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Review – Magic Mike XXL


With Channing Tatum, Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Kevin Nash, Juan Piedrahita. Written Reid Carolin. Directed by Gregory Jacobs. Rated R for strong sexual content, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use. 115 minutes.

There’s something familiar about MAGIC MIKE XXL, the sequel to “Magic Mike” It’s not just the return of most of the male strippers – excepting Oscar-winner Matthew McConnaughey’s Dallas whom we’re told has a new troupe of strippers in Macao. No, it’s the plot.

Mike (Channing Tatum), has left the life to open up the furniture business he was saving up for, but things are so tough he can’t even afford health insurance for his sole employee. When he gets a call from Richie (Joe Manganiello) he discovers that his old Tampa gang are going to a “convention” of male strippers in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. The promise of big money lures Mike back for one last show.

As the nearly two-hour movie progresses, they hit various bumps. An accident takes out their van and their driver/MC Tobias (Gabriel Iglesias) for the duration. Mike meets Zoe (Amber Heard), who sends him decidedly mixed signals. He reconnects with Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith), who now presides over her own male strip club. They stop by an old friend only to find her mother (Andie McDowell) and her friends who take a decidely unladylike interest in the strippers. They argue over whether to do their tried and true acts or dare to do something new with only days to rehearse.

Finally, it’s the big night. The woman in charge (Elizabeth Banks) gives them a key slot. And then it’s show time. Finally we get to see the big acts each of them has created, with Mike arranging for Zoe to be his on-stage partner/prop for his act. It’s not a spoiler to say that audiences which have been waiting for this series of payoffs won’t be disappointed.

The details, of course, are entirely different, but this is the outline for virtually every backstage musical ever made, starting with “42nd Street” (1933). There’s a lot of plot churning and hijinks as we wait for the big numbers at the end. The characters are likable enough that you don’t mind following them, but there’s no real depth here, nor is any intended. The whole movie is just a vehicle to get you to the last half hour or so and the various “dance” routines.

Thus the fact that there are some credible actors in the cast–Tatum, Manganiello, Smith, McDowell, and Banks among them–is almost beside the point. This is about objectifying and sexualizing male bodies, and since this is usually the way women are portrayed on screen, one can hardly complain. (Or, if one wants to complain, this is hardly the place to start.) This is a movie that is cashing in on the success of the first one.

Magic Mike” was not a great film but it was directed by Steven Soderbergh and had moments where you really did care about the lives of the characters and the choices they were making. This film, although penned by Reid Carolin who wrote the original, doesn’t quite reach for that. The biggest crisis here is Richie deciding whether he wants to play a fireman, as he has been doing, or find himself a new role as a “male entertainer.”

Magic Mike XXL” is eye candy for those who want to see barely dressed men simulating sex. If that’s not you, you needn’t bother.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Terminator Genisys


With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Jason Clarke, Emilia Clarke, Jai Courtney, J.K. Simmons. Written Laeta Kalogridis & Patrick Lussier. Directed by Alan Taylor. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and gunplay throughout, partial nudity and brief strong language. 125 minutes.

It’s hard to believe that it’s more than thirty years since the original “Terminator” film. TERMINATOR: GENISYS is the fourth sequel (plus the TV series “The Sarah Connor Chronicles”), so it’s a complex universe, made more complicated because time travel and attempts to alter the past and the future are part of it.

After the first two entries, which were directed by James Cameron, it’s been hit-or-miss, but fans should embrace this one as a worthy entry. For those coming in late, the simple story line is this: at some point a computer system called “Skynet” takes over the world and begins eradicating humans. John Connor (Jason Clarke) leads a successful revolt. A terminator robot (Arnold Schwarzenegger in the original) is sent back in time to kill Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) before John is born. A human, Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) is sent back to make sure she lives. In the second film, Schwarzenegger’s cyborg becomes a good guy fighting off a different and more advanced assassin.

