Magic Mike XXL: Strippers on a road trip

Bow… bow, wow, wow. When Genuwine’s Pony kicks in you know you’re watching Magic Mike. Sometimes certain songs coupled with certain scenes elevate an entire film and glue it firmly to our memories. Such was the case three years ago.

Directed by Steven Soderburgh at the time in almost a documentary style, Magic Mike was a funny old beast. It was less about stripping and more male bonding; how these guys actually live and are part of a tribe. Like The Wrestler with Mickey Rourke but with more nudity. (Actually, scratch that, they’ve both got naked guys aplenty.) It focused on character too; so if it were mere titillation we wouldn’t have this sequel now.

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This time round Soderburgh’s long time assistant director, Gregory Jacobs, steps up to direct. He’s a man who has worked extensively with Soderburgh in the past and knows the style and tone of the first movie. Whilst not quite matching the first he does a passable job with this sequel.

So… why would a straight guy go to see Magic Mike, surely it’s one for the ladies? Well, yes, there’s male nudity in abundance but I’d argue this is a film that, in a manner of speaking, has more to offer the male market. Bear (or bare, geddit?) with me here whilst I state my case. First, the plot.

Photo Credit: Claudette Barius
Photo Credit: Claudette Barius

Mike has left the life of stripping behind to pursue his passion of furniture design. He’s got his girl, it’s all rosy. However, three years later things don’t work out as he plans and he gets a call from the old gang as they pass through town on their way to a stripper convention (Yes, it’s a real thing. Tatum actually attended one in his former life before acting.)

With only a little – rather convenient – persuasion from Genuwine’s Pony on the radio in his workshop (in a scene which riffs on Flashdance) he bundles in with the fellas for a road trip and one last stripping hurrah. They meet various characters along the way, including Jada Pinkett Smith’s stripper Madam Rome (Mike’s mentor) and Andie Macdowell’s lonely housewife Nancy, which all add something.

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That said, there’s things missing, specifically characters. Gone is Dallas (Matthew McConaughey) crooning ‘ladies of Tampa’ and stealing scenes. He leaves a rather large hole which the rest of the cast try to fill with varying degrees of success. Gone is Adam ‘The Kid’ (Alex Pettyfer), gone is Mike’s love interest Brooke (Cody Horn), replaced rather half-heartedly with quirky and nomadic Zoe (Amber Heard Depp); who does what she can but has very little to work with. However, former players do step up, particularly Joe Manganiello’s Big Dick Ritchie, who gets the funniest – and ballsiest – scene of the movie.

Stripping scenes aside, the movie itself, in its quieter moments, seems at pains to show these guys as more than strippers. They’ve got hopes and dreams like the rest of us and they’re just as vulnerable, if not more so. There’s one scene where two characters talk about how they’re modern-day healers for women. Weirdly, it’s quite touching and all rather spiritual.

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In parts it does drag a little, but overall it’s a pretty solid follow-up and doesn’t retread too much old ground. It feels like a good way to end, too. If we see a Magic Mike 3 in a few years I can safely say it’ll tank at the box office as there’s really nowhere else to take these characters. I think the actors knew that as they looked like there were having so much fun here and really went for it.

So… It’s a good laugh, fits the tone of the first and is surprisingly sensitive in places where it touches on the male bonding aspect and sense of belonging. But let’s leave it there eh? Mike’s stripping days are done. Time he hung up that thong for good.

Baby did a bad, bad thing

As we head into the, ahem, steamy British summer I found myself having mini flashbacks to sexy dance moments in film (just the way my mind works). Scenes that were charged to the nines and loaded with… possibility. Here are a few of my favourites.
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Amber HeardThe Rum Diary
To be honest you could take any of her scenes from this film, however her dance in a blues bar was downright dangerous. A modern Hollywood siren, if ever there was one.


Nicole Kidman
Eyes Wide Shut
Right before Tom Cruise gets involved it’s just her swaying in front of a mirror, like a seductive serpent ready to strike. Perfectly scored to ‘Baby did a bad, bad thing’ by Chris Isaak.


Jamie Lee Curtis
True Lies
Demure housewife gets lured into a spy racket in one almighty mix up. Cue Arnie with a tape recorder duping Curtis into doing one of the sexiest on-screen dances on film in recent years.


Salma Hayek
Desperados
Not long into her Hollywood career Hayek got a break on Rodriguez’s monster flick, as a vampire queen giving Tarantino one hell of a sexy snake dance before eating him alive.


