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Magic Mike XXL movie review

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Average

For the most part, “Magic Mike XXL” keeps its commitment to entertain. As a sequel that capitalizes on beefy charm and well-oiled performances, the franchise delivers another movie that is all too eager to please its target market. This raunchy road flick dives into some quick thrills that are not quite as psychologically curious as the original stripper opus “Magic Mike.” Shapeless but generally enjoyable, it renders an easy-going experience throughout, courtesy of its goofily gleeful male comrades who are clearly oozing with sex appeal, especially whenever they are on the limelight. Viewers are supposed to come for the stripping galore, stay for the laughs and giggles, but leave the demanding storytelling expectations behind.

The narrative picks up three years after the legendary headliner Mike bowed out of the stripper life, while still at the top of his game. Something rekindles his passion for it that he joins the rest of what’s left of the Kings of Tampa on the road for one last blowout performance at the male-stripper convention in Myrtle Beach. While on their way, the guys learn some new moves, as well as shake off the past and build new relationships in between unlikely turn of events. They meet new acquaintances and old friends, specifically during their whistle stops in Jacksonville and Savannah, allowing the viewers to take a tour of the best stripping venues around the southern states.

This follow-up to the 2012 hit utilizes the road-trip template to promote an amusement park-ride sort of experience for its intended demographic. Although it delivers the fantasy goods of formidable male bodies moving in provocative ways, the mediocre, a bit too cautious script, which puts irony to the fact that the movie explores the idea of taking risks, really pulls down the story. The already contrived tale gets stretched even thinner that the narrative really lacks much storytelling weight. The barebones plot barely bothers to scratch beneath the skin that there is a dire need for improved narrative thrust, especially by the time the bland and ultimately lame resolution gets revealed. The all-tease, no release type of ending doesn’t really arrive anywhere that it makes the mindless worship of male bodies in motion eventually nose-dive towards tedium.

For its strengths, this Gregory Jacobs-helmed buddy road comedy, which is undeniably tossed out for public consumption, proves how carnal pleasures can be served hot so the audience can enjoy some quick thrills and squeals. With admirable testosterone frequently on display, the rowdy picture deviates from the conventional movie masculinity where male characters are expected to rip out the big screen with stereotypical machismo. It has its own gung-ho way of celebrating masculinity, as well as celebrating female sexual desire, in flashy ways. The fun dance moves of barely dressed men simulating sexual acts are filled with an energetic dose of movie lust. They rightfully blend giddy aesthetics with gratuitous man-candy sexuality. Through the years, Hollywood has clearly spent much time objectifying women. So perhaps, in this film, it’s about time to return the favor to the ladies in such dazzling fashion.

Mike and his posse consistently sizzle throughout the movie’s running time. As usual, Channing Tatum’s dancing charm seems second nature in his role as Magic Mike. The rest of the virile boys including Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie, Matt Bomer as Ken, Kevin Nash as Tarzan, and Adam Rodriguez as Tito successfully coast through their own outrageously fun dance moves, which are often highlighted by pelvic thrusts and sticky looks. They are able to carry the need for a light, playful, and fun-filled presentation meant to tickle and titillate without having to border towards the seriously offensive. However, taking the characterization a couple of steps deeper would have placed more value to their campy roles.


‘Magic Mike XXL’ Film Review: Beefy magic
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Entourage movie review

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Average

“Entourage” is a breezy romp clearly targeted for the fans of the bromantic HBO series of the same title. Lazily entertaining and good-looking with an amped up gloss, its lavish amount of flash celebrates excess and male privilege in Hollywood. Although it pays decent fan service with distinct traces of what made the TV series a hit in its own right, the material doesn’t provide enough cinematic storytelling values to sustain the expectations for the film medium.

Functioning like a frat party involving Hollywood personalities, this theatrical version brings back the series’ original cast as A-list star Vince Chase demands for his directorial debut as part of the new movie deal offered to him. In between the personal issues and relationship woes of Vince’s crew, the agent-turned-studio boss Ari Gold is back in business and very soon finds himself in a very risky situation when Vince and his wolfpack ask for more money to finish the project. The movie’s financier assigns his son to evaluate the production, which soon jeopardizes not only the financing, but also the upcoming theatrical release of the project.

