Screening Room: Summer Movie Sequels

My essay on the ever-more sprawling world of movie franchises, “Sequel Summer: Deadpool Fights Thanos in Jurassic World,” is at Eyes Wide Open:

After banking a billion-plus revenue from Black Panther, Disney kept the Marvel machine humming with the late April release of Avengers: Infinity War. The first half of an apocalypse two-parter, this was less a standalone movie than a short-attention-span episode of a long-running series that was running out of ways to keep engineering conflict. Infinity War: Part One didn’t even bother establishing itself as a standalone movie like Black Panther did. It just dumped every available Marvel hero into a Battle Royale against Thanos, a big dull dud of a genocidal villain, and made sure to string it out to next summer’s sequel. Spider-man, Doctor Strange, the Hulk, Thor, and Nick Fury? Sure! How about Guardians of the Galaxy, too? Why not?…

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:

Writer’s Desk: Necessary Tools

handmaidstale1People don’t often think about what they need to write. Just a great idea and 10,000 hours, right? They don’t realize that writing requires tools, always. And not the ones that all those websites have been trying to sell you, either.

See what Margaret Atwood has to say:

You most likely need a thesaurus, a rudimentary grammar book, and a grip on reality. This latter means: there’s no free lunch. Writing is work. It’s also gambling. You don’t get a pension plan. Other people can help you a bit, but ­essentially you’re on your own. ­Nobody is making you do this: you chose it, so don’t whine.

Here’s the thing, though. It’s different for every writer. Maybe you’re one of those people born knowing the right word. If so, chuck the thesaurus and move on.

But she’s right about the no-whining thing. Get on with it. Writing still beats doing everything else out there. Except maybe velociraptor wrangler; that’d be cool.