The Boys Are Back in Town

The speakers blast the opening beats to “Pony”. It can only be one thing: The summer movie that calls to women and lures them in the theaters with the promise of rock hard abs and nice tushes. It’s Magic Mike back in theaters and this time it’s XXL!

In the previous installment, too much time was spent on a lack luster plot that was forced down the audience throats. We didn’t go for a dramatic movie: we went for a good time. Magic Mike XXL learned from the original’s strengths and weaknesses. The second romp is fun with a few moments of sentiment that will put a smile on your face.

Dallas sells out the boy leaving them stranded on their own before the big stripper convention in Myrtle Beach (is this even a real thing, because well….). Mike sees an opportunity to have some fun and re-galvanize his life. The team (Richie, Ken, Tarzan, Tito, and Tobias) set out in a food truck once the prodigal son returns for their last performance. But the ride isn’t that easy. Drag queens, drugs, and girls set the boys off the beaten path as they struggle to find a new MC and some new routines to go out in a “tsunami of dollar bills.”

This movie is pure fun with laughs abound. The plot centers around the Kings of Tampa themselves and not just on Mike and his an unworthy protege. Instead its a buddy movie focusing on the male entertainers themselves. Joe Manganiello kills it as Richie who becomes a de facto leader for the team and has some of the best one liners. He also has one of the best dance sequences in the entire movie.

There are a few moments of tenderness which reminds everyone why women seek out male entertainers. We want to be reminded that we are wanted, that we are beautiful. In the most touching (and one of the few dramatic scenes in the film), Matt Bomber’s Ken breaks out the Bryan Adams to serenade a middle aged Southern Belle reminding her that she is worth love and to have her fantasies come true.magic_mike_joe_manganiello.0

The other thing the movie does well is bringing in strong women. Jada Pinkett Smith is Rome, a feisty
and feminine strip club owner who rules every scene she’s in. Amer Heard plays the scorned photographer who just needs her smile back. And Elizabeth Banks, well, she’s just spectacular. These character balance out the testosterone and proves male entertainment isn’t an all boys club.

What does it do wrong? Well, the plot is as thin as the men’s thongs but its those thongs we came to see. Will it when the actors any acting awards? No, but someone needs to give these boys kudos for their dancing moves. This movie is pure movie escapism.

Magic Mike helps level the playing field when it comes to female sexuality. Forget 50 Shades of Grey where women have to submit to be sexy. These men remind we are beautiful just the way we are and that we should embrace to our sexuality (and those one dollar bills). Hate it if you must, but Magic Mike XXL is great summer movie fun.

Watch This Not That

Watch This…

Olympus Has Fallen

olympus-has-fallen-gerard-butler-aaron-eckhartLast year two White House terrorist movies were released.  As far as quality movies go, Olympus Has Fallen was able to combine humor, action and familial love effortlessly. Brining in a high profile cast, the movie had stronger characters brought to life by a talented cast. Gerard Butler, Aaron Eckhart, Ashley Judd, Angela Basset, and to round things out Morgan Freeman gave life to the terrorist crisis. Director Antoine Fugua was able to focus on the action while mixing in emotions and humor without losing sight of the film’s plot.  Exciting, engaging, and entertaining Olympus Has Fallen has gotten a sequel to take place in London. Here’s hoping the team can recreate that same style.

 

…Not That

White House Down

816rBuBLsjL._SL1500_While it had a bigger gross at the box office (and a way bigger budget), White House Down falls short at fulfilling its scope in an emotional and exciting way. One of the biggest problems is that Channing Tatum is not a good actor. He’s good looking (I’d watch him in Magic Mike all day long) but he is not a quality actor. The movie also meanders along and it’s quite sure where it is going and when to end.  It’s heavy on the FX and that is what really steals the show. Like so many Roland Emmerich movies, this one looks good but fails at being a quality film.

 

 

Watch This…

300

300-Rise-of-an-Empire_zpsf2428956_1398972388300 took a graphic novel and made an inspiring underdog story and entertaining film. It didn’t focuses on gore, and Zack Snyder gave it a distinctive color palate to help mimic the look of a graphic novel. Mostly unknown Gerard Butler showed us he could be an action hero and Olympus Has Fallen continues to show that. Rounded out with Lena Headey and Dominic West, the movie’s cast captures the emotion of the characters without being sappy.  Well thought out and smart, the film stands on its own merits—even if it isn’t very factual.

 

…Not That

300: Rise of an Empire

300-rise-of-an-empire-movie-poster-3The problem with this sequel is that it is a spectacle movie. Rise of an Empire is not about the story, it’s not about the character; it’s about getting your attention with blood, gore and nudity.  Director Noam Murro tries to outdo himself adding in special filtering techniques and using slow motion way too often. Unlike the first film, it’s not a story of an underdog to inspire the ages. It just wants to push the envelope. Sorry it takes more than Eva Green’s breasts to entertain me.

The Jane Doe Awards~ Movie Edition

Being tired of all the awards shows and their lack of enjoying good entertainment,   I decided to create my own awards. The Jane Doe Awards are the opinion of an average Jane just like you. So here are some of my favorite movies of the year.

