Tag Archives: Jada Pinkett Smith

Magic Mike XXL (2015, Gregory Jacobs)

Every once and a while, Magic Mike XXL throws in some vague nod towards having character development. It doesn’t. And the movie knows it doesn’t need any, but it still pretends it does. All of the characters have the same arc, with the exception of “lead” Channing Tatum. He’s only the lead because he’s Magic Mike and because he’s got the biggest romance subplot; he keeps running into Amber Heard and they awkwardly flirt. Awkwardly but with chemistry. There’s no narrative purpose to them flirting and the script doesn’t pretend there’s enough material, but XXL’s scenes run… well, extra long and so instead of witty banter, there’s charismatic silences and pauses. It’s cute. Magic Mike XXL, when it’s not being raunchy (in an adorable way), is adorable in not raunchy ways.

Anyway. Tatum. He’s the wise man of a group of male entertainers–Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Matt Bomer, and Adam Rodriguez. He’s the only one who’s gotten out of the male entertaining (stripper) life, while the rest of them are all immediately going to be getting out of it. They’ve got one more big stripping convention to attend and then they’re done. It’s never exactly clear why it’s their last weekend (though Bomer at least seems like he’s sticking with it). Manganiello is going into landscape architecture, but wants to come up with trendy products. Nash wants to be a painter. Rodriguez is going to run the frozen yogurt half of a frozen yogurt slash mobile block party van (Gabriel Iglesias is his partner and the group’s emcee). Bomer wants to be an actor. All of them are terrified of their futures, but Tatum is there to assure them they need to believe in themselves.

All that backstory is just to give them banter while the movie road trips. While Magic Mike XXL is, technically, a road movie, it’s more about where they stop. Where they stop and strip. Whether it’s a convenience store–when the guys are all tripping on ecstasy and Tatum is trying to convince them to strip to what they love, not what’s commercially viable–or Andie MacDowell’s living room, once the movie gets going, the road tripping is just to get them to one dancing engagement or another. Except when it’s Jada Pinkett Smith’s party house; there it’s usually other guys stripping (for a while) while Tatum and Pinkett Smith flirt.

There are narrative reasons for most of these things. Usually to enable the next move for the guys. They have some trouble on the road trip and need help. Along the way, they resolve their leftover issues with one another from the last movie and fret about their non-male entertaining futures.

It’s cute. And fun. And often really funny.

Tatum’s an appealing lead. He doesn’t have to do much, except dance. He can definitely dance. Only Nash and Rodriguez lack in the dancing department. Otherwise all the dancing is good; the choreography, depending on the guy dancing, can be excellent. But it’s not like Tatum’s got a character arc. He’s entirely altruistic and entirely divested. He’s not even really pursuing Heard, just trying to convince her to enjoy guys stripping in her proximity. The movie never wants to be taken too seriously; it often demands not to be, in fact.

Makes it even more likable.

Manganiello’s good. Heard’s fine. Bomer’s annoying. Nash is all right. Rodriguez makes little impression. Pinkett Smith goes–gloriously–all in, like she’s auditioning her character for a spin-off. MacDowell and Elizabeth Banks–both in extended and obvious cameos–are all right. XXL could do better with the cameos. It doesn’t have enough fun with them. Donald Glover seems rather lost, even if his singing contributions are solid.

Jacobs’s direction is okay. He’s got a Panavision frame but mostly just uses the center of the screen to showcase the dancing. He mixes it up a bit with the dialogue, which is a lot better. Executive producer, cinematographer, and editor Steven Soderbergh does entirely competent work in all his roles… but none of it’s particularly exciting. XXL doesn’t want to get ahead of itself and profess ambition. Other than being fun.

And it works out. Magic Mike XXL’s usually fun.

2/4★★

CREDITS

Directed by Gregory Jacobs; written by Reid Carolin; director of photography, Steven Soderbergh; edited by Soderbergh; production designer, Howard Cummings; produced by Carolin, Jacobs, Channing Tatum, and Nick Wechsler; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Channing Tatum (Mike), Joe Manganiello (Big Dick Richie), Matt Bomer (Ken), Kevin Nash (Tarzan), Adam Rodriguez (Tito), Amber Heard (Zoe), Jada Pinkett Smith (Rome), Gabriel Iglesias (Tobias), Donald Glover (Andre), Elizabeth Banks (Paris), and Andie MacDowell (Nancy Davidson).


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The Matrix Revolutions (2003, Lana and Lilly Wachowski)

I think The Matrix! Part Trois has to be better than the second one, if only because it’s not as terribly boring in its action sequences. The second one had that highway battle and it was bad and the Keanu Reeves versus a million Hugo Weavings and it was bad. Here, Keanu Reeves fights one Hugo Weaving (in an atrocious performance, it’s a shame how the sequels degraded the fine work he did in the first film) in front of a bunch of non-participating Hugo Weavings. It’s better. And it’s a huge, CG-aided flying fight scene–it’s the Superman versus Zod scene no one ever got to see.

Reeves is okay. It’s amazing how little his eyes effect his emoting when he acts. Jada Pinkett Smith is awful and as much as I appreciate the Wachowskis’ minorities inheriting the earth thing (none of the surviving principles are white), I’m pretty sure the character they have her play is just the equivalent of Will Smith’s heroic, but definitely not revolutionary or intimidating, black guy for white audiences.

Harry Lennix is bad in this one. Maybe he was bad in the second one too. I can’t remember. He’s usually good. But he’s an idiot in this one, even though he’s supposed to be smart.

I think the script probably read well. As a movie, it’s a bit of a disaster; I’ll bet the script read well.

