Tag Archives: Gangster Squad

Failed Critics Podcast: Les Miserables

Do you hear the critics sing?

Podding the thoughts of angry men,

They are the musings of a people who won’t watch Rock of Ages again,

When the bleating of the fool,

Echoes the bleating of the drunk,

There is podcast about to start when tomorrow comes!

That’s right, James has finally managed to persuade the critics back into the cinema to see another musical, and hopefully this time they won’t want to kill him afterwards. Also on our big return we review new releases Gangster Squad, The Sessions, The Impossible, and Quartet.

Join us next week as we review Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained. The D is silent, the podcast won’t be…

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Gangster Squad

Gangster Squad Emma Stone Ryan GoslingYou wanna know how to make The Untouchables for the so-called MTV Generation? They cast double Oscar-winner Robert De Niro as the bad guy; you cast double Oscar-winner Sean Penn. They have a dreamy Latino marksmen in the shape of Andy Garcia; you cast Michael Peña as a dreamy Latino marksman. And fuck it; get Ryan Gosling in as well. That’s the Hollywood way!

Back in our 2013 preview I asked if Gangster Squad was going to be “this generation’s The Untouchables or Dick Tracy”. Well, I didn’t expect them to answer so literally in the former. This film is essentially a remake in all but name. The city may be different, and under threat from a different historically-inspired gangster, but the main elements are all here.

Sean Penn stars as Robert De Nero Mickey Cohen, a ruthless mob boss determined to run Los Angeles as his own private empire. The film opens on him torturing one gangster, and ordering another to tell Chicago what happened. It’s almost as if director Ruben Fleischer is flicking two-fingers at Chicago-based The Untouchables. This film is going to be bigger, better, and down-right nastier he seems to say. And it’s a bold statement.

Josh Brolin is Kevin Costner AND Sean Connery Sgt. John O’Mara, one of the few good cops in the city, and the man chosen by Nick Nolte’s police chief to bring down Cohen’s Empire. Luckily at this point the film does strike out on its own a little. As O’Mara puts his team together, and they embark on their mission, this does appear to be a slightly different gangster movie to those that have gone before. O’Mara’s Gangster Squad don’t carry badges, and they don’t make arrests. This is guerrilla warfare played out on the streets of LA. And it’s actually a lot of fun.

A major element that sets Gangster Squad apart from its predecessors is its use of humour. The film has very funny moments, which shouldn’t be a huge surprise considering Fleischer’s previous work (Zombieland, 30 Minutes or Less). The comic relief does help to break up some pretty brutal scenes of violence, and stops it being as unremittingly bleak as Lawless was last year. Sadly though, the plot is inevitably drawn back to its inspirations, and far too often I watched events on screen thinking “oh, that’s just like in The Untouchables”.

One thing The Untouchables didn’t have though is Ryan Gosling. Once you get past his character’s name (Jerry Wooters) he is everything that is good about this movie. He oozes charm, and has great comic timing. His transformation from laid-back, ‘looking after number one’ cop to avenging angel may be a little unbelievable plot-wise, but he sells the hell out of it up there. His love interest is played by the always delightful Emma Stone; who, like Gosling, is yet to put a foot wrong in her Hollywood career. The film genuinely lights up when these two are on screen.

Fleischer has made an enjoyable and stylish film. It may lack the gravitas and emotional punch of L.A. Confidential, and is a little too derivative of previous portrayals of this fascinating era at times, but there’s enough humour and great set-pieces to make it worthwhile.

Gangster Squad is released on 10 January.

What to Expect When You’re Expecting to go to the Cinema in 2013: Part 1

In the first part of James Diamond’s preview of 2013 he takes us through a packed January to March…

January

DJANGO UNCHAINEDThe New Year kicks off with a number of Golden-Globe nominated films (and Oscar hopefuls) hitting UK screens. First up is Les Misérables, the screen adaptation of the stage musical adaptation of Victor Hugo’s classic novel. Reviews suggest that fans of the musical will be very satisfied, but is there anything here for anyone new or ambivalent to the source material? Well, any chance to see Russell Crowe trying to keep up vocally with the Jackmans and the Hathaways of this world has got to be worth a punt, and the film does look suitably epic.

In a jam-packed month, the following week sees the release of Django Unchained and Gangster Squad. Tarantino’s ‘Southern’ (simply a Western taking place in the South) is apparently his best work in years, with lashings of blood, violence, and a cast including Jamie Foxx, Christophe Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio, and Samuel Jackson. If the trailer is anything to go by, we can at least expect a welcome return to common parlance of the word ‘rambunctious’. Which is nice.