The Zeitgeist Awards

Magic Mike

f10fa1db0d4eb91dcfe76360b966b626

The movie world finally decided to cater to over half its movie going audience. Channing Tatum steps away from sappy romances to give women some hot action. He and a gorgeous band of sidekicks take off their clothes to entertain and prove that women to like sex appeal. This made way for other outlets including the extremely hot and lady friendly Chicago Fire. While the plot tried too hard, it was fun entertainment that reminded the world that women are sexual beings. Long live the women’s movement!

The Never Ending Story Award

John Carter

John-Carter-1-680

John Carter suffered from horrible advertising. No one had any idea what it was about or that it was based on short stories written by Edgar Rice Burroughs. I rented it from Netflix because I had heard good things. What no one told me was that it is The Never Ending Story of this generation. Faraway places, princesses in peril, and an unsuspecting hero. The CG is well done and the world of Mars comes to life. Taylor Kitsch is a fabulous actor and handles all aspects of Carter genuinely. Thomas Haden Church, Willem Dafoe, and an appearance by James Purefoy add depth to the overall casting. The world of John Carter is magical and children will want to revisit it again and again. This adult does.

The Women’s Rights Award

Hysteria

hysteria_i01Hysteria is a well done, humorous, but not vulgar telling of how the vibrator was created. Originally made to relieve women’s illness, the vibrator has become the most popular sex toy. The movie puts the women’s rights movement front and center. Maggie Gyllenhaal’s Charlotte is the ultimate feminist trying to break out of the box her father has put her in. Hugh Dancy is serious as the doctor who invents the vibrator because a debilitating injury (carpal tunnel from manual “curing” women). It also gives a frank look at a time that saw all women’s problems as being attached to their uterus. It’s enjoyable, the right amount of funny and serious at the same time. It’s worth a watch even if the content is “scandalous.”

 

Best Superhero Movie

The Dark Knight Rises

the_dark_knight_rises___tom_hardy-wallpaper-1680x1260

The Avengers may have made the most money this year but it traded quality for spectacle. The Dark Knight Rises, on the other hand, was well thought out and executed. Christopher Nolan did well, ending his trilogy. The film weaves aspects from the first two installments into the finishing story. The story was more than just imploding stadium and barbaric fights. The film touches on themes superhero stories do not touch. This movie was an allegory for your world rife with terrorism and need for heroes. Our hero is conflicted and multi-sided instead of a stereotype and viewers are invested in his ending. And we are quite pleased.

 

The Movie That Should Have Sucked But Didn’t

Promised Land

webpromised-land-movie-damonThis movie about a small town, an environmentalist, and a natural gas company should have sucked. It could have been a puff piece about being green; instead it was smart and emotional. Though viewers could see a twist coming, they would not see what it actually was. Blending humor with real world issues, Matt Damon and John Krasinski proved to be deft screen writers and actors. If anyone else had tried to do this movie, it would have become a sappy mess. Viewers will think critically about the world and their jobs. As a limited engagement, many may have missed it. Put it on the top of Redbox list!

 

The Technical Wonder

The Hunger Games

hunger_games1

The adaptation of the young adult novels does not join this list for the quality acting or the thought provoking screen play (both of which it has), but because the film’s creators took the time to put real thought into each aspect of the movie. For example, the filming is brilliantly plotted. Katniss is followed by handicam in District 12 and in the Hunger Games giving a very documentary feel to the games and its contestant. It’s only in the Capital that the camera is steady and perfect. For many more examples, read my review. Everything from the costumes to the sets oozes the themes and ideals of the screen play. No other movie had so much thought invested.

The Award Winner

Silver Linings Playbook

11LAWRENCE1_SPAN-articleLargeI hate award shows; they always pick movies I hate or haven’t seen. Usually, I really like one of them, and this year it is Silver Linings Playbook. This tale of two emotional damaged people is brilliantly written and gives a very realistic view of mental illness. Bradley Cooper is pitch perfect as Pat who suffers from Bi-Polar Disorder. It’s a shame that Jennifer Lawrence wins when Cooper doesn’t. Lawrence is fabulous in her role but Cooper is amazing and becomes the character; he deserves the accolades more. Never the less, this movie is funny, touching and very real. You should not miss this one.

 

The Kids & Adults Can Watch Award

Wreck It Ralph

tdy-121105-vanellope-1_380;380;7;70;0

It has finally become popular to make animated or children geared movie with adults in mind. So not only will adults take their children to see these movies, some adults will go without kids. Wreck It Ralph is the best one of the year. It tackles ideas that children and adults can learn from. The film also waxes nostalgia for games past. As a gamer, I enjoyed being able to name so many of the references. The movie has witty jokes but at the same makes childish humor. “Heroes’ Doody” still makes me laugh even though I should be older than such jokes.  For every childish line from Sarah Silverman, John C. Reilly lays down a witty line. But that is what is marvelous about Ralph; there’s something funny for everyone.

TV Just Got Hot, Hot, Hot

Chicago Fire, NBC

This last Wednesday, women’s TV got a little more exciting. NBC’s newest show Chicago Fire is an hour long drama centered on the Chicago Fire Department and their lives in and out side of the department.

