Tag Archives: Channing Tatum

What I won’t be voting for in 2015

As today is the last opportunity for people to submit votes in our Failed Critics Awards 2015, I thought I might share a few of the movies that I won’t be voting for before midnight tonight.

Specifically, rather than just make a list of terrible releases from across the year (such as The Ridiculous 6, Transporter Refueled, Lost River etc), I’m going to pick those films that flattered to deceive. If you’d have asked me in January, I probably would have sworn blind that the following were guaranteed to make my final top 10 list. Unfortunately, as it happens, none of the following will be included because in their own different ways, they were either not actually that good, disappointingly average, or regrettably just plain bad.


Foxcatcher

steve_carell_foxcatcher1Going into Foxcatcher, it was hard not to be caught up in the Oscar-buzz for Steve Carell’s performance. In fact, on last year’s Awards podcast, James asked us all which films we were most looking forward to in 2015 and I actually picked Bennett Miller’s movie based on a true story about wealthy wrestling coach John E. du Pont (Carell) and his Olympic competitor Mark Schultz (Channing Tatum). Now, I haven’t chosen it for this list because I didn’t enjoy the film. I did! It’s just that the momentum it had built up for the performances was perhaps a little bit unrealistic. If anything, Mark Ruffalo – who I hadn’t heard anything about before going to see Foxcatcher in January – was the standout actor of the three. Mainly because he was so good, as I’ve come to expect from Ruffalo, but the other two just weren’t all they were hyped up to be. Similarly, although I did find the story interesting, it was rather disappointingly told in a somewhat sluggish manner. Lingering on scenes for longer than is necessary far too often slowed the pace down to a crawl and meant that overall, even away from the performances, it just wasn’t quite good enough to break my top 10. Probably not even my top 15 of the year, either.


Legendmaxresdefault-2

Andrew Brooker and I had talked to each other quite extensively about what we were hoping for from the latest glorified re-telling of the lives of notorious London gangsters the Kray twins. Perhaps it’s fair to say that even though I do like Tom Hardy, Brooker is an even bigger fan. Getting to see two Hardy’s for the price of one seemed like reason enough to cross my fingers in hope that this British crime drama would deliver a high quality, gritty, colourful story. Alas, it transpires that no amount of Hardy’s can make a tepid script with woeful narration into a good film.


Avengers: Age of Ultron

Age-of-Ultron-0003Such was the disturbingly low amount of hype for Joss Whedon’s follow up to the spectacular Avengers Assemble that we decided to spin some of our own by creating 10 Avengers Minisode podcasts earlier this year, reevaluating all of the MCU movies to date. Despite some nervous anticipation, I still expected big things from Age of Ultron but it failed to deliver on virtually every level. Firstly, it was far too long and bloated. The cast for the previous outing of our Marvel superheroes was already pretty large, but they balanced enough screen time and dialogue for each to have an integral part to play in developing the story. In this follow up, there are far too many characters who do absolutely nothing except bash each other about the head occasionally. Hardly any two characters have a conversation in this movie without eventually a bout of fisticuffs, or reminiscing about that time they had a fight. I hated the Hulk & Black Widow storyline. The apologetic attempt to give Hawkeye more screen time by shoe-horning in a half-arsed story about his secret family-man life was underwhelming and shallow – and to top it all off, the villain was barely used except for a three-hour long explosion and fight sequence in the final act. Maybe I’ll re-watch it in a year or two and find that it’s decent really and I had just been expecting too much? But right now, it comes across as a badly written set up film for the rest of the MCU yet to come and is one of the biggest let downs of the whole year.


Southpaw

SOUTHPAW

I’ve already summed up my opinion back in August on Antoine Fuqua’s drama starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a boxer who has a spectacular fall from grace. From the trailer alone, I thought Southpaw would be one of the standout films for 2015, with Jake Gyllenhaal still riding high on the crest of his incredible performance in Nightcrawler last year. And just like I mentioned when discussing Foxcatcher further up the page, it was a film that in the end was just “all right”. It was a good performance, it had a good story, it was well directed and well paced, but it lacked a certain element to propel it into greatness. Rather than feeling happy to have seen a good film, instead I left the cinema not ruing the fact I’d spent over two hours watching it, which itself is an indicator that something wasn’t quite right. A big part of the problem is that it doesn’t do anything particularly new or exciting. It felt like I’d seen it all done perfectly well before. Gyllenhaal put on a lot of muscle, his character has a fall and then a rise, there’s a strained home life, he’s a father and a champion etc. Regardless of how well structured it is, it’s hardly groundbreaking material. In the end, it was just another mildly entertaining sports drama.


SPECTRE

spectre-daniel-craigThis might be considered something of a spoiler for the results of the Failed Critics Awards that will be announced early this week (or maybe we should think of it as an exclusive instead) but only one person has voted SPECTRE into their top 10 of the year. One person. To you and I, who have seen 007’s latest outing, it probably isn’t a surprise, given how by-the-numbers it was. However, compared to Skyfall (Eon’s 23rd Bond film that celebrated 50 years of Britain’s worst-kept secret spy) which only narrowly missed out on winning top spot in our awards back in 2012, that’s pretty shocking. Admittedly, I’ve never been that big a fan of the Bond movies, as I discussed with Steve Norman, Tony Black and Brian Plank on our podcast back in October, but even I loved Skyfall. Sam Mendes was the perfect director to blend his visual flair with some good old-fashioned and exciting story-telling. It was for that reason alone that I was really looking forward to SPECTRE, despite being put off by the fact that it was to be the longest Bond film ever at 2 hours 28 minutes. “Starring Christoph Waltz” is as good a reason as any to get me interested in any movie. With the Day of the Dead opening scene in Mexico, the film started off already in about third gear and just plateaued from there. I don’t remember it really ramping up tension or suspense, or taking its foot off the peddle at any point. It just drifted along at an even and enjoyable pace, never feeling like it was dragging at all, but without building to something bigger. It tootled along from point A to point B, to point C, to point D and so on until reaching its destination calmly … and then blowing up £20m worth of Aston Martin. A bit like Age of Ultron, it does suffer from the hangover of its predecessor and will no doubt improve on a rewatch, but to be quite honest about it, I just can’t be bothered with it. I can see why for that one person it might have been in their top 10, but it definitely won’t be in mine.

