Magic Mike XXL

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MPAA Rating: Rated R for strong sexual content, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use
Profanity: Very strong and crude language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, drugs
Violence/ Scariness: None
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: July 1, 2015
Date Released to DVD: October 6, 2015
Amazon.com ASIN: B010W0OJ9K
Copyright Warner Brothers 2015
Copyright Warner Brothers 2015

“We’re healers,” one of the male exotic dancers, explains to another in “Magic Mike XXL.”  They’re here to bring a smile to women who have not, through tragically misguided oversight, been worshipped and adored.  They have not been ap-PRE-ciated.  They have not been treated like QUEENS.

No fear.  Men have arrived who want nothing more from life than to worship, adore, and appreciate their queens, and to do so with the power of powerful, rhythmic, body movements that involve arching and thrusting.

The original “Magic Mike,” based very loosely on some of Channing Tatum’s experiences as an exotic dancer, was directed by Steven Soderbergh and had a few things to say about the economy and income inequality between the bumps and the grinds.  This sequel, produced by Soderbergh but directed by Gregory Jacobs (the underrated “Criminal”), is just out for a very good time, and on that, like its characters, it delivers.

As it opens, Mike (Tatum) has the furniture design company he was dreaming of, and it is successful enough to keep him very busy but not successful enough for him to be able to buy insurance for his employee.  Uh-oh, you think.  Sharp tools and no insurance.  There’s going to be some awful accident that will make Mike go back out to raise money a dollar at a time tucked into his g-string.

But no, this is not that movie.  No artificial stress.  It just wants to make you smile.

Mike just misses his friends, and so he decides to join them for one last big road trip, a bro-trip, with adventures along the way and the world championship exotic dancing competition at the end.  There are adventures and many, many opportunities to make women smile along the way, with a few personal problems to resolve, the most pressing finding a woman who is willing to have sex with Big Dick Richie (Joe Manganiello).  Spoiler alert: he does.

But before that, he has a great scene in a convenience store, doing a dance number to an 90’s pop confection that never goes out of style.  The guys stop off in a southern mansion where ladies old enough to be their mothers drink a lot of wine and reveal that they have just never been properly ap-PRE-ciated.  That problem will be at least temporarily solved.

And Mike visits a lady from his past, played by a smokin’ Jada Pinkett Smith.  She now runs a private club for ladies to be treated like QUEENS.  Will she help them by emceeing their big number at the convention?  Are healers gonna heal?  Are they going to go beyond the Village People typecasting and find dances that express their inner beings and make the ladies smile while so doing?

Yes, yes, and yes.  Gorgeous men dance for your pleasure and bro-out enough that boyfriends will enjoy it, too, especially when they realize that there is a certain fantasy element on a road trip like this one.  No one takes anything too seriously except for having fun and that is exactly what they deliver.

Parents should know that this movie has extremely explicit and crude sexual references and situations, nudity, drinking, drugs, and very strong and crude language.

Family discussion: Why do the guys like to think of themselves as “healers?”  If you created a dance to show your personality, what would it be?

If you like this, try: “Magic Mike” and the “Step Up” movies

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Musical Series/Sequel

Terminator Genisys

B-

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Lowest Recommended Age: High School
MPAA Rating: Rated PG-13 for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and gunplay throughout, partial nudity and brief strong language
Profanity: Some strong language
Alcohol/ Drugs: None
Violence/ Scariness: Intense and often graphic peril and violence, characters injured and killed
Diversity Issues: Diverse characters
Date Released to Theaters: July 1, 2015
Copyright Universal 2015
Copyright Paramount 2015

“I’ll be back,” Arnold Schwarzenegger said in the first “Terminator” movie. He had the title role but only 16 lines, with about a total of 80 words. But those three words have become a legend. It now appears he meant it more than we thought, as he appears four decades later in a fifth “Terminator” movie, with two more in the pipeline.