Eva Green
The Dreamers
In her debut film appearance she gets lost in the moment in an unforgettable dance scene, one which leads to Michael Pitt’s character momentarily passing out.
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Top 10 thinking man’s actresses

Hello my film-loving friends. Today I wish to share with you my list of a thinking man’s top actresses. Ladies that have a certain allure in terms of intelligence, physical beauty, acting prowess and – to avoid using an overused French phrase – an indefinable something.

With each actress I’ve also mentioned the films that first made me fall in love with them. Now you may disagree and say some of these ladies are just a pretty face and nothing else – that’s fine. Hopefully I can state my case and change your mind.

  1. Natalie Portman – Garden State, Closer, V for Vendetta
    It’s no secret I hold this actress in high regard and I’ve previously discussed her top performances in another posting. So I’ll just say she makes my top spot by being a perfect blend of intelligence, beauty and vulnerability – a winning combination.
  2. Eva Green – The Dreamers, Casino Royale, Dark Shadows
    Hypnotic, alluring, sensual – she got her debut in Bernardo Bertolucci’s The DreamersThe Director described her as ‘So beautiful, it’s indecent‘. It’s not the world’s best film in terms of plot, but if you want to truly appreciate the appeal of this actress I highly recommend it.
  3. Anne HathawayLove and Other Drugs
    In this film I’ve mentioned she plays a character who has early stages of Parkinson’s disease. Some of her scenes – particularly in the third act – are heartbreaking and put her firmly in third place. Even without Catwoman in The Dark Knight she’d still be here, she’s that good in this film. If you’ve not seen it here’s a nice little clip.
  4. Amanda SeyfriedChloe, Alpha Dog, Dear John, Jennifer’s Body
    An actress with the biggest, most beautiful eyes in Hollywood. You have to love the internet, a quick search turned up a site dedicated to her eyes! That aside, she’s been in an interesting and varied bunch of films that slowly but surely convinced me of her inclusion. Out of them all I recommend you see Chloe.
  5. amber heardAmber Heard – The Rum Diary
    She’s the kind of actress that exudes an old-school Hollywood charm and mystique. But who am I to say these things you ask? Well if you don’t believe me listen to Johnny Depp – he compared her to Veronica Lake and other old Hollywood beauties, she clearly had quite an impact.
  6. Jennifer LawrenceWinter’s Bone, Silver Linings Playbook
    I heard a story once that Ms Lawrence was walking down the corridor in a Hollywood studio when a bearded guy in a cap stopped her saying ‘Are you the Jennifer Lawrence?’ Turns out this was Steven Spielberg. He’d seen Winter’s Bone and been captivated by her performance, as many of us were seeing her for the first time.
  7. beth albatrossJessica Brown Findlay – Albatross,
    Black Mirror, Misfits, Labyrinth

    If you only know Miss Findlay from Downton Abbey then you’ve missed a trick. I loved her in Albatross, where she plays a bit of a sexy troublemaker, seducing her best friend’s dad. She gives the character warmth, depth and vulnerability – with a sharp, sassy nature to boot.
  8. Marion CotillardPublic Enemies, Inception, Dark Knight Rises
    She won an Oscar for playing Edith Piaf  in La Vie En Rose and I’m excited to see her forthcoming film Rust and Bone, where she plays a killer whale trainer. She was fantastic in Inception – intense, vulnerable and mesmerising. Watch the ‘waiting for a train’ scene.
  9. Mila KunisForgetting Sarah Marshall, Friends with Benefits, Ted
    I struggle with Kunis. She’s still Meg from Family Guy – a problem when she’s clearly stunning and likes to play quite fiesty, yet down-to-earth characters. The perfect girl-next-door, if you happen to live in Hollywood. There’s a rumour she might play Anastasia Steele in the forthcoming Fifty Shades film, an enticing prospect.
  10. Felicity JonesCemetery Junction, Albatross, Like Crazy
    Ah Ms Jones, great up-and-coming actress. She comes across as really sweet and genuine. Like Crazy cleaned up at the Sundance film festival in 2011 with her performance getting compared to Carey Mulligan’s in An Education. Emotional and heartfelt, watch the trailer.

So there’s my list. As ever I was ruthless with the cut – there’s probably a lot more that could have made my top 10 but there you go. I hope you enjoy this selection, until next time.