Archives for posts with tag: Magic Mike

Magic Mike poster

Magic Mike, along with Katy Perry: Part of Me, was one of the faith-shakingly embarrassing trailers that seemed to hound this critic every time he went to the movies during the summer of 2012. “Oh, no, not this again,” he would think to himself, slumping into his seat as his heart sank in his breast. The fact of the matter is, however, that this amusing and unassumingly sharp drama from screenwriter Reid Carolin and director Steven Soderbergh not only rises to the occasion on more than an anatomical level, but ends up as one of the most outstanding films of its year.

Channing Tatum, who actually worked as a stripper during an earlier phase of his show business career, puts his skills to productive use in Magic Mike, a role perfectly suited to the actor’s dissolute good looks, sex power, and sense of humor. Tatum’s semiautobiographical Mike is an American original, a creatively driven renaissance stud who aspires to build handcrafted furniture for a living, but works at construction, car detailing, and stripping until he can put together the venture capital he requires. Handsome Alex Pettyfer plays Adam, the fresh piece of meat Mike recruits to join the dance revue at Club Xquisite, and whose pretty but staid sister Brooke (Cody Horn) will become Mike’s reluctant romantic interest.

It is Matthew McConaughey, however, who majestically steals much of Magic Mike as the Mephistophelean Dallas, the Gordon Gekko of male strip club proprietors. In particular, the sequence in which erotic drill instructor Dallas is training greenhorn Adam for his first tour of duty under the lights provides McConaughey with the most explosive monologue of 2012. “Who’s got the cock? You do. They don’t,” he prods his pupil like a madman, showing him how to win over a crowd of emotionally vulnerable women by whirling and thrusting his pelvis properly. “You are the husband that they never had. You are the dreamboat guy that never came along. You are the one-night stand, that free fling of a fuck that they get to have tonight with you onstage and still go home to their hubby and not get in trouble because you, baby, you make it legal. You are the liberation!” McConaughey even gets to sing a sweet little country ditty, “Ladies of Tampa”, which he himself co-wrote.

Soderbergh again shows himself to be the consummate master, a man in complete and comfortable control of his craft. Magic Mike is a career highlight, but with no small assistance from his collaborators at every level of this nearly perfect production. From performances to editing and visual design, Magic Mike is a classy show and deserving of repeated viewings. Music also adds much to the verve of the experience, with cleverly selected songs setting the movie’s various tones and rhythms. Of special note, Win Win’s “Victim” is darkly repetitive, cock-rocking magic; Countre Black’s cover of “It’s Raining Men” is a scintillating introduction to the men of Xquisite doing a campy raincoats-and-umbrellas routine; and Chris Mitchell’s coy rendition of “Like a Virgin” is an appropriate accompaniment to Adam’s shy first appearance onstage.

Highly recommended at 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Magic Mike is:

11. Anti-Christian. A crucifix pendant and cross tattoo appear in irreverent contexts.

10. Antiwar. The troupe of strippers performs a mock-patriotic military-themed routine, firing their crotches to the sound of gunfire. While, on the one hand, this points to the warrior ideal as a perennially appealing archetype in women’s sexual fantasies, it might just as easily equate war with show business as something tawdry, phony, and whorish, or suggest that war is really a sublimation of primal, sexually motivated aggression.

9. Anti-obesity. One of the strippers hurts his back trying to lift a chubby customer.

8. Pro-gay. “I don’t care what your preferences are,” says Brooke when she discovers her brother’s dance outfits and takes these for evidence of his homosexuality. Then, as if 2005’s Brokeback Mountain had been insufficient degradation of an American movie icon, the cowboy archetype is further downgraded by a homoerotic gunfight strip routine.

7. Statist. “Fuck school altogether,” Dallas opines with reason. His idea is that children should be homeschooled with special emphasis on finance and investment strategies, but Mike, presumably from faith in the liberal public education system, dismisses this as “stupid shit”.

6. Anti-American. “That’s the state of the country, man. America. People. Stupid.”

5. Pro-wigger. Mike affects a hoodie, backwards cap, and “y’all” talk.

4. Feminist/anti-marriage/anti-family. Brooke is offended and gets defensive when she assumes Mike is suggesting that she cook breakfast for him. A woman wearing a “bride to be” sash is seen dancing uninhibitedly onstage with one of the strippers, and Dallas explains that women patronize his establishment because their marriages are unfulfilling, with nude male revues providing the psychological “liberation” women require. The institution of motherhood, meanwhile, receives grotesque parody treatment in the memorable image of pink-haired tart Nora (Elvis Presley’s granddaughter, Riley Keough) bottle-feeding milk to a piglet.

3. Drug-ambivalent. Strippers partake of something called “hey juice” and stupid sorority girls demand to know: “Who do we have to fuck to get a fucking drink?” Joints are passed around without consequence, but drinking and harder drugging (and drug dealing) get Adam and Tarzan (Kevin Nash) into serious difficulties. Mike and Adam barely make it out of a sorority house with their lives when Adam enrages a girl’s boyfriend by slipping her some E. To its credit, Magic Mike contains a classic morning-after atrocity scene too good to spoil.

