Magic Mike XXL (2015)
I saw this on July 1—the day it came out—and so many think-pieces have been published between then and now that I don’t feel the need to attempt to say anything deep about what Magic Mike means for feminism or whatever. My experience seeing it in theaters wasn’t as fun as it was for the first one, probably because I went to a mid-week matinee with my mother and aunt this time vs. a weekend showing with same-age peers, and the theater wasn’t crowded enough for there to be much cackling/cheering. But still, I loved this movie, and not just for the “hot1 dudes stripping” factor. The dance routines were, of course, super fun, albeit sometimes a little uncomfortable in the way that they manhandle women2.
Some things of note:
- The naturalistic dialogue—the banter between characters feels very real. It’s generally not laugh-out-loud funny or especially quotable, but instead feels like the type of back-and-forth that actual people who are not comedians would have. When someone says something especially clever, the characters actually show amusement, and not every character is super articulate, because, well, these are male strippers, you know? I guess I want to contrast this with the writing on most comedies, where as an audience, we kind of understand that these characters are living in a stylized world where everyone speaks in clever one-liners all the time but no one really reacts to them by, say, laughing, because that’s just how people, even the supposedly dumb or uncharismatic characters, talk in that world. And that’s totally not a problem for me3, and it might not even be a problem if Magic Mike XXL were one of those movies, but I think the fact that it’s not kind of makes it stand out more and adds some level of Dramatic Legitimacy or whatever.
- Speaking of Dramatic Legitimacy—all of the stuff about the dudes’ self-actualization through their end routines and the stripping-as-healing idea feels pretty fresh and unusual. A lot of the parts about the characters’ dreams for the future were played for laughs, but I don’t know, at its core, the idea that these guys don’t really feel angst and self-loathing about being strippers and yet still have (slightly) bigger ambitions in life is an interesting one—it’s certainly not what a movie about female strippers would be, and there are obvious reasons4 for that, but still.
Red Dragon (2002)
Already discussed at length here. Although I suppose now that NBC’s Hannibal has entered its Red Dragon arc, we would have to note that Richard Armitage > Ralph Fiennes > Tom Noonan in terms of Francis Dolarhyde representations, because man, Richard Armitage.
While We’re Young (2015)
Entertaining enough, although not super memorable. It kind of made me hate humanity, I think? But unless I totally misinterpreted it, props for being like, yeah millennials are obnoxious, but so is Gen X. So are Baby Boomers. Every generation is obnoxious, and we’re just especially scared/jealous of youth.
Terminator Genisys (2015)
Okay, more specifically: It succeeds as a reboot, I think, in a lot of the same ways that the 2009 Star Trek did, but it didn’t quite capture my heart in the same way, although I did like it. There was a good balance between the crowd-pleasing callbacks to the previous movies and the (successful, I would say) attempts to keep things fresh by exploring new facets of the characters and their relationships, enabled by all the timey-wimey bullshit5. The now paternal relationship between the T-800 and Sarah Connor is adorable, and the Kyle Reese/Sarah Connor relationship is still pretty fucking weird (I’m visiting from the future to protect you and also impregnate you with my commanding officer/semi father figure) and gets even weirder when Sarah and Kyle visit Kyle’s 12-year-old self and that’s all just delightful. I expected Jai Courtney to be super bland as Kyle Reese, and he…wasn’t, so that’s good. And then there were the J.K. Simmons parts and all of the significant hand clasping, so um, yes. Good.
The Wolverine (2013)
Not bad, but not super remarkable either, except for the bullet train fight scene, which was both hilarious and awesome. Ultimately the things I want from any given X-Men movie are: cheesy quips, cool powers, creative fight scenes, hot people, strangers/rivals/nemeses becoming allies, and some heavy-handed metaphors for homophobia and/or racism. And The Wolverine perhaps did not have all of these, but it had enough. Plus, my expectations were super low, so it was not even possible to be disappointed.