Magic Mike XXL

Never before has the tagline “You’re Welcome” been so appropriate and so accurate.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

xxlMagic Mike XXL is in the business of giving the people exactly what they want.  It knows that the people turned up to Magic Mike to see really, really ridiculously good-looking men strip for their enjoyment for 100-odd minutes, and occasionally some plot would intrude on the sidelines to give everyone a breather – in other words: they turned up to see the film that they were sold.  Instead, audiences were treated to a rather serious dramedy about those affected by the recession and who only use male stripping as a way to make ends meet, whilst the stripping segments were shot and treated like Soderbergh was resentful of even having to include them as they got in the way of his serious dramedy that he would really like for you to pay attention to, dammit!  This isn’t a problem, because the film is great and it’s Soderbergh so of course it’s great, but it’s not what the people initially wanted.

XXL is nothing but giving people what they want.  It may start off seeming like we’re going to get more of the first Magic Mike, with a pensive shot of Mike staring off at the ocean looking miserable, but that is quickly revealed to be a misdirection, a reverse of the first film.  Instead, XXL is pretty much 115 minutes of really, really ridiculously good-looking men gyrating in pretty much every last possible direction there is to gyrate in whilst the women on-screen lose their minds, broken up by sequences of these Best Bros For Life hanging out, ribbing on each other, and only sort-of-seriously contemplating their various futures.  XXL is here to please, to (what some could see as) an almost cynical degree.

Not that I much care, because Donald Glover just walked down the stairs with a fashionable trilby, a dinner jacket with no shirt on underneath, and is now serenading this young woman with an improvised half-rap-half-crooned song because she needs a man to remind her of just how special she is and Donald Glover is precisely the man to do that job… and then he strips off his clothes and starts gyrating in her direction whilst the other ladies rain dollar bills from upon high.  Look, Magic Mike XXL is exactly what it says it’s going to be, no bullshit, and I LOVE it for that.  I sat down to see impossibly good-looking men, and also Kevin Nash but if that’s your kind of thing then you’ll receive no judgement from me, strip and dance for my enjoyment for nearly two hours, and I got the very best possible version of that!

There’s a part of me that wants to sit here and compare it to the first Magic Mike, as most everybody else will, but it really resists that.  By its very nature as blatant fan-service, XXL is blazing a very different trail to that of the original film.  That one was very bittersweet, very cynical, it has moments of joy and fun, but it’s wrapped up in these constant reminders that our protagonists are sad or angry people and that Mike doesn’t want to be a male stripper all his life.  Couple that with almost all of the stripping sequences being cut short or shot at a distance, and you get a film that acts more as a cautionary tale about the “male entertainer” business than a celebration of it.

XXL is the exact opposite of that.  There are scenes of our cast – which, for the record, consists of Mike (Channing Tatum), Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello), Ken (Matt Bomer), Tito (Adam Rodriguez), and Tarzan (Kevin Nash), and Mike has joined the rest of the guys for one last ride up to Myrtle Beach for the 2015 Male Stripper Convention – wondering aloud about what they’re going to do when this is all over, but these are fleeting at most.  Everyone is instead here to enjoy the ride, to go out in style, because everybody loves what they do and tomorrow will come with what may.  It therefore feels more celebratory, more accepting of the male stripping business, instead of lumping it in as something that everyone is quietly ashamed of doing and therefore making it appear like a lesser life-choice.

Or, to better explain, it’s best encapsulated by a monologue delivered by Andre (the character that Donald Glover plays and, incidentally, I did not know that I needed Donald Glover abs in my life until this film showed me them) about two-thirds into the film.  He relates to Ken how he first got into the industry in order to get more money, in the hopes that the cash would help him fund and further his rap career, thinking that he would hate the gig and resent himself for sinking so low.  But over time, he found the work rewarding, enjoyable, motivating, empowering.  He gets to meet loads of girls every night and he gets to make them feel better, make them feel alright for five wonderful minutes, and he loves the feeling that comes from that.  And if his EP took off tomorrow, he’d try and find a way to keep it going on the side because he enjoys stripping that much.  The film agrees with him, too: these men are providing a service, their job isn’t beneath them because there’s nothing wrong with it to begin with.

And though these guys do it for the thrill of the crowd and the adoration of women across the country, they’re not lecherous creeps or disrespectful arses.  They respect women, enough to keep interactions professional when working and to respect if a woman is not interested in them when not working.  They may ask each other if they got laid the previous night – or, as they actually say in the film, “Did you bangy?” – but nobody is seriously insulted if they don’t, and when Richie expresses a desire to find the one – for, you see, his nickname is not an exaggeration and that fact intimidates pretty much every woman he tries to have sex with – the rest of the guys are nothing but supportive of him for it.  They tease each other, with Ken’s insistence that he is a “Grade 3 Reiki healer” being a constant target for mockery, but they never cross over into bullying and it all comes from a loving place.

If Entourage is a walking encapsulation of everything wrong with “bro-culture” and the entire concept of “bros”, Magic Mike XXL is a sharp rebuttal against the idea that “bro-culture” is just that.  These are legitimately charming and likeable men who are still dudes and bros, but are self-aware enough to not be misogynistic bullies.  Their bonds are strong and genuine, since the film gives everyone more than enough time and moments to interact with one another and display that legitimate affection.  For an example of that respectfulness, Mike spends a fair bit of the movie bonding with a girl called Zoe (Amber Heard).  He clearly wants to sleep with her, but she resists the idea and the two instead become teasing friends throughout the rest of the movie, through things like her mocking him for preferring cookies over cake – “Cookie people can’t be trusted” she quite rightly notes – or him giving her the lap dance to end all lap dances at the film’s end.  Does it matter that she feels superfluous to the plot, like she was meant to have some significance at some point but that got drafted out?  No, no it does not because she still feels well-drawn and is a really likeable screen presence.

Besides, this is a movie about giving the people what they want.  That’s why there are quite literally zero stakes, because that runs the risk of dampening the mood.  It’s a fun, happy-times hang-out movie when it’s not walking right up to the line of softcore pornography.  Speaking of: god, every single one of this film’s stripping segments are amazing!  This is a film that takes great pleasure in getting its cast members to debase themselves for the enjoyment of straight women, gay men, and bisexual folks everywhere, the camera providing excellent views of every gyration, every twerk, every slide, every bicep, ab, heavenly blue eyes that you can just get lost in.  Joe Mangianello gets high on MDMA and proceeds to turn a gas station store into a non-stop playground of sexual innuendo that barely gets away from being straight up sex, Channing Tatum says his name whilst twirling out of the room because that is the dreamiest fucking thing I have ever seen in my entire life, Matt Bomer imitates Justin Timberlake imitating Michael Jackson for 5 wonderful minutes, and the film ends with 20 straight minutes of male stripping before going directly to the credits because that’s what we all came here to see and why pretend otherwise?

