Magic Mike: loosely based on Channing Tatum’s early career (supposedly), it depicts the lives of several male strippers; some of whom want to party all the time, but others want more than the superficial lifestyle. Not really sure what the film was trying to convey… life is tough when you’re a stripper? Yeah, it must totally suck to be a handsome, young, guy that women will do anything to bone – SYMPATHY FAIL! McConaughey is on top crazy form – doing that deranged southern thang that only he can do this well. Is Magic Mike essentially Striptease / Showgirls for women? Pretty much, but the main differentiator is that Soderberg is behind the camera, so it’s done with an indie sensibility; and has been coloured/filtered to oblivion. When it comes to the crunch, it doesn’t feel like there’s much of a film in here at all, just an excuse for the ladies (and some guys) to see CT, MMc, Kevin Nash and a few other guys all oily and six-packy.
Note: there are a couple of ladies in here… somewhere.
Wolf of Wall Street: based on the memoirs of a drugged-up banker that did a load of bad things. Most obviously, three hours is just far, far, far too long for this story, which is essentially: motivational speech, loads of drugs, party harder than Andrew WK, repeat x20. The premise is classic Scorsese – rise-and-fall – but they way in which it’s told, what he chose to film, and how he chose to film it is anything but. There’s so much skin, sex, sensationilsm, and alpha-male testosterone in here that it felt like Michael Bay defiling a Scorsese sceenplay. Another huge problem is that the main character – Jordan Belfort – isn’t even remotely likeable or interesting; just a one-dimensional, remorseless asshole. On the plus side the script it great, the casting is magnificent and Scorsese really gets the most from them. It’s also very funny, funnier than most comedies, although it does have a lot of time to play with. Sadly, it feels a bit cheap coming from someone that’s brought us films like The Departed, Goodfellas, Gangs of New York, Taxi Driver… and it made me remember how good a film Boiler Room was. Scorsese – you’re above this. Studios – no director is above cutting empty & pointless scenes from! Not Scorsese, not Tarantino, nobody.
Killer Joe: a young redneck with bad debts finds out that his mother has a $50,000 life insurance policy, so he contacts the world’s dodgiest cop – Killer Joe. While this is pitched as a thriller, it’s more like a deep-south trailer-trash crime-caper, which was a nice surprise. More surprising, is the absolutely wicked streak of very, very black humour that holds the movie together, providing an unexpectedly high number of laughs. Better still is the perfectly selected cast, all of whom portray brilliant – memorable – characters, but it’d be wrong not to single out Juno Temple (for her no-holds barred performance) and McConaughey, for his portrayal of a scary, twisted, stickler-for-manners-and-the-rules dirty cop – he’s unbelievably good. A few scenes (the dinner date in particular) feel overlong and lifted directly from a play – because this is based on a play, doh! There’s tons of nudity, a jarring/uneasy synth soundtrack and a totally subversive ending that you couldn’t begin to predict. Not unlike The Killer Inside Me, this is a difficult one to recommend: it’s unbelievably dark and uncomfortable to watch in large parts yet it works so well as a piece of entertainment, with some great laughs: above all else, this is a stunning performance piece from all actor involved… including Emile Hirsch!!! (And Gina Gershon, and Thomas Haden Church…)
The Lincoln Lawyer: follows a defense attorney that will represent any scumbag if the money’s right, but his latest case isn’t all it seems. First off, this is way, way better than the trailer makes the film look. Being based on a successful novel, the story’s rock solid, and stands up to the best court-based dramas out there at the moment (i.e. The Good Wife). There’s plenty interesting developments as the story moves forward. It’s also quite slick and really well made; the standout shot being the long revolving one in the courthouse. From out of nowhere McConaughey’s is excellent as a streetwise southern lawyer and Phillippe rises to the challenge with an equally believable performance. It’s a little slow in the 3rd quarter, and could have probably done without the last 15 minutes (everything after the major verdict) but hey ho, it still works well. Sack the casting director too; putting in two of the three most obvious latino typecasts working today. I was pleasantly surprised walking out of the cinema after this, well worth your time if you like your legal-flicks, topped off with a superb bluesy/R&B soundtrack.