Milan’s Box Office Picks and New on DVD

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“Oblivion” – Another dystopian sci-fi adventure flick, this one directed  by Joseph (“Tron Legacy”) Kosinski and starring a seen-better-days Tom  Cruise. Pretty to look at–Kosinski definitely has an eye–but overly  derivative (the plot feels cobbled together from a half-dozen other  movies), hard to follow on a scene by scene basis and ultimately just  kind of dull. I was just grateful that it wasn’t in 3-D. (C.)

“The Place Beyond the Pines” – Like director Derek Cianfrance’s 2010  début, “Blue Valentine,” this lengthy, episodic adult drama burns with  the filmmaking heat–and hubris–of the New Hollywood era. While  densely novelistic in texture (think a testosterone-amped Joyce Carol  Oates) and splendidly acted, it suffers from a schematic structure that  gives you nothing to chew on afterwards. Cianfrance and his marvelous  cast (including Ryan Gosling, Bradley Cooper, Eva Mendes and Dane  DeHaan) held me in their grip for nearly two-and-a-half hours, but I  had a hard time believing their overly determined narrative. (B.)


“Gangster Squad – A bunch of hot young actors (including Ryan Gosling,  Emma Stone, Michael Pena and Anthony Mackie) play Halloween dress up in  this borderline risible film noir pastiche set in crime and  corruption-laden 1949 Los Angeles. As real-life mobster Mickey Cohen,  the estimable Sean Penn is burdened down with so many goofy prosthetics  that he looks like he stepped out of a Dick Tracy comic strip. Directed  by Ruben Fleischer who fared better with the dark comedies “Zombieland”  and “30 Minutes or Less,” “Gangster Squad” is a movie that has plenty  of visual pizzaz, but zero emotional resonance. Even the copious action  sequences fall flat thanks to lackluster staging and inept editing. (C.)

“A Haunted House “ – This supremely lame “Scary Movie” wannabe targets  found footage (“The Blair Witch Project,” “Paranormal Activity  1-2-3-4,” etc.) horror flicks, but mines shockingly few laughs in the  process. (D.)

“The Impossible ‘ – Naomi Watts (deservedly Oscar nominated for her  performance) is Mother Courage personified in this incredible true-life  drama set against the backdrop of Thailand’s 2004 tsunami. As Watts’  eldest son, Tom Holland gives a remarkable performance that reminded me  of a young Christian Bale. Next to “Life of Pi,” the film’s  terrifyingly realistic CGI work was the most impressive of 2012. (A.)

“Promised Land ‘ – -Matt Damon and John Krasinski (who cowrote the  screenplay) compete for the hearts and minds of residents of a  down-on-its-luck Pennsylvania farming town in director Gus Van Sant’s  well-meaning, but dramatically malnourished fracking polemic. (C.)

“Wuthering Heights” – Forget the 1939 Olivier and Oberon version. British  director Andrea Arnold’s (“Fish Tank,” “Red Road”) revisionist take on  the Emily Bronte perennial is the finest screen treatment yet of the  classic star-crossed romance. (A.)

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