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Magic Mike is far less exploitative than you’d expect it to be. Make no mistake, there’s exploitation galore for fans of the gyrating male form, Steven Soderberg’s flick provides a surprisingly interesting, pleasingly open story here as well.
Channing Tatum stars as the titular Mike, a stripper on the way out of the business of disrobing as his protegé, Adam (Alex Pettyfer) is just learning the ancient art of getting his groove on.
The star dancer Xquisite Strip Club, Mike is an aspiring furniture maker, pastime roofer and all-round entrepreneur looking for a way leave his velcro pants behind and make his money without the risk of catching a cold from an unwanted draught.
He takes pity on the hapless but handsome Alex after seeing him at a club one night and the young fella quickly gets press-ganged into service on the Xquisite stage when one of the other performers suffers an abrupt bout of horizontality due to drink and drugs.
Despite not having a clue what he’s doing, ‘The Kid’, as he is now known, is adopted by the other dancers and, more importantly, the owner, Dallas (Matthew McConaughey).
As Adam warms himself to the non-stop money and partying lifestyle of a stripper, his mentor and new best mate, Mike, is busy falling for his sister (played by newcomer Cody Horn). Other than that and a few kinks along the way involving, separately, a sexually adventurous psychology researcher played by Olivia Munn and some drug dealers, not much happens in Magic Mike.
It’s far from boring though, given that the characters are all far more interesting than you’d expect for a (and I hate to belabour the point) film about strippers.
Oh, and the dancing scenes are excellent. Making full use of Tatum’s former experience as a dancer of the exotic kind, they’re tightly choreographed and performed, serving as both eye candy and to emphasise the work that goes into a show of that nature. Don’t watch it if you’ve just had a big meal though, it’ll just make you feel uncomfortably aware of your body…
If the lads in The Matrix can get credit for learning kung fu and doing all their own stunts the Xquisite crew deserve equal praise. These boys work hard for their money.
As with all Steven Soderbergh’s work Magic Mike is effortlessly directed and superbly cast  with special credit due to Matthew McConaughey for chewing every bit of scenery available as the hilarious, threatening, egotistical Dallas.
While Alex Pettyfer is average at best in his role, Channing Tatum continues to prove he’s more than just a ‘face’ and actually has some acting chops.
It’s rare that something with this much baby oil, spandex and rhinestone could be described as low-key but Magic Mike manages to pull it off. It’s not nearly as dumb as it looks.
Margin Call is JC Chandor Academy Award-nominated take on the first wave of the world economic crisis.
The Oscar-worthy script portrays a 36-hour period where a risk analyst at a Wall Street firm alerts his bosses that the company’s arse is (financially) hanging out the window.
The young whistleblower, Peter (Zachery Quinto), is joined in growing panic first by his boss and co-worker (Paul Bettany and Penn Badgley) and then those higher up the corporate food chain.
The immediate fallout to the news is as fascinating as it is horrifying. The company chairman – played with diabolical charm by Jeremy Irons – when presented with the facts of the situation chooses a financial path that sets a match to the financial tinderbox rather than opting for a more conservative, less… evil option.
Rather than try and make any definitive moral statement about the crisis like, say, Wall Street 2 did (or at least attempted), Margin Call gets its jabs in – both at the traders and the rest of the world – in a slightly more subtle way.
Throughout there are hints and references made to the fact that warnings had been passed up the corporate hierarchy about the possibility of a meltdown but they are studiously ignored by higher-ups.
Older traders lament the fact that their job is, essentially, pointless and wouldn’t exist without greed and it becomes clear that even the most principled financiers can be bought.
In one of the film’s strongest moments, about two thirds of the way through, Paul Bettany delivers a cigarette punctuated speech that baldly lays the blame for the impending crisis at the feet of people’s greed as much as the irresponsibility of Wall Street.
It’s powerful stuff because, his being every inch the callous jackass notwithstanding, you can’t help but feel there might just be a kernel of truth in what he’s saying.
With a stellar cast that reads like the membership list from the New York chapter of The Jolly Good Actors’ Club, Margin Call features the likes of Stanley Tucci, Simon Baker, Demi Moore and Mary McCormack.
With a small, excellent cast and a brilliant script, Margin Call could have as easily have been a theatre production as a film but the stage’s loss is cinema’s gain as the result is truly fantastic. Without being preachy, the story manages to humanise the people and profession at the epicentre of the global recession and even goes a ways to clarifying what the job of number-juggling actually entails.
A quality flick through and through.

 

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