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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DALLAS BUYERS CLUB REVIEW

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Alright, alright, alright.

In 1985 Dallas, electrician and hustler Ron Woodroof (Matthew McConaughey) works around the system to help AIDS patients get the medication they need after he is diagnosed with the disease.

An engrossing (and gritty) tale of one’s man fight for survival. I can’t believe this was a true story. McConaughey provided a stellar performance. Worthy of that Oscar gold.

What made this story more interesting was the fact that Woodroof was a homophobic redneck who had unprotected sex with drug users. The moment he revealed his diagnosis, he was soon ostracized by his friends and evicted from the trailer park. A somewhat darker Southern take on Philadelphia.

Woodroof was very much a man on the path to destruction. At first, it was quite difficult to empathise with him. His drug and alcohol abuse merely making his condition worse. He even stole the only FDA approved drug AZT.

“Screw the FDA, I’m gonna be DOA”.

BUT as his condition deteriorates, Woodroof has to deal with the bureaucracy of the US healthcare system and the FDA as he buys and sells unapproved FDA pills. Unapproved pills that are proving more successful in their trails than AZT.

Woodroof strikes up a business opportunity. Establishing a drugs membership, The Dallas Buyers Club, for struggling AIDS sufferers who aren’t getting the proper treatment. With his partner in crime, the transsexual Rayon (the Oscar wining Jared Leto), the pair work together to fight against the system and their expiry dates.

It was incredible watching the lengths that Woodroof went to. An unbelievable story. Yves Belanger’s cinematography created a gritty look that fitted the tone and mood of the piece. Great direction by Jean-Marc Vallee (Wild), a well written script adapted from an in-depth interview with Woodroof himself by Craig Borten and a superb cast consisting of Jennifer Garner (Alias) as the conflicted Dr Eve Saks, Dennis O’Hare (True Blood) and Steve Zahn (in a surprisingly straight faced role) made this one to watch.

The pace was slow burning BUT allowed everything to bubble along perfectly. Leto and McConaughey were a fantastic duo. I couldn’t believe Leto was in this. He was on scene stealing form. The pair really put their bodies on the line for the roles. They looked ill. It did ponder the question on how far actors should go for a role. McConaughey lost over 3 stone. Crazy.

Dallas Buyers Club marked a resurgent return for the man and he hasn’t looked back since with True Detective, Wolf of Wall Street and Interstellar filling his filmography, I think there will be more to come.

Endearing, intriguing, emotional, gritty. Not what I expected at all. BUT all the better for it. Definitely worth your time.

4/5

STOP! OSCAR TIME. THE RANT . . . I mean nominations.

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Awards seasons is well and truly underway and of course the OSCARS are vastly approaching. The nominations are here at last. Granted, I’m a little behind. Hey, I’ve been busy. Plus it’s been good to see people’s reactions on the list. Now, it’s my turn.

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  • So first up, here are the nominees for BEST PICTURE; 12 YEARS A SLAVE, AMERICAN HUSTLE, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB, GRAVITY, HER, NEBRASKA, PHILOMENA and THE WOLF OF WALL STREET. 

Mixed bag for me. Some of these riding on too much hype. Hype always helps in getting films noticed but these ones? Hmmm . . . personally, I feel that American Hustle and Captain Phillips do not deserve this nod. BEST PICTURE to me, means the best film in story, acting and . . . well everything. Both excelled as acting showcases but all in all, were both drawn out, long winded affairs that lost my interest through the halfway point. There is no need to make a film two to three hours unless the ends justifies the means. Now, Gravity is another over-hyped example. Deserves all the nods for visual and special effects but at it’s core, I personally felt the film died off when *SPOILER* Clooney did. In all fairness, he deserved a Best Supporting nod. He stole every scene. At Gravity’s core, however, is the same old predictable story of survival. I can’t believe I’m saying this but I had more enjoyment out of Armageddon! If she died, would have been a waste of time, so only one way it could go and it felt like an eternity not 90 minutes.

The others I have yet to see. The joys of being in a town where there are no independent or arthouse cinemas. BUT I have done my research. It’s great to see Nebraska and Philomena getting a nod. Philomena is a fantastic film, if unexpected nomination. However, these are definitely going to be the outside bets. Same applied for Dallas Buyers Club. Now, this is where my bias kicks in. Huge Scorsese fan! So I want Wolf of Wall Street to win. But I would say 12 Years A Slave will get this in the bag. The reaction has been a lot more united on this picture, while American Hustle and Gravity have torn people straight down the middle.

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  • Next, BEST DIRECTOR! And the nominess are; Alfonso Cuaron, GRAVITY, Steve McQueen, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, Alexander Payne, NEBRASKA, David O Russell, AMERICAN HUSTLE, Martin Scorsese, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET

Directors- not too much to say. You know who I want to win and frankly he has been ignored for too long. Scorsese finally got an Oscar but one of his weaker projects. Getting one for Wolf of Wall Street would rectify that. But I think it will be between Cuaron and McQueen. It should be McQueen but can’t help but feel Cuaron will nick something from all that astronomical hype (See what I did there).

