Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
There is a certain level of enjoyment you are guaranteed when signing on for a movie that boasts a cast of George Clooney, Matt Damon, John Goodman, and Bill Murray. And that's the precise level of enjoyment you'll get from The Monuments Men — that bare minimum smirk factor inherent the idea that your favorite stars are getting to play together. In FDR-era army helmets, no less. But what we also get from the film is an aura of smug self-confidence from project captain Clooney, who seems all too ready to take for granted that we're perfectly satisfied peering into his backyard clubhouse.
So assured is the director/co-writer that we're happy to be in on the game that there doesn't seem to be any effort taken to refine the product for the benefit of a viewing audience. An introductory speech from art historian Frank Stokes (Clooney) sets up the premise straight away: the Nazis are stealing and destroying all of Europe's paintings and sculptures, and by gum we need to stop them! The concept doesn't complicate from there, save for a batting back and forth of the throughline question about whether the preservation of these pieces is "really worth it." Stokes rallies his own Ocean's Seven on a fine arts rescue mission, instigating an old fashioned go-get-'em-boys montage where we learn everything we need to know about the band mates in question: Damon has a wife, Goodman has gumption, Murray doesn't smile, Bob Balaban is uppity, and Jean Dujardin is French.
The closest thing to a character in The Monuments Men comes in the form of Hugh Bonneville, a recovering alcoholic whose motivation to take on the dangerous mission is planted in a festering desire to absolve himself of a lifetime of f**king up. When we're away from Bonneville, the weight disspears, as does most of the joy. Without identifiable characters, even master funnymen like Goodman, Murray, and Balaban don't have much to offer... especially since the movie's jokes feel like first draft placeholders born on a tired night.
Sony Pictures via Everett Collection
But wait a minute, is this even supposed to be a comedy? After all, it's about World War II. And no matter what Alexandre Desplat's impossibly merry score would have you believe (coupled with The Lego Movie, this opening weekend might be responsible for more musical jubilance than any other since the days of "Make 'Em Laugh!"), warfare, genocide, and desecration of international culture all make for some pretty heavy material. But The Monuments Men's drama is just as fatigued as its humor, clumsily piecing together a collection of mini missions wherein the stakes, somehow, never seem to jump. We're dragged through military bases, battered towns, and salt mines by Clooney and the gang — occasionally jumping over to France to watch Damon work his least effective magic in years on an uptight Cate Blanchett, who holds the key to the scruffy American's mission but doesn't quite trust him... until, for no apparent reason, she suddenly does. We never feel like any of these people matter, not even to each other, so we never really feel like their adventures do.
The Monuments Men doesn't have much of a challenge ahead of it. Its heroes are movie stars, its bad guys are Nazis, and its message is one that nobody's going to refute: art is important — a maxim it pounds home with the subtlety of a sledgehammer, through countless scenes of men staring in awe at the works of Michelangelo and Rembrandt. And in this easy endeavor, Clooney decides to coast. How could it possibly go wrong? Just grab hold of the fellas, toss 'em in the trenches, and let the laughs and danger write themselves. "This is what they came to see," Monuments Men insists. "Just us guys havin' a ball." But we never feel in on the game, and it isn't one that looks like that much fun anyhow.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
Producer Allan Mckeown has lost his battle with prostate cancer at the age of 66. McKeown passed away at his home in Los Angeles on Tuesday (24Dec13).
He began his career as a hairdresser in the 1960s in the U.K. for celebrity clients including The Beatles, Elizabeth Taylor, Richard Burton and Michael Caine.
He shifted careers in 1969 and became one of Britain's first independent television producers working on several U.K. and U.S. shows including Tracey Takes On, which won six Emmy Awards in 1997, with his actress wife Tracey Ullman.
McKeown also founded a a group which acquired the ITV franchise in the south east of England. He sold his share in 1996.
In addition to his TV work, McKeown also produced stage shows including The Big Love, Jerry Springer The Opera and Lennon, and films Villain, Get Carter and XYZ.
McKeown was most recently working on Indian comedy series Mumbai Calling.
He is survived by Ullman, who he married in 1983, and their two children.
Singer Gary Allan has been named country music's sexiest man by readers of Country Weekly magazine. The It Ain’t the Whiskey hitmaker came out on top after a month-long poll, beating out the likes of Luke Bryan and Toby Keith. Allan takes over from Christian Kane, who topped the list last year (12).
Allan Bregg / Splash News
For those who live in cities with an active film industry, spotting idle celebrities wearing wigs and looking bored while smoking cigarettes is just another Thursday. But sometimes, even locals can be caught off guard.
When a Hollywood back lot won't suffice, you have to go straight to the source for old-timey looking buildings. New Yorkers got a bit of a surprise when a block of lower Manhattan was transformed into 1900s Americana — complete with dirt and hay covered streets, and all signs of modernity removed. And to think, they were JUST getting used to those shared Citibike racks, now they have to deal with horse buggies and street urchins.
Turns out this transformation is thanks to Steven Soderbergh, who's filming his new Cinemax series, The Knick, starring Clive Owen — so much for Soderbergh's retirement. Set in downtown New York, the new drama is about "Knickerbocker Hospital and the groundbreaking surgeons, nurses and staff, who push the bounds of medicine in a time of astonishingly high mortality rates and zero antibiotics." Also, Owen is set to play a doctor hooked on liquid cocaine. Let's hope he doesn't go method for this one. The series is set for release in sometime next year. So if you're in the city, head over to Orchard Street between Delancey and Grand in the Lower East Side to catch a glimpse of the filming or just for some vicarious time travel on your lunch break. If you wear a bonnet, perhaps you could pass for one of the 300 extras on set.
