NEW THIS WEEK
-- STUNNING, SEARING VIEW OF OLD AGE AS ILLNESS OVERTAKES A WIFE WHOSE HUSBAND LOVINGLY TAKES CARE OF HER:
"AMOUR" PG-13, Limited Release -- Only the most sophisticated high-schoolers will be able to handle this quietly magnificent film by Michael Haneke because of the subject matter -- growing old and disabled, and dying. If they also happen to be interested in film acting of the highest order, they'll be transfixed by co-stars Jean-Louis Trintignant and Emmanuelle Riva, who are so believable as an elderly couple that you never feel that anyone is "acting" at all. (Both have been, in fact, stars of European films for decades.) The PG-13 rating notwithstanding, the pace of "Amour," its somber themes and the necessity of reading subtitles will appeal only to the rare middle-schooler. Georges (Trintignant) and Anne (Riva) are a married couple in their 80s. Now retired, both were esteemed teachers of classical piano whose students (especially Anne's) went on to great heights. Anne suffers a couple of strokes and goes from being an active, mobile person to needing a wheelchair and 24/7 care. Georges lovingly insists on caring for Anne. The film recounts the day-to-day difficulties as Anne's condition worsens, yet it is beautiful in its portrayal of their large rundown Paris apartment, as Georges shuffles through its hallways and rooms, tending to his wife.
THE BOTTOM LINE: One scene involves nudity as Anne is bathed by a visiting nurse. A character smokes. SPOILER ALERT: There is a bloodless but disturbing act of euthanasia near the end.
-- A RIVETING, VIOLENT AND DISTURBING REALITY-BASED ACCOUNT OF THE HUNT FOR OSAMA BIN LADEN:
"ZERO DARK THIRTY" R -- The graphic al-Qaeda terrorism and the torturous "enhanced interrogation" used by CIA operatives in this account of the search for Osama bin Laden make "Zero Dark Thirty" truly for 17 and older. Older teens will better understand the deep complexity of the issues, too. Filmmaker Kathryn Bigelow and screenwriter Mark Boal, who collaborated on the multiple Oscar-winning "The Hurt Locker" (R, 2008; released in the U.S. in 2009), continue their reality-based filmmaking about the United States' "War on Terror." This time, they use accounts from various sources to dramatize how CIA operatives tracked down bin Laden. Jessica Chastain is steely, humorless and obsessive as the agent, called "Maya" in the film, who made it her business to find bin Laden -- a mission that took more than a decade -- despite colleagues' doubts about her theories. She watches a fellow agent (Jason Clarke) use waterboarding and other methods -- stretching arms and legs nearly to dislocation; sleep deprivation; locking curled-up suspects into boxes half their size -- and she seems at first to cringe with disapproval. But Maya gets used to the process and become a tangential part of it. She deduces that the path to bin Laden is through al-Qaeda's elusive couriers. It takes years before she is certain, and the Navy SEALs hit the compound in Pakistan. The last 45 minutes or so follow the raid closely and Bigelow's dramatization is utterly riveting. The film has sparked much debate.
THE BOTTOM LINE: Scenes in which CIA operatives use waterboarding and other coercive methods on terror suspects are graphic and disturbing, both as simple violence and as nuanced moral choices, i.e., when is it too much? Other violence includes frightening suicide bombings -- telegraphed with incredible tension. Characters use strong profanity, smoke and drink. The movie opens in blackness, with emotional recordings of phone calls made by victims trapped in the the burning World Trade Center towers to their families on Sept. 11, 2001.
-- VIOLENT, PROFANE AND OVER-THE-TOP, BUT GREAT FUN FOR ADULT ACTION MOVIE FANS WHO LIKE THAT GRAPHIC-NOVEL STYLE AND 1940s FEDORAS:
"GANGSTER SQUAD" R -- Too deafeningly violent and full of profanity and graphic sexual slang for moviegoers under 17, "Gangster Squad" could also put off older teens and adults who may have had enough of guns in the news and on film. That is totally understandable. However, taken solely as a cops-'n'-gangsters movie, "Gangster Squad" works. It looks and sounds like a high-class graphic novel, with everyone and everything in it bigger than life and twice as sarcastic. The crackerjack cast tears up the scenery with big acting nearly as much as all the bullets fired. The film takes its inspiration from a special police unit created in the late 1940s to extricate Los Angeles from the clutches of killer crime boss Mickey Cohen (Sean Penn in a truly hammy turn). Josh Brolin plays tough-as-nails police sergeant John O'Mara. Chief Parker (Nick Nolte) orders O'Mara to set up a take-no-prisoners squad to clean up Mickey Cohen's empire of gambling, prostitution and heroin. With the help of his pregnant wife Connie (Mireille Enos), O'Mara studies the files of potential squad members and puts together a team of tough guys (including Robert Patrick, Michael Pena and Anthony Mackie), plus one expert wiretapper (Giovanni Ribisi). A dandified cop (Ryan Gosling) too busy chasing women to care about crime fighting changes his mind and joins O'Mara after he falls for Cohen's mistress (Emma Stone).
THE BOTTOM LINE: The film opens with mobsters tricking a young woman into a fake movie audition, which turns into an attempted rape, from which Sgt. O'Mara rescues her. It never becomes graphic. Shootouts are loud, bloody and frequent. The violence also includes stabbings and bone-breaking fist fights. A stripper in a club is nearly topless. The script is as riddled with profanity and explicit sexual slang as the action scenes are with gunfire, while sexual situations are only implied. A few ethnic slurs are also used. Characters smoke incessantly and drink a lot.
(c) 2013, Washington Post Writers Group.