MAGIC-MIKEMM.jpg
Warner Bros.
Matthew McConaughey, American Beef Council Spokesman.

The Dinner: Cheesesteak, at Charlie's Buns n' Stuff (locations found on Twitter and Facebook)

The Movie: Magic

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Lean Beef: It's What's for Dinner

MAGIC-MIKEMM.jpg
Warner Bros.
Matthew McConaughey, American Beef Council Spokesman.

The Dinner: Cheesesteak, at Charlie's Buns n' Stuff (locations found on Twitter and Facebook)

The Movie: Magic Mike at Regal Thornton Place (301 NE 103rd St)

The Screenplate: I have to admit that when I first heard Steven Soderbergh was making a foray in to the world of male stripping I assumed it to be the consequence of a lost bet with George Clooney. Of course Soderbergh has made other cinematic ventures into the psychology of sex, most notably with his breakthrough film Sex, Lies and Videotape, and recently the Girlfriend Experience where the director relied on graphic language do the dirty work and your imagination to do the rest. With Magic Mike, however, he takes his cues from Tony Scott and lets the camera devour his film's hunky sides of man meat. The movie takes itself seriously, but is billed as a comedy, and though it is not bursting with laugh-out-loud moments, it succeeds in being entertaining. It's a pleasure as guilty as any sandwich stuffed with oozing cheese, sautéed mushrooms and onions on a white roll can be. And let us not forget the BEEF, as both the film and the Cheesesteak at Charlie's Buns n' Stuff are chock full of it.

Channing Tatum is not at the point in his career where you would believe him playing a doctor, an architect, or anyone vaguely intellectual, but as Magic Mike, the hustler with a heart of gold, Tatum can rely on his own past experience in an all-male revue and his impressive physicality to completely inhabit his character. Soderbergh wants you to root for Mike and like him. Really like him, letting the audience get acquainted with the star's perfect, bare ass within the first two minutes of the movie. But the cinematic meal is not made on Channing alone. Newcomer Alex Pettyfer has got a very appealing "model in an indie band" vibe and worth a heavy mention is the panty-melting presence of True Blood's Wolf Man, Joe Manganiello, as the subtly named stripper Big Dick Ritchie, whose moniker alone should sell you on his allure and make it a good time to mention that Charlie's Buns n' Stuff does a killer hot dog.

Of course, a good cheesesteak is as only as good as the cheese. Here it is heaped on deliciously and unapologetic in the form of Matthew McConaughey. As shady club owner Dallas, McConaughey is a wiz at playing the "whiz," clever enough in his performance to make fun of himself while playing it straight. He secretes slimeball charm through his famous "Wooderson" grin. And as much a vision as Mr. McConaughey is, in all his toned abs and airbrushed spray tan glory, it is a nearly impossible task to get his radio soliloquy on behalf of the American Beef Counsel out of your inner monologue during the movie. "Lean Beef: it's what's for dinner" indeed. If the entrepreneurial character Magic Mike were clever enough to take the dialogue from those ads and run them over the trailer for the film, he would strike internet gold.

Wrapping up this carnivorous romp is Soderbergh himself. He is the fine Brioche roll, classily holding what could be a potentially messy situation together. And as tasty as it is, the film is far from perfect. The movie's female characters are underwhelming/underwritten, and Cody Horn as Tatum's love interest is horribly miscast. There is also no mention of homosexuality (aside from a dance number to 'Its Raining Men'), even though the film will be playing in the background in gay bars for years to come, and in the world of male stripping it seems like either a blatant oversight or straight, idealized fantasy. And speaking of idealized fantasy, the film is rated R, so if you want more than a brief glimpse of the 'stuff' that goes with 'the Buns', you are going to have to wait for the unrated, Blu-Ray edition.

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