Friday, March 1, 2013

Worth Mentioning - The Dead Offer No Quarter

We watch several movies a week. Every Friday, we'll talk a little about some of the movies we watched that we felt were Worth Mentioning.
 

After several months divided, Cody and Jay are reteamed to talk action, documentaries, and horror.
 


GANGSTER SQUAD (2013)

In 1949 Los Angeles, gangster Mickey Cohen is making a ruthless play to take over the city's illegal enterprises, killing, intimidating, and buying his way to the top. Cohen owns cops, judges, high-ranking officials that could impede his progress, and he's doing well in his endeavors. When he comes home at the end of the day, his maid is waiting at the door for him with a hot fudge sundae. It appears that crime really does pay.

But the Chief of Police is not in Cohen's pocket, and he has decided to assemble a secret task force with the goal of stopping Cohen from establishing an all-powerful empire. The officers on the squad will not present themselves as cops, they will not make arrests, they will just wreak havoc on Cohen's businesses and thwart his plans.


The squad is led and assembled by war veteran/fledgling family man John O'Mara, who finds his team members not by going after the best and the brightest who are likely to be promoted up the ranks, since Cohen would already have his eye on them, but from people who know the streets and are a little rough around the edges. There's a techie, one who's an expert knife thrower when the situation calls for it (The Magnificent Seven and Young Guns taught us that any good team needs a knife thrower), a legendary gunslinger/cowboy throwback who prefers to keep fanning the hammer on his six shooter even when the baddies are double fisting tommy guns, the cowboy's protégé, and another damaged WWII vet who doesn't get involved until things get personal for him, and who's seeing Cohen's mistress/sophistication tutor on the side.


Sean Penn gives an awesome performance as the brutal, sadistic, scummy Cohen, the typically captivating Emma Stone continues to captivate as the moll stuck in the middle, and the gangster squad itself is made up of bunch of actors who are great to watch - Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Michael Peña, and Giovanni Ribisi.


Inspired by real events that were chronicled in a seven article series published in the Los Angeles Times, Gangster Squad uses the basics of the true story as a jumping off point for a fun cops and criminals action flick. Stylishly directed by Ruben Fleischer, it mixes period style with a slightly heightened reality, looking like a pulp comic come to life but not going all the way to Sin City territory.



THE LAST STAND (2013)

Taking the lead role in a movie for the first time in 10 years, Arnold Schwarzenegger plays Ray Owens, the sheriff of Sommerton Junction, Arizona, a tiny desert town on the Mexico border. Owens came to Sommerton to live a quiet life after working narcotics in Los Angeles, and a whole lot of peace appears to be exactly what he's gotten. Owens only has three police officers working under him, and they don't see much, if any, action. Until drug kingpin Gabriel Cortez escapes from F.B.I. custody in Las Vegas and makes a run for Mexico on a course that will take him right down the Main Street of Sommerton Junction.

This movie is sort of a modern day Western, its story has echoes of Rio Bravo and High Noon, though I've never seen a Western where the villain had a superpowered horse: with his henchman setting up things ahead of him and running block, Cortez is racing toward Mexico in a modified Corvette Zero One that can reach 200 mph.

As Cortez rapidly approaches their town, Owens, his officers, a deputized troublemaker, and a local resident with a deep appreciation for firearms make it their duty to stop the criminal from reaching freedom.

South Korean director Jee-woon Kim makes his English language film debut with The Last Stand, and while he may not have an ear for American accents yet, judging by the dodgy fake ones a couple cast members put on, he does good work with the visuals and action, and shows a welcome willingness to let our heroes take some battle damage.

Though Schwarzenegger's return hasn't done very well at the box office, it's a good, cool movie that I would say is actually one of the better films of his career.



Jay's Mentions:

It's been eight months since I've found the time or energy to sit down and write some mentions, so I'm briefly going to list a few titles that I've found worth mentioning as of late.


UNDEFEATED (2011), which won the Oscar for Best Documentary at the 2012 Academy Awards. The film is directed by Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin and follows a volunteer football coach who is trying to resurrect a fledgling football team in the inner city of North Memphis, Tennessee. It's a very touching film and well worth a watch if you enjoy a good documentary or are a sports fan. It's interesting to note that this film beat out Paradise Lost 3: Purgatory which is based on a story out of West Memphis, Arkansas. The two towns are only a few minutes apart and are both parts of the greater Memphis, Tennessee area.
 


Speaking of West Memphis, and the West Memphis Three story, I also really enjoyed the Peter Jackson produced documentary WEST OF MEMPHIS (2012), which isn't connected to the Paradise Lost saga, but is a continuation of the same story. The film is directed very well by Amy Berg and is extremely emotional.



The Walking Dead is a pretty solid show on AMC, and if you haven't checked it out yet, I recommend giving it a try. My favorite thing "Walking Dead" isn't the show or even the comic book the show is based on, but a spinoff of the franchise in the form of a video game released by Telltale, with the same title as both the comic and show.

I was a pretty big gamer in my early teens, mainly focusing on sports related games, but I haven't had much interest in playing anything in years. To keep me busy during the wait between episodes for AMC's The Walking Dead, I decided to give the Telltale game a shot, and fell in love with it. It's been the most emotionally impactful piece of art that I have encountered in quite a while, and when I call it art, I mean it.

The game is a point and click adventure in which you play as a former college professor who is currently on his way to prison for murder. You don't make it that far, as the zombie apocalypse hits while you are being transferred to prison, and you seek refuge in the home of a young girl who has no one to care for her. You and the girl team up and meet a number of highly entertaining characters along the way as you try to keep each other safe.

This isn't so much a zombie killing game as it is a character driven game. It's extremely well written and voice acted for a game and leaves you making some very difficult decisions. At a moment's notice you will be forced to choose to save one person over another, to hold out hope someone isn't turning into a zombie or to kill them on the spot, and even how far you'll go to risk your own body in order to stay safe. If you are into gaming, or just want to be sucked into a world where your decisions determine the fates of those around you, give this game a look. It's available for your computer (both PC and Mac) or PS3 and XBox 360.

Here's a teaser trailer for the game as well as my favorite score piece.

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