MAGIC MIKE XXL REVIEW

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Too many problems but somehow (and I can’t believe I’m saying this) it wasn’t all that bad. In fact, you could say it was . . . Alright, alright, alright.

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Three years after Mike (Channing Tatum) bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game, he and the remaining Kings of Tampa hit the road to Myrtle Beach to put on one last blow-out performance.

I never expected to enjoy a film about male strippers and I didn’t. The first time. I finally mustered the strength to see Magic Mike a week ago. I didn’t expect to be impressed by the gyrating movements of Tatum’s torso but I was hoping after all the hype for something a little more.

It was boring. Reprieved by McConaughey’s Dallas and some entertaining song and dance numbers. Everything else was far too tame, corny and drawn out.

BUT of course, I’m a movie masochist. My vow to try and review as many films as possible biting me on the backside. So a second helping of stripping. Greeaaaattt.

However, I actually enjoyed this a lot more than I expected. A vast improvement on its predecessor. I laughed a lot more (For the right reasons) and didn’t find myself half as bored. BUT it doesn’t get off the hook that easily.

Credit where it’s due. The film got straight to business as we follow Mike struggling to make ends meat. A quick phone call. A few passing comments explaining the absence of three characters. Bye Bye, Dallas, The Kid and Cody Horn’s Brooke. And we were good to go.

To be honest, Horn’s absence was a relief. I found her acting terrible and she lacked any real chemistry with Tatum. The endless staring and mumbling did my head in. McConaughey was a missed presence but it did give Joe Manganiello a chance to step up. It was a shame that Pettyfer didn’t return but rumours suggested that he and Tatum didn’t get on during the filming of the first one.

For those who haven’t seen Magic Mike (How can I say such a thing?), it isn’t crucial for the sequel. There are just little bits that might skim over your head but somehow I don’t think this is the sort of film where plot is imperative.

Within 15 minutes, the gang were all back together! So it made the finale of MM a little pointless really. But there are no guarantees for success in life. Plus Hollywood really wanted a sequel. For the first half hour or so, it zipped along. The camaraderie and banter (That appealed to me the first time round) was very much on fine form.

Tatum can dance. Unfortunately Step Up hasn’t been top priority on my movie list. What? Anyway, he delivered the charisma yet again and you could tell he was having fun doing it. His reaction when his trade mark stripper song Ginuwine’s ‘Pony’ came on the garage radio said it all. That inevitable dance imminent as soon as the beat dropped. It was like something out of Flashdance.

Tatum had good chemistry with the lovely Amber Heard but her character was a little weak. I feared a retread of the Horn disaster with the pair muttering and mumbling away. However, despite their improv going on for too long, they still delivered enough charm to keep it watchable. Just.

Matt Bomer’s character Ken was a bit shady to start with. Jealous of Mike’s return. I was hoping for some of that heated tension that Dallas and Mike shared in the closing minutes of MM. Plus let’s not forget that Ken wasn’t that squeaky clean.

But it was resolved far too quickly. A quick slap with some wood. Hang on, let me rephrase that. A testosterone/drug/drink-fuelled stand off in a beach with a log of wood and a jab in the gut and the pair were all smiles. Boy, Bomer can sing though.

Jada-Pinkett Smith may be rocking it at 44. Even if she might have had work done. BUT I found her character Rome very annoying. Every scene involving her went on far too long. It was obvious within 30 seconds that Mike and Rome used to work together. I didn’t need 30 minutes of mindless chatter in her strip club with a shirtless Childish Gambino doing some long winded rap that wasn’t that good.

I can’t believe I’m writing this but the strip dance offs in Rome’s club were the only redeeming moments. Childish Gambino fared better when he just sang.

The dance routines were actually well choreographed and quite entertaining as the gang decide to jazz up their stale material. The ladies will definitely love them. Manganiello’s set pieces had me shaking my head. And not just out of jealousy for his toned bod. His attempt to woo an attendant at a gas station was ridiculous but hilarious.

