REVIEW: ARGO

 CAST

Ben Affleck (Batman V Superman)
Bryan Cranston (Godzilla)
Alan Arkin (Get Smart)
John Goodman (10 Cloverfield lane)
Victor Garber (Legends of Tomorrow)
Tate Donovan (Shooter)
Clea DuVall (The Lizzie Borden Chronicles)
Scoot McNairy (Monsters)
Kerry Bishe (Red State)
Kyle Chandler (Super 8)
Zeljko Ivanek (Heroes)
Titus Welliver (Lost)
Keith Szarabajka (The Dark Knight)
Bob Gunton (Dardevil TV)
Richard Kind (Gotham)
Karina Logue (Bates Motel)
John Boyd (Bones)
Michael Parks (Django Unchained)
Adrienne Barbeau (Swamp Thing)
Tom Lenk (Buffy)
Nelson Franklin (New Girl)
Lindsey Ginter (S.W.A.T.)

After Iranian militants stormed and took control of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran in November 1979 taking 56 Americans as hostages, six Americans managed to get away and took refuge in the home of the Canadian Ambassador. After two months of the Canadians putting their lives on the line everyday, the CIA and the US State Department try to come up with a plan to get their people out.Tony Mendez is a specialist who proposes that they pose as a Canadian film crew scouting locations for a science fiction movie called Argo. Using Hollywood connections, Mendez creates a back story for the movie – ads in Variety, casting calls, inviting he media to a production launch – and then heads off to Iran to lead the six Americans out. When I first heard this film was being made, I had no education on the history of the movie, all I knew is that is was a true story based on something political in the middle east, with a really strange title.Affleck once again proves just how good of an actor her is in Hollywood and the way he mixes comedy with intense drama is wonderful. Some scenes are just genius, like the scene where there is a rehearsal, and the captives are treated to a pseudo execution, and then Affleck showing us that both sides can put on a show.Arkin And Goodman are the brilliant comic relief, and whenever they are on screen, the tension is ever so slightly lifted and relief sets in, apart from one scene involving a phone. Affleck, considering he is the director, is really restraint in this movie, and plays it down, whilst the rest of the cast go for it, and it’s to his credit, as it shows that his character has a lot riding on this. It never lets up on tension, even when the six are enjoying their final meal, there is a sense that the door could be broken down at any second.The final third is genuinely edge of your seat stuff. All in all, it’s a wonderful movie, a perfect antidote to some of the dross movies that get dumped on us around the time of year, and really worthy of your attention

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REVIEW: RED STATE

CAST

Michael Parks (Kill Bill)
John Goodman (10 Cloverfield lane)
Kerry Bishe (Argo)
Melissa Leo (The Fighter)
Michael Angarano (Sky High)
Kyle Gallner (Smallville)
Nicholas Braun (Poltergeist)
Ralph Garman (Ted)
Stephen Root (Robocop 3)
James Parks (Death Proof)
Haley Ramm (X-Men 3)
Kevin Pollak (Mom)
Matt Jones (Adventure Time)
Kevin Alejandro (Arrow)
Jennifer Schwalbach Smith (Now You KNow)
Kevin Smith (Dogma)
Marc Blucas (Buffy)

It begins as the story of three teenagers (Michael Angarano, Nicholas Braun, and Kyle Gallner) from a small Midwestern town in the proximity of the Cooper family, an evangelical sect in the Phelps mold that only seems to venture out of their church/compound to for vile public demonstrations, usually at funerals. The boys are aware of the Coopers, but their primary interests lie elsewhere: namely, the pursuit of anonymous sex, which one promises can be had with an anonymous woman he’s connected with online via a Grindr-style app. They make a date. It doesn’t go as planned.

The dirty-talking set-up isn’t too far removed from Smith’s usual style–he’s toying with our expectations, palming quarters while entertaining us with patter. What is surprising about Smith’s screenplay is how tightly wound the storytelling is. There’s a confidence and a momentum to the progression of the events, which echo the Phelps; the ground he’s covering sounds far-flung, but the narrative pushes forward with such precision that there’s an inevitability to the way the events unfold.

It is more of an unsettling movie, a disturbing one, in which the responsibility for jangling the audience is less on the sound designer and his library of cat shrieks, and more on the filmmaker’s ability to create tension and his actors’ skill at getting under our skin. To that end, not enough can be said about Michael Parks, the terrific character actor (and, more recently, favorite of Quentin Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez) who plays Abin Cooper, the Fred Phelp-esque patriarch of the fundamentalist family. His voice a gravelly growl, his eyes black as night, his delivery deceptively laid-back, Parks delivers a long, riveting, and thoroughly creepy sermon early on that masterfully shifts the picture’s tone; he’s just talking, but there’s evil in his bones (“God doesn’t love you… ‘less you fear him”). He doesn’t raise his voice–he doesn’t have to. He waits until the end to go for broke, and when he does, it’s tremendous. John Goodman, as a good-hearted but petrified ATF agent, is terrific as well–but then again, there’s not a bad performance in the movie,  Kerry Bishé, Stephen Root, and newly minted Oscar winner Melissa Leo all turn up; all inhabit their roles with believability and immediacy.