February 25, 2019

DVD Review #49 ARGO With Talking Flick Podcast Appearance 2019

Argo (2012) Ben Affleck, John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Directed by Ben Affleck

"This is the best bad idea we have, sir. By far."
Seven years ago I gave Argo a strong 7.0 on the Shawshank Scale, a scale that favors films rewatchability factor. I ranked Silver Linings Playbook 7.5, Life of Pi 7.0, Slightly ahead of Argo 7.0 in my top ten, a recent guest appearance on the wonderful podcast Talking Flick (Links below) has given me the opportunity to revisit my initial thoughts and take another look at this classic. Argo was nominated for (7) Academy awards in 2012 and won Best Picture. 

Director Ben Affleck, Writer Chris Terrio, Editor William Goldenberg and casting director Lora Kennedy all do an amazing job crafting a near flawless film that interweaves crazy late 70's Hollywood with the Iranian Hostage Crisis (a stranger than fiction based on real events story).  I forgot how incredible this film really is, it is a joy to watch again. Tony Mendez (played reasonably well by Affleck) is a CIA agent tasked with extracting (6) Americans that were lucky enough to slide away while nearly 60 other Americans were taken hostage. To do this Mendez recruits the help of Hollywood contacts (Goodman and Arkin at their near best), they stage a film and Mendez travels to Iran to conduct his crazy Exfil plan. This film is really 2 maybe 2.5 films in one, the Iran stuff, the Hollywood stuff, and the fake suspense stuff, but they all go together seamlessly. Like All the Presidents Men or Spotlight, I really feel like this is a film you can slide into 10 minutes in, 20 minutes in, and you will want to finish it. I think back in 2012 I knocked Argo down a peg because it felt too close to Hollywood, maybe it felt like it was pandering a bit, but now removed from that Oscar race and free of the love I felt for Silver Linings Playbook (who I was rooting for  Best Picture) I can appreciate much of what I may have overlooked seven years ago. For example the casting is incredible, Tate Donovan, Scoot McNairy, Kerry Bishe, Kyle Chandler, Kerry Bishe, and Bryan Cranston along with many many others (Bob Gunton the warden from Shawshank!) all do so much with their small amount of screen time. Affleck deserves credit for making a wonderful film that I believe will stand the test of time.  SEE IT AGAIN!

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) So seven years is a good amount of time, certainly this film has been more rewatchable than Life of Pi (still a lovely film by Ang Lee who won Best Director). The great writing and expert casting really seal the deal and allow me to bump the 2012 7.0 rating to a 2019 7.5 rating and put it neck and neck with Silver Linings Playbook (still holds up also). I think Alan Arkin was robbed of Best Supporting Actor and Affleck at minimum should have been nominated for Best Director. Argo is an absolute crowd pleaser and will be having a long run on cable and streaming for years to come.

Ranking the Top 5 Ben Affleck films (cause why not!):
1. Good Will Hunting (He won his 1st Oscar here, it is in my Top Ten of all time and still holds up)
2. Argo (Affleck puts all of his skills together in an expertly made film)
3. The Company Men (This small film wasn't seen by many, but should've been)
4. Clerks/Mallrats/Dogma/Chasing Amy (Kevin Smith really knows how to use Ben)
5. Live By Night (He is trying hard here, comes up a little short but still a solid film)

And the 5 Worst (cause I have to!):
 1. Paycheck (Yes worse than Gigli)
 2. Gigli (Bad, yes, but not as bad as Paycheck)
 3. Pearl harbor (I really didn't like this movie)
 4. Reindeer Games (Awful, Charlize Theron couldn't save it)
 5. The Sum of All Fears (The worst Jack Ryan film...ever)


Talking Flick Podcast on Anchor Link    (The Argo Episode)
Talking Flick Podcast on iTunes Link    (The Argo Episode)

February 21, 2019

SPECIAL REVISIT OF: Star Trek 2009 Review With Talking Flick Podcast Appearance 2019!

