Archive for the ‘Channing Tatum’ Category

Magic Mike

10 Aug

Magic Mike – directed by Steven Soderbergh. Backstage Stripshow. 110 minutes Color 2012


The Story: Experienced male strippers introduce a teenager to their chorus.


We haven’t got much story here. And the teenage lad is not a performer of much interest. But that’s not the problem.

The problem lies with the director’s penchant for dialogue improvisation, with the notion in his noggin that improvisation produces an effect, if not the reality, of natural spontaneity. What it actually produces is a baroque elaboration of painful discursiveness. The décor of the palace of Versailles is a final resting place for the over-complicated. Improvisation generally leads to splashing around in the shallows. Its effect is arch, longwinded, and spurious. It enervates drama. And it does not allow the audience to reveal human nature any farther than a raindrop’s circles in a puddle.

The effect on this material is that it attenuates the material beyond necessity, style, or stretching point. The result: so much time is wasted by the halting of scenes with their improvisation that there is hardly a story at all.

It doesn’t matter that a very good actor, Channing Tatum, is called upon to engage in it. In natural, real life people come into big dramatic scenes knowing their feeling exactly. Whatever hems and haws it takes to arrive at their utterance are over once over. Underlying the style lies a disgraceful bid for sympathy.

The annoyance of the inappropriateness of this style of directing – for which Soderburgh is renown – is remedied in part by the garish dancing of the men, particularly Tatum, whose métier this world once was. He is astonishing to behold.

It is also salvaged in part by the verve of Matthew McConaughey, playing the strip club owner.  As an actor, his application to the moment is admirable, and just what’s needed to play a character living on a racket. His seizure of every actor on stage with his attention enlivens every scene he is in. He is an actor of great wit, as well, which means he is quick enough and willing enough to play a character where he can make the joke be on himself.

The sequel, Magic Mike XXL, is better. For one thing, it has a story. It also has more interesting women. In Magic Mike all we have is Tatum’s leading leady, a pill. In Magic Mike XXL we have Andie McDowell and Jada Pinkett-Smith, both brilliant, both fascinating, both fun. The dancing more than carries both films, but in Magic Mike the only reason to revisit the film is the dancing itself. None of which is improvised.


Magic Mike XXL

31 Jul

Magic Mike XXL – directed by Gregory Jacobs. Comedrama. 115 minutes Color 2015.


The Story: A gaggle of male strippers veers to Florida for a grand finale to their careers.


A picaresque backstage musical – or perhaps we should say buttstage musical – or backside musical. For Channing Tatum when he drops his drawers sure is callipygian.

But don’t expect no full Monties here. Their private personalities remain studiously reserved behind sequined pouches. And this puts the show on a different footing from what actual male stripper shows offer, which is pornography in the flesh. Pornography is unearned nudity. The price of admission to this movie does not include this on the menu.

Instead, we get a level of comedy, drama, and human interest of a parallel order, not too distant from smut, fortunately, because what’s low-down in life may have the robustness of its own vulgarity to recommend it and can be a lot of fun to boot.

The boys are aging burlesque kings. They have exhausted their talents, mislaid them, or mis-apprised them. So the drama consists of their getting their acts together in such a way that each of those acts becomes truly personal to each performer.

In a pal’s taco truck, they make a journey down the East Coast to The Big Florida Competition. On their way they take a detour or two.

One of them is the plantation of a free wheeling widow, gorgeously played by Andie McDowell. She allows herself a flutter with the title character, XXL, an Adonis, saddened because so overly endowed that no woman has ever quite fitted him.

Another detour spots the fellows in a sex club run by Jada Pinkett Smith – and, if for no other reason, the film is worth seeing because of her. She’s the former doyenne of Tatum. She carries a torch. She also operates an establishment in which all the women are treated to male-flesh danced before them in tribute to their wildest dreams. Smith’s creation of her relation to Tatum is something to behold, the space she seizes for the character to operate in and be known is a lesson in acting command and dignity. I’m going to see the film again just to watch her make room for herself.

To watch her character be wrong, and the actress dare to let this happen. You’ll see.

