Magic Mike Lacks Luster

Director Steven Soderbergh cemented my interest in and appreciation for Independent Film back in 1989 with his seminal movie sex, lies and videotape, a film that was a game-changer for the Independent Film Movement ~ as well as for me.  Ever since, I have paid attention to Soderbergh’s film trajectory, which has taken some interesting turns and certainly doesn’t seem to follow any predictable path.  Like any frequently working director, he’s had his hits (the refreshingly smart and acutely comedic George Clooney and J.Lo-starring crime caper Out Of Sight, and the intelligently effecting Traffic, for which Soderbergh won an Oscar for Directing) and misses (Clooney didn’t get as lucky with Solaris).  Nonetheless, I’ve got to give Soderbergh kudos for experimenting with a broad range of material and genres.  So although it seemed an unlikely pairing for Soderbergh to direct a movie about male strippers, his attachment to it was the very thing that gave the atypical subject matter some interesting credit.  However, after having seen it, I can’t figure out why he chose to do it or why he wasn’t able to bring more to it than he did.

Alex Pettyfer and Channing Tatum

Magic Mike has a fairly thin premise to begin with.  Mike (Channing Tatum, who apparently actually did do some “erotic male dancing” back before he hit it big and does indeed have the moves ~ and abs ~ to prove it!) “recruits” and takes under his wing a young stud struggling to find work (and his way).  Adam (Alex Pettyfer) quickly gets inducted into the group of strippers, inheriting the moniker “The Kid”, and soon gets caught up in some of the seedier aspects of “the business”…just as Mike begins to question his own place in it (which sounds potentially deeper than it ever actually gets).

By far the most enjoyable scenes take place at the nightclub where the group of men perform ~ dancing, disrobing, and often coming perilously close to baring ALL ~ for the throngs of screaming girls in their audience.  The crew is headed up by club owner/MC and sometime “performer” himself, Dallas, hilariously played by Matthew McConaughey, in the second role I’ve seen him in this month in which he has shone (he was fantastic in Bernie as well, which I will be reviewing soon).  He is pitch perfect as the smooth-talking, crowd-cajoling, rebel-rousing leader of the group and frequently steals the show.  In addition to Tatum and Pettyfer, the rest of the group is comprised of the smolderingly handsome Joe Manganiello (True Blood), whose stage name is “Big Dick Richie”, if that tells you anything, the so-good-looking-he’s-pretty Matt Bomer (White Collar), former wrestler Kevin Nash and Adam Rodriquez (CSI: Miami).  While the more recognizable of those names were hugely promoted prior to the release of the film, I was disappointed in how little they actually appeared on-screen.  (I felt a bit cheated on the Manganiello/Bomer front!)  Regardless, the scenes within the club, both backstage AND on stage, are highly entertaining, often extremely funny and provide the most thorough backdrop into the world the film inhabits (and intends to explore).  A sense of camaraderie and comfort exists between these men ~ it’s clear that they’ve formed a sort of family, even if that family is somewhat dysfunctional. Continue reading

Advertisements

So You Think You Can Resist So You Think You Can Dance?

I know I just promised a slew of current movie reviews, but after finishing last week’s episode of So You Think You Can Dance, I’m feeling compelled to sidestep (no pun intended) those briefly for a shout-out to a summer show you should be watching.  Before I continue, I should note that, aside from a 3-4 year devotion to Survivor back when reality TV first broke onto the scene, I am NOT a big reality TV fan.  I tend to gravitate towards more scripted programming when it comes to TV.  However, upon being introduced to this show a few years back, I was instantly hooked and haven’t missed an episode since!  If you’re not already watching it, this is a great time to start, as the “good stuff” is just getting underway and you’ll have managed to miss the sometimes overly drawn out and tedious (though still addicting) audition episodes, during which the Top 20 finalists (10 girls and 10 guys) are whittled down from the multitudes across the country who audition for the show (which is shot here in Los Angeles).  So the actual competition has only just begun.  If you have any appreciation whatsoever for dance ~ of any kind! ~ I defy you not to get hooked on this show!

The format is similar to most talent competition-based reality series:  Candidates are chosen by a panel of judges after a series of auditions and proceed to perform week to week. America has a chance to weigh in by voting for their favorites and then one (or two) contestants are eliminated each week until we’re left with the finalists.  It is essentially

Judge Mary Murphy & Producer/Judge Nigel Lythgoe

American Idol for dance (which makes sense as Idol is also produced by So You Think You Can Dance standing judge and producer Nigel Lythgoe).  Only for whatever reason, I enjoy (and respect) this show far more than I ever have Idol.  (And I grew up both singing and dancing, so it’s not a matter of appreciating one form of talent over the other.)  The show is for the most part clean, tight and moves along at a nice clip, making it’s two-hour running time fly by.  This is the first year they’ve eliminated a separate results show, which should tighten up the show even more, as well as free up another hour in the week.

The young dancers (no one over the ripe old age of 30 is eligible) are extraordinarily talented.  One gets the sense that they are there not to become famous by being on TV, but rather because they genuinely love ~ and live ~ to dance.  You can see and feel their passion for the art.  It comes through in their performances, very often moving me to tears or injecting me with a jolt of energy, causing my jaw to drop at their astonishing abilities and an inspiring reminder of the beauty and power of movement as artistic expression. Continue reading

Update

Greetings, Dear Readers!

Just wanted to let you know that I have been on vacation and otherwise engaged over the last couple of weeks, hence the shortage of new posts.  However, whilst the writing of reviews has temporarily ceased, the consumption of entertainment has not!  So rest assured, there are multiple reviews to be written that are waiting in the wings…

Keep an eye out for upcoming reviews on The Amazing Spiderman, Bernie, Magic Mike, and yes, even Katy Perry: Part of Me, to name just a few.

Hope you are all enjoying your summer and the entertainment summer has to offer!

~missy