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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Friday, Nov. 28, 2014

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Canada's Walk Off The Earth brought their Gotye cover and so much more to the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage Friday night.
Canada's Walk Off The Earth brought their Gotye cover and so much more to the U.S. Cellular Connection Stage Friday night.
The full band - plus three other performers - jammed through a 45-minute mix of covers and originals.
The full band - plus three other performers - jammed through a 45-minute mix of covers and originals.
Singer/guitarist Sarah Nicole Blackwood hits the bleachers for an up-close-and-personal performance.
Singer/guitarist Sarah Nicole Blackwood hits the bleachers for an up-close-and-personal performance.
Gianni Luminati follows suit.
Gianni Luminati follows suit.

Walk Off The Earth channels summer onstage

Although their sudden rise to fame has made indie band Walk Off The Earth an internet sensation, their six-year career has been a relatively quiet one. The Canadian quintet was only recently signed to Columbia Records after garnering widespread acclaim for their cover of Gotye's "Somebody That I Used To Know," but the band has plenty of background, including two self-produced studio albums and a laundry list of uniquely re-imagined covers.

Just after 5:30 p.m., members Gianni Luminati, Sarah Nicole Blackwood, Ryan Marshall, Mike Taylor and Joel Cassady brought their many musical talents to U.S. Cellular Connection Stage as part of the Emerging Artist series. And, judging from their energy and showmanship, they'll be hitting the mainstream sooner rather than later.

The band, augmented by an extra guitarist and two crew members/backup performers/instrument catchers, came out in dramatic fashion decked out in black hoodies, which were quickly abandoned due to the heat. The drama dropped just as fast as the hoodies as the group dove headfirst into a medley of upbeat covers and original music.

Walk Off The Earth jumped and jammed along to B.o.B.'s "Magic," Rage Against The Machine's "People of the Sun" and their own selections, which included "Corner of Queen" and a soon-to-be-debuted "Red Hands," which will appear on their forthcoming September release.

Although the set was not wholly original, WOTE made it their own, tailoring each song to their funky, reggae/world/rock style – so much so that their entire time onstage could easily have been attributed to them alone.

The group worked collectively, handing off the spotlight and changing out instruments as they grooved onstage. At a few different points throughout the set their energy literally spilled out into the crowd, as singers Gianni Luminati and Sarah Nicole Blackwood took to the audience for an impromptu dance on the bleachers during another of their own tunes, "Julia."

Even before fans got to get up clos…

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Mark Wahlberg (and Seth MacFarlane's voice) stars in "Ted," in theaters now.
Mark Wahlberg (and Seth MacFarlane's voice) stars in "Ted," in theaters now.

Grab your thunder buddy and hang out with "Ted"

A movie about Marky Mark and his stoner teddy bear produced by "Family Guy"/"American Dad" funnyman Seth MacFarlane: It's a profane comedy geek's dream come true. It's rude, it's crude, and laughing at it will probably send you to hell, but "Ted" is sure to please its target audience of people who just don't care.

First things first: How does no one care that an anthropomorphic teddy bear is running amok in Boston? Well, after being wished to life by a young John Bennett (Mark Wahlberg), Ted the Teddy Bear (voiced by MacFarlane) became a media sensation. But, as narrator Patrick Stewart explained, eventually people stopped giving a sh*t.

Now well past childhood, John and Ted are still best buddies. But, instead of riding bikes and playing games, the duo spends most of their time getting ripped in their apartment and behaving like stereotypical frat boys, much to the chagrin of John's girlfriend, Lori (Mila Kunis). Caught between his best friend and the love of his life, John has to figure out a way to grow up without ditching his beloved teddy bear.

"Ted" rides on its no-holds-barred jokes, which take jabs at everything from itself (they address Ted sounding too much like Peter Griffin head-on) to 9-11. Obviously this kind of humor doesn't cater to everyone, but no one smart should expect MacFarlane to deliver the "Schindler's List" of comedy. It's "Family Guy" with an R rating -- disclaimers aren't necessary.