This poorly plotted motion picture proves that what works on the small screen may turn out quite cheap, lacking, or even desperate on the big screen. While it is predominantly fine for such a material to not take itself too seriously, the story flow trips over a lot of half-baked issues. The deficient script skips over whole chunks of vital narrative elements just to keep up with the required testosterone-fueled fun. With its situational comedy unable to sustain its storyline or its characters within a reliable cinematic framework, the storytelling simply presents a two-hour episode of its TV counterpart, which evidently shows that what gets forgiven on TV becomes glaringly apparent and quite impossible to overlook in film format.

On the good side, the vicarious pleasure crafted by director Doug Ellin genuinely offers patrons with that same jaunty style found in the series. But despite sticking to the winning formula that mostly kept TV fans entertained for a good number of seasons, the ambition of this bro-mage of a movie still fails the franchise’s own conceptual ambition for a successful form of filmed entertainment meant for the big screen.

Highlighting celebrity worship, narcissism, and sexual objectification, this cash grab picture remains negligently fatuous for the most part. Often times, it turns out empty and self-centered and its problematic dramatic arc remains stuck in an inconsequential rut where a circle of guy friends try to have sex and ultimately party hard all the time. Its sexist ways make things feel very low-grade through the casually misogynistic treatment of its woman characters — even with scenes showcasing MMA fighter Ronda Rousy inside the ring.

The movie’s ritzy cinematography and production design simply map out an “oh-yeah celebration” of idealized consumption through the ostentatiously savvy sights of mansions, convertibles, Los Angeles landmarks, and women in bikinis. Even though these posh elements offer a decently watchable form of diversion, the movie’s shallow treatment and overarching moodiness fundamentally rely on familiar jokes and celebrity cameos — including those of Mark Wahlberg, Liam Neeson, Jessica Alba, Armie Hammer, Tom Brady, and Russell Wilson — to provide brief amusement every now and then. The presentation generally satisfies its devoted fans by providing them brainless delight and comfort at the presence of the utterly familiar ragtag team. However, it makes no effort to seriously engage the uninitiated.

With its fan service gliding with confidence, this big-screen incarnation delivers plenty of inside jokes and mundane treats geared toward its followers. No matter how ridiculous and over-the-top things get on screen, its silly fun promotes escapist entertainment to keep that guiltily pleasurable relationship with its devotees. But beyond the fizz aimed at its built-in audience, this missed opportunity wastes the potential of a frat boy-bachelor party flick that can compellingly touch on the politics of Tinsel Town. It is very unlikely to make new fans and the more demanding viewers would probably remain unmoved by its aimless and vapid intentions.

The cast’s easy camaraderie aptly depicts the strong bond that made the series a commercial success. The actors led by Adrian Grenier as Vince and his company composed of Kevin Connolly as Eric, Kevin Dillon as Johnny, and Jerry Ferrara as Turtle seem pretty comfortable in the skin of their shallow characters as a pack of bratty wolves crying to the moon about their capricious place in Hollywood. But without any character change, without any arc and dependable conflict in its narrative, these guys offer nothing but mindless fun.

Jeremy Piven renders an energetic performance as the devil to be loved Ari Gold. The supporting roles turn out as a mixed bag. Haley Joel Osment is a hit-and-miss as Travis McCredle. Billy Bob Thornton as Larsen McCredle pleasingly owns the screen in almost every appearance. Rex Lee as Lloyd simply provides some comic relief as required by the lame script. A number of woman roles are merely left out as objectified characters.

This movie is packaged more like “a very special episode” of the series, offering too little for anyone who is not a die-hard fan. Its plain, unadulterated fun exploring the ego, money, power, and success involved in the movie business doesn’t cover any new ground. Its concept suggests mocking or even satirizing the industry, but what it turns out to be is practically the very material intended for such mockery. If this picture is geared towards promoting the industry’s superficiality, then it literally turns out to be its very own product.

‘Entourage’ Film Review: The narcissistic, sexist fun in Hollywood
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The Hangover movie review

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Average

“The Hangover” is a guilty pleasure comedy. Who knew a hangover could be this fun?

This guy flick about a bachelor party gone wrong is really nothing special; but the simplest reason for its comedic success is the fact that it achieves a rare balance between character and vulgarity. There is a sort of perverse brilliance, or maybe brilliant perversity, thrown by the characters against the gambling streets of Las Vegas.

Director Todd Phillips (“Starsky and Hutch,” “School for Scoundrels,” and “Old School”) is successful in promoting strong comic performances in the film. This Las Vegas-set movie centering around three groomsmen who lose their about-to-be-wed bud after their drunken misadventures proves that it’s not all about the big Hollywood names just to get the big laughs. While it would be misleading to claim this as a brilliant film, this cleverly vulgar bromantic comedy is an assured escapist offer.

The film’s stumbles and slurs become effective with a fine ensemble cast. Lewd and rude, the gags generally come from a fun script from Jon Lucas and Scott Moore. This aptly titled movie has some spirited moments of devilishly smart absurdity. It turns out to be every bit as crass, offensive, and incorrect as people would expect, but they are victimized by its bizarrely gripping comedy.

Bradley Cooper, Ed Helms, and Zach Galafianakis are a great comedic trio with each one bringing a different element to the movie. Justin Bartha as the groom-to-be Doug Billings blends his matinee idol appeal with the thoughtfully funny twist in the end. The good chemistry extends to the solid performances of the other supporting characters, including the cameos — Heather Graham as the stripper Jade, Ken Jeong as Mr. Chow, Mike Tyson as himself, among others.

What makes this flick work is how the antics seem innocently awkward rather than deliberately awkward. And that’s what makes the movie so funny. Yes, it’s not in any way pleasing the way it handles the female characters. And that’s the not so good thing about it. Yet, the jokes can really victimize the general viewer. Anyway, the audience knows that it has no other major intention but to provide dim-witted comedy with immoral, ruthless characters not to be taken too seriously.

But where exactly did the chicken inside the hotel room really come from? At least, the tiger has a pretty clear role with Mike Tyson…

‘The Hangover’ Film Review: Hanging Over a Guy Flick
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The Bucket List movie review

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Average

A dramedy working on a very simple premise and favoring humor and poignant conversations over weepy developments, “The Bucket List” is a heartfelt, wickedly funny film about two dying men who travel the world to discover the joy in their lives.

Choosing to treat its serious theme on the lighter side may not inspire thorough philosophical introspection about mortality, but it can mildly make you re-examine your life priorities. And the film is undoubtedly elevated by the performances of two acting powerhouses: the angry and antic Jack Nicholson as Edward Cole and the laid back and serene Morgan Freeman as Carter Chambers.

This motion picture fills its bucket with enormous skill and presence through its two leads. It generates both humor and drama about two terminally ill men who heads off outdoors to go for a trip around the world and explore a wish list of to-do’s before they die. They go on a round-the-world junket towards their dream places including the Taj Mahal, the Pyramids of Egypt, the Mount Everest and the Great Wall of China. They indulge and splurge with an Abercrombie and Kent luxury travel with “Hemingway-style” tents complete with lush carpets, flush toilets and lavish beds. They go sky diving in Perris Valley in Los Angeles. And they experience the best cars to ever drive including a 600-horsepower NASCAR-style race car in the California Speedway in Fontana.

Director Rob Reiner is often successful in eliminating the too sweet taste of sentimentality by allowing the two acting heavyweights to coast through their characters without having to do much heavy hitting. Their companionable roles transcend the typical material into a reasonably entertaining venture. Their gracefully charismatic portrayals celebrate an enthralling character study about the universal things that really matter in life. Their poignant exchanges elevate the film to the point that you would probably ignore the contrivances of the film and just go with the flow as the two actors squeeze the right emotions for the film. Indeed, their excellent chemistry, along with the dialogue that is hilarious even while it borders on the heartbreaking, goes a long way towards a decent and reasonable entertainment.

The film is treated very lightly, which is effectively carried out by the inimitable techniques of Nicholson and Freeman. Nicholson’s Edward Cole proudly wears a billionaire hospital owner character who is filled with sarcasm and cynicism. Freeman’s Carter Chambers accentuates his knack for worldly, wise, and good-natured characters offering homespun bits of wisdom at every turn. Sean Hayes as Thomas adds a dose of fun to the interactions of Edward and Carter. From the comedy parts to the strikingly dramatic moments (mainly the scenes of Edward and Carter, Carter and his wife Virginia played by Beverly Todd, and Edward and his estranged daughter and granddaughter), the film becomes meaningful and affecting.

“The Bucket List” flows naturally. It becomes a sort of an escapist movie minus the ultimate happy ending. Amidst the deaths, it does not exude itself as a tragic film. There are the expected mortality issues, and yet, what really fills the story is the human companionship that makes life worth living. Despite some emotional dips and loads of schmaltz especially by its end, this is an enthralling actor’s movie.

‘The Bucket List’ Film Review: Filling the Bucket
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