The storyline is about how a network of computers called Skynet took over and all but destroyed life on earth, except for a small group of rebels led by John Connor. Given the time travel that occurs in the films, they in effect act as their own prequels and sequels. This is more of a side-quel, presenting some of the same characters and events in a sort of alternate, butterfly effect universe. Some changes are explained, including why a robot that looks like Arnold Schwarzenegger now looks so much older than he did in the first one. (I didn’t say it was explained persuasively, just that they recognize someone has to say something about it.) Many changes are not explained, and I am not just talking about the fact that the characters are, other than Schwarzenegger, played by different actors.  Some of those changes are good. Some are not.  And some are just dumb.

Here’s a good one.  In the first film, we learn that John Connor has sent Kyle, his top rebel colleague back in time to protect Sarah Connor because the Terminator (Schwarzenegger) has been sent back to kill her before she can even become pregnant with Connor, to eliminate him so that he can never be born and lead the rebellion against the machines.  In this film, we see it happen.  John (Jason Clarke) explains that, as we already know but Kyle does not, Sarah is not yet the tough, resilient woman she will become by the end of #1 and really show us in #2.  She is “scared and weak.”  She is also, John tells Kyle, a waitress, though since Kyle was very young when Skynet took over and declared humanity a pestilence that had to be eradicated before it contaminated the earth beyond repair, he has no idea what that is.

But then we see Sarah (now played by “Game of Thrones'” Emilia Clarke, no relation to Jason), and she is not the frightened, inexperienced girl Kyle expected.  Plus, she has Terminator of her own (Schwarzenegger) who is protecting her, not killing her.

Even by the very low standards of blockbuster sci-fi, the mumbo-jumbo here is pretty over the top, with plot holes bigger than the school bus that hangs over the side of a bridge in one of the film’s showiest action sequences.  We have not quite reached nuke the fridge status yet, but we’re teetering on the brink with unanswered questions and outright subversion of some of the series’ core precepts.  And it is one thing to make reference to the earlier films; it is another to wink at them and at us.  Make a character we trust untrustworthy. Okay. Age the Terminator.  Well…okay.  Call him “Pops.”  Sort of okay. Have him fake smile.  Okay.  Have him keep a cache of sentimental tokens.  Not okay. This is not Pinocchio, and he is not going to become a Real Boy.

But hey, this is summer, and we don’t need think-y movies, right?  So  let’s drive right through those plot holes, enjoy seeing Arnold now fight a CGI Arnold circa 1984, hang that school bus off the bridge, and keep going, without looking back.

NOTE: Stay past the credits for a scene that will not surprise you about what’s in store for #6.

Parents should know that there is extensive and intense peril and violence throughout the film, just under the R level, with characters injured and killed and some disturbing images.  There is also some discreet nudity, and brief strong language, with a couple of mildly crude sexual references.

Family discussion: If you could go back in time to make a change, what would it be?  What is the best way to prevent a Skynet-type machine takeover?

If you like this, try: the first two “Terminator” movies

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3D Movies Scene After the Credits Science-Fiction Series/Sequel Thriller

Interview: Stephen “tWitch” Boss of “Magic Mike XXL”

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copyright Nell Minow 2015
copyright Nell Minow 2015

