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Cinema Scoop

Oscar frontrunners finally in town

Greetings movie lovers, it's time to take a look at what the cinema has to offer us this weekend.

     Zero Dark Thirty

A chronicle of the decade-long hunt for al-Qaeda terrorist leader Osama bin Laden after the September 2001 attacks, and his death at the hands of the Navy S.E.A.L. Team 6 on May 2, 2011.

     My Take

This exceptional looking drama reunites the team of director-producer Kathryn Bigelow and writer-producer Mark Boal (The Hurt Locker). It's been nominated for 5 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actress for star Jessica Chastain. I find it odd however that the Academy snubbed director Bigelow by failing to nominate her for what is said to be easily one of the best films of the year. Of course they also snubbed Ben Affleck and Quentin Tarantino in the directing category so what the heck do they know anyway?

I'm actually looking forward to seeing Zero Dark Thirty as I think it will be fascinating to peek behind the curtain and see the inner workings of one of the most famous manhunts in history. Some may view this as more American military propaganda, but I have an immense amount of respect and admiration for those highly trained and skilled individuals who serve in the Navy SEALs and I think it will be very cool to see just how these ultimate badasses pulled off this extremely dangerous covert operation.

Also starring in the film are Joel Edgerton, Chris Pratt, Jason Clarke and Kyle Chandler. Director Kathryn Bigelow did an outstanding job with The Hurt Locker back in 2009 and I have every confidence that this is going to be another expertly crafted film full of brutal intensity and riveting action sequences.

There has been a lot of hype on this film for quite awhile, and now that it is finally in town we can see if it lives up to all of its accolades. If you are like me, and have to see all of the Oscar nominated films before the big ceremony, then you are definitely going to want to rush out and see Zero Dark Thirty.

I hope it lives up to the hype.

     Gangster Squad

Los Angeles, 1949. Ruthless, Brooklyn-born mob king Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) runs the show in this town, reaping the ill-gotten gains from the drugs, guns, prostitutes and - if he has his way - every wire bet placed west of Chicago. And he does it all with the protection of not only his own paid goons, but also the police and the politicians who are under his control. It's enough to intimidate even the bravest, street-hardened cop... except, perhaps, for the small, secret crew of LAPD outsiders led by Sgt. John O'Mara (Josh Brolin) and Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), who come together to try to tear Cohen's world apart.

     My Take

With a title like Gangster Squad you definitely know what you are getting yourselves into folks. Despite the title's lack of creativity and originality though, the film seemingly has a couple of positive things working in its favour. It's directed by up and coming filmmaker Ruben Fleischer, who made the hilarious and fun Zombieland back in 2009, and it features a tremendous cast that also includes - in addition to Penn, Brolin and Gosling - Nick Nolte, Emma Stone, Robert Patrick, Anthony Mackie, Giovanni Ribisi and Michael Peña.

The weird thing is though, I have a funny feeling that this is going to be a misfire and somewhat of a disappointment. Usually when a studio drops a film into the doldrums of early January it isn't the best of signs. Now I know that there are extenuating circumstances with this film due to the fact that it needed additional re-shoots of a crucial scene which caused the release to be delayed from last September until now. You see, when the original trailer for Gangster Squad was released it contained a scene in which characters are shooting submachine guns at moviegoers through the screen at Grauman's Chinese Theatre. In the wake of the theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado on July 20, the trailer was pulled from circulation and it was later decided that the scene would be removed from the film in order to be sensitive to the victims. Since it was such an important part of the film however, the cast had to reunite and re-shoot this climactic action sequence in an entirely different setting.

Seriously? I mean I'm all for sensitivity and all, but this political correctness is now forcing filmmakers to compromise their artistic vision just in case someone might be bothered. Yeah, it kind of irks me somewhat, I have to admit, but I'm going to avoid ranting about it too much because this isn't the place for soap-boxing about the gun issue in America. I'll leave that in Piers Morgan's capable hands.

So anyways, I'm hoping that Gangster Squad will still be a fairly entertaining 40's era shoot-em-up, but I'm approaching it with a certain amount of trepidation.

I really hope I'm wrong about this one.

     Silver Linings Playbook

Life doesn't always go according to plan. Pat Solatano (Bradley Cooper) has lost everything - his house, his job, and his wife. He now finds himself living back with his mother (Jacki Weaver) and father (Robert De Niro) after spending eight months in a state institution on a plea bargain. Despite suffering from a severe case of bipolar disorder, Pat is determined to rebuild his life, remain positive and reunite with his wife. All Pat's parents want is for him to get back on his feet - and to share their family's obsession with the Philadelphia Eagles football team. When Pat meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), a mysterious girl with problems of her own, things get complicated. Tiffany offers to help Pat reconnect with his wife, but only if he'll do something very important for her in return. As their deal plays out, an unexpected bond begins to form between them, and silver linings appear in both of their lives.

     My Take

It's about time this critically lauded film arrives in Kelowna. It opened in larger markets back in November already and I've been anxiously waiting for it ever since. It's the latest directorial effort from David O. Russell, who has made some great films such as Flirting with Disaster, Three Kings and The Fighter.

The buzz has been very strong for this film and that was further reinforced yesterday with the announcement that it received 8 Academy Awards nominations including Best Picture, Best Director and all four of the acting categories - the first film to do this since Reds in 1982. Supposedly this is one of De Niro's best performances in years, and considering the lack of quality material he's been a part of the last decade, he's long overdue.

I think that Silver Linings Playbook is going to be a very well written character piece full of edgy dramedy and anyone looking for an intelligent relationship film will be well served to seek this one out. It is playing exclusively at the Orchard Plaza 5 Cinemas.

See you there.



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