And the film anchors this with both a cast of wonderful, charming, and charismatic men who are willing and eager to allow themselves to be taken apart and looked at as lust-after-able and loveable man meat, and a nearly show-stealing Jada Pinkett Smith.  I want to really stress this: in the movie equivalent of the viewer being the cheese slap-bang in the middle of a delicious beefcake sandwich for 115 glorious minutes, Jada Pinkett Smith is the one who almost steals the entire film out from under everybody.  She plays Roma, an MC at a stripper club for women of colour that Mike used to dance at.  She exudes confidence, she calls her enraptured audience members “queens” and treats them as such, she sends some of her most beautiful black men after plus-sized women because she knows that they are just as deserving of this treatment as everyone else is, she can reign the bros in but she’s not humourless, she’s bisexual but the film does not make a big deal out of it, she grabs ahold of that microphone and introduces each and every man with the exact kind of showmanship required, and she oozes so much charm that I was practically seconds away from shouting back at the screen, “Yes, you wonderful and amazing woman!  Thank you for these gifts from above!”

Look… I could sit here and lie to you all that I love this film for its forward-thinking attitudes towards the business of stripping, for its naturalistic but incredibly funny dialogue, for its unwavering commitment to shooting its male cast and the entire film in the female and homosexual gaze for once in this miserable patriarchal industry.  I could sit here and lie about how the film’s lack of any real message or theme hurts it, how a runtime just shy of two hours makes the whole experience drag, and how its insistence on giving women what it thinks they want is just as condescending and insulting as it is desperately trying to not be.  But I can’t do any of those things.  Because they’re lies, and I can’t lie to you in a review, doing so defeats the entire concept of the form.

No, I love this film because Joe Mangianello’s super suggestive gas station number is set to “I Want It That Way” by Backstreet Boys and myself and my friend Lucy both collectively – along with the 8 people that were in our audience during out 11:30 on a Friday morning screening, oh how I wish I had gotten to see this film at night with a full crowd – lost our shit once the song started up.  I love this film because Matt Bomer has the voice of an angel, the body of a Michelangelo sculpture, and eyes that make any human being Bomer-sexual through even just the tiniest of exposures, and this film utilises them for all that they’re worth.  I love this movie because Channing Tatum can do things with his hips that make my hips do things of an entirely different nature.

And I do not feel ashamed about any of this.  I know that I, as a film critic, am supposed to demand more from the cinema that is put in front of us for our consumption, for more than surface-level enjoyment and eye candy, and that loving this movie for those surface-level reasons risks making me a hypocrite, one of those “stop pandering, unless you’re pandering to me” kinda guys.  But, well, isn’t this more?  A mainstream Hollywood movie made within the studio system that treats women respectfully, is embracing and loving of the stripping profession, and takes great pleasure in objectifying the everloving fuck out of some gorgeous guys for the sole and purposeful entertainment of straight women, gay men, and bisexuals the world over?  Can we get any more than this?  Doesn’t that make Magic Mike XXL something special?

I don’t know.  All I know is that I enjoyed every last second of this wonderful, glorious, beautiful thing, that I needed a cold shower afterwards, and that, barring a second half that somehow just shits out solid gold week in week out, this will be on my Top 10 Films of 2015 come the end of December, and it will be very, very high.  And it will be because really, really ridiculously good-looking men spent roughly 115 minutes gyrating for my personal enjoyment.

Callum Petch needs a roughneck brother that can satisfy him.  Listen to Screen 1 on Hullfire Radio (site link) and follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

Jupiter Ascending

Smart about being Stupid.

by Jackson Tyler (@Tylea002)

jupiter ascending 2If you’re anything like me, then you love Speed Racer with all of your heart. Eviscerated upon release, it has come to be seen as the Wachowskis’ true masterpiece by a growing segment of those who are referred to in hushed tones as “film people.” They’ll tell you it’s actually beautiful and earnest, a pure expression of the potential of cinema without a cynical bone in its body. I am one of those film people, and I am here to tell you that it’s happening again.

Jupiter Ascending is not the quite cinematic revelation that Speed Racer was, buts its more conventional aesthetic choices are balanced with its nostalgic commitment to genre and a greater thematic richness. A space opera in the most literal of senses, it is a melodramatic love story, a wondrous tour through decadent costume and set design, and a pointed takedown of the underlying amorality of capitalism.

Summarising Jupiter Ascending is more than a little difficult, the plot initially laying the groundwork for a chosen-one teen drama, before instead shifting into the action-packed proceedings of intergalactic corporate legalese. Warring members of one of the universe’s largest family businesses fight over the deeds to the Earth, and somehow at the heart of all this is Mila Kunis’ Jupiter Jones, a poor girl still cleaning toilets every day. She is the film’s emotional heart, swept up into the drama through nothing but chance, shepherded from plot point to plot point, a cog in a machine that cares not one iota for her agency or personhood. The convoluted story and Jupiter’s passive nature are reminiscent of recurring complaints levied at your Twilights, your Divergents etc., but here the film elevates them from narrative flaws to integral thematic components. Jupiter Ascending doesn’t inherit the problems of its genre, it confronts them.

All that makes Jupiter Ascending seem like a dry affair, but the reality couldn’t be further than the truth. It’s dripping in camp, from Eddie Redmayne’s villainous drawl to the time it decides to just turn into Brazil for about five minutes. The film’s true strength is the lost art of sincerity, it embraces the inherent stupidity of its space opera universe and still commits to every single beat. Much like Lucy last year, it is smart and stupid in equal measure, celebrating its pulpy nature and never undercutting either it or its thematic ideas in order to bolster the other. I like Guardians of the Galaxy as much as the next guy, but if the only way we’re going to get space bombast in the future is to couch it in a self-effacing layer of snarky detachment, then we’re living in a sad world indeed.

Ultimately, these are not the words I truly want to write about Jupiter Ascending. Those words would be full of spoilers, a parsing of the films specific themes and ambitions, a celebration of every campy line read and overwrought piece of set design. It is a film that demands its audience to meet it half way, and if you do, there is so much worth talking about on the side. For a film that also features Bees genetically engineered to recognise space royalty, I cannot think of a greater compliment.

