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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Universal via Everett Collection
Lone Survivor isn't a film for the faint of heart. It's a film that beats you down and only lets you up for a few precious moments before the credits roll, but that emotional throttling is what helps make the film such a powerful experience.
Peter Berg's Lone Survivor tells the story of Operation Red Wings, primarily focusing on a group of four Navy SEALs who are sent to the mountains of Afganistan to capture or kill a member of the Taliban. The plan goes wrong, and the team has to fight for their lives to escape the enemy-infested area. The film does a marvelous job of ratcheting up the tension before collapsing into its main action sequence, one that is as thrilling as it is unsettling. The long sequence brings forth memories of the infamous D-Day opening of Saving Private Ryan, except this film's fire-fight stretches out the violence like a medieval torture device. The langourous scene is, at times, hard to sit through. Each moment slips by in coiled tension. It's undoubtedly uncomfortable, and the film makes a point to never make the violence fun or enticing. The action isn't consequence-free, and every bullet fired carries weight, making the scenes brutal and unrelenting because of it. The film takes on the aura of a horror movie that wants you to feel every second that ticks by, and director Berg makes sure that a pressing hopelessness starts to weigh on the viewer just as it does on the soldiers.
Mark Wahlberg is plenty capable as Marcus Lutrell, a member of the SEAL unit that is sent on the mission. The supporting cast plays its parts admirably by believably infusing a diverse set of personalities and values into the soldiers, while still keeping them in tune with the same military culture that governs much of their thoughts and actions. There's a great scene where a difficult decision has to be made, and the viewer gets to see the different directions to which some of the character's moral compasses are tuned. Sometimes the right thing can mean different things to different people when the risk of death is on the table. The real standout in the cast is Ben Foster, whose SO2 Matthew Alexson swirls with barely contained fury. He is darkly intense and has electric screen presence that really starts to manifest when the bullets star flying and things become dire.
Universal via Everett Collection
For all the good will that the film builds up in its first and second act, the final third of the film hits some snags as history demands that the story take itself to a different location, sacrificing some of the tension that it has built up. In the last 30 minutes of the film, there are some odd tonal choices that don't gel with the tension brimming in the first half. A comedic scene involving a language barrier stands out in particular.
The movie makes a point to steer clear of any political judgment, and it doesn't try to lay blame for the botched mission on any one head. And while the film never outwardly states and opinion on the conflicts that America found itself embroiled in during this time period, the searing brutality depicted in the movie highlight that no one should be subjected to the pain that these men were faced with. Made abundantly clear is the soldiers' willingness to drop everything and serve their country the best way they know how. Lone Survivor tries to honor the soldier, but not glorify war.
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Lone Survivor is at its best when it makes you feel the worst. It gives soldiers their due reverence by showcasing the true terror of the battlefield, and while the film does start to sag a bit in its third act, it's still more than worth the experience in order understand the consequences of war, and its toll on the people in the trenches.
It’s threesome week on text DWTS! Heh, heh… but actually. This week, to fill a timeslot that’s roughly two hours longer than it needs to be, the celebs and their dancing dates performed two dances, one as a tribute to U.S. military veterans (aww) and the other a Latin trio. I’m sure how patriotic that is, exactly, but let’s go with it.
First off, the tribute performances.
Shawn & Derek
The dynamic duo performed a Viennese waltz to Sarah McLachlan’s “Angel.” I get that the wardrobe people clearly wanted us to see Shawn as an angel, given the white dress and all, but really, even Shawn Johnson, America’s Sweetheart™, doesn’t look angelic in that deep of a neckline. Derek, on the other hand, looked like my dream soldier. Marry me?
Carrie Ann: 10
Apolo & Karina
Once again, Apolo showcased his love of literally throwing Karina around in the air. Granted, his zipline entrance was pretty incredible, but his outfit (a military vest with no shirt underneath) ruined the mood. Honestly, is that even comfortable? I found myself more concerned about his risk of chafing than his actual performance. No regrets.
Carrie Ann: 10
Kirstie & Maks
I have to hand it to Kirstie – I actually almost enjoyed this dance. Kirstie was pretty good, and even vaguely graceful. Of course, this being Kirstie, you know she always finds some way to ruin the magic, and today, the culprit was her atrocious hat. I can picture the backstage scene now: someone definitely pinned that hat to her head and went, “Oh, how jaunty! This is perfect.” To that person, I say: you are wrong. So, so terribly wrong.
