Weekend Movies: Wars on Crime and Terror

It’s finally here. You can now see the movie that many critics’ circles (including the Utah Film Critics Association, of which Aaron and I are members) have deemed as one of the very best of the year: ‘Zero Dark Thirty’. Kathryn Bigelow’s drama about the manhunt for Osama bin Laden can now be seen on more than 2,400 screens across the nation. Bigelow may have been snubbed by the Academy, but ‘Zero Dark’ is very much a contender for Best Picture.

On top of that expansion, ‘Gangster Squad‘ also storms into theaters this weekend. Its release was delayed from last fall to allow for refilming of content that may have been insensitive to audiences after last summer’s Colorado theater shooting. Hats off to the filmmakers and the studios for this respectful gesture.

‘Gangster Squad’ features an explosive cast consisting of Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling at its center, plus Sean Penn, Emma Stone, Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Michael Peña and Giovanni Ribisi in supporting roles. From ‘Zombieland‘ director Ruben Fleischer, the movie pits 1940s Los Angeles cops against organized crime.

I had no idea that the comedy ‘A Haunted House‘ existed at all until one week ago. This ‘Paranormal Activity‘ spoof appears to be nothing more than an unofficial and unwanted ‘Scary Movie 5’ – except that an actual ‘Scary Movie 5’ (with Lindsay Lohan and Charlie Sheen, ugh) opens in April. Anyway, this one stars Marlon Wayans, David Koechner, Nick Swardson, Cedric the Entertainer and J.B. Smoove.

Imported from Bollywood comes ‘Matru ki Bijlee ka Mandola‘. I’ve never understood the appeal of these comedies, but if you’re a fan, this is supposed to be a good one. Politicians, wedding, shenanigans!

Also opening is ‘High Tech, Low Life‘, a documentary that follows two Chinese citizens-turned-reporters who dig up untold news about social issues. Frankly, this sounds like the most interesting indie release of the week.

Fans of the musicals ‘Glee’ and ‘Pitch Perfect‘ will be glad to see their singing stars heading to a non-musical comedy called ‘Struck by Lightning‘. That kid from ‘Glee’ who’s always crying wrote the screenplay and plays the lead, a dead young man who was struck by lightning. The narrative has him telling one of his life stories from high school that led up to his death. Rebel “Fat Amy” Wilson, Christina Hendricks, Dermot Mulroney and Allison Janney co-star.

While ‘Struck by Lighting’ may feature a musically talented cast that doesn’t sing, ‘Quartet‘ has a strong cast of actors who do sing. Dustin Hoffman directs this British play turned independent film about a group of elderly folks who live in a geriatric home for retired opera singers. Maggie Smith, Billy Connolly and Michael Gambon star.

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