Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back with this lively, relentlessly enjoyable caper that feels like a mash-up between his Ocean's Eleven and Magic Mike movies. Using America's economic situation as a launching point (without any political message), he spins a loose-limbed adventure with a gang of endearingly scruffy characters. If this is your cup of tea, it's a proper guilty pleasure.
In West Virginia, the Logan family has had a string of very bad luck, leaving Jimmy (Channing Tatum) with a dodgy knee and his younger brother Clyde (Adam Driver) with a missing arm. Their sister Mellie (Riley Keough) has so far escaped injury, so Jimmy hatches a plan to change their fortunes by robbing the Charlotte Nascar race course, which he knows inside and out because he's just been sacked from his job there. They need the help of explosives expert Joe Bang (Daniel Craig), who's in jail. So in addition to an elaborate heist, they must also plan a prison break. They also bring in Joe's nerdy gamer brothers (Jack Quaid and Brian Gleeson).
Frankly, all of these people are such misfits that no one would ever suspect them of being capable of carrying out such a complicated plan. And that's the point: it's easy to underestimate people who seem uneducated. This gives the cast plenty to play with. Tatum and particularly Driver are terrific at the centre, with their hang-dog expressions and understated skill sets. Keough gets to play the one person in the story with brains, and has a great time rampaging through each scene. But the movie is stolen by Craig, who goes wildly against type as the hilariously nutty Joe. In one classic scene, he barely contains his exasperation while explaining how to make a bomb out of gummy bears.
Continue reading: Logan Lucky Review
Resisting the temptation to capitalise on the camp value of these characters, Channing Tatum and his producing-writing partner Reid Carolin create a startlingly loose and thoughtful follow-up to their 2012 hit. Yes, it's still the story of a group of ridiculously muscled men who take their clothes off for a living and enjoy a laugh. And even without much of a plot it's a remarkably astute exploration of masculinity and gender politics. In the last three years, Mike (Tatum) has made a decent go of his furniture-making business, but his life feels stuck in a rut.
Then his old pals ask him to go on the road for one last hurrah to a stripper convention. So he heads off with new-age healer Ken (Matt Bomer), lovelorn beefcake Richie (Joe Manganiello), artful biker Tarzan (Kevin Nash), macrobiotic smoothie expert Tito (Adam Rodriguez) and food-truck driving deejay Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias). Along the way, they meet up with Mike's old mentor Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), who provides two new guys for the team (Donald Glover and Stephen 'tWitch' Boss). And they get some favours from a newly single Southern belle (Andie MacDowell) and another old friend (Elizabeth Banks).
There's very little to the story, but the film's improvisational style allows all of the characters to deepen in quiet but significant ways. So the journey these people take is even more internal than the highways they traverse from Tampa, Florida, to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The main point is that these men need to figure out who they are if they have any hope of finding happiness, and each one takes his own subtle voyage of discovery. The actors dive into this approach, which requires unusually subtle performances that combine sexy physicality with earthy, boisterous humour. What the film never does is fall back on the usual cliches about machismo or sexuality.
Continue reading: Magic Mike XXL Review
Magic Mike might be keeping his clothes on these days in favour of beginning a business in custom furniture, and after a rather bitter and scandalous departure from the Xquisite nightclub, but three years on and he's still got the moves. And the body. These days, his stripper friends have decided to give up their dancing careers in Tampa, Florida too, but these aren't the kind of guys who are going to disappear quietly. They thus decide to get together one last time for a spectacular performance at Myrtle Beach in South Carolina where a major stripping convention is due to take place. Mike agrees to join them as their headliner, re-living his glory days as the ultimate chiselled fantasy. Along the way he meets some old friends and welcomes new faces in such cities as Jacksonville and Savannah, and they dance away their previous lives in style.
Continue: Magic Mike XXL Trailer
Three years after bowing out of the stripper career, Magic Mike (Channing Tatum), returns to his friends at the Kings of Tampa, all of whom also seem prepared to call an end to their careers. But when the prospect of going out in style arises, the friends get the band back together and embark on a stripping road trip through Jacksonville and Savannah, heading towards one final performance at Myrtle Beach. Here, the Kings of Tampa prepare for one final blow-out show with Magic Mike.
Continue: Magic Mike XXL - Teaser Trailer
A smarter-than-expected script turns this noisy sci-fi action movie into something remarkably entertaining. A-list stars, solid actors and whizzy effects aside, the dialogue is packed with clever observations that are both mind-bending and unexpectedly hilarious. And director Doug Liman (Mr. & Mrs. Smith) lets his cast have a lot of fun with it.
