Movie Reviews – November 2012

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Warner Bros.
In Theaters: 10.12
Say what you will about some of his acting decisions in the past, but I defy anyone to deny the talent Ben Affleck has shown behind the camera as a director with Gone Baby Gone, The Town and now his third directorial achievement. Declassified by President Clinton, this true story revolves around six Americans who escaped the Iranian embassy hostage situation in 1979 and the CIA agent, Tony Mendez (Affleck), who risked his own life to rescue them. With the help of producer Lester Siegel (Alan Arkin) and special-effects artist John Chambers (John Goodman), Mendez created a fictitious science-fiction movie production entitled Argo that was used to disguise the escapees’ as a Canadian film crew. Blending archive footage with his own, Affleck effectively walks the tightrope of recreating a sense of authentic terror, while poking fun at the absurdities of the Hollywood lifestyle, without falling off on either side. As the intensity consistently escalates with every passing second, Affleck refrains from wasting any screen time on unnecessary storylines. While Affleck takes on the responsibility for the majority of the plot’s tension, the rousing antics of Arkin and Goodman never disappoint and are a reminder that every gloomy tale can have some light without upsetting the ultimate tone. Even with its Hollywood embellishments, it’s fascinating to observe a story that’s so bizarre and exhilarating and to learn that it wasn’t created in the mind of a writer in the City of Angels, but was orchestrated by a government agent in Washington, D.C., which begs the question,“Who are the better deceivers?”–Jimmy Martin

Bring on The Mountain
On DVD: 07.03
Patron saints of rock n’ roll swagger, the bald and beautiful Danko Jones and brother-in-band John “JC” Calabrese have been gyrating from coast to coast since 1996, as the band bearing Danko’s namesake. The 2-disc DVD release, Bring on The Mountain, is anchored by a 90-minute documentary followed by the first video collection released by the band, a perfect combination for any Danko Jones fan or general rock n’ roll enthusiast. The documentary itself consists of a retelling of the history of the band by both Danko and JC, punctuated by endlessly fascinating archive footage showcasing the equally endless charisma and energy of the duo. From being little kids getting Mom to buy them KISS records, to college students hanging out in campus radio stations, to their rise as unsigned underground heroes and then genuine international rock stars, it’s a success story about guys who deserved it and got it. It’s worth the cost of the collection itself, but then they decided to add in an exclusive short film cut of The Ballad of Danko Jones, 14 videos of live performances and all 19 of their music videos. This is the ultimate collection to date of Danko material, and a damned good tribute to the first 16 years of their career. –Matt Brunk

In Theaters: 10.05
In a time when the majority of films being released are either adaptations or remakes, it’s not too often that the filmmaker delivering the repurposed project was the original’s creator. Tim Burton ended his short-film career for feature-length productions with the 1984 live-action tale of a boy who used his intellect to revive his dead dog, and 15 directorial titles later, he has decided to dig up the past and bring the story to life with stop-motion animation. In this retelling, Victor Frankenstein (Charlie Tahan) is a socially awkward kid whose best friend is his dog, Sparky. After a terrible accident takes Sparky’s life, Victor uses his love for science to revive his companion, but once the neighborhood kids discover Victor’s anomaly, the experiment becomes the newest trend—with disastrous results. It’s evident that this is a passion project for Burton as he pays tribute to the classics that have inspired his career, as well as his earlier films that were made possible by the original. The timeless black-and-white animation blends perfectly with Burton’s gothic ambiance, and it’s touching to see the director reunite with previous cast members Catherine O’Hara, Martin Short, Winona Ryder and the incredible Martin Landau, who all provide first-rate vocal performances. Draped in sincerity, deviousness and stocked with a plethora of old-school cinema references, Burton recaptures his own grace that’s been sorely missed in his recent releases. –Jimmy Martin

In Theaters: 09.28
If you’ve had more than a five-second conversation with me, you know my two favorite movie genres are time travel and hitman. Both have been a fascination of mine since I saw Back to the Future and Leon: The Professional. I always joked about cross-breeding the two and making a time-traveling hitman movie, so when I heard Rian Johnson (Brick and The Brothers Bloom) was actually directing one with two of my favorite actors working today, you could say my eagerness was slightly above normal. Set in the year 2044, time-travel hasn’t been invented yet, but 30 years into the future it has. Deemed too dangerous and made illegal, the only individuals using the technology are mobsters who send their victims back in time to be killed immediately by loopers. Since the deceased doesn’t exist in that time period, the body can never be traced. When a looper’s contract is canceled, their future self is sent back in time to be killed by their unknowing younger versions. Joe (Joseph Gordon-Levitt) has made a small fortune working as a looper, but all of it might be for naught when his future self (Bruce Willis) escapes from death and jeopardizes everything. Johnson tinkers with your imagination and ability to process coherent thought as he hurls you into an incredible world of creativity, stunning visuals and utter chaos. Gordon-Levitt, with the assistance of facial prosthetics, fully embodies Willis’s mannerisms, from speech patterns to pursed lips, to an uncanny degree. It’s inspiring to know that filmmakers like Johnson still exist and are willing to step over the line of normalcy and strive to deliver originality for audiences who rarely experience it. –Jimmy Martin

The Raconteurs Live At Montreux 2008
Eagle Rock Entertainment
On DVD: 06.19
Jack White getting together with Brendan Benson and forming the supergroup The Raconteurs, along with Patrick Keeler and Jack Lawrence of The Greenhornes, has to be one of the best ideas to take place in the indie-rock world. In 2008 The Raconteurs played the premier Montreux Jazz Festival in support of their sophomore release, Consolers of the Lonely. Four years later, the 90-minute performance has made it to DVD. The 16-song performance is comprised of key songs taken from their two albums, Broken Boy Soldier and Consolers of the Lonely, along with the cover, “Keep It Clean,” originally by Charley Jordan. The camera work is spotless—the band appears to be performing inches away while the stage lighting creates the perfect atmosphere. Each and every instrument, from the lead and rhythm guitars to the keyboard, bass guitar and drums was detailed and articulated. The DVD starts off with the title track from the sophomore album, “Consoler Of The Lonely,” but it’s the hard-driving rock of “Hold On” that grabs the crowd by their throats, gaining attention and respect through the remainder of the performance. White and Benson bring an energy to the live performance that’s not experienced on the albums. White periodically makes use of assorted equipment to create various sound effects, including tweaking with a microphone. One highlight is the Wurlitzer transitioning smoothly from “Level” into “Steady, As She Goes.” The guys of The Raconteurs are hard at work—this is business as usual with very little interaction with the crowd—but no one seems to mind. –Courtney Blair