The screen critic: Your pick of sexy strippers or romantic dramas

Feb 10, 2023
Salma Hayek and Channing Tatum in 'Magic Mike's Last Dance' (Warner Bros); Jim Parsons in 'Spoiler Alert' (Focus Features); Pamela Anderson in 'Pamela: A Love Story'(Netflix). Source: Supplied

There are plenty of finely sculpted, gyrating male torsos in Magic Mike’s Last Dance but even devout fans of Channing Tatum who have been eagerly awaiting the closing chapter of the Magic Mike stripper saga might find the event less of a sexy romp and more of a lethargic limp.

In what is hopefully the last of these films – they really should have stopped after the first one – Mike Lane (Tatum) is tempted away from his failing fortunes in Florida by businesswoman Maxandra Mendoza (Salma Hayek), who takes him to London.

As an act of revenge on her cheating husband, she wants Mike to stage a one-night-only strip show extravaganza in a posh theatre, the rehearsals for which mean shutting down a successful stage show for a month.

None of this makes any sense, but even if you forgive the weak story there’s not much to get worked up over.

Aside from one nifty sequence on a bus, the dance numbers consist of lots of groin grinding and simulated sex, with Tatum’s opening-reel performance as he serenades Hayek setting the tone for what is an underwhelming and unnecessary outing. Save your dollars and wait for it to hit the stream.

Those in the mood for a good old-fashioned weepie will be well served by Spoiler Alert, a touching, fact-based romantic drama about Michael Ausiello (Jim Parsons from The Big Bang Theory), a New York journalist whose life is turned inside out when his husband Kit Cowan (Ben Aldridge) is diagnosed with terminal cancer.

Sporting two strong lead performances, with veteran Sally Field adding to the mix with a sweet portrayal as Kit’s mother, the film pushes all the right buttons without becoming overly sentimental or mawkish as the illness slowly takes over the relationship.

Based on the book by Michael Ausiello, the film deftly taps into the sturdy movie convention established by 1970’s Love Story in which the intensity of a loving relationship is redoubled by the onset of tragedy. Not many will manage to get through this film without getting misty-eyed.

For romance on a slightly larger scale, James Cameron’s epic Titanic is being re-released to commemorate the film’s 25th anniversary (Can you believe it’s been that long?).

Reminted in 4K and 3D, here’s an opportunity to rewatch Leonardo Di Caprio and Kate Winslet in the beloved film we’ve all seen dozens of times on TV and DVD, only in its giant, widescreen glory.

And we can solve the mystery of the question the world has been obsessed with for a quarter of a century: “Why doesn’t Jack climb out of the freezing North Atlantic water and get on that large floating door with Rose?”

The answer is actually right there in the film – he tries getting on but the door won’t support two people – as is the sobering story point that the only reason the ship hits the iceberg is because the two lookouts were distracted by watching Jack and Rose frolic about.

So the whole thing is all their fault!

Directed by Cameron as a grand melodrama in the “Old Hollywood tradition”, Titanic captured the world’s heart and made it one of the biggest box-office hits of all time.

It was also a landmark in visual effects: the bow-to-stern shot over the ship was a pioneering example of how something physically impossible could be made to look so realistic.

In the excellent Netflix feature documentary Pamela – A Love Story we witness Baywatch star, Pamela Anderson, bravely correct the record of her chequered life story.

Sans make-up, Anderson fronts up to the camera at her secluded seaside home in Canada to answer all the hard questions and face many uncomfortable truths about her wild journey in which fame and success were hobbled by mismanagement and a monstrous dose of infamy.

Far from the bimbo she was often portrayed as being by sensationalist tabloid media, we learn of her troubled early life, her seduction into stardom by Playboy, her rise to global fame via Baywatch and her eventful marriage to Mötley Crüe drummer Tommy Lee.

Central to her story, unfortunately, and unavoidably, is the sex tape that was stolen from their house during renovation work and released online in the mid-1990s, making Anderson and Lee the internet’s first victims of a viral video.

The full measure is given to the huge damage it inflicted on her burgeoning career, something that clearly still stings her. That she never made a cent from the film and even turned down $5 million from Penthouse for the rights, is a point Anderson makes adamantly.

Balancing the ledger, the film highlights her philanthropy, support for Julian Assange and championing of animal rights, although her anti-pornography campaigns are strangely missing.

Refusing to play the victim, Anderson acquits herself admirably, surrendering her huge personal archive of letters and videos to the filmmakers and inviting us to be part of her Broadway adventure.

By the end, it’s difficult not to feel at least a smidgeon of respect for her, something she clearly hasn’t enjoyed until recently.

For more visit with updates on Twitter at @jimschembri    

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