STORY WRITTEN BY NATHAN LERNER
For Digital First Media
“Magic Mike XXL”
As an 18-year old, long before he became a full-fledged movie star, Channing Tatum spent eight months, working as a male stripper in Tampa, Florida. You might think that he would be hesitant to reveal this somewhat tawdry aspect of his past.
However, Tatum harbored no such sensibilities. Indeed, he actively pursued doing a film, which was inspired by his experiences as an exotic dancer. Such was the inception of the 2012 release, “Magic Mike.” The film was co-produced by Tatum and Reid Carolin, who wrote the screenplay.
Then, Steven Soderbergh agreed to helm the film. At the tender age of 26, Soderbergh had won the Palme d’Or, the highest award of the Cannes Film Festival for his “Sex, Lies, and Videotape.” He subsequently made such other critically acclaimed fare as “Out of Sight,” and “The Limey.” Then, in 2001, Soderbergh received Academy Award nominations from for both “Erin Brockovich” and “Traffic.” He won the Oscar as Best Director of the latter film. When it was announced that Soderbergh would be directing “Magic Mike,” a certain credibility was suddenly conferred on the fledgling project.
In the film, Tatum played Mike Lane, a Tampa man with grandiose entrepreneurial aspirations. In the interim, he is supporting himself through a series of various odd jobs. One of them is working as a featured performer in Xquisite Strip Club, a venue operated by Dallas (Matthew McConaughey).
“Magic Mike” became a critical and commercial success. It ended up on the top ten lists of numerous critics and generated some Oscar buzz for McConaughey. Shot on a modest $7 million budget, the film raked in over $167 million in worldwide box office.
As “Magic Mike XXL” opens, it has been three years since Mike bowed out as a stripper. He has started a fledgling company, which crafts handmade furniture. However, the lure of life as a stripper proves irresistible to Mike. He reunites with the remaining members of the Kings of Tampa to mount a new revue.
Will the sequel measure up to the original? Various signs augur against it.
Soderbergh has been replaced by Gregory Jacobs. The latter has directed two obscure films, “Criminal” and “Wind Chill.” His main claim to fame is as a second unit director to Soderbergh on numerous vehicles, including “Magic Mike.” What has he learned from his mentor?
Meanwhile, after years of being typecast as a himbo in a series meretricious rom coms, McConaughey has staged a career comeback. Courtesy of credible performances in “Bernie” and “Mud,” followed by his Oscar-winning performance in “The Dallas Buyers Club,” he has reinvented himself as a serious actor. You won’t see McConaughey reprising his role as a strip club operator in this sequel.
Additions to the sequel’s cast include Jada Pinkett Smith, Andie McDowell, Elizabeth Banks, and Amber Heard. Will their presence be enough to offset the loss of Soderbergh and McConaughey? I’m not feeling any confidence.
Opens wide on Wednesday, July 1. R (for strong sexual content, pervasive language, some nudity and drug use) 115 minutes. Warner Brothers
What does it take to become a celebrity? Having a recognizable catchphrase certainly doesn’t hurt.
When Arnold Schwarzenegger’s titular cyborg in 1984’s “The Terminator” was refused entry to a police station, he phlegmatically responded with the pithy line, “I’ll be back.” He does indeed return, crashing a car through the front wall of the police station.
Ironically, Schwarzenegger has been quoted as disclaiming that he had attached any particular significance to the line when he first uttered it. Nevertheless, it struck a chord with the public, rivaling the resonance of General MacArthur’s World War II promise, “I shall return!”
Schwarzenegger had portrayed Conan the Barbarian in two low budget, sword and sorcerer flicks. They had been successful commercially. Nevertheless, the heavily accented, Austrian bodybuilding champion remained the butt of jokes. He was derided as someone, who had no chance to be ever be taken seriously in Hollywood. The worldwide success of “The Terminator” changed all that.
Transformed from villain to hero, Schwarzenegger returned for 1991’s “Terminator 2: Judgment Day” and 2003’s “Terminator 3: Rise of the Machines.” Schwarzenegger recited his patented locution in each sequel. It invariably elicited a thunderous audience response. Schwarzenegger recited variations of it in other action films, such as “Commando,” “Raw Deal,” and “Total Recall” as well as comedies like, “Twins” and “Kindergarten Cop.” Even when he ran for governor of California, he recycled the pet saying on the campaign trail. Has anyone ever gotten more mileage out of three little words?
Schwarzenegger skipped 2009’s “Terminator Salvation.” He was preoccupied with a little side project, running the state of California.
The first three installments of the “Terminator” series had been set between 1984 and 2004, employing time travel as a key plot device. By contrast, “Terminator Salvation” was set in the year 2018 and pitted the human race against Skynet and its killing machines.
“Terminator: Genisys,” the fifth film in the series, apparently kicks off a new stand alone trilogy with sequels projected for 2018 and 2019.
This time around, John Connor (Jason Clarke), leader of the human resistance, learns that Skynet will be attacking on two fronts, the past and the future. He deploys one unit to attack Skynet’s main defense grid. He and Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney) will try to ferret out Skynet’s principal weapon, a time machine, and lead a second unit to destroy it.
Meanwhile, the Guardian (Schwarzenegger), a T-800 cyborg (Model 101) reprogammed with human tissue, has been dispatched back through time to protect Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke from “Game of Thrones”). Otherwise, a Skynet assassin will kill her before she can give birth to her son, John. The film posits that if that eventuates, the human resistance army will lack a leader. Apparently no one other than John Connor can fill the role.
Will audiences be able to grasp the abstruse time line?
The bigger question is how far into the film will it be before Schwarzenegger treats the audience to yet another rendition of his famous line?
Opens Wide on Wednesday, July 1. PG – 13 (for intense sequences of sci-fi violence and gunplay throughout, partial nudity and brief strong language) 126 minutes. Paramount Pictures
Nathan Lerner sees over 200 feature films a year. He welcomes feedback at email@example.com.