On DVD & Blu-Ray: April 23, 2013

What has happened to director Ruben Fleischer? The guy had such a promising feature debut in Zombieland and has had ample opportunity to make equally fun films in his two follow-ups yet each have failed to capture that same magic that invigorated his first. In saying that, his latest Gangster Squad isn't necessarily a bad film but it certainly isn't anything spectacular. With a cast that features the likes of Josh Brolin (who actually seems to be losing credibility with each role), the re-teaming of Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone (whose relationship has none of the substance their previous screen incarnations did), supporting players like Anthony Mackie (loving these low grade B-movies, isn't he?), Michael Pena (he deserves much better than this), Robert Patrick (maybe the best part of the movie), and Nick Nolte (is he even acting?) you expect there to be some level of fun that comes along with it. Unfortunately, the experience of the film is something more akin to an assignment you feel more relieved to have finished after going through the doldrums of every standard cliche and requirement rather than having experienced anything close to a genuine emotion. In other words, Gangster Squad is very simply a complacent piece of entertainment that reaches for nothing more than what requirements it needs to qualify as a coherent story. Then there is the issue of Sean Penn as head gangster Mickey Cohen. The likes of which could have been a great, flashy, over-the-top character but instead turns out to be a campy, cheesy villain instead. This also echoes an issue with the entire film in general where it doesn't know exactly what it wants to be and if the makers don't know where to go with it, we don't know how to take it and it all falls apart from there. C

There is a certain type of drag you feel surrounding a movie like The Impossible. Not because you expect it to be bad, you really have no right to believe it could be anything but good. Still, there is this worry that you've seen it all before. A heart wrenching love story complete against the backdrop of a historically true, but very tragic event. It would be hard to buy into this film if that story of love and overcoming obstacles wasn't actually true as well. Different from something like Titanic, the world is not yet distanced from the lives lost and devastation caused by the 2004 Indian Ocean earthquake and Tsunami. To impose such a positive story over these events would naturally feel disrespectful, but because the story is an accurate account of Alarez Belon's experience in the middle of such mass destruction their is no false motive detected but instead one that seems to imply that even in the darkest corners we might find hope. It is a harrowing experience to watch the film, and one that I was afraid would be ruined by the trailer that seemed to give far too much away. It did, but not to the extent I was concerned and that I felt I'd already experienced the entire film. It was somewhat of a strange sensation walking out of the movie, coming to terms with the frailty of life and that despite the countless horrible, horrible stories that came out of events like this their is still the possibility of the slightest bit of empathy from whomever fate decides to touch. The Impossible is not a bombastic tale of survival but is instead a very personal film, one that feels very close to the heart and allows the audience the horror of true loss rather than the desperation for false redemption. B+

If you've seen the trailers for Promised Land you likely know what we are getting here. Damon plays Steve Butler who, along with his sarcastic partner in crime Sue (McDormand) go from town to town selling the people on the promise of millions of dollars if they allow their company to drill on their land and extract the natural gas buried beneath. Steve is a professional salesman, he knows what he's doing, he comes from the same background as the people he's selling to and therefor knows how to handle them. He and Sue are miles ahead of any other team in terms of closing towns for his company's expansion plans. Once they reach another rural town along their way (the town is never specified which adds a nice bit of "this could be anywhere" feeling) they come across a man who challenges their scheme. The local science teacher, Frank Yates (Hal Holbrook) is more than he appears to be and challenges Steve during the town meeting pushing things to a vote before anyone is allowed to do any drilling. Once this is set in motion Steve naturally jumps into panic mode, only to be pushed further towards the edge when an activist from an environmental group shows up. Dustin Noble (Krasinski) plays the role of the earnest commoner who shows up to side with the towns people and seemingly put Damon and his billion dollar company in their place. Though the film epitomizes a story where we know exactly where it is going, though I was surprised by a fourth quarter twist, it still in fact proves a solid journey and wraps up its own story nicely while making us think about the long term effects of its message. B-

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