Gangster Squad

discs central park

Welcome back to This Week In Discs! As always, if you see something you like, click on the image to buy it. The Central Park Five The term “crime of the century” is an overused one, and one of the more infamous examples of its application came in 1989 when a white, female jogger in NYC’s Central Park was sexually assaulted and left for dead. The culprits were identified as five black teens who were tried and convicted both in the courtroom and the court of public opinion. The boys were sentenced and served out their time, but they were relieved and the world were surprised in 2002 when the real culprit confessed. PBS golden boy Ken Burns co-directs this sad, shocking and infuriating doc that explores the case from the perspective of both the boys and the truth. Over eager police and prosecutors combined with a racially divided public led to a terrible miscarriage of justice. The film acknowledges that the blame lay equally with the authorities, the press and at times, the boys’ parents too. The NYC of more than twenty years ago seems almost unrecognizable to the city of today, but the facts speak for themselves. If only there had been someone to listen back in 1989. [DVD extras: Featurettes]

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Django

This week, our Video On Demand Power Ranker Supreme 3000 has been a little viral and under the weather (we told him to be careful when going on robot dates, but he says he loves and trusts Siri, and we think she gave him robot-mono) so it’s not exactly a quantity week. That said, with directors like Quentin Tarantino and Terence Malick leading the way, it sure is a quality week of VOD and digital releases.

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commentary-gangstersquad

Gangster Squad is a stylized and clearly fictional retelling of the real-life adventures of a special Los Angeles police squad created to fight organized crime in the city. It’s a messy film at times, but director Ruben Fleischer (Zombieland) keeps the tone casual and the action entertaining. In addition to some fun performances by the likes of Josh Brolin, Ryan Gosling and Sean Penn the movie also looks pretty fantastic thanks to some great period details, seamless digital work and stylish action sequences. The film was originally slotted for a late 2012 release, but real world tragedy led to its dismissal to January of this year so that a scene involving a gangster shootout in a movie theater could be dropped and a replacement one filmed. Opinions vary as to whether or not that was a necessary move, but most everyone expected the original scene to be included on the Blu-ray/DVD amidst the special features. Unfortunately, it appears WB has decided to live in an alternate reality where that scene and its deletion never occurred. There’s no mention anywhere on the disc, and it’s not included in the deleted scenes. The question is, what does Fleischer have to say about it all? Keep reading to see what I heard on the commentary track for Gangster Squad.

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Gangster Squad

Hollywood is used to being a scapegoat for acts of violence. Automatically implicating movies in the wake of unimaginable acts of atrocity has proven to be an easy way of pursuing closure without actually having to investigate anything; if we blame the fictions put on our movie screens made by people we don’t know somewhere else, we don’t have to feel the responsibility to do anything more, or accept the notion that incomprehensible events can’t be pegged to a singular determining factor. In contrast to collective reactions to prior tragedies, assertions that movies are directly “responsible” for gun violence seem to carry significantly less weight in the current national conversation about gun control. However, entertainment media has been and will continue to be part of this conversation. As Scott Beggs pointed out last month in the wake of Newtown, if we’re going to have a comprehensive conversation about guns and gun violence, then movies should by all means be a part of it – that is, part of an ongoing, dynamic critical dialogue rather than an assumed singular scapegoat.

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Broken Projector - Indiana Jones

Welcome to the inaugural episode of Broken Projector! This week, hosts Scott Beggs and Geoff LaTulippe ask you to vote for which historical wrong Quentin Tarantino should right next and Rob Hunter reviews Ruben Fleischer’s Gangster Squad. And in the main event, Scott takes The Last Crusade while HitFix‘s Drew McWeeny take Temple of Doom in a debate over the best Indiana Jones sequel. Download Episode #1

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Gangster Squad Reshoots

The trailer for Gangster Squad brought us right into the world of 1940’s Los Angeles, where gangsters ruled the city under the unflinching thumb of Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn) as ominous undertones vibrated against the sounds of punches and gunshots. This is a Los Angeles where crime and punishment rule rather than glitz and glamour, and the clothes, the hair, the makeup, the cars, and the guns alone let us know we are in a different time. But then a commanding female singer’s vocals cut through the chaos telling us to “get low,” while a hip-hop beat started to drive the action. This 1940’s world suddenly got a jolt of good ol’ contemporary R&B as Mr. HOV himself, Jay-Z, breaks in with his track “Oh My God.” His lyrics may be from a song released in 2006, but they do not feel out of place here saying: “A journey seldom seen / The American dream.” Gangster movies are appealing because they give audiences a glimpse into that dangerous world and Mickey Cohen has clearly convinced himself that what he is doing is simply living the American dream his way. Unfortunately this unique pairing of modern music with a period story exists solely in the trailer, while the film instead opts for an exclusively 1940’s feel. With a soundtrack full of songs from artists of that time such as Pee Wee King, Big Jay McNeely, and Peggy Lee it is this idea of taking itself too seriously that seems to be Gangster Squad’s inevitable downfall. Hoping to be a […]

