Zack & Nick's Culture Cast

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ANCC: Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back

Kevin Smith Month continues with 2001’s Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back and listen as Jennifer slowly dies from watching this film!  But beyond talking about Smith’s then-capstone to his View Askewniverse, the trio eventually wander into Smith’s merits as a filmmaker and overlord of his media empire!  It’s a fun-filled episode, so check it out!

To listen to the episode, click here or on the image below!




I Legitimately Hate 1995’s Mallrats

Mallrats is an awful movie with almost zero redeeming qualities whatsoever. It was a considerable box office flop that instantly made a ton of critics as well as the general public immediately reconsider writer/director Kevin Smith’s talent only two movies into his career. Mallrats is an unpleasant, amateur affair that’s about as stupid as Clerks, Smith’s first effort, is good. That is to say, Clerks is a quality piece of entertainment that holds up as a time capsule of the early to mid-90s (with some truly inventive and funny dialogue), while Mallrats is a garbage film perhaps best remembered for its clunky, forced dialogue about superhero penises Jason Lee’s breakout performance (the film’s lone highlight). I have not seen Mallrats in years, but I unfortunately remember it almost beat-by-beat (it is not a complicated movie). I hate that film so much that I really want to write about it and relish in my hatred.


I remember Mallrats so well because I have actually seen it dozens of times, despite never really liking it all that much in the first place. In the late 90s, I rented this film multiple times from the rental store and watched it on a near loop with friends and siblings for months at a time. I spent the majority of the years 1999 and 2000 watching everything Kevin Smith and his cohorts had a hand in. I purchased Chasing Amy and Clerks and watched them dozens and dozens of times as well. Dogma had recently been in theaters, and I watched that one over and over again as well. To my 17 year old self, there was no one cooler than Kevin Smith. Except for Mallrats – I never truly liked Mallrats. I liked then (and still like now) Clerks and Chasing Amy, but I always thought Mallrats just didn’t fit in with those films.

One particular difference is that Mallrats is Smith’s sole film from his early days not released by Miramax. Miramax very famously purchased and distributed Clerks in 1994 and then Chasing Amy (which had a budget of $250,000 amazingly) in early 1997. But Mallrats is immensely different from those two, as it was a Universal production backed by a budget of several million dollars (estimated to be seven million). It is shot and directed like a studio film from the 90s, and thus suffers in comparison with the other two, as they are far more “indie” looking. Mallrats is also different in that there is actually a very complicated story behind what appears (and is) to be a simple movie.

The originally filmed opening took place in some sort Revolutionary War-era reenactment/governor’s ball, wherein Jeremy London (who spends the entire movie looking uncomfortable with his hands in his pockets and who was clearly not cast by Smith) accidentally shoots a musket (why was he carrying a loaded musket in a reenactment) at the governor. This sets up a chain of events wherein London’s girlfriend Brandi’s father loses his job. Brandi wants to cut ties with London (his name in the movie is T.S. but I’m just gonna call him London), so she breaks up with him, inspiring him to find solace in a shopping mall with best friend Jason Lee, who was also recently dumped by Shannon Doherty. The theatrical cut of the film excises most of this, up until the point where Brandi breaks up with London. Hence, the film takes almost 30 minutes to get to the mall setting. The film is already painful at 94 minutes. I can’t imagine watching a two-hour version of this movie.

The edits, reshoots, rewrites, etc also lead to several continuity errors throughout the film, but these are only a few of the bizarre errors/things that make no sense present throughout Mallrats. Other than the dialogue that doesn’t fit in because the first 30 minutes of the film were redone, there are also moments of inaudible/barely audible dialogue that you can see in the captions but cannot actually hear. Moments like this include a the scene where fans wait to meet Stan Lee, where a child is trapped on an escalator, and where Brandi’s father Jared (Michael Rooker, who is usually money but is awful here) fires an underling. I have to imagine this was not done on purpose despite it being so prevalent throughout the film.

