CHICAGO – Ruben Fleischer’s “Gangster Squad” is a steak devoid of juice. It has all the trappings of an effortlessly enjoyable genre exercise, but it doesn’t bring a single fresh idea to the table. It goes through the usual motions of a standard gangster picture while giving each overqualified member of its ensemble exactly one note to play. And they’re all exceedingly familiar notes, conveying a tune so familiar even Sam would refuse to play it again.
CHICAGO – I know it’s only January but Ruben Fleischer’s “Gangster Squad” is sure to be one of the most disappointing films of 2013. Look at that cast! Look at them playing caricatures and doing absolutely nothing of interest! “Gangster Squad” is a total mess and absolutely none of it has to do with notorious reshoots after the shooting in Aurora that pushed the flick back four months.
CHICAGO – Sean Penn picks his roles carefully, and famously said he didn’t know what the story meant in “Tree of Life.” His attachment to “This Must Be the Place” continues the vague journey through movieland, as he plays a bizarre and aging rock star whose life is about to get interesting.
CHICAGO – In many ways, it’s easier to draw a direct line from 1997’s “The Game” to the work that David Fincher is doing today than it would be from “bigger hits” like “Fight Club” and “Seven.” Not only does “The Game” look strikingly similar to “Social Network” and “Girl with a Dragon Tattoo” in terms of the way Fincher and his amazing d.p. Harris Savides shoot board rooms and bad behavior but the film shares themes that still interest Fincher like obsession, ego, and deception. The Criterion edition of Fincher’s film makes the argument crystal clear that is one of the most underrated thrillers of the ’90s.
CHICAGO – Terrence Malick’s “The Tree of Life” has stirred up a bit of controversy since its debut early in the Summer of 2011. You almost certainly saw the stories (or Facebook posts or tweets) about the audience walk-outs and signs at theaters that warned ticket buyers that they were about to see something unique.
CHICAGO – Is there something special about 8/9/11 like 4:20? The notorious smoke-down time is well-known but I ask about August 9th because it’s a date with a massive influx of pot-themed movies, including new hits like “Paul” and “Your Highness” (which we’ll cover with full reviews soon) and re-releases of classics like “Dazed and Confused” and “Fast Times at Ridgemont High,” both hitting the HD format tomorrow. It’s a stoner free-for-all!
CHICAGO – The wonderful bonus of the Hollywood Celebrities & Memorabilia Show is the opportunity to meet the real stars of past film eras. Ernest Borgnine and Bruce Dern were there during the show in March of this year.
CHICAGO – “Where is it that we were together? Who were you that I lived with? The brother. The friend. Darkness, light. Strife and love. Are they the workings of one mind? The features of the same face? Oh, my soul. Let me be in you now.
CHICAGO – I’ve seen Terrence Malick’s “Tree of Life” twice now and I still struggle with how to put my reaction to it into words. The film almost defies typical critical discussion with its lack of narrative thrust and a structure that makes it far closer to a poem than a piece of prose. How do you even begin to talk about a piece that works with emotions instead of plot twists?
CHICAGO – Two of the best living actors shine in Doug Liman’s “Fair Game,” the (mostly) true story of Joe and Valerie Plame Wilson, two people who became symbols of the abuse of power of the Bush administration just as public opinion was turning on the war in Iraq. If you don’t know the name Scooter Libby, “Fair Game” will be educational. If you do know everything about the Wilson case already, it may be a little dry and inconsistent but strong performances still make it worth a rental.