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gangster 1

This weekend’s Gangster Squad may invoke classical conventions of the mobster genre, but director Ruben Fleischer never set out to make an old school throwback. His dramatic action movie is a part of a new breed of period pieces, ones made with a very modern sensibility. They move at a bullet’s pace, are shot with feverish popcorn energy, and avoid any preconceived notions of being stuffy. Fleischer didn’t set out to make an epic like The Godfather, and after 30 Minutes or Less and Zombieland we wouldn’t expect that from him, but that doesn’t mean he settles into expectations either. Generally if you work in a genre more than once, you become distinctly known as, in Fleischer’s case, “the comedy” guy. While Gangster Squad has its laughs, it shows Fleischer working on a whole new level as a visual storyteller in a different genre . Speaking with Fleischer, he was obviously happy to escape the pigeonhole with his third feature film. Here’s what he had to say about seeing his movie 400 times, the hilarity of Sean Penn and why he’ll continue to shoot digitally:

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goodfellas scenes

Is anyone else surprised that Gangster Squad isn’t a comedy? First of all, the word ‘squad’ in the title reminds us of goofy material like Police Squad and The Monster Squad. Then there’s the fact director Ruben Fleischer‘s last two movies were darkly humorous. But his new feature is indeed a crime drama, based on true events and apparently serious and very violent. At least one review calls it “silly,” but that’s a negative criticism and surely not the intended tone of the filmmakers. Of course, a gangster drama can still have some humorous moments (see below), but even if there are any lighter scenes in Gangster Squad we may still be disappointed that Fleischer hasn’t done for the crime genre what he previously did with zombie horror. It’s been a while since we had a good, funny gangster movie in America — by which we mean not imported from foreign filmmakers like Guy Ritchie and Martin McDonagh. Not that we want Hollywood to try anymore spoofs like Jane Austen’s Mafia. So, given that a list of straight gangster scenes we love would be too long anyway, this week’s list of clips is narrowed down to funny moments, to make up for the presumed total lack of comedy in Gangster Squad. Watch these five scenes after the break.

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Girls Guitar Club Short

Ruben Fleischer is on a roll right now, with his third feature in four years hitting theaters (a bit delayed) this Friday. Before Gangster Squad, he directed the dark comedies Zombieland and 30 Minutes or Less, and long before that he made his first film, a short from 2001 titled The Girls Guitar Club. Producing and directing off a script from the comedy duo of Karen Kilgariff and Mary Lynn Rajskub (both of whom were then perhaps best known for Mr. Show), Fleischer thought it would be his calling card for jumping into Hollywood. “I basically spent all the money I had saved and was sure that movie deal offers were gonna come and I’d be directing pilots [for] television shows,” he told Collider back in 2009. “And as soon as people saw the short film, but of course people thought and said, ‘Oh that’s good,’ and [then] nothing ever really came of it.”

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Gangster Squad Reshoots

2012 is over. Gone forever. Never coming back. Based on our staff picks for the best features of 2012, it was far from a bad year. We had all kinds of good-to-great films, and we’d be lucky to have another year like it. Considering what we’ll see this year, 2013 could match 2012, as we’re getting movies from Martin Scorsese, Danny Boyle, Sofia Coppola, Edgar Wright, Jonathan Glazer, Steven Soderbergh, Park Chan Wook, and, most exciting of all, Adam McKay. Plenty of pictures to get excited over this year, and, to the start the year off, we have about 5 to build some anticipation over. Here they are:

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Gangster Squad Theater Scene

Whether they needed to or not, Warner Bros. went into something of a panic after last month’s tragic theater shooting in Aurora, Colorado and made plans to scrap a key scene from their upcoming release Gangster Squad. You see, their crime film’s climax also concerned a shooting taking place in a movie theater, and the studio figured that creating a fantasy tragedy that so closely resembled a recent, real-life tragedy would have been in bad taste. After a bit of deliberation, the plan was to completely rewrite and reshoot the sequence, a process which would push the film’s release from September 7 to sometime in 2013 (now confirmed as January 11). Of course, given that reshoots necessarily pushed back the release date of the film, further discussion was created around the issue of whether or not a movie coming out in 2013 would need to change its content because of a shooting that happened in 2012. It’s an interesting line the studio is straddling between acting in good taste and censoring art. But, no matter where your opinion on the issue lies, what’s been decided has been decided, and director Ruben Fleischer and crew are going forward with the reshoots.

