Welcome to The Mundane Adventures of a Fangirl

I consider myself a Fangirl. What does that mean, you ask? A "fanboy" in the most common understanding is a hardcore fan of 'genre' based entertainment in particular. In my case - science-fiction and comic book based movies and television. Because I'm a chick - it's fangirl, not fanboy. There you have it! I am a big movie fan, however, not necessarily a 'film' fan. And now - I have the forum to present my opinions to the public! These will mainly be movie reviews -that will always be my opinion - repeat OPINION. Just what I think, and in no way do I present my opinion as fact. I hope you enjoy and maybe it will help you decide what to see at the movie theater this weekend!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Movie Review: Argo (R - 120 minutes)

To listen to me and a friend review  Argo audibly - check our Podcast:  http://hesawshesawfilm.wordpress.com/2012/10/19/pitching-argo-perfectly/

Yes, we all loved Ben Affleck when he was just thought of as Matt Damon's goofy sidekick, all the way back to School Ties, the first movie I remember seeing them in together:
Then of course, Ben (and Matt) appeared in almost all of Kevin Smith's early pictures.  Ben was great in all of them - my favorite is Mallrats:
...but I think he's actually more impressive in the movie Jersey Girl - which was underrated due to the "Bennifer" media overload that was going on at the time.  If you haven't seen it - go back and watch it, it's much better than you expected, plus - George Carlin!!!
With the release of Good Will Hunting, and the subsequent Oscar win by the pair for Best Writing, people started to notice both Ben and Matt as filmmakers, as opposed to a pair of funny Boston hoodlums.  Ben directed his first full length picture in 2007 with Gone Baby Gone, a creepy Boston-set detective movie that starred his brother Casey.  It is unsettling, but really well done, with a final turn by Morgan Freeman that you're not expecting.  Again - if you haven't seen it - rent it.  In 2010, Affleck presented his second full length directing piece - The Town.  This time he also worked in front of the camera costarring with Jeremy Renner in this gritty Boston-set crime drama.  It brought Renner a best supporting Oscar nomination, and people wondered if maybe they should stop being surprised by how good a director Ben Affleck is.  That brings us up to current times, and the true story of CIA agent Tony Mendez, and his ludicrous plan of rescuing 6 Americans trapped in Iran during the 1979/1980 Iran Hostage situation.
The movie begins by setting up the Iran Hostage Crisis; explaining how the situation came to pass - how the Iranian rebels, demanding the return of their overthrown Shah (who had received asylum in the United States while dying of cancer), stormed the US Embassy, and took everyone inside hostage.  Six American Embassy workers managed to escape during the confusion and take refuge in the Canadian Embassy.  While the riots were beginning, US Embassy workers shredded everything they could, including lists of the people that worked in the building.  When the rioters took over, they brought in children to reassemble the strips, and eventually would learn about the 6 missing people.  The CIA had many different ideas to get the 6 hidden members, however none of them were good.  Tony Mendez, whose speciality was retrieving people from difficult situations came up with the idea of traveling to Iran as a Canadian film crew - arriving alone, claiming to scout locations, then flying out with the 6 extra people, who would have faked documents listing them as members of this 'film crew'.  Argo follows Mendez's meeting with a John Chambers, an Oscar-nominated special effects makeup specialist who had worked with the CIA before, and Lester Siegel, a producer who would help them make the movie as believable as possible. 
Once again, Affleck proves his skill as director, and how fortunate are we that he found his calling!  The movie plays like a thriller, simultaneously tracking events in Iran and events in Hollywood as Mendez preps.  Once he finally makes it to Iran, the constant stress of attempting to free the six people had me on the edge of my seat.  The movie looks completely era appropriate, right down to using the old Time/Warner logo at the very beginning.  In order to make the movie feel like the 1970s, Affleck shot it on regular film, cut the frames in half, and blew those images up 200% to increase their graininess.  Mixing in real footage with the new footage gives a feel of fantastic realism, and even better - during the final credits - shots from the movie are shown side by side with real photos from the event, including pictures of the 6 hostages - funnily enough, the one who looks least like his character is Affleck!
Two of the producers of this movie are George Clooney and Grant Heslov ("Why do they call him the sand spider?"  "Probably because it sounds scary"), who know a thing or two about gritty drama/thrillers (Ides of March, Goodnight and Goodluck).  The key - aside from great direction - is gathering an ensemble of great actors, who blend into the scene rather than dominate it.  What I mean by this is no matter how many true life characters Tom Cruise or Russel Crowe plays - you always see Tom Cruise or Russel Crowe - the movie star is bigger than the role.  Wisely, in Argo, actors who are not bigger than the roles are cast - adding to the believability of the movie.  Affleck is the most recognizable next to Bryan Cranston - and they both blend in almost seamlessly. 

  • Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez - again, Affleck doesn't look much like the real-life Mendez, whose picture is shown at the end, but he does a great job in this movie with an understated, quiet performance.  There is a very little bit of backstory about his family life, done in a very quick simple manner.  He excels in this role by doing a little less.  If you want to see him doing more, and going a little over the top - go watch Armaggedon again (which I love!).
  • Bryan Cranston as Jack O'Donnel:  I think there needs to be a best directing Oscar nod, and a best picture Oscar nod - but in terms of acting - give Cranston a Best Supporting nomination.  He doesn't have a ton of screen time - but what he does have he fills with meaning and tension.  He is fantastic in this!
  • Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel:  The big-time Hollywood producer type looks very at-ease on Arkin and he does a wonderful job with this character who believes that if they are "making a fake movie, then it's going to be a fake hit!"  His interactions with all the hollywood types are great, but best is his scene with Richard Kind.
  • John Goodman as John Chambers:  Goodman is wonderful as well in a supporting role as the CIA hollywood contact.  He helps Mendez get in touch with all the right people and start making connections.  He and Arkin provide some welcom comic relief in an otherwise very tension-filled movie!
  • Victor Garber as the Canadian Ambassador:  Garber has always been good and is so again in this movie.  He takes in the American refugees and gets more and more concerned as the rebels tighten their search.  He gives a strong and subtle performance.
  • Kyle Chandler as Hamilton Jordon:  Another great actor with just a few scenes, but really is fantastic in those few.
  • The actors playing the six hidden US Embassy workers: Tate Donovan, Clea Duvall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham and Kerry Bishe - all do an amazing job of conveying how increasingly nervous these people get as time goes on.  Once Mendez arrives and begins to coach them on their new personalities and how to get out of the country, each of them does an incredible job of displaying various degrees of willingness and fear of the operation.  There is one scene where the Iranian goverment requests to meet the 'film crew' at a market to give them a tour, and the tension is insane! 
I normally don't go for the movies that come out this time of year.  To clarify, this time of year is usually reserved for 'films'; Oscar-y type arthouse independent films of great quality, but very little viewer enjoyment.  From time to time, you get a film that covers both the quality aspect, and the enjoyment aspect.  Argo is fantastic - go see it now.
9 out of 10!  Gained points for the old Warner logo at the beginning - too cool!  Lost points for the fact that Affleck really looks nothing like the real Mendez (not that big a deal!).  Gained points for having me literally at the edge of my seat during the climax of the action (are they going to make it?  I don't know?  I swear I remember the news story!?!?!)  Lost points for the overuse of the movie's go-to joke: Ar-go-f**k-yourself.  It was funny, then it wasn't, then it sort of got funny again.
Bonus Video 1:  Ben Affleck as Holden explaining the internet to Jay and Silent Bob - and also stating how Affleck was the bomb in Phantoms, yo!
Bonus Video 2:  The trailer for Phantoms, because you've probably never heard of it, even though Affleck was the bomb in it, yo! plus - Peter O'Toole!
  Bonus Video 3:  Murder at 1600 trailer, Tate Donovan is in Argo - this is my favorite movie that he's in, it's probably another one you've never heard of - rent it now.
Bonus Video 4:  Cast Interviews!


  1. Good review Jeanette. For me, this was a good film but seriously, it was a little too hard and get all into it when I knew what was going to go down in the end. I know that may seem like a bit of an obvious thing to say but I really couldn't get fully into the suspense and tension of the last act, especially when I knew what was going to happen. Still, a good film none the less.

  2. LOL. I love that you featured video clips from other movies in Affleck's career. He was the bomb in Phantoms YO