Nobody could accuse Steven Soderbergh of falling into a rut. The man knows how to keep things fresh. While he certainly has a distinctive style (evidenced most clearly in his ensemble thrillers like Traffic and Contagion), he's not afraid to throw us a curveball every now and then.
His latest departure, of course, is this week's release Magic Mike, starring Channing Tatum (21 Jump Street, former male stripper) in the title role. The fun flick follows male stripper Mike's ups and downs as he hustles at odd jobs during the day, and lights up the stage by night. Along the way, he introduces 'The Kid' (Alex Pettyfer) to the stripping biz, and crazy shenanigans ensue.
Matthew McConaughey is perfect as the strip club's bongo-playing, leather-clad Texan owner. He even busts out his signature phrase, "All right, all right, all right, all right," reminiscent of his iconic Dazed and Confused character David Wooderson. The hunkfest is rounded out by super stud Joe Manganiello (True Blood), Matt Bomer (White Collar), Adam Rodriguez (CSI: Miami) and Kevin Nash (The Punisher).
While a good chunk of the movie features gratuitous man candy scenes (I can't think of a flick that offers more chiseled abs and rock-hard asses), it does try to explore a storyline beyond the club, too. As The Kid gets wrapped up in his glamorous (and risky) new lifestyle, we see Mike trying to pull away. He's getting a little old to be a stripper, even if he does still have some insane dance moves.
As Mike tries to 'find himself,' he becomes increasingly drawn to The Kid's straight-and-narrow sister (Cody Horn, Occupant). That doesn't stop him from fooling around with the mysterious bisexual psych student played by Olivia Munn, though. (And yes, Munn does have a topless scene.)
Magic Mike certainly isn't Soderbergh's most thought-provoking work, but I can't think of a better summer girls' night out movie. Thank you, Mr. Soderbergh! In honor of Soderbergh eschewing the norm, here's a list of the five biggest surprises he's delivered over the years.
1. Giving the world the best bachelorette party movie it's ever seen with Magic Mike. Who knew such a gift would be bestowed upon us by a straight male director who's best known for tackling serious issues like drug trafficking (Traffic), disease outbreaks (Contagion) and revolutionaries (Ché)?
2. Turning porn star Sasha Grey into a mainstream ... um ... personality with The Girlfriend Experience. (The jury's still out on whether this was a good thing or not.)
3. Plucking MMA fighter Gina Carano from relative obscurity and crafting the movie Haywire around her amazing ass-kicking abilities. Soderbergh didn't love Carano's girly-girl voice, but that didn't stop him from using her. He simply dubbed a raspier, throaty, badass voice in instead. And it didn't turn out all weird!
4. Assembling the most handsome heist crew in history for Ocean's Eleven, Twelve and Thirteen. What was most surprising about this move was that he was actually able to pin down so many of the world's most in-demand actors, including Brad Pitt, George Clooney and Matt Damon, at the same time. For three movies! It's a truly remarkable scheduling feat.
5. Developing the crazy true story about government informant Mark Whitacre into a laugh-out-loud comedy (The Informant!), all while delivering tons of fun facts about high fructose corn syrup.