Alright ladies (and gay men)...grab your singles and head to the movies because the Channing Tatum stripper movie is finally here. What's it about? Not important. Is it any good? Who cares?! Does Channing Tatum take his clothes off? Yes. Most likely that's all you care about, but if you want to keep reading to find out the answer to those other two questions, here's the review for you.
A few years ago Channing Tatum and director Steven Soderbergh met at a party and started talking. Somehow, Tatum's actual past where he dabbled in stripping came up in conversation and Soderbergh really wanted to turn that premise into a movie. He didn't know what the plot would be or who would be in it with Tatum but goddamnit they were gonna make this film. For any other project, not knowing stuff like that before launching a movie would be a telltale sign of box office poison, but not Magic Mike.
The bottomline for a film like this is that all those things like a good script, a compelling plot and great actors are just details. You'll get thousands of ladies to show up just because they want to see Tatum take his clothes off and dance. The good news is that Soderbergh was in charge and he won't let this turn into a total mess. He's a very skilled director and he's not afraid to take risks. His win column has Ocean's 11, The Informant!, Traffic, Erin Brockovich but his loss column is equally full of duds like Solaris, Conatgion, Che, The Girlfriend Expierence. But even when he falls on his face, I still give him credit for the risks that he takes on almost every film he does.
Some could say that Magic Mike is just as good as Paul Thomas Anderson's Oscar-winning Boogie Nights. I don't know about that and I think the only reason for that comparison is the nature of the film. I don't think it's as good as Boogie Nights but it's way better than Showgirls, which is just as equal-of-a-comparison. All three films have the exact same plot - young innocent gets pulled into the world of sex and eventually the world of fast money and fame leads to drugs, crime and drama. That story is one of the most cliche plots in the book but Magic Mike starts it off better than most.
I know Tatum was the one that inspired the story (although none of it is true) but he is the key reason the film is good at all. He's really developing into a performer that is a delight to watch on screen. He won me over with his comedy chops in 21 Jump Street and he continues to impress me in that area. He has developed a very natureal and likable improv-style charm to his delivery. It also helps that the man can dance his ass off...and I'll even admit that it's an impressive ass at that. (You see it in the first :30 of the film.)
The supporting cast is really impressive too. The young, innocent that's corrupted by Magic Mike is played by Alex Pettyfer (Beastly, In Time) and the seductive villain is Matthew McConaughey, who relishes every second of his wild and crazed character, Dallas. It's really fun to watch the cast act out and, dare I say, dance too. The scenes of their performances succeed in its goal of turning the theater into a strip club and ladies will get up, scream and laugh with their friends.
The problem is that it's not a very inspired story. What starts off as a funny film about living fast and elaborately without a care for substance or a future turns into a dark, serious drama about surviving sinful temptations for the sake of your pride. The problem with that is...who cares?! The ladies that are there only want to see gorgeous men take their clothes off, which disapeers by the end of the film. The poor sons-of-bitches like me that go because they have to, get suckered in by the fun and comedy in the first half only to get bored and confused by the tone at the end. Not to mention a romance that's shoehorned in and pays off in one of the most unbelievable conclusions I've ever seen.
But here's the bottomline: it served its purpose. The average cost of going to a male strip show is about $25 for a ticket, $30 for drinks and $30 for singles to shove in their g-string. Will going to see Magic Mike live up to actually going to a real strip show? No, but considering that you're saving $75 on an evening, it can still develop into a fun night with the ladies. Magic Mike (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: B-
I think I'm starting to get to the point where I don't like movies based on books that I enjoy. There seems to be a trend that no matter how good they are, they don't satisfy fully. Take The Hunger Games for instance; now that was a well-done film. But the passion, excitement and emotion that the book had seemed stripped away from the film. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter never had any emotion or passion, but what it lacked in those departments it made up with in cleverness and ass-kickery. The film seems to be void of most of that.
Director Timur Bekmambetov has given American audiences that shocking delight that was Wanted, but more impressively was the Russian award-winning vampire/zombie films of Night Watch and Day Watch. Make no mistake that he's a talented filmmaker and Abraham Lincoln is no exception. He does a decent job of crafting a 19th Century America considering his Russian heritage. His keen eye for action is very fun to witness. I think the problem was that he was given a crap script and a weak cast.