Gangster Squad was put back by a few months after the tragedy of the cinema shooting in Colorado, and we can finally see if it is going to be this generation’s The Untouchables or Dick Tracy on 18 January. It has a great cast (Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Josh Brolin, and Sean Penn), but can director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) successfully move on from his ‘youth comedy’ background?

Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln has ‘Oscar-winner’ written through it like a stick of rock, and with a cast like Daniel-Day Lewis, Tommy Lee Jones, Sally Field, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in the story of America’s greatest President you would be a fool to bet against it. In a controversial move Spielberg appears to gloss over Lincoln’s vampire-hunting years though. Risky.

The final film we’re very excited about here at Failed Critics is the official return of the Governator in The Last Stand. A couple of cameos in the Expendables series aside, this is Arnie’s first leading role since returning to Hollywood. When a drug cartel leader busts out of prison and is racing to the Mexican border, a sheriff (almost certainly approaching retirement) and his inexperienced staff in a border town are the only thing in the way. If Arnie gets to show a little depth, and even vulnerability, as the lead this could be great. If the film tries to pretend he’s the same Arnie we knew and loved in the 80s and 90s however…

February

Wreck-It RalphThis month sees the release of a couple of films playing on our nostalgia in very different way. First up is Disney’s paean to computer games of our youth, Wreck-It Ralph. The film features the voice talents of John C. Reilly as the eponymous game ‘baddie’, and his journey through all the games in an arcade to become a hero. The key to the film’s success will be in whether it has the cross-over appeal between children and adults that is omnipresent in almost everything their Pixar subsidiary produces.

The second film of the month playing to our nostalgia gland comes with the tagline “Yipee-ki-yay Mother Russia”. That’s right, this year’s Valentine’s Day is A Good Day To Die Hard. Bruce Willis is back as John McClane, and this time he’s in Russia.

With his son.

For some reason.

Who cares when we’ve got Euro-trash bad guys, people jumping off of buildings, and a rumour of the awesome Patrick Stewart playing the main villain?

Also out this month is the adaptation of David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas, directed by Tom Twyker (of the brilliant Run Lola Run), and Andy and Lana Wachowski (of The Matrix. Just The Matrix. There were no other Matrix films. Leave it). Anyone who has seen the five-minute trailer will know, well, about the same as anyone who hasn’t seen the utterly bonkers and nonsense trailer. It looks fantastic though.

Anyone who has been to the cinema recently will have noticed an advert asking customers to turn their phones off apparently voiced by Alfred Hitchcock. Guess what – it’s not really archive footage of an incredibly prescient Hitch, but Anthony Hopkins in a sneak preview of his work in Hitchcock; the story of the master of suspense and how he made Psycho. Expect an pretty rosy portrayal of the type of behaviour that would have resulted in lawsuits and possibly criminal charges these days – Hollywood doesn’t tend to perform hatchet-jobs on its own people.

March

oz_the_great_and_powerful_wicked_witchStoker, the English-language début of director Chan-wook Park (Oldboy) is out on 1 March, and it certainly sounds interesting. Written by Wentworth Miller (yep, that Wentworth Miller who starred in Prison Break) and starring Mia Wasikowska as India Stoker, a young woman who becomes infatuated with the mysterious and charming Uncle Stoker (Matthew Goode) who comes to stay with the family after his brother (and India’s father) dies in an accident. Not likely to be too high on laughs.

At the complete opposite end of the cinematic scale we have the long-delayed GI Joe: Retaliation. Originally scheduled for release last summer, the latest GI Joe film was delayed for rewrites and the addition of 3D. Oh joy. Still, it’s got the Rock and Bruce Willis as the original Joe, so there’s a slight chance it might be better than anything Michael Bay has released in the last 12 years.

The final film we’re looking forward to in the first quarter of 2013 is yet another attempt to play with the mythology of the Oz universe. Not the HBO series about a prison, but the universe created by L. Frank Baum and brought lovingly to the screen in the classic Judy Garland film The Wizard of Oz. Ever since then creative people have been drawn to this world and tried to create their own take on it, the the stage musical Wicked being the most successful of recent years. Oz: The Great and Powerful is Sam Raimi’s take on the Oz myth, and stars James Franco as a stage magician thrown into the world and using his wits and skills to survive the plans of three witches hunting him. I cannot help but feel this will either be brilliant, or contender for worst film of the year. Fingers crossed.

In Part 2 we will look at the releases scheduled for April to June, including Carrie, Iron Man 3, The Great Gatsby, Star Trek: Into Darkness, and Man of Steel.