Rated R for profanity and violent images.
Espionage Thriller Recounts Diplomats’ Daring Escape From Iran
On November 4, 1979, Iranian militants stormed the walls of the U.S. Embassy in Teheran, taking 52 Americans hostage with hopes of exchanging them for the recently-deposed Shah. What ensued was a 444-day ordeal, which would last long after the despised despot died in exile without standing trial.
While that drawn-out standoff continued to occupy the world’s attention as front-page news, almost no one knew that a half-dozen Americans had managed to steal away unnoticed during the assault and taken refuge in the home of the Canadian Ambassador, Ken Taylor (Victor Garber). And the discovery of their whereabouts by the rabidly anti-Western, Khomeini regime would have undoubtedly triggered another international incident.
So, they surreptitiously contacted the CIA, which assigned their rescue to Tony Mendez (Ben Affleck), an exfiltration specialist with a perfect record of freeing captives from such perilous predicaments. Agent Mendez proceeded to hatch an attention-grabbing scheme that was the antithesis of the sort of clandestine operation one might expect of a spy.
His high-profile plan involved creating a cover for the stranded diplomats by making a movie that was actually nothing more than a CIA front. First, he enlisted the assistance of a veteran Hollywood executive (Alan Arkin) and an Oscar-winner (John Goodman) sworn to secrecy to lend an air of authenticity to the ruse by posing as the picture’s producer and makeup artist, respectively.
Figuring, “If you want to spread a lie, get the press to sell it for you,” they launched the project at an elaborate press conference attended by actors in gaudy costumes. The media fell for it hook, line and sinker, and soon Tinseltown was abuzz about Argo, an upcoming sci-fi set to be shot on location in Iran. Truth be told, Mendez would be the only person venturing on the dangerous mission to Teheran, where the film’s tone shifts from flip and lighthearted to stone cold sober. Upon arriving at the ambassador’s house, the hero hands the six Americans newly-prepared passports with fresh identities as members of a Canadian film crew.
The tension rapidly ratchets-up in intensity as the ever-vigilant Iranian authorities close in just as the diplomats make their escape to the airport, where the slightest slip during an interrogation could mean the difference between life and death. An edge-of-your-seat thriller not to be forgotten at Oscar time!
Excellent (4 stars)
Running time: 120 minutes
Here Comes The Boom
Rated PG for sports violence, crude humor and mild epithets.
Teacher Moonlights As MMA Prizefighter To Save School’s Music Program
Scott Voss (Kevin James) is a bored biology teacher at mythical Wilkinson High in Massachusetts, a cash-strapped school suffering from low morale. The apathetic slacker is part of the problem, as he sets a horrible example for his students, between stealing candy from vending machines and always arriving late for class.
During recess, the bored, 42-year-old bachelor makes a habit of flirting with the beautiful school nurse, Bella (Salma Hayek). However, she just as routinely rebuffs his advances with gentle reminders of how often she’s rejected each of his requests for a date.
The plot thickens the day Principal Betcher (Greg German) assembles the faculty in the auditorium to announce his latest budgetary cutbacks. Those money-saving measures not only include plans to eliminate afterschool activities like the debate club and field trips but even the entire music program.
That means Scott’s colleague Marty Streb (Henry Winkler) will be callously laid-off right before earning tenure. And to add insult to injury, the dedicated music teacher’s firing comes at a time when his wife (Nikki Tyler-Flynn) is pregnant.
This dire state of affairs inspires Scott to prevail upon the principal to preserve his pal’s position. But Betcher says he simply doesn’t have the $48,000 to pay Marty.
Therefore, Scott, who hasn’t wrestled competitively since college, decides to raise the cash by moonlighting in the ring as a mixed martial arts fighter. With the help of Marty and a retired kickboxing champ (Bas Rutten), he proceeds to whip himself into the best shape a middle-aged couch potato might hope for.
So unfolds Here Comes The Boom, a sweet-natured, overcoming-the-odds sports saga combining familiar elements of Rocky (1976) and Nacho Libre (2006). Directed by Frank Coraci (The Waterboy), the star vehicle showcases Kevin James’ comic genius at his best, whether he’s doing pratfalls in a mask and ill-fitting stretchy pants or futilely wooing the woman of his dreams.
The paint-by-numbers plot inexorably builds to a UFC-sanctioned showdown between Scott and an intimidating adversary (Krzysztof Soszynski) for a purse conveniently matching Marty’s salary. Wouldn’t it be nice if Wilkinson’s student body and school band were on hand in the Vegas arena to cheer for their altruistic teach, and better yet if Bella had a change of heart and also arrived ringside for a kiss at the moment of truth?
