THE exploitive display of flesh in MAGIC MIKE is bound to upset everyone who is offended by the way it dehumanises the performers and turns them into mere sex objects for the titillation of tipsy spectators baying and paying for more or, in the case of clothing, less.
For a change, the strippers here are men being ogled by women. Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), the owner of Club Xquisite, makes it clear his patrons are not out on a touchy-feely girls' night and, even though there are simulated sex acts and lap dances, he assures them that his crew will not rub them up the wrong way. In brief, instead of tassled pasties and G-strings, there are six-packs and defined pecs.
The focus is on Mike (Channing Tatum, himself a former ecdysiast), whose day jobs include construction and carpentry, the latter being regarded as a possible escape from the bump and grind that pays well but has a limited future.
Mike gets landed with Adam (Alex Pettyfer), an aimless youngster living with Brooke (Cody Horn), his sister. Initially mutually antagonistic, a friendship develops after Adam shows a natural talent for exotic dancing and Mike takes a romantic interest in Brooke. Mike's dream of independence from the demanding Dallas meets reality when a bank refuses to finance his business plan; the setback is not necessarily a reflection of banks being reluctant to support entrepreneurs, it is more a question offering hundreds of crumpled and probably scented bills as collateral.
Magic Mike is directed by Steven Soderbergh, who has proved his versatility by moving from Sex, Lies and Videotape to a monumental biography of Che Guevara, the smug Oceans Eleven trilogy, and the earnest Contagion. Here, he lets his hair down to have fun with a patently commercial project and succeeds in making an audience share his enjoyment while managing to entertain in a manner that is wholesome despite its sleazy setting.
Toned bodies, energetic gyrations and suggestive movements may not be to everyone's taste but there is clearly more to this raunchy movie than merely satisfying thrill-seekers, regardless of gender and orientation.
DANIEL Radcliffe may be too young for the character he plays in WOMAN IN BLACK, an old-fashioned ghost story, but he sheds his magic cloak to good effect in the creepy atmosphere that is central to this supernatural tale.
Radcliffe is Arthur, whose wife's death has unsettled him to the extent that his employers, a firm of solicitors, are willing to give him only one more chance to retain his position. The task entails travelling to the country to sort out the affairs of a client who left them in disorder. Arthur plans to combine business with pleasure by having his young son and his nurse join him after he finishes his labours.
Most of the inhabitants of the village close to the late woman's mansion are distinctly unfriendly but Arthur is helped by Daily (Ciaran Hinds), a local man of means who owns a Rolls-Royce - a Silver Ghost, what else? - who is rather more welcoming yet still as unforthcoming as the townsfolk, all of whom seem to dread Arthur's presence, especially after it becomes known that he has seen a ghost.
Thinking himself more worldly than the superstitious villagers, Arthur spends a night or two in a house that is patently haunted, his devotion to his assignment being interrupted solely by Daily, whose wife shows disturbing signs of mental illness. The cause of all the strange behaviour emerges at a measured pace and reaches an unexpected climax in a fitting end to a horror picture made under the banner of the revitalis ed Hammer Studios, renowned for gruesome Gothic tales of vampirism, human regeneration and haunting by vengeful spirits.
ACT OF VALOR is a recruitment film for the US Navy Seals (sea, air and land specialists), an elite unit usually charged with the most dangerous missions. The cast consists mainly of that force's members so they should be considered performing seals rather than actors.
The result is a passable, unremarkable action movie that demonstrates the daring involved in the rescue of a Central Intelligence Agency agent captured by terrorists. But the camaraderie, triumphs and losses of these specialists amount to little more than flag-waving.