Film Review: Magic Mike

Despite a promising first third, Magic Mike does not seem to know what it wants to be and what story it wants to tell.

Mike is a thirty-year old roofer with various sidelines. While he tries to get his custom furniture business off the ground, Mike works as a male stripper. Adam, a young college drop out, is in need of money when he takes a job on the construction site alongside Mike. Seeing his promise, Mike decides to shows him the ropes…

Magic Mike works best in the opening forty minutes or so, where it balances light humorous moments with a sufficiently engaging plot. The shift in the middle third, where humour is swapped for a more serious atmosphere, is not a successful move. The main problem with Magic Mike  is that it does not tell a convincing story. There is very little about the protagonist for the audience to get their teeth into. The crux of the narrative seems to be that he is more than just a stripper. The film offers little more than this other than a predictable journey of rookie stripper Adam.

Director Steven Soderbergh’s touch is apparent throughout the film, with the use of camera shots and angles. Soderbergh offers a little titillation in terms of the stripping routines, but reigns it back in so nothing too explicit is depicted. The scenes between protagonist Mike and love interest Brooke veer between inauthentic and cringe-inducing. This element, which is integral to the film, fails to engage viewers. Other tangents are half baked, and never really amount to anything.

Matthew McConaughey gives best performance of the lot as club owner Dallas. He brings a level of outrageousness really needed for the role. As Mike, Channing Tatum is awkward in his scenes with Cody Horn’s Brooke, who is terrible. Alex Pettyfer is suitably cast as Adam. The rest of dancers barely leave an impression, thanks to the minimal characterisation.

Magic Mike does not work as a tongue-in-cheek comedy romp to entice the ladies and gay gentlemen. As a drama, it is even more problematic.

Trailer Round-Up

New trailers for The Dark Knight Rises and Prometheus were released earlier this week. With the latest trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man being released last night, this has been a bumper week for blockbuster trailers. All we need now is something from new James Bond movie Skyfall

Moonrise Kingdom

Moonrise Kingdom is the eagerly anticipated new film from Wes Anderson. The film boasts a stellar cast that includes Bill Murray, Ed Norton, Bruce Willis and Tilda Swinton. Moonrise Kingdom is about two children who fall in love during the summer of 1965. The film is released on 25th May 2012.

The Amazing Spider-Man

The third trailer for The Amazing Spider-Man was released last night. The trailer reveals more of an emphasis on Peter Parker’s parents than the previous run of Spiderman films. Although the trailer looks good, The Amazing Spider-Man has been sandwiched between two superhero behemoths; Avengers Assemble has already done record-breaking business while The Dark Knight Rises is due for release two weeks after Spider-Man. Notwithstanding, given the popularity of this character, The Amazing Spider-Man is sure to bring in the crowds when it opens on 4th July 2012.

Magic Mike

I am not sure what Magic Mike is supposed to be, other than based on Channing Tatum’s former career as a stripper. Steven Soderbergh’s film could have been a male version of Showgirls, but instead seems to have a strong romantic string to the story. Channing Tatum showed off his comedy chops in 21 Jump Street, so hopefully these will shine through in Magic Mike. Also starring Alex Pettyfer and Matthew McConughey, Magic Mike is out in cinemas on 13th July 2012.

Joyful Noise

The only thing you need to know about this film is that Dolly Parton in it. But if you want to know more, the film is about church choir group who enter a competition with new director Vi Rose (Queen Latifah) at the helm. The arrival of Randy (Jeremy Jordan), the grandson of G.G. Sparrow (Dolly Parton) shakes things up. Joyful Noise is released on 29th June 2012.

Film Review: Beastly

A modern teen update of the Beauty and the Beast fairy tale, Beastly is uninspired but inoffensive. It is the sort of movie that is watched on television when nothing else is on, rather than a film to be seen (and payed for) on the big screen.

