It's a freakishly good weekend for new movies, with three great ones and two good ones. But if you've got kids, you'll be with them at "Brave" again.
The movie getting all the attention is "Magic Mike," director Steven Soderbergh's sultry and stylish melodrama set in the world of male strippers -- a world in which the movie's star, Channing Tatum, worked in his pre-stardom days. Tatum plays the title character, a successful stripper in Tampa who dreams of bigger success with his own custom-furniture business. But he must deal with an egotistical boss (Matthew McConaughey) and an up-and-comer nicknamed The Kid (Alex Pettyfer). The script falls into a few "A Star Is Born"/"All About Eve" cliches, but the sexual atmosphere created by Soderbergh and his cast are worth it. (Over at Slate.com, John Swansburg explains why straight dudes will like the movie, too.)
Another kind of adult entertainment is "Ted," a foul-mouthed but funny comedy that marks the feature directing debut of "Family Guy" creator Seth McFarlane. Mark Wahlberg stars as John, a Boston slacker whose best friend is his teddy bear -- whom he wished to life 27 years ago, and hasn't been without since. Ted (a computer-animated plush voiced by McFarlane) and John spend their days getting stoned and avoiding work, which leads to John's girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis) to ask for John to shape up and find some direction in his life. McFarlane's jokes will offend many, but the humor will delight any fan of McFarlane's skewed comic sensibilities.
"Your Sister's Sister" is Lynn Shelton's follow-up to her wonderfully scruffy D.I.Y. comedy "Humpday," and it's a more mature, thoughtful work. Mark Duplass stars as Jack, a Seattle slacker mourning the death of his brother. He tries to get away from it all, at the urging of his best friend Iris (Emily Blunt), who once dated Jack's brother. But when Jack tries to be alone at Iris's family cabin, he instead finds Iris's lesbian sister Hannah (Rosemarie DeWitt) -- and, over tequila shots, something happens. Shelton and her cast (who workshopped the semi-improvised script together) create warm, authentic characters with genunine and deep emotions.
Another fractured family situation is explored in "People Like Us," a dysfunctional-family melodrama enlivened by the performances. Chris Pine stars as a fast-talking salesman who learns his father has died -- and has left $150,000 to the nephew (Michael Hall D'Addario) and half-sister (Elizabeth Banks) he never knew existed. Director Alex Kurtzman, along with writing partner Roberto Orci (they've collaborated on "Transformers" movies and Pine's "Star Trek" reboot) and co-writer Jody Lambert, run these characters through the emotional wringer. But the cast, particularly Banks as the feisty single mom and Michelle Pfeiffer as Pine's mother, are solid.
The last good movie this week is "Lola Versus," a single-in-New York comedy that's raised a few steps by the inclusion of Greta Gerwig. She plays Lola, reintroduced to the dating scene after her fiance (Joel Kinnaman) dumps her just before the wedding. Director Daryl Wein and his co-writer/wife Zoe Lister Jones (who plays Lola's sarcastic best friend) find a few romantic truisms among the standard comic paces.
Lastly, Tyler Perry is back with "Madea's Witness Protection," which has Perry's loud-talking drag character playing host to an investment banker (Eugene Levy) who's going to testify against the Mob. It was not screened for critics.
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