I mentioned earlier that Jason Lee, playing lovely slacker Brodie Bruce, is the sole highlight of the film. He truly shines in this film and it’s easy to see why the ex-professional skateboarder went on to have a solid career in Hollywood. He’s charismatic, funny, and a naturally good actor. There are groan-worthy moments throughout Mallrats, but few involve him. He seems to be the only one who understands the kind of movie he’s in. Contrast this with co-star London, who seriously spends the entire fucking movie with his hands in his pockets. He looks uncomfortable with Smith’s (admittedly dumb) dialogue as well as with his co-stars. There’s very little chemistry between he and Brandi. I hate to pile on the notoriously difficult Shannon Doherty, but she’s just about as awful as London. It’s hard to believe she’d ever even be seen with Jason Lee’s character, let alone date him.

I really like Clerks and Chasing Amy. I really like how they managed to be small-scale movies but still have really investing and emotional stakes. Clerks is about the daily grind of a man who has absolutely no direction in his life. He can’t make a decision about which girl he wants to date and he feels like life is slipping past him at age 22. There’s some pretty serious, heavy material in the depths of that film. Chasing Amy is about one man’s failure to keep the past in the past, which negatively impacts his relationship with the woman of his dreams as well as his relationship with his best friend and business partner. Ben Affleck’s Holden is too short sighted to look past things that happened in high school and move on to the next chapter in his life, not unlike Bryan O’Halloran’s Dante from Clerks. London and Lee aren’t deep enough as characters in Mallrats to get invested in.

Clerks and Chasing Amy garnered critical acclaim and awards for being mature looks at life in the 90s for people in their 20s. No one else was really doing that. Mallrats has a character fly face-first into a ladies dressing room for no reason that to show off a pair of tits. Clerks sees its main character struggle to balance a job, a relationship with a woman he doesn’t have much in common with, and a previous toxic relationship with a high school girlfriend. Chasing Amy explores how fluid human sexuality truly is. Mallrats’ final act hinges on a sex tape that exposes a clothing store manager as a sexual deviant. Simply put, Clerks and Chasing Amy are smart and mature movies, whereas Mallrats is immature, obnoxious, repellant, and just plain dumb.

I’ve spoken to a lot of people my age about Mallrats – many of them really like it. They are, of course, entitled to their opinions (just as I am). Though I suspect they view the film with a heavy dose of nostalgia, because I truly find it difficult to find merit of any kind in Mallrats outside of a charismatic Jason Lee performance. Roger Ebert once claimed to sit in on a panel with Kevin Smith where Smith claimed he’d be happy to make the kinds of movies studios want as long as the studios were paying. Ebert thought Smith was joking until Mallrats came out. The best I can say about Smith as that he hasn’t truly gone mercenary since. Zack and Miri was not a good movie, but it attempted to be heartfelt at least. Cop Out could have (and should have) worked, but was at least a fun misfire at worst. The movies he makes now (such as Tusk and Yoga Hosers) couldn’t be less commercial. I’ll commend him for making what he wants to make, but I still get to hate Mallrats. I’ll always hate Mallrats.


I saw Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice

**Warning: Perhaps mild spoilers, but not really**

After three years (that felt more like thirty years to be honest), Warner Bros. latest DC disasterpiece, Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, is finally in theaters. Well, at least it will be in a few days. I managed to get invited to a special sneak preview, and after seeing it I’m just kind of perplexed. I’m really not sure what I just watched. It was half awful, half amazing. It was full of some of the weirdest shit I’ve ever seen in a comic book movie. It is simultaneously over and under-written. One thing is for sure, however: Batman v Superman really doubles down on the doom and gloom – and I highly doubt this film is going to change anyone’s minds about the direction of the DC “cinematic universe.”


