June 2012 - Can't Stop the Movies
Can't Stop the Movies

Magic Mike (2012)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

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Color is an extremely important in the films of Steven Soderbergh: washed out, sharp contrasts, black and white, whatever. His films are set in a world where the colors obey the whims of the plot, and are pivotal towards understanding the film. The color green is extremely important in Magic Mike because it's what makes the world go round.

I'm talking money, people! Sweet gobs of cash to cover my naked ass in!

Or, uh, their naked asses in. It's a movie about male strippers, and it is a veritable buffet of buttocks. But that's okay; as mature adults, if you can't watch a bunch of men undulate on stage, well, you're probably not much of a mature adult.

Musclebound Channing Tatum stars as musclebound Mike. For those who need to know this, we see Tatum's naked buttocks less than a minute into the picture; if that is all it takes to get you into the theater, this is your signal to start your proverbial (proverbial!) engines. The ladies in the row behind me had already gotten their money's worth.


Akira Kurosawa: Drunken Angel (1948)

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Drunken Angel is a gritty, noirish small-time crime movie that deals with the post-war climate in Japan like neither of the past two films we've discussed. Those movies acknowledged the grim reality of life after WWII while meeting it head on, whether through the small victories of One Wonderful Sunday or the almost epic character evolution throughout No Regrets for Our Youth. Drunken Angel proceeds with a kind of weary resignation—a deep-seated knowledge that there is only so much one can do in the face of poverty, corruption, and stagnation, and that one should do it diligently without hoping for too much more. Like its central character, the movie has no place for grandeur.

The plot is straightforward, involving a gangster who comes to see a doctor for a wound he sustained in a fight and is told he has TB, after which the story simply follows the development of their relationship, as the doctor tries to convince him to seek treatment and the gangster orbits reluctantly around the idea while falling further into his condition. Essentially this is a metaphor seeing Japan at the time as being torn between the past and the future. The gangster clings to ideas of a yakuza code no one really follows anymore—clings to the idea that there's nothing wrong with him and becomes enraged when the doctor tries to convince him otherwise—while the doctor, an alcoholic prone to throwing his own medical equipment, sees clearly that his illness can be effectively treated if he'd just give in. The problem is not that TB—standing in along with the gangster and an oft-filmed swamp for Japan's post-war social issues—is incurable; it's that his patients are too stubborn to acknowledge their problem.

Drunken Angel is the first collaboration between Akira Kurosawa and Toshiro Mifune, a Scorcese/DeNiro pair who would work together for the next 20 years, and it's interesting to consider in that light, but what's really surprising is that Takashi Shimura (who we'll talk about at length in Ikiru) steals the movie as the alcoholic doctor. His shambling, grounded performance that occasionally erupts in frustration at those who wont take his advice is a good counterpoint to Mifune's yakuza, who seems always on the edge of implosion.


Rock of Ages (2012)

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When I went to see Rock of Ages, I was not expecting the greatest movie ever made.  When a film deals with the hair metal ballads and rock anthems of the 1980s, it's already inherently cheesy, all I was looking for was what the poster was claiming: nothing more “than a good time.”

This movie simply couldn't deliver on that meager claim; what I got was a flat film that was badly staged and lacking any kind of spirit. The story was one that was told many times before; a kid moves out to LA to become a star and encounters many hardships but also finds love before conquering all.  The movie’s plot is so thin it isn’t even worth rehashing. I will just say that the girl who wants to be a singer and the nice boy she meets that wants to be a rocker fall in love, there is a subplot ripped out of the Brady Bunch with the bar owner (Alec Baldwin) staging a big concert to raise the money to keep the bar open and a truly pointless subplot with Catherine Zeta Jones and Bryan “I am contractually obligated to be in every film released” Cranston.

There is the obligatory end of 2nd act miscommunication that results in a character becoming a stripper and another joining a boy band and then everything wraps up nicely in the end so the whole cast can sign Journey together.


Second Opinion: The Artist (2011)

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Longtime readers will know, it’s very rare for us to write about the same film twice.   The only other two films that we’ve written multiple reviews on are Sucker Punch (here’s my, Ryan, and Danny’s take on the film) and Hobo With A Shotgun (here’s my and Jacob’s take).  Both of these films were really divisive amongst us, but aren’t the kind of highbrow fare I thought I would be debating when I started writing about film this much.

Now there’s The Artist, a ridiculously well received film that made a load of cash worldwide and received a bushel of awards.  The reputation that preceded my viewing was one of, if not pristine classiness, than one of charming goodwill toward a time in film that is rarely ever revisited.  So this seemed to be another good time to go back and review something that we’ve already touched upon because a silent film being made and received like this isn't going to happen again in a long time.  The sad truth is this is not going to start a trend toward mass-marketed silent films, partly because their time has mostly gone outside of a dedicated niche and this whole film comes off more as a ploy masked in earnestness than a genuine silent film.

After shaking my head at The Artist I was left at a rare impasse, I actually disliked a film more than Danny did.  Oh King of Crumudgeons, I come for your crown.


Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

Danny no longer writes for Can't Stop the Movies, and can be reached at his fantastic site Pre-Code.com

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I didn't go into Seeking a Friend for the End of the World expecting anything, and ended up with something I couldn't have predicted in my wildest dreams. A film starring Steve Carrell and Keira Knightley widely released at the height of the summer season is a complete and utter throwback to the works of Cecil B. DeMille.

It has the same three act structure that the epics of that that Biblical provocateur used to espouse-- hedonism in act one, hope in act two, reckoning in act three. More to the point, it even has the Old Testament ending, where God smites without restraint. Of course, I couldn't really blame him when we got there.

Outside of that observation, Seeking doesn't offer a lot for me to look at. Steve Carrell's character, Dodge, is currently leading in the "Most on the Nose Character Name" award for the year. Dodge spent most of the last few years of his life in an apathetic coma, and when news that the last ditch effort to prevent the seven mile wide meteor from hitting the earth has failed, he watches as his wife silently gets out of their car and runs away.