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Thumbnails Feb 13

by Tony Medley

The Impossible (8/10): The acting is exceptional, especially by the courageous Naomi Watts in this true story of the 2004 tsunami that hit Thailand, which is, in the end, a touching monument to familial love. It's made all the more moving since it was shot at the Orchid Resort, which is where the real family portrayed by Watts, Ewan McGregor, and Tom Holland stayed when the tsunami hit. The frightening flood sequence, which took a year to film, makes it feel as if the viewer is under water with Watts.

This is 40 (8/10): Even though this is directed by Smutmeister Judd Apatow, and while still profane and sometimes tasteless and juvenile, it is brilliantly written by Apatow, who also produced. It comedically captures the lives of a couple, Paul Rudd and Leslie Mann, Apatow's wife, entering midlife. On the downside, Apatow still throws in childish scenes that would have been better left out, like several of Rudd sitting on the toilet. I fail to see the reason to show a character going to the bathroom in a movie. Everybody drops F bombs, although not as many as in other Apatow films. But by and large these do not destroy what is a funny, highly entertaining adult film.

Parker (7/10): Jason Statham overcomes too much Jennifer Lopez in director Taylor Hackford's violent actioner set in Palm Beach. There are plenty of brutal fights to keep the action going, but Lopez slows the pace to a crawl whenever she appears interrupting Statham as he wreaks havoc seeking vengeance against Michael Chiklis and his gang.

The Last Stand (7/10): While one can't envision Arnold Schwarzenegger playing Shakespeare, what he does have is charm. He exhibits that here in spades with a joke-laden script. Korean action director KIM Jee-woon does not speak a word of English, but that did not seem to affect his ability to direct Schwarzenegger and the rest. Highlighted by some fine car chases and interesting camera angles, this  gets its mojo from Mowg's exceptional music that puts the viewer in the right frame of mind. Despite some graphic violence, this is a gratifying entertainment.

Gangster Squad (6/10): This could have been a good historical film about a fascinating period of Los Angeles history, the era of gangster Mickey Cohen. Instead it's a mostly fictional fantasy. It purports to take place in the first year of William Parker's reign as Chief of the LAPD. Alas, it's set in 1949 and Parker didn't become Chief until 1950. That's only a minor historical fallacy of many. The last third of the film consists of bloody machine gun fights throughout Los Angeles. That never happened. Worse, there isn't one iota of chemistry between the protagonists, Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling. On the plus side, Gosling does have terrific chemistry with Emma Stone, Cohen's moll, who is made up to look like the movie star she is. Stone and Sean Penn (Cohen) give fine performances, and the recreation of 1949 Los Angeles is evocative.

Zero Dark Thirty (4/10): This isn't the story of the raid that got bin Laden or the heroism of the SEALs who planned and carried it out. No, it's the quasi-fictional story of how one woman was allegedly responsible for finding him. The clumsy first two hours provide a fine antidote for insomnia. I was looking forward to this film but came away deeply disappointed. Director Katherine Bigelow has admitted that the fact that a woman played a key role in the search for bin Laden "thrilled" her. So much for the SEALs. Too bad one of them wasn't female.