Here Comes The Boom? How about, here comes a pat Hollywood tale of redemption where a perennial loser transforms himself into a beloved hero who wins the cage match, saves his best friend’s job, and gets the gorgeous girl!
Very Good (3 stars)
Running time: 105 minutes
OPENING THIS WEEK
For movies opening October 12, 2012
Seven Psychopaths (R for sexuality, nudity, drug use, bloody images, graphic violence and pervasive profanity). Crime comedy about a struggling screenwriter (Colin Farrell) who unwittingly gets mixed-up with the mob after a couple of his buddies (Christopher Walken and Sam Rockwell) steal a gangster’s (Woody Harrelson) beloved pet Shih Tzu. Support cast includes Gabourey Sidibe, Abbie Cornish and Tom Waits.
Sinister (R for terror and disturbing images). Found footage horror flick about a crime novelist (Ethan Hawke) who encounters more than he bargained for when he moves with his wife (Juliet Rylance) and kids (Clare Foley and Michael Hall D’Addario) into the haunted home of a murdered family of four. With Fred Thompson, Tavis Smiley and James Ransone.
3,2,1… Frankie Go Boom (Unrated). Sibling rivalry comedy about a guy (Charlie Hunnam) who seeks refuge from civilization in the desert after being humiliated in a YouTube video posted by his drug-addicted brother (Chris O’Dowd). Ensemble includes Whitney Cummings, Chris Noth, Ron Perlman, Lizzy Caplan and Nora Dunn.
Atlas Shrugged: Part II (Unrated). Sci-fi sequel revolves around a corporate exec (Samantha Mathis) in a desperate race against time to save a global economy on the brink of collapse. Featuring Jason Beghe, Richard T. Jones, Esai Morales and Patrick Fabian.
The Iran Job (Unrated). Hoops documentary chronicling a year in the life of Kevin Sheppard, an African-American playing professional basketball in a Middle Eastern country he finds surprisingly hospitable.
Janeane From Des Moines (Unrated). Presidential race docudrama, set in Iowa, about a conservative housewife (Jane Edith Wilson) who becomes disenchanted with the Republican candidates vying for the nomination when they fail to offer satisfactory solutions for her host of concerns. With appearances by Michelle Bachmann, Mitt Romney, Herman Cain, New Gingrich, Rick Santorum and Ron Paul.
Middle Of Nowhere (R for profanity). Self-discovery drama, directed by Sundance-winner Ava DuVernay, about a young woman (Emayatzy Corinealdi) who drops out of med school to help her imprisoned husband (Omari Hardwick) only to embark on a torrid affair with an ardent bus driver (David Oyewolo). Cast includes Dondre Whitfield, Sharon Lawrence and Lorraine Toussaint.
Nobody Walks (R for sexuality, profanity and drug use). Love triangle drama about a happily-married father of two (John Krasinski) who risks his marriage by cheating on his wife (Rosemarie DeWitt) with the aspiring writer (Olivia Thirlby) living in their pool house. With Dylan McDermott, India Ennenga and Justin Kirk.
Simon And The Oaks (Unrated). Screen adaptation of Marianne Fredriksson’s surrealistic saga about a German Jewish boy (Jonatan S. Wächter) adopted by a Swedish family during World War II. With Bill Skarsgård, Helen Sjöholm and Karl Linnertorp. (In Swedish, German, Hebrew and English with subtitles)
Special Forces (R for profanity and violence). Afghan War drama starring Djimon Hounsou as the leader of an elite commando squad on a rescue mission to save a French journalist (Diane Kruger) and a translator (Mehdi Nebbou) kidnapped by the Taliban. Cast includes Denis Menochet, Benoit Magimel and Alain Figlarz.
The Thieves (Unrated). Crime caper about a gang that hatches a plan to steal a diamond worth $20 million from a Macao casino. Starring Gianna Jun, Hae-suk Kim and Hye-su Kim. (In Korean, Cantonese, English, Mandarin and Japanese)
War Of The Buttons (Unrated). Coming-of-age drama set in Occupied France during World War II where a macho kid (Jean Texier) develops a crush on the town tailor’s (Laetitia Casta) Jewish goddaughter (Ilona Bachelier) who’s in danger of being discovered by the Nazis. With Clement Godefroy, Theophile Baquet and Louis Dussol. (In French with subtitles)