Musical couple Chantal Kreviazuk and Raine Maida are set to be feted with a top prize at Canada's JUNO Awards in recognition of their philanthropy work. The married singer/songwriters have been unveiled as the recipients of the 2014 Allan Waters Humanitarian Award for "their devotion to philanthropy and humanitarian causes at home and abroad".
Kreviazuk and Maida, who have been actively working with charities aiding mental health patients to organisations providing funds and support to war-torn societies, will receive the honour at the JUNO Gala Dinner & Awards on 29 March (14), in Winnipeg.
Previous recipients include Bryan Adams, Neil Young and Tom Cochrane.
Rock legend Lou Reed has died at the age of 71, five months after receiving a liver transplant. The exact cause of death was not available as WENN went to press, but reports suggest the former Velvet Underground frontman passed away on Sunday (27Oct13).
Born in Brooklyn, New York in 1942, he formed the Primitives and the Warlocks with Welsh musician John Cale. The duo teamed up again to create the Velvet Underground with Sterling Morrison and drummer Maureen Tucker, and the group became a staple of the late 1960s New York City music and art scene, attracting artist Andy Warhol as a mentor and producer.
The band's 1967 debut The Velvet Underground & Nico is considered one of the most important albums of the 20th century.
Reed, real name Lewis Allan Reed, enjoyed a solo career after splitting with the group in 1970, recording another landmark album - 1972's Transformer, with David Bowie as his producer.
The late rocker also recorded groundbreaking albums Lou Reed, Berlin, Sally Can't Dance and Coney Island Baby, as well as the hits Walk On the Wild Side, Perfect Day and Satellite of Love.
He reunited with Cale in 1991 for the acclaimed Warhol tribute album Songs For Drella and regrouped the Velvet Underground in 1992 for a series of European gigs, including a set at the Glastonbury festival in England.
In the past decade, Reed, a famous student of martial art T'ai Chi, released the double album The Raven, which was based on the work of horror writer Edgar Allen Poe, and, in 2010, he teamed up with heavy rockers Metallica to record 2011's critically-savaged Lulu album.
Famous for his moody, often disagreeable nature, Reed will go down in music history as one of rock's most influential artists. He was inducted into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as a member of Velvet Underground in 1996.
He leaves behind his wife, performance artist and songwriter Laurie Anderson.
Murder is no laughing matter, but it's fascinating. Still more fascinating is the history of vamp-wannabe killers, who are often the basis for vampire lore, and even a little literature.
Like the Countess Elizabeth Báthory, who in the 16th Century bathed in the blood of hundreds of young women of breeding, and was believed to have been one of the inspirations behind Bram Stoker’s genre defining Dracula.
And then there were run-of-the-mill psychopaths like Fritz Haarmann, who at the turn of the 20th Century gnawed through the necks of male victims and sold their flesh as pork on the black market.
But don't lull yourself into thinking that vamp-nuttery is a thing of the past. In 1980 James P. Riva became convinced his grandmother was a 700-year-old vampire and shot her four times with bullets painted gold. And in 2002 Allan Menzies stabbed his pal 42 times before drinking his blood, for making fun of Aaliyah's performance in Queen of the Damned.
Which begs the obvious question: will the soulful vamps that populate our current cultural landscape become the fodder for tomorrow's bloodthirsty sociopaths? Food for thought, when that Edward Cullen look-alike sidles up to you at your next holiday party.
Defence lawyers for concert promoters AEG Live have rested their case in the Michael Jackson wrongful death trial. Attorneys presented a videotaped testimony from the King of Pop's physician Dr. Allan Metzger as they brought their argument to a close on Wednesday (18Sep13), using the medic's account of his final interactions with Jackson to paint the pop superstar as an energised and determined figure prior to his 2009 death - contrasting claims suggesting he was a tortured soul, under pressure from gig bosses to perform his ill-fated This Is It residency in London.
In the footage, Metzger revealed his famous client signed up for the shows in an effort to rebuild his reputation following his sensational child molestation trial and acquittal in 2005.
The doctor said, "He wanted to redeem Michael Jackson. He wanted to redeem his image. He felt this was it and he wanted to go out with a flash. He was still terribly hurt about the trial and the accusations."
However, Jackson was said to be anxious about the big stage return and asked Metzger to prescribe him an intravenous sleep medication. The physician refused, warning him about the potentially-fatal dangers of the drug.
The Thriller hitmaker's mother, Katherine Jackson, and his three kids are suing AEG Live chiefs amid allegations they were negligent in hiring disgraced medic Conrad Murray as his personal doctor as the superstar worked on his London comeback.
AEG Live executives have denied responsibility, insisting that Jackson was the one who personally employed Murray, who is currently behind bars after being convicted of administering the fatal dose of anaesthetic propofol that claimed the singer's life in June, 2009.
Closing arguments and jury deliberations are expected to begin next week (begs23Sep13) after Katherine Jackson's lawyers present their final arguments.
The trial is now in its 21st week.
Russell Crowe has been left outraged after eight shields from a Robin Hood prop he gifted to a Scottish tourist attraction were stolen. The actor gave the $90,000 (£60,000) battering ram, which formed part of a set used in his 2010 film, to the Duncarron Medieval Village, a Middle Ages recreation which was built by volunteers.
The prop was vandalised earlier this month (Sep13) when its shields and 12 pushing arms were taken by thieves, and the Gladiator star told staff at the attraction of his fury.
Site manager, Malin Heen-Allan tells Britain's Daily Record, "He phoned my husband Charlie. He thought it was really upsetting, it was gifted to us as we'd use it for education."
Crowe has also mentioned the incident in a post on his Twitter.com page, sharing a link to a story about the theft and adding, "Thieves wreck new tourist attraction at Duncarron Fort."
Anyone with any information about the missing items is urged to contact local police.