Carrie Ann: 9
Kelly & Val
I’d like to take a moment to stop complaining about the wardrobe department and instead focus on the stage crew. Someone in the staff seems to have decided that a smoke machine is essential to DWTS’ success. It’s not. It’s distracting. Half of Kelly’s performance was obscured by smoke. I couldn’t even tell whether she and Val made out at the end of their routine. Oh, who am I kidding? They totally did.
Carrie Ann: 9.5
Gilles & Peta
Are you sitting down? This is the biggest DWTS news all season. Don’t say I didn’t warn you. Are you ready? PETA WORE A FULL BODY JUMPSUIT. As in, she didn’t take it off halfway through the dance, she didn’t wear a nude-colored ensemble that made her look naked, and she didn’t have any fringe. Just a full-on jumpsuit. Has she ever worn this many clothes at once? I’ve never been prouder.
Carrie Ann: 9.5
Emmitt & Cheryl
Approximately how many emus did the wardrobe department have to kill to put Cheryl in that gown? My money’s on at least four. I hope she isn’t ticklish, otherwise that must have been absolute torture. As for Emmitt, he consistently has the classiest outfits of any male dancer, but that doesn’t make up for the fact that he really doesn’t do much on the dance floor. America, I ask you: you chose this man over Sabrina Bryan?
Carrie Ann: 9
Melissa & Tony
Hey, wardrobe department? Yeah, sorry about everything I said before. Melissa and Tony’s Motherboy XXX costumes make up for all of your past mistakes – and more. I was physically incapable of watching this performance without imagining George Michael Bluth in a sailor costume, and that’s totally fine with me. The costume team, like the actual dancers, gets a perfect 10.
Carrie Ann: 10
The second half of the evening was devoted to the threesomes. No, I will never not think that’s funny. And neither will Bruno – he was loving the awkward sexual comments.
Shawn, Derek & Mark BallasThis tribal trio might literally be the scariest thing I’ve seen on DWTS – and remember, I’ve watched every dance Kirstie Alley has ever done. Granted, the tribal-inspired routine was really well done and intense, but it was also really creepy, and there is nothing weirder than seeing Derek and Mark pelvic thrust in coordinated time.
Carrie Ann: 10
Apolo, Karina, & Sasha Farber
It must have been hard for Apolo to dance in perfect coordination to Sasha, since they just aren’t at the same skill level. But he held his own, and for once in my life, I wasn’t horrified by his outfit, his hair, or his dancing. So that makes this a winning performance in my book. If only he’d lose the soul patch.
Carrie Ann: 10
Kirstie, Maks & Tristan McManus
Remember when I said Kirstie was almost good in the last dance? That was before she performed to seventh-grade-goth favorite “My Immortal” by Evanescence. Did I mention that all three dancers were wearing feathery wings? Wardrobe department, stop killing birds. Please.
Carrie Ann: 8
Kelly, Val & Louis Van Amstel
There was no smoke machine this time, meaning we didn’t have to guess about Kelly and Val making out (they did). I can’t help but wonder how tense rehearsals must have been with the three of them, given that the partners probably spend half their time canoodling in a dark corner of the studio. Poor Louis.
Carrie Ann: 9.5
Gilles, Peta and Chelsie Hightower
No one panic. Peta has returned to her normal almost-naked state, donning a truly horrific Vegas showgirl outfit for the evening’s second number. Gilles, too, was back in natural form, with a deep-V neck shirt and a whole lot of shimmying. I’m just glad to see everything is back to normal – I was worried for a minute.
Carrie Ann: 9.5
Emmitt, Cheryl and Kym Johnson
Is anyone else starting to get suspicious that Emmitt can’t actually dance? After carefully watching and re-watching his dances every week, I’ve come to the conclusion that his only saving grace is his (truly stunning) hip swivels. Other than that, though, he really doesn’t do much on the dance floor.
Carrie Ann: 10
Melissa, Tony, and Henry Byalikov
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: Melissa is so good she shouldn’t be in this competition. It’s just not fair. Even her trashy Moulin Rouge-inspired costume and the inexplicable scream she let out halfway through her performance can’t take away from the fact that she, more than anyone else, has been consistently solid throughout the whole season.
Carrie Ann: 10
Since there wasn’t an elimination last week (thanks, election!), tomorrow’s show will feature a double elimination. Who will go home? Who will stay? We’ll just have to wait and see… but seriously, don’t let me down, America.
[Image Credit: WENN]
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If Dancing With the Stars has taught us anything from the previous week it's that this competition is anybody's game. And while that's exciting to watch, let alone be a part of, it also means that everyone is at risk of going home.
