REVIEW: “MAGIC MIKE XXL” (2015) Warner Bros.

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Magic mike
Well it’s been three years since “Magic Mike” (Channing Tatum) retired from his life as a male stripper, now running his own struggling custom furniture business and he decides to reunite with what’s left of his old team with plans of bowing out once and for all after a final performance at a big 4th of July weekend stripper convention in Myrtle Beach, FL.

What happens along the way is what truly makes this a much better film than the first one with one or two exceptions – one of them being no Matthew McConaughey as emcee extraordinaire “Dallas” this time round and as expected Jada Pinkett Smith as “Rome” cannot even come close to filling his shoes. (If you watch Gotham at all, it’s almost the exact same character portrayal here). Two, no Alex Pettyfer and it’s perfectly fine as you don’t miss him in the slightest.
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Magic Mike XXL is in essence, a comedic guys road-trip movie with a lot of dancing, a couple hits of ecstasy & lucky for us, there is at least one stripping scene per stop ensuring us all a good time on the road with these boys. At points its hard to care that they throw caution to the wind and just pause the plot entirely when so much effort was put into making each stop outrageous, hilarious and insanely sexy. If your only reason for coming to watch just to see hot, sculpted men, you will not be disappointed either.
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The film wastes no time reuniting what’s left of Mike’s old male stripper team. Matt Bomer plays “Ken” – the charming pretty boy of the team – who shows off some of his strong Broadway vocal ability here in a version of “Heaven” that slays everyone. Kevin Nash is back as “Tarzan” the big guy who can’t dance but loves to paint. Adam Rodriguez is “Tito” who along with Gabriel Iglesias’s “Tobias” is unsure of his future prospects. The stand out of these guys might just be Joe Manganiello as “Big Dick Richie” who on top of being built like a god, is the most unexpectedly funny member of the team with a convenience store challenge to die laughing for and sure to be new tag-line of the year “How much for the cheetos & water” scene you can’t help but love. Leading the supporting cast is Amber Heard as “Zoe” who at first simply appears to be Mike’s love interest though in the end she is revealed to be much more than that in being a central part of the finale in an very unexpected way. Add in Stephan ‘Twitch’ Boss as “Malik” doing some absolutely amazing dancing routines and Donald Glover “Andre” singing like no other and you just can’t help but smile and enjoy yourself.
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Once the road trip gets going, the film spends most of its time just observing the guys hanging out as they travel from place to place running into obstacles along the way, but always finding time to dance and/or take their clothes off. The guys are all charming and with a somewhat low-stakes plot, XXL’s laid back ideals are perfect for a movie that is really contingent on the audiences likability of the cast and that we are able to engage with their characters. The film provides us endless opportunities to do just that as like them we do and not just as sexually alluring beefcake.
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In the end, this movie is just fun. That is just about it. Well…except I would be totally remiss to not mention one little last tidbit in calling out the spectacular cameo strip off that Michael Strahan gives as “Augustus” – it’s almost beyond words it’s so fun!!
There is no dramatics here or Oscar-worthy performances. But what there is are a lot of smiles, oodles of good fun & laughter, some really great singing and fantastic choreographed dancing. To sum it up there will definitely be a “Tsunami of dollars” made opening weekend from this one!!

Grade: C+
@pegsatthemovies

Screening Monday, June 27th at The Grove/Pacific Theatres courtesy of Warner Bros. Pictures.
Nationwide release – Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

REVIEW ~ “JOHN WICK” (2014) Lionsgate

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john wick

It’s been quite sometime since I sat at a movie and completely & totally rooted for a character so much so as I did John Wick. Even though you know he’s really not a ‘good guy’ per se’ you really truly can’t help doing so in this movie. But before you even head into this movie you know it’s going to be in-your-face non-stop, kick-ass, kill ’em, violent. And it is..I mean the trailer tells you this..what it doesn’t tell you is how much fun it’s all going to be. Not funny ha-ha..but just plain fun – entertaining -go for it – good time action packed movie. Betcha ya didn’t expect all that now did you?!!  Because I didn’t, but I really enjoyed myself at this movie and coming from a someone like me who loves movies, but can be super picky..this film was a nice surprise for me.

