Strange Now Playing Days

By: Jeff Ford
By: Jeff Ford

Previewing the Good, Bad and Ugly of Zero Dark Thirty, Gangster Squad and A Haunted House

 This week’s release schedule consists of an Oscar heavyweight, a film that was delayed for obvious reasons and a movie that is typical of a January release.  Let’s get it started.  First up on the docket is the story of the greatest manhunt in United States history.




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 in May, 2011. *


The Good – Kathryn Bigelow’s follow-up to her 2008 Oscar winning film The Hurt Locker is the front runner for the Best Picture award, having secured its place on numerous Top Ten lists and headlining a good portion of them.  Jessica Chastain is receiving rave reviews and is one of the leading contenders for winning (the nomination is almost guaranteed) the Best Actress Award at February’s Oscar ceremonies.  The story of S.E.A.L. Team 6 and the dispatching of the mastermind behind 911 have fascinated our society for almost two years.  I know it is one of mine and many of my coworkers most anticipated films.  Here’s hoping it lives up to its reputation.


The Bad – It’s hard to discuss this film without mentioning the controversy surrounding it.  Much has been made about the portrayal of the film’s use of torture to gather the necessary intelligence to locate bin Laden.  I can’t comment specifically on its use (as I’ve yet to see the film) so I will rely on what James Berardinelli from has to say in his review:

Does the movie "glorify" torture, as has been reported in some circles? No, although the implication is that some useful information may have been gleaned from the "enhanced interrogation" of a suspect. Zero Dark Thirty doesn't shy away from depicting ways in which American and pro-American forces questioned those who may have had operational knowledge of al-Qaeda, but it's a stretch to argue that the movie is presenting a defense of the validity of information gained through these means. In fact, the torture scenes (which are about as graphic as one could envision for an R-rated motion picture) are designed more to illustrate aspects of Maya's character than they are to advance the narrative.


The Ugly – Director Kathryn Bigelow may be known as the first female recipient of the Best Director Oscar for The Hurt Locker but I’ll always remember her for directing the greatest cop/surfer movie ever, Point Break.


Zero Dark Thirty is rated R for strong violence including brutal disturbing images, and for language.




A chronicle of the LAPD's fight to keep East Coast Mafia types out of Los Angeles in the 1940s and 50s. *


The Good – An all-star cast lines up in this Ruben Fleisher (Zombieland) directed film.  Josh Brolin (The Goonies), Ryan Gosling (The Adventures of Shirley Holmes), Nick Nolte (Cats & Dogs: The Revenge of Kitty Galore), and Emma Stone (Marmaduke) battle it out against Sean Penn’s (Little House on the Prarie) Mickey Cohen.  The time period has always been ripe for great crime dramas (like L.A. Confidential and The Untouchables).  The noir style appears to fit this story well.  I’m looking forward to finally watching it.


The Bad – While this movie is opening in the month of January, I do not count this as a January film.  It was originally set to be released in early September.  However, due to the events surrounding the Dark Knight Rises shooting in Colorado, the film was pulled from the lineup.  One of the major set pieces was a couple of gangsters breaking into a cinema and opening fire.   Warner Brothers and the filmmakers wisely pulled it off the release schedule and reshot a large portion of the movie to try and distance it from the tragedy.  I wonder if the original footage will ever be seen, perhaps on the DVD as either a branching feature or, more than likely, deleted scenes.


The Ugly – As if the original release date was bad, they choose to unveil it this week… the same week when the Dark Knight shooting hearings are dominating the headlines.  Gangster Squad cannot seem to catch a break.


Gangster Squad is rated R for strong violence and language.




Malcolm and Keisha move into their dream home, but soon learn a demon also resides there. When Keisha becomes possessed, Malcolm - determined to keep his sex life on track - turns to a priest, a psychic, and a team of ghost-busters for help. *


The Good – It looks much better than the trailer for Scary Movie 5.  At least, I chuckled a little during this trailer.


The Bad – However, it still falls in the same vein as many of the so-called parody films.  They consist of throwing whatever they can at the screen in the hope that something sticks.  Most of the time, this hodge-podge style of film falls flat, relying mostly on the very lowest of toilet humor.  For example, the trailer for this film started off with a fart joke.  Occasionally, a film of this ilk somehow is elevated to the ranks of good (the early Zucker brothers movies are a prime example) but almost universally, it falls into the terrible realm (the latter Zucker movies are a prime example).  While I have confidence this movie won’t sink to the depths of Disaster Movie or Meet the Spartans, I’m certain it won’t rise to a Kentucky Fried Movie level either.


The Ugly – I know A Haunted House mocks this aspect of the Paranormal Activity films but still, if the house is haunted, why the heck do people stay there?  Get the heck out of town.  RUN!!!


A Haunted House is rated R for crude and sexual content, language and some drug use.


That will do for this week.  Tune in next time when Schwarzenegger screams for his mother.  Until then, I’m slipping on my ex-president mask and going to the bank.


*all summaries taken from

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