Theatrical Releases This Week
Director: Steven Soderbergh
R; 110 mins
Set in the world of male strippers, Magic Mike is directed by Steven Soderbergh and stars Channing Tatum in a story inspired by his real life. The film follows Mike (Tatum) as he takes a young dancer called The Kid (Pettyfer) under his wing and schools him in the fine arts of partying, picking up women, and making easy money. (Synopsis by Warner Brothers)
If you hadn’t heard, Tatum is reprising the stripping career he had prior to acting. Try not to think about it too much. Soderbergh lends a much-needed stabilizing hand to what could have been direct-to-DVD material. Instead, this ends up being a funny, character-driven story.
Tyler Perry’s Madea’s Witness Protection
Director: Tyler Perry
PG-13; 114 mins
For years, George Needleman (Levy), the gentle CFO of a Wall Street investment bank, has been living with his head in the clouds. But George is finally forced to wake up when he learns that his firm, Lockwise Industries, has been operating a mob-backed Ponzi scheme – and that he’s been set up as the fall guy. Facing criminal charges and death threats from the mob, George and his entire family are put under witness protection in the safest place that Brian (Perry), a federal prosecutor from Atlanta, can think of… His Aunt Madea’s house down South. (Synopsis by Lionsgate)
When I tried to find a clip from “Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit” to make fun of Perry, I made an interesting discovery: that entire film is available to watch for free on YouTube. I feel like that’s the eventual fate of this cross-dressing travesty, something so bad that even the studio execs won’t waste their money getting it pulled down from the Internet.
People Like Us
Director: Alex Kurtzman
PG-13; 115 mins
From DreamWorks Pictures comes People Like Us, a drama/comedy about family, inspired by true events, starring Chris Pine as Sam, a twenty-something, fast-talking salesman, whose latest deal collapses on the day he learns that his father has suddenly died. Against his wishes, Sam is called home, where he must put his father’s estate in order and reconnect with his estranged family. In the course of fulfilling his father’s last wishes, Sam uncovers a startling secret that turns his entire world upside down: He has a 30-year-old sister Frankie whom he never knew about (Elizabeth Banks). As their relationship develops, Sam is forced to rethink everything he thought he knew about his family-and re-examine his own life choices in the process. (Synopsis by Dreamworks)
More of a soap opera than a feature film; the plot is extremely lacking, but still manages to squeeze some emotional impact out of the script. Luckily for Kurtzman, the cast is up to the challenge, and is one of the only bright spots.
Director: Seth MacFarlane
R; 106 mins
Family Guy creator Seth MacFarlane brings his boundary-pushing brand of humor to the big screen for the first time as writer, director and voice star of Ted. In the live action/CG-animated comedy, he tells the story of John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), a grown man who must deal with the cherished teddy bear who came to life as the result of a childhood wish…and has refused to leave his side ever since. (Synopsis by Universal)
Check out my review on The Dagger later this week.
Where Do We Go Now?
Director: Nadine Labaki
PG-13; 100 mins
Set in a remote village where the church and the mosque stand side by side, Where Do We Go Now? follows the antics of the town’s women to keep their blowhard men from starting a religious war. Women heartsick over sons, husbands and fathers lost to previous flare-ups unite to distract
their men with clever ruses, from faking a miracle to hiring a troop of Ukrainian strippers. (Synopsis by Sony Pictures Classic)
What do you get when you mix light humor and religious strife? Apparently, not a good movie. While inventive in approaching the culture of the Middle East from a feminist perspective, the swings between the dramatic and the comedic never quite work. The film attempts to be too light-hearted about the serious issues it presents and, in doing so, makes itself too hard to take seriously.
DVD Releases This Week
21 Jump Street
Director: Phil Lord and Chris Miller
R; 109 min.
In the action-comedy 21 Jump Street, Schmidt (Jonah Hill) and Jenko (Channing Tatum) are more than ready to leave their adolescent problems behind. Joining the police force and the secret Jump Street unit, they use their youthful appearances to go undercover in a local high school. As they trade in their guns and badges for backpacks, Schmidt and Jenko risk their lives to investigate a violent and dangerous drug ring. But they find that high school is nothing like they left it just a few years earlier – and neither expects that they will have to confront the terror and anxiety of being a teenager again and all the issues they thought they had left behind. (Synopsis by Sony Pictures)
Cynically attacking current culture for laughs works at some points in this film—just as often it falls flat. Muddling the line between buddy flick and raunchy comedy causes the same problems. The film is at least fun at times, making it worth a rental.
Wrath of the Titans
Director: Jonathan Liebesman
PG-13; 99 min.
A decade after his heroic defeat of the monstrous Kraken, Perseus—the demigod son of Zeus—is attempting to live a quieter life as a village fisherman and the sole parent to his 10-year old son, Helius. Meanwhile, a struggle for supremacy rages between the gods and the Titans. Dangerously weakened by humanity’s lack of devotion, the gods are losing control of the imprisoned Titans and their ferocious leader, Kronos, father of the long-ruling brothers Zeus, Hades and Poseidon. Perseus cannot ignore his true calling when Hades, along with Zeus’ godly son, Ares (Edgar Ramírez), switch loyalty and make a deal with Kronos to capture Zeus. The Titans’ strength grows stronger as Zeus’ remaining godly powers are siphoned. (Synopsis by Warner Brothers)
A spectacular, Olympian mess. Replacing any semblance of a watchable film with CGI fight mash-ups is no way to make a film, Mr. Liebesman. Its predecessor wasn’t any better, but this sinks to new lows.
Director: Tarsem Singh
PG; 95 min.
One of the most beloved stories of all time is coming to life in the motion picture event for the whole family, Mirror Mirror. A fresh and funny retelling of the Snow White legend, Mirror Mirror features breakout star Lily Collins as Snow White, a princess in exile, and Julia Roberts as the evil Queen who ruthlessly rules her captured kingdom. Seven courageous rebel dwarfs join forces with Snow White as she fights to reclaim her birthright and win her Prince in this magical comedy filled with jealousy, romance, and betrayal that will capture the hearts and imaginations of audiences the world over. The film also stars Armie Hammer as the Prince, and Nathan Lane as the hapless and bungling servant to the Queen. (Synopsis by Relatvity)
Previously reviewed by The Dagger.
Director: Michel Hazanavicius
PG-13; 100 min.
Hollywood 1927. George Valentin (Jean Dujardin) is a silent movie superstar. The advent of the talkies will sound the death knell for his career and see him fall into oblivion. For young extra Peppy Miller (Berenice Bejo), it seems the sky’s the limit – major movie stardom awaits. The Artist tells the story of their interlinked destinies. (Synopsis by Weinstein)
Shooting (mostly) in the style of a silent film was a brave choice and a high bar to set for today’s audiences. While it drags at times because of this detriment, “The Artist” also focuses on technique and the art of film itself. A classic example of storytelling at its finest.