Hollywoodland (2006)

hollywoodlandStarring Adrien Brody, Diane Lane, Ben Affleck, Bob Hoskins, Robin Tunney, Kathleen Robertson, Lois Smith, Phillip MacKenzie, Larry Cedar

Directed by Allen Coulter

Expectations: Low.

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I kicked off my run through the Superman films with Superman and the Mole Men, so it seems somewhat fitting that my last review before Man of Steel should come around full circle. Hollywoodland is centered around the death of George Reeves, star of Superman and the Mole Men and the TV series it spawned: The Adventures of Superman. Hindsight reveals this as a landmark series, and as part of the foundation for the superhero genre that now populates our multiplex theaters every summer. At the time, though, things were not quite all wine and roses. Reeves wasn’t especially fond of the Superman role, even though it gave him fame among the kiddos. If we buy into the film’s character being similar to the real Reeves, he struggled and hoped to get more well-respected roles (much like the Jayne Mansfield character in The Jayne Mansfield Story).

Hollywoodland combines two things I generally try to stay away from in film: movies about Hollywood (as in the filmmaking industry, not the city) and celebrity biopics. The film definitely had moments that reminded me why I feel this way, but the narrative is varied and interesting enough to largely sideline these personal issues. The film is definitely too slow and longer than it needs to be, though. First time filmmaker Allen Coulter tries to fight the boredom back with a time-jumping narrative structure, moving between the investigation of Reeves’s death and flashbacks of his troubled life. Sometimes this works well, and sometimes it feels like a crutch used to spice up a slow-moving storyline.

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Argo (2012)

argo-poster1Starring Ben Affleck, Bryan Cranston, Alan Arkin, John Goodman, Victor Garber, Tate Donovan, Clea DuVall, Scoot McNairy, Rory Cochrane, Christopher Denham, Kerry Bishé

Directed by Ben Affleck

Expectations: I don’t know. Not much, but the Oscar win has intrigued me.

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I had a lot of problems with Argo while I was watching it, but in the end, it’s a good movie. Emphasis on “movie,” as while Argo might be based on a true story, the dramatized events in Argo stretch the limits of believability far beyond anything you’d expect in a film with its roots in actual history. The film doesn’t need a documentary approach or strict adherence to facts; I’m aware it’s a movie and I’m prepared to be entertained. But when the climax of your political thriller reminds me of the very over-the-top John Woo movie Face/Off, you know that you’ve gone too far. Argo is exciting, no doubt, but I simply cannot overlook its treatment of history.

But it’s clear that Argo and its producers know that most people don’t care. They take the story of the American embassy being stormed by angered Iranians and embellish it to the point of a simple heist thriller. There are six Americans caught in unfriendly territory, and only rogue CIA agent Ben Affleck is wily enough to get ’em out! He’s got one hell of an idea for a rescue, and it’s just crazy enough to work! Throw in fantastic small roles for John Goodman and Alan Arkin as a couple of Hollywood types, and you’ve got yourself one of the more entertaining films of 2012. Irresponsible and ridiculous, for sure, but definitely entertaining.

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Mini-Review: The Town (2010)

The Town (2010)

Starring Ben Affleck, Jon Hamm, Rebecca Hall, Jeremy Renner, Blake Lively, Chris Cooper, Slaine, Titus Welliver, Pete Postlethwaite, Owen Burke, Edward O’Keefe

Directed by Ben Affleck

Expectations: Low.


Your ability to really dig in and care about the events in The Town hinges on your connection to Ben Affleck’s character. If over the course of the movie, you find yourself wrapped up enough to care about him, then I’m sure you enjoyed the movie. If however, you didn’t particularly care about his character and you thought he was needlessly stupid, then you probably have the same mixed feelings I did when I finished watching The Town.

Don’t get me wrong, this is a pretty good movie. The acting is very good from most of the cast with Jeremy Renner, Jon Hamm and Rebecca Hall leading in strong supporting roles. Pete Postlethwaite is fantastic in his limited screen time. Ben Affleck feels a bit out of place in some scenes, but he does a good job overall. A lot of my problem with his acting can be explained through his character’s motivations so I can overlook his presumed shortcomings and chalk them up to being “the way he meant to do it.”

Affleck’s direction is similar to his acting. There are flashes of real talent, but more often than not, the shot selection and editing are so incredibly mainstream and phoned in that any name from Paul W.S. Anderson to Michael Bay could be in front of the movie and no one would be the wiser. I’m all for Affleck branching out into directing, but at least have some sort of personal style.

Despite every shortcoming, The Town is still worth watching for those interested in movies about small-time criminals trying to finish that last big score so they can leave town and start a clean life. Just don’t expect it to add anything to that predefined plot line.

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