Movie Review

Movie Review–Argo is an Oscar contender

 

Ben Affleck has gone from the Hollywood playboy linked to several prominent starlets, most famously with Jennifer Lopez, to a respected actor, director, husband, and father. Affleck’s latest project, Argo, will certainly add to his credibility.

Argo is a movie about a fake movie that was used as a cover to bring six Americans home who were hiding in the Canadian ambassador’s residence after the takeover of the U.S. embassy in Tehran. These Americans were employees of the embassy and managed to escape out a back door when the embassy was overrun by a crowd angered over the U.S. support of the deposed Shah.

Even though this event occurred over 30 years ago and we all know the outcome, the movie keeps you on the edge of the seat until the very end. This is a tribute to Affleck who not only stars in Argo but is also the director.

Argo is filled with action, tension, political games, and a bit of comedy to liven the mood. Veteran actors John Goodman and Alan Arkin remind you of Laurel and Hardy thrown in the midst of a James Bond thriller. Goodman and Arkin play the fake film producers putting together a sci-fi picture similar to the recent block-buster Star Wars. They take their jobs seriously and see to every detail from advance PR to storyboards.

Ben Affleck’s character, CIA agent Tony Mendez, poses as the director of the fake movie Argo and tours exotic locations with his team of movie personnel (the escaped Americans). They must drive through crowds in narrow streets and walk through the local bazaar in order to maintain their cover of scouting a location for the movie. Every moment they are outside the Canadian embassy walls you feel their cover might be blown. They have many close calls including showing up at the airport where their tickets have not been approved and receiving the OK only at the last minute.

We went to the movies after a very busy and exhausting weekend and I said to my husband, “This movie better be good or I’ll fall asleep.” Let me tell you that there was no snoring in the movie theatre, in fact, the audience actually cheered and clapped.

Expect to see Argo nominated for best movie, Ben Affleck for best director, Alan Arkin for best supporting actor, and perhaps several other nominations. Argo is a real winner and I give it an A.

 

Movie Review—The Campaign gets my vote

Will Farrell has made some pretty stupid movies but The Campaign isn’t one of them. This is a movie that actually has something to say.

The Campaign starring Will Farrell, Zach Galifianakis, Jason Sudeikis, and Dylan McDermott is a satire on today’s politics. With almost every scene you see something familiar whether it is Cam Brady’s (Farrell) hair that is an exact replica of John Edwards’ or Marty Huggins (Galifianakis) homespun philosophy and lack of sophistication all wrapped up as neat as a glass of Southern Comfort.

Cam Brady is a career politician accustomed to running unopposed but when he is involved in a sex scandal (imagine that!) the Motch brothers (as in Koch brothers), sleazily played by John Lithgow and Dan Akroyd, decide to back a naive candidate who can be easily controlled, Marty Huggins. Huggins is an effeminate tour guide, husband and father who wears wild eye-crossing sweaters.

Although The Campaign is meatier than some of Farrell’s other movies it still has some of his trademark physical and slapstick comedy such as when he accidentally punches a baby. When Huggins decides to test Brady’s true conservatism and challenges him to recite the Lord’s Prayer the scene will be long remembered as his campaign manager (Jason Sudeikis) acts out a charades to feed him the lines. One can’t help but laugh as Brady mumbles through the prayer and asks “Give us this day our daily pizza.” Oh Lord, forgive me my trespasses if laughing at this is considered sacrilegious but it is funny. The scene also points out the ridiculous lengths candidates go to today in trying to be a more devout Christian and a better American than the opponent. In fact, Brady’s trademark slogan is “America, Jesus, freedom!”

 As the movie continues with one ridiculous incident on top of another a nagging thought persisted—this would be really funny if it weren’t true. The Campaign, directed by Jay Roach of HBO’s political dramas Recount and Game Change, manages to show us how insane our political process has become and does it in a humorous rather than an insulting and shouting way. For a thought-provoking and entertaining evening be sure to see The Campaign.

The Campaign gets my vote—I give it a B+.

 

THE ARTIST—Everything Old Is New Again

 

Who would have thought that a little known French director and his two French stars could do a silent movie and turn it into a hit in the days of everything electronic and computerized? The Artist turns the world upside down and proves that you don’t need 3D, CGI, and other fancy electronic tricks to make a spell-binding movie.