This installment follows that outline, but there are new complications, as the timeline has changed. When Kyle shows up, he’s met by an advanced killer (Byung-hun Lee) and rescued by Sarah, who has been raised by Schwarzenegger’s time-wizened cyborg. And Skynet isn’t going to take over the world in 1997 (as in the earlier films) but 2017, so Sarah and Kyle have to go into the future to stop it. There’s more, including an old cop (J. K. Simmons) who seems to know an awful lot about what’s going on.

Unlike the more recent sequels, the filmmakers have made a real effort to make this fit into the world created in the first two movies. There are elements that deliberately echo or play off of moments in them, and there’s some fun with the time travel stuff that shouldn’t leave you scratching your head. Schwarzenegger looks like he’s having fun in one of his signature roles in a way we haven’t seen on screen in a long time. For one thing he gets to acknowledge being old (he turns 68 on July 30) while pointedly noting that that doesn’t mean he’s obsolete.

Jason Clarke continues to impress in what turns into quite a twisted role, while Jai Courtney plays Kyle as a young hero who find himself buffeted by forces beyond his control. Most interesting is Emilia Clarke, who has to follow in the footsteps of Linda Hamilton and Lena Headey in the role of Sarah Connor. Clarke, who plays the very blonde Daenerys on “Game of Thrones,” is tough but more vulnerable, perhaps because this Sarah seems somewhat younger than what we’re used to.

If the special effects aren’t as novel as they were in “Terminator 2,” there’s still some very impressive work here providing both action and imagination. The material is better balanced this time around so we actually get some character moments with Kyle and Sarah instead of just unrelenting battles with cyborgs. “Terminator Genisys” may be yet another summer movie sequel, but this one turns out to have been worth the effort.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Ted 2

 


With Mark Wahlberg, Seth MacFarlane, Amanda Seyfried, Jessica Barth, Giovanni Ribisi. Written Seth MacFarlane & Alec Sulkin & Wellesley Wild. Directed by Seth MacFarlane. Rated R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language, and some drug use. 115 minutes.

TED 2 continues the story of John (Mark Wahlberg) and his foul-mouthed, pot-smoking teddy bear Ted (voice of writer/director Seth MacFarlane). Having lost the element of surprise–since this is a sequel–it relies on the elements that made the first film work. It won’t go down on the short list of great sequels, but it should keep the fans happy.

It opens with Ted marrying Tami-Lynn (Jessica Barth) with an over-the-top production number hearkening back to the old movie musicals MacFarlane enjoys. One year later, the marriage is in serious trouble, until they decide to have a child. This leads to extended sequence involving sperm donation (and a perhaps ill-timed cameo by a certain New England Patriots quarterback) and the realization that they will have to adopt instead.

Finally, the story proper gets underway when Ted learns that, under Massachusetts law, he not a person but merely property. (Massachusetts is referred to as a “state” early on, and–correctly–as a “commonwealth” later in the film.) Ted acquires a newly-minted attorney named Samantha (Amanda Seyfried) to represent him in court, unaware that his arch-nemesis Donny (Giovanni Ribisi) is now working for a major toy company–as a janitor–and still means to get his hands on him.

The jokes are scattershot, mixed in with cameos (including Patrick Warburton and Michael Dorn as a gay couple and Liam Neeson as a creepy supermarket customer), music, drugs, and the enduring friendship between John and Ted. If the film makes you care beyond the gags, it’s because Wahlberg’s dopey but sincere John makes us believe in the relationship with Ted, a CGI creation who is added to the shots afterwards. It’s so seamless that you never doubt Ted’s presence for a moment.

As with other MacFarlane projects (notably the TV series “Family Guy”) the jokes are both scattershot and rapid fire. If a joke falls flat–or grosses you out–you don’t have to wait very long for the next one that may make you laugh out loud. As the new member of the team, Seyfried is game, playing her lawyer seriously but having fun with the fact that she smokes pot for her migraines (which immediately endears her to John and Ted).

