STARRING: Channing Tatum, Alex Pettyfer, Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn
DIRECTOR: Steven Soderbergh (CERT 15, 110 minutes)
The plot: When news of Channing Tatum’s stripper past got out in 2009, it was potentially embarrassing for him, having moved on from Step Up into more credible roles. Then he decided to put his experience to good use, collaborating with hip director Soderbergh on this stylishly shot drama inspired by his own life story. When college dropout Adam (Pettyfer) gets a job on a construction site, he’s befriended by Mike (Tatum) and joins him at the male strip club managed by cocky showman Dallas (clothes-allergic McConaughey). Adam’s sister Brooke (Horn), a nurse, is protective of her little bro’, and undecided about romantic overtures from Mike.
What’s right with it? Following numerous movies featuring women shaking their booty in various ways – Showgirls, Coyote Ugly, Burlesque – the time is surely ripe for some gyrating male beefcake. It doesn’t hurt that Soderbergh has assembled a truly tempting buffet, including True Blood hunk Joe Manganiello as Big Dick Richie. The plot is pleasingly modest – it’s set in Tampa, Florida, rather than glitzy Miami – and always feels rooted in recognisably real characters. The big surprise is Pettyfer, notably wooden in recent roles, who really convinces as the troubled Adam, and is particularly strong when interacting with the equally impressive Horn.
What’s wrong with it? The story is a tad familiar, especially when Adam goes off the rails as the world’s worst ecstasy dealer.
Verdict: Ten years ago, Magic Mike would be seen as a dodgy career movie for any credible male star. Hollywood is changing – we think for the better. 4/5 @charlesg
VOICES: Ray Romano, John Leguizamo, Denis Leary
DIRECTORS: Steve Martino, Mike Thurmeier (CERT U, 93 minutes)
The plot: After acorn-hungry Scrat unwittingly unleashes a major tectonic event, furry pals Manny, Sid and Diego find themselves floating on an iceberg. Their voyage home to their loved ones is blocked by fearsome simian pirate Captain Gutt.
What’s right with it? Scrat’s antics are more ingenious than ever; sloth Sid’s crazy granny (Wanda Sykes) is a welcome addition; and saber-tooth tiger Diego finally gets a proper slice of the action with the arrival of a pretty adversary (J-Lo).
What’s wrong with it? The storyline – basically one long running battle with Gutt – feels plucked out of thin air and there are too many new characters.
Verdict: This mega-grossing franchise still feels fresh. 4/5 @charlesgant
STARRING: Steve Carell, Keira Knightley, Martin Sheen
DIRECTOR: Lorene Scafaria (CERT 15, 101 minutes)
The plot: Last year’s Melancholia envisioned the apocalypse as a doom-laden tragedy. Now, here’s the romcom version, an Earth-bound asteroid giving the recently dumped Dodge (Carell) the ideal excuse to take an impromptu road trip with kooky neighbour Penny (Knightley).
What’s right with it? Scafaria – writer of Nick And Norah’s Infinite Playlist – deserves praise for finding humour in the bleakest of scenarios. Carell is affecting in another of his low-key, internalised turns.
What’s wrong with it? Despite using her own accent, KK doesn’t look comfortable in an episodic film that’s not exactly short of scatty eccentrics.
Verdict: An odd-couple charmer that’s probably too twee for its own good. 3/5 MARK SAMUELS