If Argo isn’t the year’s best film, it’s certainly the Ben Affleck-directed thriller is certainly the most entertaining. It may just be both.
If he hadn’t already cemented his reputation as top-flight director, Argo (Rated R, Warner Bros. $14.99 to $35.99, 4.5-of-5 stars) depending on format and version), which is up for seven Oscars this coming Sunday at the Academy Awards, has to.
The nearly flawless film takes a historical moment and milks it for every bit of tension to create a modern day classic. That Affleck didn’t receive a nomination for best director when the Academy nominated it for best picture represents one of those Oscar anomalies and shams that the voters perpetrate on movie fans every few years in order to see if they’re paying attention.
Yes, they are.
Affleck revisits one of the pivotal moments in American foreign policy history, going back to the Iranian hostage crisis of 1979, the moment when angry Iranian protestors, sanctioned by the government, held U.S. Dept. of State employees hostage in the U.S. Embassy for more than a year.
But after the student’s sieged the building six employees managed to escape to the home of the Canadian ambassador (Victor Garber) where he hides them until the CIA can devise a way to extract them.
The agency relies on the efforts of Tony Mendez (Affleck) to do so and using some Hollywood contacts – a producer portrayed by Alan Arkin (nominated for the role) and a make-up master given life by John Goodman – they come up with the idea of a production company searching for a location for movie shoot to get them out. It’s a plan that’s just crazy enough to work.
Affleck blends the right amount of drama, humor and tension in crafting Argo. It’s intelligent, features fantastic performances all around and more importantly entertains. It’s definitely worthy of any video collection.
Extras: The disc producer includes several noteworthy extras, but none is as interesting as Argo: The CIA and the Hollywood Connection, which features Affleck and Mendez taking the audience behind the scenes of the operation. The usual extras – a full-length commentary from Affleck and screenwriter Chris Terrio – are also included.
Another Oscar worthy film appeared on store shelves and download services recently.
The best James Bond film ever made, Skyfall (Rated PG-13, Columbia, $14.99 to $39.99 depending on format and version, 4-of-5 stars) comes blazing through just four months after its initial theatrical run.
Director Sam Mendes and his team of screenwriters strip Bond down to the narrative bone, including emotionally as played by Daniel Craig, the audience gets the most emotionally open and vulnerable Bond yet as they explore his history.
If that weren’t enough they in Javier Bardem’s Silva, they give the audience the best Bond villain in nearly a decade. This Bond and its 12 extras will easily be one of the best releases of the year.
Skyfall was one of 2013’s best, but so is the teen flick The Perks of Being a Wallflower (Rated PG-13, Summit Entertainment, $12.99 to $24.99 depending on format and version, 4.5-of-5 stars), a movie that didn’t get enough love from audiences. It, however, reduced me to tears as director Stephen Chbosky’s (he adapted from his novel) is able to mine teen humor and drama for a perfect film.
Every generation deserves its own coming-of-age film. For the generation that spawned this writer it was The Breakfast Club. Wallflower is good enough to make the late John Hughes jealous.
And while we’re on the subject of the ‘80s, Paramount released a 3-D version of one of its pop culture classics Tuesday.
Top Gun (Rated PG, $39.99 blu-ray combo pack with digital copy), which starred Tom Cruise, will always have kitsch value. It certainly fit in with the gung-ho attitude of the time and for Cruise fanatics, the story of a naval aviator at flight school in California is a must have, right down to its cheesy, wretched ‘80s soundtrack – with the lone exception being Kenny Loggins’ Danger Zone. The news here is the 3D redo which is passable. I’m not sure it’s enough for 3D TV owners to rush out and buy it, but as one of those Cruise fans, this writer is glad to own it.