Relatively unknow Benjamin Walker (Flags of Our Fathers) dons the trademarked top hat and swings the axe as the titular character. For all the flaws in the film, he does a fine job. He gives the impression that he committed to the role and all the ridiculousness that went along with it. He has a certain level of charm but can also throw a punch as well as any other action star. I'm anxious to see what we have coming from him in the future.
The rest of the cast though shuffles through the film as if they're the undead. The absolutely gorgeous Mary Elizabeth Winstead (Scott Pilgrim vs. The World, The Thing) is at her worst taking a page from Kristen Stewart's book on acting. She's lifeless, uninspired and seems unsure about being in every frame of this film. That type of performance is what you can expect from everyone else as well. A real shame considering it's the type of silly story that a great cast would have had a ball performing.
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter is not a total bust. If the title makes you laugh and fills you with enough curiousity that you're willing to shell out the ten bucks to check it out; I assure you that you won't be dissapointed. Don't go into expecting character development, unrushed storytelling or quality performances; but if you want to see our 16th President slice and dice his way through some vampires and expect nothing less than that hilarious premise without being funny...sink your teeth in. Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter (Rated R)
Gavin Grade: C-
An elderly bus monitor, Karen H. Klein, just sits there and takes horrible verbal abuse from a bunch of middle schoolers. These kids definitely need to be taught a lesson, because pretty much everything they say is absolutely awful!
If you want to contribute to a fund raiser to send her on a fantastic vacation, you can do so here! Their goal was to reach $5,000 ... but have raised $187,000 as of this post!
There was a time when Musicals ruled the box office and award shows. Singing in the Rain. West Side Story. The Sound of Music. Caberet. These were not only Hollywood gold as far as raking in the money but they also raked in the Oscars. In recent years, the Musical has seemed to have hit a bunch of flat notes. They don't come out that often and when they do, they're not very good. Rock of Ages is here in all its '80s campy glory to continue the pattern of recent years.
Based on the Tony-nominated Broadway show, it takes place in 1987 at a ficticious rock club in LA during a time when Hair Metal was king and certain self righteous religious groups were trying to shut it down. Great premise for a musical but unfortunately it's just filled with actual songs from the era that we've all heard a million times. Juke Box Musicals are shows that feature all previously released songs as its musical score. In other words, in my opinion, it's the laziest form of musical art.
I'm not sure if I hated this movie because it was a bad film or because it's a bad musical. I didn't see it on stage but I can't imagine it was very good. In an age where every primetime hour of television is filled with singing reality competitions that feature pop/rock songs from the '70s and '80s, a show like this is as entertaining as those shows are; especially when you consider that it involved none of the clever re-imagining that Moulin Rogue did. If you loved "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey, for example, then you're in luck because you'll hear it just as it was when it was released in 1981.
To top it all off, the film is casted with actors that seem like they were cast on a dare. Alec Baldwin, Paul Giamatti, Russel Brand and Tom Cruise round out the cast that sing like an average night at a celebrity karoke bar. The only cast member that shines is Tom Cruise who plays the fictiously legendary rocker Stacey Jaxx. Cruise seems like he revels in the freedom to act like an egotistical, sex addicticted alcoholic. Shockingly, he also is a decent singer. He's the best and only thing to watch in the film.
I want to give director Adam Shankman the benefit of the doubt of polishing a turd as best he could, but his resume of Hairspray, A Walk to Remember and Bedtime Stories says that I shouldn't. Everything about the film screams cliche and dull. Nothing about it works the way I'm sure it was intended to and the only scene that is actually really enjoyable is a totally random duet between Baldwin and Brand that feels more like an SNL skit than a number from a musical. Shankman also made the mistake of casting Diego Boneta (Pretty Little Liars, 90210) and Julianne Hough (Dancing with the Stars, Footloose) as his leads. These two have as much chemistry as a history class and can sing just as bad as the other non-professional singers, which makes them being cast as the leads a total mystery.
I imagine that if you're a fan of the musical, you'll enjoy this film. Could someone who isn't a fan of the stage show love this movie? I don't see how they could. It's not half as fun as a film making fun and paying homage to the '80s should be. The music is great but that's because it's all #1 hits that we already loved but loved when they were sang better by the bands that wrote them. Rock of Ages is a film that will be forgotten, which is a shame that so many will never know how great Tom Cruise is in it. You're better off plugging your iPod in and jamming out to your '80s playlist. Rock of Ages (Rated PG-13)
Gavin Grade: D+