2. Slut-ambivalent. Relatively conservative Brooke regrets her adolescent decision to get tattooed. Adam is warned to avoid oral contact with customers so as to avoid contracting herpes. One laid-back dope dealer enjoys an open marriage (“My wife’s tits are awesome. Check ‘em out, man.”), but this segment, rather than serving as an endorsement of swinging lifestyles, is intended to evince the decadence and the seductive evil of the world into which Adam is being initiated. Casual orgy partner Joanna (Olivia Munn) comes across as unhappy and frightened by intimacy, with Mike ultimately realizing that what he needs is a good girl and a sexually conventional life. In the final analysis, Magic Mike is less than satisfactorily judgmental where sexual promiscuity is concerned, but does give the impression that such escapades are best suited for youth if at all necessary and better abandoned in maturity.

1. Anti-capitalistic-cum-populist. In Magic Mike’s complicated and nuanced moral universe, informed by the compassionate socialist-populist worldview of screenwriter Reid Carolin (whose nonprofit group Red Feather Development has, according to Wikipedia, been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show!) and director Steven Soderbergh (hagiographer of Che Guevara and happy producer of George Clooney’s disingenuous anti-McCarthy clunker Good Night, and Good Luck) honest toil when set to the pattern of the typical employer-employee paradigm becomes a species of semi-prostitution. “You don’t wanna know what I have to do for twenties,” Mike tells Brooke significantly. The capitalist, as exemplified by Mike’s construction foreman, is a petty exploiter who balks at the notion of paying “benefits and shit”.

It is stripper-impresario Dallas, however, who most clearly personifies capitalism in this film. Icy, dishonest, superficial, materialistic, and nihilistic, he is also a charming, seductive swaggerer whose charisma no viewer will deny. A manipulator of others, Dallas also whores himself, serenading his customers (whom he describes collectively as his “wife”) and climbing back into the saddle for an impressively sweaty farewell performance of his own, erupting a shower of crumpled dollar bills onto his naked torso. Going into business as partners with Dallas is clearly a matter of dealing with the Devil (“Nobody walks on water on my team.”), and Dallas expectedly lets Mike down, going back on his glorious promises. Commerce, for Dallas, is glorified theft. “You are worth the cash you pry out of their fuckin’ purses,” he snidely pontificates.

It is the small, honest, dream-driven entrepreneur, uncorrupted by greed and mercenary prudence, with whom these filmmakers sympathize. Mike’s desire to start his own custom furniture business is admirable and casts him as, if not a starving artist, then a creative man of principle unwilling to compromise on his vision. This type of endeavor, Magic Mike charges, is thwarted at every turn by the old boys’ club of the business and financial establishment. This becomes painfully obvious when Mike, seeking a startup loan for his venture, is turned down as a bad credit risk by a bank’s loan officer (Breaking Bad’s Betsy Brandt, who, this reviewer is grieved to report, is at no point in the film treated to a private dance from Mike). “The only thing that’s distressed is y’all,” Mike tells her defiantly on being refused. One of the morals of Magic Mike, then, is that self-reliance and hard work, even if it results in a less comfortable life than that of a high-class courtesan, is, albeit a more difficult one, a more dignified way to live. Magic Mike, consequently, has mostly scorn for slacker Adam, who shirks his responsibilities, sleeps on his sister’s couch, and refuses to interview for a job that requires his wearing a “fuckin’ tie”.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

Lap Dance

As salacious and lugubrious as its title indicates, this female version of Magic Mike concerns the lure of glorified whoring that euphemizes itself as “dancing” and warns of the stresses it places on a committed relationship.

Aspiring actress Monica (Ali Cobrin) seems to have found happiness with her fiancé Kevin (Robert Hoffman) until her father (James Remar) is hospitalized with cancer. When the hospital bills overwhelm the family, Monica rolls up her sleeves and skirt and goes to work in a strip club giving lap dances to cash-flashing black guys. In addition to straining relations with Kevin, Monica raises the ire of a rival performer, Lexus (Carmen Electra), who feels threatened when her top boyfriend/client Chicago (Datari Turner) begins making advances toward Monica for more than a lap lambada. Meanwhile, Kevin, neglected by Monica, drifts into a friendship and liaison with Jade Lee (K.D. Aubert), another dancer at the club.

Lap Dance delivers plenty of the cheap thrills promised by its title, but has some substance to offer, too – substances other than those called to mind by a movie titled Lap Dance.

3 out of 5 stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that Lap Dance is:

5. Drug-ambivalent. Kevin takes a devil-may-care attitude toward weed, but ecstasy, while pleasurable, carries a more sinister vibe in the film.

4. Pro-gay. Lexus and lesbian lover Jade Lee hope to “start a family”.

3. Anti-capitalistic. Whites come into social and inevitable sexual contact with blacks only through the sordid pursuit of Mammon. Addiction to money and ersatz glamor cause Monica to forget her principles and her promises. “I sucked a big black dick,” Monica taunts Kevin when he asks her what she had to do to get so much money.