So for Latin Night, the couples kicked things up a notch and got muy caliente out on the dance floor. If their confidence levels were shaken from their overall dip in scores (and spike in injuries), you wouldn't know it; based on this steamy round of performances, which consisted of either the Salsa, Argentine Tango, or the Samba, these guys were ready to get down and dirty with their sexy selves.
To make this night even a little spicier, the show higher-ups added a twist to April 17's results show. The couples who receive the two lowest scores of the week will go head-to-head in front of the judges in a dance duel — and it will be the judges who will make the final decision as to who goes home. Since this amazing group of contestants appear to be back and better than ever, it's going to be a very hard decision to make.
Check out the scores below (from highest to lowest) and see if you agree with the scoreboard this week:
Katherine Jenkins and Mark Ballas
Score: 29 out of 30
William Levy and Cheryl Burke
Argentine Tango: "Buttons" by Pussycat Dolls
Score: 29 out of 30
Donald Driver and Peta Murgatroyd
Score: 27 out of 30
Maria Menounos and Derek Hough
Salsa: "The Cup of Life" by Ricky Martin
Score: 27 out of 30
Roshon Fegan and Chelsea Hightower
Salsa: "Bumpy Ride" by Mohombi
Score: 26 out of 30
Jaleel White and Kym Johnson
Samba: "Rhythm Is Going To Get You" by Gloria Estefan
Score: 24 out of 30
Gladys Knight and Tristan MacManus
Score: 22 out of 30
Melissa Gilbert and Maksim Chmerkovskiy
Score: 21 out of 30
Gavin DeGraw and Karina Smirnoff
Samba: "Sweetheart From Venezuela" by Harry Belafonte
Score: 19 out of 30
What did you think of tonight's set of sizzling hot performances? Who stands the biggest threat of going home Tuesday night amid all this mucho talent? Sound off in the comments below!
Follow Kelly on Twitter @KellyBean0415
Check back tomorrow night to find out who gets eliminated. Dancing With the Stars' result show airs Tuesday nights at 9 p.m. (ET/PT) on ABC.
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S14E1: Are you ready for Len's surly demeanor, Bruno's inappropriate quips, and an array of hot men taking their shirts off with some fancy footwork thrown in between? If so, then you're in luck because Dancing With the Stars is back for its 14th season. And now that we've already predicted the type of dancer each of these stars could potentially be, it's time to officially see them strut their stuff.
For the first week, half of the couples are selected to perform the Cha-Cha, while the other half must perform the Fox Trot. And since there's no fear for elimination this time, the pressure is slightly off. However, next week the couples will perform yet another dance routine consisting of either the quick step or jive. And while this will allow the audience a chance to become more familiar with each contestant's dancing range, it also means votes will matter more than ever because everyone will be at risk of being sent home. And trust me, with a group like this, you don't want anyone heading home prematurely.
As each couple enjoyed its first night on the dance floor we ranked each performance from best to worst (though worst is a very loose term with a talented group like this).
Classical singer Katherine Jenkins danced the fox trot with her partner Mark Ballas and she was a vision of pure beauty and elegance. The routine was well-rehearsed and she has a natural grace about her, making her light on her feet. Couple that with the fact that she's simply adorable, and she can easily become America's sweetheart in no time. And the judges had nothing but nice things to say about both her and her performance. Len thought she showed great movement and musicality, while Carrie Ann remarked that she could have easily passed as one of the professional dancers. All in all, she did an amazing job and earned her the highest score of the night with a 26 out of 30 -- an incredible score for week one.
TV star Jaleel White (better known for his role as Steve Urkel on Family Matters) performed the fox trot with his dance partner Kym Johnson and there was nothing clumsy or geeky about it. His posture was beautiful, providing a perfect frame for his partner to fit into. And I can't believe I'm about to say this, but there was something very suave about his overall demeanor. No trace of Urkel was out on that dance floor -- he was smooth and sophisticated; he completely owned it. The judges loved it and could not get over just how incredible this group of stars really is (really, this fact can not be stressed enough). The duo were awarded 26 points, tying Jenkins for first place.
Actor William Levy danced the cha-cha with Cheryl Burke and wow, can that man shake his hips. The intro package said the duo had to work on their dance routine a week later than everyone else due to his hectic work schedule, but you wouldn't know it from looking at them. He had a natural fluidity in his movements and shared a great deal of chemistry with Cheryl. The two of them positively wreaked of sex appeal, which sent the crowd into a feeding frenzy; he'll have the ladies swooning for weeks to come. Understandably, the judges loved it, however Bruno had one simple critique: for William to wear less clothing. And we must concur. They were awarded with a well deserved 24 points.