In the near future when aliens called Mimics have rampaged across Europe, Cage (Tom Cruise) is a military media spokesman suddenly sent into the front-lines from London, battling the fearsome creatures on the beaches of Normandy. He's killed fairly quickly, but wakes up that same morning and is again sent through battlefield prep with harsh Sgt Farell (Bill Paxton) and a rag-tag team. Again and again. Eventually he breaks out of the pattern and discovers another soldier, Rita (Emily Blunt), who seems to understand why he is living this day over and over only to die each time. So he uses the repetition to figure out what's really going on, and he and Rita plot a way to stop the aliens for good.
Yes, the premise is a direct riff on Groundhog Day, as Cage makes the most of each day, learning something new that will get him further the next. And the film's script knowingly plays with the set-up, offering witty comments and some genuinely suspenseful set-pieces along the way, all sharply edited into a relatively coherent narrative, although the ending will generate a lot of post-screening debate. Liman packs the film with kinetic, intense action sequences that are rendered with strikingly realistic effects that occasionally have some extra fun with the 3D.
Continue reading: Edge Of Tomorrow Review
Thrillers don't get much more enjoyable than this one, which shifts cleverly from an issue-based drama to an intriguing mystery and finally into riotously camp mayhem. Over his career, Soderbergh has proven himself adept at all three approaches, and the way he and writer Burns morph from one to the other is so mercilessly entertaining that we can't help but smile. And the cast is having a great time playing along with them.
It starts as an expose of psychotropic drugs, as Emily (Mara) struggles with depression after her husband Martin (Tatum) is released following a four-year prison term for insider trading. Emily's therapist Dr Banks (Law) prescribes a series of anti-anxiety pills to help her, adjusting the medication until the side effects even out. But something still isn't right, and a fatal incident leads to a criminal trial. Meanwhile, Banks begins his own investigation into the case, consulting Emily's previous therapist (Zeta-Jones). But the fallout from all of this is threatening both his career and his marriage to Dierdre (Shaw).
Soderbergh gives the film a seductive tone that's irresistible, with his own gleaming cinematography and witty editing, plus a teasing Thomas Newman score. This allows the actors to create layered characters who can constantly surprise us along the way. Law holds our sympathies as a desperate man trying against all odds to get his life back, while Zeta-Jones is icy and dismissive until her character takes a lively turn about halfway in. But it's Mara who's the real revelation in a tricky role. As Emily's world seems to shift and collapse around her, she reveals an astonishing array of emotions and intentions.
Continue reading: Side Effects Review
Tatum plays Mike, a construction worker who moonlights as a stripper in a women-only club in Tampa, Florida. When he notices hot, 19-year-old Adam (Pettyfer) on the building site, he invites him along to the club, where owner Dallas (McConaughey) is hoping to take the show to the Miami big time. Soon Adam is part of the team (which includes actor-hunks True Blood's Manganiello, White Collar's Bomer and CSI Miami's Rodriguez), but he also gets tempted by the darker side of the scene, namely girls and drugs.
Continue reading: Magic Mike Review
Mallory (Carano) is a former military operative who's now a private contractor.
After working with Aaron (Tatum) on a rather dodgy kidnap-rescue in Barcelona, her U.S. Government boss Kenneth (McGregor) sends her to Dublin on an assignment with British agent Paul (Fassbender). But things quickly get messy and, when she ends up on the run, she desperately grabs a passerby (Angarano) and tells him her tale while figuring out what to do. The only men she trusts are a political puppet-master (Douglas) and her ex-military guru dad (Paxton).
Continue reading: Haywire Review
In Minneapolis, Mitch (Damon) is horrified when his wife (Paltrow) comes home from a business trip to China, collapses with the flu and dies. But she's only the first of a series of similar cases around the world, and soon officials from the Centers for Disease Control (Winslet, Fishburne and Ehle) and the World Health Organisation (Cotillard) are on the case, trying to manage emerging clusters while tracing the disease back to its source. Meanwhile, a blog hack (Law) is pestering a San Francisco scientist (Gould) for a cure.
Continue reading: Contagion Review
Like King of the Hill and the groundbreaking videotape, some of this work is genius.
Continue reading: Full Frontal Review
Good news: Steven Soderbergh's well-publicised retirement from directing only lasted about four years. He's back...
Resisting the temptation to capitalise on the camp value of these characters, Channing Tatum and...
Magic Mike might be keeping his clothes on these days in favour of beginning a...
Three years after bowing out of the stripper career, Magic Mike (Channing Tatum), returns to...
A smarter-than-expected script turns this noisy sci-fi action movie into something remarkably entertaining. A-list stars,...
Thrillers don't get much more enjoyable than this one, which shifts cleverly from an issue-based...
A film about male strippers promises Showgirls (or at least Burlesque) levels of camp guilty-pleasure...
It's hardly surprising that Soderbergh takes such a bracing approach to the action thriller genre....
Soderbergh applies his brainier brand of filmmaking to the global outbreak thriller genre, and the...