Among the new movies that were released Friday, Jan. 11 in theaters throughout the Valley are a French film about death and dying. an actioner about a group of gangsters and a dramedy written by and starring “Glee” actor Chris Colfer.
Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva play retired music teachers who are in their eighties. When one of them has an attack, the couple's bond of love is severely tested. (PG-13 - 127 minutes)
“Amour” is the cinematic equivalent of spending an afternoon in a stranger’s room at a hospice facility. That is to say that writer/director Michael Haneke’s new French film is an excruciating experience to endure in that nobody wants to watch someone slowly be slipped away by death’s graceless grip - especially when that someone’s spouse is there, too, struggling with losing their loved one. Granted, the flick features a pair of powerful performances but it lacks the necessary insight - be it emotional or intellectual - that would have made such a sickening sight worth sitting through. (Grade: D)
Sean Penn plays a Brooklyn-born mob king who runs the show in this town with the protection of the police and the politicians who are under his control until a group of LAPD outsiders (Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling, Anthony Mackie, Robert Patrick, Michael Pena and Giovani Ribisi) come together to try to tear his world apart. Emma Stone also stars. (R - 113 minutes)
“Gangster Squad” is the proverbial gangster flick. That is to say that director Ruben Fleischer’s new crime drama does not earn any points for originality but viewers looking for a movie about the mob - one that echoes the excellent entertainment value of “The Untouchables,” “Goodfellas” and “The Godfather” - are guaranteed to have a great time. Moreover, the film is beyond brutal - graphically depicting the violent nature of this subject matter thereby maximizing the severity of its story’s stakes - and features an extraordinary ensemble cast led by Sean Penn, who gives a purely petrifying performance. (Grade: B)
Chris Colfer plays a high school senior whose last few weeks of life include a blackmail scheme concocted by his best friend (Rebel Wilson), a mother (Allison Janney) more interested in the bottle than her son's future and an estranged father (Dermot Mulroney) who suddenly appears with a pregnant fiancée (Christina Hendricks). (NR - 84 minutes)
With “Struck by Lightning,” “Glee” star Chris Colfer has written a role for himself that is so snotty and self-righteous that it is downright impossible to root for him to succeed much less believe that such a character would actually exist in real life without being beaten to a bloody pulp by his peers before promptly getting expelled from each and every school in which he enrolls. Attempts to be witty - which, for the record, are all based in tired cliches and stereotypes - come off as annoyingly arrogant and the movie is absent of any emotion whatsoever, failing its social message in the process. (Grade: D)