The film’s big set piece takes place at New York’s Comic Con with so many pop culture references that fans may wear out their DVDs trying to catch them all. For those with the patience to sit through the closing credits, there is also a gag at the very end.

“Ted 2” is good, silly (and raunchy) summer fun. And to answer everyone’s question: it’s about on par with the original but it’s so much better than MacFarlane’s last outing, the criminally unfunny “A Million Ways to Die in the West.”•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Inside Out

 


With the voices of Amy Poehler, Phyllis Smith, Bill Hader, Lewis Black, Richard Kind. Written Meg LeFauve & Josh Cooley and Pete Docter. Directed by Pete Docter, Ronaldo Del Carmen. Rated PG for mild thematic elements and some action. 94 minutes.

Welcome back, Pixar. We’ve missed you. Since the triumph of “Toy Story 3” in 2010 there was the awful “Cars 2,” the muddled but entertaining “Brave,” and the disappointing “Monsters University.” The solid screenwriting that were the backbone for the always impressive animation seemed to have evaporated.

INSIDE OUT starts out slow, but give it time to build its complex world. By the end–as with the best of their films–which include “The Incredibles,” “Finding Nemo,” “WALL*E,”and “Ratatouille”–you’ll have laughed and thrilled and perhaps even shed a few tears. You’ll even forgive them for the bizarre short “Lava” which precedes the movie.

The premise is that we’re inside the head of Riley (voice of Kaitlyn Dias) who has a happy family with Mom (Diane Lane) and Dad (Kyle McLachlan) until they relocate from Minnesota to San Francisco. Inside her head are the personifications of Joy (Amy Poehler), Sadness (Phyllis Smith), Fear (Bill Hader), Anger (Lewis Black) and Disgust (Mindy Kaling). They control how Riley reacts to things.

The setup takes a while, but once Joy and Sadness find themselves far from the Control Center and have to make their way back, the story takes off. And when Bing Bong (Richard Kind)–Riley’s old “imaginary friend” shows up–then it soars. The inventiveness is rich, from what sort of memories get stored to the glimpses we get inside the heads of other people.

The voice cast is solid, with Poehler and Smith playing off nicely as Joy tries to limit Sadness’s involvement but ultimately seeing that the ability to feel sad or even cry is a necessary part of being a person. The other characters are played more for laughs, with Black a standout typecast as Anger. There’s also some good jokes about Riley being on the verge of discovering boys (and vice versa).

As with the best Pixar films, given a script and a talented cast, the animators can let their imaginations run free. As we explore different parts of Riley’s brain–such as abstract thought and imagination–one never knows what we’ll see next. One of the most amusing sequences is seeing how dreams are made.

This premise has been done before–in the old FOX series “Herman’s Head” and in a sequence in Woody Allen’s “Everything You Always Wanted to Know about Sex”–but not from the perspective of a child, which makes it both simpler and more poignant. It comes together for a well-deserved happy ending for both Riley and for Joy and company, with a delightful coda as we start getting views from some unexpected perspectives. “Inside Out” represents a joyful return for Pixar. And Sadness, Anger, Fear, and Disgust will have fun as well.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 4.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Burying The Ex


With Anton Yelchin, Ashley Greene, Alexandra Daddario, Oliver Cooper, Dick Miller. Written by Alan Trezza . Directed by Joe Dante. Rated R for sexual content, partial nudity, some horror violence, and language. 89 minutes.

Back in the ‘80s and ‘90s, director Joe Dante had a string of major hits like “Gremlins,” and “Innerspace,” but then his star faded and he drifted into television. (Some of his TV work has been quite memorable, such as “The Homecoming” episode of “Masters of Horror.”) His latest film, BURYING THE EX, hearkens back to his very early work (“Piranha,” “The Howling”). This is a cheesy, modestly budgeted horror comedy that should find its niche audience. Anyone looking for a romantic comedy involving zombies should check it out.

