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Weekend Preview: 'Beasts of the Southern Wild' is Essential Viewing; Don't Judge 'Magic Mike' by its Package

Thompson on Hollywood By Sophia Savage | Thompson on Hollywood June 28, 2012 at 4:26PM

If you only see one movie this weekend, make sure it's Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which we'll all be talking about until Oscar night 2013 and beyond. This is the kind of film that makes you believe in magic; heartbreaking, one-of-a-kind and debuting force-of-nature Quvenzhané Wallis, it's a jolt to heart of independent cinema...
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Beasts of the Southern Wild, Hushpuppy

If you only see one movie this weekend, make sure it's Benh Zeitlin's "Beasts of the Southern Wild," which we'll all be talking about until Oscar night 2013 and beyond. This is the kind of film that makes you believe in magic; heartbreaking, one-of-a-kind and debuting force-of-nature Quvenzhané Wallis, it's a jolt to heart of independent cinema. Check out our interview with Zeitlin during Sundance, and Film Comment's article on the making of this Louisiana Story.

"Magic Mike" is more complex than it looks. Yes, it is often ridiculous (no character more so than Matthew McConaughey's Dallas) as its trailers suggest, but because it is also fully aware of the emotional emptiness of the world it inhabits and the type of characters its bright lights attracts, it serves up a suprisingly entertaining story. It's no Oscar winner, but judging the package purely on it's marketing will exclude an entire demographic of people who would otherwise enjoy it. Because women and gay men are the target, that's who will bring in the first round of dough for the inexpensively made film ($5 million), but straight men and women turned off by the raunchiness will discover the film later as it takes its place in a special category that (thankfully) leans more towards "Boogie Nights" than "Showgirls." As for "Magic Mike"'s place in the feminists' history books, further thought and consideration is necessary.

Sarah Polley's "Take This Waltz," however, is a more obvious entry into the feminist's film ouvre, since it's perspective is decidedly female. While Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen and Luke Kirby (arguably more of a treat than Tatum) deliver fine performances and the story bravely points out relationship complexities we may not like to see, the tone of the film is often annoying -- never more so than in its final act.

Magic Mike, Mike and Dallas

Below, trailers and reviews for these films, plus Alex Kurtzman's "People Like Us," Jonathan Demme's "Neil Young Journeys" and Seth Macfarlane's "Ted":

"Beasts of The Southern Wild" Fox Searchlight, US | Dir: Benh Zeitlin; Cast: Quvenzhané Wallis, Dwight Henry | Watch a clip and featurette | toh! talks with Zeitlin at Sundance | The Soundtrack & Theatrical Schedule | Indiewire declares: "there's no question that the movie is a dazzling cinematic experience.The first act delivers a spectacular immersion into Zeitlin's self-made universe, where Hushpuppy sees everything she believes in. Each scene delivers another fresh shot of eye candy, if not coherence, but the general symbolism rings true." | 89% Fresh.

"Magic Mike" Warner Bros. US | Dir: Steven Soderbergh; Cast: Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Cody Horn, Alex Pettyfer, Olivia Munn | toh! Review Roundup | Is This What Women Want? Our Poll | Soderbergh & His Dancing Men Talk | THR: "Arguably the raunchiest, funniest and most enjoyably nonjudgmental American movie about selling sex since Boogie Nights, its obvious if considerably darker precursor." | 77% Fresh.

"People Like Us" Disney, US | Dir: Alex Kurtman; Cast: Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks, Olivia Wilde, Michelle Pfeiffer | Report from the Premiere at LAFF | ThePlaylist calls it well-constructed with "an increasingly rote storyline and adherence to syrupy-sweet romantic comedy tropes leaves a murky aftertaste: a schmaltzy tearjerker masquerading as a psychological thriller." | Roger Ebert: "[it] paints engaging portraits of its characters, who feel close enough to plausible people — so close that the delayed secret undermines them,..It also would probably have been harder to write [a film about them coming to grips with this hidden truth] than this one, so [it] marches on with a coy little smile, toying with Frankie and the audience." | 72% Fresh.

"Take This Waltz" Magnolia, CAN | Dir: Sarah Polley; Cast: Michelle Williams, Seth Rogen, Luke Kirby, Sarah Silverman | Indiewire talks to the Stars | ThePlaylist says it has Insights and Edges Sharp Enough to Stab | Variety: "Despite a few tonal and structural missteps, this intelligent, perceptive drama proves as intimately and gratifyingly femme-focused as Polley's 2006 debut, Away From Her." | 76% Fresh.

"Neil Young Journeys" Sony Pictures Classic, US | Dir: Jonathan Demme | Demme Talks Passion for Filming Real Life At LAFF | 100% Fresh.

"Ted" Universal, US | Dir: Seth Macfarlane; Cast: Mark Wahlberg, Mila Kunis, Seth MacFarlane | 72% Fresh.

Trailers on the next page:

This article is related to: Features, Reviews, Critics, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Magic Mike, Neil Young Journeys, Take This Waltz, Trailers


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.