[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] M [/dropcap] agic Mike is Steven Soderbergh’s latest and I must say it is a much better
effort than Contagion…..more like Erin Brokovitch, but not quite up to Traffic
or Ocean’s Eleven. This is the story of a 30 year old hunk who wants to be
so much more than a male stripper, but is finding it hard to get past his fun-
loving and credit-damaged 20′s to do so. He is fundamentally a good and
caring guy, who needs to find a path that denies his 6-pack (both types)
existence that so many young lovelies of Tampa crave every night.
Mike is Channing Tatum, a current hot film property for his steroidal
good looks. He is a self-proclaimed “entrepreneur….it’s French”. His
Chippendales Club boss is Matthew McConaughey, who is prone to black
leather and strapless S&M tops and who has made himself even more
cut and buff than he is usually. The kid, who Magic Mike mentors into
the world of male stripping is Alex Pettyfer of In Time. He is the 19 year
old kid who has the bod, but lacks the moves and the common sense that
comes with going around the block a few times. The kid’s well-intentioned
and straight-edge (but tattooed and bikini clad) sister is the extra hot Cody
Horn. Mike has his eye on Cody, but can’t help but chase Olivia Munn, the
also hot psychologist with the threesome wish going on.
These characters sound thin and uninteresting, but Soderbergh does a
great job of weaving them into a wonderful and compassionate story. Mike
is going through a transition which is highlighted and instigated by his
mentorship of the Kid and growing respect for Cody. He grows up in front
of our eyes and does the right thing by all involved.
There is a great scene where the club dogs talk about how they plan to not
have their kids go to school (like high school) and just school them in stock
market investing. They figured that would make them real worthwhile and
successful people. While this was said tongue in cheek, I think it’s a great
idea….imagine a world with uneducated investment geeks thinking they run
the place….. Oh yeah, that’s pretty much what we have.
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] 21 [/dropcap] Jump Street is the latest Jonah Hill adventure, which he co-wrote with Michael Bacall, who’s clearly on a hot streak like Hill with credits for Scott Pilgrim and the controversial Project X. It’s the story of a couple of young cops who get sent back to high school undercover to break up a drug ring. Naturally, they reverse roles from what they were like in high school with Hill hanging with the cool in crowd (now more green than Fonzi) and his partner, Channing Tatum hanging with the tech nerds. It’s a fairly classic take-off on the original 21 Jump Street TV show that launched Johnny Depp. Nevertheless, it has lots to work with and Hill and Tatum do not disappoint.
Hill and Tatum get assigned to a covert drug squad headed by……Ice Cube. Brie Larson plays Hills love interest…..to go to the prom he never got to go to in high school. One of the funnier foils is the high school track coach played by Rob Riggle. They even found a spot for James Franco’s younger brother, Dave…..as the leader of the Eco-cool crowd.
The phenomenon of humor in Hollywood is quite fascinating in a sociological sense. Remember when Adam Sandler was funny? Not so much now. Well, the top of the humor food chain right now is the old Judd Apatow crowd of Rogen, Segal, Rudd and Hill. The first three have evolved their comedy and craft nicely, while Hill (with the exception of Moneyball) has dug into his Super Bad sophomoric humor….and 21 Jump Street has its share of that. But it has more, and maybe it’s the Bacall influence, but I suspect it has more to do with Channing Tatum and what his straight hunky charm brings to the equation.
If I treated this like an investment I would make a sizable short-term bet on Hill, but I would layer on some deep ou-of-the-money put protection on the trade since I do not believe his humor has staying power. I make a long-term buy out of the rest of the Apatow gang. I go short Adam Sandler and I am starting to leg out of my Vince Vaughn stock. I’m a long-term holder of Owen Wilson and anything by or with Christopher Guest and his posse.
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] A [/dropcap] Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is the personal memoir of Dito Montiel (writer, director), of his youth in Astoria, Queens. This is A Bronx Tale set in a slightly different time (’80s) in a different borough and yet with Chaz Palminteri playing a pivotal role as the dad rather than the gangster. What Staying Alive was to Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and Gran Torino was to Detroit, A Guide to Recognizing Your Saints is to Astoria (even though Queens Logic sort of did this first). Unlike the era of A Bronx Tale, I was living and working in NYC when this was all going on in Astoria, which makes it both all that more interesting to me and yet somewhat hard to connect with. It is actually a very well acted story with both plenty of heart and plenty of realism.
