Playboy executive Roderick Blank (Simon Baker) is about to settle down after a full-life of many women. His overbearing platonic friend Trixie (Mindy Cohn) clumsily opens a mysterious email sent to him which reveals a list of all the women he will ever sleep with moving forward--101 to be exact listed in chronological order. Thing is his fiancée isn't last on the list; 72 other lucky ladies follow her. So needless to say his engagement dissolves as he starts burning through his list of pre-ordained sexual conquests. In bizarre Matrix-like fashion Roderick is coached by a trio of relationship experts who advise him on which women he should pursue. All is kosher until the last name on the list is Gillian DeRaisx (Winona Ryder)--also known as Death Nell a local serial killer who targets promiscuous men. Uh-oh. Simon Baker (The Devil Wears Prada) carries this film's charm on his shoulders; he is irresistible in his body language and shows just how much of a man's man he can be. He does a fine job a unique type of rascal tapped in an offbeat love story. Ryder is a weird hybrid of Chicago’s Catherine Zeta Jones and Who Framed Roger Rabbit Jessica Rabbit: a femme fatale with a bowl brunette wig that belies her black widow-like mystique. But Ryder is underdeveloped and this is little more than a star sizzle piece for her. The female supporting roles are all strong women including Sophie Monk Leslie Bibb and Julie Bowen with complex viewpoints despite just being numbers on his list. Who's that cuddly magic man in the all-white room? Ratatouille himself Patton Oswalt as Fred one of Roderick’s advisor. He's hilarious in his physicality and gives ordinary line reads a pro comic's touch sparking smiles every time he's on screen. Writer/director Daniel Waters best known for writing one of Winona Ryder's breakout films Heathers is a colorful name from the past dusted off to helm Sex and Death 101 his second directorial effort. The film’s sense of humor is oddly pitched and uneven and the predictability is ancient. When Roderick stumbles in the dark for his girlfriend's room in a strange house he of course ends up sleeping with the 88-year-old grandmother. Part of the problem is there are too many thematic elements being thrown together: dark humor intrigue and broad physical comedy resulting in a big mess. Let’s just say Sex and Death 101 will probably end up on Lifetime at some point.
Rock Star's origins lie in the rise to fame of Tim "Ripper" Owens who supplanted Judas Priest singer Rob Halford after toiling in a tribute band to the British metal mavens. Not that Owens is too happy with Rock Star. Director Stephen Herek and writer John Stockwell present Wahlberg's Chris Cole as a hired hand willing to live out someone else's dream. It's also a cliched cautionary tale about fame and fortune. In his cover band Cole lives to bang out perfect renditions of the loud and proud heavy metal fashioned by the Def Leppard-ish Steel Dragon. Instant fame arrives when Steel Dragon hires Cole to replace their departed singer. Cue the barrage of women illicit drugs and wrecked hotel rooms followed by the exit of Cole's long-suffering girlfriend Emily (Jennifer Aniston). He must now decide between life in the fast lane or Emily and his growing desire to be taken seriously.
How much of a stretch is it for the former rapper known as Marky Mark to portray a wide-eyed dreamer who succumbs to sex drugs and heavy metal? He did it once as Boogie Nights' porn star and aspiring rocker. He has the abs the flowing mane of hair the well-packaged leather pants the mascara and eyeliner the high shriek and the stage presence to make you believe that he can rock day and night with Motley Crue. He also displays an innocence that's ripe for corruption. Aniston's job is to ensure that Walhberg remains unaffected by fame. There's a steeliness and determination in Aniston that she's never displayed before. Yet her beauty undermines her. She's the kind of girl Wahlberg could only get when famous not while rocking in obscurity. Of the band only road manager Timothy Spall displays any wit or personality. He's a hoot as a grizzled veteran with plenty of sage advice to dispense.
Herek must have seen every episode of VH1's Behind the Music. Like the subjects of that series Rock Star rocks hard parties harder and then crashes louder than any Judas Priest anthem. He even bookends Rock Star with Walhberg reflecting on his wild ways. There are the requisite overproduced rock concerts TV interviews orgies drug binges and recording studio screaming fits. Just what you would expect from Reagan-era rockers. Herek handles all this with panache--Rock Star is as fast glossy and entertaining as any MTV video--but it burns out suddenly and unsatisfactorily. It just isn't clear whether Herek and Stockwell are out to honor condemn or satirize rock's excesses. Also just like last year's Almost Famous Rock Star's fictional band barely seems part of the proceedings. You never get a true sense of the band's mechanics or of what made them metal gods to begin with.