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.

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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.

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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.

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See if you recognize any of these characters.

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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.

Continue reading “The Way, Way Back is Way, Way Good”

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.

Pitt vs. Eastwood in the World Series of Baseball

Moneyball (2011) and Trouble with the Curve (2012) are two baseball stories that are at opposite ends of the spectrum in terms of theme. Yet both are good movies. Since both are out on DVD now, it seemed like a good idea to review them together.

The earlier film Moneyball takes the stance that technology can solve any problem, even the problem of who to draft for a baseball team.

moneyball poster

Moneyball stars Brad Pitt, Jonah Hill and Philip Seymour Hoffman. Jonah Hill plays a geek who uses a computer and stats to decide who a team should draft. Brad Pitt trusts him to know who to pick and the film is about how they convince other people in their organization that using this new technological technique to predict baseball greatness will work. Philip Seymour Hoffman is the coach.

Moneyball is based on a true story about the Oakland Athletics in 2002. Since Oakland proved their point with an amazing team, many other baseball organizations have learned to rely on technology to predict the best picks.

You don’t have to like baseball to like Moneyball. It’s a great underdog story and certainly has good actors. It earned 6 Oscar nominations including ones for Brad Pitt and Jonah Hill. I particularly love the geeky part of this film, since I’m pretty much the elder geek of the interwebs.

Trouble with the Curve

Trouble with the Curve poster

Trouble with the Curve, on the other hand, is the anti-technology baseball story. It comes at draft picks from an experience-can’t-be-beat point of view. Clint Eastwood represents the experience, of course. He’s a talent scout named Gus who is going blind. He can still pick ’em better than any computer based on his years around baseball.

Amy Adams is Eastwood’s daughter in this film. She brings the theme of father-daughter relationships into the story, which gives both Eastwood and Adams some nice opportunities to dig in and show their chops. Justin Timberlake plays another talent scout.

Amy Adams. Justin Timberlake. You know what happens when boy meets girl. That. Adams and Timberlake are particularly effective at telling this ages-old tale in the condensed form it takes when mixed into the larger story about Gus and his draft picks. Two stories in one, it’s a bargain.

The final important character is John Goodman, who is a lifelong friend of Gus’s and is backing him in his picks against the guys who want to do it with technology. There are a few interesting plot twists along the way, especially involving Amy Adams character, but I’ll let you enjoy them as they are revealed in the movie. I will share one spoiler. Amy Adams sings in this movie – and not very well. For a fabulous singer, she must have really had to work at sounding like a normal person singing.

Have you seen either of these baseball stories? What did you think of them?

The Heat: LMAO

This movie is hilarious, profane, packed with purposely clumsy action stunts. Add in two top notch actresses who bring the full power of their multi-talented punch to every scene. That’s The Heat, starring Sandra Bullock and Melissa McCarthy.

The trailer was cleaned up for language a bit, and hammed up a bit, but it gives you the basic idea.

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Bullock plays Ashburn, an uptight FBI agent, McCarthy is Mullins, a never-mind-the-rules Boston cop. The two get off to a rocky start when Ashburn takes the parking space Mullins had her eye on. Mullins is super mouthy and she lets Ashburn have the whole verbal barrage. Then, of course, they get assigned to work together on a case.

Everything about Melissa McCarthy is funny in this picture. They way she’s dressed, the car she drives, the foul-mouthed verbal assaults she is capable of delivering, and the incredulity she expresses over the character portrayed by Sandra Bullock. These two are an outstanding match – both are willing to go anywhere for a laugh, both are nuanced actors, and both are capable of carrying a film on their own. Together they are perfection.

Some Plot Points (Spoilers, too)

In one scene our two law officers go to Mullins grungy one-room apartment where they bond over the contents of Mullins’ refrigerator. It’s full of pistols, rifles, rocket launchers, ammo, grenades (one very important, sometimes ticking, grenade) and other gun-related paraphernalia. Ashburn makes appreciative comments about several of the deadly items stored in the fridge, and we know these two are a matched pair despite their apparent incompatibility.

Among the mayhem, the two actresses are allowed to have some quiet moments in which we glimpse what the characters are made of, where they come from, and who they care about. In between trying to catch the bad guys, they fend off men, they get drunk, and they visit Mullins’ crazed and hilarious family. Here’s the wonderful part. It isn’t just Sandra Bullock who is getting hit on by men. Melissa McCarthy is, too. And McCarthy is the one who plants a big wet one on a guy. I love that.

Mullins’ family includes Michael Rapaport as her brother and an underused Jane Curtain as her mother. Just having Jane Curtain show up in this film is a bonus: she’s one of the all-time funniest actors around. If all she did was pose as a statue it would be a plus for the film. Mullins put her brother Jason (Rapaport) into prison because he was doing/dealing drugs. He’s just out of jail and trying to behave, but the family won’t forgive her. Melissa McCarthy is brilliant at letting us see how this hurts while maintaining her tough bitch facade. Not-quite-going-straight-yet brother Jason is once again see in the company of the drug dealers our heroines are trying to lasso. Ah, plot complications.

Because of threats from the drug dealing mobsters they are trying to put in jail, the duo have to move Mullins’ whole loud-mouthed, ungrateful family and assorted girlfriends into a safe place. This maneuver includes a monstrous dog who should win an Oscar for best supporting actor for his interactions with Sandra Bullock.

They think they have the whole case wrapped up thanks to the use of the suspiciously ticking grenade, but even more bad guys show up after the grenade goes BLAM. Brother Jason gets shot but not killed. Ashburn gets stabbed in the leg – once by a bad guy and once by Mullins who is attempting to insert the knife back in the same wound so the bad guy won’t know they took it out to cut their bonds.

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This being a action comedy, I don’t think I’m revealing any terrible spoilers to say that eventually all the bad guys are caught, all the wounds are under a doctor’s care, and our two heroines admit their admiration and respect for each other (sisterhood, even). With all this bonding, could we have a sequel please? The Heat 2 sounds perfect. Ready by next summer would be nice, too.

The movie was written by Katie Dippold who worked on Parks and Recreation and directed by Paul Feig, who also directed McCarthy in 2011’s Bridesmaids.

We need about a million more movies like this. Blockbuster summer fare starring two top names who are buddies fighting the bad guys. But the buddies must be women. Must be.