Kevin Nash (Kevin Nash? WWE Kevin Nash?) can’t dance to save his life but at 6 foot odd, the 50 something former pro wrestler gave it a good old go. The final 20 minutes was cheesy but fun enough. I got a smile. I know the ladies certainly were. The gang must have had a good laugh while filming this.

I couldn’t believe the cameos that popped up in this. Elizabeth Banks? Andie MacDowell as a bitterly divorced MILF?

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It’s flawed beyond belief and that’s not coming from a jealous heterosexual but it was a vast improvement from the original and wasn’t all bad. Don’t expect too much in terms of character development and plot but I’m sure that the audience, it’s aiming at will not care one little bit.

2.5/5

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ENDLESS LOVE REVIEW

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A story we’ve seen done endless times before but surprisingly enough with a light touch and a good cast, quite watchable. Not the worst love story going, but not the best. If you love all that predictable guff, give it a go. The spiel is nothing new. Privileged, if isolated, high school loner  Jade Butterfield (Gabriella Wilde) falls in love with the charismatic rogue mechanic/car valet David Elliott (Alex Pettyfer), against her controlling father’s (Bruce Greenwood) wishes. SHOCK!  What follows is a predictable luvvy duvvy affair that occurs over the summer as the pair fight against their parents and the paths that lay before them.

There is great chemistry between the two leads; the beautiful (if a little skinny) Wilde (who featured in the shambolic Carrie remake and St Trinians franchise) and (I’m sure the ladies will say beautiful) Pettyfer (I Am Number Four/Beastly/Magic Mike). They make two likeable characters, even if you worry they’re going to choke on all the cheese they’re guzzling. I was surprised to see that the two leads were British. Their accents were spot on. It was also interesting to see the number of British actors popping up in this film; Joely Richardson (Nip/Tuck) and Emma Rigby?! The girl has gone far from her Hollyoaks days, featuring in all sorts now (The less we say the better Ridley Scott disaster The Counsellor and the US TV series Once Upon a Time in Wonderland). Was it just me or did she have her lips pumped? I digress.

It’s all very easygoing and at times hammy with the OTT speeches of (truth, freedom and above all things . . . ) love but the cast make something that should make you cringe watchable and at times engaging. The awkward glances and exchanges blossom into a summery romance with the usual check list; riding on bicycles together, lying in the field blowing daisies, check, check. Ice cold bitchy girl jealous of loved up couple and intent on tearing them apart in the form of the alluring, if lipped up Rigby. Check. Well, kind of. She doesn’t really kick off until late on. More could have been made of her character. Dayo Okeniyi plays David’s best friend/comic relief Mace (not the spray) very well which splits them the luvvy duvvyness. Richardson and Robert “T-1000” Patrick play their parts well, even if they’re a little too soft and supportive for my liking.

The real star for me is the underrated Bruce Greenwood (the Star Trek reboot franchise/I, Robot) as Mr. Hugh Butterfield. The friction and tension between him and David makes up for all the cheesy romance stuff. He works well with Pettyfer and shows why he should be in more films. His presence, his expressions makes his encounters very watchable and makes for a fiery finale as he fears his influence over his family is fading. There was one unexpected moment and it gets a little more interesting when David’s checkered past is revealed but because of the tone of the film, it’s not as bad or as sinister as you think or could have been. It gets OTT, cheesy, but it’s easygoing, watchable and if you like romance and dramas with cheesy predictable guff, then give it a go. Not as bad as I prepared myself for nor as good but it missed out on a treat releasing this during the summer. More a summery film if anything with the well-shot sun lit locations and bright soundtrack. Could have gone a little darker and been stronger for it 2.5/5

Currently ranks #88 out of 145.

PLEASE NOTE: You might have gathered I’m not a romancey movie guy. Apologies for my terminology. I did my best 😉