Star Trek (2009) Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto Directed by J.J. Abrams

Yup I said it before I will say it again, the summer is here! Started with Wolverine, and now we have the next blockbuster of May arriving with a bang. I'm am not a Star Trek fan really, I think the only movie I really liked was "The Undiscovered Country" (think that was Star Trek 5) with Spock's brother causing problems (it had a god theme or something). The rest sort of came and went, though I watched almost all of them, I never jumped up and cheered or anything...well looks like that streak is broken for this flick...I jumped up and cheered (mostly because I was so thrilled that Wolverine (6.5 rating) wasn't going to be the best of the summer crop). Now I might guess that if you are a loyal fan of this franchise, there may be a few things that will irk you bit, and I had a couple as well, but like Indiana Jones and the Crystal Skull, I was so happy it worked to see these characters again, I set aside my normal "what were they thinking there" mentality, and just went along for the ride (which is what summer movie viewing is all about). Star Trek takes place as a prequel to the TV series, and we learn throughout the film how all these characters ended up on the U.S.S. Enterprise together. Now again I'm not a huge fan or anything, but you would have to live in a shoebox if you are my age or around my age, to not know about these iconic characters. We all know what Kirk is suppused to sound like, or what Dr. McCoy should say (Dammit Jim i'm a doctor not a blogger!). I am very happy to report that, although it so rarely ever works to replay iconic characters with relatively unknown actors (see Superman Returns), it most certainly worked here. I don't know how it was done, but this cast hit a freakin grand slam with the crew from the Enterprise. Props to April Webster and Alyssa Weisberg for their great work in casting this movie. Chris Pine who i've never seen before, or at least don't remember if I had, kills as James T. Kirk, and it's hard for me to like a guy pretending to be Shatner, Zachary Quinto also makes Spock...I don't know kind of cool and layered. Simon Pegg (who is my boy...please see Run Fatboy Run or Shawn of the dead if you haven't) is awesome as Scotty, Anton Yelchin is hiliarous as Chekov, John Cho is solid as Sulu, Karl Urban is dead on as "bones" McCoy, and my oh my is Uhura (played well by Zoe Saldana...who is now forgiven for the poop known as Centerstagefreakin HOT!!! Even Eric Bana as a pissed off Romulan is cool. I had a feeling J.J. Abrams could handle this film, his retooling of the Mission Impossible movie (part 3) was very good work. He really does a nice job making a mediocre script come to life with awesome editing, and a very rocking cast. He allows (or has the balls to)give each character a new element that we have not seen before, and lets the actors both imitate, and explore the characters of the past to give us a new angle. Do not screw around on this people, I have seen the trailers, this might be the best of the summer (though I could be wrong), go out and see this movie, I don't give a crap if you hate the idea of going to a Star Trek movie, and I don't care if you are a loyalist who thinks replacing Kirk with a kid is sacrilegious...go out and do it...before I set my phasers to kill...ok ok that was dorky, but just go see it. I give it a very good 7.5 on The Shawshank Scale (as always out of ten, and this is my highest mark yet) because Andy Dufrane would have stayed in his cell another week if he knew this movie was coming to the prison theater...then he would crawl through the poop of course after he saw it.


Talking Flick: Listen to my guest spot on Talking Flick a great movie podcast where we revisit Star Trek 2009. Available on iTunes, Sticher, Anchor, or wherever you listen to Podcasts Links below. 

Talking Flick Podcast    (The Star Trek 2009 Episode)

Talking Flick iTunes    (The Star Trek 2009 Episode)

February 9, 2019

Movie Review #55 The Front Runner

The Front Runner (2018) Hugh Jackman, Vera Farmiga, J.K. Simmons, and Directed by Jason Reitman

Follow me around. I don’t care. If anybody wants to put a tail on me, go ahead. They’d be very bored. Gary Hart 

As you get older and you reflect on your life you come to realize how important timing is, Jason Reitman probably thought in 2016 while filming The Front Runner he was on the right side of timing, then Trump happened and well the Gary Hart scandal of 1987 probably didn’t seem to big a deal to anyone anymore. Bill Dixon, Hart’s former campaign manager says it best: “It’s really hard to concentrate on a fictional thing when we have a racist, lying, evil president in office who appears to hate everyone who is not a heterosexual rich white man”.