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First of all can we talk about Keanu Reeves for just a quick moment.  No one ever said he’s the best actor, but damn this is his movie..no if’s, and’s or but’s..it’s all him and his wooden acting style fits this movie like a glove, as let’s face it,  it’s always best when Keanu doesn’t have a lot of dialogue and the amount here is just perfect for him to carry out and boy does he do it well, in probably his best performance in a decade or so. He performs so well as the cool, calm demeanoured “John Wick” a retired assassin code named “The Bogeyman” and moves with such ease during this super fast-paced, heavy stunt-fest so smoothly, that you will never even realize that hey..Keanu is now FIFTY yrs. old, no way..not a chance.

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So to set it up, in his hey-day the now retired, Wick/Bogeyman was the ‘go to’ guy if you…well..needed someone assassinated. And within minutes of the start of the film, the stage is set for what exactly John Wick can do, when the son “Iosef Tarasov” (Alfie Allen) of Russian mob boss “Viggo Tarasov” (Michael Nyquist), runs into Wick as he’s just randomly pumping gas in his badass Mustang and Iosef likes the Mustang, offers to buy the muscle car, which John politely refuses. Next thing you know, the Russian thugs break into his home to steal the car and take the one thing that he could share his grief with, a dog his wife “Helen” (Bridget Moynahan) gave him before she passed, AND then kick the crapola out of him to boot. Well that’s all it takes to reeaally piss Wick off as we ALL know..you don’t hurt an assassins dog for chrissakes, so off he goes to his basement with a sledge hammer and breaks up the floor and unearths a clearly long forgotten stash of weapons and some odd gold coins. Then things get ugly – for the mob that is.. Word gets back to his former boss, Viggo, from chop shop car owner “Aureilo” (John Leguizamo), who’s recognized his friend Wick’s Mustang.  Viggo informs his son in no uncertain terms that he’s royally screwed up, then sends in in a dozen or so guys to meet the threat head on. But you’re gonna need a lot more than that against John Wick!! And that my friends is when the non-stop action and fun really start.  This is pure high-energy, in your face, revenge flick and ladies and gentlemen, hold onto your hats as you’re in for a rollercoaster of a damn good time. john wick 4

Along with Keanu’s great action spin, there are many fun supporting roles here and one of my favs is the hit-mans hotel of choice, Continental’s manager “Charon” (Lance Reddick) This is a ‘special’ hotel where you can check in only with those ‘special’ gold coins Wick had in that cache he dug up. You’re not supposed to do ‘business’ at this hotel but Viggo entices our one female hit’man’ “Ms. Perkins” (Adrianne Palicki) to do just that and go after Wick for an extra payday. There is also the wonderful Willem Dafoe as “Marcus” a former colleague who is taking names and kicking some ass for a short time here with Wick, the always fun Ian McShane as the Continental owner, “Winston”, Dean Winters as “Avi” the wimpy-ish inept sideman to Viggo who can’t understand a word of Russian and there entails a few funny moments with his lack of ‘understanding’, and Clarke Peters as “Harry” the old-school assassin. All of them add loads of flavour to this movie, but again, make no mistake..this is Keanu’s movie and he kills it..john wick 3

This film rocks and this film rolls..all in the right ways and it’s truly loads of fun!  Of course there are plot holes, like how is Wick even functioning after what he goes through, but it doesn’t matter, because you’re too busy cheering for John Wick!! There were times I wanted to just scream out a big WHOOOO HOOOO! And you will too. I take ’em as I see them and I had a great time watching this movie. Enjoy people..enjoy!!!

Grade:  B-

#peggyatthemovies

Grading Scale:  A = Oscar-worthy;  B = Above average – must see;  C = Average – should see;  D = Don’t waste time or money, VOD or cable at best; F = yeah, don’t see the movie under any circumstances  (+ or – gives it an edge up or down)