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Culture Warrior

In the wake of the horrific shooting that occurred almost two weeks ago at a multiplex in Aurora, Colorado during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises, Warner Bros. made several last-minute cuts to their upcoming period action film Gangster Squad. The scene in question, which was featured prominently in the now-removed first US trailer and can be seen very briefly in this international trailer, depicted a bevy of gangsters or cops (as the original scene is difficult to find, I don’t recall) shooting bullets from tommyguns through the back of a movie screen. Reportedly, this scene is rather instrumental to the film’s plot, so several very late-in-the-game re-shoots will take place to allow the film to make sense without the now-controversial scene in question. This resulted in the film’s release date being pushed back from September 7, 2012 to January 11, 2013. Altering films and their advertising campaigns has become common practice in recent Hollywood. After the Colorado shooting, many ads for The Dark Knight Rises that focus on the film’s violent moments were removed from the airwaves. This weekend’s The Watch, which opened to middling box office and mostly negative reviews, had its title and advertising campaign altered from the original Neighborhood Watch after the shooting of unarmed minor Trayvon Martin by neighborhood watch coordinator George Zimmerman in Florida this spring. Several movies also incurred changes, delays, and alternative ad campaigns after 9/11. In public relations terms, such changes are typically framed as a gesture of sensitivity to […]

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Gangster Squad Reshoots

It didn’t take long after the recent shootings in an Aurora Colorado movie theater for Warner Bros. to realize that they had a problem on their hands with Gangster Squad. Seeing as their upcoming crime drama—which is currently set for a September 7 release—so prominently features a scene where a bunch of machine gun wielding gangsters open fire on a theater full of moviegoers, a decision about the potentially offensive scene needed to be made. Yes, it’s unfortunate that a real life tragedy can lead to self-censorship when it comes to art, but good taste is good taste. The trailers for the film were immediately pulled after news of the shooting broke, and the studio’s initial plan was to rush some re-writes and re-shoots to have the theater scene replaced with something else before Gangster Squad’s release. That was the initial plan. Now Variety is reporting that making major changes to a film when there are only six weeks until its scheduled release might not be a possibility.

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Gangster Squad Reshoots

Real life tragedies affecting film releases isn’t a new phenomenon. There was a period after the terrorist attacks on 9/11 where films shot in New York City before the World Trade Center went down had to go back and edit scenes out or use digital trickery if even a glimpse of the Twin Towers appeared in a shot. And, more recently, upcoming comedy The Watch had its title changed and one of its trailers pulled after content in the ad too closely echoed the killing of Florida teen Trayvon Martin. People don’t like to be reminded of horrible things when they’re trying to go out for a night of entertainment. So, it comes as no surprise that in the wake of the theater shooting that took place during a screening of The Dark Knight Rises in Aurora, Colorado, some films are going to be making adjustments to their content and marketing efforts in order to not inappropriately echo the tragedy that took place. So far the studio that’s most immediately affected is Warner Bros. Not only did they have millions of dollars worth of violence-filled TV ads for The Dark Knight Rises pulled from the airwaves over the weekend, but they also cancelled several special screenings where the stars of the film were scheduled to make personal appearances. And another of their upcoming releases, the Ruben Fleischer-directed Gangster Squad, is making it necessary for them to make even more adjustments.

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a thing that happens nightly, bringing you news from the world of film, television and pop culture. Mostly film. Thus, the name. We begin tonight with a shot of Emma Stone and Ryan Gosling in Ruben Fleischer’s Gangster Squad? Quick show of hands: who among you is not excited about this movie? Those with their hands in the air can kindly leave the room, while the rest of us do more news.