I’m not one of these people who hates on DC for trying to accomplish what Marvel does with their films. I actually dislike most of the Marvel because they’re such generic pieces of shit. There’s barely an ounce of creativity in those sterile movies (save for Guardians of the Galaxy, which was such a weird concept I’m wagering Marvel didn’t attempt to reign it in because they assumed it would flop). I like living in a world where DC movies are significantly different from Marvel films. I just wish DC’s movies were better, particularly this one. It’s true that I liked Man of Steel (I actually think I like it significantly more than BvS at this point though that could change), but it is largely disliked and even hated by a significant portion of the Internet.

As much as that shouldn’t matter, it does. Internet fanboys make up a significant portion of the noise online, unfortunately. Again, it pains me but this must be taken into consideration. BvS isn’t going to appeal to these people because BvS is essentially everything they hated about MoS amplified tenfold. There’s wanton destruction (this time with shoe-horned in lines about people getting to safety!), loud noises, explosions, half-developed plot ideas, crazy unrelated-able science stuff, and awful writing permeating through BvS. The film also manages to make Batman, the dourest of dour characters, somehow even more cynical, dour, and humorless. I’m not sure Batman has a single fun moment in this entire picture.

On the other hand, there’s Superman, and he’s handled significantly better in this movie than he was in MoS. Superman, now seen as a godlike figure to some and as a tyrant to others following the Metropolis disaster, is surprisingly the most interesting character in the film. The little moments where Superman saves people from floods and burning buildings are striking, beautiful, and moving. Hans Zimmer’s score swells in the background, Zack Snyder’s direction works well, and Henry Cavill nails Superman in these moments. He also looks fantastic as Superman. Unfortunately, he’s awful at being Clark Kent. He’s awkward in all the wrong ways. He looks like he’s never spoken to another human being in his entire life. His romance with Lois Lane is completely unbelievable.

Speaking of Lois, Adams is fine in the role once again. Other supporting characters, like Diane Lane, Laurence Fishburne, and newcomer to the film series Gal Godot are all fine in their roles. I expected Godot to shine a bit more as Diana Prince, but her role is really much more of an extended cameo. The weirdest bit of casting was in Jesse Eisenberg as Alexander “Lex” Luthor. I expected Eisenberg to essentially ramp up his Mark Zuckerberg shtick, but he doesn’t do this. What he does is actually ramp the crazy up to 11, almost to the point of being completely and utterly ridiculous. I was a huge fan of casting Eisenberg as Luthor and I championed it time and time again. But I don’t think it works. He looks like he’s in a completely different movie.

Batman v Superman is an almost humorless film. The script is awful, especially for the first half of the film. BvS doesn’t know what it wants to be entirely. It jumps back and forth between scenes of Superman or Batman doing random stuff with little rhyme or reason. It’s almost 45 minutes before any semblance of a plot starts to kick in. The film finds it necessary to go back to climax of Man of Steel in order to give Batman motivation, but it’s almost completely unnecessary. The film would have functioned without it. There’s also an unusual amount of random, unnecessary violence permeating the film, as well as totally incomprehensible flashbacks and dream sequences. Like I said, the script is kind of a mess.

Snyder is going to get blamed for the film’s faults, which isn’t really fair. He’s a fine action director. I know it’s as cool to bash on him as it is Michael Bay, but Snyder is a talented storyteller and I honestly think he does the best he can with such as garbage script. If anything, I appreciate just how much Snyder seems to love this universe, and his attention to detail is pretty good. There are little things, like Diana Prince investigating other “meta humans” that works. The film, however, is hyper-violent and filled with unnecessary death. I’m not certain that so many people needed to be either shot to death or killed in fiery explosions.

Even as a MoS apologist, I am sitting her finding it difficult to recommend Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice. I like about half of the film, particularly the moments with Superman. But Batman is totally botched here. I don’t necessarily think it’s Affleck’s fault either. I can’t see Christian Bale, one of my favorite actors, turning this into Oscar winning material either. The main fault of the film is that it lacks identity. Does it want to be a team-up movie like The Avengers, a gritty crime drama like Nolan’s Dark Knight trilogy of films, or a hyper-violent, Snyder-esque action film a la 300 or Watchmen? It tries to be all three, and thus doesn’t quite stick the landing. I can’t possibly see this film winning over the naysayers and I have no idea what’s going to happen to Warner Bros.’ long-term plans for a DC “film universe.”