Max (Anton Yelchin) is a twenty-something with a knockout girlfriend named Evelyn (Ashley Greene). She’s ready and willing in bed, but she’s also very controlling in other aspects of their lives. She has no respect for his ambitions to open his own horror memorabilia shop and takes down his movie posters to put up bins for recycling. His half-brother Travis (Oliver Cooper) is an annoying and self-indulgent slob whom Evelyn treats with utter contempt.

For twenty minutes or so, you may wonder where all this is going, but then Evelyn dies in a tragic accident just as Max was ready to break it off with her. He subsequently connects with Olivia (Alexandra Daddario) who not only shares his love of all things horror, but operates her own ice cream parlor where all the flavors are monster-inspired. And that’s when Evelyn emerges from the grave, ready to resume her relationship with Max.

It’s a thin premise, but Dante brings in some comic and horrific effects (such as Evelyn vomiting embalming fluid) and scatters a variety of clips and movie references throughout the film. There’s even an appearance by legendary character actor Dick Miller–a regular in Dante’s films and a veteran of their shared background with Roger Corman–still going strong at 86. There’s also a macabre scene where people are watching an outdoor screening of “Night of the Living Dead” at a cemetery, which gets Max and Olivia so turned on they run off to her car.

The young cast is game with Yelchin, best known for playing Chekhov in the “Star Trek” reboots, playing a likable everydude. Greene’s slow transformation into the brain-craving zombie we’ve been expecting is fun, and Daddario is engaging as the woman obviously so right for Max. As for Cooper (“Californication”), it’s a matter of taste, as the aggressively stupid, vulgar, and insensitive character has become a staple of contemporary comedy. It’s become futile to complain about it. Even viewers who find his portrayal annoying (such as this reviewer) are likely to be won over by the end.

“Burying The Ex” is not getting a major theatrical release and will be available to most through iTunes and Video on Demand. Dante’s glory days may be behind him, but those who remember his work fondly will be glad he’s working, and getting the chance to bring his unique blend of comedy and horror together again.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Jurassic World

 


With Chris Pratt, Bryce Dallas Howard, Ty Simpkins,
Irrfan Khan, Vincent D’Onofrio. Written Rick Jaffa & Amanda Silver and Colin Trevorrow & Derek Connolly. Directed by Colin Trevorrow. Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of science-fiction violence and peril. 124 minutes.

Set up as a sequel to “Jurassic Park” (1993)–as if the other two sequels never happened–JURASSIC WORLD falls somewhere between the various “Transformers” movie and last year’s new “Godzilla” on the summer action movie scale. The plotting and characterization is about an inch deep, but it does raise some interesting points along the way to its mega-dinosaur smackdown finale.

It’s some years after the events of the first film, and the original dinosaur park has been replaced by a new one that seems to be a cross between Sea World and Disney World. Gray (Ty Simpkins) and his older brother Zach (Nick Robinson) have been sent there for a vacation with their aunt Claire (Bryce Dallas Howard), the chic and very busy marketing person. She leaves the boys in the care of an assistant with “VIP passes” for the park.

Meanwhile, behind the scenes, trouble is brewing. Our dashing hero Owen (Chris Pratt), has successfully trained a group of young raptors (the vicious killers of the first film) to take his commands, and Hoskins (Vincent D’Onofrio) can’t wait to develop the military applications of this breakthrough. Meanwhile, Dr. Henry Wu (B.D. Wong) has been giving Masrani (Irrfan Khan), the owner of the park, what he wants: bigger and scarier dinosaurs. His latest is a “hybrid” dubbed Indominus Rex and, as you might have guessed, it gets loose.

