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John Goodman and Alan Arkin can't force themselves to look at Ben Affleck's beard.
"ARGO" (R) HHH
BEN AFFLECK, JOHN GOODMAN, ALAN ARKIN, BRYAN CRANSTON
Ben Affleck is on a roll as a director.
This retelling of a unique plan to get hidden hostages out of Iran--agents posing as a Canadian film crew making a sci-fi film--is perfectly paced and grippingly told.
The best part: Affleck, who's also good in the role of CIA handler and plan mastermind Tony Mendez, doesn't resort to cheap tricks to heighten the tension.
He doesn't need to, as the story itself is tense enough.
The six people who escaped from the American embassy, hidden in the home of the Canadian ambassador, face certain death if they don't get out of Iran.
With angry Iranian police and death squads looking for them, and the hostage crisis ramping up diplomatic tensions, the State Department and CIA combine to seek ways to get them out.
It's hard to believe that there are comedic moments in this, but humor prevails when Mendez turns to Hollywood to concoct a back story about a sci-fi flick called "Argo."
The two Hollywood insiders he enlists are played by John Goodman and Alan Arkin, who are just priceless as they contemplate doing a fake movie in a town that's often all too fake.
Affleck the director does a seamless job of mixing that humor with the all-too-deadly threat the hostages face, moving the story forward with a confident hand and deliberate pace.
It's tough to make dramatic films about real historic events without making it feel like a documentary.
Affleck gets this one right, sharing a story many never knew about.
Rated R for language and violent images. 120 min. [MC, PV, RA]
"HERE COMES THE BOOM" (PG) HH
KEVIN JAMES, SALMA HAYEK, HENRY WINKLER
What's harder to believe: that a character played by Kevin James could be a mixed martial arts fighter, or that he'd end up with the gal played by Salma Hayek?
It's a tossup, and that's really all this good-natured but slightly preposterous film amounts to.
It's sweet that James' character--a teacher who's lost his drive--wants to help out when budget cuts threaten extracurricular programs and the job of the music teacher at his school.
He seizes on the idea of fighting in mixed martial arts bouts to raise the big money needed, realizing that he gets paid even if he loses.
James is fun and funny to watch, and does fairly well at all the staged fighting.
But many won't believe that his character could pull that off, or that he would have a shot with the hot teacher who falls for him.
It's not a bad movie, but one you'll forget walking out of the theater.
Rated PG for rude humor, language and sport violence. 105 min. [MC, RA, RF]
"SINISTER" (R) HH
ETHAN HAWKE, JULIET RYLANCE
There are certainly some pretty scary moments in this film, especially when the main character makes the critical error of seeing the evil spirit that's claiming children's souls.
Ethan Hawke delivers a typically effective performance as the writer who uses horrible crimes as the fodder for his books.
And it's a neat idea that he finds a box of home movies in his attic that detail a string of horrible child murders. But too much of this film is Hawke's character sitting alone in the dark or wandering around the ominous house in the night, hearing a bump here, a slam there.
Things do pick up near the end, when the writer realizes he and his family may well be the next victims.
But too much of this film is the main character sitting in a dark room staring at a computer screen or at movies projected on a wall.
It needed more chills, a bit more action and somebody besides Hawke filling the screen to give it more of a scary punch.
Rated R for disturbing violent images and some terror. 109 min. [MC, PV, RA]
"SEVEN PSYCHOPATHS" (R) HH
SAM ROCKWELL, CHRISTOPHER WALKEN, COLIN FARRELL, WOODY HARRELSON
It's easy to see what they were going for here, a Quentin Tarantino sort of film that mixes odd people with extreme violence and interesting actors.
This film about (you guessed it) seven psychopaths works now and then, thanks especially to a surprisingly sweet performance from Christopher Walken.
And there are moments when leads Sam Rockwell and Colin Farrell create some interesting, though twisted, camaraderie.
But it will be ruined for many by the extreme violence that features lopped off hands, decapitations and blood-gushing throat slashes.
Nothing kills quirky humor quite like that sort of gory carnage.
An interesting try, but a miss nonetheless.
Rated R for strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality/nudity and drug use. 111 min. [MC, PV]