TAGGED AS: Certified Fresh
This week at the movies, we’ve got a daring escape (Argo, starring Ben Affleck and Alan Arkin); a tough teacher (Here Comes the Boom, starring Kevin James and Salma Hayek); frightening footage (Sinister, starring Ethan Hawke and Vincent D’Onofrio); criminal cinephiles (Seven Psychopaths, starring Colin Farrell and Christopher Walken); and striking capitalists (Atlas Shrugged: Part II, starring Samantha Mathis and Jason Beghe). What do the critics have to say?
As a director, Ben Affleck is on a roll. With two Certified Fresh films (Gone Baby Gone and The Town) under his belt, critics say Affleck scores again with Argo, a tense, darkly comic thriller with terrific characters and an eye for period detail. In the midst of the Iranian Revolution of 1979, a group of militants take hostages at the U.S. embassy in Tehran. When six Americans escape and hole up elsewhere, CIA agent Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck) comes up with a scheme to rescue them: pretend they’re filmmakers working on an epic sci-fi movie. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Argo is a terrific entertainment — it’s suspenseful, deftly scripted, sharply acted, and politically reflective.
Here Comes the Boom borrows from two musty sub-genres: it’s both an underdog sports story and an inspirational teacher movie. And critics say it’s not all that bad — Kevin James gives a warm, committed performance that occasionally makes up for the movie’s slavish devotion to formula. James stars as an indifferent high school teacher who is roused into action when the school is threatened with budget cuts. His solution: raise money by battling on the mixed martial arts circuit. The pundits say James is surprisingly convincing as a fighter, but Here Comes the Boom is a little too bland and predictable to work as a whole. (Check out this week’s 24 Frames, in which we take a pictorial look at co-star Salma Hayek’s career..)
Found footage frightfests are all the rage these days, but critics say it’s to Sinister‘s credit that it creates a tense atmosphere out of some familiar parts. Ethan Hawke stars as a true crime writer who moves his family into a house where a family was mysteriously killed. While investigating the deaths, he discovers a cache of old super 8 movies, and discovers awful secrets that could threaten him and his family as well. The pundits say Sinister is sometimes over-reliant on jump scares, but it’s also intelligent and involving, thanks to strong performances and a creeping sense of dread. (Check out our interview with Hawke here.)
Director Martin McDonagh and star Colin Farrell have apparently found a formula that works; having earned accolades for their work together in 2008’s In Bruges, the pair reunite for Seven Psychopaths, a dark comedy that critics say delivers a heaping helping of witty dialogue and gleeful violence. Farrell stars as a struggling screenwriter whose well-meaning buddy (Sam Rockwell) places him in danger when he unwittingly kidnaps a dog belonging to a violent gangster (Woody Harrelson) who will stop at nothing to rescue his beloved pet. The pundits say the Certified Fresh Seven Psychopaths is terrifically written, with memorable performances and a sly sense of humor. (Check out this week’s Total Recall, in which we count down Walken’s best-reviewed films.)
Give the folks behind Atlas Shrugged: Part II points for perseverance, especially since Part I disappointed both critically and commercially. Unfortunately, the film was not screened for critics prior to its release, so we can’t tell you if the second chapter will fare better with the pundits. In this installment, the global economy is near collapse after a number of prominent industrialists and thinkers have gone missing. Time to guess the Tomatometer!