In addition to borrowing its style from the popular TV cartoon, "Ted" also employs many familiar faces – or at least voices – from the show. Kunis and Stewart are both carry-overs, as well as Patrick Warburton and Alex Borstein. The movie also plays off a fair amount of cameos, especially "Top Gun"'s Tom Skerritt and Flash Gordon himself, Sam Jones. If you close your eyes, you can actually picture the "Family Guy" cutaway gags in your head.

While "Ted" is no doubt raunchy, there is a pretty tight – albeit simple – plot holding it all together. MacFarl…

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Channing Tatum and company take it off in "Magic Mike," in theaters now.
Channing Tatum and company take it off in "Magic Mike," in theaters now.

"Magic Mike" makes for a superficial thrill

Even though "Magic Mike" only recently started its serious advertising, buzz has long been circulating about Steven Soderbergh's muscle-bound male stripper comedy/drama. I mean, it's not hard to drum up attention for a movie with a main plot of "Channing Tatum takes his clothes off for money."
It's old hat for him, since it's relatively common knowledge at this point that he used to strip before hitting it big in Hollywood. But, it's big news for lusty admirers who didn't get the chance to watch him get down and dirty during his g-string days.

Tatum plays the titular Mike, a male stripper trying to make good on his dream of starting up his own furniture company. He's been saving up cash for years from his laundry list of odd jobs, but his bad credit is keeping him stuck at Xquisite Male Revue. Mike's far from struggling as the club's main act, though. He rakes in more than his fair share of crumpled bills, both during his solo shows and flanked by his fellow dancers (Joe Manganiello, Matt Bomer, Adam Rodriguez and Kevin Nash).

The audience gets in on the action when Mike meets up with a financially struggling kid on one of his construction jobs (Alex Pettyfer). Seeing an opportunity to recruit new talent, Mike and Xquisite's manager (Matthew McConaughey) decide to take Adam under the club's wing and show him the ropes – and the assless chaps.

Unfortunately, anyone who's seen more than a handful of movies will know exactly what's going to happen right out of the gate. You know what will happen to Mike's protege, who stands in awe of the "sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll" lifestyle he can suddenly more than afford. You know what'll happen to Mike's precious nest egg that he's been saving to start his own business. And you know exactly where he'll end up (and who he'll end up with) by the time the credits roll.

The plot is nothing new, and the characters, while entertaining, don't bring anything original to the table either. Aside from Mike himself, it's actually hard…

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Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks and Michael Hall D'Addario star in "People Like Us."
Chris Pine, Elizabeth Banks and Michael Hall D'Addario star in "People Like Us."

"People Like Us" channels heart and hardships

It seems odd that, in a season known for blockbusters and feel-good kids movies, Dreamworks would opt to release a complex family drama. What makes the vehicle even more puzzling is the fact that it's driven by a screenwriter more well known for his action work (Alex Kurtzman), a lead actor most people still recognize as James T. Kirk from 2009's "Star Trek" (Chris Pine) and a lead actress who, while slightly more diverse, comes to mind more for her comedy work than anything else (Elizabeth Banks).

There's no denying it's unusual. But, despite its motley make-up, "People Like Us" works.

The movie centers around Pine's character, Sam, who flies back home after the death of his emotionally distant father. Sam's world turns upside down when he discovers through his inheritance that he has a half sister, Frankie, and is suddenly forced to reconcile this previously unknown part of his family's life with the one he grew up with.

Adding a new family member to his small circle of relationships isn't easy for Sam, but it's much more natural than navigating his current ones. As Sam tentatively develops a friendship with his new-found sister and her young son (Michael Hall D'Addario), the audience gets to see firsthand how fractured his relationship was with his father, and still is with his mother, Lillian (Michelle Pfeiffer).

As the plot moves forward and Sam learns more about what caused the rift between Frankie and their father, the audience in turn gains a greater perspective on each family member's motivations. Fault and blame get shifted, and the line between "right" and "wrong" choices gets blurred as Sam, Frankie and Lillian work to understand their past and move forward.

Ironically, the only thing that really works against the film is its actors' own reputations. Their names will certainly help draw curious moviegoers in to see it, but their collective on-screen presence sometimes overwhelms the delicate story.

"People Like Us" is a poignant commentary on peopl…

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