30-year-old Mike (Channing Tatum) works as at construction site during the day and as a stripper at a club called Xquisite during the nighttime. At his day job, he meets 19-year-old Adam (Alex Pettyfer) and introduces him a whole new world at the strip club. He literally pushes Adam onto the stage to a crowd of women who cheer him on to disrobe. Dallas (Matthew McConaughey), the owner of Xquisite who also strips, hopes that taking a risk on a newbie like Adam will pay off. In a rather contrived subplot, Mike flirts with Adam's older sister, Brooke (Cody Hor, who happens to have a white-collared boyfriend who doesn't quite make her laugh or smile the way Mike does. Try to take a good guess as to whom between the two she will ultimately. If this were a French movie, she'd probably choose both of them concurrently. In yet another subplot, Mike dreams of quitting his life as a stripper to start his own company that produces custom-made furniture. Don't ask what happens when Adam gets involved in drug trafficking--you'll mostly likely be able to figure out exactly where that subplot will go anyway.
If the synopsis above makes Magic Mike sound convoluted, well, it actually feels that way while watching it because it tries to interweave too many different subplots together without fleshing them out believably or imaginatively for that matter. The first half of the film shows promise as Adam works his way into becoming a professional stripper at the club. Once screenwriter throws in some corny, contrived romance between Mike and Brooke, that's where Magic Mike begins to lose its dramatic momentum. Screenwriter Reid Carolin offers very little in terms of subtlety; he prefers to spell everything out for the audience thereby leaving no room for interpretation. Moreover, the third act, which won't be spoiled here, will make you roll your eyes given how it ties things up too neatly and quickly. Mike's character arc simply isn't plausible enough because, by the end, you don't really believe that he's changed innately--he starts out as an naive adult and pretty much stays like that throughout the film. Adam's sudden foray into world of drugs could have either been fleshed out more or edited out completely because there's already enough going on in terms of plot.
On a positive note, Matthew McConaughey steals the show with his very lively, charismatic performance---just wait until you see him in the upcoming Killer Joe, though. Director Steven Soderbergh gives Magic Mike a very stylish look in terms of camera angles, lighting and colors. You'll definitely feel like you're watching a Soderbergh film--he's among the few directors knows how to make the most out of digital filmmaking. If only he had a better editor, though, who could have easily trimmed the running time down because, at a lengthy 2 hours, it does eventually drag and overstay its welcome once it starts to become dramatically flaccid around the 1-hour mark.
35-year-old John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg) works at Libery Rent-a-Car and lives with his girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis), and best friend, Ted (voice of Seth MacFarlane). Ted remains an obstacle in John's life as he struggles to act like a grown-up. Why? Because Ted happens to be a talking teddy bear that John had since his childhood. Ted smokes pot with John, cracks dirty/racist jokes, and invites hookers home to party with. Their friendship is put to the test, though, when John moves Ted into another apartment so that he can mature into a serious man and feel confident enough to propose to Lori, who he has been together with for 4 years. Meanwhile, a mysterious man with a mustache, Donny (Giovanni Ribisi), and his son, Robert (Aedin Mincks), stalk Ted in an attempt to snatch him away after John refuses to sell him.
In case you haven't realized by now, practically every R-rated American comedy nowadays has toilet humor and cringe-inducing scenes that try to push the envelope. The real question, though, is whether and how often you'll find yourself laughing. If you've seen the trailer for Ted, you've seen most of the funny scenes already. Ted's potty-mouth is quite hilarious at least during the first 45 minutes or so because of how subversive and fresh it feels to watch a cute teddy bear behave so politically incorrect. That shtick wears off eventually and becomes less and less funny as it becomes more repetitious, and as director/co-writer Seth MacFarlane tries to blend in action/suspense and sweet romance with the outrageous comedy. That's kind of like throwing lots of sugar or cheese into a recipe that doesn't call for any sugar or cheese in the first place. If anything, the dish could certainly use more pepper or hot sauce, a.k.a. dark, subversive, irreverent humor and a lot more herbs, a.k.a. wit or cleverness. Perhaps if Ted's filmmakers and actors were British, the humor would have more wit and irreverence because those are usually the qualities found in British humor--see In the Loop for a perfect example of a consistently funny, smart and quotable British comedy that has high low-brow humor. Ted, unfortunately, has very low low-brow humor and has no lines of dialogue that are clever or funny enough to be quotable; it's merely their context that makes them initially funny.
What does a comedy do when it runs out of ideas? It bring out the cameos of which Ted has plenty who won't be spoiled here. After the laughs dissipate, so will your tolerance of its characters. You'll begin to wonder what Lori sees in John to begin with and why she puts up with his shenanigans with Ted. Also, what happened to John's parents? They're shown in the opening scenes when John was a young boy, but then they're suddenly discarded when he's 35. The more you think about the plot in terms of internal logical, the less fun, clever and refreshing it seems. Watching Ted is like watching a cleverly subversive, inspired and hilarious opening act followed by a very weak, uninspired, and repetitious main act.
Top Priority: The Terror Within
Julia Davis worked as a Customs and Border Protection officer for the Department of Homeland Security post 9/11. When she reported a security breach of 23 citizens who crossed the U.S.-Mexico border. These citizens came from terrorist countries, so it was Davis' job to bring that breach to the DEA's attention for the sake of national security. However, in order to avoid a PR nightmare, the DEA was determined to save its face by covering-up the breach, discrediting Julia Davis using lies and propaganda, labeling her as a domestic terrorist, and using other tactics straight from the playbook of would-be fascists. Much of what happens to Julia in this enraging documentary feels like it could easily have happened to someone working from the Gestapo who had went against "the party line" in Germany during the 1930s.
What did the deaths of Brittany Murphy and her husband have to do with the U.S. Government's cover-up? Unfortunately, director Asif Akbar doesn't connect those two events persuasively enough---in other words, beyond a reasonable doubt. Sure, her death warrants more investigation, but it's not fair to jump to any conclusions before a thorough investigation. Akbar resorts too often to try to alarm you with its musical score that pounds you over the head to remind you that you're watching a docu-thriller. Such heavy-handedness undermines the film's quest to find the truth behind our government's corruption---a quest that should have been explored with more solid facts/analysis and less speculation. It also would have been helpful had Akbar pointed out that our government has not really agreed upon a definition for the word "terrorist" to begin with, so the U.S. government can technically label anyone as a terrorist.