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Argo & The Watch

By Howard McQuitter

Argo (2012)

****

Warner Bros.   Mystery/Suspense/Drama/History

Cast: Ben Affleck (Tony Mendez), Alan Arkin (Lester Siegel), John Goodman (John Chambers), Clea Du Vall (Cora Lijek), Taylor Schilling (Christine Mendez) Victor    

Garber (Ken Taylor), Bryan Cranston (Jack O’ Donnell).Running time:120 minutes. Director: Ben Affleck. 

An international crisis sparks on November 4, 1979 in Tehran, Iran, at the U.S. embassy when hundreds of militant Iranians take 52 Americans hostage. The C.I.A. backed dictator Shah has to flee Iran for his safety.

During the chaos, the Americans in the embassy desperately try to destroy any and all documents that implicate American secrets. Six American diplomats manage to flee to the home of the Canadian ambassador. While the world is focusing on the hostage crisis (“Nightline” with Ted Koppel emerges as a nightly television news show continuing today long after Koppel retires), few, if any, are aware of the “Argo” operation sponsored by the C.I.A. agent, poses as a movie producer financing a movie in Tehran. Tension builds around Tony while he’s walking the streets of a fragile Tehran. I think “Argo” could have been even more suspenseful than it is, but anyway is a very good movie under Ben Affleck’s coat.

But before Tony goes on his dangerous mission to Iran, he goes to Hollywood to make a movie, a fake movie–mind you–collaborating with Oscar winning make-up artist John Chambers (John Goodman) to convince any Hollywood boss to sponsor the Movie. Movie producer Lester Siege (Alan Arkin) along with Tony and John name the  movie “Argo”, a kind of watered-down Star Wars.

Tony flies with his crew to Tehran with false Canadian passports with no record of their arrival there in Tehran.

Mr. Affleck’s directional hands ever so steady, precision of details for location, mood and time, indeed, he’s just the man of his fifth direction to go to for a sound movie.

Tony Tony and Tony and John name the movie.

The Watch (2012)

*

Twentieth Century Fox

Science Fiction/Fantasy/Comedy

Cast: Jonah Hill (Franklin), Rosemarie De Witt (Abby), Will Forte (Sergeant Bressman), Richard Ayoade (Jamarcus). Running time: 100 minutes. Director: Akiva Schaffer. 

Initially the title of Akiva Schaffer’s movie “The Neighborhood Watch” is changed to “The Watch” because his movie due to come out at the same time as the explosive racially charged Trayvon Martin debacle. But the name change did nothing to improve this listless, trite movie. Furthermore, calling “The Watch” a comedy is the joke–the tragedy, the lifelessness of four characters, all turn out to be bovine.

Bob (Vince Vaughn), Evan(Ben Stiller) and Franklin (Johan Hill), and the solo nonwhite–an African American–Jamarcus (Richard Ayoade), turns out to be a friendly alien. (Jamarcus is also an undercover alien.) How convenient it is to make the Black guy not just an alien but a friendly, undercover alien. But the stupidity of the three white middle-class guys makes the Johnny come lately Black guy even more stupid and almost as irrelevant as his white counterparts. The three white men set up an ad hoc watch of the neighborhood after a white security guard is murdered at a Wal-Mart like store in the town.

To put it bluntly, the mix of the usual gross gags and the unfortunate taste for vulgarity in “The Watch” just is flat at best, ugly at worst. What would you do if you discovered aliens in your neighborhood and they were all in the nude across the street or planning to rig the upcoming  presidential election?

 

Last month’s issue of “The Alley”, in my Movie Corner, I reviewed “Para-Norman”, an animation, I saw at Block E. Sadly, that was the last movie I saw at that beleaguered movie theater. Block E was closed on Monday, September 24, 2012 to my chagrin, though  I feared it, would close more than a year ago. I knew one of the AMC managers fairly well after going to perhaps 300 movies there at one time or another. I went to numerous movie screenings there until they tapered off to zero over the  last year to eighteen months. Minneapolis has lost two movie theaters in the downtown area since 1999 (the other was “The Skyway  Theater). As such, the closings (regardless of the reasons or motives) does not bode well for Minneapolis’ downtown. Make no mistake about it, the AMC headquarters in Kansas City were livid about the closing here. Makes Minneapolis look like a flake of a town.  I moved downtown three years ago–Lord and behold!–I could walk eight blocks or take a mall bus on a hot afternoon or in the frosty winter evening to see a movie at Block E. I miss Block AMC Theaters (over time, three companies owned it),but I don’t miss Minneapolis’ myopic view of not keeping a downtown theater.

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