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Argo (2012) Review

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Argo

Time: 120 Minutes
Age Rating: 860940[1] Offensive language
Cast:
Ben Affleck as Tony Mendez
Bryan Cranston as Jack O’Donnell
Alan Arkin as Lester Siegel
John Goodman as John Chambers
Director: Ben Affleck

An exfiltration specialist (Ben Affleck) masquerades as a Hollywood producer in order to rescue six Americans who are held captive in Tehran during the US hostage crisis in Iran.

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Oscar Winning Argo received a lot of acclaim when it was released back in 2012, even winning Best Picture in 2013. As it was, I really liked it, it was a very well made historical thriller. I had seen Argo a couple of times, but that was some years ago, and I wanted to check it out again. Having seen it again, my opinion has stayed pretty much the same since the last time, great on a writing, directing and acting level.

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A large part of what made Argo work greatly was the writing by Chris Terrio, which was very strong, the dialogue is particularly well written, witty, and even surprisingly funny at points. It also balanced the tone rather well, it could have comic moments but it could easily transition to tense and thrilling moments with ease, especially in the second half. Outside of some tense sequences early on, although I was still interested, there were parts in the first act that were a little slow for me and didn’t really have me completely invested. After the first act however, it really picks up, especially once Ben Affleck’s character arrives in Iran. The second half of the movie is where it shines the most, especially with the tense third act. Argo is also tightly written, with almost all the scenes all being relevant to the main plot and doesn’t spend a lot of time on subplots (there’s just a small one with Affleck’s character and his family mainly in the first half), so there’s never a moment wasted. With that said, with so many characters in this movie, it would’ve been nice for some of them to have been developed a little more than they were here. Now there are for sure some inaccuracies in this movie, mainly to make the movie more dramatic and to raise the tension, especially when it came to the last act (and admittedly it was a little overblown at points). However, it’s pretty typical when it comes to movies like this, and it didn’t bother me too much.

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The ensemble cast are great, and they all worked together well. Ben Affleck is in the very clear lead role, and while I probably wouldn’t call it his best acting work, it’s up there and he is quite good. It’s quite a subdued and believable performance, and there’s enough depth given to his character. The supporting cast with the likes of Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, work greatly, the latter two particularly shining. Other members of the cast like Scoot McNairy, Victor Garber and Kyle Chandler also do their parts, no matter how big or small their roles are. I should also mention that although there are some A list actors headlining this movie, the use of character actors really worked effectively.

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Argo is Ben Affleck’s third directed movie, and he has definitely shown to be a capable filmmaker, and his directing talents had been improving with every film that he makes. Whereas his previous movies Gone Baby Gone and The Town took place in a single city, Argo is on a much larger scale, and Affleck pulled it off very well. The cinematography and editing are top notch, the film is great on a technical level. There are also some very tense sequences that are effective. Even the style was reminiscent of the late 70s (Argo even opening with the old Warner Bros. label), and there was clearly a lot of effort to make everything fit the aesthetics of that era to feel authentic, from the costumes, the sets, etc.

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Argo is a well made thriller, written and directed excellently, and starring an ensemble cast who work together well, and a great film overall. It’s not without its slight faults, but not enough to take away from the rest of the movie, and it is definitely worth watching if you haven’t seen it already.

Dumbo (2019) Review

Time: 112 Minutes
Age Rating: 120px-OFLCN_-_PG.svg[1]
Cast:
Colin Farrell as Holt Farrier
Nico Parker as Milly Farrier
Finley Hobbins as Joe Farrier
Michael Keaton as V. A. Vandevere
Danny DeVito as Max Medici
Eva Green as Colette Marchant
Edd Osmond as the motion capture of Jumbo Jr.
Alan Arkin as J. Griffin Remington
Creator: Tim Burton

Struggling circus owner Max Medici (Danny Devito) enlists a former star (Colin Farrell) and his two children (Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins) to care for Dumbo, a baby elephant born with oversized ears. When the family discovers that the animal can fly, it soon becomes the main attraction — bringing in huge audiences and revitalizing the run-down circus. The elephant’s magical ability also draws the attention of V.A. Vandevere, an entrepreneur who wants to showcase Dumbo in his latest, larger-than-life entertainment venture.

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I heard some not so good things about the remake of Dumbo, and I was already pretty doubtful. While I haven’t watched the original Dumbo animated movie, I’m not a fan of the recent live action Disney remakes of their classic animated movies. So despite the talent involved, I was quite sceptical but nonetheless wanted to check it out. The remake of Dumbo turned out to be okay really, despite a lot of flaws.

The script is definitely the weakest part of the movie. It starts off very weak and takes a while to pick up. Although this movie has Dumbo as a big part of the story, the ‘heart’ of the movie is a father and two children, and their problems. Unfortunately, it feels rather hollow and tact on, what’s worse is that this plotline is essentially driving the first act, with Dumbo playing a small part in it. It does get better as it goes along, mainly from the moment where everyone sees Dumbo really flying for the first time. From that point to the end, it’s relatively decent. I wasn’t invested in the story or characters, but I was reasonably entertained for the rest of the runtime.

The main characters of the movie are played by Colin Farrell, Nico Parker and Finley Hobbins, as a family. Farrell is a great actor for sure, but here he’s reduced to just moping around, and he was just fine at best. More focus is drawn to the kid characters, and unfortunately they aren’t that good. Hobbins doesn’t do all that much and just stands there, and Parker is written and directed so poorly, she delivers a bunch of bland exposition, even when she talks about she feels (she literally just says how she feels in a very monotone way). I can’t really blame either of the actors, because none of them are given good material to work with at all. Michael Keaton plays the villain of this movie, and he’s an over the top and one dimensional cartoon, he doesn’t bring down the movie though. The two actors that really stand out are Danny Devito and Eva Green. Devito does the same things as he does in most movies, but Green actually does very well in her scenes, definitely a highlight of the movie.

Knowing Tim Burton and his movies, it’s actually surprising how restrained he was with his direction here. It wasn’t as crazy and bizarre as any of his other movies (especially thankfully not like his Alice in Wonderland). It was at the right level for a Dumbo movie. On a technical level it was pretty good, from the cinematography, the production design, the visuals, the costumes, and the likes. The only bit here that feels like over the top Burton was Michael Keaton’s performance, and as I said before, that wasn’t necessarily bad. The visuals for the elephants, mainly Dumbo, were also quite good, even though he’s not a main character, he was handled quite well.

Dumbo 2019 isn’t bad but it’s not as good as it could’ve been, especially considering the talent involved. Tim Burton directed it rather well, Danny Devito and Eva Green shine, and it gets better as it progressed, but that’s it. It’s heavily worn down by bad writing, and it’s hard to get emotionally connected to the story and characters. Still, if you’re curious to check it out, I’d say that it’s worth a watch.