3 stars = Good
Part "Working Girl," part "42nd Street," director Steven Soderbergh's "Magic Mike" is a wonderfully low-fat treat.
Based on star Channing Tatum's real-life experiences as an exotic dancer, his eponymous character is working his way toward making enough money to start a handmade furniture business, one lap dance at a time.
Mike is the main attraction at Tampa's Club Xquisite, where the owner, Dallas -- played with smarmy, good ol' boy glee by Matthew McConaughey -- has plans of his own. Dallas wants to move the club, and his "Kings of Tampa" with it to Miami, but Mike is skeptical.
Enter attractive but immature punk Adam (Alex Pettyfer), who's a natural on stage. Mike takes Adam under his wing and introduces him to the brotherhood of the thong.
Despite some heavy undertones involving drug use and Mike's growing sense of unease, the cast of the six impossibly buff and polished Xquisite troupe had a good time on stage. Which means the audience does as well.
"Magic Mike" unabashedly earns its R rating, ramping up the nudity and raunchiness while somehow making in-your-face crotch-grabbing seem more fun than sexually threatening.
Extras include deleted dance scenes, backstage featurette and the moves of Magic Mike.
3 stars = Good
"Seeking a Friend for the End of the World," by first-time director Lorene Scafaria, is sad, smart, sweet, bittersweet, romantic, fatalistic and funny all at the same time or in waves.
Steve Carell and Keira Knightley appear in this apocalyptic dramedy set as a 70-mile-wide asteroid speeds toward Earth. Mr. Carell is Dodge, a cautious insurance salesman whose wife bolts, leaving him to face dying alone. Until, that is, he meets neighbor Penny (Ms. Knightley), who just broke up with her boyfriend and realizes she will never see her family in England again.
Dodge and Penny try to track down old friends and make peace with the past. They encounter people who have given in to despair, turned to religion or riots, prepared for this event or simply partied like it's the last supper.
Ms. Scafaria knows how to write conversation, not just lines sandwiched between action pieces or road-trip stops. And "Seeking a Friend" raises the sort of questions you could ask at a last supper or your next one.
"Seeking a Friend" has an excellent and eclectic soundtrack based partly on Penny's love of vinyl records and inspired by the director's own fondness for Lou Reed, onetime Byrds songwriter turned solo artist Gene Clark, the Beach Boys ("Pet Sounds" gets a shoutout) and the Beatles.
ALSO THIS WEEK:
• "Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter" (2-1/2 stars): If you can get past the absurdity that the 16th president divided his time between the White House and killing vampires, this is pure entertainment. Benjamin Walker does a good job of playing Lincoln, a man who learned to split logs so he could kill vampires better. A lot of the movie looks like an episode of the old TV series "Wild, Wild West," but when it comes to escapist material, this one's a winner.
• "Crooked Arrows" (2-1/2 stars): The film wants to do for lacrosse what "Invictus" did for rugby. It's based on the true story of a struggling team of Native American high school students. Losing has brought great shame on the community because the tribe considers lacrosse a gift from the Great Creator. Screenwriters Brad Riddell and Todd Baird do a paint-by-numbers telling of the story. Director Steve Rash tries to get believable performances out of a group of mostly amateur actors. Because he cast real lacrosse players, they look good on the field, but they need a lot of coaching when it comes to delivering dialogue.
• "Disney Fairies: Secret of the Wings": Tinker Bell travels to the Winter Woods.
• "Upstairs Downstairs: Season Two": Alex Kingston stars in the series set in 1938.
• "Peter Gunn: The Complete Series": Includes 114 episodes of the crime drama. Craig Stevens stars.
• "Law & Order: Criminal Intent -- Season 8": Vincent D'Onofrio stars in the crime drama.
• "Lost Girl: The Complete First Season": Anna Silk's fantasy series.
• "Tyler Perry's Madea's Witness Protection": Madea offers witness protection.
• "The Fugitive" The Most Wanted Edition": Includes all four seasons.
• "Disasters Deconstructed": Look at major cataclysmic events.
• "Rules of Engagement: The Complete Sixth Season": Megyn Price stars.
• "Happy Endings: The Complete Second Season": Elisha Cuthbert stars in the TV comedy.
• "Fantasy Island: The Complete Third Season": Vacationers find paradise and themselves.
• "Star Wars The Clone Wars: The Complete Season": Animated adventures in a galaxy far, far away.
• "Blade Runner": Blu-ray version released to mark 30th anniversary.
-- Rick Bentley, McClatchy Newspapers