  • BEST ACTOR – Christian Bale, AMERICAN HUSTLE, Bruce Dern, NEBRASKA, Leonardo DiCaprio, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET, Chiwetel Ejiofor, 12 YEARS A SLAVE and Matthew McConaughey, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

In all fairness, I wasn’t surprised that Tom Hanks didn’t get a nod for Captain Phillips. Tremendous actor that he is. He only really got the final 10 minutes to show why he has earned that reputation. It was a wasted platform for him. Christian Bale was a surprise. Powerhouse actor but I felt he was incredibly passive and to be honest I have seen him do much better. He should received this nod for The Machinist. A painfully drab film that was uplifted by his sheer performance. American Hustle not so much. In all fairness, I felt Idris Elba should have had one more for Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom. A flawed biopic that was carried by his sheer gravitas. I mean, Denzel Washington got one for Flight and well . . . that was nothing special. Even Colin Firth should have received one for The Railway Man. The emotion he delivers through his expressions is worthy alone. However, Leonardo DiCaprio has excelled film after film. He deserved an award for Django Unchained and should so for the Wolf. People are saying this is his year but how many greats have not been acknowledged by this noble award ceremony? Should be DiCap but money’s on Ejiofor. Great to see him get recognised for the talent actor that he is and no, not just because he was in Kinky Boots (that was filmed in my hometown. NORTHAMPTON!).

  • BEST ACTRESS – Amy Adams, AMERICAN HUSTLE, Cate Blanchett, BLUE JASMINE, Sandra Bullock, GRAVITY, Judi Dench, PHILOMENA and Meryl Streep, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY. 

Right, love Amy Adams and Sandra Bullock but Best Actress? No. Adams’ accents were irritating, especially her “English” one. Great performance but not Oscar worthy. Same for Bullock. She expressed and delivered all the emotions any one could feel in that situation but I struggled to keep up with the film. I mean Doubt was a slow-burner but I couldn’t stop watching because of Streep’s performance. Ironically, multi-Oscar winner Streep has been nominated yet again. Not undeservedly so. She may have done some duds, but no one can doubt her performances and abilities. Keeping in mind with my previous comments, an actress I couldn’t keep my eyes off (Not like that! Well a little) was Cate Blanchett. BJ (Come on! We’re better than that!) Blue Jasmine was a ‘GOOD BUT . . .’ film for me. BUT Blanchett’s performance was impeccable. I think she will win. I really want Judi Dench to win. A fantastic actress and her performance as Philomena was funny and endearing but the buzz is pointing to Mrs B. Also, where was Emma Thompson’s nomination for Saving Mr Banks?! Shocking. Can’t believe she got cut from the list.

  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR – Barkhad Abdi, CAPTAIN PHILLIPS, Bradley Cooper, AMERICAN HUSTLE, Michael Fassbender, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, Jonah Hill, THE WOLF OF WALL STREET and Jared Leto, DALLAS BUYERS CLUB

Now firstly, not a bad selection. However, I do feel Hiroyuki Sanada should have a nod for The Railway Man. However, I’m not going to lie, I get confused with the release date period plus in the UK we seem to get everything a few months behind. Abdi was incredibly sinister and played the part well in Captain Phillips. I want Bradley Cooper to win. He has excelled since the Hangover and he stole the show, well almost, in American Hustle. That nod goes to someone else.  Money’s on Jared Leto who has been the dark horse and winning a few awards already for his performance.

  • BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS – Sally Hawkins, BLUE JASMINE, Jennifer Lawrence, AMERICAN HUSTLE, Lupita Nyong’o, 12 YEARS A SLAVE, Julia Roberts, AUGUST: OSAGE COUNTY and June Squibb, NEBRASKA

There can only be one for me in this group who managed to make a quite pointless character enjoyable and memorable and that is Jennifer Lawrence. It’s a shame because Sally Hawkins was very good in Blue Jasmine. Interesting that Julia Roberts is supporting? From the trailer, I assumed that the main storyline revolved around her character and Streep was the supporting role? Hmmm.

Now, the others. Harsh but these ones get rushed across or are previewed during the relentless red carpet coverage or all the advertisements. It’s infuriating because these awards are still important; a good script with a good story makes a huge difference. Editing, sound, cinematography helps create a film and make it more memorable. If the sound doesn’t match or the film looks too grainy, that’s it, you’re out of there but hey ho.

  • BEST ADAPTED SCREENPLAY – 12 Years a Slave, Before Midnight, Captain Phillips, Philomena and The Wolf of Wall Street

Money is on 12 YEARS A SLAVE!

  • BEST ORIGINAL SCREENPLAY – American Hustle, Blue Jasmine, Dallas Buyers Club, Her and Nebraska

A tough one. All valid candidates for a change. Now, Alexander Payne is normally the king for nailing this so I would say Nebraska. But I feel O’Russell will lose out on the bigger fish and might just sneak this. However, Oscar nominee regular Mr. Woody Allen might fancy his chances. Tough call. Gutted that Kelly Marcel didn’t get the nod for  Saving Mr Banks.

