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Recent Movies: Argo; The Master; Samsara ****

November 26, 2012

Recent Movies



This film is a fictional account about the hostage crisis in Iran in 1979-1980 in which several Americans were held captive while six of them were hidden in the Canadian Embassy before eventually escaping.  Director Ben Affleck also plays the main character Tony Mendez, a CIA agent who arrives in Tehran under a different identity in order to help the six Americans escape.

Affleck’s directing is superb in that he achieves the near-impossible: creating edge-of-your-seat tension and suspense in a story where the audience already knows how the story will end.  He also does a great job in evoking details of the time period with styles and events of the time (not to mention the absurdity of allowing smoking on airplanes back then).  The “time travel” worked so well that I was even able to recall what was happening in my life at that time.

The script has troubles with its inaccuracies.  While the Canadian efforts in the operation are well portrayed, they are seriously minimized from a historical perspective.  Also, there are unfair inaccuracies of the roles of New Zealand and Great Britain during the beginning of the crisis.

Despite these major script troubles, this is truly a victory for the director who raises the film to a higher level.

Rating (out of four stars):   * * *


The Master

After World War II, a U.S. soldier (played by Joaquin Phoenix) has serious trouble integrating into post-war society.  He joins a group dedicated to a philosophical cause and develops a kinship with its leader played by Philip Seymour Hoffman.  This group believes in past-life therapy as a cure to current problems.

The film is written and directed by Paul Thomas Anderson.  “The Master” like some other Anderson films (“Boogie Nights”, “Magnolia”) could be criticized for being too long.  Also, while the story is interesting, it occasionally seems aimless.

But this is still a fine film mainly because of Anderson’s great skills as a director where his greatness was best shown in “There Will Be Blood”, his best film so far.  Some scenes seem repetitive and long but they are directed in a way that can still keep the viewer interested.   Anderson also does a fine job in evoking the post-war period and he is strongly assisted by the very talented actors Phoenix and Hoffman.

While this seems like a bizarre trip, it is one well worth taking.

Rating:   * * *



This film is a visual, unspoken documentary which travels to over twenty countries.  Some images are beautiful while others display the absurdities of life in modern times.

Accompanied with fine music, this film is a very enjoyable experience.  The beautiful scenes are breathtaking.  Other scenes are critical of society and they express their viewpoint in a subtle but clear way.  One example is  the cycle of processing food from animals leading to obesity in humans.

The film frequently uses the technique of fast motion.  It works nicely.

Rating:   * * *


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