With each outing in his evolving filmmaking career actor-turned-director Ben Affleck has amped up the scope. Gone Baby Gone was a character drama woven into a hard-boiled mystery. The Town saw Affleck dabble in action pulling off bank heists many compared to the expertise of Heat. In Argo the director pulls off his most daring effort melding one part caper comedy and two parts edge-of-your-seat political thriller into an exhilarating theatrical experience.
At the height of the Iranian Revolution in 1979 anti-Shah militants stormed the U.S. embassy and captured 52 American hostages. Six managed to escape the raid finding refuge in the Canadian ambassador's home. Within hours the militants began a search for the missing Americans sifting through shredded paperwork for even the smallest bit of evidence. Under pressure by the ticking clock the CIA worked quickly to formulate a plan to covertly rescue the six embassy workers. Despite a lengthy list of possibilities only Tony Mendez (Affleck) had a plan just enticing enough to unsuspecting Iranian officials to work: the CIA would fake a Hollywood movie shoot.
There's nothing in Argo or Affleck's portrayal of Mendez that would tell you the technical operations officer has the imagination to conjure his master plan — Affleck perhaps to differentiate himself from the past plays his character with so much restraint he looks dead in the eyes — but when the Hollywood hijinks swing into full motion so does Argo. Mendez hooks up with Planet of the Apes makeup artist John Chambers (John Goodman) and producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) to convince all of Hollywood that their sci-fi blockbuster "Argo " is readying for production. With enough promotional material concept art and press coverage Mendez and his team can convince the Iranian government they're a legit operation. A location scout in Tehran will be their method of extracting the bunkered down escapees.
Without an interesting lead to draw us in Affleck lets his eclectic ensemble do the heavy lifting. For the most part it works. Argo is basically two movies — Goodman and Arkin lead the Ocean's 11-esque half and Affleck takes the reigns when its time to get the six — another who's who of character actors including Tate Donovan Clea Duvall Scoot McNairy and Rory Cochrane — through the terrifying security of the Iranian airport. Arkin steals the show as a fast talking Hollywood type complete with year-winning catchphrase ("ArGo f**k yourself!) while McNairy adds a little more humanity to the spy mission when his character butts heads with Mendez. The split lessens the impact of each section but the tension in the escape is so high so taut that there's never a moment to check out.
Reality is on Affleck's side his camera floating through crowds of protestors and the streets of Tehran — a warscape where anything can happen. Each angle he chooses heightens the terror which starts to close in on the covert escape as they drift further and further from their homebase. Argo is a complete package with the '70s production design knowing when to play goofy (the fake movie's wild sci-fi designs) and when to remind us that problems took eight more steps to fix then they do today. Alexandre Desplat's score finds balance in haunting melodies and energetic pulses.
Part of Argo's charm is just how unreal the entire operation really was. To see the men and women involved go through with a plan they know could result in death. It's a suspenseful adventure and while there's not much in the way of character to cling to the visceral experience tends to be enough.
Sporting dyed reddish-orange hair and a dazed expression on his face, 24-year-old James Holmes was officially told he is being held on suspicion of first-degree murder.
The San Diego, California native did not speak during the 13-minute hearing in Centennial, Colorado.
Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers has since revealed that it may take up to a year to bring Holmes' trial to court, stating, "We're still looking at an enormous amount of evidence."
She told reporters outside the courthouse that she has not yet decided if she will fight for the death penalty, revealing that decision could take at least two months and will be made after discussions with the surviving victims and the relatives of all victims.
Twelve people were killed and 58 injured after Holmes, dressed in body armor, allegedly opened fire in a packed Aurora movie theatre.
On Monday — three days after 24-year-old James Holmes allegedly opened fire at a Dark Knight Rises midnight screening in Aurora, Colo., killing 12 people and injuring dozens others — the suspect made his first, brief court appearance for a routine hearing. At the hearing, Judge William Sylvester informed Holmes that he will formally charged on Monday, July 30. Public defenders were assigned to his case.
