Ben Affleck seems like a decent guy. Like his other cinematic cohort, Matt Damon, he doesn’t seem to have lost his wholesome, Southie (straight outta Boston) charm for Hollywood paranoia and entitlement. It’s a testament to how touchy-feely he is that audiences have pretty much forgotten the whole Jennifer Lopez thing, culminating in Kevin Smith’s masturbatory Jersey Girl and the nonsensical Gigli. To be fair, Gigli has the most awesome Christopher Walken scene ever (Pie!). For most Americans, the best thing to come out of 2003 was J-Lo’s globular ass. Taco taco burrito.
Affleck made the move from actor to director with Gone Baby Gone, a cop procedural starring his brother Casey. The Town, a heist movie with gun-totin’ nuns, put him over the top in most viewers’ minds, and no small wonder — it’s one of the best dad movies ever, Heat lite for the casual moviegoer set. It’s always on sale at Wal-Mart, and continues to be snapped up by men everywhere. I have it on Blu-ray myself.
It’s pretty middle-of-the road (okay, better than average, a B+, considering most of the drivel out there), which early reviews of Affleck’s latest directorial effort, Argo, are claiming as well. I don’t buy it — this one looks like a love letter to the movies, an ’80s action flick given a gauzy political makeover to add a little timely seriousness. Beyond the fuzzy ’70s aesthetic, it even has the “based on a true story” stamp, which always screams “bullshit” and “possibly awesome.” Affleck stars as Tony Mendez, a bearded CIA agent tasked with rescuing Americans in Iran after the country falls into brutal, authoritarian chaos. The year is 1979, and people still make interesting genre movies. So Tony has the idea of coming into the country under the guise of making a sci-fi flick, where he’ll pretend the Americans are part of the film crew, and usher them out in secret. Shit turns serious, there are blindfolds and guns, and Bryan Cranston gets all Cranston-y.
Critics are already claiming it as typical Academy Awards fodder, and while it’s probably the kind of action-drama that appeals to your parents, here’s hoping it gives Affleck the extra clout to make even grander crime flicks. After winning an Oscar, Kathryn Bigelow isn’t gonna make another Point Break (humanity’s loss), but I bet Affleck has the chops. I’ve just written myself into loving Ben Affleck, and it feels glorious.
October is the month for horror flicks, and the Ethan Hawke monster-fest, Sinister, looks like the best of the bunch. Hawke continues to look older and more haunted with each passing year (and role), and he looks perfect as the avenging broke-ass dad in Sinister. He plays a struggling writer who finds a box of ancient home video footage in an otherwise empty attic. (Never a good sign.) The footage reveals a monster (who looks a little like Darth Maul again — these are the same folks who made Insidious, after all) that likes to invade the realms of the living and cause all sorts of problems. It looks full of shocks and atmosphere, and if it’s as good as Insidious, it’ll be well worth checking out.
Seven Psychopaths, the latest from playwright Martin McDonagh (In Bruges) looks awesomely vulgar and violent — and actually good — so we don’t need to talk about that here. The obvious loser of the bunch this week is Here Comes the Boom, with Kevin James as an oafish high school biology teacher who turns to mixed-martial arts fighting as a way to earn a few extra dollars. North America’s inexplicable, eternal romance with James just keeps on staggering along, fatty-grunting through one hit after another (Grown Ups, Zookeeper). It looks dreadful; obviously, I need to see it.