“Gangster Squad” (R) — Sean Penn plays Mickey Cohen, a maniacal villain with a fondness for executing his rivals in style. In 1949 Los Angeles, Cohen has enough corrupt cops and politicians in his pocket to keep his operation going strong. Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling lead a team of daredevil policemen who fight back — not as cops, but as a heavily armed hit squad against crime.

It’s got panache. Scenes of LA nightclubs and gambling dens seem to glisten with pulpy nostalgia. Emma Stone does a fine job as the sultry lady torn between her gangster beau and the irresistible charms of Ryan Gosling dressed as a slick detective. Don’t expect the classic noir-style complexity, “Gangster Squad” aims to be a hard-edged thriller in a nice suit.

“The Impossible” (PG-13) — In the 2004 tsunami that ravaged Southeast Asia, one family is torn apart and put through a harrowing journey to reunite. Henry and Maria Bennet (Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts) are on vacation in Thailand with their three sons when a tidal wave smashes their resort and pulls the family in different directions. The aftermath is a tale of survival, and then heart-squeezing determination to find one another.

Based on a true story, the film has a balanced approach to the action and emotion. The scenes with the tidal wave are grueling. The moral complexities and struggle for survival in the immediate aftermath will keep you engaged … although perhaps a bit queasy. Overall, when the movie reaches out to pull heartstrings, it hits the right notes.

“Promised Land” (R) — Steve Butler (Matt Damon) is a representative for a natural gas corporation. It’s his job to convince struggling farmers to sell their land for drilling purposes, making both the farmer and the drillers rich. However, this kind of drilling can have devastating effects on the land. In one small town, Steve encounters resistance and faces a conflict of his own conscience. This is a movie with an obvious message, but it takes the time to explore different perspectives without vilifying the individuals involved.

“Family Weekend” (R) — Emily (Olesya Rulin) is a teenage girl who is serious about her competitive jump-rope regionals. Her wealthy, quirky parents are shamelessly disinterested in her life. To fix her family, Emily ties up her parents and teaches them lessons about appropriate conversation and how to show minimal support and attention for their children. It’s like an extended sitcom episode. The R-rating might make you think it’s a dark film, but it’s very tame. It tries to bring in some emotional resolution, but nobody could possibly still care about it that far into the film.

“Maverick: The Complete Second Season”
“Touched By an Angel: The Seventh Season”
“A Haunting — Season 5”
“Iron Man: Armored Adventures, Complete Season 2”
“The Wiggles: Surfer Jeff”

© 2013 King Features Synd., Inc.