Monday, January 14, 2013

Weekend Box Office: Zero Dark Thirty, Gangster Squad, Rust and Bone

Here is an interesting article from reviewing some of the movies that came out over the past weekend. This follows this post about some of the movies from last week and THIS POST about some movies that have been released over the past few years that you might have missed! This all follows this post about guidelines to chosing good movies to watch yourself!

Weekend Box Office: Zero Dark Thirty, Gangster Squad, Rust and Bone

By Debbie Schlussel


My apologies in being late to get my movie reviews up, this weekend, but I wasn’t feeling the greatest on Friday (working very hard on some projects), and couldn’t finish before the Jewish Sabbath began. Better late than never, and I’m not crazy about any of the new movies in theaters this weekend, anyway.

* “Zero Dark Thirty“: If you really want to see a thriller about how Osama Bin Laden was killed, skip this and watch the “60 Minutes” interview with Matt Bissonnette a/k/a “Mark Owen,” the Navy SEAL and author of “No Easy Day: The Firsthand Account of the Mission That Killed Osama Bin Laden.” It’s vastly more exciting and real than this long, slow movie that goes on and on and on for 2.5 hours. Yes, this movie gets exciting . . . but only in the last 45 minutes or so, when the mission to kill Bin Laden actually starts to go down.

Oh, and true to Obama form, the movie NEVER shows you the face of Bin Laden–once again, pandering to the Muslim world out of respect to them and their favorite Islamic terrorist and mass murderer of Americans. There are other sops to Muslims, such as a top CIA official who looks stereotypically Jewish and has the stereotypically Jewish name of “Wolf” . . . but he’s shown praying to allah on his prayer rug in the middle of his CIA office. Then, he tells the female CIA agent (Jessica Chastain) at the center of this movie how much he, unlike the other CIA brass, wants her desire to get Bin Laden to happen. Get it? The only top CIA guy who really wants to get Bin Laden is a Muslim (who is probably a Jewish convert). I doubt this guy really exists in real life, but who cares about reality when PC is the priority in our world.

While “ZDT” is about how a female CIA agent, named Maya, discovers the location of Bin Laden, the movie portrays her as the ONLY person in the entire CIA that really wants him killed. You’ve seen this movie a million times before–the very hard-working chick who is smarter than everyone else, better than everyone else, unappreciated by her superiors, always brooding, has few friends, and must battle everyone at the top to make sure the right thing is done. I don’t really believe it. Just as I don’t believe that the real-life female CIA agent who helped find Bin Laden (but wasn’t the only one, unlike the way this movie portrays it), wrote the number of days since she found Bin Laden in magic marker on the window of her CIA superior’s office every single day. While I’m sure there was some hesitation and uncertainty by the big-wigs at the CIA bureaucracy, I doubt it was just a single agent (and maybe her immediate supervisor) who wanted to get Bin Laden.

You’ve heard much ado from three annoying, grandstanding liberal U.S. Senators–John McCain, Dianne Feinstein, and Carl Levin–about this movie portraying torture as working. In fact, it does no such thing, and I doubt the Senators actually saw the movie before preening for the cameras and howling on letters. While waterboarding is shown, the man who give the CIA agents a scant and relatively useless tip on where Bin Laden’s courier (at whose ostensible home Bin Laden is living) might be and who he is does so only after they are nice to him and give him sandwiches–the typical liberal worldview on how to get info from Islamic terrorists. The movie also shows another detainee giving some scraps of info after Maya tells him that he’s scheduled to be interrogated by Israelis next, but that she could try to stop that if he helps.

In the movie, the most useful info on Bin Laden’s courier is actually given in exchange for a Lamborghini. The man who gives the most useful and important info on finding the courier is an Arab in Dubai who gives the info once the U.S. government buys him a brand new Lamborghini (a garish bright yellow one) at a Dubai car dealership. If the three Senators had any good sense, they’d be hootin’ and hollerin’ and sending letters that the movie promotes a foreign luxury sports car as helping get information out of terrorists and not a Dodge Viper. Despite all those stories we heard about how no Muslim would risk his life for the $50 million reward for Bin Laden, apparently–if this scene in the movie is true–a Muslim risked his life for the far less expensive Lamborghini.

One irrelevant part of the movie–inserted, no doubt, for excitement and to make the movie a half hour too long–is the episode in which another female CIA agent, who is Maya’s best friend, thinks she’s turned an Al-Qaeda agent, a Jordanian doctor, and then insists that he and his car not be searched when they arrive at a CIA base in Afghanistan. He then blows up the base and seven CIA agents are murdered, including the chick. The episode actually did happen in real life, but the doctor, Humam Khalil Abu-Malal Al-Balawi, was actually PALESTINIAN. We reported on it here on this site. But there is no evidence the female CIA agent who died in that attack knew the one who helped find Bin Laden or that they were ever stationed together.

