Screening Room: ‘Magic Mike XXL’

No need for shirts in 'Magic Mike XXL'  (Warner Bros.)

No need for shirts in ‘Magic Mike XXL’ (Warner Bros.)

For Magic Mike, Steven Soderbergh took an effortlessly charming Channing Tatum, an impeccably entertaining Matthew McConaughey, threw them together with some classic rock hits, male stripper dance moves, and a backdrop of economic insecurity, and made it into one of the most unlikely successes of 2012. Now there’s a sequel, and quite incredibly it beats out the original in every way.

Magic Mike XXL is playing pretty much everywhere now. My review is at PopMatters:

It’s no criticism to say that Magic Mike XXL doesn’t have a lot at stake. Following Magic Mike‘s model, it’s got a low budget and simple concept, and will likely clean up on its July 4 opening weekend. But this just-tongue-in-cheek-enough sequel, unlike the frantic and insecure Jurassic World, carries a devil-may-care casual confidence that wins you over precisely because it’s not trying to go bigger and bolder. Instead, it brings the further adventures of a merry band of male entertainers who love what they do, know they can’t keep doing it forever, and want to go out on a high note…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Amy’


One face of ‘Amy’ (A24)

Amy-posterIt’s too early to start really talking Oscars, but if we were, then Asif Kapadia’s moving and unromantic Amy would be a strong contender.

Amy opens in theaters tomorrow; seek it out. You can read my review at Film Racket:

Before becoming a punch line for tabloid-huffing, talkshow-loving misery vampires, Amy Winehouse wasn’t just a star talent, she was a constellation unto herself. Bursting into the moribund pop music scene of the early 2000s with verve and danger, she came on like some savvier Billie Holiday in a field of Auto-Tune tarts. There’s a heavy dose of that briefly blazing performer in Asif Kapadia’s potent, powerful documentary Amy

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Jimmy’s Hall’

'Jimmy's Hall' (Sony Pictures Classics)

‘Jimmy’s Hall’ (Sony Pictures Classics)

Ken Loach’s latest slice of life from the British isles is based on the true story of Jimmy Gralton, an activist deported from Ireland  for political agitation who returns in 1932 to reopen his community hall. Trouble, with “mother church” and other forces of oppression, follows.

Jimmy’s Hall is opening this week in limited release. My review is at Film Racket:

Wearing a big progressive heart on its union-made sleeve, Jimmy’s Hall could easily have been a carefree lark about good times and toothless rebellion, if it had been directed by somebody besides Ken Loach. Another filmmaker, one without a political vertebrae to speak of, could have conjured up a piece of twee Irish fun that would have been twice as fun to watch but several times more pointless. Loach does have a thing for speeches. While they drag the film to a halt more than once, there’s a bright and touching sincerity running throughout that makes that wandering stodginess not matter so much…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Dope’ – Nerds in the ‘Hood


Rick Famuyiwa’s antic comedy Dope tracks the adventures of three LA nerds obsessed with everything their peers aren’t — ’90s hip-hop, manga, skateboards, flat-tops — and just trying to survive high school in one piece.

dope-posterDope is playing now; my review is at PopMatters.

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Eden’ Goes to the Rave

'Eden': The party never ends (Broad Green Pictures).

‘Eden': The party never ends (Broad Green Pictures).

Ah, to be young, French, and to care what DJs think or do. That’s the short synopsis of the new film from Mia Hansen-Love, whose Goodbye, First Love was one of the sweeter romantic films of the last few years. This time, Hansen-Love dives into the electronic music scene of the 1990s and throws love into the mix as well.

Eden opens this week, here and there. My review is at Film Racket.

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘Entourage’ on the Big Screen


Four years after HBO’s dude wish-fulfillment series Entourage ground to a generally unloved conclusion, the far-from-inevitable film follow-up comes to a theater near you.

My review is at Film Racket:

If the question of what would happen to the big-dreaming boys from Queens occupied you for one minute after Entourage finished its eighth season in 2011, then Entourage the movie might be your kind of superfluous entertainment. If not, then stay far, far away. After all, this is not a film so much as it is a shrugging “Sure, why the hell not?” afterthought of a media brand extension…

Here’s the trailer:

Screening Room: ‘A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence’

(Magnolia Pictures)

(Magnolia Pictures)

If the question of what exactly A Pigeon Sat on a Branch Reflecting on Existence is would bother you if it can’t be answered, then by all means, don’t see it. Philosophical investigation, bad joke, or just a series of modern-art video installments strung together into a “film,” it resists easy definition. That doesn’t make it a masterpiece, but it’s something different, and in a good way.

A Pigeon… opens this week in limited release, and should cause a few furrowed brows as well as some rapturous praise. My review is at Film Journal International:

Roy Andersson (A Swedish Love Story) announces his newest film with a bravado that typifies the style of this acutely controlled and almost hermetically sealed piece of work: “The final part of a trilogy about being a human being.” The glacially paced circus that follows is certainly an investigation of being human, but one that’s done in the manner of an intellectual burlesque. Answers aren’t proffered in these short pieces that feature many of the same waxy-faced performers in absurd situations that range from a dance teacher who can’t keep her hands off a student to Charles XII riding into a bar. But plenty of evidence is found on the way…

Here’s the trailer: