This past week, I saw two movies. One was a very thoughtful film by a director I adore, starring actors I like, and that attempted through some pretty impressive setpieces to convey how powerful a force love can be. And then it went and got upstaged by a flick about male strippers.

The first was Interstellar, a 2014 Christopher Nolan movie. Long-time readers know that I respect Nolan almost more than any other director currently working, so much so that's he's scored one of my rare Lifetime Passes. I still have a bottomless well of goodwill towards him, but I have to admit that this is the first time I can't really recommend one of his films. Interstellar takes place in a future where drought and blight have wiped out most of Earth's crops, and humanity is rapidly dying out. Scientists are working hard on finding a new world to colonize, and are on the verge of a breakthrough. They need the piloting expertise of Cooper (Matthew McConaughey) to do a deep dive into space, assisting a small team (led by Anne Hathaway) to nail down the location of humanity's next home.

Many of the scenes that take place in outer space are flawless. The action is exciting, but serves the story instead of the other way around. The plotlines having do with black holes, relativity, and wormholes are all fascinating, and fairly realistic to boot. But they keep getting broken up by scenes of what's going on back on Earth, all of which are pretty terrible. It's frustrating in a movie that works so hard to make interactions with a black hole as close to plausible as possible also having such head-scratching dialogue that doesn't even attempt to explain why someone won't move his family away from a dangerous locale.

In addition to that, there are some unfortunate comparisons to be drawn to Sunshine, in that this falls apart in almost exactly the same way, though unlike that movie, Interstellar is able to get back onto the rails. It's an ambitious movie, but unlike Nolan's other work, this one's ambition can't make up for its faults. It was worth the watch, but graded on a curve against other movies like it, it pales in comparison.

Which is also why Magic Mike XXL was such a pleasant surprise. I mean, I liked the first one, but when it came to the sequel, I was expecting a fun little nothing of a movie that was all about bumping and grinding. Instead, it has the nerve to actually have a pretty damned decent story. Make no mistake, this movie has absolutely no stakes. There is no big obstacle to overcome. No big contest to win. No grand personal conflict that must be settled. It's about an ex-stripper (Channing Tatum) who misses his buddies and accompanies them on one last hurrah to perform at a big convention. That's it. And yet... I found myself invested, and not just in the parts where oily muscles are thrusting at the screen. (Although, let's be honest: That stuff is pretty great, too. I never knew my life needed Michael Strahan performing as a stripper until it happened.)

As Mike and his cohorts make their way to the convention, they encounter a bunch of wildly varying scenarios, from a beach party to a African-American...stripping brothel country club? I don't know, but it was cool, and Jada Pinkett Smith continues to burnish her ever-improving image in my mind in her role as its proprietor. From there, it's off to a wine-soaked gathering with a gaggle of rich white women, headed by Andie MacDowell, who also manages to knock it out of the park. I know! I'm surprised too! I wasn't happy to see Amber Heard cast as her daughter, but it's a fair trade-off for not having to put up with Cody Horn or Alex Pettyfer.

I don't want to oversell the movie, but it's just so damn refreshing to have such a bro-tastic enterprise that is simultaneously free of misogyny and homophobia. The over-arching message of the movie seems to be that if you spend your time doing what makes you happy, while treating others with courtesy and respect, everything will work out for the best. Oh, and hot dudes are hot. Now there's a moral I can get behind.

Interstellar: B-
Magic Mike XXL: B+


Post a Comment

Copyright © Slice of Lime