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.
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It’s no secret that Entourage’s luster is a bit tarnished at this point, yet many of us continue to faithfully tune in to see what Vinnie Chase (Adrian Grenier) and his goons are up to. Now, they’re finally throwing in the towel with 8 final episodes, but just what is it about this show that kept us on the hook for those less-than-spectacular years? (Hint: It's not Vince.)
Drama’s Never-Ending Delusion and Pseudo-Wisdom
For some reason, seeing Johnny Drama (Kevin Dillon) try so hard and fail even harder time and time again is wildly entertaining, but the resolve with which he continues to pound the glitter-covered pavement in Hollywood and spew his unwarranted wisdom is what makes it so hilarious. Drama needs an acting gig, so what does he do? He tries to use SAG insurance to get calf implants after admiring Lamar Odom’s trunks. Drama is desperate to be in the new Brett Ratner flick, so what does he do? He fights tooth and nail for a role as the French bus driver. Drama finally gets a shot in Vince’s passion project, so what does he do? He insists the lead actress (Modern Family's Sofia Vergara) performed a sexual favor for him, angers her and the director in the process and loses the part. Also, the fact that Dillon is the real-life, less-successful brother to Matt Dillon doesn’t hurt.
Eric Constantly Getting the Beat-down
Eric (Kevin Connolly) was supposed to be the good guy, the underdog, the one we’re all rooting for. But somehow as the series went on, it was less fun to watch him succeed and more entertaining to watch him crash and burn – especially when the purveyor of pain is none other than Ari Gold. Those morning phone calls between Ari and E are something we look forward to, and yes, we don’t want E to really lose because that means Vince loses, but damn it’s wonderful to watch him squirm.
Turtle Gives The Average Dude Hope
We all love Turtle (Jerry Ferrara), but truth be told, in real life dudes like Turtle don’t always have the kind of luck he has. Sure, he struggles with it for the first few seasons, but then suddenly he owns a mega-successful business, is dating Jamie Lynn Sigler and fending off hot college coeds. He’s a regular Joe living the dream alongside his movie star compadre. You thought Kevin James was a lucky bastard on King of Queens? Turtle crushes that victory into tiny smithereens.
Ari’s Filthy, Filthy Mouth
Sure, Ari Gold (Jeremy Piven) makes comments about sexual conduct you might have thought weren't humanly possible. Sure, he’s so graphic sometimes his speeches would probably be more at home on Skinemax than HBO. Sure, he’s the most insensitive, offensive person to ever garner even a shred of our sympathy on national television. But no matter how uncomfortable he makes you, there is always something entirely appealing about his terrible, terrible personality. There’s something about Piven’s most famous character that makes you cheer him on and wish you had the cahones to say the despicable things he says. That mystical, inexplicable force is just one small piece of the puzzle that forces us to keep watching even when the story begins to suffer.
Feeling Like a Hollywood Insider
The most universal draw for the HBO series is probably the feeling of being on the inside of the Hollywood machine. We see the backhanded deals that go on behind the scenes of giant blockbuster movies. We watch Jeffrey Tambor beg and plead with Ari to get five seconds of his attention. We see Vince party with Jessica Alba. We watch Johnny Drama lose miserably against Tom Brady and Mark Wahlberg in a charity golf tournament. We see Matt Damon hounding Vin for a check for his charity. Despite its many misgivings, Entourage does give us a pseudo-look into the world we all secretly want to be a part of.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
On Emmy night the only place filled with more glittery winged statuettes than the trophy room at the ceremony was HBO’s annual after party, thanks to a series of sweeping victories – 26 in all – by the pay cable network’s programming, including the miniseies John Adams, the telepic Recount, the drama In Treatment and the comedy Entourage.
West Hollywood’s Pacific Design Center served as the epicenter for HBO’s bash, converted into a swanky, sprawling blue-green Brazillian-themed party palace as a sea of stretch limos deposited an increasingly starry contingent of Emmy-toting actors, writers, directors and producers, as well a dozens of famous faces from film and television.
Appropriately for a glitzy blowout filled with free-flowing champagne and low-cut gowns, the gang from Entourage led the party pack: Adrian Grenier greeted In Treatment star Gabriel Byrne at the door and congratulated him on his Emmy victory effusively, along with Curb Your Enthusiasm’s Ted Danson and Mary Steenburgen; Kevin Dillon and Jerry Ferrara huddled up with the show’s upcoming guest star Jamie-Lynn Sigler, the only member of The Sopranos family on hand; Kevin Connelly belied up to the bar alongside Stacy Keibler; and dapper Jeremy Piven worked the room with a stogie in one hand and an Emmy in the other before DJ RAVIDRUMS invited him to the platform high above the dance floor to play the drums for an appreciative crowd of stars that included the show’s sexiest guests, Emmanuelle Chriqui, Malin Akerman and Carla Gugino who swayed to the Piv’s beat.
The octogenarian “Mr. Warmth” himself, Don Rickles, held court at a table by the door alongside his shiny Emmy, circled by a crowd filled with HBO’s comedy superstars Larry David, Bill Maher, Cynthia Nixon, Jeff Garlin and Flight of the Conchords' Jemaine Clement and Brett McKenzie. Baby mama Amy Poehler parked her pregnant frame in a nook near the outdoor patio overlooking a specially created candlelit “pond” while hubby Will Arnett fetched food for her.
John Adams executive producer Tom Hanks and his wife Rita Wilson cruised in with the latest addition to his already impressive trophy mantle, and Hanks told Hollywood.com that even with his abundance of awards each honor had special significance to him. Looking at each honor, “you go back and remember all of the people that were working on it with you,” Hanks said.
The Hanks fam slipped out early, just missing the miniseries’ Emmy-winning stars Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney, and as the night wore on the celebrity wattage only increased, with appearances by Jamie Foxx, Kevin Spacey, Teri Hatcher, Felicity Huffman, Michael C Hall, Susan Sarandon and Tim Robbins, Tina Fey, Denis Leary, Mary-Louise Parker, John Krasinski, Hayden Panettiere, Sally Field and Lost-ies Daniel Dae Kim, Harold Perrineau, Jr. and Michael Emerson.
The party raged on into the wee hours – even Los Angeles Mayor Antonio Villaragosa took a turn on the drums! – and even after spending hours squeezed into her Christian Laboutin shoes all day, Kate Walsh danced the night away as long as she could. “I’ve gotta work tomorrow,” she lamented, “but not too early.”
Former Sopranos actress Jamie-Lynn Sigler is set to make her return to television with a guest spot on hit show Entourage.
The star has signed up to join cast members Adrian Grenier, Kevin Dillon, Kevin Connolly and Jeremy Piven on screen for three episodes of the HBO comedy series' fifth season, which is set to premiere in September.
Sigler will play herself and a potential love interest for one of the show's stars, according to E! Online reports.
Former guest stars of the show include actress Jessica Alba and Academy Award-winning director James Cameron.
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