"The Amazing Spider-Man" — It's impossible to avoid the comparisons, so we may as well just get them out of the way early so we can move on. This reboot — Prequel? New chapter? It's hard to decide what to call it — is pretty much different in every way from the staggeringly successful Marvel Comics-inspired trilogy that preceded it. The basics are the same: A high school kid gets bitten by a scientifically modified spider, discovers he has newfound super powers, decides to use them as a vigilante crime fighter and takes to the streets of New York in an unforgivingly tight red-and-blue suit. But in terms of tone, characters, performances and even visual effects, "The Amazing Spider-Man" feels like its own separate entity. It may not be as transporting an experience as those earlier films, especially the first two, but it finds a distinct voice. Much of that has to do with the central performance from Andrew Garfield as Peter Parker. In the hands of Tobey Maguire, who originated the role in "Spider-Man" a decade ago, Peter was nerdy, scrawny, insecure — that's how his everyman relatability manifested itself. Garfield plays Peter as more of a misunderstood outsider, a rebel with a chip on his shoulder. And that slightly arrogant attitude gives the whole movie a restless, reckless energy and a welcome sense of danger. At the helm, Marc Webb is a very different sort of director. He may not have sounded like the most obvious choice for a hugely anticipated blockbuster based on his only previous feature, the romantic comedy charmer "(500) Days of Summer." His big set pieces may lack some of the imagination that director Sam Raimi brought, but they'll do. More importantly, though, he conveys an emotional truth, a pervasive sense of humanity, which may be an even tougher feat in this kind of fantastical scenario. Emma Stone is bright as ever as Peter's love interest, Gwen Stacy, with Rhys Ifans nicely underplaying his role as Spider-Man's nemesis. PG-13 for sequences of action and violence. 138 minutes. Thre e stars out of four.
— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
"Magic Mike" — Steven Soderbergh makes movies about sexy subjects, then strips away the sexiness about them. He is fascinated by process, often to a clinical extent. In recent years this has been true of "The Girlfriend Experience" (starring real-life porn star Sasha Grey as a high-priced Manhattan call girl), "Contagion" (about a viral outbreak that claims lives worldwide) and "Haywire" (featuring mixed-martial artist Gina Carano as a special-ops agent seeking revenge for a betrayal). Even the glitzy, star-studded "Ocean's 11," one of Soderbergh's most pleasingly escapist films, takes its time laying out every detail of its ambitious Las Vegas casino heist. Now he's directed "Magic Mike," about the cheesy world of male stripping in the cheesy setting of Tampa, Fla. Yes, the dance numbers themselves exude masculine, muscular heat — how could they not with guys like Channing Tatum, Matthew McConaughey, Alex Pettyfer and Joe Manganiello strutting on stage in barely-there costumes? — but Soderbergh and writer Reid Carolin take us behind the scenes and linger over the mundane minutiae of the performers' daily lives. They go thong shopping. They rehearse their routines. They lift weights backstage. And they count their dollar bills when their work is done. Even the after-hours hook-ups with liquored-up ladies from the audience seem like one more obligatory step, like brushing your teeth before going to bed. It all seems glamorous and thrilling at first, though, for Pettyfer's character, Adam, who becomes known as The Kid. A neophyte in this neon-colored world, he serves as our guide once the more established Mike (Tatum) recruits him to be a dancer at the Club Xquisite male revue. R for pervasive sexual content, brief graphic nudity, language and some drug use. 110 minutes. Three stars out of four.
— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
"People Like Us" — It's that increasingly rare kind of film: an adult drama. The filmmakers seem so nervous about this prospect that they fill the movie with action-film editing and a camera that moves so restlessly through domestic life that you'd think it lost its keys. It comes from the screenwriting duo of Alex Kurtzman (who makes his directorial debut) and Roberto Orci, who wrote the 2009 "Star Trek" reboot, among other blockbusters. Chris Pine stars as Sam, a glib New Yorker reluctantly summoned home to Los Angeles for his father's funeral, where he discovers that his rock producer dad secretly fathered a daughter (Elizabeth Banks). She's a recovering alcoholic working as a bartender, trying desperately to get by as a single mom to a sarcastic, troublemaking 11-year-old (Michael Hall D'Addario). Sam befriends them without revealing their shared roots. It's a soapy set-up of a familiar, heart-rending melodrama. But it owes much of its charm to the excellent Banks, who enters the film like a powerhouse, striding in heels and a black mini-skirt to the principal's office to pick up her son, while chastising a pair of ogling students: "I know your mothers," she says. She does much to enliven this awakening of a sibling relationship, forged as much over tacos as through blood. PG-13 for language, some drug use and brief sexuality. 114 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
— Jake Coyle, AP Entertainment Writer
"Ted" — A teddy bear who smokes pot, parties with hookers, beds pop stars and spews profanity in a New England accent as thick as chowdah? Such a creature could only come from the blissfully twisted mind of "Family Guy" creator Seth MacFarlane, confidently making his feature directing debut. If you love his show, you'll probably love this: In a lot of ways, "Ted" feels like a live-action, big-screen version of "Family Guy" with its pop-culture references and inappropriate racial humor, flashbacks and non sequiturs. (MacFarlane co-wrote the script with two of his longtime collaborators on the series, Alec Sulkin and Wellesley Wild.) He's even included the same sort of full orchestral arrangements of jaunty transitional music between scenes. And Ted, whom MacFarlane himself voices, happens to sound exactly like Peter Griffin (which would have been obvious even without a throw-away joke spelling it out for us). Still, you chuck enough of this stuff at a wall and some of it will stick. Most of it does, actually, for most of the time, with only a few of the one-liners showing signs of strain. "Ted" also happens to be sweeter than you might expect, despite the predictability of its formula. Mark Wahlberg stars as John, whose wish upon a star as a lonely kid in the `80s turned his Christmas-morning teddy bear into a walking, talking friend for life. Decades later, John and Ted are still best buddies living in Boston; despite the adolescent attachment, John has managed to carve out a healthy, four-year relationship with the beautiful and exceedingly patient Lori (Mila Kunis, who voices awkward teenage daughter Meg on "Family Guy"). But by this point, something's gotta give. R for crude and sexual content, pervasive language and some drug use. 105 minutes. Three stars out of four.
— Christy Lemire, AP Movie Critic
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