When does a film about male strippers transcend its logline and become a compelling character study that everyone can enjoy regardless of their interest in dudes' waxed chests? When it's directed by Steven Soderbergh! I know it seems crazy, but I swear it's true. Channing Tatum, who plays the titular Mike (who actually is pretty magical), reportedly helped to inspire the script by mining his own earliest show business experiences as a young peeler: In the film, his Mike plays accidental mentor to Adam (Alex Pettyfer), ushering him into the world of professional male disrobing. At first, things are as much fun for the awestruck Adam (fat stacks of cash; no-strings-attached blowjays) as they are for the audience. However, it seems that sex work sometimes has a downside, which Adam has to discover on his own.
Tatum is not really my jam, but he's more likable here than ever before. Pettyfer does a pretty good job of hiding his British accent to play a washed-out college football star. Matthew Bomer, Adam Rodriguez, and Joe Manganiello give more depth to their secondary exotic dancer characters. (Wrestler Kevin Nash plays a stripper — not a dancer, so much — whom you could lift right out of the film without anyone's noticing.) But the true star of Magic Mike isn't Mike at all but Matthew McConaughey. As Dallas, the owner of strip revue Xquisite, McConaughey gets to nurture young talent, dangle elusive business opportunities, rock leather pants, and so much more. If there were any justice in the world, this performance would land McConaughey his first Oscar nomination. That is not a joke.
New and Notable
Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter
Steven Spielberg's forthcoming Lincoln may be an award-baiting biopic of the beloved president, and it will probably be fine, but from what I understand, if Spielberg's Lincoln kills any vampires, he does it offscreen. Not so in this Benjamin Walker joint!
Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Steve Carell and Keira Knightley play disaster buddies in this comedy set in the last days before the apocalypse.
The Invisible War
Kirby Dick (Outrage, This Film Is Not Yet Rated) directed this documentary about rape in the military.
The Russian Winter
Former Fugee John Forté follows the commutation of his prison sentence with a concert tour of Russia in this documentary.
The Green Wave
This genre-mixing film examines the presidential campaign of Iran's Mir-Hossein Mousavi, and the aftermath of the 2009 election.
Finally, a Hoosiers about lacrosse!
Straight-to-home-video all-stars Kevin Sorbo and Teri Polo headline this wholesome Christmas story about a wish-granting angel.
Beyond the Myth
This documentary posits that pit bulls are being unfairly profiled and the objects of breed discrimination.
Secret of the Wings
Lucy Hale and Mae Whitman provide the voice talent in this CGI-animated Peter Pan brand extension about Tinkerbell (who now speaks) and her long-lost sister.
We've recently seen horror films about people getting trapped in elevators, ATM vestibules, and parking garages. Now: a sauna!
Tyler Perry's Tyler Perry Corner, Presented by Tyler Perry
Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection
A nebbishy accidental money-launderer (Eugene Levy) enters Witness Protection to hide himself and his family from mobsters. Madea! Say "heller" to the Needlemans!
Tyler Perry's I Don't Want to Do Wrong, the Play
This concert film of sorts was taped from a stage production of Perry's I Don't Want to Do Wrong. I can't really tell from the clip (there doesn't appear to be a trailer on YouTube) what the story is about, but! It features "powerful and all-new original songs by Tyler Perry." IS THERE LITERALLY ANYTHING HE CAN'T DO?!??!?!?!!!!!!!!!?
"In Theaters" VOD Picks
Fat Kid Rules the World
It's kind of a bummer to think that between this and Terri, Jacob Wysocki is getting typecast as a suicidal teen, but here we are. Maybe see Pitch Perfect again instead? His role was pretty small, but at least he seemed like he was having some fun.
This Euro crime drama is a remake of the Danish Pusher trilogy, which was originally directed by Drive's Nicholas Winding Refn; here he just produces, but still.
While cleaning out their Jewish grandmother's apartment after her death, her descendants discover troubling evidence of her involvement with Nazis in Third Reich Germany.
The Black Tulip
An Afghan family open a café/poetry performance space, which soon becomes a target for the Taliban.
Early VOD Premieres of the Week
Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim of Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! star in this indie film whose title should warn you that it's probably not going to be very funny.
Universal Soldier: Day of Reckoning
I guess we can credit/blame the success of the Expendables franchise for convincing someone that the Jean-Claude Van Damme/Dolph Lundgren vehicle was suitable for a many-years-later sequel.
When a simple villager routs a professional assassin, questions arise about who said villager might really be. Noir + martial arts = fun!
Venus & Vegas
Here are the words or phrases in the Venus & Vegas blurb that should alert you to the possibility that it might not be good: "three Vegas buddies"; "the score of a lifetime"; "from the director of 3,000 Miles to Graceland."