Be on the right side of history, this time. Go see Jupiter Ascending, then we’ll have the right conversation.

Jupiter Ascending is in cinemas in the UK right now (finally) and you can find Jackson Tyler on the gaming blog and podcast site Abnormal Mapping. If you like the site, why not support them via their Patreon page?

Foxcatcher

Career defining performances from its three leads leaves you astounded as this bizarre true story unfolds in front of your eyes.

by Andrew Brooker (@Brooker411)

foxcatcher 2It’s no secret amongst filmmakers that some of the best ways to get the Oscar committee’s collective genitals tingling is to give them a true story or a good sports film (note: GOOD sports film. Adam Sandler’s crap “The Longest Yard” remake doesn’t count). So every couple of years a great sports film comes along that’s based on a true story and you just know that it’s destined for one of those DVD covers with its nominations and wins proudly displayed all over the front.

Personally, I never quite know how “famous” a story is. I’ve always loved American sports, combat sports especially and I love to know as much as I can about the sports I watch. It’s how I can spew random American Football facts few in the UK will know or even understand. But it’s also how I went into Foxcatcher already knowing the story of the Schultz brothers Dave and Mark and their time spent with John DuPont and team Foxcatcher. As such, I’m not entirely sure how well known the story is in the UK so for the sake of keeping this review spoiler free, I will keep to the basics and not reveal the end to this tragic true story.

Shortly after winning Olympic gold with his brother, wrestler Mark Shultz (Channing Tatum) is invited to meet with eccentric multi-millionaire John DuPont (Steve Carell) who proposes Mark’s relocation to Pennsylvania to train for the upcoming wrestling World Championships at the newly formed Team Foxcatcher. Encouraged to bring his older brother Dave (Mark Ruffalo) along with him to the team, Mark jumps at the opportunity. His sibling opts to stay where he is and not move his family, leaving Mark alone with DuPont.

A man used to getting everything he wants, John DuPont’s pursuit of wrestling success from his team is as unrelenting as his pursuit of Dave Shultz. What he can’t win honestly, he’ll buy. And what he can’t get dishonestly, just isn’t worth his time. Seeing success with Foxcatcher in the championships and beyond, DuPont starts to build his own little empire with him, and his ability to talk Mark Shultz into anything, at the centre of it.

It’s a bizarre true story to tell. John DuPont is a petulant child in a grown man’s body. Literally stomping his feet when things don’t go his way. But as an insanely wealthy grown up, he gets to throw money at the problem and get exactly what he wants one way or another. Combine this with him forcing himself into Mark Shultz’s life as a much needed father figure and using it to control him, there isn’t much that the weird philanthropist can’t do or get where his wrestling aspirations are concerned. As the story progresses and we see things come apart at the seams for all involved, it’s DuPont’s instability and it’s affects on all those he surrounds himself with that takes centre stage.

Director Bennett Miller is beginning to make a habit of bringing us outstanding, Oscar worthy pictures. Previously directing the late, great, Phillip Seymour Hoffman in Capote and Brad Pitt in Moneyball, his latest addition to his filmography easily compares to either of his earlier offerings. I think it’s important to mention 2011’s Moneyball because I believe it holds more significance than being just another great, Oscar nominated sports film. Miller gave the world an opportunity to see Jonah Hill as more than a doofus comedy actor. He worked so hard and left such an impression on the audience that it earned him a Best Supporting Actor nomination and I think this may be where Miller’s directorial genius will be recognised in the future.

Steve Carell surprised me with his performance. Besides his strange posture throughout the film that makes it look like he’s scared of his makeup slipping off. He looks like a dog trying to balance an invisible biscuit on his snout and a glass of water on his head. The entire top half of his body barely moves! That said, his portrayal of John DuPont was simply out of this world and he deserves all the fanfare that he’s currently receiving for the role. DuPont is obsessed with his power. The power he buys and the power he forces upon others. His obsession with wrestling and his need to turn himself into Team Foxcatcher’s mentor and an all-American hero consumes him and there is an air about the man that it will eventually be his downfall. Carell is almost unrecognisable as the teams self-made patriarch and if there aren’t awards in his future, I would be very surprised.

Equally deserving of praise are Carell’s co-stars. Of course, we’ve all seen Mark Ruffalo in dramatic roles before and as the older Shultz brother, he’s as impressive here as he has been in any other role. His commitment to the part shows in his build and his demeanour. Telling as much of his story with his body as the rest of the film does with dialogue. The man that’s equally as committed to his family as he is his sport shows a weariness in his movement telling of a man working hard for his team.

Channing Tatum though. I was genuinely in awe of his performance here. His portrayal of Mark Shultz opposite Carell’s DuPont is absolutely outstanding. The mental and physical abuse he allows DuPont to subject him to is played just right by an actor that constantly surprises me. What differentiates him from his Jump Street co-star’s turn in Moneyball is subtle hints of being weak willed and simple minded. Hill went from comedy actor to drama actor with a great turn. Tatum has gone from comedy actor and beefcake to a dramatic actor who stops quite a bit short of his Jump Street “my name is Jeff” performance and shows how easily the world class wrestler is influenced through his body language and his interactions with Steve Carell. We’re not talking Forrest Gump or Rain Man here. But we are talking just enough for the audience to look at Shultz and say “Man, is that dude ok?”, a turn like that from an actor mainly regarded for his abs, is just as worthy of recognition as any other actor in this piece.

Foxcatcher is a consistently brilliant drama. Stunning performances from its stars that deliver every line, every look and every grapple convincingly. All set to a perpetually gloomy atmosphere with an underlying air of menace making for an amazingly directed and brilliantly acted dramatic masterpiece.

The Book Of Life

Exquisitely gorgeous, full of heart and refreshingly free of pop-culture gags, The Book Of Life is only kept from excellency by rushing its finale.

by Callum Petch (Twitter: @CallumPetch)

book of life 3I am not going to waste any time or beat around any bushes, so let’s get straight to the point: it’s good.  It’s really good.  I went into The Book Of Life with unreasonable expectations, as anyone who follows my Twitter will more than know, and yet this film managed to fulfil them near-totally for so much of its runtime.  It is incredibly beautiful, in both the visual and metaphorical sense as the film’s sublimely wonderful visuals are complimented at every turn by strong characters in a story whose formulaic beats are spruced up and justified by said strong character work and that Mexican aesthetic influencing a lot of the film, not just visually.