BvS: Can We Gain Some Perspective on R-Ratings?

Word on the street is that the upcoming Batman v Superman: Dawn of Justice, though rated PG-13 for theaters, will have a home video “Director’s Cut” release with a R-rating (for violence).  And people are losing their fucking minds over it.  I have seen nothing but overreactions with people thinking the film will somehow feature over-the-top gore, Batman dropping F-bombs, and hard-core nudity.  bvs.jpg

Are these people idiots?  Do they have no clue to how the MPAA rating system works?  .  The difference between a R and a PG-13 can be incredibly slim.  For example, Marvel’s The Avengers was originally rated R for the first couple of cuts.  Yes, the popcorn, family friendly, safe superhero film that was The Avengers was originally rated R due to Phil Coulson’s original death scene.  Once that got reworked, the film was cleared for a PG-13.

While BvS looks like a more somber film than The Avengers, I have little doubts that the changes for the Director’s Cut are ultimately minor and probably just feature a bit more violence like the aforementioned Coulson death scene.  The only difference is that Warner Bros. is open to releasing that cut to the public.

This is nothing new to the world of home video releases.  The 2000s, in particular, were home to many movies coming to DVD with a “unrated” version.  This is an extension of that trend and really shouldn’t surprised anyone.  Remember home media release of 2013’s The Wolverine or the extended versions of The Hobbit? Same thing.

Of course, logic and facts haven’t stopped anyone one from ignoring this and proceed with their own nonsensical beliefs.  The biggest one being that the reason BvS is getting a “R-rating” is because the recently-released Deadpool proved you can have a R-rated superhero movie (while forgetting such films as  Dredd, Kick-Ass, Watchmen, Blade, and Sin City among others).  Lets not forget that Deadpool‘s R-rating is for very, very different reasons that anything that would ever appear in a Batman/Superman movie.


Deadpool‘s influence has been vastly overstated.

While I am sure Deadpool‘s success was a factor, it was likely a minor one at that.  Deadpool came out less than two weeks ago meaning that if Warner Bros. decided right then on February 15 to do a R-rated version of BvS, that means they would have to bring back director Zack Snyder and his editors to reedit the film to push it to the R-rating, reedit the thing, and resubmit the film.  Then, the MPAA would have to schedule a time to watch it.

While not impossible, the timeline isn’t practical.  A Director’s Cut was likely already in the works well before Deadpool.  The only thing that Deadpool might have done to influence this decision is to actually list it as “R” as opposed to “unrated”.

Again, I remind readers of The Avengers and how that was originally rated R.

This bullshit overreaction needs to stop, and I really wish the collective that is the internet would gain some perspective.  Batman v. Superman will be an all-audiences film no different than Man of Steel or any Marvel film before it.  If Warner Bros. want to put out a slightly more violent version for comic book fans in addition the the theatrical version, then so be it.  This is something that has been going on for years.  Doesn’t mean it’s going to be a hard-R with Ben Affleck shouting “Are you retarded?  I’m the Goddamn Batman!”




‘Gone Girl’ is Pretty Amazing


Gone Girl is acclaimed director David Fincher’s (The Social Network) latest film, and it is an incredibly gripping and intense mystery/thriller.  The funny thing about this movie is that the internet, in a shocking move, has been pretty restrained when it comes to spoiling this movie.  There are several twists and turns (some incredibly shocking), but there seems to be a collective move to keep things quiet as to not ruin the surprise for audiences.  Not sure why Gone Girl was honored with that, but in an effort to follow suit, I will keep this review fairly spoiler free by discussing the movie from only things that can be picked up from the trailers.

In Gone Girl, Ben Affleck plays Nick Dunne, a husband whose wife (Rosamund Pike) mysteriously disappears.  The following investigation uncovers several clues that lead viewers to believe Nick is responsible.  However, not all is as it seems which leads movie goers to determine the truth between the different narratives that are presented.

