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New Releases: 'Magic Mike' a (mostly) fun romp in male strip club

Reviewed: 'Magic Mike,' 'The Ambassador,' 'The Invisible War,' 'Seeking a Friend for the End of the World'

October 20, 2012|By Noel Murray
  • Matthew McConaughey in "Magic Mike."
Matthew McConaughey in "Magic Mike." (Claudette Barius / Warner…)

Magic Mike

Warner Bros., $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday

Steven Soderbergh's male stripper melodrama "Magic Mike" became a surprise hit earlier this year, drawing huge, raucous "girls night out" crowds thanks to its kitschy story about a studly dancer (Channing Tatum) who keeps running into trouble while trying to make enough money to start his own furniture-building business. But while "Magic Mike" features fun dance sequences and a hilarious performance by Matthew McConaughey as an ambitious club owner, this movie takes a serious turn in its second half, and becomes more of a bummer than it needs to be. Still, kudos to Soderbergh and screenwriter-producer Reid Carolin for turning what amounts to an old-fashioned backstage musical about sex workers into something so (mostly) entertaining. The DVD and Blu-ray offer even more of the good stuff, via extended dance scenes and featurettes about the art of male stripping.

The Ambassador

Image, $27.97; Blu-ray, $29.97

Danish comedian-provocateur Mads Brügger follows up his boundary-testing North Korean adventure "The Red Chapel" with "The Ambassador," in which he travels to Africa with diplomatic credentials he purchased on the high-class black market, in order to expose the corruption in African politics and the diamond industry. Half-documentary/half-stunt, "The Ambassador" might rub some viewers wrong, because of the way Brügger poses as a racist idiot in order to manipulate businessmen and government officials into saying and doing things that they shouldn't (and mightn't, had Brügger behaved normally). Still, Brügger captures some amazing conversations with his hidden cameras, revealing a shadow world where backroom deals and threats of violence keep the money flowing from the poor to the super-rich. Brügger provides a commentary track on the DVD and Blu-ray.

The Invisible War

New Video, $29.95

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday

Kirby Dick's tough, emotional documentary "The Invisible War" deals with rape in the U.S. military: how it happens, how often it happens and how it gets covered up. It's a tricky subject to investigate, because the victims tend to be proud and patriotic, and the institutions involved tend to be secretive. But what Dick emerges with is deep and powerful, capturing how women get trapped in the skeptical, unhelpful matrix of military justice and military hospitals, compounding the crimes against them. "The Invisible War" is a potent outrage-generator and should call its viewers to action. The DVD includes more interviews, as well as a commentary by Dick and his producer Amy Ziering.

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World

Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday

The dark comedy "Seeking a Friend for the End of the World" stars Steve Carell as a pessimistic insurance salesman named Dodge, whose wife leaves him on the same day he learns that an asteroid is going to destroy the Earth in three weeks. So while the rest of the planet indulges themselves with orgies and riots, Dodge mopes around, until he decides to take a road trip to see an ex-girlfriend, bringing along his cheerful neighbor Penny (Keira Knightley). Writer-director Lorene Scafaria has difficulty balancing the craziness of the story with the sentiment, but her movie has a strong, sweet center, and some of Scafaria's ideas about what would really happen before the apocalypse — like all the TV stations and magazines running "Best of Humanity" specials — are smart and funny. The DVD and Blu-ray add outtakes, featurettes and a Scafaria commentary.

And…

Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter

20th Century Fox, $29.98; Blu-ray, $39.99/$49.99

Available on VOD beginning Tuesday

Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview

Magnolia, $26.98

Sunday Bloody Sunday

Criterion, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.95

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