  • BEST ANIMATED FEATURE – The Croods, Despicable Me 2, Ernest and Celestine, Frozen and The Wind Rises

Got to be between Frozen and Despicable Me 2. Now, I want Despicable Me 2! Minions all the way and if they could accept it either dressed as Minions or an animated acceptance speech, that would be great (In Office Space voice). However, Frozen would be more fitting of the Oscars though. Both enjoyable none the less.

  • BEST ANIMATED SHORT – Feral, Get a Horse!, Mr Hublot, Possessions and Room on the Broom

Money’s on Get a Horse! It’s Disney, John Lasseter produced, can’t see any others beating it. Feral as the outside bet possibly.

  • BEST CINEMATOGRAPHY – The Grandmaster, Gravity, Inside Llewyn Davis, Nebraska and Prisoners

Money’s on Gravity. As much as it may have been overhyped, one thing that can’t be argued is the look of it. Beautiful and stunning. However, Prisoners was shot fantastically as well. But Gravity, all the way.

  • BEST EDITING – 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Captain Phillips, Dallas Buyers Club and Gravity

American Hustle, methinks. I feel the film will pull in what it can because it may fall short of it’s buzz. However, Greengrass’ projects of late have been commended for their editing. Gravity may miss out in place for the more visual awards.

  • BEST COSTUME DESIGN – 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, The Grandmaster, The Great Gatsby and The Invisible Woman

12 Years and American Hustle look outstanding in their design but there can be only one for it’s lavish and luscious costume and that goes to the Not-So-Great Gatsby.

  • BEST MAKE UP – Dallas Buyers Club, Jackass Presents: Bad Grandpa, The Lone Ranger

Would be great to see Jackass to win for Knoxville’s make up but as it’s “Oscar season”, money on Dallas Buyers Club. Although strangers things have happened.

  • BEST MUSIC – The Book Thief, Gravity, Her, Philomena, Saving Mr Banks

May have cut short on everything but surely Saving Mr Banks will win this one?!

  • BEST SONG – ‘Alone Yet Not Alone’, Alone Yet Not Alone, ‘Happy’, Despicable Me 2, ‘Let It Go’, Frozen, ‘The Moon Song’, Her, ‘Ordinary Love’, Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom

Would love Happy to win. I mean it’s been number one in the charts over here for how long? Plus it’s a TUNE. However, Disney are a tough competitor. But let’s not forget that fateful year when Amy Adams sang live two or three songs that were nominated for Enchanted. Only for the couple from Once to win. Only one nomination in the group. Also, Three Six Mafia (Who?) have got an Oscar. Haven’t done much since. Didn’t do much before. Just stayin’ fly, I suppose 😉 Still don’t remember them? John Stewart said what everybody was thinking at the time, “Three Six Mafia 1, Martin Scorsese 0”

  • BEST PRODUCTION DESIGN – 12 Years a Slave, American Hustle, Gravity, The Great Gatsby, Her

Toss up between Gravity and OK Gatsby (What? It weren’t that good. Nice to look at, though). Got to be the Gats.

  • BEST SOUND EDITING – All is Lost, Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Lone Survivor

Gravity or The Hobbit. I would say, The Hobbit will get one preciousssss

  • BEST SOUND MIXING – Captain Phillips, Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Inside Llewyn Davis, Lone Survivor

Inside Llewyn Davis might snag this one and hopefully avoid a complete snub. We shall see. If not, there is only one, preciousss because one film of this magnitude does not simply go to the Oscars and get one award.

  • BEST VISUAL EFFECTS – Gravity, The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug, Iron Man 3, The Lone Ranger, Star Trek Into Darkness

Gravity. Sorry, oh Smaug, breathtaking beast that you are but you cannot match the beauty of the Earth. Star Trek, fantastic effects but alas, worse than that, it’s dead Jim.

The other nominations I am unfamiliar with and I don’t think it’s fair to comment. Plus not much buzz to go. Best documentary. I’d place my bets on The Act of Killing.

  • BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE – 20 Feet from Stardom, The Act of Killing, Cutie and the Boxer, Dirty Wars, The Square
  • BEST DOCUMENTARY SHORT – Cavedigger, Facing Fear, Karama Has No Walls, The Lady in Number 6: Music Saved My Life, Prison Terminal: The Last Days of Private Jack Hall
  • BEST FOREIGN LANGUAGE FILM – The Broken Circle Breakdown (Belgium), The Great Beauty (Italy), The Hunt (Denmark), The Missing Picture (Cambodia), Omar (Palestine)
  • BEST LIVE ACTION SHORT – Aquel No Era Yo (That Wasn’t Me), Avant Que de Tout Perdre (Just Before Losing Everything), Helium, Pitaako Mun Kaikki Hoitaa? (Do I Have to Take Care of Everything?), The Voorman Problem

A breakdown will down later on, with my Oscar checklist and bets, plus more buzz on the later categories. And let’s see how many on the Oscar lotto I can get. Such fun! Plus Dory’s back! Expect selfies. Run Spielberg Run!