Dito is a sensitive Italian kid from the neighborhood with the normal array of friends who wind up dead, imprisoned or bound by the drugs they take. He escapes and looks back half with fear and half with thanks to those who stayed in place while (or so that) he moves on. The role is played by Shia LaBeouf and Robert Downey Jr. Chaining Tatum is his tough pal who Dito fears, hates and loves all at once. Tatum is perhaps the most convincing good looking tough with all the attendant bruises and scars that come alternately from the Puerto Rican gang members and his own father. His nobility extends to going to prison for roughing up (killing?) the gang member who harasses Dito while Dito looks on in horror despite being covered in bruises from his last beating at the man’s hands.
The ensemble multi-generational cast also includes Rosario Dawson as the Natalie Wood role of Maria (from the grandaddy gang movie….West Side Story) and Diane Wiest as Dito’s ageless mom.
Urban blight and the humanity of thanking those who help the able to move on (think Ben Affleck and Matt Damon in Good Will Hunting) is always a good story. Authenticity means something and Dito Montiel has given this film that in spades. Anyone who feels Darwinism is most prevalent in hedge fund land had better go to Astoria and see who made it and who did not.
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] T [/dropcap] he Vow is a sweet and touching old fashioned love story. What looks like it might be schmaltzy, is actually very serious and very real….and actually very timely in an interesting “Occupy Wall Street” sort of way.
Channing Tatum and Rachel Mc Adams are lovers who live an alternative, downtown urban Chicago lifestyle. They marry and are on the path to happily ever after in their alternative way,when they get blind-sided by a truck. He is buckled in and she is not and goes through the windshield. When she wakes she has lost her short term memory and cannot remember her husband. In addition, she seems to have forgotten why she is estranged from her 1% family and why she dropped out of law. School to be an artist.
While I hated the personas that her parents Sam Neil and Jessica Lange represented, I had to admit that they portrayed them well and gave the viewer a visceral anti-1% feeling. Listening to McAdams’ IP Law class was actually painful, as was watching her friends and family gathered for her sisters wedding. I like running a hedge fund and teaching hedge funds, but I don’t always like the money culture that goes with it. This film made me ashamed to be part of the upper middle class and should make anyone drop their country club membership. While I wondered during the film how realistic this all felt, when I learned it was a true story, I was immediately impressed by the story. I like real stories and I figure that’s why I liked this so much. Yes, we can pursue our interest (even managing a hedge fund) without being crass and uncaring. Hedge Fund Cares is a real organization….I only wish it was a more pervasive sentiment.
What I think I liked most about this film was Channing Tatum’s acting and his attitude. He was the sort of enlightened and caring man I feel we should all be. The only thing I would have liked more would have been if he had been a hedgie.
[dropcap style="font-size: 60px; color: #9b9b9b;"] H [/dropcap] aywire is a film you may not have heard about, but which has an amazing cast, Steven Soderbergh as its director and lots of action. It is a somewhat classic story of a high-impact spy (private sector variety) who has to fight her own in order to avoid being pinned with wrong-doing or, more likely, terminated altogether. This is SALT without Angelina Jolie, but with a very serious kick-ass star, Gina Carano, who’s claim to fame is that she does all her own Marshall Arts stunts and she is very good at it.
First of all, you have to love a privatized spy world where the senior government bureaucrat (played by Michael Douglas) negotiates contract terms and “hazard fee bumps” with the scrambling private contractor (Ewan McGregor plays the entrepreneur who has all the usual cash flow problems and sexual harassment foibles of any hedge fund manager). Take this as my prediction that we are beginning to long for the laissez faire government days of the Reagan days. After 4 years + of government control of the economy, we ALL. want to see more privatization ….. But expect a tougher negotiation with the government than ever before. If you spy services are tough, you should see the fight brewing over the huge housing sector privatization shift just starting.
But back to the film…who else’s ass does Carano kick? Well, let’s see….Michael Fassbender gets stratled and throttled. Channing Tatum gets a taste of honey and then a taste of blood in his mouth. Antonio Banderas gets his bearded Spanish face punched in mercilessly. Only Bill Paxton escapes her wrath….since he’s her Daddy who lives the solitary Santa Fe life.
There is little complexity in this movie, but the action and fun are well worth the two hours.