I’ll get to my one issue in a short while.  For now: our plot, related to us by a museum tour guide (Christina Applegate) looking after detention kids, tells the tale of three childhood friends: heartfelt and peaceful wannabe singer Manolo (Diego Luna), swashbuckling Joaquín (Channing Tatum), and the girl they are both also openly in love with, María (Zoe Saldana).  They end up becoming the participants in a bet made between the rulers of the festive and wonderful Land Of The Remembered, in La Muerte’s (Kate del Castillo) case, and the desolate and rotting Land Of The Forgotten, in her husband Xibalba’s (Ron Pearlman) case; a bet over which boy will end up marrying María and with control over each ruler’s respective lands and the ability to meddle in the affairs of humans on the line.

Said bet ends up lasting a good decade after María is forcibly sent off to a boarding school in Spain.  During their time apart, Manolo is forced by his father to take up the family tradition and become a bullfighter, albeit one who morally objects to killing the bull.  Joaquín, meanwhile, has become a well-renowned defender of the people throughout Mexico, thanks to a special medal that Xibalba gave him at the outset of the bet that makes the wearer invulnerable, in a desperate attempt to live up to his famous father.  The return of María also heralds the return of Joaquín to their village and the re-igniting of the relatively friendly competition to win the hand of their childhood sweetheart, with the situation being complicated by María’s father attempting to forcefully arrange a marriage between his daughter and Joaquín, in an attempt to keep the latter around to defend the town from bandits, and the fact that Xibalba is a very poor sportsman.

Now, yes, this set-up does carry worrying overtones that we should be rooting for María to get with The Right Man, seeing as there are worrying stakes at hand if she picks wrong.  Fortunately, although it doesn’t do so overtly, The Book Of Life cuts off any such unfortunate implications by making all involved participants well-drawn and consistent characters and keeping Xibalba as a trickster and overly competitive entity who has no actual malicious plans for The Land Of The Remembered.  So whilst the central tenant of the film is in hoping that Manolo ends up with María, it comes from Manolo and María being right for one another, chemistry and all that.

That is not to say, however, that the film demonises Joaquín.  There is a point where it seems like it will go that way, there’s a reunion dinner with María where Joaquín accidentally comes off as a sexist pig (don’t worry, the film is aware of this fact), but it keeps these moments in moderation.  Joaquín is flawed, but not horrible.  He’s a little ego-centric and macho, but he also has deep-seated insecurity issues and is still fundamentally a good person, still remaining friends with Manolo deep-down even when their battle for María’s affections overrides common sense, and really not buying into the whole arranged marriage deal.  Again: flawed, not horrible.

The main trio are all extremely well-rounded and well-defined characters whose bond is believeable and whose personality traits are consistent and well-conveyed – a small early scene of them as kids trying to stylishly get to the bottom of some street steps has María slide down the railing, Joaquín jump from the top step to the bottom step in one fluid flip motion, and Manolo trips and falls flat on his face but doesn’t let his failed attempt at being cool get him down.  And that’s what drive the story, the characters.  Admittedly, María doesn’t get quite the level of development that Manolo and Joaquín do – most likely caused by the film’s big problem that we’ll get to in due course – whilst Xibalba and La Muerte’s marriage isn’t quite fleshed out enough for my liking, but these didn’t start becoming an issue for me until after the credits had rolled.

There’s real heart bleeding out of every facet of this film, which is what makes its more formulaic moments easier to accept and swallow.  The standard plot beats are occasionally hit, with the frequency of said hitting going up as the film progresses, but the film is so sincere in its deployment of them – not once does it feel like they’re being hit because that’s how successful animated films are supposed to go – that they work.  More than nearly any other animated film that I have seen this year, The Book Of Life feels like a labour of love.  Practically everything in this film is done because its main creative force, first-time feature-film director Jorge R. Gutiérrez (best known as the co-creator of the short-lived and criminally underrated Nickelodeon cartoon El Tigre: The Adventures Of Manny Rivera), wished it so.  Or, at least, that’s the impression I got.

Especially from the jokes.  Now, disregard what other critics have said, the film’s jokes are not heavily steeped in pop culture.  When they say that, they are likely referring to the film’s soundtrack and one particular scene that takes its cues from said soundtrack.  See, the film’s soundtrack primarily consists of Mexican-style covers of songs from non-Mexican countries and one scene involves Manolo’s friends trying to help him romantically serenade María, but the friends keep playing songs that are decidedly un-romantic, like Biz Markie.  Now, admittedly, on one level, the joke is “we all know that Biz Markie song!”  But the joke goes deeper than that, instead also working to show that Manolo’s friends (who disappear from the film shortly after this scene, endemic of a larger pacing problem I’ll get to soon) have no concept of romance and no real understanding of the songs they’re singing.  It’s a pop culture joke rooted in character work.

It’s also practically the only time that pop culture gags invade the film, or at least to such a blatant degree.  Most of the jokes are of the fast-paced physical humour variety, with plenty of sight gags, one-liners and facial reactions thrown in for good measure.  The film’s best gags, though, compliment the mood without overpowering it.  As an example, an otherwise sad scene caused by Manolo’s public refusal to kill a bull has a quick cut to the bull itself shaking its head disapprovingly at him before slinking off.  Whilst the film’s most unquestionably heart-breaking scene gets two cuts back to the kids being told the story reacting with the exact kind of “This story is messed up, we’re kids!” reaction that I imagine a lot of younger audience members might be going through.  Neither one ruins the intended mood, they instead enhance it, providing a counterbalance without coming off as obnoxious or ill-fitting.

Going back to the soundtrack, there is a full-on score by Gustavo Santaolalla, but it’s relatively generic and fades into the background.  The pop songs will be what sticks out, be they original (which are fine, but rather unmemorable), or covers.  Both are highly influenced or re-worked to have a distinct Mexican flavour.  For example, Mumford & Sons.’ plodding, coldly-calculated-for-radio-and-festival-playing “I Will Wait” is transformed into a cheery, bouncy number just bursting with knowingly cheesy energy, whilst “Creep” by Radiohead is played as straight as humanly possible with a near-total lack of awareness to the actual meaning of “Creep”’s lyrics that almost works.  Also, a very minor remix of “The Ecstasy Of Gold” backs Manolo’s bullfight and that song can make pretty much anything amazing.  I dug the soundtrack, even the out-of-place, but not-unwelcome, deployment of Le Tigre at the very beginning.