It is refreshing to sit in a darkened movie theatre and be at one with your senses and emotions. We learn there are other ways to communicate rather than with words. Between the actors’ expressions and the mood of the music we have no problem understanding what is happening on the screen. The audience is taken through a wide range of emotions and by the end of the movie we realize we have experienced hubris, joy, happiness, sadness, fear, tragedy, pathos, loyalty, and much more without a single word ever spoken.

The Artist parallels the decline of a silent movie star with the rise of a young starlet at the beginning of talkies. The movie begins in 1927 when George Valentin, a dashing and somewhat narcissistic silent movie star, literally bumps into Peppy Miller, a young woman eager to break into the movies. They are immediately attracted to each other and he becomes responsible for her big break by insisting she be in his next movie.

The Artist then jumps ahead to 1929 when the whole world changes. George Valentin is informed by the studio head, Al Zimmer (played by John Goodman), that talkies are the future. Valentin laughs at this prospect and walks out to write, direct, and finance his own movie. As fate (and old movie melodramas) would have it, his movie, and that of his protégée’s, Peppe Miller, both premier on October 25. Her movie is a big hit while his flops drastically leaving him financially ruined. In addition, we all know what else happened the end of October 1929. The great depression hits sending Valentin into a deep alcoholic depression of his own.

I won’t go into any more plot detail because I would like the reader to go see the movie for yourself, however, it is safe to say that, as in any good old-fashioned movie, we have to have a happy ending.

The movie has already won a lot of awards and is guaranteed to win more before the awards season is over. It is nominated for 10 Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director, Best Original Screenplay, Best Actor in a leading role, and Best Actress in a supporting role. Jean Dujardin, who plays George Valentin, seems to have a rubber face as he goes through a wide range of emotions. Berenice Bejo is appropriately perky and peppy in her portrayal of Peppy Miller. And, John Goodman is bigger than life as he plays the cigar- chomping, studio boss. Although each actor is excellent, I must say my favorite is Uggie the Jack Russell dog. He is Valentin’s faithful companion and provides the comic relief.

The director, Michel Hazanavicius, has successfully made a beautiful homage to movies. He said he had fantasized about making a silent film for years because many of the filmmakers he admires emerged in the silent era and because of the image-driven nature of the form. He chose the form of the melodrama because he felt that many of the films that had aged best were melodramas. He did extensive research about 1920s Hollywood and studied films to find the right techniques to make the story comprehensible without having too many intertitles to explain the actors unspoken words.

Throughout the movie I couldn’t help but make comparisons to famous actors and scenes from the past such as Charlie Chaplin, Douglas Fairbanks, Jr., Valentino, Citizen Kane, Orson Welles, and many more. The Artist is a visual masterpiece with just the right amount of highlights and shadows to make a scene memorable. It is also a joy to sit back and listen to the score which dances around our emotions evoking every feeling possible and then crescendoing to an unforgettable climax.

The Artist is more than just a work of art it is a work of genius. It is a must see for any serious movie buff, lover of the arts, or anyone tired of loud crash’em up, bang’em up movies. It is a breath of fresh air in today’s hectic world.

 I give it an A.

MOVIE REVIEW: THE ADJUSTMENT BUREAU

Actor Matt Damon - 66th Venice International F...

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Do you ever feel your life is not your own? That you are just plodding through a maze someone predesigned and placed you on leaving you to wander down streets and through doors your whole life. If so, then beware of men in hats, especially those looking as if they just walked off the set of Mad Men. In fact, one of the actors did—John Salttery who plays Roger Sterling.

The Adjustment Bureau is a love story and a thriller and leaves you pondering the old discussions of predestination. It hooks you at the beginning and forces you to run the maze with Matt Damon and Emily Blunt; but that is OK because they are pleasant companions on this journey and their chemistry is very believable. You are rooting for them all the way, even if you don’t know the full story. Around every corner is a well-dressed man wearing a hat and carrying a book full of charts and graphs with a small symbol that mysteriously moves about the page. Who are these men?

The Adjustment Bureau has all the elements of a good popcorn movie—mystery, romance, adventure, and a good chase. Thankfully, it does not have any gore and killings. In addition, it leaves you to examine your beliefs of fate versus free will. In other words, it is an action movie with a love story that makes you think.

I loved the movie so I will take out my teacher’s red pen and give it a B+.