Teenager Kyle is a good-looking and popular high school student. He rates appearance highly, and plays a prank on Kendra, an unpopular girl at his high school. Unbeknownst to Kyle, Kendra is a witch who curses him in revenge. Kyle is made as ugly on the outside as he is on the inside, and has one year to find love and break the curse…

At eighty-six minutes in length, Beastly is thankfully short. The film is not terrible, but it is instantly forgettable. Beastly does nothing particularly interesting with the fairy tale that it is based on. There is no sense of innovation in adapting the story in a modern setting. The film is a standard romance, with little to distinguish itself from the plethora of other contemporary-set fairy tale films.

Beastly is fairly simplistic in its depictions of the handful of characters. The film offers a polarised world, where all the rich people are inherently bad, while the poor characters are honest and good. Housekeeper Zola is unappreciated, yet still has the patience to counsel Kyle. Kyle’s school friends, meanwhile, show little concern for the disappearance of a close friend. There is very little character development, even in the case of the two protagonists. Lindy is too good to be true, while Kyle predictably learns the error of his ways in good time. Perhaps if writer and director Daniel Barnz has spent more time giving his characters depth, the film would have been more compelling.

Make-up in the film is well executed, although Kyle does not look particularly “beastly” after the curse. Unlike earlier renditions of the story, Kyle keeps the same form; his curse is disfigurement rather than a full transformation. As such, he is not as isolated or monstrous as he could have been. The soundtrack is decent, and in keeping with the style of the film.

Alex Pettyfer is adequate as Kyle; the writing stifles any opportunity for a memorable performance. Vanessa Hudgens is less convincing as Lindy. Hudgens struggles to portray a range of emotions as believably as she should. Neil Patrick Harris’ Will is responsible for most of Beastly‘s minimal laughs, and as such should have been given a more integral role.

A film that is unlikely to be an outstanding credit to any of the cast or crew, Beastly struggles to escape its mediocre status. Not a painful watch, but not a hugely enjoyable one either.

Film Review: I Am Number Four

D.J. Caruso’s I Am Number Four is an enjoyable sci-fi adventure film. It is not strikingly original, but is entertaining nonetheless.

John Smith is a teenager with a secret. Although he appears to be a regular teenage boy, John is one of nine children saved from an alien planet. He is also the next target for enemies who wish to destroy him…

I Am Number Four is based on the novel by Jobie Hughes and James Frey (who write under the pseudonym Pittacus Lore). The film combines science fiction and action elements with a teen movie. It functions in a similar way as that grand progenitor Buffy the Vampire Slayer, albeit with less humour.

In some ways, I Am Number Four is a typical Michael Bay production. Although the film does not contain his usual excessive symbols of patriotism, several other hallmarks are present. The overblown action sequences are featured in I Am Number Four, as well as Bay’s usual character types. Moreover, the film is a paean to small town America, with its idyllic depictions of Sarah’s home town. This idealised version of the American small town becomes grating at times, given its fairy-tale like qualities.

The narrative is fairly run of the mill, with few surprises. The ending of I Am Number Four echoes Sam Raimi’s first Spiderman film. There isn’t the desired conclusion where all ends are neatly tied up. Instead, Caruso suggests further chapters to the story. It is slightly unsatisfying that details of the background are not detailed fully; these presumably saved for future episodes.

The production values of I Am Number Four are solid. Special effects are good, except the battle between the two monsters where the CGI is very obvious. The soundtrack is bursting with contemporary artists, intended to give the film an aura of coolness, in all likelihood.

Performances are varied in the film. Alex Pettyfer is a suitable lead, but seems to have been cast for his looks and physique rather than his acting skills. Dianna Agron and Callan McAuliffe provide adequate support as Sarah and Sam. Timothy Olyphant gives a well-rounded performance as John’s guardian, Henri. Teresa Palmer, however, is lacklustre as Number 6. Her delivery is poor, and her stilted portrayal is upstaged by an animated performance by the dog.

While I Am Number Four will leave audiences entertained, it is questionable how successful it will be as a franchise. It lacks the charisma to pull back viewers, though perhaps a future film will show more spark.