From thereon out, many people will get chomped on or otherwise killed, the two brothers will face danger, Aunt Claire and Owen will find love–and save each other’s lives, and there will be a big showdown with Indominus. It’s all rather predictable, but Pratt and Howard are engaging, the two kids aren’t too annoying, and D’Onofrio is a suitable heavy. There are a few original twists–not many, but a few–and the special effects are top notch.

While there’s the obvious discussion about scientific research getting out of a control without any moral compass, the real bite here–other than that of the dinosaurs–is the satiric take on a theme park. From the merchandising to the movie’s look at how easily the public becomes jaded with the newest attractions, this is something that will seem very familiar, in spite of the fantastic nature of the park. The “children’s park” with a petting zoo and baby dinosaur rides is inspired.

Those who feel the film somehow falls short of the original may either have blurry memories of it or else saw it as impressionable kids, because though it boasted what were, at the time, incredibly impressive cutting edge effects–and a cast with greater star power–it was as predictable as this film: science goes wrong, people die, kids are endangered, and there’s a big climactic fight between man and dinosaur. Like this new entry, it was a summer fun ride at the movies.

“Jurassic World” is fun, but parents (and squeamish people) be warned: it is very violent. There are numerous onscreen deaths, and though you don’t exactly see entrails on screen, the blood does flow freely. Perhaps the biggest surprise here is that the mysterious members of the Ratings Board think this is a PG-13 film.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 3.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

Review – Entourage


With Adrian Grenier, Kevin Connolly, Jerry Ferrara. Kevin Dillon, Jeremy Piven. Written and directed by Doug Ellin. Rated R for pervasive language, strong sexual content, nudity and some drug use. 104 minutes.

If you were a fan of the HBO series “Entourage” (2004-2011), about Hollywood star Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), whose older brother Johnny (Kevin Dillon), and best friends Eric (Kevin Connolly) and Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), revolved around him, you’ll likely enjoy the big screen version. Like the “Sex and the City” movies, it’s a parting gift from a no-longer-running series.

For the rest of us, this mildly entertaining movie (also called ENTOURAGE) is decidedly minor fare. In the world of Hollywood satires, this falls far short of movies like “Sunset Boulevard,” “Singin’ in the Rain,” “State and Main” or “The Player.” This is something that will help you pass a couple of hours, and will no doubt play better next year when it turns up on HBO.

You don’t have to know much going in, although undoubtedly some jokes are lost on those not invested in the series. Vincent’s agent Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) is now the head of a studio and he wants Vincent for his first big film. Vincent agrees… provided he can direct. This leads to the conflicts in the film as Vincent goes over budget, Ari has to go to Texas to get more money from the studio’s big backer, Larsen McCredle (Billy Bob Thornton), and Larsen agrees only if his idiot son Travis (Haley Joel Osment) can supervise.

Other than the various hot babes who serve the same function here that the various men in “Sex and the City” did (to provide some eye candy for the viewer), the chief attractions here are the numerous cameos and Piven’s turn as Ari Gold. There are bits both by people who were on the show and a surprising number of celebrities, and it can be fun if you recognize them. (It can also be annoying if other people in the audience are reacting and you don’t know why.)

As for Piven, his performance is comedy gold. He’s found a way to take what could be a clichéd character and make him an original. One of the reasons Ari’s changed jobs is because he was getting too aggravated and tense. His attempts to stay calm–including by meditating while driving–provide some of the best laughs in the film.

Grenier doesn’t quite convince as someone with the potential to be a visionary director while the rest of the crew are cartoonish characters. For those who already know them in depth from the show, that context presumably helps. For those coming in cold, this movie isn’t likely to send you scurrying to power watch the original series.

As a satire of the movie industry, “Entourage” is Hollywood Lite.•••

North Shore Movies has given this film a score of 2.5 out of 5.Daniel M. Kimmel is a veteran movie critic and author of a host of film-related books. His most recent book is “Shh! It’s a Secret: a novel about Aliens, Hollywood and the Bartender’s Guide.” He lives in Somerville, Massachusetts.

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