2. Miscegenation-ambivalent. Lap Dance was produced, written, and directed by blacks – star/producer Datari Turner and screenwriter-director Greg Carter – which makes its mixed message about mixed relationships something of an enigma. On the one hand, the stock Hollywood type of Africanus cinematicus is very much in evidence, with blacks portrayed as physically desirable, intelligent, ambitious, and capable – appearing as doctors, playing chess, making plans to attend the opera, and giving advice to whites about the value of hard work – but whites’ increasing involvement with blacks in Lap Dance parallels and expresses their flirtation with darkness, which is to say evil, the strip club appearing as twilit netherworld frequented by well-heeled black devils. Blacks, furthermore, are depicted as privately brutish and sexually promiscuous, with Chicago issuing orders to the women in his life and brusquely grabbing Lexus by her hair. “The minute you go runnin’ after a woman is the minute you lose your power,” is Chicago’s approach to romance. Still, “We both got jungle fever,” Kevin confesses to Monica. Whatever the negatives associated with blacks and miscegenation in Lap Dance – promiscuity, infidelity, drugs, dishonesty, and cruelty – the fact that it seems such a matter of course and that Kevin raises no objections to his fiancée grinding against congoid crotches for a living works as a de facto normalization and hence endorsement of interracial depravity.

1. Anti-slut. Lap Dance functions as a compression and microcosm depicting the moral decline and fall of the European woman. “The woman that I loved was a good girl,” Kevin tells Monica after their relationship has hit the rocks. “She loved her family and she loved herself”; but now, he tells her, “You’re just a cheap trick.” Woman’s descent into misery has been brought about not by a totalitarian patriarchy, but by her own abandonment of traditional values and men’s permissive short-sighted nihilism.

Rainer Chlodwig von Kook

white_house_down

Magic Mike himself, big badass Channing Tatum, stars as a Capitol policeman and would-be Secret Service agent who gets his chance to play at the real thing when he and his daughter (Joey King) tour the White House on precisely the day real-life Obama disser James Woods, the devious head of White House security, plans to stage a coup d’etat to unseat President Django, played by Jamie Foxx.

It is appropriate that the opening credits acknowledge a company called Mythology with this lightweight production, considering how White House Down is nothing if not an encapsulation of liberals’ mythologized view of an idealized President B.O., the scholarly man of peace who could solve all of America’s problems if only given enough cooperation and tax revenue. President Django, suitably enough, makes His first appearance in a three-helicopter formation symbolizing the Trinity of His Godhead.

The film follows the basic template of the Die Hard franchise, with a bloodied, battered Magic Mike, complete with soiled wifebeater and an imperiled loved one among the hostages, jumping, running, and dragging himself through historic bedrooms and the obligatory elevator shaft like a younger, sexier, generally less interesting John McClane.

The action is decent, if unoriginal, though there is an admitted joy to the scene of the mild-mannered, bespectacled President Django getting unchained on the White House lawn and hanging out of the window of His chauffeured car with a rocket launcher. James Woods brings a necessary seriousness to the film, while gorgeously quirky Maggie Gyllenhaal, wasted here in the role of a Secret Service bigwig, is at least enjoyable to ogle.

3.5 of 5 possible stars. Ideological Content Analysis indicates that White House Down is:

9. Anti-tobacco. President Django is not a smoker.

8. Anti-Christian. Prominently featured terrorist Killick (Kevin Rankin) has a cross tattooed on his chest.

7. Pro-miscegenation. Magic Mike’s daughter has a crush on President Django.

6. Anti-racist (i.e., pro-yawn). Right-wing white nationalists naturally play a part in the coup.

5. Feminist and anti-marriage. Magic Mike’s daughter not only protects the President, but saves the world from nuclear holocaust. Maggie Gyllenhaal is a strong, self-assured, and independent woman with no need of a man. Her ex-husband was an “asshole”.

4. Egalitarian. President Django deploys a folksy anecdote to explain how poverty causes crime.

3. Antiwar. Refreshingly, White House Down vilifies defense contractors and poo-poos the fearmongering about Iran’s nuclear capabilities. Undermining this show of pacifism, however, is the President’s favorable attitude toward drones.

2. Crypto-Zionist. Conspiratorial mastermind Woods is a fanatical neoconservative bent on destroying Iran. White House Down points the finger not at Israel, however – that country receiving mention only as a signatory to a Middle East peace treaty – but at vague “corporations” and a nebulous “military-industrial complex” with which President Django must grapple. In addition, the implosion of the Capitol dome from a fire inside the building corroborates the official story obscuring the implosion of the Twin Towers and WTC 7, thus diverting attention from any possible Israeli involvement in the 9/11 attacks. Magic Mike’s daughter wears a shirt depicting a squid or octopus to show her solidarity with the forces of the New World Order.

1. Statist. A few bad apples may exist, but government, as personified or deified by Lincoln aficionado President Django, generally has America’s best interests at heart. Racist mercenary Killick, in addition to his cross tattoo, sports an anarchist circle-A on one of his arms. Also demonized are anti-government hackers of the Wikileaks and Anonymous varieties.

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