Thursday, 9 July 2015

film review: Magic Mike XXL

I'll tell you what's awkward: when you get to a point in your life where you get cocky (yes, pun intended, you're welcome) that you know what sort of movie the sequel to Magic Mike, that documentary about the profession of male stripping from 2012, will be... and you're wrong in almost every way.

I'll tell you what else is awkward: when you walk out of Magic Mike XXL and the first thing you say is "there really could have been more stripping". This was the mission of this creative masterpiece of a sequel: as many abs as possible. Some more of Ginuwine's Pony. Channing Motherfucking Tatum, for days.

Everyone, I'm just going to say it. Don't see this movie, there is not enough male nudity.

It also sucks in a wide collection of other ways. There are far too many minutes in this movie (115, to be exact) with no music, for a start. I want the up and coming club hits playing pretty much the whole time. I want there to be some puns. I want the characters to either have no back story or an over-used character trope. I don't want some half-assed shit about a guy's dream to run a truck that dispenses probiotic frozen yoghurt. I kid you not. An actual thing from this movie.

There are also far too many minutes in this movie where everyone is like, sitting around. I thought it was going to have aspects of the comedy and self-deprecation when the core cast all went nuts on MDMA early in the piece and did silly things, but then there's dead air for an hour. With the metaphorical crickets chirping and tumbleweed blowing down the main street.

What I want to know is, how the ACTUAL FUCK did Donald Glover (Childish Gambino, Community) get himself involved in this absolute train wreck (side note: previewed the trailer for upcoming Judd Apatow movie "Trainwreck" starring Amy Schumer; looks fantastic) of a movie? He is a successful artist. He wears hats so well. He has such a nice face. Why Donald? Why?

All the men are very muscular and tanned in that charming way that has more than a hint of the orange skin tone about it. They've all got a little older, but they're still keeping it tight. There are all these carefully sculpted muscle groups that aren't doing what they do best: being bared to the world.

Let me be very clear: I understand this level of fitness and muscle definition is not realistic for us people of the real world. I understand that objectification of anyone is ultimately destructive when it puts the kind of pressure on us all to strive for something we'll never be. But if I'm paying for entertainment and I've expected something, it's just so hard to recalibrate my expectations. That's really what's upsetting here. I'm not sure if it's the patriarchy's fault, but that's who I'm going to blame.

That and the incredibly poor writing that didn't even bother to leave holes in the plot, it just skipped out on plot all together. Now we're at the beach. Now we're in the forest. Now we're in the South. Now we're

Oh wait I don't care anymore.

Loyally I will note and applaud the high quality of Channing Tatum's dancing. I like Channing, I really do. He tends to say a good collection of feminist things in a fairly inoffensive way (rather than the "look at me, I thought a feminist thing, where's my gold star and my free pass to be a sexist asshole?") in the public space. I like how his character, the eponymous Mike, incorporated his work with his male entertainer past in this excellent trailer from the movie:

Actually, listen: if you just watched the above you have now seen all the best parts. Don't fall into the trap of wanting more: there is no more that is any good.

Just so bad, you guys. Take away feels from this movie: why won't you stop talking and dance?! Also, all the dollar bills on the stage bothered me - it didn't feel safe. Someone could have slipped on there.

It gets no stars. I even feel bad for making you read my review, but if I managed to stop just one person who is expecting lols and eye candy underscored by some sick tunes paying to see this shit, my work here is done.

You're welcome.

Tuesday, 7 July 2015

Arnold Schwarzenegger is the king of the world and the boss of everything: a think piece on Terminator: Genisys.

Dear everybody, everywhere: Arnie, amiright?

I went to see the latest instalment in the Terminator franchise last Thursday with a small gang of people. It was opening night: we got there early. We won: we got the best seats in the house (if you promise not to take them from me, I will tell you which ones they are: the ones just up from the aisle. You can put your feet up and nobody’s head is in front of your face). We probably could’ve cruised in there a little later in the night, like 5 to 20 mins, but I have no regrets. 

So the thing about the Terminator movies is this: lower your expectations. Good and low? Just lower them a little more. Allow a moment of thought about the sheer amount of pressure riding on the poor poor cast, writers, director, producers. The huge amount of money the film needs to make. The fucking creative pressure of the daily grind, man. 

