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“MAGIC MIKE XXL” TAKES CENTER STAGE

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Magic Mike” stars Channing Tatum, Matt Bomer, Joe Manganiello, Kevin Nash, Adam Rodriguez and Gabriel Iglesias are reuniting for the hotly anticipated sequel “Magic Mike XXL,” beginning production on September 29th, for director Gregory Jacobs.  The announcement was made today by Greg Silverman, President of Creative Development and Worldwide Production, and Sue Kroll, President of Worldwide Marketing and International Distribution, Warner Bros. Pictures.

Joining the returning cast, in brand new roles, will be Elizabeth Banks (“The Hunger Games” franchise), Donald Glover (“Community”), Amber Heard (“The Rum Diary”), Andie MacDowell (“Footloose”), Jada Pinkett Smith (“Gotham”) and Michael Strahan (“Live with Kelly and Michael”).

“Magic Mike XXL” is set for release on Wednesday, July 1, 2015.

The new film will be directed and produced by Emmy Award winner Gregory Jacobs (“Behind the Candelabra”), who served as a producer on “Magic Mike,” as well as numerous features in a long-running collaboration with Steven Soderbergh.  “Magic Mike XXL” also reunites “Magic Mike” producers Nick Wechsler, Channing Tatum and Reid Carolin, with a screenplay by Carolin.  Steven Soderbergh, who directed the first film, will executive produce.

Picking up the story three years after Mike bowed out of the stripper life at the top of his game, “Magic Mike XXL” finds the remaining Kings of Tampa likewise ready to throw in the towel.  But they want to do it their way: burning down the house in one last blow-out performance in Myrtle Beach, and with legendary headliner Magic Mike sharing the spotlight with them.  On the road to their final show, with whistle stops in Jacksonville and Savannah to renew old acquaintances and make new friends, Mike and the guys learn some new moves and shake off the past in surprising ways.

In making the announcement, Silverman said, “‘Magic Mike’ was a tremendous crowd-pleaser, scoring with critics and audiences across the board.  We look forward to continuing the magic with so many of the talented individuals who made that film such a success—both in front of and behind the camera—and welcome these wonderful additions to the cast.”

Stated Kroll, “‘Magic Mike’ delighted audiences everywhere with a fun and fascinating glimpse into a world few people ever see, becoming both a critical and commercial triumph.  We’re thrilled to bring these memorable characters back to the big screen, along with some exciting new ones, in a story that will take them even further.”

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“Kung Fu Panda 4” — A Letdown for True Fans

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As a longtime fan of the “Kung Fu Panda” franchise, I eagerly anticipated the release of “Kung Fu Panda 4.” Unfortunately, this latest installment feels more like a blatant cash grab than a heartfelt continuation of Po’s journey. Despite its dazzling animation, the film falls short in delivering the magic that made us fall in love with the series in the first place.

A Recycled Plot

The storyline of “Kung Fu Panda 4” lacks originality. Po’s quest to save yet another endangered village from an ancient threat feels redundant and uninspired. Instead of the rich character development and emotional depth we’ve come to expect, we’re left with a series of disjointed action scenes and lackluster jokes. 

Neglecting the Furious Five

One of the most disappointing aspects of the film is its treatment of the beloved Furious Five. These characters, who played crucial roles in Po’s previous adventures, are now relegated to the background with minimal impact on the story. Their interactions with Po, once a highlight of the series, are reduced to mere cameos.

Stunning Yet Hollow Animation

While the animation in “Kung Fu Panda 4” is as visually stunning as ever, it can’t mask the film’s weak script. The vibrant landscapes and expertly choreographed fight scenes are impressive, but they feel empty and superficial without a compelling story. It’s as if the filmmakers hoped that impressive visuals alone could carry the film.

Flat Humor

The humor, which was a cornerstone of the earlier films, falls disappointingly flat in this installment. The jokes rely heavily on slapstick and recycled gags, lacking the wit and charm that made us laugh in previous movies. This reliance on tired humor only reinforces the sense that “Kung Fu Panda 4” is more interested in maintaining a profitable brand than in telling a meaningful story.

Final Verdict

In conclusion, “Kung Fu Panda 4” is a letdown for true franchise fans. It fails to capture the heart, creativity, and narrative depth that made its predecessors special. For those hoping for a return to form, this film may feel like a disappointing attempt to cash in on past successes rather than a genuine effort to continue Po’s journey. Let’s hope DreamWorks learns from this misstep and returns to what made “Kung Fu Panda” great in the first place.