Director Jason Reitman (Up in the Air, Juno, and Young Adult) tells the story of the 1987 campaign of Presidential front runner Gary Hart (at one point he poled ahead of G.W. Bush by nearly 40 points), or at least the worst week of that campaign. Reitman one of my favorite working directors (he is working next on a Ghostbusters film!) does an amazing job skirting around ideas like what is interesting, what is right, and what is important to know about a candidate. He doesn’t do such a good job answering them though and, in a way, I think that is the best part of this film. It wants you to ask yourself these questions and then try to come to your own conclusions. The message might just be, don’t let the media decide for you what is important, you decide.  I think the film was unfairly criticized for not having a sharper meaning, people think it’s being evasive, but I found it very refreshing. For me it was at times a haunting film and after it was over, I asked myself questions like was Hart treated fairly, do I care that he may have cheated on his wife, and would I have voted for him anyway? All these questions are interesting to me and I believe if not for Trump’s election (his pre-white house scandals are too long to list) this movie may have been received better. 

Hugh Jackman plays Gary Hart rather well, his accent can be a tad off at times, but his stoic demeanor feels right for this film. J.K. Simmons (a frequent Jason Reitman partner) who plays Hart’s campaign manager doesn’t get a ton to do, but he is exceptional with the stuff he has. Vera Farmiga is also wonderful as Lee Hart (Gary’s wife), she has some of the best scenes in the film. Frankly I’m surprised this film didn’t get any Oscar buzz. The film has a tremendous supporting cast Mamoudou Athie, Josh Brener (from Silicon Valley), Alfred Molina, Bill Burr, Ari Graynor, and Chris Coy (from The Deuce) all perform admirably. The direction has a grainy 70’s vibe to it that really helps the cinematography and the music is also great. I am perhaps a little bias when it comes to Reitman films (after all Up in the air is my highest rated film since 2009: 8.5 on the Shawshank Scale and Juno is just a lovely film), but his style and choices often speak to me. I hope this film has a nice life on streaming, HBO, or VOD because it really is worth our time. Gary Hart and Bill Dixon have both been great contributors to society since the scandal and it is a shame that this is what they are most known for, that said I don’t think Reitman is rehashing old wounds just because he isn’t full throat scolding Hart or the media’s behavior in 1987, I think he is presenting a story that allows us to question who we are as a democracy and furthermore ask, who would we like to be. SEE IT! 

(The Shawshank Scale 1-10) In years past I truly believe this film is in the Oscar conversation, Reitman’s near flawless direction and smart script, along with the near perfect casting make The Front Runner worthy of a sturdy 6.5 on The Shawshank Scale, both this film and his earlier 2018 film Tully are must-see films of 2018 despite their lackluster box office performances. I think that recent lack of box office success may be what led him to take on the Ghostbusters 3 film, and frankly we all may benefit from that decision, because he is one of the best directors working today, the only guy I would rather direct that film is his dad Ivan. 

Ranking the Top 5 almost Presidential Candidates (cause why not!):

1. Howard Dean (an awkward scream ended his run, or was it the DNC again?) 
2. Bernie Sanders (it would’ve been amazing to see Bernie scream at a Mitch McConnell led Senate)
3. Joe Biden (the pride of Scranton Pennsylvania may still fall off this list)
4. Dennis Kucinich (He was Single-Payer before it was cool)
5. Bill Bradley (2 of my favorites Sen. Paul Wellstone and Secretary Robert Reich pushed for him over Gore and that was good enough for me)

Shouts: Ralph Nader who was a Presidential candidate and too often gets a bad rap for the 2000 election…see 2006’s IFC Documentary An Unreasonable Man then get back to me and tell me that he wouldn’t have made an incredible president.