I love a good mystery and Gone Girl provides that in spades.  The mystery comes short of perfect as some of it really doesn’t quite work (especially in the third act), but here is where Fincher really succeeds as a director.  Everything that is going on is so engaging that, as a viewer, I never really questioned anything that was happening on screen.  After I left the theater, I started to notice some of the holes, but if you can’t notice them while you are watching the film, that’s the work of an artist.

While the mystery is great, the thing that I really, really loved about the movie was how it completely skewers main stream media on how they can sensationalize a tragedy to the point where an entire nation can completely side with or be against an individual with half-truths and implications.  Granted, this sort of storytelling has been used in the past, but Fincher doesn’t hit you over the head with it by keeping it subtle and in the background, but enough to where you would likely hate every news personality in the movie.

There is a lot more I would like to go into with Gone Girl such as its themes concerning gender, societal privilege, and the problems that stem from both, but I would have to veer into spoiler territory to do so.  Since I rather not do that, I’ll just conclude that Gone Girl is an incredibly well-made film that keeps you engaged.  It is a solid thriller (with a darkly humorous third act) which I highly recommend.  Avoid spoilers and go in blank.  You’ll thank me for that.


Who Cares if Ben Affleck is Batman?

Last Thursday night, it was revealed that Ben Affleck was cast as Batman/Bruce Wayne in the upcoming Superman/Batman film due in 2015.  It was later revealed that he signed on to play Batman for multiple films (I personally suspect that he will serve as the “Nick Fury” role for the DC Cinematic Universe).  When the news hit, the internet reacted thusly:


Followed by this:


And it seemed to be all I read about for the next two days on various forms of social media and “mainstream” media (Um..hello..isn’t it looking like the US is getting into another war?  Shouldn’t our attention be focused on that?).  People seemed personally offended by this.  My question: Why?  Why is this Ben Affleck a bad choice?  Or, better question, why has “the internet” attacked him with such vitriol?  Hasn’t be proven himself to be a capable actor (and filmmaker overall) again and again who seems to have very little ego?

Affleck is a very capable actor.  I think people are still thinking Affleck is still the same actor today that he was in 2002.  That couldn’t be farther from the case.  After his mid-00s fall, Affleck took time to rebuild his career in such quieter roles in Hollywoodland (where he played George “Superman” Reeves – very amusing looking back now), State of Play, and The TownThe Town, in particular, received rave reviews by critics and movie goers.

The Ben Affleck of 2013 is a very different actor than the Ben Affleck of 2003.  People need to realize that.  He has range.  He has nuance (if they are going the conflicted Batman route).  He can do action and he has good screen presence.


It’s True. From Our Valued Customers.

I have also seen the argument that Affleck is a terrible choice because of Daredevil.  Yes, that movie did not fare well with the critics or audiences, but how much of that was Affleck’s fault.  Keep in mind, superhero movies from 2003 were a very different beast than they are today.  Additionally, that was a different movie from a different studio, made my different people, making different creative decisions.  It is ridiculous to compare the two films.  That is kind of like saying Batman & Robin was a terrible film, so that means Ocean’s Eleven will be terrible too because both starred George Clooney.  No.  That is a horribly misguided thought process.

Remember how everyone nerd-raged against Robert Downey Jr., Heath Ledger, Hugh Jackman, Daniel Craig, and Mark Ruffalo among others when they were cast in their respective superhero roles? They seemed to turn out just fine.   But, it is funny how people are denying that now when that is brought up.

Also, when Michael Keaton was cast at Batman back in the late ‘80s, there was a huge public outcry against “Mr. Mom” as Batman, that Warner Bros. had to rush out a trailer in order to shut people up.  Of course now when that is brought up, people are claiming that Keaton “had range” and could pull off the role.  Uh… no.  He might have range, but he didn’t then (to the public at large).  And you also have nearly 25 years of hindsight blurring that vision.

