Magic Mike: A Review

It may be old news on movie reviews here at Old Ain’t Dead for a while, because I recently came into 3 months of free HBO, Showtime, Cinemax and Encore. I’m going to have a ball catching up on things I haven’t seen for the next 3 months. The first thing I watched in this movie bonanza was Magic Mike.

Matthew McConaughey
Matthew McConaughey in Magic Mike.

Magic Mike takes place in the world of male strippers. It features Matthew McConaughey as Dallas, the organizer and promoter of a crew of male strippers. The Mike with the magic moves is played by Channing Tatum.

Alex Pettyfer plays Adam, a dissolute drifter that Mike brings into the stripping world. This introduces Mike to Adam’s sister Brooke, played by Cody Horn.

Channing Tatum
Channing Tatum in Magic Mike.

There’s a lot of naked male flesh – I’ll get to that in a minute.

First, the plot. Mike is saving his money to open a business making one-of-a-kind furniture, for which he has a real gift. He works all sorts of jobs to generate enough cash to fulfill his dream. On one of his jobs, he meets Adam, whom he befriends. I fail to see why Mike likes Adam or why he helps him – the guy is a mess and obviously trouble. It must be a reflection on Mike’s sterling character. Mike introduces Adam to his boss at the strip club (Matthew McConaughey) and gets him a big money gig as a stripper.

Mike is pining over the girl who got away, played by Olivia Munn, while also falling for Brooke, who was enabling Adam’s irresponsibility long before Mike came along and joined in the game.

We see many, many strip shows mixed in with the story of Mike and his longing to be a creative furniture maker with a nice girlfriend.

The guys strip down to bare everything but the essentials and cavort in highly sexualized ways. Young guys, perfect bodies, lots of hip grinding and thrusting and sexy sexy. Before I express an opinion about the sexy sexy, take a look at the teaser.

Naked Men

I may be really misjudging the intentions of the people who made this film, but I think it’s a comment on the double standard we have in American society about male sexuality and female sexuality. It’s like that awful host at the Oscars who pointed to every woman in the audience who bared her breasts in a role while nary a penis appears on a screen anywhere. Was he just being an ass or was he making a point about equality and the sorry double standard we live with? Magic Mike seems to be scoring points for feminism.

If this film had been about women, they would have been shamed as sluts. There would have been a public outcry. When Miley Cyrus does a sexy dance with Robin Thicke, the only person who gets vilified is Miley Cyrus. But nobody has a complaint when men bare it all, wriggle their asses, and simulate sex for a group of screaming women. In fact, when this movie first came out I saw all sorts of positive tweets about how awesome the hunky guys were and not a single complaint about bare asses.

Magic Mike is a role reversal. The person caught in a seamy sex worker’s life is a man, not a woman. The person who is desperate to make enough money to build a different life outside of sex work is a man, not a woman. Otherwise, it’s a film we’ve seen a hundred times before with women doing all the sexy, sexy. It’s a story about the objectification of the male body instead of the usual objectification of women. There is one exception to the role reversal. We don’t see the penis. No penis, no perfect analogy to what women are asked to bare in films.

Magic Mike is a fair movie, not great, but not awful. It’s full of gorgeous guys who are true eye candy. In many ways, it’s a chick flick: predictable plot, likeable protagonist, love interest, lovely to look at while you’re viewing it, but not something you’ll remember forever as great drama.

The film was released in 2012. DVDs will be available in October, and can be preordered on the magicmikemovie site.

All images ©2012 Warner Bros.

In a World: A Review

In a World is terrific.

In a World poster

In a World is the from the mind of Lake Bell. She wrote it, directed it, and stars in it. Her character – Carol – wants to do voice overs. Carol is a quirky and very likable woman. Carol’s father Sam, played by real voice over artist Fred Melamed, discounts her dreams because she’s a woman and women don’t become voice over stars. In addition, her father is currently the biggest name in voice over acting, and he doesn’t like the idea of an upstart daughter being his competition.

The title comes from the voice of Don LaFontaine, the legendary voice over star who made the phrase “in a world” the famous opening of many a movie trailer. The death of this real Hollywood personality left a hole in the voice over world that several in Lake Bell’s fictional world attempt to fill.

Carol, her sister Dani (Michaela Watkins) her father and her father’s younger girlfriend Jamie (Alexandra Holden) make up a family with its unique set of issues and jealousies and support systems. The sisters are beautifully close. I enjoyed the twists in how the family dynamics played out, and especially Jamie’s surprise influence on how Sam behaved as a father.