Disney star Roshon Fegan danced what was probably the most exciting cha-cha anyone has ever seen. Though his partner Chelsea Hightower is the professional dancer, Roshon seemed almost equally matched in skill. As Bruno stated, his moves were "laser sharp" and his spot on footwork was amazing, even reminiscent of the late Michael Jackson. Of course Len, who's a stickler for rules, thought it lacked technique, however, he was the only one who could find any complaints. The rest of the crowd absolutely loved it, earning him 23 points out of 30.
Entertainment reporter Maria Menounos was the first one to hit the dance floor, performing the cha-cha with her dance partner Derek Hough and she completely nailed it. Her movements were graceful, her timing was sharp, and although she still needs to tighten up the fluidity of her movements, it was very impressive for the first week. And the judges concurred, unanimously calling it a great way to start the season and they gave 7s all around, earning the couple a respectable 21 out of 30 points.
Actor and singer Jack Wagner danced a well-rehearsed fox trot with his partner Anna Trebunskaya. While you could tell he was a bit hesitant in some of his movements, he did a remarkable job overall, considering this particular dance takes a lot of quick steps to get through. His timing was great and he kept up easily with his dance partner. And though Len warned him to work on his posture and his technique, the judges were very pleased with the feel of the performance and awarded the couple 23 points out of 30.
TV personality Sherri Shepherd danced the fox trot with her partner Val Chermkovskiy and it can only be summed up in one word: fun. She was obviously having an absolutely great time and she lit up the dance floor. Her movements were elegant, her timing was great, and she was just a pleasure to watch. It really can't be stressed enough just how incredible everyone was. There really wasn't a weak link all night and the judges' scores reflect it. Sherri and Val earned a 23 out of 30.
Green Bay Packers star Donald Driver showed magnificent presence as he took on the cha-cha with his partner Peta Murgatroyd. This is a guy you can tell will have no problem charming the audience week after week. He brimmed with confidence and was surprisingly light on his feet, accomplishing some pretty fancy footwork along the way. But even though his performance contained a surplus of personality, the judges warned him to not go overboard. Sometimes he got so into the music that he lost timing with his partner, which could cost him points in the future. However, for now they all enjoyed his undeniable charisma, earning him 21 points for the night.
Well known singer Gavin DeGraw attempted the fox trot with his partner Karina Smirnoff. And while his performance wasn't one of the best, it wasn't all that bad. This is actually a really impressive group of dancers, so it's hard to come down hard on any of these guys, but Degraw was definitely stiff in his movements and lacked a bit of musicality. Granted, there were moments where he got really into it and let the music flow through him, but it's clear dancing doesn't come easily to him. He'll have to work on it moreso than some of the others. But given all that Degraw was able to accomplish in the first week, he did extremely well and shouldn't be ruled out just yet. The judges awarded them 20 points total.
Singing legend Gladys Knight performed the cha-cha with her partner Tristan MacManus and proved that age knows no bounds. Though her footwork could definitely use some improvement, she can move incredibly well for her age. In fact, some of her moves were so sharp and onpoint that you'd never suspect she was 67 years old. Unsurprisingly, the crowd loved her and so did the judges, commending her on her natural musicality. The pair earned 23 out of 30 points for the night. This is definitely going to be a difficult voting season since the talent is so high.
Little House on the Prairie star Melissa Gilbert performed the cha-cha with Maksim Chmerkovskiy. And while parts of the dance routine were semi-sloppy, it's important to note that it was an incredibly difficult dance number. The music was fast, there were a lot of complicated steps, and she actually did a remarkable job of keeping up with it all, even if it didn't look as sharp as it should (though Mak having his shirt open definitely helped steal focus). But the judges commended her for sticking with it and said that they expect great things from her in the future. The duo were awarded 20 out of 30 points.
Tennis player Martina Navratilova took on the fox trot with her dance partner Tony Dovolani. She definitely seemed the most uncomfortable of the bunch out on the dance floor, constantly looking to Tony for reassurance. But given the fact that her area of expertise lies on the tennis court and not the ballroom, she did a decent enough job for her first performance. Len thought she played it a little too safe with the routine and thought she needed to improve on her footwork. However, her posture and appearance were simply lovely, earning the pair 20 out of 30 for their first set of scores.
Were you impressed with the overall talent each contestant showed? What was your favorite performance of the night? Sound off in the comments below or get at me on Twitter @KellyBean0415.