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It’s already the second day of 2012, which means we’ll all be sober within the next day or two. It also means that we can officially start looking (through blurry eyes) ahead to the future. A future of promise and potential. A future of hope. A future of tingling anticipation that the road stretched out in front of us that leads to the cinema will be paved with gold. Will there be piles of excrement along the way? Of course, but we don’t know how many or how badly they’ll tarnish our yellow-bricked roller coaster ride. All we can see from this far out is the shimmering wonder of movies to come – the vast unknown that looks wonderful (and might just live up to the hype). In past years (2008, 2009, 2010, 2011), we’ve gone with a fairly arbitrary count of 20-30 movies. This year, we decided to prove that there were 52 movies worth prematurely celebrating (even though what we found were many more). That’s one for every week (even if there are some weeks with a few and some weeks with none at all). Regardless of the number, Rob Hunter, Neil Miller, Kate Erbland, Allison Loring, Landon Palmer, Brian Salisbury and Cole Abaius have joined forces to remind us all that there are a lot of great movies to hope for this year. Go grab a calendar and pencil in everything that gets your blood pressure up toward unsafe levels. It’s going to be a busy, flick-filled […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? The more appropriate question would be: what isn’t Movie News After Dark? We open tonight with a look at The Avengers, or at least the version that will appear in the comic book prequel Marvel will release leading up to the release of the film. It’s a bit of art that we missed last week, so what better way to begin this week than with some good old hero money shots. In other Avengers news, production in Cleveland is done. Sadly, this means that my lovely home town will no longer be interesting, even to the people that live there. Hi mom!

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If you haven’t been reading along, I’ve been gushing about Ruben Fleischer’s upcoming crime drama The Gangster Squad for quite a while. Story details about the cops and gangsters flick about real life gangster Mickey Cohen can be found in my first article about the movie, where it was announced that Sean Penn, Josh Brolin, and Ryan Gosling had all been cast in key roles. Penn is in the starring role as Cohen, and Brolin and Gosling are two of the members of the titular gangster squad that is put together to take him down. After hearing that, I didn’t think that life could get much better, but then it did. The second Gangster Squad related bomb that Fleischer dropped on me was that man about town Bryan Cranston would also be joining the cast as a rough and tumble member of the LAPD by way of Texas. Suddenly the original Triumvirate of Awesome that was the Gangster Squad cast became the Cornerstones of Awesome instead. And now that the film has such a solid foundation to build a metaphorical house on, it’s time to start picking out pretty curtains and stuff by filling out the cast further. The big news of the day from Deadline Monowi is that grizzled, crazy actor Nick Nolte has also been cast. He will play Bill Parker, the incorruptible chief of police who takes it upon himself to form this so-called gangster squad. That sounds like a big role. Seeing as Nolte’s upcoming movie […]

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What is Movie News After Dark? It’s a nightly movie news and link collection column that is running late, but it’s not sorry about it. Tonight it went to see Cowboys & Aliens, which was a lot of fun. So deal with it. As you know, it is always worth the wait, baby. We begin tonight with the first look at Blake Lively and Chloe Moretz in Hick, which was released as part of the Toronto International Film Festival laying down its Gala and Special Presentation line-up. Lively is a drifter, Moretz is a runaway and in this scene, they’re moving quickly away from something. Perhaps its Lively’s cinematic career thus far. Someone should tell her there’s no escaping that wooden performance in Green Lantern.

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When it was announced that Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, and Josh Brolin were all starring together in the upcoming Gangster Squad, I went as far as to call them a tri-force of awesome. That’s some ridiculous hyperbole, but the limits of my excessive enthusiasm for this project haven’t even begun to spin out of control yet. Wait until I hear that Bryan Cranston is also joining the cast, and then see what happens. Oh wait, I just found out. So now I’m ready to declare Gangster Squad the greatest movie ever made, before it has even been filmed. How’s that for hyperbole? For a quick recap, Gangster Squad is to be directed by Zombieland’s Ruben Fleischer, from a script based off of this L.A. Times article and written by a retired cop named Will Beall. Penn will play famous gangster Mickey Cohen, Gosling and Brolin will be the duo of police trying to bring him in, and now Variety reports that Cranston will be playing, “Max Kennard, a laconic LAPD officer from Texas who enforces the law ambitiously.” I take “laconic” to mean that he’s going to be doing a lot of his Cranston glare. And the phrase “enforces the law ambitiously” to mean that he’s going to be planting evidence, taking bribes, and dropping guns with the serial numbers filed off onto the bodies of young punks that he shoots. Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go quit my job so I can properly prepare for this […]

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