Lower the expectations just a little bit more. 

And here we go: into the past but also firstly into the future, but then also the past is different because of a Terminator from the future but not as far into the future as the current future we’re in. Or maybe - not sure. But the important thing is that we’re in the past for long enough to revisit the first movie, take your name down flip it and reverse it, and then off we go into another future that’s again, not as far into the future as we were before, at the start of the movie. And a belated spoiler alert to you, my friends.

The year was something. 2017 I think. Gotta fix the thing before it happens, but also don’t forget the system is there to wreck your plans before you wreck its plans because TECHNOLOGY AND CAPITALISM. 

I’m really confused with how clever I’ve tried to be about this, so I might quit while I’m behind but also slightly ahead.

I actually loved the last Terminator movie, "Terminator: Salvation" which was possibly more about Sam Worthington than is strictly allowed. Actually I can justify it by stating I’m supporting local produce - I mean artists - and we’re good here. Solved. I’m not sure if it will stand up to a rewatching, but now I’ve thought about it, I probably will re-watch. For science.

I’m always going to enjoy popular cultural explorations of dystopia, however stilted the acting is (although now I wonder if I maybe missed the point of them being stilted as something about being influenced by the machine-driven world in which they have to survive… do we buy that? Let’s, for now) and however many mans they manage to list in the opening credits before Emilia “Khaleesi” Clarke gets her mention. So, #justfeministthings: I think because of Mad Max (you can read my very very fond review of that masterpiece here), all the action blockbuster type movies are being held up to a feminist/quasi-feminist looking glass at the moment. Which I think, overall, is fucking fantastic. We need the general public to start being a little more “hey what’s up with there being almost only men in this movie?”. I support this sentiment, clearly. 

Unfortunately for Clarke (and I’m just going to say it because I SAY WHAT I WANT), the woman of the movie, the giver of all life and whatever, she just did not deliver great acting. It was like Khaleesi stumbled through some hair dye (or took off her wig, because that bleach-blonde hair is not a real thing) and into an 80s city with the keys to a mail truck and a big old pile of guns. And zero dragons. Maybe I wanted too much from her; maybe I didn’t lower my expectations of her enough. Her resemblance to Linda Hamilton who played Sarah Connor in the first Terminator movie is pretty excellent, but I just didn’t quite believe it. Also, it still ended up being a bit about her boobs.

Don’t get me wrong even for an instant: great boobs. Don’t anyone dare tell me she doesn’t do her own boob work, my feelings will be irrevocably hurt. At least tell me she provides her own silhouette boob (you’ll know it when you see it).

I like the idea of Sarah Connor being a central figure, but it doesn’t come off as genuine. Partly the boob thing, partly the lack of dimensions (haha not boob dimensions you all, the other kind - character dimensions) - we didn’t get much insight into her motivations, we didn’t get to see her as much of a human - I didn’t see half as many flaws and internal conflicts as I would have liked to, given the premise of her role in the whole saga.

Anyhow. Let’s move on and talk about Arnie. It makes me happy. It’s really all I have to say. The guy has almost no range and still manages to steal the show (and govern a fucking state, right?) while oftentimes having bits of his face missing or being digitally altered or being naked.

I just want to observe that the guy did not skip leg day. Like, ever.

I like how he brings this little tweak of humour to his role - it’s like he knows how silly he is but he’s also like “come on guys, sometimes just being a politician is so hard… I need this”. Also, what would the franchise even be without the guy? You know I’m right. Also have to concede in light of overwhelming evidence that I am a sucker for an accent - even a German one, even after everything (not a reference to the war, btw).

Overall (see how keenly I have avoided spoilers, by failing to discuss most of the plot and other characters) I think you should all see it, but don’t care too much. I mean, care if you must, but care sparingly. Find joy in the self-referential. The explosions, of which there are many. Enjoy that thing with the plot twist. And I don’t think I’ll ruin it too much by mentioning this excellent joke, which I have to thank Phill for reminding me of:

“What do we want? Time Travel. When do we want it? It’s irrelevant!”

2 stars: one for Arnie and one for making me paranoid about Apple, which is a story for another time (I’m writing this on a MacBook).