Magic Mike

Warner Brothers

Rated R for profanity, drug use, brief graphic nudity and pervasive sexuality.

Channing Tatum Stars As Reluctant Stripper in Riveting, Character-Driven Drama

Channing Tatum held a number of odd jobs before he became a matinee idol, including a brief stint as a male stripper that he might not exactly be proudest of. But rather than deny that embarrassing detour on the road to superstardom, the hunky heartthrob has opted to embrace that chapter of his checkered past by making a semi-autobiographical movie recounting his daring foray into the adult entertainment industry.

The upshot of that effort is Magic Mike, a raw and revealing character-driven drama directed by Oscar-winner Steven Soderbergh (for Traffic) who previously collaborated with Channing on the action thriller Haywire. The two also just finished shooting A Bitter Pill, a crime caper set for an early 2013 release.

Here, Channing stars as Mike Martingano, an erotic dancer who goes by the stage name Magic Mike when titillating the ladies at a seedy, Tampa dive called Xquisite. The place is managed by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), a silky smooth operator who has promised his most popular performer 10 percent equity to follow him when he relocates the club to Miami.

Trouble is Mike isn’t getting any younger, and his big plans for himself definitely don’t include stripping into his 40s like Dallas and the other members of the aging revue: Tito (Adam Rodriguez), Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Ken (Matt Bomer) and Big [bleep] Richie (Joe Manganiello). Instead, he dreams of saving up enough seed money to set himself up as a custom furniture designer and maybe settling down with Brooke (Cody Horn), the sister of the 19-year-old (Alex Pettyfer) he’s just recruited for Dallas.

Unfolding over the course of a long, hot Florida summer, Magic Mike is such an unpredictable and palpably raw-edged adventure that you soon forget that you’re even watching actors performing on sets. In that regard, the picture is rather reminiscent of Quentin Tarantino’s similarly super-realistic Jackie Brown (1997), a masterpiece which also featured a flawed protagonist ensnared in a sticky predicament at an unpretentious oceanfront setting.

Will Mike summon up the requisite resolve to extricate himself from the stripping game and thereby save his soul? Or will a financial setback cause him to rationalize moving to Miami, leaving his hopes and girlfriend behind for the sake of easy money?

A compelling character study not to be missed, if only to witness the gutsy, career performance delivered by the ever-improving Channing Tatum.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 110 minutes

 

Beasts Of The Southern Wild

Fox Searchlight

Rated PG-13 for profanity, mature themes, child imperilment, disturbing images and brief sensuality.

Carefree Cherub Laments Climate Change In Enchanting Cautionary Parable

Six-year-old Hushpuppy (Quvenzhané Wallis) is being raised under the radar in “The Bathtub,” a backwoods bayou located on the swamp side of a Louisiana levee. The self-sufficient tomboy divides her days between attending to her sickly father (Dwight Henry) and living in harmony with a handful of other hardy refugees from civilization.

Hushpuppy feels sorry for children growing up on the land in nearby New Orleans because they eat fish wrapped in plastic and have been taught to fear the water. And while those city kids were caged in strollers and baby carriages during their formative years, she’s been free to explore surroundings teeming with vegetation and a menagerie of wildlife.

Yet, her existence is far from idyllic, given how much she pines for the mother her ostensibly-widowed daddy explained simply “swam away” one day. The heartbroken little girl tries to fill the void via flights of fancy coming courtesy of a vivid imagination that enables her to carry on imaginary conversations with her long-lost mom.

Hushpuppy’s vulnerability is further amplified by her father’s failing health and by an ominous foreboding that climate change could destabilize the eco-system of her natural habitat. For, she’s been warned by Miss Bathsheeba (Gina Montana)—a sage soothsayer who also serves as her surrogate mother—that “The trees are gonna die first, then the animals, then the fish.”

So unfolds Beasts Of The Southern Wild, a compelling, coming-of-age parable marking the extraordinary directorial debut of Benh Zeitlin. An early entry in the Academy Awards sweepstakes, this surreal fairy tale about the prospects of the planet so richly deserves all the accolades already heaped upon it at Sundance, Cannes and other film festivals.

