Capsule reviews of 'Argo,' other new movies
The Associated Press
A movie about the 1979 Iranian hostage crisis probably doesn't sound like it would be a laugh riot — or should be — but that's just one of the many ways in which this is a glorious, gripping surprise. Directing his third feature, Ben Affleck has come up with a seamless blend of detailed international drama and breathtaking suspense, with just the right amount of dry humor to provide context and levity. He shows a deft handling of tone, especially in making difficult transitions between scenes in Tehran, Washington and Hollywood, but also gives one of his strongest performances yet in front of the camera as the film's star. It's exciting to see the confidence with which Affleck expands his ambition and scope as a filmmaker. "Argo" reveals his further mastery of pacing and storytelling, even as he juggles complicated set pieces, various locations and a cast featuring 120 speaking parts. Bryan Cranston, John Goodman and Alan Arkin are among the excellent supporting cast. R for language and some violent images. 120 minutes. Four stars out of four.
HERE COMES THE BOOM
This comedy starring Kevin James as a tubby science teacher who becomes a mixed martial arts sensation is every bit as ridiculous as it looks. That's not such a bad thing for the movie, whose makers embrace the fact that they're essentially doing a live-action cartoon. Co-writer James and director Frank Coraci assemble a likable gang of oddballs that make it kind of work. PG for bouts of MMA sports violence, some rude humor and language. 104 minutes. Two stars out of four.
In his second movie, Irish playwright Martin McDonagh has mangled together a comic, self-aware revenge flick that's half Guy Ritchie, half Charlie Kaufman. It's manic and messy, and McDonagh — whose previous film was the delightfully grim, more centered "In Bruges" — doesn't yet have the visual command for a sprawling, madcap tale as this. But it's also filled with deranged wit and unpredictable genre deconstruction that make it, if not quite a success, a fascinating mutt of a movie. Colin Farrell plays Marty, a hard-drinking screenwriter in Los Angeles and a clear stand-in for McDonagh. He has his movie title — "Seven Psychopaths" — but little else. He gets sucked into the hijinks of his friend Billy (Sam Rockwell), whose dog-napping scheme turns bloody when Billy and his friend Hans (Christopher Walken) swipe the Shih Tzu of a pooch-loving gangster (Woody Harrelson). The cast, which also includes a bunny-cradling Tom Waits, is great, but Rockwell — enthusiastic and deranged — is exceptional.. R for strong violence, bloody images, pervasive language, sexuality, nudity and some drug use. 110 minutes. Two and a half stars out of four.
The title refers not so much to the nearly perpetual state of inebriation that a young husband and wife put themselves in but rather to the way the wife finds her existence truly shattered when she tries to get sober. Staying at least slightly drunk all the time is easy, as Mary Elizabeth Winstead's character knows well. It's a blissfully ignorant existence, one big party. But once you stop drinking, the reality you've shoved aside returns with a vengeance. Winstead ("Abraham Lincoln: Vampire Hunter," ''Scott Pilgrim vs. the World") gets to show the full range of her abilities in her heaviest dramatic role yet as a first-grade teacher who finds her marriage and her work in jeopardy when she tries to stop drinking. Aaron Paul of "Breaking Bad" does the best he can with an underwritten role as her hard-partying husband. R for alcohol abuse, language, some sexual content and brief drug use. 85 minutes. Two stars out of four.
MOST POPULAR AT THE BOX OFFICE
The top 20 movies at U.S. and Canadian theaters last Friday through Sunday, followed by distribution studio, gross, number of theater locations, average receipts per location, total gross and number of weeks in release:
1. "Taken 2," Fox, $49,514,769, 3,661 locations, $13,525 average, $49,514,769, one week.
2. "Hotel Transylvania," Sony, $27,053,395, 3,352 locations, $8,071 average, $76,711,927, two weeks.
3. "Pitch Perfect," Universal, $14,846,830, 2,770 locations, $5,360 average, $21,693,038, two weeks.
4. "Looper," Sony, $12,116,001, 2,993 locations, $4,048 average, $40,216,652, two weeks.
5. "Frankenweenie," Disney, $11,412,213, 3,005 locations, $3,798 average, $11,412,213, one week.
6. "End of Watch," Open Road Films, $4,004,071, 2,370 locations, $1,689 average, $32,850,017, three weeks.
7. "Trouble With the Curve," Warner Bros., $3,829,153, 3,003 locations, $1,275 average, $29,668,976, three weeks.
8. "House at the End of the Street," Relativity, $3,756,023, 2,720 locations, $1,381 average, $27,589,167, three weeks.
9. "The Master," Weinstein Co., $1,861,703, 864 locations, $2,155 average, $12,337,032, four weeks.
10. "Finding Nemo," Disney, $1,624,536, 1,746 locations, $930 average, $39,038,997, four weeks.
11. "The Perks of Being a Wallflower," Lionsgate, $1,566,526, 221 locations, $7,088 average, $3,348,865, three weeks.
12. "Resident Evil: Retribution," Sony Screen Gems, $1,158,066, 1,361 locations, $851 average, $41,008,796, four weeks.
13. "Won't Back Down," Fox, $1,016,157, 2,517 locations, $404 average, $4,483,670, two weeks.
14. "English Vinglish," Eros International, $745,414, 88 locations, $8,471 average, $745,414, one week.
15. "The Dark Knight Rises," Warner Bros., $674,436, 575 locations, $1,173 average, $445,369,641, 12 weeks.
16. "Dredd," Lionsgate, $645,241, 831 locations, $776 average, $12,695,655, three weeks.
17. "Arbitrage," Lionsgate, $641,365, 244 locations, $2,629 average, $6,053,621, four weeks.
18. "The Possession," Lionsgate, $623,500, 821 locations, $759 average, $48,391,383, six weeks.
19. "The Bourne Legacy," Universal, $344,630, 482 locations, $715 average, $112,275,305, nine weeks.
20. "Lawless," Weinstein Co., $326,661, 611 locations, $535 average, $37,001,460, six weeks.