Check out this awesome article about this very thing.


What the internet thinks Warner Bros. is doing.

Also, Superman/Batman (or whatever it is going to be called) is being made by the same creative team as Man of Steel, which seems to be loved in geek-circles.  Shouldn’t this team be given the benefit of the doubt?  And, reports say that Affleck has been contributing to the story and production of the film.  Considering this guy just won an Oscar for Best Picture, wouldn’t this be anything, but a good thing?

People are also raging on how he is “only” working out two hours a day.  Do any of these slobs on the internet know anything about building muscle?  You can’t overdo it.  You just can’t!  You risk injury which defeats the whole purpose.  Plus, two hours a day for (presumably) seven days?  That’s fourteen hours a week and the film isn’t going into production until next summer.  I think Affleck will be looking just fine.

Finally, since when has Batman become a sacred cow?  It is fucking Batman.  He isn’t some highly renowned character that only the best-of-the-best of actors are allowed to portray him.  I am not belittling the character, but let’s get some perspective on this.


The only actor to do both.

What this all boils down to is that people have this irritating sense of self-entitlement thinking that only their idea is the right idea.  And since Affleck was such a surprising announcement, it was met with ridiculously rage.  In the end, who knows?  Affleck might be terrible.  He might be great.  I know I am not casting any personal judgment until I see some footage like a trailer.

The Culture Cast completely stands behind the casting of Ben Affleck as Batman.  We’ll be there in 2015.  Will you?

(Of course you will, even if you plan to “boycott it”.)


The Mallrats Podcast

Zack and Nick get all nostalgic this week as they discuss the Kevin Smith classic Mallrats!  It is an open and honest talk that goes in many surprising directions!  Do yourself a favor and download the episode!

Click HERE or on the image to listen to the podcast.


As always, click HERE to follow us on iTunes!

‘Argo’ Wins Best Picture

argoOver the past few weeks, there has been some Oscar talk here at the Culture Cast.  Zack looked back on the Oscars from the past few years, while I focused on 2012’s nominations.  Earlier tonight, all the winners were announced in the yearly over-long awards ceremony.

Capturing best picture was Argo, the Ben Affleck directed political thriller.  Honestly, I was surprised by the win only because Affleck was not even nominated for the Best Director.  Some people out there argue that he was robbed of a nomination.  I do not know much about that, so I will leave that debate to others who actually care.

Bringing this down to a personal level, I think it was kind of cool to see Argo win mostly because I had the opportunity to catch the movie way back in October before it really got big (on opening day, in fact).  I realize a comment like this dangerously causes me to sound like a hipster, but I cannot deny the minor buzz it gives me.  It is fun to be on the ground floor for something.

Back in October, I had this to say about Argo:

No doubt, Argo is the first to really kick-off Oscar Season at the movies.  However, there never is that pretentious vibe other Oscar contenders potentially have.  Great direction.  Great performances.  Great everything, really.

Looks like the Academy agreed.


25 Days of Christmas: ‘Reindeer Games’

Day 10rain

Didn’t expect this one, did you?  Celebrated director John Frankenheimer closed out his cinematic career with this turd of a movie.  Ben Affleck, then a rising A-star (what a strange time, the late 90s), led a pretty solid cast, including Gary Sinise and Charlize Theron, in this holiday action-heist flick.

On the surface, Reindeer Games should have been a slam dunk, but it failed critically and financially.  To borrow a phrase, what went wrong?

For starters, the script was lousy.  This has every action cliché in the book (and then some).  None of it is used in any new or original way.  In it, we have Rudy (Affleck) who is released from prison and impersonates his dead (or is he?) cellmate to get with the girl, Ashley (Theron), he has been writing to.  However, hijinks are afoot as Ashley’s criminal brother (Sinise) forces Rudy to rob a casino (see, the cellmate use to work there, so, you know…no problems could possibly arise).  Now, Rudy has to try to save his not-girlfriend and get away from the bad guys who thinks he is someone else.

