Argo – A Movie Review

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Oct 282012
 

ARGO Movie PosterThe true story of the life-or-death covert operation to rescue six Americans, which unfolded behind the scenes of the Iran hostage crisis–the truth of which was unknown by the public for decades. In 1979, the American embassy in Iran was invaded by Iranian revolutionaries and several Americans are taken hostage. However, six manage to escape to the official residence of the Canadian Ambassador and the CIA is eventually ordered to get them out of the country. With few options, exfiltration expert Tony Mendez devises a daring plan: to create a phony Canadian film project looking to shoot in Iran and smuggle the Americans out as its production crew. With the help of some trusted Hollywood contacts, Mendez creates the ruse and proceeds to Iran as its associate producer. However, time is running out with the Iranian security forces closing in on the truth while both his charges and the White House have grave doubts about the operation themselves.

Release Date: October 12, 2012; MPAA Rating: R (for language and some violent images); Genres: Action/Adventure, Adaptation, Comedy, Drama; Run Time: 2 hours.

Director: Ben Affleck

Cast: Ben Affleck, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Bryan Cranston, Taylor Schilling, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé, Kyle Chandler, Chris Messina,     Zeljko Ivanek, Titus Welliver.

Lay and me saw this movie last weekend. Continue reading »

Sunshine Cleaning – A Movie Review

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Aug 312009
 

Sunshine Cleaning PosterOnce the high school cheerleading captain who dated the quarterback, Rose Lorkowski now finds herself a thirty something single mother working as a maid. Her sister Norah is still living at home with their dad Joe, a salesman with a lifelong history of ill-fated get rich quick schemes. Desperate to get her son into a better school, Rose persuades Norah to go into the crime scene clean-up business with her to make some quick cash. In no time, the girls are up to their elbows in murders, suicides and other…specialized situations. As they climb the ranks in a very dirty job, the sisters find a true respect for one another and the closeness they have always craved finally blossoms. By building their own improbable business, Rose and Norah open the door to the joys and challenges of being there for one another — no matter what — while creating a brighter future for the entire Lorkowski family.

Genres: Comedy and Drama; Running Time: 1 hr. 32 min.; Release Date: March 13th, 2009; MPAA Rating: R for language, disturbing images, some sexuality and drug use.

Starring: Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin, Steve Zahn, Clifton Collins Jr.

Directed by: Christine Jeffs

I had wanted to see this movie while it was in theaters, but we just never made it. So we watched it Saturday night now that it is out on DVD. It was a very good movie.

This is one of those little films with heart. Amy Adams (most recently seen in the superb ‘Doubt’),and Emily Blunt (currently seen in ‘The Great Buck Howard’)are sisters who form a business,cleaning up crime scenes. Their characters differ some what. One is a single Mother of a challenging 8 year old,having an affair with now-married ex-high school boyfriend. The other is a rootless,drifting from one crappy job to another,slacker. Veteran actor,Alan Arkin is their father,who is involved in one failed “get rich quick” scheme after another. This is quality,quirky film making at it’s best. Fraternal bonds seem to be the central theme here. This film was produced last year,but seems to be getting a late (but most welcome)distribution just now.

It is about emotional survival in rough times. Rose needs to raise tuition to get her son out of a public school. In a pinch, she starts cleaning crime scenes and out of that grows a business of which she is pretty proud.

The emotional pathos of cleaning up the bloody mess gives them release of emotions pent up by the tragic death of their Mother and also a sense of purpose and contribution.

From all this Rose gains the strength to tell her married boyfriend that she “doesn’t want it anymore.” Amy Adams’ face, when she blurts this out, is such a mess her eyes aren’t even focused, and it comes through. Both as a character and as an actor she is not merely mouthing lines. Her sister Nora is unprofessional enough to deliberately get involved with a crime victim’s kin, with predictably bad results. She is also devoted to the sport of “trestling”–hanging from underneath passing trains on railroad trestles.

The trailer would lead one to believe it’s a comedy, and there is humor. It’s subtle and often just under the sufrace. It is always there. It is there in a sense of irony and wry observation of life. The point is: see it. You will not be disappointed. Lay and I both agreed it is probably the best film we’ve seen recently.

