NEW THIS WEEK:
-- A FAMILY DRAMA THAT MEANDERS AND BLUSTERS, BUT HAS EMOTIONAL PUNCH:
"PEOPLE LIKE US" PG-13 -- Too mature in its themes for most middle-schoolers, "People Like Us" should appeal to high-schoolers interested in good acting and character-driven tales. This is one about close relatives who are totally unaware of each other's existence. Director and co-writer Alex Kurtzman tells the story in a circular way that gives the film a distinct style but also blocks our understanding for too long. Sam (Chris Pine) is a fast-talking business guy. One of his deals results in a threatened investigation by the Federal Trade Commission and he's in danger of being fired. Then he gets word that his father, whom he hasn't seen in years, has died. Sam tries to avoid it, but his girlfriend (Olivia Wilde) insists they go to the funeral. His mother (Michelle Pfeiffer) is furious at his indifference and false excuses. Sam learns from a lawyer that his father has secretly left $150,000 in cash for a woman named Frankie (Elizabeth Banks) and her young son Josh (Michael Hall D'Addario). Sam assumes the boy is his father's illegitimate child. Then he realizes that Frankie is actually his father's daughter from his first marriage -- Sam's half sister -- and Josh is his nephew. A recovering alcoholic working as a bartender, Frankie could use the cash, but Sam can't bring himself to reveal their connection and give it to her. Yet he feels compelled to get to know her and as he does, the filial link warms his heart.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Themes about parental abandonment, infidelity and alcoholism underlie the story. A squirm-inducing sexual tension exists between Sam and Frankie at first, especially before Frankie learns they are half siblings. The script contains a lot of midrange profanity, particularly the S-word, occasional nonsexual use of the F-word, mild sexual innuendo, and toilet humor. Some characters smoke and others drink. Josh is very precocious and makes a crude jokey remark about child molestation, though no such thing occurs.
-- A VERY ADULT, SLIGHTLY SEEDY SLICE-OF-LIFE DRAMEDY:
"MAGIC MIKE" R -- Even less appropriate for under-17s than this week's "Ted" (R; see below), "Magic Mike" oozes sexual explicitness, near-nudity, intense profanity, drug use and boozing. Beyond all that, it is the atmosphere of sexual objectification and sex without emotion among characters of both genders that put the film in adult territory. Still, for adult audiences, it has a strong and likable central performance by Channing Tatum and hyper-realistic you-are-there atmospherics under Steven Soderbergh's direction, overcoming a painfully predictable plot. Fictionalized, but inspired by Tatum's brief time as a male stripper when he was just out of high school, he plays Mike, a 30-something guy who works construction by day, strips to a thong and gyrates for the ladies by night, and builds one-of-a-kind furniture in his spare time. Mike is a star at the Tampa club owned by hard-edged entrepreneur Dallas (Matthew McConaughey). At his construction job, Mike befriends Adam (Alex Pettyfer), a young slacker who lives with his sister (Cody Horn), who worries about him. Mike shoves Adam onstage at the club and it turns out the kid has the knack. Not surprisingly, Adam can't handle all the cash and female attention. His somber, hardworking sister is attracted to Mike and Mike to her, but she's too wary of Mike's "lifestyle" to give her heart.
THE BOTTOM LINE: In addition to the strip-club scenes and all the sexualized dancing, the film features very strongly implied sexual situations with near-nudity (and full nudity shown in shadow silhouette), some with more than two partners at a time; drinking and drug use; and nonlethal violence. The dialogue bristles with strong profanity.
-- HILARIOUS AND WHOLLY INAPPROPRIATE FOR UNDER-17s:
"TED" R -- Though scads of high-schoolers may try to see "Ted," seething profanity and graphic sexual content make it wholly inappropriate for most under-17s, unless their parents take a more nontraditional view of what their kids can see. Conceived and directed by animated TV show creator Seth MacFarlane ("American Dad!", "Family Guy," "The Cleveland Show"), "Ted" is also scabrously funny -- profane, crude and tasteless, but consistently hilarious. In a prologue we learn that John (Bretton Manley), a friendless 8-year-old boy in the Boston 'burbs, wishes his new teddy bear could be his best friend for life. Magic happens and the next morning the bear can talk, walk and eat. John names him Ted and they become inseparable, with Ted a national news story. Cut to the present. John (now played by Mark Wahlberg) has a crummy job and lives with his loving girlfriend Lori (Mila Kunis), who tolerates the still-small, but totally trash-mouthed Ted (voiced by MacFarlane) and is worried that John will never become an adult. John and Ted still act like frat boys on a bender -- smoking weed, drinking beer and cussing like sailors. Lori's boss (Joel McHale) keeps hitting on her, but she is loyal to John. John finally agrees that Ted should move out and get a job. Ted becomes a supermarket checker, and starts a kinky affair with a bimbo co-worker (Jessica Barth). Still, John and Ted spend too much time partying and Lori loses patience. When a nut (Giovanni Ribisi) and his creepy son (Aedin Mincks) try to kidnap Ted, all heck breaks loose.
THE BOTTOMLINE: The steaming profanity, bong-smoking and other drug use, crude sexual language and graphic sexual behavior (mostly Ted's) earn the R rating with honors. Throw in deliberately tasteless ethnic and racial jokes, homophobic humor, fat insults, toplessness and backview nudity. The only thing missing is graphic violence, unless you count torn teddy bear parts. Actually, there are a couple of fights played for laughs.
(c) 2012, Washington Post Writers Group.