I suppose the movie does have some nice, light and comical bits (Affleck does know how to deliver witty banter), but the comedy is unbalanced by how not-a-comedy the rest of the film is.  It slips back and forth instead of integrating the styles.  The film has a lot of tonal problems as if it truly did not know what it wanted to be.

Making matters worse (or possibly better – it’s hard to tell), is that Reindeer Games has twist after twist after twist.  And then there are twists within twists.  It is utterly insane, and it makes an already needlessly complicated story just all that much more.

Honestly, it is as if a Hitchcock movie produced an offspring with a Shyamalan movie.  And then that unholy creation mated with a Michael Bay film.  That’s how nutty they go with the twists.

Now, as we all know, a lousy script and story does not mean that a movie will be destined to flop.  Prometheus proved that point.  However, this movie still bombed pretty badly.  I have a theory on that.  It was a movie that used the Christmas holiday as its backdrop pretty heavily.  It was released in February.  Who honestly wants to go see a Christmas movie in February?  No one.  Generally speaking, people do not want to be thinking about Christmas by then.

Now, I know what you are thinking.  You are saying to yourself, “Nick, Die Hard was released in the summer, but that is kinda a Christmas movie the same way this is and that was very successful!”  That is true; Die Hard was released in the middle of summer.  But Die Hard was also lightning in a bottle, and not something that can be easily replicated.

Despite its massive flaws, I still kind of like Reindeer Games.  I would not recommend this movie, but it is fun in a turn-off-your-brain and enjoy sort of way.  I think the cast knew they were making a stinker and just decided to have some fun.  Gary Sinise, in particular, seems to just be playing up his white-trash, tough-guy criminal.  While perhaps not as over-the-top as Michael Sheen in Twilight, the same sentiment is there.

I have not seen this movie in years, and I doubt it would hold up very well.  Perhaps, if I stumble upon it, I should give it another looksee.


I saw ‘Argo’

I occasionally see movies in pairs, in that I will go to one movie and then stick around for another.  It makes for an easy night of entertainment if I have nothing else better to do.  Last Friday was one such night.  In addition to seeing Taken 2, I caught a showing of writer/director Ben Affleck’s new movie Argo.

Before I get started talking about the movie, who would have ever predicted that Ben Affleck of Good Will Hunting and Dogma fame would become a Hollywood “It” director (especially after the media crash and burn of “Bennifer”)?  Not me, that is for sure.  Yet, here we are.

Argo recreates the infamous Canadian Caper incident during the Iran Hostage Crisis from the late ‘70s.  CIA extraction specialist Tony Mendez (Affleck) devises a plan to rescues six US diplomats who escaped the then-sieged US embassy and are hiding at the nearby Canadian Ambassador’s residence.  Mendez’s plan: create a fake science fiction movie (the titular Argo), create Hollywood identities for the six, come to Iran claiming to be scouting locations, and leave with everyone.  It is a high-risk plan, but it is also the only reasonable one the CIA could come up with.

This film is good, and I was completely captivated by every movement.  From the set-up and the extraction, I could not help but get sucked in.  A common criticism films like this get is that the ending is already known, because of history.  I say “so what?”.  Knowing that they escape is not the point of the movie.  The point is showing how it happened, and watching these characters go through this ordeal.  Plus, even though you know how it ends, Affleck creates a very high level of tension during that final act.  The threat was made very clear and real throughout the movie, and the payoff for that works.  That is where drama is created.

The movie is two hours long, but I did not feel it.  The pace is incredibly brisk.  Helping the movie out tremendously is that it is never overly serious, and there is a strong dark humor vibe throughout the movie.  With supporting characters played by the likes of John Goodman, Alan Arkin, and Bryan Cranston, the desperate nature of the subject never becomes depressingly bleak.

No doubt, Argo is the first to really kick-off Oscar Season at the movies.  However, there never is that pretentious vibe other Oscar contenders potentially have.  Great direction.  Great performances.  Great everything, really.  I highly recommend it.

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