REVIEW: Magic Mike XXL

Magic Mike XXL

Magic Mike XXL
Directed by: Gregory Jacobs
Written by: Reid Carolin
Starring: Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer and Jada Pinkett Smith

Yes, of course the extra, extra large sequel to Magic Mike is overflowing with washboard abs, man-thongs and sexy, sticky dance numbers.  It contains scenes of near orgiastic excess featuring Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer and many others,  but XXL is also more about audience participation than its predecessor.  It’s the pleasure in the (on-screen) crowds- their wide grins, frantic eyes and nervous laughter- that is a big part of what makes the movie such a contagious, refreshing burst of joy.

Much of XXL focuses on Mike (Channing Tatum, as effortlessly charismatic as ever) taking a spontaneous vacation from his now-successful furniture design business to road (s)trip to a male stripper convention in Myrtle Beach with some of the key players from the first movie.  Taking the club away from them provides the movie with an electrifying freedom.   Almost everything that ties them to that movie’s world- cell phones, old costumes, conflict – is thrown out the window here, often literally.

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Short takes: Avengers: Age of Ultron, Child 44, Age of Adaline & more

The Avengers Age of Ultron

The Avengers: Age of Ultron There are too many Avengers in this latest installment and not enough interesting ones, kind of like Marvel movies.  Joss Whedon did an admirable job of meshing the clumsy super hero universes in the first Avengers, even if the movie itself ultimately felt bland and overdone.  Whedon’s knack for playing off the different screen personas of his stars can’t save the overstretched Age of Ultron, though.  Almost every element of this latest installment, from the story to the obnoxious editing during the action sequences, induces an unpleasant amount of whiplash.  Ultron somehow manages to be both overwhelming and boring; too sanitized and controlled to do anything but occasionally amuse.

Thor, Captain America, Hulk, Iron Man, Black Widow, et al. don’t work nearly as well together on screen as they did the first time, and the verbal wit from the first movie is in much shorter supply.  For every good scene like the one where the other characters try (and fail) to lift Thor’s hammer, there seem to be two or three lengthy, generic combat sequences with the dull turd of a villain.  (I do give James Spader credit for bringing at least some mischief to the voice of the rogue A.I. Ultron, though).  At this point Marvel movies can barely keep my attention as stand-alone installments, so I don’t anticipate my headache getting any better when the next Avengers rolls around. Grade: D+

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If they were in television… JJ Abrams

Notable films: Mission Impossible III and Star Trek.

Famous for: Breathing new life in old franchises, science fiction, character focused drama in big-budget actions, well-orchestrated visuals, brightly-lit sets even for dark materials, the hit TV show Lost and other serialized television work.

Hypothetical title: Aftermath Continue reading

REVIEW: Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Directed by: Rob Marshall
Written by: Ted Elliot and Terri Rossio
Starring: Johnny Depp, Geoffrey Rush, Penelope Cruz, Ian McShane

It’s been four years since the last ‘Pirates’ movie sailed to the top of the summer box office, yet it doesn’t feel like its been all that long ago since we’ve been on a journey with Captain Jack Sparrow.

In eight years, there have been four films, three grossing a staggering $2.6 billion at the box office and presumably even more money in merchandising and licensing for Disney. All from a theme park ride.

Certainly poised to make somewhat less than the others due to age, competition and feelings on the third film, On Stranger Tides will still be a hit despite the harsh reviews rolling in from critics. Continue reading