Except for the Wizard of Oz cameo at the end, it wasn’t completely awful.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Lilly and Lana Wachowski; director of photography, Bill Pope; edited by Zach Staenberg; music by Don Davis; production designer, Owen Paterson; produced by Joel Silver; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Keanu Reeves (Neo), Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus), Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity), Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith), Jada Pinkett Smith (Niobe), Mary Alice (the Oracle), Lambert Wilson (The Merovingian), Harold Perrineau (Link), Harry Lennix (Commander Lock) and Monica Bellucci (Persephone).


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The Matrix Reloaded (2003, Lana and Lilly Wachowski)

The Wachowskis get to do whatever they want with The Matrix Reloaded so they do this bombastic, pseudo-intellectual sequel and they’re totally bored with it. It’s very obviously not what they want to be doing with their time.

They got about as much mileage out of the Matrix as they could in the first one and putting a dream sequence into the second one doesn’t do them any favors.

This film has Harold Perrineau giving a bad performance. I didn’t even know it was possible for him to give a bad performance. He’s just terrible–he’s this useless, throwaway character.

Speaking of bad performances–Jada Pinkett Smith. I’ve seen her in something else and I was waiting for she to give one of the worst performances in film history and she certainly delivers.

The fight scenes are the boring and cartoonish. They’re not exciting. They look like a video game.

The film almost turns around at the end when it mocks the audience–the entire movie is invalidated in the last act, in a self-congratulatory way–not a fun way, but a wink wink. If the viewer is paying attention, he or she just realized the movie was a waste of time and money. But the cliffhanger ruins it. It’s cheap instead of cruel. Cruel is interesting. Cheap is predictable.

At least George Lucas is making a fortune off the toys. He cares about something. The Wachowskis don’t have a motive, artistic or commercial, for making this mess.

0/4ⓏⒺⓇⓄ

CREDITS

Written and directed by Lilly and Lana Wachowski; director of photography, Bill Pope; edited by Zach Staenberg; music by Don Davis; production designer, Owen Paterson; produced by Joel Silver; released by Warner Bros.

Starring Keanu Reeves (Neo), Laurence Fishburne (Morpheus), Carrie-Anne Moss (Trinity), Hugo Weaving (Agent Smith), Jada Pinkett Smith (Niobe), Gloria Foster (the Oracle), Monica Bellucci (Persephone), Nona Gay (Zee), Randall Duk Kim (Keymaker), Harry Lennix (Commander Lock), Harold Perrineau (Link), Adrian Rayment (Twin No. 2) and Neil Rayment (Twin No. 1).


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Collateral (2004, Michael Mann)

I actually had to go do some IMDb research (that bastion of scholarly data) before I started this post, because I had to know if Michael Mann intentionally made a movie starring Tom Cruise, with a reasonable Hollywood budget, and intentionally shot it to look like an episode of “Cops.” And he did. He wanted to make DV look like crap instead of like film. It’s interesting, all the things DV doesn’t work with–acting, for example. It’s particularly noticeable with Jamie Foxx, who doesn’t exactly give a crack performance, but he’s not terrible and there are these things he does with his expression the DV picks up, things film wouldn’t have picked up. Acting tells. Cruise probably has them too, but the DV makes his makeup look like he’s about to turn from Larry Talbot into the Wolf Man (a nickel to whoever gets that particular Pynchon reference). I kept expecting his eyebrows to fall off.

Mann’s handling of DV was far superior in Miami Vice–maybe it was technological, maybe it was understanding what kinds of scenes work in DV. A lot of Collateral is well-written. Probably the first hour and ten minutes, before Jamie Foxx starts to turn into an action hero. There’s some great dialogue at the beginning and a nice romantic scene, which Mann is always good with. But after a while, it ceases to be interesting. The story wraps up in a predictable manner and it’s rather limp.

It’s probably the wrong project for Mann… the characters are enigmatic, which he doesn’t do. His characters may be insane or something, but they’re always the protagonists. The closest thing Collateral has as a protagonist is the viewer–Cruise is the villain, Foxx is the pawn. Mark Ruffalo’s got some good scenes as a cop, but his pursuit of Cruise is ludicrous and hard to take serious (and who thought Ruffalo looked good with slicked back hair and a pierced ear?).

I could list the other ways Collateral fails–the music, specifically the soundtrack choices–but it’s all in the execution. It’s a sixty-five million dollar Hollywood movie… if it weren’t in DV and it had a less experimental director, it might have been a fun, empty suspense picture. But Mann’s use of that crappy DV and the presence of Cruise (in his most ineffectual performance in a while–he’s not bad, he just doesn’t have a character to play) suggests it’s supposed to be something more and it isn’t.

Thank goodness for the Panavision Genesis camera, which is gaining popularity. I never thought I’d see Michael Mann pretending he was making the Blair Witch Project. Worse… at least Blair Witch matched its story and its presentation. Collateral is kind of like… I can’t even think of a belittling simile. It’s embarrassing (not my figurative failure, but Mann’s actual one–especially given how strong the first hour is, when the DV was just a severe irritation).

1.5/4★½

CREDITS

Directed by Michael Mann; written by Stuart Beattie; directors of photography, Dion Beebe and Paul Cameron; edited by Jim Miller and Paul Rubell; music by James Newton Howard; production designer, David Wasco; produced by Mann and Julie Richardson; released by DreamWorks Pictures.

Starring Tom Cruise (Vincent), Jamie Foxx (Max), Jada Pinkett Smith (Annie), Mark Ruffalo (Fanning), Peter Berg (Richard Weidner) and Bruce McGill (Pedrosa).


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