The Expendables 2
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Sylvester Stallone leads his merry band of warriors into a sea of box office success in The Expendables 2. As a follow-up to its predecessor, The Expendables 2 is an improvement. In this next installment, a basic mission turns into a quest for revenge against a villain who possesses a dangerous weapon. You’ll get a cute dash of self reference here and there, mostly to balance out the violence. Cameos abound, and most of the humor really does work. But for anyone besides the most casual moviegoer, The Expendables 2 is just a lot of explosions.
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Magic Mike is the best head-fake of the year. Veteran director Stephen Soderbergh (_Ocean’s Eleven_, Contagion) takes an exploitation picture that aims to make bank off Channing Tatum’s abs and turns it into a deft economic rumination. Tatum gives a truly nuanced and effective performance as a 19-year-old who turns to stripping in a rough economy, and Matthew McConaughey contributes another great supporting turn in what has been his year of resurgence. Carnegie Mellon alumnus Matt Bomer (CFA ’00) also makes an appearance as Tatum’s stripper colleague. As usual, Soderbergh goes overboard with his color palette, but it’s a small complaint in this year’s best blockbuster.
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Seth MacFarlane’s wisecracking filth continues its fixation on children in Ted. Dangling in a state of arrested childhood, Mark Wahlberg’s character struggles with his adulthood and the effects of his friendship with Ted, his walking, talking, sentient teddy bear. Of course, this is MacFarlane’s movie, so the stuffed bear would obviously buy a few prostitutes, use cocaine, and be Wahlberg’s redeemer. The script is mildly funny in the way that everything MacFarlane has ever done is mildly funny, but the film is damaged by its creator’s seemingly boundless gift for masking incoherence with vague, flaccid cultural riffs.