Tag Archives: Sean Penn

Gangster Squad (2013) starring Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Nick Nolte and Emma Stone. You’d think with this cast one could not make a bad movie, but you would be wrong this one really sucks.

Sean Penn has long been a favorite actor of mine.  His career includes such classics as Bad Boys, Fast Times at Ridgmont High, 21 Grams and U Turn but to add Gangster Squad to his list has got to be killing him and he should kill his agent for getting him into it.

I’ve never been a Josh Brolin fan and now I remember why.  His is a poor man’s Tommy Lee Jones at best and it is especially true in this movie.  Moreover, the writing in this film is akin to something a freshman in high school could do.  The film is just that train wreck you can’t take your eyes off of.  Gangster Squad is a film that really should be watched by the Mystery Science Theater 3000 gang.

Sean Penn play Mickey Cohen, a 1940-50’s gangster in Los Angeles who also happens to be a good boxer.  Penn I think is wearing face putty as part of his make-up and has a positively awful—almost comical accent.  And as the ruthless gangster that he is terrorizes both his henchmen and innocent civilians alike.  Our poor man’s Tommy Lee Jones is a former OSS officer from WWII that police chief Nick Nolte thinks can take down Cohen and his criminal empire.  However, according to the chief, this has to be done off the books otherwise someone else will just step in to take Cohen’s place.  “I want to talk to you about the war for the soul of Los Angeles.” That’s the exact line Nick Nolte’s police chief uses to give Brolin his assignment, and the dialogue only gets more ridiculous from there, with moronic screenwriter Will Beall aping the hard-boiled detective films of the past with no understanding of what made that old school purple dialogue work. The story doesn’t help anything either, starting with two scenes of grotesque violence and then idling forever before putting together the actual squad you’ve come to the theater to see.  With the help of his angelic, pregnant wife (of course she’s pregnant) O’Mara assembles the customary blend of outlaws and roughnecks; the only one with any actual personality is Ryan Gosling’s Jerry, a smooth-talking cop with a gangster for a best friend and a dangerous eye for Grace (Emma Stone), Mickey Cohen’s kept woman.

An early scene between Gosling and Stone– who were so fantastic together in Crazy Stupid Love– falls flat under the weight of the old-fashioned patter, and it’s a dismal preview of the many flat scenes to come, even among squad members played by greats like Robert Patrick, Anthony Mackie and Michael Pena. Everyone is acting furiously, Gosling with an odd high voice, Brolin with his locked grimace– and nobody is getting anywhere, as the gangster squad embarks on a few half-baked schemes for catching Cohen with no sense of strategy or rising tension. We’re told that Los Angeles is crumbling under Cohen’s corruption, but we’re never shown it, and the stakes behind all these bloodbaths start to feel further away, until Fleischer’s stylized and slowed-down violence becomes dull, then repulsive.

Combining the worst of modern action sensibilities with a Disney World recreation of the past, while also wasting some of the most interesting screen talents out there, Gangster Squad is an incredibly frustrating film.

Furthermore, the movie is 2 hours long making it viewing even more tortious.



Posted by on July 21, 2013 in Movie Reviews


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Well since we are still waiting for our Hero review here is one I saw on the fly: The Interpreter (2005).

“The Interpreter” was the final film to be directed by the legendary Sydney Pollack (3 days of the Condor, Out of Africa, Jeremiah Johnson…in total about 40 films).  The film stars Nicole Kidman and more importantly Sean Penn—who is one of my favorite actors.


Silvia Broome (Nicole Kidman) is an interpreter working at the United Nations in New York. She was raised in the fictional African country of the Republic of Matobo.


The United Nations is considering indicting the blood thirsty Edmond Zuwanie (Earl Cameron), President of Matobo, to stand trial at the Hague for crimes against humanity.  Initially considered a liberator, over the past 20 years he has become corrupt and tyrannical and is now responsible for ethnic cleansing in his country.  Zuwanie needs to make a speech directly to the United Nations in an attempt to save his ass and avoid the indictment.


After a hard day’s work, Silvia returns at night to get some personal belongings when she overhears discussion of an assassination plot, accidently turns on the light in the sound booth thereby making the would be assassins aware of her presence, and runs like hell.  The next day she is translating a meeting between the U.S. and Matobo and it clicks with the words she overheard the night before, so she reports the incident to UN security; the target of the plot appears to be Zuwanie himself.  UN security calls in the United States Secret Service. Enter Tobin Keller (Sean Penn) and Dot Woods (Catherine Keener) to investigate Silvia (much to her surprise), as well as protect Zuwanie when he shows up for his speech.  Keller learns that Silvia has, in the past, been involved in a Matoban guerrilla group and that her parents and sister were killed by land mines laid by Zuwanie.  On top of that she was even in bed (literally) with one of Zuwanie’s political opponents.  Although Keller is very suspicious of Silvia’s story, the two grow close and Keller ends up protecting her from attacks.  Silvia later finds that her brother Simon and her lover Xola were killed (as shown in the opening clip).


The purported assassin is discovered while Zuwanie is in the middle of his address to the General Assembly, and security personnel rush Zuwanie to a safe room for his protection. Silvia, anticipating this, has been hiding in the safe room, and confronts Zuwanie and intends to kill him herself.  Keller determines that the assassination plot is a sham, intended to fail; Zuwanie arranged it to enhance his own credibility, and thus avoid the indictment, while also eliminating his political opponents. Keller rushes to the safe room and arrives just in time to prevent Silvia from murdering Zuwanie. Zuwanie is indicted, and Silvia is expelled from the USA, returning home to Matobo soon afterwards.