Anyhow. she plays a great big part in the film. Jada Pinkett Smith is clearly an actor who should be declared a National Park. Yellowstone The Black Canyon Of The Gunnison, Jada Pinkett Smith – we must preserve these treasures with our attention.

Leading this troupe into the dance lists of Florida is Channing Tatum, who at 35 is a ripe fig about to fall. So this film comes at just the right moment for him.

Two things make him good. The first is that he is a natural dancer – a talent demonstrated at the start when, although well established in a new career, he first hears of the Florida completion, and tosses his body into the nostalgic moves.

The second thing is that he is an excellent natural actor, having learned his craft through a bunch of films. His endowment consists of a sensibility which is fluid, responsive, witty, open. He’s so good looking you might think he’s not worth watching, but his face is more interesting than handsome, but flexible and alive, because the actor himself is these things.

I am not turned on by burlesque, male or female. But, male chauvinism be-damned, one of the aspects women love in males is the sexual rooster. Here these males preen it in their gaudiest feathers.

And perhaps the dances these blokes do in the faces of all these ladies are really no more than valentines to honor the sexual liberty every creature has a right to. The prig, the prude, and the puritan have their place in this world. But so does the God Priapus. For, if this film is any indication, the God Priapus has a much better sense of humor.



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Posted in Andie McDowell, Channing Tatum, Jada Pinkett Smith, MUSICAL NUMBERS



29 Nov


Foxcatcher – directed by Bennett Miller. Biodrama. 134 minutes Color 2014.


The Story: Two international wrestling champion brothers become enmeshed with a wealthy aficionado.


One wonders what scene it might be, but there is a sense of one missing. Between Vanessa Redgrave who plays his mother and Steve Carell, who plays the billionaire John Du Pont.

For Mrs Du Pont is an enormously accomplished equestrienne. Now being an equestrienne, with an entire room of her mansion given over to her many trophies, requires an early start, among riders who are seasoned and talented and unbribable. To win those prizes you have to be the same. You have to know your onions from way back.

Her son, however, takes on the hobby of international competitive wrestling in his fifties. He had the interest and even the temperament to be a patron. But he sets himself up, instead, as a “mentor, leader, and coach” – none of which he was, as though to compete with the his mother in her own sport.

As this fraud takes place before our eyes, we see his protégé, played by Channing Tatum, lose vim. Having already won two world championships, he is to compete in the Seoul Olympics. But the more Du Pont engages with him the less true air remains for Tatum to inhale as his own. Presently, Du Pont alienates him from his own brother, David, played by Mark Ruffalo. And then bribes Ruffalo to live at his vast estate where he has built a training facility for the Olympic wrestlers.

But somewhere we need one more scene with the mother. We see her voice her opinion that wrestling is lowbrow, and in another scene we see her turn away from the training of the wrestlers as her son attempts to show off his “leadership” in front of her. It might be a scene in which he says to her, “What if I won an Olympic Gold Medal, mother?’

The piece could not be better cast or played. Ruffalo, who is the real coach, completely convinces that he is a coach, and the care and savvy he imbrues the character with are just enough to delude him about the possible nature of Du Pont.

Channing Tatum plays Mark Shultz, the younger wrestler brother as a young man focused on his sport to the exclusion of everything else. He has no girlfriend, no children, no outside interests. This means he has the blinders on, but Tatum plays the wrestler as aware of himself and his own nature upon which he depends for security in his sport.

Steve Carell plays Du Pont. He carries himself chin-in-air like William Buckley, and like Buckley he is clammy as an adder – but with this difference, Buckley was a person of great accomplishment, Du Pont is a person of none that have not been purchased. His is a cogent portrayal of an idiot dauphin. He’s quite fascinating.

I’m not sure, however, that films are solely about portraiture. Or that to achieve a fine representation of a character is sufficient to a drama. The drama here does not play out; one figures it out. Carell is especially worth dwelling on amid an unexceptionable cast. And such a story is come by rarely. So it’s good to be given it by all of them. And you will not waste your time spending a couple of hours with it.

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