Considerable credit must go to newcomer Quvenzhané Wallis, a talented youngster who not only portrays protagonist Hushpuppy but narrates the film as well. Like a clever cross of Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn and Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, the movie repeatedly reminds us of a pre-pollution, pre-digital era when children were still encouraged to plunge headlong into nature to experience the world firsthand rather than artificially through electronic stimuli.

A visually enchanting fantasy shot from the perspective of a naïve waif magically untouched by the 21st century.

 

Excellent (4 stars)

Running time: 91 minutes

 

 

OPENING THIS WEEK

Kam’s Kapsules:

For movies opening June 29, 2012

 

Madea’s Witness Protection Program (PG-13 for crude sexual remarks and brief drug references). Tyler Perry’s back in drag for another madcap adventure. This go-round, we find the pistol packin’ granny hiding the family of a Wall St. whistleblower (Eugene Levy) who’s on the run from mobsters after agreeing to testify in federal court about his company’s Ponzi scheme. With Romeo, John Amos, Tom Arnold, Denise Richards and Marla Gibbs.

 

People Like Us (PG-13 for profanity, drug use and brief sexuality). Dysfunctional family drama about a grieving salesman (Chris Pine) who tracks down the illegitimate half-sister (Elizabeth Banks) he never knew he had in order to deliver a $150,000 inheritance to her in accordance with the recently deceased father’s wishes. With Michelle Pfeiffer, Olivia Wilde, Philip Baker Hall and Jon Favreau.

 

Take This Waltz (R for profanity, sexuality and graphic nudity). Romantic dramedy set in Toronto about a married freelance writer (Michelle Williams) who secretly cheats on her husband of four years (Seth Rogen) with a dashing rickshaw driver (Luke Kirby). Featuring Sarah Silverman, Jennifer Podemski and Diane D’Aquila.

 

Ted (R for crude humor, coarse sexuality, pervasive profanity and drug use). Unlikely buddy comedy about a guy (Mark Wahlberg) whose best friend is a teddy bear (Seth MacFarlane) that came to life as the result of a childhood wish. Plot thickens when the anthropomorphic animal attempts to sabotage his pal’s love relationship. Cast includes Mila Kunis, Giovanni Ribisi, Patrick Stewart and Norah Jones.

 

Busong (Unrated). Filipino road flick following the peripatetic effort of a desperate native (Rodrigo Santikan) to find a healer capable of curing the oozing sores his sickly sister (Alessandra de Rossi) was born with. Cast includes Clifford Banagale, Bonivie Budao and Dax Alejandro. (In Filipino with subtitles)

 

Gypsy (Unrated). Slovakian variation on Shakespeare’s Hamlet, set in a 21st century gypsy village where a 15-year-old boy (Jan Mizigar) tries to come to grips with his widowed mother’s (Martina Kotlarova) marrying his uncle (Miroslav Gulyas) in the wake of the death of his father. (In Slovak and Romany with subtitles)

 

I Heart Shakey (PG for rude humor, mild epithets and brief smoking). Heartwarming comedy about an enterprising 10-year-old (Rylie Behr) who hatches a plan to save the beloved family pooch after her widowed father (Steve Lemme) unwittingly rents a new home with a “no pets” clause in the fine print. With Beverly D’Angelo and Steve Guttenberg.

 

Neil Young Journeys (PG for drug references, mature themes and mild epithets). Reverential rockumentary chronicles Neil Young’s recent solo concert at Toronto’s Massey Hall as well as the 65-year-old legend’s triumphant return to nearby Omemee, the town where he was raised.

 

Unforgivable (Unrated). Romantic romp about a middle-aged writer (André Dussollier) looking around Venice for a retreat to work on his next novel who offers to rent an apartment from an attractive real estate agent (Carole Bouquet) he falls in love with at first sight on the condition that she moves into the flat with him. With Melanie Thierry, Adriana Asti and Mauro Conte. (In French and Italian with subtitles)

 

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