Movies of the week: Gangster Squad and Zero Dark Thirty

A battle for the soul of 1949 Los Angeles and the greatest manhunt in history kickoff 2013 at the movies.

Josh Brolin leads a small squad of cops to save Los Angeles from crime in “Gangster Squad”

This week features Ruben Fleischer’s crime drama “Gangster Squad,” starring Academy Award winner Sean Penn as ruthless Brooklyn mob-boss Mickey Cohen, who takes his enterprises to the west coast. Cohen’s rise to power eventually leads to a virtual conquest of Los Angeles and Cohen’s rule is unchallenged until a small squad of LAPD cops, led by Sgt. John O’Mara, played by Academy Award nominee Josh Brolin, go undercover to completely dismantle Cohen’s illegal operations. O’Mara’s squad wages war against Cohen’s criminal rule for the salvation of the city of Los Angeles.

Academy Award winning director Kathryn Bigelow brings the story of the decade long manhunt of 9-11 mastermind Osama Bin Laden to the big screen in “Zero Dark Thirty.” The film stars Academy Award nominee Jessica Chastain as Maya, a dedicated CIA operative leading the charge in locating Bin Laden leading to the Navy seal’s May 2011 raid on Bin Laden’s compound.

What am I expecting to see?: Ruben Fleischer is stepping away from his usual comedic style to deliver something gritty yet stylized in a film-noir type of film such as “Gangster Squad.” Sean Penn looks as if he is bringing his A-game to the role of Mickey Cohen, Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone and Nick Nolte look good in the supporting cast and the film overall is just dripping with intense drama that earmarks the gangster film genre. I’m expecting “Gangster Squad” to begin 2013 with a bang.

"Zero Dark Thirty" is a serious award contender  this year

“Zero Dark Thirty” is a serious award contender this year

As for “Zero Dark Thirty,” this movie has been gaining incredible award momentum and justifiable critical acclaim and I’m expecting that acclaim to live up to the hype. Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal are carrying their trademark quiet tension that brought their previous Oscar-winning film, “The Hurt Locker,” such widespread recognition and prestige. Jessica Chastain is garnering much praise for her performance and this film is truly winning over the attention of audiences because of the main subject of the film and Bigelow’s name and reputation. The combination of the two makes “Zero Dark Thirty” a film that can’t be missed.

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