Holmes appeared in court, handcuffed, with his hair still dyed red, as per rumors surrounding the suspect. Throughout the hearing, Holmes sat silently, revealing a drowsy, stone-faced demeanor.
Denver, Colo.'s ABC Channel 7 news reported that Holmes — currently behind held without bond — may face the death penalty; DA Carol Chambers said the case is likely to be in progress "at least a year."
The prosecution is presently still gathering evidence against Holmes. The courthouse — which was also attended by members of the victims' families — was heavily guarded with security forces.
UPDATE: Colorado shooting suspect James Holmes is due in court Monday, July 23, at 9:30 a.m. MDT. He'll be present for a hearing where the charges of suspicion of first-degree murder will be read.
On Sunday, Aurora, Colo., police chief Dan Oates told reporters that Holmes has "lawyered up," and has refused to speak to investigators. The alleged shooter is being held in solitary confinement at a detention facility as he awaits his court date.
Now, prosecutors are considering pursuing the death penalty. Arapahoe County District Attorney Carol Chambers told reporters today she is talking with victims and their family members about pursuing the punishment if he's convicted. ORIGINAL STORY: At about 2 PM MT, police in Aurora, Colo., updated the public about the investigation of James Holmes, the alleged shooter in Thursday night's murders during a midnight showing of The Dark Knight Rises. Holmes was arrested on Friday, and the local law enforcement began exploring his apartment, which was reportedly filled with "booby traps." On Saturday, police announced that they have successfully disarmed the most dangerous explosives in Holmes' apartment, according to The New York Times. It's believed that Holmes had been receiving deliveries of explosive devices for about four months, suggesting months of "calculation and deliberation" — and that he attempted to rig his apartment with them to kill whomever would enter. Aurora Police Chief Dan Oates speculated that Holmes would have set up such a trap in case he was apprehended or killed at the movie theater; he proposes that the traps were meant to target officers of the law. The police are working to remove the remaining threats inside Holmes' apartment, and to conclude their investigation of the Aurora movie theater by Monday. FBI Agent Frank Yacone states that Holmes' apartment "was an extremely dangerous environment," prior to police involvement, and that the disarming of the explosives "went very, very well." Still, Yacone admits that "the threat has not been completely eliminated." The police are working to ensure that no further tragedies take place. The living quarters surrounding Holmes' have been evacuated, but residents will be allowed back into their homes on Sunday. [Photo Credit: David Zalubowski/AP Photo] More:Who Is Alleged Gunman James Holmes? 'Dark Knight' Shooting Press Conference: 70 Shot, 12 Dead, 58 Wounded — UPDATE 'Dark Knight' Shooting: 11 Remain in Critical Condition Christopher Nolan Responds to Aurora Tragedy
In This Means War – a stylish action/rom-com hybrid from director McG – Tom Hardy (The Dark Knight Rises) and Chris Pine (Star Trek) star as CIA operatives whose close friendship is strained by the fires of romantic rivalry. Best pals FDR (Pine) and Tuck (Hardy) are equally accomplished at the spy game but their fortunes diverge dramatically in the dating realm: FDR (so nicknamed for his obvious resemblance to our 32nd president) is a smooth-talking player with an endless string of conquests while Tuck is a straight-laced introvert whose love life has stalled since his divorce. Enter Lauren (Reese Witherspoon) a pretty plucky consumer-products evaluator who piques both their interests in separate unrelated encounters. Tuck meets her via an online-dating site FDR at a video-rental store. (That Lauren is tech-savvy enough to date online but still rents movies in video stores is either a testament to her fascinating mix of contradictions or more likely an example of lazy screenwriting.)
When Tuck and FDR realize they’re pursuing the same girl it sparks their respective competitive natures and they decide to make a friendly game of it. But what begins as a good-natured rivalry swiftly devolves into romantic bloodsport with both men using the vast array of espionage tools at their disposal – from digital surveillance to poison darts – to gain an edge in the battle for Lauren’s affections. If her constitutional rights happen to be violated repeatedly in the process then so be it.
