Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, and Nick Nolte star in Gangster Squad, an empty-headed exercise in old-Hollywood style. Lifting freely from noir and gangster traditions, Gangster Squad tries in vain to distract from its low ambition and ultimately comes across as a child’s dress-up production of Boardwalk Empire. The colors are impressive and it’s clear that the designers had a blast, but this might be the most skippable movie of the past year.
Silver Linings Playbook
Hailed by the Academy on many different fronts, especially acting, Silver Linings Playbook rode through the winter on a tidal wave of hype and found a receptive audience. David O. Russell (_The Fighter_) brings us the story of a bipolar schoolteacher (Bradley Cooper) who befriends a troubled widow (Jennifer Lawrence). The film is a well-choreographed piece of ensemble acting, with Jacki Weaver and Robert De Niro delivering notable supporting performances. It poses some questionable ideas — essentially suggesting that mental illness can be cured by true love — but nonetheless encourages healthy debate.
Live and Become
A young Ethiopian boy is passed from his Christian birth mother to a Jewish woman whose child has recently died. Live and Become is the story of his upbringing in Israel and how he deals with his secret past. The French film won numerous international awards, including Most Popular International Film at the 2005 Vancouver International Film Festival, and explores race, religion, and identity in a multicultural world.