The hunt for Bin Laden in Zero Dark Thirty, Mickey Cohen by the Gangster Squad and a tsunami in The Impossible

(Page 2 of 2)

I AM NOT A ROCK STAR: There are two major themes in this fluid documentary about classical pianist Marika Bournaki. Both are eminently worth watching. First there’s her personal growth from child prodigy to confident concert hall artist.  We see the changes over eight years of her life, all her teenage years, in fact. Bobbi Jo Hart, also of her hometown Montreal, filmed her from age 12 to 20, capturing at various times a dreamer, an unsure toiler, a petulant teen (the film’s title is from an outburst of that time), a rebel who moves out to New York, and eventually a mature performer. There’s a sweet end scene that underlines that ascension when she plays a joyful piano duet with new child prodigy.

The second theme is darker and somewhat underplayed but it’s there. That’s the urge of some parents to live out their stalled ambitions through their children. Marika’s father, dreamt of an international career as a violinist. He pushes her to practice, study, forget about friends and essentially sacrifice a normal life. Before she moved to New York, she flew there just for the day every Saturday to study at Julliard. It’s not made clear how big a career she’s achieved after all that pressure but we do see her perform at Carnegie Hall, at venues in Russia and other countries. There’s  lots here for parents, and dreamers, to think about. And lots of good music too. (VanCity Theatre) 3 out of 5

Playing in tandem with …

GREGORY CREWDSON: BRIEF ENCOUNTERS: Also a documentary about the arts, this one an intimate series of visits over some 10 years with the Brooklyn-born, former punk rocker now Yale professor celebrated as a great photographer.  He stages his photos like a movie director. The film apparently shows us exactly how, which should be interesting around here, the hometown of Jeff Wall and Rodney Graham (who’s got a show of his own photo work continuing at the art gallery). (VanCity Theatre) Visit for details on both films.

GANGSTER SQUAD: They used to make gangster pictures like this back in the 1950s. Just about every ten minutes there’s a shoot out with tommy guns chattering away and bodies falling everywhere. This film ascends to a version both outside and inside the Park Plaza Hotel in Los Angeles that’s so over the top you can’t image how the building can still be standing, let alone cops or gangsters.  So, The Godfather, this is not. Family values are there only because a couple of these cops have families. Loyalty in the mob isn’t to a code of honor. It’s simply a job requirement or you’re blown away. The boss is Mickey Cohen, circa 1949, a megalomaniac proclaiming that it’s his “legacy” to control all the rackets in L.A. He’s played with scenery-chewing zeal by Sean Penn, in one of his less than subtle acting jobs. He’s so big a threat, paying off cops, judges and politicians, that the police chief authorizes a secret squad of cops to use whatever methods they need to take him down, or as he puts it “Drive that bastard out of the city.”


Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling are the leaders, and with Robert Patrick along as an old-timer with a drawl and a fast draw, the film often feels like a western.  No due process, no warrants, just barge in and start shooting. Gosling meanwhile starts sleeping with Mickey Cohen’s main squeeze (Emma Stone) and things get complicated.

Apparently it’s true, though. The story is from a series of articles by a former Los Angeles Times writer and editor. By the end it seems it may not be the whole story but a cliché-riddled action film with very good actors indulging in a lot of gunplay and no thought to civil liberties. This is the film that was put on hold after the Aurora movie theatre killings because it had a scene showing mobsters shooting up a theatre. It’s been replaced with an elaborate Chinatown shootout. TRIVIA: Gosling and Stone played lovers once before in Crazy, Stupid Love and Brolin and Penn played killer and victim in Harvey Milk. (Scotiabank and many suburban theatres)  2 ½ out of 5  

NOTE: All images are movie stills provided by the studios and therefore the exclusive property of their copyright owners.


More in New Movies

Growth of an artist in Never Look Back, more on How to Train Your Dragon and life with a wrestling family

Also going international: in Spain by an Iranian and in Singapore with a Japanese foodie

This film offers a rare visit with the creatures in BC’s Great Bear Rainforest

GREAT BEAR RAINFOREST: Ryan Reynolds is the voice, the big name, the draw but the real star of this beautiful documentary is a white bear named Mox. She’s what the Indigenous people in this part of...

Films about Alita, a troubled cyborg, Mads, lost in the Arctic and Rebel lost in a dream

Also films attached to the big comedy festival in town right now
Speak up about this article on Facebook or Twitter. Do this by liking Vancouver Observer on Facebook or following us @Vanobserver on Twitter. We'd love to hear from you.