Lauren for her part remains oblivious to the clandestine machinations of her dueling suitors and happily basks in the sudden attention from two gorgeous men. Herein we find the Reese Witherspoon Dilemma: While certainly desirable Lauren is far from the irresistible Helen of Troy type that would inspire the likes of Tuck and FDR to risk their friendship their careers and potential incarceration for. At several points in This Means War I found myself wondering if there were no other peppy blondes in Los Angeles (where the film is primarily set) for these men to pursue. Then again this is a film that wishes us to believe that Tom Hardy would have trouble finding a date so perhaps plausibility is not its strong point.
When Lauren needs advice she looks to her boozy foul-mouthed best friend Trish (Chelsea Handler). Essentially an extension of Handler’s talk-show persona – an acquired taste if there ever was one – Trish’s dialogue consists almost exclusively of filthy one-liners delivered in rapid-fire succession. Handler does have some choice lines – indeed they’re practically the centerpiece of This Means War’s ad campaign – but the film derives the bulk of its humor from the outrageous lengths Tuck and FDR go to sabotage each others’ efforts a raucous game of spy-versus-spy that carries the film long after Handler’s shtick has grown stale.
Business occasionally intrudes upon matters in the guise of Heinrich (Til Schweiger) a Teutonic arms dealer bent on revenge for the death of his brother. The subplot is largely an afterthought existing primarily as a means to provide third-act fireworks – and to allow McGenius an outlet for his ADD-inspired aesthetic proclivities. The film’s action scenes are edited in such a manic quick-cut fashion that they become almost laughably incoherent. In fairness to McG he does stage a rather marvelous sequence in the middle of the film in which Tuck and FDR surreptitiously skulk about Lauren's apartment unaware of each other's presence carefully avoiding detection by Lauren who grooves absentmindedly to Montel Jordan's "This Is How We Do It." The whole scene unfolds in one continuous take – or is at least craftily constructed to appear as such – captured by one very agile steadicam operator.
Whatever his flaws as a director McG is at least smart enough to know how much a witty script and appealing leads can compensate for a film’s structural and logical deficiencies. He proved as much with Charlie’s Angels a film that enjoys a permanent spot on many a critic’s Guilty Pleasures list and does so again with This Means War. The film coasts on the chemistry of its three co-stars and only runs into trouble when the time comes to resolve its romantic competition which by the end has driven its male protagonists to engage in all manner of underhanded and duplicitous activities. This Means War being a commercial film – and likely an expensive one at that – Witherspoon's heroine is mandated to make a choice and McG all but sidesteps the whole thorny matter of Tuck and FDR’s unwavering dishonesty not to mention their craven disregard for her privacy. (They regularly eavesdrop on her activities.) For all their obvious charms the truth is that neither deserves Lauren – or anything other than a lengthy jail sentence for that matter.
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Shelley Long of Cheers briefly hospitalized
Former Cheers star Shelley Long was released from the hospital on Friday after being treated for a minor drug interaction, The Associated Press reports. Long apparently took an extra dose of a medication prescribed for back pain for an injury that happened on the set of Cheers. "Shelley took an extra pain pill for her back, which she hurt when she fell on the set of Cheers many years ago," said Long's manager Martin Mickelson. "She had a reaction to it ... but she is now home and she is fine." Mickelson denied allegations that the actress, 55, overdosed on painkillers after the end of her 22-year marriage with stockbroker Bruce Tyson. Long, who played the neurotic Diane Chambers on the 1980's hit sitcom Cheers was reportedly hospitalized on Nov. 16.
"Camp Cupcake" inmates enjoy Stewart's company
Looks like prison inmates at the federal corrections camp in Alderson, West Virginia, are pleased to have Martha Stewart as their fellow inmate. According to the Associated Press, inmates are reportedly vying for the attention of the famous homemaker. At mealtime, inmates look forward to the opportunity to eat their meals with Stewart. Carol Gilbert, 57, who is serving time for obstructing the national defense and damaging government property, says that although the setting could be better, eating with Stewart is an enjoyable experience. ("We're not talking about a tea party," said Gilbert's attorney. "We're talking about a big cafeteria setting with terrible food.") Stewart was convicted on obstruction of justice in May and began serving a five-month prison sentence that started Oct. 8. Stewart's publicist was not immediately available for comment.
