from Helen Mirren and Om Puri as fierce rivals, who learn to see eye to eye over the simmering saucepans.

Lasse Hallstrom’s handsome confection is comfort food for the soul.

Myriad scenes of chefs searing fresh meats and fishes, or lovingly stirring the ingredients of thick sauces, tantalise the senses and make your mouth water.

Papa Kadam (Om Puri) and his five children - Mansur (Amit Shah), Hassan (Manish Dayal), Mahira (Farzana Dua Elahe), Mukhtar (Dillon Mitra) and Aisha (Aria Pandya) - flee Mumbai after an arson attack on their restaurant, which results in the death of Papa’s beloved wife (Juhi Chawla).

Initially, the Kadams settle in London but they leave because talented chef Hassan discovers that “the vegetables have no soul, no life”.

So the clan seeks new horizons in Europe.

Shortly after crossing the Swiss border into France, the brakes on the Kadams’ van fail and they crash close to the village of Saint-Antonin, which boasts a Michelin star establishment Le Saule Pleureur run by widow Madame Mallory (Helen Mirren).

The building across the road from Mallory’s restaurant is vacant and Papa dreams of serving traditional Indian fare to the good people of France.

Eldest son Mansur tries to dissuade his father from competing with Le Saule Pleureur: “It is the best restaurant for 50 miles and the President of France eats there!”

Unperturbed, Papa opens Maison Mumbai with Hassan as head chef.

This sparks a bitter rivalry with Madame Mallory’s own chef Jean-Pierre (Clement Sibony) that spirals out of control.

Thankfully, Madame’s pretty sous chef Marguerite (Charlotte Le Bon) is more welcoming and she inspires Hassan to learn classic French cuisine including boeuf bourguignon and pigeon aux truffes.

The Hundred-Foot Journey trades heavily on the spiky banter between Mirren and Puri, the former adopting a cod-French accent as she tells the Kadams, “If your food is anything like your music, I suggest you tone it down.”

Their interplay is a solid and appealing foundation for a sweet romantic subplot between Dayal and Le Bon.

When Knight’s script veers into slightly darker territory, and adds the poisonous tang of fame to the feel-good mix, the film stumbles.

Thankfully, director Hallstrom restores balance with a last-minute dollop of shameless sentimentality to ensure audiences leave with their bellies full of unbridled joy.

RATING: 6/10