Chicago Fire puts House’s Jesse Spencer front and center. An under appreciated actor, his wide range was not shown as the too cute Aussie on Gregory House’s team. On his new drama, TV viewers will get a look his dramatic chops that are unknown to those that haven’t seen Swimming Upstream (It’s on Netflix instant streaming; watch it now!). And, yes, he can perform as the main center of the show. Take that Jennifer Morrison!

The pilot is more than just a fire department procedural. Each character has a rich story and issues in their lives. It is this character development that gives the show its sticking power. The fire sequences are fun and exciting and are changes from watching police chase criminals on foot or wheels. The two components make it a unique addition to the network television. Plus, it adds a little more beef cake in a world centered on big busted women with little butts.

As the pilot opens, the Chicago Fire Department is on site at a fire in progress. The fire squad and the rescue squad are trying to fight the fire when they loose one of their own. This leads to tension between the two squads as each captain tries to deal with the after affect of the event. Lt. Matthew Casey (Spencer) in charge of the truck team and the Rescue Squad’s Kelly Severide (Taylor Kinney) blame one another and can’t wait seem to find a good working relationship. But all the team members have more than just work drama in their lives. Casey is going through a separate from fiancé, Severide is battling some kind of pain, and seasoned fire fighter Christopher Herrman has a house that been foreclosed as well as on the job injuries. Watching each of these men and women deal with their trails and then put them aside as they trying to save the lives of many citizens is inspiring. It reminds me there are things in this world bigger than ourselves, especially fire.

One of the best aspects of the show is the variety of cast members. In a culture where having a minority or two is the norm; the show seamlessly integrates characters of gender, orientation and race as a tight group of close nit friends. Except for one odd explanation of homosexuality, the combination does not seem forced and contrite nor does it seem like the show is jumping on the “cool minority” bandwagon (the variety is not for humor or spectacle).

As a woman, I have been more and more excited that TV and film are going after the female demographic without movies and shows just being a crying cheese fest. What Magic Mike did for movies, Chicago Fire is doing that on a smaller scale. I read a complaint that the promo poster was a Chippendale ad. That’s the point. Expressing women’s sexuality with soot smugged or toned shirtless firemen is new to network TV. Cable has long taken advantage of women’s desire for good looking men in shows like Nip/Tuck where you know if a gorgeous guest star was on he would see his butt (including my high school crush Mario Lopez and Bradley Cooper) to Sons of Anarchy (ask any woman who Jax Teller is, I dare you). Even though it’s still shunned, men should be ready because gender equality is finally coming to TV and films. Networks are finally selling to women and the idea that we are sexual being.

Now that I have spent two paragraphs on the sociological aspect of the show, let get back to the simple thinking that many have when viewing a TV show. Chicago Fire is exciting and character driven and probably the best show NBC has had in years.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Magic Mike Unwrapped

Women of a variety of ages flocked to the movie theaters to see the likes of Channing Tatum. Matthew McConaughey, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, and Adam Rodriquez take their clothes off in Steven Soderbergh’s male stripper drama. They got laughs, flesh, and a little drama.

Tatum plays the title character, an “entrepreneur” who strips by night to save for his life long dream of being a custom furniture maker. He brings in a college drop out (played by Alex Pettyfer) who becomes known on stage as The Kid. Mike takes him under his wing teaching how to dance and what male stripping is about: fulfilling women’s fantasies. Mike and the crew are working on opening their dance review in Miami but issue with The Kid and kid sister cause him to rethink his life,

The film includes a compelling plot, but it tries too hard. While it seems simple, screenwriter Reid Carolin throws in so many complexities the viewer gets bored. For example, Mike has three part time jobs as while trying to start up his furniture company. He also has not one, but two, lover interests. Carolin even throws in a little All About Eve context with The Kid. All this bogs down the forward action of the movie.

Magic Mike is strong on two levels. The first, of course, is that it is visually striking. The whole movie has been thoughtfully set up. The ecstasy scene is filmed in such a way that the audience wonders if they are tripping as well. Soderbergh also captures the men’s movements as they dance and gyrate making the dance sequences just as exciting as the clothing removal. There aren’t gratuitous crotch shots or close up of bare butts. The choreographer does a wonderful job of showing what the fluidity of the human body and the director captures this brilliantly. This culminates in Tatum’s routine to “Pony,” the best sequence in the film.

The second is that it is thought provoking. Stay with me here. The movie has a very sociological side as the audience delves into the world of male stripping. The boys actually dance and do acrobatic feats in an effort to facilitate women’s fantasies. While there are lap dances, there doesn’t seem to be an overlay of prostitution. Where as so many movies show off the sin and naughtiness of the female clubs, the male venues are more about full entertainment than a peep show.  Viewers watch Mike evolve as a character, and we see what these men actually think and do. They are regular people with an unusual job. Watching this and comparing the differences of the male strip world is actually very fascinating.

For all its flesh, laughs, and smooth dance moves, Magic Mike tells a story, a story about how we see our lives and what our life really is.