I asked actor/dancer Stephen “tWitch” Boss whether it was as much fun to make “Magic Mike XXL” as it looked, and he said, “Absolutely and even more. People have been asking me what I would say to guys that are hesitant to see the movie?”You might not be big on male nudity but there is an underlying bro movie, a road trip movie that they will love. I think that all guys would like to jump on the road and take a road trip with their friends, an epic road trip with their friends.” He said there was as much bro-bonding off-screen as on. He also enjoyed the dancing, especially his first big scene in a very special club for ladies. “All of the moments of research, all of the anxiety of what it would be like to be dancing around women like that and acting seductive and dancing seductively you know. What was it going to be? And then it happened in that moment and it was a very, very special time. It was great actually. Some guys have a natural, built in smolder, but not everybody is Ryan Gosling. So, the challenge was finding the approach and the fine line and what actually worked for me. What happened was I just found elements of my dance style that I could just tweak a little bit. I dance very aggressively. That is just my style. I dance very aggressively so I had to find a way to balance that out to where it’s not scary but it’s just like a sexy aggressive kind of thing. So it just took practice. We had a great choreographer, Alison Faulk and also Theresa Espinosa who were in rehearsal with us. They helped hone and the sexy, hone and the nasty and then just blend them and put it on screen.” They made sure each character had a distinctive style. “We read through the script and made sure that each performance was remarkably differently from the next and that each character could actually have their moment to shine in the individual pieces. And again, you know, shout out the choreographers, Theresa and Alison for being able to use people’s individual strengths. That was perfect and that’s one of the greatest things too is that, this movie, it’s going to go beyond this film. It’s going to shift the way that male entertainment packages are going to offered as opposed to just like a Chippendale’s-style show. We’re mixing all kinds of different elements, more individual and contemporary.

He enjoyed the “healthy competition” among the actors in “Magic Mike XXL.” “We just wanted to be at our best because we knew that everybody was going to be at their best. And because these are a professional group of gentlemen. They were 100% yin there. Like he’s either going incredibly full out or he’s not going to do it and that was the attitude. Anytime we stepped on stage we had to be the best.”

tWitch said that his earliest dance inspiration came from music videos, especially Michael Jackson, Paula Abdul, and Janet Jackson. “It’s what I latched on to in my heart.” Later he studied the movies of Gene Kelly, Fred Astaire, and the Nicholas Brothers. And he loved Sammy Davis, Jr. “And you know who I have been getting into it recently here even though he was a singer, Jackie Wilson.” His favorite style of dancing is locking. “That derived from the Funky Chicken back in the early 70’s. There is a subculture that has taken it and studied it and taken it down to a technique and a science. Overseas they’ve broken it down to university level. You have a curriculum of Locking so you know I love that.

Coming up next is the new season of “So You Think You Can Dance.” “This season is called ‘Stage vs Street.’ We take the top 20 and we split them in half, 10 stage dancers and 10 street dancers. I am the mentor for the Street contestants and that starts July 3rd. It’s going to be a great show and I have faith in my Street team. We bring a very raw energy and we have some things to say.”

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Actors Interview

Exclusive Clip: All Creatures Big and Small — FREE for a Limited Time on Google Play

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Martin Sheen and Amy Grant provide the voices in this animated animal adventure inspired by Noah’s Ark, from Entertainment One (eOne). “All Creatures Big and Small” will be available for free for a limited time on Google Play starting July 1, 2015.

A clumsy new species of Nestrians, led by patriarch Dave and son Finny, find themselves left off the list of animals allowed to board Noah’s Ark. With rough waters ahead, the father-son duo scramble in disguise to sneak onto the boat. Caught up in all the excitement, Finny accidentally steps off the boat and gets left behind leaving him and a few new friends to embark on an journey to reunite with their family. With the aid of creatures big and small, Dave must turn the Ark around to save his son in this heartwarming adventure of Biblical proportions.

The release of “All Creatures Big and Small” coincides with the launch of Google Play’s new family-friendly discovery experience, designed to help parents find apps, games, movies & TV shows and books that are appropriate for their kids.

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Critics: Which Movies Get Childhood Right?

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Thanks to Sam Adams and Indiewire for including me in their survey of critics about our favorite movies from the perspective of a child.  Here was my answer:

“To Kill a Mockingbird” somehow captures the voice of the novel in allowing us to see the story through the eyes of a child but with the understanding of the now-adult Scout who provides the narration. It is almost as though the camera is at a child’s eye level, as we, along with Scout, have a growing appreciation of what her father is doing and what kind of a man he is. Even the music expresses the wonder of children for whom so much of they see is equally new and intriguing, but who also take so much still for granted.

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Critics For Your Netflix Queue
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