NBC Sports exec survives jet crash
NBC Sports chairman Dick Ebersol and his son survived a corporate jet crash on Sunday morning that left two people dead and his youngest son missing, the AP reports. The jet, carrying six passengers, crashed just after takeoff and burst into flames at the Montrose Regional Airport in southwest Colorado. A witness to the crash said that the cockpit of the plane was ripped off and Charles Ebersol helped his 57-year-old father escape through the front of the plane. The pilot and the flight attendant were killed, Ebersol's youngest son is missing, and three other passengers were left hospitalized in Colorado. Ebersol's wife of 23 years, actress Susan Saint James, was not on the plane. The plane, a a CL-602 Challenger that can hold up to 19 passengers, was registered to Jet Alliance of Melville, N.J., which offered condolences but gave no additional comment. Best known for his work as executive producer of Saturday Night Live in the early 1980's, Ebersol became president of NBC Sports in 1989.
Vibe magazine speaks out about awards show violence
Vibe magazine president Kenard Gibbs addressed the violence that happened at the Vibe Awards recently by stating that this will not stop the show from carrying on next year, Reuters reports. "We're doing the awards show next year," Gibbs said. "If we don't, it will be counter to all the things we have been able to do with the brand and the culture." Young Buck, of the rap group G-Unit, is allegedly responsible for stabbing a man who hit Dr. Dre during the taping of the Vibe awards on Nov. 15; he was released from police custody after making bail. After calling the altercation "sickening," Gibbs said he wonders how much of an impact recent violence at music and sporting events will affect and ultimately label black artists and athletes. "There's a common theme to all this," Gibbs added. "Young black males gone wild. Taking street mentality to resolve conflict and bringing it into entertainment and sports has gone unchecked. All of us within the culture have to look at this and develop some means of accountability." The January edition of Vibe magazine plans to examine not only the awards night incident, but also attitudes within the hip-hop culture that may take some responsibility.
Brits vote Baywatch worst U.S. TV import
California lifeguard show Baywatch topped the charts as the worst U.S. television import in a recent British survey, the AP reports. Ranked as the world's most popular program, Baywatch was aired in over 140 countries between 1989 and 2001. Broadcast magazine's poll of about 20 program buyers for Britain and cable and satellite channels praised the show for being a "series about a muscular lifeguard and his crew of pneumatic young helpers with raging hormones" but criticized the show for scripts "of mind-numbing predictability: beachgoer is saved from drowning." Second "worst" place went to The Anna Nicole Show. On their 25 best U.S. imports list were The Simpsons, Dallas, M*A*S*H and 24.
Former lead singer of Midnight Oil hospitalized
Former lead singer of the band Midnight Oil Peter Garrett was hospitalized after collapsing on the beach in Sydney following a routine morning swim. According to the AP, Garrett was taken to the Prince of Wales Hospital from Maroubra beach in Sydney early Saturday morning. After undergoing tests to determine why he collapsed, the singer was released from the hospital on Saturday night. Garrett, 51, has no history or medical problems and appears to very healthy and fit. "It's good to be back on my feet again," said Garrett. The former rock star was elected in October as a lawmaker with the opposition Labor Party.
Unpaid royalties to be addressed for Pink Floyd song
A group of 23 former London schoolchildren are asking to be compensated for lending their vocal tracks to Pink Floyd's 1979 classic album Another Brick in the Wall. The teenage students are now asking for compensation for singing the anthem "We don't need no education." After deeming the lyrics "scandalous," the Islington Green School students were not allowed to appear on television, making it harder for them to have proof that their voices were those heard in the famous song. The album sold over 12 million copies and the single became a number one hit in Britain and America. The school was paid about 1,000 pounds ($1,860) and was later given a platinum record of the song, but the students were never given individual compensation for their work. If the application for royalties is considered, the music royalties society will be responsible for paying each person involved about 200 pounds. Pink Floyd will not be responsible for the money.