And the movie downplays why the giant screw-up happened and seven agents died. Jennifer Matthews, the real-life CIA agent in charge of this, was an affirmative action appointee who was made head of the base and charged with the operation despite having none of the required experience. She never served in a war zone, never ran a surveillance operation, and never handled an informant. But, despite that, she was given the assignment solely because she was a woman. An internal CIA report blamed her for the bungling of the operation. The movie doesn’t tell you any of that because it doesn’t jibe with the “chick CIA agents rock!” message of the movie.

My favorite part of the movie is that James Gandolfini is the CIA Director in this movie. If only Tony Soprano ran our spy operation. Then, maybe things would actually get done. The other part of the movie that is enjoyable is the portrayal of the brave Navy SEALs by Joel Edgerton and Chris Pratt, among others. They act and behave exactly like I’d expect from Navy SEALs if you met them at a bar for beers or saw them as they were about to go on a major mission. They are calm and cool and all-American (even if Edgerton is really an Aussie).

Overall, the movie is fine as a thriller, but don’t take this “She Can Do It!” Rosie-the-CIA-Riveter procedural as anything close to the real thing. There’s been much buzz about director Kathryn Bigelow getting “snubbed” by the Oscars in not being nominated for Best Director. But any director who doesn’t have the guts to show the face of an actor playing dead Bin Laden gets as much respect from me as the President who refuses to show us the pics of the real thing.


* “Gangster Squad“: Based on a true story, in 1949 Los Angeles, mobster Mickey Cohen (loathsome real-life BFF of Iran, Sean Penn) runs the show with illegal gambling, prostitution, and so on. Los Angeles’ police chief (Nick Nolte, whose speech is as painful to hear as it looks like it is for him to speak) enlists a police detective (Josh Brolin) to assemble a squad of fellow officers to battle Cohen. But they have to do it off the books and they have to kill people, rather than bring them in, because there will be no arrests or trials. Too many cops and judges have been bribed and bought off by Cohen. The group of officers is known as the “Gangster Squad,” and includes Ryan Gosling and some others, each of them chosen for their particular skills and characteristics. I wonder if the real-life squad included a Black officer and a Hispanic–both of which seem present in the movie version to make the movie appeal to minority audiences.

While I liked the stark good-versus-evil set-up in this movie, it’s incredibly and unnecessarily violent and graphic. The very first scene in the movie features a man who is alive, chained to a car at each end of his body, and he is split in half by Cohen and fed to coyotes or wolves (I forget which). In other scenes, a man is killed when Cohen’s men drill into his head, and another couple of men are burnt alive in an elevator shaft. Another mans hand is severed in an elevator shaft. Was this really necessary? Absolutely not. And while this movie has some tiny hints of “The Untouchables” and its portrayal of good men in law enforcement going after evil mobsters, this movie is no “Untouchables.” Not even close. It’s just an unnecessarily violent cartoon which is high on style and not as much on substance. It’s ironic that, because of James Holmes’ massacre at a showing of the Batman movie, “The Dark Knight,” a scene was removed from this movie (and its showing was postponed from the fall until now) that showed a shooting at a movie theater. That was probably a far less disturbing scene than the other violent scenes of which this movie remains shamelessly chock full.

The execrable Sean Penn’s portrayal of Mickey Cohen is comical and ridiculous and his face and clothing are reminiscent of Dick Tracy cartoon strips. He veers back and forth between a bad Yiddish accent, a bad New York accent, and a bad Rocky Balboa accent. **** UPDATE: And I forgot to mention that he utters such scintillating, high-brow dialogue, such as, “My entire crop of c-nt is ruined” (when his brothel is raided). END UPDATE **** His girlfriend, Emma Stone, who is also Gosling’s character’s girlfriend, is there for style purposes only and adds nothing to the movie.

Because of the good-versus-evil message, I liked it a little, but I was shocked to see a “mother” (make that, womb donor) with her two young kids at such a violent, explicitly graphic movie like this. And the movie is so violent–and ultimately silly at the end–that I can’t fully recommend it. I’m being very generous when I give it . . .


* “Rust and Bone [De Rouille et D'os]“: This was one of the most pointless–and biggest waste-of-time–movies I’ve seen recently. I guess you could call it the “feel-good double-amputee French-language sex movie of the year.” 9/11 Truther nut Marion Cotillard plays a dolphin trainer at a Sea World-type of place who loses her legs in an accident, when the dolphins go nuts. After she loses her legs, Ali, an Arab bouncer she recently met at a local nightclub befriends her, has casual sex with her, and takes her to the beach, where he carries her into the water. But he also sleeps around with others. He’s an immigrant from Belgium who has custody of his young son but doesn’t know how to relate to or take care of him, and Ali’s sister and brother-in-law are the ones who end up taking care of him. Ali wants to become a street fighter and Marion becomes his manager, after she gets artificial legs. Then, he abandons his son and goes to Belgium to train.

This movie goes nowhere and is, again, pointless and a waste of time. Also, the CGI (computer generated image) amputated legs are ridiculous and not realistic. I found the movie extremely creepy, too. Not to mention, entire unnecessary. If this is the best France can make, it should stay out of the movie biz. Absolutely awful.


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