Tuesday, 17 July 2012

The Thin White Dude's Reviews - Magic Mike

Directed by: Steven Soderbergh

Produced by: Reid Carolin
Gregory Jacobs
Channing Tatum
Nick Wechsler

Screenplay by: Reid Carolin

Starring: Channing Tatum
Alex Pettyfer
Cody Horn
Matt Bomer
Olivia Munn
Joe Manganiello
Matthew McConaughey

Cinematography by: Peter Andrews

Editing by: Mary Ann Bernard

Studio: Nick Wechsler Productions

Distributed by: Warner Bros. (USA)
FilmNation Entertainment (International)

Release date: June 29, 2012 (United States)
July 11, 2012 (United Kingdom)

Running time: 110 minutes

Country: United States

Language: English

Budget: $7 million

Box office revenue: $91, 841, 198

Ahoy there sailors! I think it appropriate to update y'all on certain events regarding my timetable, as it does have implications on the blog. In nine days, I'll be out of the country for eighteen days, the first eleven as a holiday with my family to Nice, France, and the other seven to the Isle Of Man, which is where I'll be taking my scout troop. With these circumstances taken into account, I plan on getting a few movies reviewed before I get going. The Dark Knight Rises is the big one on the horizon, but I'll try and get to see Killer Joe, Cosmopolis, Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter and of course I still have that copy of Chill kicking around. So, while I'm keeping busy banging these keys, you guys keep your eyes posted!

So, Magic Mike here is the latest film from Steven Soderbergh, his third theatrical release in nine months after Contagion and Haywire. It stars Channing Tatum as Mike Lane, a roof tiler who just so happens, as revealed to us via Alex Pettyfer's Adam, who just so happens to moonlight as a stripper under the name Magic Mike at a club called Xquisite. Taken backstage, after Tarzan (Kevin Nash) takes too much GHB, unable to perform, and Mike's convinces the manager Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), Adam ends up onstage as The Kid and, with him, we enter the world of male stripping. That's all you need to know folks!

But fortunately (or unfortunately, depending what way you slide!), that ain't all I got to say about Magic Mike. Firstly, much praise must go to Channing Tatum. Though Soderbergh directs, it is Tatum who defines this film and is in a way its auteur. As the film is based partly on his own experiences as a stripper, Tatum does what all great artists do, which is channel their personal life and translate it into an artistic medium. Also, as far as acting go's, it's a revelatory performance. He has enough sense to give this character emotional depth while understanding that acting is about showing the audience things without the need to verbalise. Furthermore, he carries himself with such a cool air of confidence and swagger that you can't help but be charmed by his magnetic onscreen presence. It reminded me of Marlon Brando in A Streetcar Named Desire, and believe me, coming from a Brando fanatic whose idea of shopping is purchasing white t-shirts en masse, that's high praise! He was simply excellent! Also great is Alex Pettyfer's, who is really looking different from his Stormbreaker days. His performance compliments in the supporting capacity the same way Marisa Tomei's complimented Mickey Rourke in The Wrestler. His character (and game acting) lets us explore other aspects of the world of male stripping, and his addiction towards the performance art is genuinely harrowing at times, but always believable. Finally on the acting front, Matthew McConaughey and Olivia Munn are entertaining as Dallas, the manager of the troup, and Joanna, Mike's on-off lover, respectively. Other aspects of Magic Mike are praiseworthy. Overall, it has a very well-established mise-en-scene. Of course, the costumes are extravagant, but the production design and look of certain locations firmly entrench it into the real world. This is important, given that the subject matter is, in many ways, quite unbelievable. Technically too it is proficient. Peter Andrews deserves a lot of credit for achieving such a strong clarity in the film's picture quality. Shooting in nightclubs, with flashing lights everywhere, must be a bitch, and so for us to be able to still decipher what's happening is commendable. Also, Mary Ann Bernard editing is used to jarring effect at various points in the movie. The inserts of the month's in the film hammer home just how fast-living these people live when you realise "Cor, blimey, we've only been with these characters for a month," etc. etc. The scenes in which the characters are intoxicated, usually on a mixture of various substances, are appropriately nauseating. Finally, Steven Soderbergh, though his influence is not as overt as some of his previous works, serves as a tactful filter to the film's material. This is one of those projects that could have gone off the rails, and I think screenwriter-producer Reid Carolin and Channing Tatum were wise to hire Soderbergh. 

Magic Mike is a great movie, but a great movie that is not without its issues. For the most part, Reid Carolin's script is solid, but there is a severe sense of character underdevelopment with regard to the rest of the Xquisite. In a world in which I am sure there must be a lot camaraderie, you never get that sense of unity. These characters obviously have stories to tell, and I'm sure that to divulge a bit of time to them would not harm the film's narrative. It's disappointing that we are only let in to know two or three of these characters, as opposed to the whole group. Also, there is a story arc in the film that is very important, and unfortunately you are not able to buy it because Cody Horn is pants. She plays Adam's sister Brooke, and when I watch her in this I feel like these are the (somewhat exaggerated) arguments that critics made against Kristen Stewart for the Twilight films made flesh. Doing a one-note scornful look, mixed in with murmuring, for much of the film, when she makes the turn into 'kind-of but not really' liking Mike, it is down in the same way and feels completely illegitimate. It's a shame really, given how many strong performances the film has.

As I say, Magic Mike has it's fault. The script I feel glances over things, particularly with characterisation, and as such we don't get to penetrate the surface as deep as we should. Also, an entire story arc is crashes against the rocks due to Cody Horn's lifeless performance. Perhaps she'll give a good performance some day, but annoyed and bored me simultaneously. Normally these things would make this a very good movie, but Magic Mike really got under my skin. It's a controlled, well-made movie with some terrific acting, particularly from Channing Tatum. His pet project should serve as a great star vehicle for his career, as I think he deserves nothing less than an Oscar nomination for his work here. Finally, it is, first and foremost, a great, fun movie.

The Thin White Dude's Prognosis - 8.0/10

The Thin White Dude's Self-Diagnosis - Busy, busy (I've seen Cosmopolis and Seeking A Friend At The End Of The World)

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