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Amy • Magic Mike XXL

Terminator: Genisys

July 9, 2015

Amy (*** ½) R 

Amy, the engrossing and tragic documentary on the short life and times of Grammy winning songstress Amy Winehouse, is many things. Most prominently, it’s an indictment on the perils of celebrity and the effects of instant fame on those who are ill equipped—emotionally or otherwise—to deal with it. It’s also a cautionary tale about the tendency of those on the lower scale of morality—sociopathic is a fitting description, I suppose—who have no problem literally sucking the life out of others, should it be to their benefit. Both of these dynamics are explored during the course of the film’s unveiling and it’s a testament to the filmmakers that they manage to make such a profound statement on the subject of human nature while also covering the troubled life of the film’s subject.

The first half hour of the film is the least compelling portion as it has a feeling of overwhelming familiarity. Seen through the home movies of the late singer, this section is somewhat rudimentary as it deals with Winehouse’s claim to fame.

The late & very great Amy Winehouse

Winehouse comes across in these scenes as having a genuine sense of surprise and appreciation at her good fortune of being allowed to belt out tunes for a living. In these early scenes Winehouse comes across as hungry and excited at her unexpected success. It’s only when she chances to meet her future husband Blake Fielder-Civil that things began to change for the songstress, and not in a good way. The film charts the singer’s downward spiral from this point forward and it’s a devastating and sad trajectory to follow.

The villains in the film are mainly represented by Fielder-Civil and Winehouse’s father, Mitch. Mitch is portrayed with some sympathy, exhibiting some genuine love and affection for Winehouse when she was at her darkest moments, although his motives are sometimes questionable. The film doesn’t shy away from the fact that the two men did act as opportunists at varied points, using Winehouse’s celebrity to their own advantage while failing to acknowledge the singer’s fragile state.

The final section of the film deals with the singer’s ill fated and disastrous comeback attempt in June 2011, a mere handful of weeks before the her death from alcohol poisoning. The film also illuminates Winehouse’s struggles with bulimia, a fact that was kept hidden from the public and most certainly contributed to her death. The sight of the songstress being booed offstage in her final weeks, coupled with remarks via voiceover, echo the obvious conclusion that Winehouse had apparently given up and it’s indeed hard to take. It’s one of the most powerful scenes I can recall sitting through in quite awhile. Amy may not be the feel-good film audiences seek in summer but it’s certainly one not to be missed.

Amy is playing at the Regal Cinema Park Terrace 6 in Charlotte and Aperture Cinema in Winston-Salem.

Magic Mike XXL (**) R

Some of the less forgiving critics who were unimpressed with the original Magic Mike, released some three years ago, will have many of the same complaints to level at the second installment in the adventures of male stripper, Mike Lane a/k/a Magic Mike (Channing Tatum). The rap against the original Mike was that its story was flimsy and had little dramatic heft. For those who echoed those sentiments there’s even more reason to complain about this second helping of Mike. The film is basically plot free and what little story there is—and there isn’t much to be sure—serves only as a springboard for dance sequences that allow Mike and company to remove shirts and get down and dirty while the female members of the audience will squeal and smile with delight.

I suppose that some local moviegoers will appreciate a major Hollywood film in which  Myrtle Beach, SC, plays such a major point in what little story exists. Here the characters are having a class reunion of sorts by hightailing it to a male stripper convention in Myrtle Beach for a weekend of debauchery.

What it basically amounts to is a standard road movie, with the characters traveling by RV and finding misadventure every step of the way.

Manganiello & Tatum in Mike XXL

Several implausible plot complications force Mike and company, said company, of course, being represented by pals Tarzan (Kevin Nash), Ken (Matt Bomer) and Richie (Joe Manganiello), to make a few stops here and there in order to give the film enough plot gumption to get it to the finish line.

Matthew MacConaughey’s Dallas from the first film is noticeably MIA. I guess he read the script and realized what audience members have to pay to find out. Suffice it say if you’re looking to discover what makes these characters tick you’ll be mightily disappointed.

As I said, the guys have a series of misadventures along the way and tangle with assorted characters. Jada Pinkett-Smith turns up as probably the most notable addition to the film. Here she’s the owner of a supposed strip club in Savannah, which actually looks more like a brothel, if you ask me. Mike previously had a relationship with her character and is now attempting to secure her services as an MC when their DJ is injured after plowing his van into a tree. Pinkett-Smith overacts accordingly but perhaps that’s in service to her character.

The film’s climax—no pun intended—takes place on the Fourth of July weekend as the boys strut their stuff onstage at the convention to the delight of the female patrons crowded into the joint.

There are no real revelations or insights and the film just kind of stops as opposed to providing any sort of semblance of a real ending.

I suppose that you’ll know if you’re the kind of audience member who will appreciate what the film has to offer. I, unfortunately, was not among them and I can guarantee you that I won’t be crossing my fingers in anticipation of a third helping of Mike.

Terminator: Genisys
(** 1/2) PG-13

The problems with the latest (the fifth and counting) installment of the Terminator franchise begin right off the bat. After the filmmakers virtually reconstruct the entire opening of the original 1984 film, the film’s action then shifts to a reconstruction of the opening scenes of the 1991 sequel to the original film. This is a head scratcher since the character of John Connor wasn’t around in the original film, having not been born, and yet here’s the Terminator from the latter film, whose mission it was to find and kill John Connor, wreaking havoc. Of course this is after it becomes readily apparent that the whole opening act of the latest Terminator film is just an excuse for the filmmakers to use their digital crayons in order that the 67 year old Arnold Schwarzenegger can do battle with a version of himself that’s thirty years younger. It feels calculated and, worse, makes no sense when you stop to think about it.

The reason I mention this is because I suspect that the only way anyone is going to enjoy this fifth journey down the Terminator well is if they forget about the other films in the series and throw logic completely out the window.

Arnold redux! Terminator: Genisys

The filmmakers certainly seem to have done so. And to think that this all sprang from a low budget sci-fi film made some thirty plus years ago. It’s safe to say no one could have seen that one coming way back then and it’s still pretty mind blowing when you really stop to think about it.

The plot of the latest Terminator—supposedly the first in a new trilogy of films—has Kyle Reese (Jai Courtney), the friendly Terminator (Schwarzenegger) and Sarah Connor (Emilia Clarke) attempting to destroy the satellite, Skynet, before it goes online and the world is put out to pasture. Of course there are some varied plot complications thrown in for good measure, some of which involve Sarah’s son, John Connor (Jason Clarke), to keep things moving but it’s really too convoluted to try and break it all down here.

Another problem that seems to have befallen the Terminator franchise is the decision to go the PG-13 route, which allows for a wider audience. Trouble is that the violence that was such a hallmark of the earlier and better films is now gone, leaving those of us who know better with a dissatisfied feeling. Of course it doesn’t help when the filmmakers also insist on referring to the Terminator as ‘Pops.’ It doesn’t get any more non-threatening than that folks.

Still there are worse times to be had at the movies than by spending two hours in the Terminator universe. My advice would be to sit back, forget what you know, and go along for the ride.

Magic Mike XXL and Terminator: Genisys are playing everywhere.

Questions or comments? Write Adam at



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