I haven’t seen the sequel, Magic Mike XXL; this is about the original. Magic Mike and Haywire were among the last films directed by Steven Soderbergh, who’s better known for big movies like Traffic and Outbreak, and going farther back, the groundbreaking independent movie, Sex, Lies, and Videotape.
Magic Mike is probably best considered as a musical. Channing Tatum is a good dancer and a lot of fun to watch. The nominal plot revolves around a male strip club frequented by middle-aged women and bachelorette parties. Matthew McConaughey runs the place, and he and the Tatum character pick up a new guy and break him in. It’s about loyalty and betrayal, second families, mentors, and growing up. It has a similar feel to movies like, say, Burlesque and Rock of Ages (possibly also Showgirls, and for all I know, Drumline), which is to say that the story and dialogue feel stilted by ordinary standards, and there’s an obvious point, a lesson, about human interactions, but one that I thought didn’t ring true.
Disappointed with Magic Mike, I didn’t expect much when a while later I rented Haywire. Haywire is one in the large and growing genre of movies about kick-ass female assassins. (The star of this one is literally a professional kickboxer, rather than an actor.) It’s well within the current range of action pictures like The Bourne Legacy, for the most part, and it’s notable for giving Ewan MacGregor the least rewarding role I’ve ever seen him play. Round about the middle, however, it really picks up. Michael Fassbender steps onscreen, and Haywire turns into a 1960s-style mod mystery set in Dublin. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a movie set in Ireland before except for Michael Collins, and certainly not in present-day Dublin. Besides this, it’s thoroughly enjoyable. The plot twists even make sense by the end. Lots of fun.
Kiss Me Deadly: Probably I should have seen this a long time ago. It’s noir, a 1955 adaptation of one of Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer novels, directed by Robert Aldrich. Cloris Leachman has an important role in it (part of which I missed, because I missed part of the film). Turner Classic Movies will probably put it on again, on-demand or on their app. It’s a keen study—to be pretentious about it—of postwar Western fears of change. Everyone should have seen it at least once.
I had read about the movie version of Under the Skin, because when it came out in theaters, everyone was writing about it. I knew it was based on a novel by Michel Faber. From reading short stories collected in his The Fahrenheit Twins, and from other sources, I knew he wrote religious-tinged weird stories, often with science fiction elements, and often with themes of existential homelessness and belonging. The movie is not quite what I’d expected from the reviews I’d read around. I remember one that said, at one point, the reviewer finally figured out what was going on. That makes me want to go back to college and study film, so I can figure that out too. I have to guess the gained a lot of its popularity from the nudity, of which there’s a lot (it fits in context, it’s not gratuitous or anything). The theme, clearly, is something about our underlying humanity, but what the Johanssen character learns about her own humanity is not exactly clearly spelled out.
As Haywire nicely shows off its Irish setting, so Under the Skin shows off Scotland. (My husband and I decided the ultimate moral of the story was, “If you go to Scotland, bring a coat.”) So that’s why it’s included in this post.