As for the animation…  the only words that I feel get close to my thoughts on it can be arranged in an order that reads “best looking animated film all year”.  It’s all down to the outstanding art direction and character designs.  Almost every shot practically bursts with colour and little individual details that once again demonstrate the sheer amount of heart put into the film.  It’s a distinct visual palette that genuinely looks like nothing else on the animated market right now and lets the film get away with the occasional cost-cutting measure, like making a foregrounded crowd that our heroes ride past at a very high speed a dark blob that resembles a foreground prop in a puppet show, because it absolutely fits the storybook aesthetic of the film.

Speaking of, the story that the kids are told is illustrated in their world with little wooden figurines, which is also how that part of the story is presented to us viewers, wooden figurines whose joints, boxy edges and paint lines are clearly visible – I may have even seen some scuff marks at points, too – and the effect is just delightful.  It’s unique in the most wonderful way, a look that takes full advantage of the visual treats that animation can provide, and I haven’t even described how cold and desolate The Land Of The Forgotten is in comparison to the you-need-to-see-it-for-yourself Land Of The Remembered.  This is one of the best looking animated films that I have ever seen, almost all thanks to outstanding visual design, and I wish I had a Blu-Ray of the film right now so’s I can appreciate its beauty in all of its majestic glory on my terms.

In fact, just feast your eyes upon the character design for La Muerte and the sheer detail that went into it.  Yes, that is skin designed to resemble sugar, representing the candy skulls synonymous with the Day Of The Dead.  Study it real hard.  The whole film looks that outstanding.

book of life

So, it’s funny, it’s heartfelt, exquisitely and unfathomably gorgeous, and full of characters with depth and personality.  Where’s the kicker?  I’ve been building up through this review that The Book Of Life has one central overriding problem that keeps it from excellency and it’s about time to reveal it.  See, by the time we get to The Land Of The Remembered, an aspect that a lot of the marketing has been based around (understandable, the place is stunningly beautiful), the film is about 50 minutes to an hour done.  The film runs a strict 95 minutes, and that includes credits.  I think you already know where I’m headed with this.

It’s not that those first 50 or so are too slow or anything – if anything, they are absolutely perfectly paced – it’s that the remaining 45 are way too fast.  As soon as we enter The Land Of The Remembered, the film screams its way through plot point and character and beat after plot point and character and beat with pretty much no breathing room.  You know those pauses in a well-paced film, where the action slows down and lets the viewer get their bearings on events and deepen characters before the next big segment happens?  Those are present in the first 50 or so minutes, but they are pretty much gone in that last third.

Consequently, many scenes are robbed of much of the impact that they would have had – most jarring of which is a reunion that should have been emotionally devastating, but instead carries zero weight because the film screeches past any of that potential weight, as if it looked at the clock and realised how little time it has left.  It’s the equivalent of taking a drive to the supermarket in your dependable low-cost Corsa only for it to, at the two-thirds mark, suddenly switch into a Lamborghini without warning and your steady peddle work now translates to 200MPH all the time.

It doesn’t feel like a creative decision, either; I got the impression that this part of the film was edited to hell and back, as if studio interference from upon high decreed that “animated films rarely last longer than 90 minutes, so we’re cutting your mics in 30, OK?”  Maybe the budget ran out, maybe there are significant half-finished scenes on the cutting room floor waiting for a release on home media, maybe it really was a creative decision designed to get us just as confused and “taking it all in at once” as the character we’re following – I don’t know.  What I do know is that the film needed to be longer.  It needed those gaps, those pauses, and it could have gotten them if the film were longer, even if it were just by 5 or 10 minutes.

There’s also the relatively minor issue of Chakal, the film’s true Big Bad.  Yes, there actually is one and the reason I forgot to mention this is because he feels nearly-completely ancillary to the film.  Oh, sure, his reputation and presence in the world are necessary, but his actual appearance in the finale and the way the film deals with him, as well as the complete and total lack of any character other than his name, feels… pointless?  It does give a very good pay off to everyone’s arcs and little plot teases set up at various points, but his actual turning up carries pretty much no weight.  It could have just been a horde of his bandit minions and the effect would have been the same.  Instead, he turns up presumably because these films need a Final Boss and, as mentioned, Xibalba isn’t truly evil, so he fits the bill.  Again, his total lack of character is what hurts him; I remember exactly zero things about him as I type these words.

So it doesn’t quite stick the landing as well as it should, but otherwise The Book Of Life is a full-on triumph.  Considering the fact that I had such unreasonable expectations for the thing prior to its release, the fact that I am 80% satisfied with it could probably and not unfairly be considered a goddamn miracle.  But I am.  I am very much satisfied and happy with The Book Of Life.  If its last third weren’t so rushed, this would be the best animated film of the year.  As it stands, though, “very funny, indescribably beautiful, and bursting with heart” is still an opinion-summing up to be very proud of.  I hope Jorge R. Gutiérrez has many more animated features planned for further down the pipeline because his creative voice, as also proven by his co-creating work on El Tigre, is one that this medium needs to hear more of as soon as possible.

Callum Petch is a gasoline gut with a Vaseline mind.  Follow him on the Twitters (@CallumPetch)!

BFI London Film Festival 2014 Preview

It’s that time of year again – the bathroom light has to go on in the morning, loads of good American TV shows start again, and Christmas tat is starting to appear in the shops. Yes, autumn is on the way, and with it comes the 58th London Film Festival.

by Carole Petts (@DeathByJigsaws)

lff14My initial reaction to this year’s line-up – once I had grumbled about the member’s launch being a day later than the press launch, rendering it invalid for the most part – was how many big names are missing. No room for The Theory of Everything, St Vincent (the film, not the singer), or The Equalizer; all making their Toronto debuts this week. But scratching beneath the surface yields some treasure.

First up, let’s deal with the obvious contenders. I am looking forward to Foxcatcher very much – directed by Bennett Miller of Capote and Moneyball, the film stars Steve Carrell in a rare serious role alongside Channing Tatum and Mark Ruffalo. Loosely based on a true story, the film follows the struggle between two wrestling champion brothers (Tatum and Ruffalo) which takes a sinister turn with the arrival of a mysterious benefactor (Carrell). Foxcatcher received stellar notices when it premiered in Cannes earlier this year and has also been prominently mentioned in early Oscar buzz. Other big hitters include The Imitation Game, the long-awaited Alan Turing biopic which stars Benedict Cumberbatch as the tortured mathematical genius, and Fury, a World War 2 film from David Ayer (End of Watch) starring Brad Pitt. These open and close the festival respectively, and will be shown at cinemas across the country in tandem with their gala screenings. Mr Turner features an already award-winning performance by Timothy Spall as the titular JMW Turner, and LFF also hosts the directorial debut of Jon Stewart – Rosewater is the story of an Iranian journalist covering the country’s political unrest in 2009 who gets on the wrong side of the establishment.