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Get Smart – A Movie Review

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Jul 082008
 

Get SmartMaxwell Smart is on a mission to thwart the latest plot for world domination by the evil crime syndicate known as KAOS. When the headquarters of U.S. spy agency Control is attacked and the identities of its agents compromised, the Chief has no choice but to promote his ever-eager analyst Maxwell Smart, who has always dreamt of working in the field alongside stalwart superstar Agent 23. Smart is partnered instead with the only other agent whose identity has not been compromised: the lovely-but-lethal veteran Agent 99. As Smart and 99 get closer to unraveling KAOS’ master plan–and each other–they discover that key KAOS operative Siegfried and his sidekick Shtarker are scheming to cash in with their network of terror. Given little field experience and even less time, Smart–armed with nothing but a few spy-tech gadgets and his unbridled enthusiasm–must defeat KAOS if he is to save the day.

Genres: Comedy, Thriller and Adaptation; Running Time: 1 hr. 50 min.; Release Date: June 20th, 2008 (wide); MPAA Rating: PG-13 for some rude humor, action violence and language.

Director: Peter Segal

Cast: Steve Carell, Anne Hathaway, Dwayne Johnson, Alan Arkin, Terrence Stamp

I used to watch the old series and Don Adams is a unique comic actor. Steve Carrell’s portrayal of Maxwell Smart was very good. There’s enough of the old stuff to keep you reminiscing and even a fun little cameo from one of the surviving members of the original cast. Even more so than earlier film attempts, they made this for the big screen with action that would’ve never been possible on the old series. For those who may not remember the original series, this is a great primer to go and catch up with it if you can.

I think the main disappointment for me was a lack of chaos (pun intended). In the series, Smart seemed to just leave a constant stream of chaos in his wake. There was less of that here. All the larger and expected gags were there, but it just lacked a lot of the little gags that were so much a part of the series. But overall it’s a good watch.

Long Live C.O.N.T.R.O.L.!

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Little Miss Sunshine

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Aug 272006
 

Little_Miss_Sunshine.jpgA family determined to get their young daughter into the finals of a beauty pageant take a cross-country trip in their VW bus.

Directed by
Jonathan Dayton, Valerie Faris

Genres
Adventure, Comedy, Drama

Cast
Abigail Breslin, Greg Kinnear, Paul Dano, Alan Arkin, Toni Collette, Steve Carell, Bryan Cranston, Stan Grossman, Beth Grant, Justin Shilton

Lay and I went to see this movie Saturday night. Lay was working this weekend, so we had to make it a late show. This fantastic little movie is a complete short story, picking up at the addition of Steve Carell’s character to the crazy family headed by his sister (played by Collette) and her husband (played perfectly by Kinnear as a frustrated self-help presenter).

The family includes the quirky and somewhat overweight 8 year old, a by-choice speechless and frustrated 15 year old, and a drug sniffing angry grandpa (Arkin). Arkin steals every scene he’s in. The movie plays out like a typical “odd-group-thrown-into-a-small-area-and-must-overcome-together” situation, with a dilapidated VW bus as the key obstacle. But it’s the little moments of subtle humor that bring out the smiles in the audience at every step of the line. Carell has a 5 minute sarcasm bit, and you will never forget his style of running. The humor is never forced, the dialog seems very realistic, the sentimentality is never over the top nor yawn producing, and the finish was not only unexpected, but the most hilarious thing I’ve seen all year.

From the moment Alan Arkin appears on screen you realize immediately you’re in the presence of master. Arkin is, as some of my younger clients say, “off the chain.” Surprisingly enough, Abigail Breslin (who plays Olive)is up to the task and the scenes with these two are priceless. Both could easily be nominated as supporting actors and in a just world they would! While there many moments of hilarity, the movie is also a look into the culture of narcissism, where everyone involved is too busy with the “me, me, me” mindset of our hyper individualistic world to actually see what’s going on in the present moment. This situation leads to both high comedy and moments of poignancy. Highly recommended.

Everything about this film seemed to fit together; from the music choice, to the pacing, to the subtle placement of scenery and odd cinematography shots; the acting; the dialog; to the storyline, with its set up, pitfalls, and timely finish. To conclude, I would say this film is perfect movie-going entertainment without trying to say too much and be anything more than it is.

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