I’m not gonna lie. The allure of male strippers on my movie screen is what originally piqued my attention. Throw in a dash of Alcide from True Blood (Joe Manganiello), and I was already sold. But wait, wait, wait...this is a Steven Soderbergh flick? Hrm...color me intrigued. While the trailers for Magic Mike are definitely hoping to draw on the hordes of horny women who want to ogle Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matt Bomer, and Matthew McConaughey hairless, shirtless, and grinding their bodies into the camera, the movie that follows is a surprisingly Soderberghian film: it’s raw, fast-moving, and a realistic glimpse into a world rarely seen.
Magic Mike is, at its core, the story of a male stripper/entrepreneur (Tatum) who dreams of making his dollar bills by producing custom furniture instead of selling his body. One day at his roofing gig he meets Adam (Pettyfer), a 19 year-old fuck-up who blew his football scholarship and is now crashing on his sister’s Brooke’s (Cody Horn) couch. Mike, being the brotherly type, takes Adam under his wing and introduces him to his other place of business, Xquisite, where he’s Magic Mike and one member of the “Cock-Rocking Kings of Tampa.”
Adam quickly becomes one of the group and a rising star in the eyes of Dallas (McConaughey), the kinda sleazy owner of the club who dreams of taking his male revue to the big city of Miami. Of course, Adam’s sister struggles to approve of his new gig but finds time to flirt with Mike in the process, and Adam slowly devolves into the darker world of ecstasy pushing and constant partying.
While Magic Mike doesn’t have a revolutionary plot, the movie succeeds on several components. The biggest one of all is, by and large, Channing Tatum himself. While some of the plot is allegedly ripped from Tatum’s own stripper days, Tatum is almost downright magnetic here. With his recent comedic turn in 21 Jump Street, Tatum is becoming quite the leading man. He’s quietly funny without being showy, he’s mesmerizing when he dances (oh, Step Up, how I miss thee), and he just oozes charm. His scenes with the rest of his stripper comrades also border on the incredibly bro-y with more male bonding than Soderbergh’s Ocean’s 11.
Many people are lauding McConaughey’s go-for-broke performance as the douchey nightclub owner, and while he does steal several scenes, I couldn’t help but feel like it was just a grosser, more adult version of his Dazed and Confused character and an extreme caricature of his own personality. Nevertheless, I still enjoyed watching him shed off his rom-com image and just go for it.
Also, Soderbergh’s voyeuristic camera and the dialogue’s almost improvisational feel really lend an air of reality and a sense that we’re peaking into this world and culture. Magic Mike may be about male strippers, and that may get the ladies into the seats, but the movie is surprisingly fascinating and a far cry from the film the trailers are promoting.
-- Darcie Duttweiler
When I first saw the trailers for Brave, I was reallllllly excited. I thought it was going to be the perfect mix of the Pixar I know and love with a dash of the old school Disney princess tale I grew up on. I was looking forward to seeing a tough cartoon princess on the big screen again.
But then I actually watched Brave, and I was slightly disappointed.
It’s not that Brave is baaaaaaad. It’s not. If it was produced by any other studio than Pixar, I might feel more enthusiastic about it, but I expect more from Pixar. Plus, the flick caters to the lowest common denominator at points (we get it...people don’t wear anything under kilts) that it’s almost reminiscent of a Shrek film. And that is NOT a compliment. Also, about exactly halfway through the movie, it completely changes plot, and I thought to myself, “Wait...this is not what the trailer sold me on!”
Brave is the story of Merida (Kelly MacDonald), a skilled archer and the headstrong daughter of King Fergus (Billy Connolly) and Queen Elinor (Emma Thompson). Wanting to be independent and not follow the traditional princess route, Merida defies an age-old custom sacred to the lords of the land, voiced by Kevin McKidd, Craig Ferguson, and Robbie Coltrane, who erupt in fury. And then, randomly, she turns to a crazy, old Witch (Julie Walters) for help, and wishes to change her fate. What transpires after that is...well, not really what you expect since you thought you were getting just your typical “impetuous heroine doing brave things” movie a la Mulan.
This isn’t to say that Brave doesn’t have its cute moments—it does, and you’ll even smile a couple of moments. But, this is the same studio that gave us Ratatouille and WALL-E, and Brave is just NOT up to par with their legacies. It doesn’t even have the same resonance or weight as the third act in Toy Story 3. I just didn’t seem to FEEL anything when watching it. And, while the imagery and Scottish highlands are beautiful, as are Merida’s horse and her unruly curls, the 3D just isn’t as worthwhile as you would imagine from Pixar.
Kids will probably still love Brave, but this Pixar outing doesn’t have the same cleverness or smile-inducing moments that will keep the parents as entertained. I’m gonna go pop in my Ratatouille Blu-Ray and reminisce...
-- Darcie Duttweiler