Dani has her own storyline separate from Carol around her relationship with her husband Moe, played by Rob Corddry. Another storyline is Carol’s hunt for work and her voice recording work in a studio run by a guy named Louis, played by relative newcomer Demetri Martin. (Louis is a romantic interest, too.) Other characters in the recording studio are played by Stephanie Allynne, who has a real knack for physical comedy, and Tig Nagaro, who gets a couple of good laughs. Ken Marino is Gustav, another of the voice over artists in the race to become the new voice to utter “in a world” in future movie trailers. Gustav uses his oily charm to seduce Carol before he realizes that she is his mentor Sam’s daughter and another aspiring voice over talent.

Eva Longoria is hilarious as Eva Longoria. Geena Davis is perfect as a crusader for women’s power in Hollywood. Cameron Diaz did an uncredited bit as an Amazon warrior.

The movie is funny with lots of opportunities to laugh, a few opportunities to wince at a character’s pain, and an ending that deserves applause. I don’t want to give you a lot of details because the ending is unusual. As I was leaving I heard several different people make positive comments, so I wasn’t the only moviegoer who was happy with the movie.

You can watch the trailer in the earlier post Where in the World is In a World?

All images ©Roadside Attractions

Lee Daniels’ The Butler is Powerful

poster for The Butler

Lee Daniels’ The Butler is one of the most powerful films I’ve seen in a very long time. It’s like watching a newsreel of my own life. It is a newsreel of my own life. It was especially meaningful to watch it on Sunday as the nation remembered the 50th anniversary of the 1963 March on Washington and the “I have a dream speech” by The Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr.

But as a white woman living through the events in the years that Cecil Gaines served in The White House, a lot of it was “the news” to me. I wasn’t living it in the way the characters lived it. I wasn’t forced to live with two faces, I wasn’t thrown in jail for expecting to be served in a restaurant, I wasn’t sprayed with fire hoses or screamed at by men in white robes. As I write this review I’m very aware of how different life was for African Americans during this part of our history.

butler-silhouette
Forest Whitaker as Cecil Gaines, a man who hid his true self for most of his working life.

Part of the power of this story is the juxtaposition of what Cecil Gaines was going through as a butler working in the rarefied air of The White House while his oldest son was riding buses across the South as a freedom rider.

freedom riders
A bus full of freedom riders under attack.

Cecil Gaines continued to do his job, a job that looked like a miracle of good fortune when he first was hired, while his oldest son was being arrested and beaten in places like Birmingham and Selma. These two things going on simultaneously spoke volumes about the past and the future, about courage and change.

The story begins with young Cecil watching his father shot in cold blood because he dared speak to a white man after the white man raped Cecil’s mother. I don’t remember the date exactly, but I think it was in the 1920s. The story ends with the election of Barack Obama in 2008. Between those years, Cecil’s career in The White House spanned presidents from Eisenhower to Reagan. I think it was Eisenhower. Robin Williams definitely played Eisenhower. However, they showed actual TV news footage that was supposed to be Eisenhower, but I thought it was Harry Truman, so I am a bit confused about that part of the time sequence.

Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker
Oprah Winfrey and Forest Whitaker as Gloria and Cecil Gaines looking at smoke from nearby race riots.

The cast is exemplary. Every one of the key parts of characters who get a lot of screen time is perfectly cast. Forest Whitaker as Cecil is flawless. Oprah Winfrey as his wife and mother of their two sons, David Oyelowo as the grown up Louis Gaines, Terrance Howard as a family friend, Cuba Gooding Jr. as another White House Butler – all outstanding.

Major actors and actresses took tiny parts, just to be part of this story. I think anyone who read the script must have known what a powerful film this would be and was ready to be part of it. There will be numerous awards for this film, I’m sure of that.

In addition to the civil right themes throughout there are the human dramas involving father and son relationships, family relationships, friendships, fidelity, alcoholism, pride, and respect.

Perhaps you’re too young to have lived through all of the past 60 or 70 years of U.S. history. Perhaps you will miss some of the moments of recognition as to who the various characters in government and in the civil rights movement were from having known about them first hand during those years. Even more reason to watch this movie. You’ll learn something about the U.S – its failures, and its heroes.

You’ll be moved by The Butler. I urge you to see it.

Where in the World is In a World?

I so wanted to go see In a World last weekend. It looks hilarious. It’s written by, directed by, and stars a woman: Lake Bell. That’s the kind of movie that makes me plunk my money down.

It opened August 9, but it is nowhere to be found in my city. What’s up with that, In a World? When do I get to see you?

Have you seen it yet? What did you think? Sound off in the comments.

