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A salacious ‘Mike’ and a goofy axe-weilding vampire ‘Lincoln’

By   /   October 25, 2012  /   No Comments

A bizarre vampire drama and a new Steven Soderbergh project anchor this week’s home video releases.

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Magic Mike

3 stars (out of four). Rated R for pervasive sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language and some drug use. Warner Brothers. On: DVD, Blu-ray and digital download.

Director Steven Soderbergh’s eclectic filmography includes everything from star-studded blockbusters (“Ocean’s Eleven”) to limited-release biopics (“Che”), and he’s more than happy to juggle genres. That makes him the perfect person to helm a film about a male stripper who can’t wean himself from the perks of the job.

With “Magic Mike,” Soderbergh delivers a movie with enough star power and flash to satisfy the masses but an emotional center that’s rooted in the style of his independent efforts. The focus is on Mike Lane (Channing Tatum), a 30-year-old stripper who loves the women, money and good times that come with his job. Still, he recognizes that he’s missing something, most notably a creative outlet that involves more than shaking his booty.  So, he saves as much money as possible with the dream of someday starting a furniture-building business.

His straight-laced sister, Brooke (Cody Horn), is concerned about the lifestyle her brother has chosen. Brooke’s worries prompt Mike to play big brother, promising that he’ll take care of Adam, even though his abs are more defined than his sense of responsibility.

“Magic Mike” is an interesting project for Soderbergh in that much of the appeal is salacious. Since the movie is about strippers, Tatum and the other stars are often scantily clad, and that’s an undeniable selling point for female moviegoers. Still, Soderbergh refuses to glamorize the sex industry. Rather, he depicts it as a business flush with fast cash, but hindered by pitfalls.

The movie is at its best when examining the two sides of Mike, the one that loves being on stage and the one that longs to leave stripping behind. Unfortunately, Soderbergh spends more time in the strip club than he does developing Mike’s passion for furniture building. In fact, viewers never get to see him working on a piece, and that’s a major liability for a movie about a man caught between two worlds.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include a making-of feature centered on how the cast prepared to play male strippers.


Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter

2 stars. Rated R for violence throughout and brief sexuality. 20th Century Fox. Available on: DVD, Blu-ray and Blu-ray 3D

The thought of Abraham Lincoln as an axe-wielding vampire killer is just goofy enough to generate campy appeal. Surely, that’s what allowed writer Seth Grahame-Smith (“Pride and Prejudice and Zombies”) to turn his novel into a New York Times bestseller and sell Hollywood on his self-written screenplay. Unfortunately, the concept of “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter” is better than the execution.

The movie, directed by Timur Bekmambetov (“Night Watch”), is an unfortunately serious alternative history drama supposing that the American Civil War was actually a battle between vampires and humanity. Bekmambetov and Grahame-Smith do a reasonably good job explaining the premise, but the humorless presentation is a liability.

Viewers meet Lincoln (Benjamin Walker) when he is just a boy, and they learn that he hates vampires because one killed his mother. The film then follows young Lincoln’s quest to destroy the monster that ruined his life. In order to succeed, he takes instruction from Henry Sturges (Dominic Cooper), a mysterious man who knows everything about vampirism. His friends Will Johnson (Anthony Mackie) and Joshua Speed (Jimmi Simpson) also join the fight.

Instead, the director plays everything straight, and that makes “Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter” little more than an average horror thriller. Yes, it features a historical figure as the star. And, yes, the story is set against important dates in American history. Unfortunately the filmmakers don’t have much fun with these things, and it’s tough to recommend a vampire film that isn’t fun.

DVD and Blu-ray extras include a making-of feature and an audio commentary by Grahame-Smith.

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