While there is great directing, great acting and a tense plot, the film doesn’t quite reach its potential, making “The Interpreter” what it is, an exciting, smart thriller that never quite attains the edge to take it to the next level.  Why?  A perfect ending.  The first three quarters of the film are terrific, not at all action-packed which makes it even more exciting.  With the direction of Sydney Pollack and the acting of Nicole Kidman and Sean Penn, “The Interpreter” moves along at breakneck speed due to the tight construction of the plot and the equally compelling secrets of its main players. Some, however, will find it slow and boring, but that is their problem.  That being said, “The Interpreter” falls short of wowing its audience and while I enjoyed it and would recommend it, I can’t see it having much sustainability in the years to come i.e. becoming a cult classic.


The film did pretty well at the box office grossing about $160,000,000 with a budget of about $80,000,000.


Now, what makes the “The Interpreter” a little special is that it is the first movie ever filmed inside the United Nations General Assembly and Security Council chambers.  The producers initially approached the U.N. about filming there, but their request was turned down. The production would have relocated to Toronto with a constructed set; however, this would have substantially increased costs, so Sydney Pollack approached then-Secretary General Kofi Annan directly, and personally negotiated permission to film inside the United Nations. Annan commented on “The Interpreter” that “the intention was really to do something dignified, something that is honest and reflects the work that this Organization does. And it is with that spirit that the producers and the directors approached their work, and I hope you will all agree they have done that.”


Because the UN Security Council can call an emergency meeting at any time with three hours’ notice, the film crew had to take into account that they could be asked to leave almost immediately.  Not surprisingly, Ambassadors at the United Nations had hoped to appear in the film, but actors were asked to play the roles of diplomats. Spain’s UN Ambassador Inocencio Arias jokingly complained that his “opportunity to have a nomination for the Oscar next year went away because of some stupid regulation.”

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Posted by on August 16, 2011 in Movie Reviews


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Let’s Take a Trip Back to the 1980s: Fast Times At Ridgemont High.

Where do you start with a movie like this?  Let’s go with the fact that Fast Times served as an incubator for many of today’s great actors and actresses: Sean Penn (one of my personal favorites), Anthony Edwards, Eric Stoltz, Phoebe Cates, Jennifer Jason Leigh, a young Nicolas Cage performing under his real name “Copolla,” Judge Rienhold,  James Russo and Forrest Whitaker each appeared in this film early in their careers.  The cast was not solely composed of soon to be stars; Fast Times also had some more seasoned actors in it like Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian) who played Mr. Hand, the history teacher and the dearly departed Vincent Schiavelli who played the biology teacher, Mr. Vargas.  Fast Times was a launching pad for many of these major movie and T.V. stars.

Next is the movie’s great soundtrack.  Songs like “Speeding” by The Go Go’s, “Somebody’s Baby” by Jackson Browne—on a side note, this song reached #7 on the Hot 100 and became Browne’s highest charting single, interestingly “Somebody’s Baby” was not included in a Jackson Browne album until 15 years later when his first “best of” collection was released.  Other great songs include  “Love Rules” by Don Henley, “Fast Times At Ridgemont High” by Sammy Hagar, “I Don’t Know” by Jimmy Buffett, “Goodbye, Goodbye” by Oingo Boingo, “Fast Times (The Best Years Of Our Lives)” by Billy Squier, and “Raised On The Radio” by The Ravyns.  The Fast Times soundtrack reads like a Who’s Who of 1980s top bands and music for the decade.
Now the story of Fast Times: the movie portrays teenage life but is virtually plotless, it simply chronicles a group of teenagers as they stumble their way through high school.  Typical of so many 1980s teen movies, much of it (rightfully so) takes place at the local mall giving the viewer the opportunity to reminisce about all those timeless 80s arcade games.   Though virtually plotless, the basic storyline involves Jeff Spicoli (Sean Penn), the ideal slang-talking emptyheaded surfer sporting Hawaiian shirts.  Spicoli has a hard time with the formality of school, especially as it is personified by his history teacher, Mr. Hand (Ray Walston).  The two begin to have a battle of wills which surprisingly evens out in the end.  Brad Hamilton (Judge Reinhold) is a senior who hops from one fast-food job to the next but has no idea what he is supposed to do in life even though everyone, including his guidance counselor, expects a lot from him.  Stacy Hamilton is a guy-crazy chick who is sensitive, but always wants sex and attention, leading her first into the arms of an older man, and eventually into those of Mike Damone, a cocky hustler, when the only guy who genuinely cares for her is nerdy Mark Ratner. Damone is a shady character, a charming sweet-talker who scalps tickets with his piano scarf and does what he can to make a quick buck.  He tries to help Ratner score with Stacy, then steals the girl right out from under him.  Ratner is an insecure nerd-type who has a good heart and just wants his shot with Stacy.  He finds himself brokenhearted when he uncovers Damone’s betrayal.  Linda Barrett is Stacy’s best friend and confidante, a very sexy, confident girl who is constantly moving from one guy to the next and sort of becomes a quasi role model for Stacy. That’s essentially the basic foundation for what goes on.

In conclusion, this is the best 80s teen movie. Fast Times separates itself from “Brat Pack” films (the group of young actors and actresses who frequently appeared together typically in John Hughes’ films like The Breakfast Club) due in part to a much stronger cast.  Think of where the actors and actresses from Fast Times are now versus members of the Brat Pack.  Fast Times is required viewing for teens, adults and anyone with a fondness for 80s culture.


Posted by on July 3, 2010 in Movie Reviews


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