‘Gangster’ galvanizes, ‘Amour’ terrorizes’ in theaters

Of the new movies that I reviewed during the Jan. 17, 2013, edition of “Breakthrough Thinking: The Magazine,” the only one that I would recommend seeing is “Gangster Squad,”a crime drama with an incredible cast that includes Seann Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Meanwhile, do not be fooled by “Amour’s” recent win for Best Foreign Language Film at the Golden Globes. It is about on par with Marlon Wayans’ horror spoof “A Haunted House.”


Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play retired music teachers who are in their eighties. When one of them has an attack, the couple’s bond of love is severely tested. (PG-13 – 127 minutes)

“Amour” is the cinematic equivalent of spending an afternoon in a stranger’s room at a hospice facility. That is to say that writer/director Michael Haneke’s new French film is an excruciating experience to endure in that nobody wants to watch someone slowly be slipped away by death’s graceless grip – especially when that someone’s spouse is there, too, struggling with losing their loved one. Granted, the flick features a pair of powerful performances but it lacks the necessary insight – be it emotional or intellectual – that would have made such a sickening sight worth sitting through. (Grade: D)

‘Gangster Squad’

Sean Penn plays a Brooklyn-born mob king who runs the show in this town with the protection of the police and the politicians who are under his control until a group of LAPD outsiders (Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Michael Pena and Giovani Ribisi) come together to try to tear his world apart. Emma Stone also stars. (R – 113 minutes)

“Gangster Squad” is the proverbial gangster flick. That is to say that director Ruben Fleischer’s new crime drama does not earn any points for originality but viewers looking for a movie about the mob – one that echoes the excellent entertainment value of “The Untouchables,” “Goodfellas” and “The Godfather” – are guaranteed to have a great time. Moreover, the film is beyond brutal – graphically depicting the violent nature of this subject matter thereby maximizing the severity of its story’s stakes – and features an extraordinary ensemble cast led by Sean Penn, who gives a purely petrifying performance. (Grade: B)

‘A Haunted House’

Marlon Wayans and Essence Atkins play a young couple who have just moved into their dream home but soon learns that a demon also resides there and subsequently hires everyone from a priest to modern day ghostbusters to rid it of this unwelcome intruder. (R – 90 minutes)

“A Haunted House” makes you miss something that you likely never thought you would – a time when Marlon Wayans’ worst movie roles were a black FBI agent going undercover as a white chick and a vertically challenged criminal posing as a newborn baby. The new comedy – which is essentially a spoof of the “Paranormal Activity” film franchise but also incorporates a couple of other found-footage flicks – starts with an extended sequence in which Wayans sexually molests a stuffed animal. Believe it or not, the comedic material is all downhill from there – much like, apparently, Wayans’ career. (Grade: F)

Joseph J. Airdo

Joseph J. Airdo is a film critic, producer and on-air personality for Breakthrough Entertainment, a talk radio show airing 10-11 a.m. Saturdays on KPHX 1480 AM and BreakRadioShow.com that shines a spotlight on the practical perspectives of the topics and themes explored in movies. He has a pet duck named Frozen who is as opinionated about movies as he is. E-mail him at joseph.airdo@gmail.com.

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