Review: Magic Mike XXL

MMXXL Look, let’s just get this out of the way – Magic Mike XXL is not a good movie, by any stretch of the word “good.” But if you’re going into this film anticipating some sort of cinematic masterpiece, you’re an idiot, so by that mark, it’s basically just living up to expectations. That all said, if you’re really into hunky dudes showing off their washboard abs, then you’re really going to enjoy yourself.

There’s a plot to this film, but it’s just barely even there at all. It’s more of a scenario than a plot. Mike (Channing Tatum), after three years away from the stripping profession, decides to regroup with his bros to road trip from Tampa up to Myrtle Beach for a stripping convention to have “one last ride” or something like that. That’s basically it – that’s the whole plot. There’s not a whole lot in the way of conflict or character development here. It’s really shallow.

That’s not to say that they didn’t try to have some conflict – they just sort of half-assed some subplots for some of the characters and then just… forgot about most of them. Mike starts the film working as a furniture designer, and he seems to be doing okay. He has an employee, and they’re expanding to the point where Mike is considering getting a retail space. Problem is, he can’t afford to get his one employee any health benefits. Also, his girlfriend from the first film (who was played by Olivia Munn) left him after he proposed and she rejected it. Do any of these little plots get resolved? Nope! Not even a little bit; Mike just strips to save his soul instead, I guess. He meets a new girl on his trip, Zoe (Amber Heard), but there’s never anything explicitly romantic that happens between them. They never even kiss, which is actually kind of refreshing to have happen. Zoe’s character is also somewhat implied to be bisexual (she says she’s not currently in a “guy phase”), which is also nice to have in terms of representation.

Tito (Adam Rodriguez) is trying to run a successful food truck business that would sell probiotic frozen yogurt, but doesn’t have the money to really get going; we never see if he’s successful or not. The only subplot that saw resolution was Big Dick Richie’s (Joe Manganiello); he seeks his “glass slipper,” AKA a woman who can handle his big dick, and finds it. Hooray.

The strippers get to their convention, with some hiccups along the way. Their final crew includes Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), one of Mike’s ex-flings, Andre (Donald Glover), and Malik (Stephen Boss). They all strip, get showered in dollar bills, and the movie ends. A happy ending for everyone, I guess.

This movie is stupid and shallow and has zero in terms of any sort of character development, but I would be lying if I said I didn’t enjoy myself. If you’re into dudes, this movie is highly entertaining. Besides the final show, there’s a lot along the way to get you giggling. Easily one of my favorite scenes in the film was actually in the first third of it, when Joe Manganiello’s character strips inside of a convenience store for a very plain-looking cashier who they say “looks like she hasn’t smiled in her entire life.” His goal was simply to get her to crack a grin, and he achieved that. It was actually really cute to watch him try in earnest to make her day a little bit better.

That’s probably my favorite thing about this film – it features a lot of exceptionally attractive men just trying to make ladies smile. And not just “conventionally attractive” women either. There’s a whole hell of a lot of body positivity in Magic Mike XXL, in the way that the guys interact with women of all shapes, sizes, ages, and ethnicities. There’s no favoritism towards any end of the spectrum here, and I loved the fact that Rome referred to all of the women as “Queens.”

The primarily female audience that’s going to be seeing this film will have a lot to choose from in terms of good-looking guys, too. You get your “traditionally” attractive men (Tatum and Matt Bomer), your slightly-older men (Manganiello), your manly husky men (Kevin Nash), and hell, even Michael Strahan makes a cameo in some gold booty shorts for you. For the straight guys who are being dragged to this by their girlfriends or wives, unfortunately for you, there’s no titties in this sequel. Not even one. Now, Jada Pinkett Smith and Elizabeth Banks both look stunning in their (albeit brief) appearances, but that’s about it. But maybe you guys can learn a thing or two about how to treat your women by watching it – just sayin’.

The rating I have to give this film is based on the fact that as a movie, it’s just not very good. It’s pretty stupid. But despite being dumb and despite barely having a plot, I still left the film smiling. It’s entertaining, and if you’re planning on seeing Magic Mike XXL, you’re seeing it for the asses and abs and not for a plot, anyway. [easyreview title= "Review of the Film" cat1title="Carrie's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="1.0" overall= false]

[easyreview title= "Review of Channing Tatum’s ass" cat1title="Carrie's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="5.0" overall= false]

Review: Jupiter Ascending

Jupiter-Ascending The 2015 space opera starring Mila Kunis and Channing Tatum is the first large epic story that we’ve seen this year. Full of fantastic visuals and interesting designs, Jupiter Ascending is a unique adventure. However, just below the surface of visual wonderment is an abject failure of storytelling and understandable narrative.

The Wachowskis have wowed us with The Matrix and pretty much everything after that has been a quick descent into film history obscurity. Nothing of true measure works cohesively in this film.  The film begins with a story of how Jupiter Jones’ (Mila Kunis) parents met each other back in Russia. Its a fairly innocent and throwaway story. It is reminiscent of Disney children’s films of the 1980s. Eventually we make it to modern times with Jupiter as a down on her luck janitor for the ultra wealthy. Her life is nothing but a modern take on the Cinderella story and frankly that one was more interesting. Its been done before and done to death.

So a “man” by the name of Caine Wise (Channing Tatum) shows up and rescues Jupiter at a vulnerable moment at the hands of some alien assassins. Like a knight in shining armor he comes to her aid in the exact moment she needs him and saves the day. While this introduction should have been a breathtaking moment to show off the movies effects it was largely boring, and ineffectual at setting a proper tone. From there, our heroes make it outside only to be attacked in grand fashion by a series of space ships. At this point, I thought to myself that maybe this was just a movie I could shut my brain off to and enjoy the 2 hour plus ride. I was unfortunately misguided in my assumptions. What came next was a 15 minute 1980s planetarium light show with the constant “pew pew pew” noise effect. From The Matrix to this!!!!?? Cool and uniquely designed space crafts fly pass the screen and put on this pathetic light dance and I couldn’t even be bothered to tell or care why. This makes the Star Wars prequels look like they used a level of special effects restraint in comparison. However, in the end this isn’t the films largest flaw.

What truly is the most frustrating aspect of The Wachowskis latest disaster is the inability to tell a cohesive story. Tight and sharp narrative is non-existent in Jupiter Ascending. Plot threads that just go unexplained are everywhere. The entirety of Jupiter’s relationship to the royal family is barely touched on and leaves so many questions; even now. Notions of reincarnation and harvesting materials of beings is all shown and in a flash gone to nearly never be mentioned again. The plot is one poorly constructed set piece, likely on fire, after another until we are out of space opera tropes. By the end, the audience was literally laughing at the insane dialogue Eddie Redmayne was forced to utter as the movie’s villain. Is it odd that I am just mention Redmayne, well that’s because he is barely in it. He is acting his heart out in a movie that he is simply better than. Trying to channel his own over the top ruler persona a la Commodus (Joaquin Phoenix) in Gladiator. Redmayne seems so out of place because his actual effort is too much for this dunderheaded laserfest. Mila Kunis does an OK job with what she is given and Channing Tatum is awful. This is yet another role that he seemed to be picked for based on his physical attractiveness rather than his acting abilities, which he does possess. At this point, I am not sure he can carry a franchise on his own. Jupiter Ascending is a waste of everyone’s time and money. Do not bother going to the theater to see it. You would be better off watching Channing Tatum roller blade across the skyline from the comfort of your couch so you change the channel when you’ve had enough.

[easyreview title= "Review of Jupiter Ascending" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="1.0" overall= false]

Review: 22 Jump Street

22JumpStreet The followup to the highly successful and hilarious 21 Jump Street has a long and tough battle to fight. On one hand it has to not only be funny, but funnier than its predecessor. It also has to tread close to the formula that worked the first time without rehashing the same movie and jokes. I am happy to say that Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum absolutely deliver. Amping the franchise up to the next logical level while remaining true to what worked so well for them the first go around. Directed by Phil Lord and Christopher Miller (21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie) this sequel was amazingly self aware and really knew the hurdles that it had to traverse. There are numerous winks and nods to not rehashing the same jokes and plot points. Lord and Miller attacked the obvious criticism that comes with comedy sequels from the onset, which made the movie immediately more endearing as you began to really root for the success of the movie; smart strategy. Even with that planted motivation the movie met and exceeded my expectations.

Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) returns as the police equivalent of the odd couple. Now attempting to perform real police work, we meet up with them making a large scale drug bust. Things don’t go their way and they are immediately thrown back into a case very similar to the plot of the first movie; find the drug dealer in the local school but this time in college instead of high school. They are told by Captain Dickson (Ice Cube) that they need to handle this situation “exactly like the last time.” One of many winks to the audience. So our two unlikely heroes are off to the local college to stop the sale of, WHYPHY, a new mystery party drug. One of the overarching storylines of the movie is the relationship between Schmidt and Jenko. While the first movie was about them bonding as a team, 22 Jump Street goes the route of the strain on their relationship and the attempt to maintain being friends. For a whole lot of dick and fart jokes, the movie has a ton of heart. The two separate for large parts of the film to find themselves in their respective situations. Coming together occasionally to try and hash out their differences. In the end, they do and become an even stronger team than the first time.

At the heart of this movie with its amusing story and self awareness is pure comedy gold. Hill’s level of neediness and Tatum dunderhead Jenko are a perfect match. From the idiotic comments to the physical difference between the two they are hitting all the high points. The story while not breaking any new ground did have a twist or two that might not be so obvious. The heroes are hilarious, the villains as well, and the sheer level of awkwardness of being two 30+ year olds pretending to be freshmen in college is ripe for tons of laughs. The crowd I saw it with were laughing hysterically throughout the entire movie, and I would expect that from most. I was very happy to see some of the lesser characters from the first one really have larger and meaningful roles this time around. There is no doubt that this will be this year’s best comedy. If you enjoyed the first one you will love this, and if you didn’t even see the first one that’s ok. The movie literally does a “Previously on 21 Jump Street” moment to catch you up. In a summer of big budget action flicks with robots and aliens abound, go laugh yourself silly with 22 Jump Street.

[easyreview title= "Review of 22 Jump Street" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.5" overall= false]

Review: 21 Jump Street

In 1987 when the original 21 Jump Street was first brought to television we received a great procedural police drama series with young and upcoming stars. In 2012, we revisit the franchise but this time with crude comedy. On the surface, the remake of 21 Jump Street seems like the most ludicrous idea proposed by Hollywood in some time. However, with Jonah Hill and Michael Bacall writing we get a fresh take or an old property. Let’s get the most important part of this review out of the way: Is 21 Jump Street actually funny? I am happy to say, it’s absolutely hilarious. So now that we have the basics established let’s talk story. The premise is simple and is treated as such. Two cops, who are worthless upon first glance, are assigned to work undercover at a local high school to bust a drug ring. Nothing too complicated, just straight to the point. I enjoy movies that don’t bother with unnecessary exposition and know what they are and stay within that context.

Meeting the main characters Morton Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Greg Jenko (Channing Tatum) and establishing how they get to Jump Street takes about 15 minutes. This part of the movie zips by so fast that you realize early that the directors, Phil Lord and Chris Miller, have an agenda and no time for deviation. This part feels very rushed, but frankly you don’t care because you are waiting for the comedic high school scenes anyway. However, once Hill and Tatum take on their high school identities we really get to see the two shine. I am no fan of Tatum’s previous work but I have to admit he is pretty great here. He works well as the handsome idiot with a heart of gold. Jonah Hill has had great success with his roles in arguably similar movies like Superbad and he doesn’t disappoint here either. Hill does an exceptional job as the awkward-cool-smart-ass teenage persona. Overall the chemistry between the two stars is genuine and makes you want to see more of their adventures.

The movie has a nice overarching message about high school and the day to day nonsense that is teenage life. It handles delivering this message well without beating you over the head with the obvious. The movie is very silly, but in a good way, yet it isn’t mindless. Tatum and Hill do well addressing high school stereotypes while at the same time showing the changes that have occurred since their time in high school. Some of the funnier scenes happen when the two characters try to pigeon hole other students into their perceived high school stereotypes.

Like I said earlier, the movie is hilarious. Once Hill and Tatum make it to school they are surrounded by a whole host of characters. The awkwardness and crudeness of the movie works much like it did in Superbad. The level of in your face comedy harkens back to the days of Animal House, Bachelor Party, and the Revenge of the Nerds series, which is never a bad thing. All in all, I think this is the first good mainstream movie of the year. Go see 21 Jump Street you won’t regret it.

[easyreview title= "Review of 21 Jump Street" cat1title="Jay's Rating" cat1detail="Overall Review" cat1rating="4.0" overall= false]