Gala screenings I am looking forward to include The Salvation, a Danish western (!) starring Mads Mikkelsen and, bizarrely, Eric Cantona; Whiplash, a story about the relationship between a musical prodigy and his virtuoso teacher which is audaciously structured like a thriller; and The White Haired Witch of Lunar Kingdom, a wuxia starring Fan Bingbing as a witch fighting to free people from tyranny during the end of the Ming Dynasty.

the immitation game

In the official competition, the film that stands out is Dearest – the story of a couple whose lives are turned upside down when their son goes missing. One of the most eagerly anticipated films in the first feature competition is ’71, set in the streets of Belfast during the titular year and starring Jack O’Connell (Starred Up) as a wet behind the ears squaddie dispatched to keep the peace.

The documentary strand has yielded some interesting prospects. There are familiar subjects in Hockey: A Life in Pictures, National Gallery, and The Possibilities Are Endless (the story of Edwyn Collins after his stroke), and a step into the unknown with In The Basement – a film about what Austrians do – yes! – in their basements. The love strand has one particular film of interest to me – Love is Strange, starring John Lithgow and Alfred Molina as a couple forced to leave their apartment separately. This film has gathered some notoriety in the States for being rated R for no apparent reason, apart from its central relationship being a homosexual one.night bus

1001 Grams is an intriguing-looking slice of dark humour, and Night Bus explores the sometimes intimate, sometimes scary, but always intriguing world of the London night bus (shout out to route N1). A Hard Day is described as a neo-noir slice of Korean cinema, following a policeman who is having a really bad day. The follow-up to Monsters, Monsters: Dark Continent, had more creatures in the trailer than in the whole of the previous film put together, so that bodes well. There are also restored classic films scattered throughout the programme, from Orwell’s Animal Farm to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Guys and Dolls. And of course, the legendary shorts programmes are back, spanning all strands and giving you plenty of bang for your buck.

So although at first glance the line-up looks a bit light, a proper dissection of the schedule reveals that there is something for everyone here. The beauty of LFF has always lain in taking a chance and seeing something you would never normally buy a ticket for. I think this year will see a return to that essence for many people.

We will of course be bringing you reviews and diary entries during the festival itself, so don’t forget to check back between 8-19 October 2014 for more articles! You can find a full line up of what’s showing at the LFF 2014 on the BFI website.

Failed Critics Podcast: New beginnings, and the same old shambles

22 Jump StreetBetter late than never (probably), it this week’s Failed Critics Podcast! And please welcome our latest full-time member of the team… Carole Petts! In honour of this momentous occasion, James managed, with textbook precision, to do something dumb to the recording. Don’t worry though, as it only means there’s less of him this week.

And what a week? We review 22 Jump Street, discuss the latest news in Marvel’s Ant Man omnishambles, and Carole lets us know which is the bigger car crash (get it?) out of Diana and Grace of Monaco.

Join us next week for a World Cup Special (including free audio wallchart).

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Whine On You Crazy Diamond: The Electric Cinema

Firstly, I want to apologise for this week’s blog being a few days late. Well, a week and a few days late. I know it’s an absolute no-no to blog about how you’ve been too busy in your ‘real life’ to blog, but that’s probably on the same list of rules that include “don’t name a column after a weak pun about an album that’s older than most of your readers” so I’m clearly a serial rule-breaker.

So yeah, I’ve been busy. Thankfully, I’ve also had time to watch some films and write up some reviews for the site, which along with some brilliant pieces from some of my favourite contributors has led to the most successful week in the site’s very short history. So thanks!

This week’s blog is a nice and easy one to write. It’s a simple recommendation based on the most delightful experience I had at the cinema yesterday. Sadly the film I watched was very disappointing, and if I had seen it in a bog-standard multiplex, or even the lovely, but familiar surroundings of my local arts centre I would have written an even angrier review. Luckily for my sanity I had chosen to watch it at The Electric Cinema in Birmingham, the UK’s oldest working cinema.

The Electric is located just a couple of minutes’ walk from New Street, and houses two screens (with the largest of the two accessible to wheelchair users). The old-school ticket booth on your right as you enter took me back to a time I probably never really experienced. I wasn’t visiting a cinema from my youth; I was visiting a cinema that I had seen on-screen in my youth. Even my ticket was one of those tiny little stubs that sadly these days are reserved for booths exchanging them for tacky gifts on a seaside pier.

My standard seating ticket was a reasonable £7, although I was very tempted by the fantastic-looking sofa seating with waiter service for £12.80. If I hadn’t been on my own, I’m sure I would have splashed out. Concessions are priced at a budget £4.80 (including evenings and weekends), and in a nice touch the unwaged are also eligible for this price. The person who served me was friendly, polite, and seemed to genuinely care that I enjoyed the film. Good customer service costs nothing, and can make such a difference.

One inside the screen, and after being allowed to take my gin and tonic (Bombay Sapphire at just £2.50 a measure!) in a real glass with me, I settled in to a slightly rickety chair, with worn armrests, and not too much in the way of legroom. And I didn’t care – in fact loved it. It just felt like a cinema should. The projection was also perfectly handled. In short, I wish I could watch every film for the rest of my life here.

I’m even tempted to make the one hour journey from Leicester for one of their special events in the future. For example, earlier this month they hosted an evening of wine and film with a showing of Woody Allen’s To Rome With Love, and hosted by The Wine Tasting Company – who paused the film “at opportune moments to take audience members through six excellent red and white wines from different regions of Italy”. Now that is the kind of interruption and consumption of drinks I can get on board with.

If you’re ever stuck for a few hours in Birmingham with time to kill, I cannot recommend visiting this cinema highly enough. Even if you see a poor film, you’l still have a great time.

Please note – I was not asked to write about The Electric Cinema, and I paid for my ticket and refreshments.

www.theelectric.co.uk

This week’s viewing:

DVD – There’s a number of big releases out on DVD this week, but the best of them in my humble opinion is Brave – Pixar’s first ever film with a female lead. It’s not as out-and-out funny as some of the studio’s other releases, but it is the perfect marriage of Pixar’s wonderful visuals and a classic Disney fairytale-style narrative.