Muppets Most Wanted Official Trailer

I love the Muppets. They have charm, humor and moves like Mick Jagger. Here’s the trailer for the next Muppets movie, Muppets Most Wanted.

Humans included in the film are Ricky Gervais, Ty Burrell, and Tina Fey.

I’m ready to get my Muppet on and go see this one!

Images ©Disney Studio

Strong Women: Gale Ann Hurd

I’d never heard the name Gale Ann Hurd before last weekend when I attended the BlogHer13 Conference in Chicago. Gale Ann Hurd was a keynote speaker at the event and I’m a believer in Gale Ann Hurd now.

She’s currently producing The Walking Dead on AMC. Danai Gurira, who plays Michonne on The Walking Dead, narrated a brief video explaining who some of the characters brought to us by Gale Ann Hurd are and why this producer is so empowering for women.

Untitled

See if you recognize any of these characters.

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

Untitled

See any favorites? I sure did, which is when I realized that I’ve been a Gale Ann Hurd fangirl for years and didn’t even know it.

Bonus points to her for bringing everyone a copy of the latest Walking Dead novel and for showing us a preview of season 4 of The Walking Dead. It’s going to be exciting!

Is this your first introduction to this seriously awesome producer? Were you as in the dark as I was about who is behind some of our favorite heroines? I used to love only Joss Whedon, but now I love Gale Ann Hurd, too. Hope you’ll forgive me, Joss.

The Way, Way Back is Way, Way Good

The Way, Way Back opens on the miserable face of Liam James as 14-year-old Duncan, sitting in the way, way back seat of a vintage woodie Buick station wagon. Driving this aging monster is Trent (Steve Corell), his mom’s boyfriend. His mom is Pam, (Toni Collette) and his possible future step-sister filling the middle seat with all her teen-age horribleness is Steph (Zoe Levin). They are on their way to Trent’s beach house to spend the summer.

way way back poster

Rounding out the star-studded cast we have Allison Janney, AnnaSophia Robb (remember how wonderful she was in Bridge to Terabithia? She’s even better now.), Sam Rockwell, Maya Rudolph, Rob Corddry, and Amanda Peet. It speaks to the quality of the writing and the story that so many accomplished actors were willing to take part in this production.

The trailer shows them in action.

The story revolves around Duncan. This teen has issues. His parents are recently divorced. His mom’s new boyfriend is an asshole. His dad has a new younger girlfriend and “now isn’t a good time to visit.” He doesn’t know how to talk to people. His mom is bending herself into someone else to fit into the new boyfriend’s life. He has to go everyone on a pink girl’s bike which is as dated as Trent’s Buick.

When they arrive in the beach town, Duncan is befriended by Owen, the manager of a water park (Sam Rockwell), who teaches him how to laugh, how to assert himself, and how to take chances. As improbable a plot point as it is to imagine a grown man befriending young Duncan for purely selfless reasons, there’s a scene to somewhat explain how they connect. When the Buick pulls into town, with Duncan staring morosely out the back window, they stop in traffic. The car behind them is driven by Owen, who makes eye contact with Duncan and they share a moment while waiting for the traffic to move.

Duncan manages to find his way while all around him the significant adults in his life are drinking themselves silly, smoking pot, and damaging their own children in countless ways. Young River Alexander as Peter pronounces his mom the worst parent, but there are several candidates for that prize in this tale.

With such a stellar cast, even the smallest of characters in this busy relationship drama turn in full-blown performances. There’s a romance of sorts between Sam Rockwell and Maya Rudolph’s characters. There’s cheating going on – I won’t spoil it by telling you who – and there’s a first kiss for Duncan before it’s over.

Duncan’s awakening spurs his mom to gather up her strength, too. The movie closes on a heartwarming note.

Heartwarming is probably the best description of The Way, Way Back. There are real people with real life problems and a hopeful ending. A perfectly heartwarming movie.

Have you see it? Did you enjoy it as much as I did?

Veronica Mars Movie Sneak Peak (Video)

This Veronica Mars movie sneak peak was released at the recent San Diego Comic Con (SDCC). In case you aren’t aware of the back story, the money for this movie was raised in a Kickstarter project. The funding goal was raised in almost seconds (just a slight exaggeration). The Kickstarter project raised millions beyond its goal. It is one of the biggest fan-driven fund raising events to date and the start of a new trend in how movies get made.

Fans will get their movie in 2014.

If you missed Veronica Mars when it was a TV series years ago, it’s available via streaming services, and it’s worth watching. She’s a high school girl who helps out in her dad’s detective agency. I know, high school kids – I’m so beyond that – but it’s a good show.