Monday 19 February 2018

Movie reviews: Magic Mike XXL, Amy, Magician, Still the Water

Boys are back in town: The cast of Magic Mike XXL
Boys are back in town: The cast of Magic Mike XXL

Paul Whitington reviews this week's other big releases - Magic Mike XXL, Amy, Magician, and Still the Water

If the cyborgs in Terminator Genisys (2*, 16, 130mins) are free of all sexual impulses, watching Magic Mike XXL left me yearning for such a blessed release. This truly bizarre film is a sequel to Steven Soderbergh's Magic Mike, a 2012 drama loosely based on Channing Tatum's experiences as a teenage stripper. Though it was a surprisingly nuanced and intelligent drama, Magic Mike was mistaken for a saucy ladies' night out: there's little chance of Magic Mike XXL being mistaken for anything else.

Gone is Matthew McConaughey, the original film's lynchpin and its only decent actor: so is any semblance of a plot. 'Magic' Mike Lane (Mr Tatum) has given up stripping and started his own removal firm when he gets a call from the old crew asking him to join them on one last road trip. They're headed to a strippers' convention, and along the way Mike, Ken (Matt Bomer), Tarzan (Kevin Nash) and the boys bond, binge and charm various fortunate ladies.

Magic Mike XXL is bereft of structure, inane beyond measure and concludes with a half-hour stripping extravaganza so strange it's almost fascinating. It depicts stripping as a charming, victimless, even altruistic occupation, and for all the endless pelvic thrusting, the routines are childish, harmless, oddly sexless.

It's four years since Amy Winehouse died, and in his cleverly constructed film Amy (4*, 15A, 128mins), Asif Kapadia charts her brief, tragic life. In his brilliant 2010 documentary Senna, Mr. Kapadia established the distinctive style of using interviews sparingly and weaving archive footage into a kind of retrospective thriller. He does the same here, and no one except Winehouse herself emerges from Amy with much credit.

We meet her first in her mid-teens via some endearingly cheesy home videos: her parents had separated when she was nine, and already Amy seems touchingly vulnerable, and precociously self-aware. In love with jazz greats like Sarah Vaughan and Tony Bennett, she began writing songs in her teens and in the mid-2000s exploded into the popular consciousness with her album Back to Black.

Winehouse was a true original, a salty London diva, but in Kapadia's film it becomes clear that she was exploited by many, protected by none. Friends, colleagues and family rush to insist that they are not to blame for her death, but no one really intervened, and Winehouse's ex-husband Blake Fielder-Civil and her father Mitch fare particularly badly in this film. But Amy's talent shines as brightly as ever, and makes you wish there'd been time for more.

Orson Welles had time for plenty, but was dogged by studio battles, lost films and a constant struggle to raise money. There's an irresistible grandeur to the man and his story, which remains entertaining no matter how many times it's retold. Chuck Workman's Magician (3*, No Cert, IFI, 91mins) is a diligent and enjoyable attempt to do justice to Welles' life and achievements: at a brisk 91 minutes, it doesn't have time to delve too deep and will contain few surprises for those familiar with his work. But as a sweeping overview it's pretty hard to beat.

Slow, sage and gorgeously photographed, Naomi Kawase's Still the Water (4*, No Cert, IFI, 121mins) is set on a subtropical Japanese island and explores the mysteries of life and death through the eyes of a 16-year-old girl. Kaito is in the full flush of her sexual awakening when she finds out that her mother is dying. As her father flounders and her grandfather sadly advises, Kaito is drawn to a shy neighbour with problems of his own.

Naomi Kawase's film is suffused with traditional Buddhist values like acceptance, ancestral spirituality and the consolations of nature. And while its endless wisdom seems a little contrived at times, it's absolutely beautiful to look at.

Irish Independent

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