TV – The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992), Sunday 2nd Dec, 3.05pm, Film4. The perfect film to have on as you dig out old decorations, untangle what feels like three miles of fairy lights, and deck your halls with bowls of holly etc. A retelling of Dickens’ classic tale of Ebenezer Scrooge (Michael Caine) and his bah humbug approach to the festive season. May contain loveable puppets.

Lovefilm Instant  – Easy A (2010). Brand new to Lovefilm Instant, Emma Stone stars as a high school girl who sees her life echoing Hester Prynne’s ‘The Scarlet Letter’ and decides to manipulate the school’s rumour mill to improve her lot in life. Clever teen comedy also starring Stanley Tucci, Lisa Kurow, and Malcolm McDowell.

Netflix UK – 21 Jump Street (2012). One of the biggest surprises this year was not how genuinely funny this reboot of a long-forgotten 80s TV show was (it really is), but that Channing Tatum had a performance like this in him – out-funnying Jonah Hill no less.

Magic Mike

This is your last chance. After this, there is no turning back. You take the blue pill – the story ends, you wake up in your bed and believe whatever you want to believe. You take the red pill – you stay in Wonderland and I show you how deep the rabbit-hole goes.  

Morpheius, The Matrix (1999)

The blue pill, in the case of Magic Mike, is the marketing campaign for what I keep hearing is ‘the Channing Tatum Stripper Movie’. The same campaign that, when I told my mate I was reviewing the film, made him smirk and question my manhood. After all, isn’t it a bit…well, you know? The posters don’t help, featuring Tatum, Alex Pettyfer and Mathew McConaughey topless, with no mention of director Steven Soderbergh, the Oscar & Palm d’Or-winning director that brought you Ocean’s Eleven, Solaris, and Sex, Lies and Videotape.

This review is the red pill. In the words of Morhpeus: remember… all I’m offering is the truth. Nothing more.

Despite the big budget trailers, the film immediately looks and feels wilfully independent. Soderbergh takes his cinema seriously, and it shows. Next you’re hit by a realisation that these actors, easy to write off as eye-candy cast to attract a certain demographic, can actually act.

Tatum is the titular Magic Mike, a thirty year-old entrepreneur / furniture designer who supplements his income by stripping. The film is apparently based on Tatum’s real life stripping exploits before he broke Hollywood. Even if this isn’t a particular stretch for him as an actor, he carries the film through sheer dint of his charm and movie star likability, also showing off his comic chops that appeared from nowhere in 21 Jump Street earlier this year.

The star of the show though is undoubtedly Matthew McConaughey as Dallas, the Svengali of Mike’s ‘dance troupe’. This part-Peter Pan, part-Fagin is the stripper who can’t give up the thrill of entertaining the ladies, while throughout the film his surface bonhomie slowly peels away to reveal a quite sinister paranoia and survival instinct.

The film falls down on its familiar plotting (with every twist and turn sign-posted a mile away) and some weakly written female characters (Cody Horn and Olivia Munn do the best they can with archetypal ‘love-interest’ roles). Ultimately though, this film focusses on the men it’s portraying. Just not in the way you might expect.

Magic Mike is a funny, charming, and relatively unsexy film. It would be a shame if half the population disregarded the film based on the marketing. Indeed, there is far more oiled male flesh and homoeroticism in blokey favourite 300.

 

Magic Mike is available to buy on DVD/Blu-ray today.

Failed Critics: Episode 13 – Magic Mike

Attention ladies! Are you ready for the big show?! Four hungry young men – well, three relatively young men and one older and always hungry man – are here for your entertainment! This week we review the Channing Tatum ‘stripper movie’ Magic Mike, as well as choosing our favourite movie creature in Triple Bill.

We also prepare for next week’s Batman Special with exciting live draws and giddy schoolboy excitement.

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Q – When is a fluffy ‘chick-flick’ not a fluffy ‘chick-flick’?

A – When it’s a smart and funny film from an Academy Award and Palm d’Or-winning indie-darling director.

Last night I went to see Magic Mike. I know what you’re thinking, as my friends were honest enough to tell me to my face.

Why?

The quickly-formulated and defensive answer I gave was that it was a free screening and we are planning to review it for the Failed Critics podcast next week. This followed by quickly changing the subject to a discussion on the failure of youth football coaches in England to teach the technical skills needed for our players to play at the highest level seemed to satisfy them that my manhood was not in question.

After this conversation played out a few times, I started getting annoyed. Why shouldn’t I go to see this film? I put this to one of my best mates and he smirked, said it all seemed a bit…well, you know, and pointed out a bus poster he had seen for the film. The implication was that this isn’t a film for a man to go and see. He was completely unaware of the fact that indie-directing legend Steven Soderbergh had directed this film, or the critical praise that both Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey have already received for their performances.

The poster for the film that I have seen plastered across seeming ly every bus in town shows the three leads of the film (Tatum, McConaughey, and Alex Pettyfer) topless and dancing on stage. The quotes used say things like “Terrific Entertainment” and “Funny, Sexy, Cool”. Nowhere does it say “From the director that brought you Traffic, Ocean’s Eleven, and Sex, Lies, and Videotape”. The trailer promotes this “fun, sexy, cool” vibe with over half of it showing the stripping (which accounts for about 10% of the actual film), and standard rom-com set-up lines between Tatum and Cody Horn – plus a Rihanna song – that doesn’t feature in the film – playing loudly in the background to remind you of this film’s fun, sexy, and cool charms.

At first I was angry that the film’s publicity team had taken their eye so badly off the ball, but it only took me a few seconds to realise this probably was the impression they wanted to give. At its heart, Magic Mike is an independent film – but where is the profit in attracting a broad range of cinema lovers to a film? The distributors of this film know that their profit lies in the thousands of women who will persuade their friends to go with them to see the film where Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey strip.

They’re not going to be disappointed. There is a fair amount of Tatum flesh on display in this film – but there is also a healthy (depending on your viewpoint) amount of female nudity, and some pretty dark drug-taking sequences. It’s certainly not ‘The Full Monty with fit blokes’.

I enjoyed the film, and I’m now going to have to start the process of defending it as a piece of art rather than the mindless man-candy fun its distributors would have you believe it is. Almost every man I know enjoyed the film 300. Magic Mike has only half as much oiled man-flesh on display, and about a tenth of the homoeroticism.

Magic Mike is released on July 11th, and we will be reviewing it on Failed Critics Episode 13.