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October 17, 2012 - Image 8

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The Michigan Daily, 2012-10-17

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8A - Wednesday, October 17, 2012

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

8A - Wednesday, October17, 2012 The Michigan Daily - michigandailycom

Captivating 'Argo'

Flawed 'Sinister' chills

Affleck crafts a
tense, timely
For the Daily
When better to release a film
reeking of political animos-
ity than three weeks prior to the
U.S. presiden-
tial election? *
Or perhaps, an
eerie echo of Argo
a recent ter-
rorist attack At Quality16
might facilitate and Rave
a bigger bump War Bros
in ticket sales? W
"Argo" does
both, and two hooks are better
than one.
Though director, producer and
star Ben Affleck ("The Town")
endipitous temporal correlation,
"Argo," based on events during
the Iranian Hostage Crisis, hits
theaters just one month after four
Americans, including Ambas-
sador Christopher Stevens, fell
victim to a terrorist attack on the
U.S. embassy in Benghazi, Libya;
morbidity heightens as the event
occurred on Sept. 11. Apart from
bushy mustaches, bifocals, comb-
overs and classic cars, the Iranian
aggressors' on-screen seizure of
the U.S. embassy in Tehran on
Nov. 4, 1979 tendentiously salts
the wounds of this recent tragedy.
The opening sequence is
like a fire hose blast to the. face:
Affleck paints a haunting mural
of melee as Iranians leap over
fences, break down doors and
smash through windows, while
U.S. officials beg for reinforce-
ments from the powers that be.
When no military aid arrives,
three soldiers on-site attempt to
"peacefully" quell the onslaught
by hurling tear gas canisters and
trying to "reason with" the mali-
cious mob. Negotiation proves


"The Oscars aren't until when?!"
While 52 hostages are
detained, six diplomats evade
initial captivity and seek solace
with the Canadian Ambassador
(Victor Garber, "Kung Fu Panda
2"), but it's only a matter of time
before those responsible discover
they're a few prisoners short.
Racing against the clock, CIA
Agent Tony Mendez (Affleck)
devises a rescue mission: dis-
guise the Americans as a Cana-.
dian film crew on alocation scout
for their new Middle Eastern-
infused science fiction movie,
"Argo." Why would the CIA ever
support such a far-fetched course
of action? Well, all the ideas are
bad and "it's the best bad idea ...
by far."
Adapting Josh Bearman's arti-
cle, "How the CIA used a Fake
Sci-Fi Flick to Rescue Ameri-
cans from Tehran" as his first
big-league feature, screenwriter
Chris Terrio meticulously speck-
les dire circumstances with emo-
tionally leveling gold nuggets
of humor. His characters are as
dynamic and refreshingly var-
iegated as the kooky plot itself,
brought to life by an incredible
ensemble cast that includes John
Goodman ("ParaNorman") as a

gregarious make-up artist, Alan
Arkin ("Little Miss Sunshine") as
a crass, washed-up director and
Bryan Cranston (TV's "Breaking
Bad"), with a full head of hair, as
Mendez's domestic go-to-man.
And, though there's no surprise
ending to this biopic, the suspense
is fiercely palpable, as the impor-
tant question isn't, "Will they
make it?" but, "How the hell ... ?"
Sure, "Argo" hits the cinemat-
ic bull's eye, but it's the subject
matter that packs the strongest
punch, as the fortuitous mod-
ern-day relevance fosters a
deeper emotional and intellec-
tual impact than the average
poignant historical recollection.
The film entertains and educates,
illuminating how history can,
and often does, repeat itself. And
in this case, that's not such a good
With a storyline hawking
currently controversial sub-
ject matter and a star-studded
cast, artfully directed and fed
clever dialogue, "Argo" yields
the power to wobble a malleable
voter mind; and, as the "Oscar
buzz" continues to grow, it might
prove as influential as the final
debate - or, based on that track
record, perhaps even more so.

DailyArts Writer
Horror movies and slasher
films embody entirely different
compartments of cinema. Yet,
they strive to
achieve the gg
same thing:
getting view- Sinister
ers to wet their
Jockeys. Many AtQuality16
might argue and Rave
that solid slash- Summit
ers don't exist
today, while
solid horrors are still few and
far between. Classics like "The
Omen," "The Exorcist" and "The
Shining" simply float in an esti-
mable league of their own, but
does that mean these genres are
essentially dead? Meet "Sinister."
A film teeming with recycled ele-
ments and cues still manages to
deliver a smart, blood-curdling
script - synthesizing super-
natural whodunit-ness with an
ambitious dosage of disturbing
Spook-fanatic director Scott
Derrickson ("The Exorcism
of Emily Rose") seems to have
birthed his first mature project
in "Sinister." After shocking mil-
lions in "Emily Rose," Derrick-
son has sculpted a hybrid of his
previous film and "Paranormal
Activity," with a few added-value
components. This director doubt-
lessly knows how to scare the
masses, and his missteps in "Sin-
ister" are more redundancies than
downrightplot errors.
Ellison Oswalt (played patient-
ly by Ethan Hawke, "Before the
Devil Knows You're Dead") is
a has-been horror writer who
moves his family into a house for-
merly owned by a mysteriously
massacred family (unbeknownst
to his wife and kids). Why?
Because it's the setting of his new
nonfiction book: one of several
interconnected family murders
in which the youngest child went
missing while the remaining fam-
ily was sadistically killed. A lone

So much porn, so little time.
box in the attic filled with dis- "Sinister"is due to the one-dimen-
gusting "home videos" proves to sional, mundane characters.
be the nucleus of Ellison's journey Ellison takes the cake easily. His
to uncover the facts and finish his wife (played gracefully by Juliet
story. Rylance, "Animal") barely makes
Odd, inexplicable sounds and the podium. The remaining cast
occurrences begin to unfold at the is trash. His strange daughter
house. Ellison's mind plays visual paints all over the walls with no
tricks and consequently provokes explanation while his long-haired
his eventual psychological melt- son endures frequent night ter-
down. His wife is worried. His rors. Unfortunately, most of the
kids exhibit bizarre behavior. And weird contributions made by
all Ellison wants to do is complete these meaningless characters are
what could be his "finest break- never revisited, causing audiences
through" work yet. Mania takes to feel cheap and exploited:
people to twisted places. Ultimately, any film whose
opening shot consists of four
people being hanged is bound to
Children make turn some stomachs. "The Sixth
Sense" did this. "The Ring" did
anything scary this. There is something inher-
ently discomforting about movies
of people watching movies. Your
control is even further removed.
Once viewers advance past "Sinister" manipulates this the-
the "not again?" sequences and ory to the point of suffocation.
quips (and there are plenty) - And that is why this film works,
the creaking floors and flickering despite its peppered flaws.
lights - they should feel some- The titles of the home vid-
thing similar to waking up in the eos Ellison finds read as follows:
middle of the night as ayoungster: "Family Hanging Out," "Pool
absolute fear. "Sinister" deftly Party," "BBQ" and "Sleepy Time."
incorporates the slow pace of They aren't what one expects by
Michael Myers in "Halloween" any means. Maybe the shock fac-
while still frenetically experi- tor is abused slightly in "Sinister,"
menting with the camera lens. It's but given the timely bits of super-
a slow-fast marriage that makes natural, psychosis, ,creepy chil-
this film standout visually. And dren and sheer darkness, it gives
the musical score fits nicely. viewers something to fill a yearly
Most of the credibility lost in void: a good,not great, horror film.





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