The Drop (2014)
Tom Hardy’s always good, and I do like the (SPOILER) threatening circumstances force quiet, chill dude to reveal himself to be highly competent with a history of violence trope. I probably need to actually watch A History of Violence.
Testament of Youth (2015)
Oh my god, this movie FUCKED ME UP. I went to a 9:40 AM showing when it had already been out for a few weeks, so it was just me, two old guys, and I think a middle-aged or old woman, each of us by ourselves, and luckily, in different rows, because I legit cried6 for two hours straight. I knew it was a wartime drama, but man, I guess I thought it was going to be WWII or more focused on the “young woman going to university and dealing with old-timey sexism” or something? But then the movie started and the caption read 1914 and I was like, “oh fuck, all of the young male characters are going to die, aren’t they?”
And, well, SPOILERS, but not really, because this is unfortunately based on real life: they do! Kit Harrington dies and you’re like, well, okay, he was the fiancé, so that’s just a narrative given, and he was pretty fucking bland anyway. And then Colin Morgan is badly wounded, so you think maybe he’ll live but never see again and that might be tragic enough? But nope, he dies, too. And then Alicia Vikander digs through a pile of corpses to find Taron Egerton’s body, and it’s fucking horrible. But then, surprise, he’s actually alive (barely) and she nurses him back to health and he gets sent to Italy where “the fighting’s lighter!” And at this point, you’re just like, “okay, you can give him PTSD or an amputated limb or something, but just let him live.” But nope, he dies too, and it is The Worst and why didn’t you just go see Trainwreck, you idiot. Because Egerton was really charming and he was her brother, which…obviously, all of these deaths are fucking tragic, but fiancés and friends are replaceable in a way that (young) adult siblings really aren’t. And there’s the additional factor of Vikander’s character giving up her Oxford education to become a nurse and then not being able to save any of these dudes and just FUCKKKK, man. And you can’t even really get mad at the movie for being tragedy porn, because, again, this is based on real life, and the actual circumstances were even more tragic7.
Anyway, it might be a good movie, and Alicia Vikander is certainly having A Year, but wow, I do not recommend it.
Saturday Night Fever (1977)
Solid, solid movie. The dancing is great, obviously, and it includes a disco version of Night on Bald Mountain which….VERY RELEVANT TO MY INTERESTS. And man, that opening scene really, legitimately, earned its iconicity. But the movie was also both funnier and more depressing than I expected; I was pleasantly surprised by the family dynamics and the “fuck the future” scene and, well, not as pleasantly surprised by the gang rape and suicide. That’s not at all a criticism of the darker elements—I obviously didn’t enjoy those scenes, but they felt justified and not especially exploitative—just: those aspects of the movie are not at all what has trickled down into pop culture.
 I mean, objectively “hot” but perhaps a bit too buff and healthy-looking for my tastes. See: our analysis of the aesthetic appeal of Victor Frankenstein in Penny Dreadful. ^
 Although that’s maybe something you tacitly agree to when you go to those types of male stripping establishments? Unclear. We are not, I think, suggesting that Magic Mike XXL has consent issues, just like…that is a lot of intimate touching between strangers and I wanted slightly more reassurance that the women were into it, especially in the last dance with the Amber Heard character. ^
 I am very much not one of those people who really values ~authenticity~ in fiction, because 1) what does that even mean and 2) don’t we get enough ~authenticity~ from real life? ^
 Blah blah blah The Patriarchy. Surely I don’t need to actually go into any more detail, right? Because that is boooring. ^
 Which sounds pejorative, I know, but I don’t mean it that way at all. Timey-wimey bullshit is a key part of the Terminator franchise and I wouldn’t have it any other way. ^
 It’s true that I cry very easily at movies, but I don’t think I’ve had this sort of non-stop crying over an extended period of time since my initial marathon of season 5 of The Good Wife—which was basically non-stop sobbing from Will’s death to the end of the season.^
 According to Wikipedia, anyway. I mean, holy shit. ^