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The Idea Man

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Disney’s latest documentary, “The Idea Man,” offers an enthralling and intimate portrait of Jim Henson, the mastermind behind the Muppets and a pioneer in the world of puppetry and children’s entertainment. This documentary not only honors Henson’s legacy but also delves deeply into the creative processes that made him a visionary in the entertainment industry.

“The Idea Man” begins by chronicling Henson’s early years, showcasing his initial forays into puppetry and television. The documentary paints a vivid picture of a young, ambitious Henson who dared to dream beyond conventional storytelling methods. Through rare footage and personal anecdotes from family, friends, and colleagues, viewers gain a comprehensive understanding of Henson’s innovative spirit.

One of the documentary’s strengths lies in its exploration of Henson’s multifaceted personality. Interviews with those who knew him best reveal a man driven by an insatiable curiosity and a profound desire to connect with audiences of all ages. The film highlights how Henson’s unique ability to infuse his creations with humor, heart, and a touch of whimsy made characters like Kermit the Frog, Miss Piggy, and Big Bird beloved worldwide.

“The Idea Man” delves into the meticulous craftsmanship that went into Henson’s work. The documentary showcases behind-the-scenes footage of Henson at work, providing an insider’s look at the creative process behind iconic projects like “Sesame Street,” “The Muppet Show,” and “Fraggle Rock.” These glimpses into his workshop reveal the painstaking detail and boundless imagination that characterized Henson’s approach to puppetry and storytelling.

The documentary also emphasizes Henson’s contributions to the broader landscape of entertainment and technology. His pioneering work in animatronics and special effects, particularly in films like “The Dark Crystal” and “Labyrinth,” is explored in depth. Interviews with contemporary filmmakers and special effects artists underscore Henson’s lasting impact on the industry, cementing his status as a trailblazer whose influence endures.

“The Idea Man” does not shy away from the emotional aspects of Henson’s life. The documentary addresses the challenges he faced, both professionally and personally, and how he navigated the pressures of creative success. This balanced portrayal adds depth to the narrative, making it not only a celebration of Henson’s achievements but also a poignant reminder of his humanity.

Disney’s “The Idea Man” is a must-watch for fans of Jim Henson and anyone interested in the magic of creative storytelling. The documentary is a heartfelt tribute to a man whose imagination knew no bounds and whose work continues to inspire generations. Through a blend of archival footage, personal interviews, and expert analysis, “The Idea Man” offers a rich and engaging look at the life and legacy of Jim Henson.

For those searching for an insightful and inspiring documentary on one of the entertainment industry’s most influential figures, “The Idea Man” is an essential addition to your watchlist.

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Beach boys documentary

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**Rating: ★★★★☆**

Disney Plus’ new documentary, “The Beach Boys: Endless Harmony,” dives deep into the tumultuous, yet harmonious journey of America’s quintessential surf rock band. Directed with a keen eye for both nostalgia and narrative depth, the film offers an intimate look at the band’s rise to stardom, their internal conflicts, and their enduring legacy.

From the outset, the documentary captures the essence of The Beach Boys’ musical genius, spotlighting Brian Wilson’s unparalleled songwriting and the band’s signature harmonies that defined a generation. Archival footage, including rare studio sessions and candid home videos, paints a vivid picture of their creative process and the carefree California lifestyle that inspired their biggest hits. The inclusion of previously unreleased tracks and demos adds a layer of authenticity, giving fans a rare glimpse into the evolution of some of their most iconic songs.

Interviews with surviving band members Brian Wilson, Mike Love, and Al Jardine, alongside insights from music historians and contemporary artists influenced by The Beach Boys, enrich the narrative. These personal accounts are heartfelt and, at times, poignant, particularly when addressing the darker chapters of the band’s history—Brian Wilson’s struggles with mental health, the impact of drugs, and the tragic loss of Dennis and Carl Wilson.

The documentary’s strength lies in its balanced portrayal. It doesn’t shy away from the band’s internal discord and the challenges they faced, yet it also celebrates their artistic achievements and cultural impact. The visual style is vibrant, with a seamless blend of past and present, creating a tapestry that feels both nostalgic and fresh.

However, “Endless Harmony” occasionally veers into fan-service territory, glossing over certain controversies and perhaps offering a more sanitized version of events. Despite this, the documentary succeeds in providing a comprehensive overview that will satisfy long-time fans while introducing new audiences to the magic of The Beach Boys.

In conclusion, “The Beach Boys: Endless Harmony” is a must-watch for music lovers and history buffs alike. It captures the spirit of an era, the brilliance of a band, and the timeless appeal of their music. Disney Plus has delivered a documentary that is as much a celebration of The Beach Boys’ legacy as it is a testament to the enduring power of their sound and soul.

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