The Unguilty Pleasure of ‘Magic Mike XXL’

It may have been Independence Day but the opening weekend of “Magic Mike XXL” didn’t exactly generate box office fireworks. It’s no surprise, really – few straight men seemed likely to attend a male stripper sequel over a holiday – but it is a shame. Against all odds, “Magic Mike XXL” is one of the most unguilty pleasures of Summer 2015. Consider it the “Godfather II” of dicks-for-chicks sequels. (An as-of-now miniscule film genre, admittedly.)

This film picks up a few years after “Magic Mike” ends. Former stripper Mike (Channing Tatum) is now running his own furniture business but is convinced to go on one final “strip trip” (road trip to a stripping convention) with his former colleagues, including Joe Manganiello and Matt Bomer. Not included: Matthew McConaughey and Alex Pettyfer, who apparently weren’t up for getting the band back together. Along the way, Mike, who is nursing a broken heart (his “Magic Mike” romantic interest, Cody Horn, also is missing in action), entices former girlfriend Rome (Jada Pinkett Smith) to join up as their MC and former stripper Amber Heard to ogle him from the audience. Honest to goodness, that’s about the extent of the plot but that feels appropriate here. After all, it’s about the cute boys, stupid. (more…)

One Way to Go: ‘Jimmy’s Hall’

Leave it to Ken Loach to find the pink-o heart of a “Footloose”-style story. In his documentaries and narrative features, the activist director has been a champion of the working class since 1967. Now, in his twenty-fourth and possibly final film (rumors are swirling about his retirement), he has fashioned a fictionalized portrayal of the real-life Jimmy Gralton, a working-class hero who launched a dance hall in a 1930s rural Ireland town against the wishes of local Church officials. A sort of thematic sequel to the 2006 Cannes winner “The Wind That Shakes the Barley,” this arcane chapter in twentieth-century history touches upon all the classic Loach themes – individual liberty, institutional oppression, and, oh yes, collective organizing – while still taking time to smell the Irish roses.… Read More

Party in the U.S.A.

I’m not always one for the Fourth of July but this year I’m really feeling it. We’re a messed-up country but we’re still young. Lately–in the last few weeks, even– the strides we’ve made have been amazing. So today I’m flying that USA flag high, the same way I insist on using the word “God” to refer to what some call “divine intelligence,” “the universe,” or “higher spirit.” Why do the frothing-at-the-mouth zealots get to corner the market on the language of faith and patriotism? God and country, all the way.… Read More