Blu Tuesday: Mobsters, Mothers and More

After what can only be described as a really lousy last few weeks, things are finally starting to pick up again in the land of Blu-ray, with several key titles (including the 3D edition of “Jurassic Park”) arriving in stores today. Though the selection isn’t as great as it was a few months ago, when compared to the rest of April, it’s hard to complain.

“Gangster Squad”

It’s been a while since Hollywood delivered a truly great mobster movie, and though “Gangster Squad” falls a little short of remedying that, it’s still an entertaining and welcome return to the genre, partially because it doesn’t take itself too seriously. Will Beall’s script does a good job of balancing the drama with brief moments of humor, while Sean Penn’s gleefully over-the-top turn as Mickey Cohen is just campy enough without being distracting. The action sequences are also really well done, although the unique visual style that Ruben Fleischer brought to “Zombieland” isn’t as prevalent here as it was in that movie. If there’s one thing that really makes the film worth seeing, however, it’s the killer cast. Josh Brolin is great as the leader of the titular squad, and it’s nice to see Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone rekindle their chemistry from “Crazy, Stupid, Love,” even if both parts are poorly underwritten. The other cast members don’t get as much to do, but having top-notch actors like Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie, Michael Peña, Giovanni Ribisi and Robert Patrick in those supporting roles definitely elevates the material. The story is predictable, and it owes a lot to “The Untouchables,” but “Gangster Squad” is enjoyable in spite of all that.

Blu-ray Highlight: It’s a shame that Warner Bros. didn’t include the original movie theater shootout sequence among the deleted scenes, but the rest of the bonus material is pretty good. “The Gangland Files” collects many of the disc’s extras (including Focus Point mini-featurettes, historical trivia and other bits) into a picture-in-picture track that plays alongside the film, while the audio commentary with director Ruben Fleischer is informative but not terribly engaging.

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2012 Year End Movie Review: Jason Zingale

2012 wasn’t exactly an unforgettable year at the movies – I know that, you know that – but it can hardly be described as a disappointment, because while there weren’t many films that will be remembered 20 years from now, there was still plenty of quality to be found if you looked hard enough. As is usually the case with these year-end features, my Top 10 deviates a little from the typical crop of movies that you’d expect to find on most critics’ lists (some that I didn’t love as much as others, and some that I never had the chance to see), but it’s nothing that will surprise anyone who’s read my past work.

Best Movies of 2012

1. “THE PERKS OF BEING A WALLFLOWER

It’s not every day that the author of a critically acclaimed novel gets the chance to adapt their book for the big screen, let alone direct it, but after watching Stephen Chbosky’s “The Perks of Being a Wallflower,” it’s hard to imagine anyone else doing a better job. After all, Chbosky knows the material inside and out, and it definitely shows in this modest but heartwarming tale about finding your place in the world. It’s your typical coming-of-age story, but one that’s handled with a certain level of maturity rarely found in high school films, and though the comparisons to “The Breakfast Club” may not be completely warranted, it’s one of the few movies about high school that actually gets it right. Logan Lerman, Emma Watson and Ezra Miller all deliver excellent performances in their respective roles (especially Miller as the openly gay senior that takes Lerman’s freshman under his wing), and Chbosky’s deft script earns every emotional moment. It’s just a shame that “The Perks of Being a Wallflower” will probably get lost in the shuffle come awards time, because it has everything you could possibly want in a film.

2. “SILVER LININGS PLAYBOOK

Leave it to David O. Russell to create a romantic comedy as quirky, dark, funny and surprisingly touching as “Silver Linings Playbook,” because the movie is almost as crazy as its two leads. One minute a fiercely honest character study about a man coping with bipolar disorder, and the next minute a charming rom-com revolving around an amateur dancing competition, the film performs such an amazing tightrope act that it’s really to Russell’s credit that it doesn’t come crashing down like a house of cards. Of course, the movie wouldn’t be nearly as enjoyable if it weren’t for the risks that it takes thematically, but none of that would matter without its outstanding cast. Bradley Cooper finally gets the chance to show what he’s fully capable of in the best role of his career, and Robert De Niro has some great moments as Cooper’s superstitious father, but it’s Jennifer Lawrence (already so good at such a young age) who steals the show with a phenomenal performance that all but guarantees she’ll win the Oscar for Best Actress.

3. “ARGO

Ben Affleck may have proved that he was more than just a one-hit wonder with “The Town,” but for his next project, the Boston-born multihyphenate moved away from the comforts of his hometown to a much larger stage, delivering arguably his best film in the process. A politically charged thriller that felt eerily timely in the wake of the U.S. embassy attacks in Libya, “Argo” is unique in that it also juggles a lighter Hollywood insider subplot in addition to its main story. By all accounts, it shouldn’t work, but Affleck makes the blending of the contrasting tones appear almost effortless. The comedy provided by Alan Arkin’s veteran producer and John Goodman’s makeup artist never undercuts the seriousness of the action in Tehran, and yet the strategically placed laughs help break up the tension that mounts over the course of the film. It’s been a while since a movie literally had me on the edge of my seat, but “Argo” is extremely taut and suspenseful, topped off by a fantastic nail-biter ending and one of the year’s best ensembles. The fact that it’s also based on a true story is simply the icing on the cake.

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