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.
Do you remember when Angelina Jolie was just a hungry young actress eager to leave her mark on the movie business? It seems like centuries ago that she made movies like Cyborg 2 and Hackers, because after she won an Oscar in 2000 for her role in Girl, Interrupted, two back-to-back hits secured her place in film history as not only an Academy Award winner, but a huge box office draw as well. The first was Gone In Sixty Seconds. The second was Tomb Raider.
And though Ms. Jolie has put Lara Croft behind her, Hollywood hasn't. A lucrative property is a lucrative property and producers have been itching to re-imagine the video game character for the big screen for some time. Now it turns out that Ms. Jolie's producer from The Tourist, Graham King, has acquired the rights to the character and is planning a big-budget reboot for 2013.
"We are very excited to be rebooting what is already a hugely successful film franchise and continuing the 'Tomb Raider' phenomenon," said King, who will produce the reboot with Tim Headington, and he's right about that "hugely successful" mumbo jumbo. The original films, released in 2001 and 2003, grossed over $432 million globally for Paramount Pictures, though it is not yet known whether or not the Viacom-based studio will have a hand in these new movies.
Any and every video game nerd (especially the males, wait, who am I kidding - they're all males!) should be excited to see this news, as Tomb Raider is one of the most popular and recognizable brands in gaming history. The original propelled Jolie to international superstardom, paving the way for her to become the premiere action heroine of the 21st century. Will the new films do the same for another lucky actress like Olivia Wilde, who recently took part in a mysterious Tomb Raider-like photo shoot? Bet on it.
The Tourist is about as difficult to get through as spotting the vowels in the name of its director. Florian Henckel von Donnersmark was last seen receiving a Best Foreign Film Oscar in 2007 for The Lives of Others which was about a couple living in East Berlin who were being monitored by the police of the German Democratic Republic. Its positive reception made way for the assumption that Donnersmark would continue to populate the USA with films of seemingly otherworldly and underrepresented themes. But his current project is saddening in its superficiality and total implausibility.
The film’s only real upside is its stars: two of our most prized Americans. Johnny Depp plays Frank Tupelo a math teacher from Wisconsin who travels to Europe after his wife leaves him presumably because of his weakness and simplicity. While en route to Venice he meets Elise Clifton-Ward (Angelina Jolie) who situates herself in his company after she receives a letter from her criminal lover Alexander Pearce (who stole some billions from a very wealthy Russian and the British government) with instructions to find someone on a train who looks like him and make the police believe that he is the real Alexander Pearce to throw the authorities and the Russians off his track. Elise picks Frank and after they are photographed kissing each other on the balcony of Elise’s hotel everyone begins to believe Frank is the real Pearce and so begins the chase.
While Donnersmark could not have picked two better looking people to film roaming around Venice his lack of faith in the audience is obvious. Every aspect of the characters is hammed up again and again as if Donnersmark felt burdened with the task of making us see his vision. Doubtful that we’re capable of getting to where he wants us he has crafted a movie completely devoid of subtlety. Elise’s strength and superiority over Frank are portrayed by close-ups and repeated instances of men burping up their lungs upon seeing her (as if her beauty is in any way subjective?). And in case we forgot that Frank is the victim in this story -- even though he’s been tricked chased and shot at - Donnersmark still felt the need to pin him with a lame electronic cigarette to puff on. Frank and Elise somehow manage to lack mystery even though we get very few factual details about each of them.
Nothing extraordinary comes to us in the way of the film’s structural elements either. There is very little of the action that The Tourist’s marketing led us to believe and the dialog is often painful. The plot itself is almost shockingly unbelievable especially when we’re asked to believe that Elise falls in love with Frank after a combination of kissing him once and her disclosed habit of swooning over men she only spent an hour with (yes that was on her CV).
The Tourist is rather empty and cosmetic. It’s worth seeing if you’re a superfan of Jolie or Depp but don’t expect to walk out of the theater with anything more than the stub you came in with.
Emily Mortimer and Michael Stuhlbarg have joined the already jam-packed cast of Martin Scorsese’s 3D fantasy, Hugo Cabret. Shooting for the film has been underway for a few weeks, but Mortimer, last seen in Shutter Island, and Stuhlbarg, star of A Serious Man, were recently added in supporting roles.
Hugo Cabret tells the story of a Parisian orphan (Asa Butterfield) who lives in the walls of a train station and encounters a number of eccentric characters. The huge cast so far consists of Chloe Moretz, Jude Law, Ben Kingsley, Sasha Baron Cohen, Helen McCrory, Ray Winstone, Christopher Lee and Richard Griffiths, with the recent additions of Mortimer and Stahlberg as a flower shop girl and film restorer, respectively.
Scorsese is producing the film with Graham King, Johnny Depp, and Tim Headington, for GK Films, with a script from John Logan. Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Charles Newirth and Christi Dembrowski are executive producing. Hugo Cabret began production at the start of July in London, and will be released December 9, 2011 by Sony.
Martin Scorsese has assembled an all-star cast for his 3D debut. Jude Law, Ray Winstone and Frances De La Tour (of the Potter franchise), as well as industry veterans Christopher Lee and Richard Griffiths, have been added to the cast of Scorsese’s Hugo Cabret. They join cast members Ben Kingsley, Sasha Baron Cohen, Helen McCrory, Chloe Moretz, and Asa Butterfield as the lead.
The film, which adapts Brian Selsnick’s bestselling illustrated novel The Invention Of Hugo Cabret, tells the story of a young orphan (Butterfield) who lives in the walls of a Paris train station and encounters a number of eccentric characters, including a young girl (Moretz, probably) and a toymaker. Jon Logan, of Gladiator and the upcoming animated film Rango, has written the screenplay.
Scorsese is producing the film with Graham King, Johnny Depp, and Tim Headington, for GK Films. Emma Tillinger Koskoff, Charles Newirth and Christi Dembrowski are executive producing. Hugo Cabret began production yesterday in London, and will be released December 2011 by Sony.
Source: The Wrap
Leonardo DiCaprio will star for Mel Gibson in an untitled period drama about Viking culture. William Monahan is writing the script. Variety reports that Graham King will produce with Gibson and Tim Headington in a co-production of King's GK Films and Gibson's Icon. Gibson will direct the film in fall 2010.
The principals confirmed the project but would not divulge many details, Variety says. However, the trade does say that DiCaprio will play a Viking in a storyline that will be "as unsparing as Gibson's other period directing efforts, Braveheart, The Passion of the Christ and Apocalypto.
King previously teamed with DiCaprio and Monahan in The Departed and just worked with Gibson and Monahan in the Martin Campbell-directed drama Edge of Darkness.
"This will be an awe-inspiring story, created with some of the industry's finest cinematic talent, and I am just over the moon to be making this film with Mel, Leo and Bill," King said.
DiCaprio will likely take a film before this one. He just completed the Christopher Nolan-directed Inception and will next be seen in the Martin Scorsese-directed Shutter Island. Gibson just finished the Jodie Foster-directed The Beaver.