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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David Mitchell's novel Cloud Atlas consists of six stories set in various periods between 1850 and a time far into Earth's post-apocalyptic future. Each segment lives on its own the previous first person account picked up and read by a character in its successor creating connective tissue between each moment in time. The various stories remain intact for Tom Tykwer's (Run Lola Run) Lana Wachowski's and Andy Wachowski's (The Matrix) film adaptation which debuted at the Toronto International Film Festival. The massive change comes from the interweaving of the book's parts into one three-hour saga — a move that elevates the material and transforms Cloud Atlas in to a work of epic proportions.
Don't be turned off by the runtime — Cloud Atlas moves at lightning pace as it cuts back and forth between its various threads: an American notary sailing the Pacific; a budding musician tasked with transcribing the hummings of an accomplished 1930's composer; a '70s-era investigatory journalist who uncovers a nefarious plot tied to the local nuclear power plant; a book publisher in 2012 who goes on the run from gangsters only to be incarcerated in a nursing home; Sonmi~451 a clone in Neo Seoul who takes on the oppressive government that enslaves her; and a primitive human from the future who teams with one of the few remaining technologically-advanced Earthlings in order to survive. Dense but so was the unfamiliar world of The Matrix. Cloud Atlas has more moving parts than the Wachowskis' seminal sci-fi flick but with additional ambition to boot. Every second is a sight to behold.
The members of the directing trio are known for their visual prowess but Cloud Atlas is a movie about juxtaposition. The art of editing is normally a seamless one — unless someone is really into the craft the cutting of a film is rarely a post-viewing talking point — but Cloud Atlas turns the editor into one of the cast members an obvious player who ties the film together with brilliant cross-cutting and overlapping dialogue. Timothy Cavendish the elderly publisher could be musing on his need to escape and the film will wander to the events of Sonmi~451 or the tortured music apprentice Robert Frobisher also feeling the impulse to run. The details of each world seep into one another but the real joy comes from watching each carefully selected scene fall into place. You never feel lost in Cloud Atlas even when Tykwer and the Wachowskis have infused three action sequences — a gritty car chase in the '70s a kinetic chase through Neo Seoul and a foot race through the forests of future millennia — into one extended set piece. This is a unified film with distinct parts echoing the themes of human interconnectivity.
The biggest treat is watching Cloud Atlas' ensemble tackle the diverse array of characters sprinkled into the stories. No film in recent memory has afforded a cast this type of opportunity yet another form of juxtaposition that wows. Within a few seconds Tom Hanks will go from near-neanderthal to British gangster to wily 19th century doctor. Halle Berry Hugh Grant Jim Sturgess Jim Broadbent Ben Whishaw Hugo Weaving and Susan Sarandon play the same game taking on roles of different sexes races and the like. (Weaving as an evil nurse returning to his Priscilla Queen of the Desert cross-dressing roots is mind-blowing.) The cast's dedication to inhabiting their roles on every level helps us quickly understand the worlds. We know it's Halle Berry behind the fair skinned wife of the lunatic composer but she's never playing Halle Berry. Even when the actors are playing variations on themselves they're glowing with the film's overall epic feel. Jim Broadbent's wickedly funny modern segment a Tykwer creation that packs a particularly German sense of humor is on a smaller scale than the rest of the film but the actor never dials it down. Every story character and scene in Cloud Atlas commits to a style. That diversity keeps the swirling maelstrom of a movie in check.
Cloud Atlas poses big questions without losing track of its human element the characters at the heart of each story. A slower moment or two may have helped the Wachowskis' and Tykwer's film to hit a powerful emotional chord but the finished product still proves mainstream movies can ask questions while laying over explosive action scenes. This year there won't be a bigger movie in terms of scope in terms of ideas and in terms of heart than Cloud Atlas.
Wow. I'm just...numb. This week's episode of Glee has left me with the following: swollen red eyes, a tissue-filled apartment, a strong desire for chocolate, and an overwhelming feeling of dread in my heart. "The Break Up" should really have been called "The Break Ups" because more than one of our favorite couples was ripped apart in a mere 47 minutes. So which relationships are done and who still has a chance to survive? Read on for the answers, and everything else you may have missed. But please be warned, this recap should be accompanied with your favorite stuffed animal, comfort food, and a large glass of wine for those of you over 21.
Finchel:It’s the morning after Finn (Cory Monteith) showed up in NYC and Rachel (Lea Michele) looks exhausted. “We didn’t do anything, he didn’t even talk to me we just laid there,” she tells Kurt. While making breakfast Rachel asks Finn everything that we’re dying to know: “Why are you here and why aren’t you in your uniform?” Finn explains that he was in the army for 16 days but when he was cleaning “Rachel” he accidently shot himself in the thigh. (Side Note: Aww he named his gun after her! That’s both sweet and slightly odd.) Finn was released from the Army (with “semi-honorable” discharge) and he tells Rachel that he was too embarrassed to tell her about his accident. (Side-Note: Okay, that's understandable.) Rachel is beyond supportive and tells Finn that she will help him find a new dream for him in New York. She invites Finn to attend all of her NYADA classes with her in hopes of inspiring him with a new plan for the future. “I love it here but something has always been missing. I let you go once and I’m not going to let it happen again,” She tells him. (Side-Note: My heart just exploded with happiness! The Finchel we all know and love is back and all is right in the world.)
After sitting through a few classes, Finn decides that NYADA is not the place for him. “I used to be the man of her dreams, but now we’re not even in the same world” he thinks to himself. He and Blaine sing a long distance duet (“Barely Breathing” by Duncan Sheik) and immediately fans everywhere pass out from excitement as we hear Finn sing for the first time in season four. (Side-Note: This is where I apologize for crushing on Brody. Sorry!) Later that night at the NYADA bar “Callbacks” we see the first Finn versus Brody (Dean Geyer) interaction, and it ain’t pretty. Rachel tells Brody that she’s dying to sing Demi Lavato’s “Give Your Heart a Break” and Finn, in an alpha-dog move, suggests that Rachel and Brody perform it together. Their duet is wonderful, but Finn can sense that there is something that Rachel hasn’t told him. (Side-Note: Finn’s eyes while he’s watching the duet is making my stomach tie into knots. He totally knows you guys!)
Sure enough, on the walk home Finn asks Rachel what has been going on with Brody. She explains, “I couldn’t get in touch with you okay? You weren’t answering my calls or my text messages. I didn’t know where you were or even if you were okay… I kissed him.” After singing an amazingly powerful version of No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” with Blaine and Kurt, Finn and Rachel go to bed angry. (Side-note: That song. Wow.) The next morning, Finn wakes up at dawn in hopes of sneaking out of the apartment, but instead he runs into Kurt in the living room. Kurt asks if he wants to leave a message for Rachel, but Finn who is clearly crushed just says, “No.”
Later over in Mr. Schue’s office, Finn walks in an it’s obvious that he’s not there for a fun little visit. Finn breaks down in front of his former teacher and begins to cry. (Side-Note: Oh my gosh. I think I'm dying. I want to run into my TV screen and comfort him!) In the choir room, Finn receives a warm welcome from everyone in the New Directions, well almost everyone. In one of the only cute moment in the episode, Jake whispers “Do you know who that is?” and Marley shakes her head no. The glee club is trying to decide which musical to do this year and Finn brilliantly suggest Grease. The idea is a hit and Finn gets a much-needed confidence boost.
While Finn looks over sheet music in the auditorium, Rachel appears and reminds him that this is where he proposed to her, where they had their first date and where they first met. Rachel angrily says that because Finn refused to answer the phone or text her back she had to get on a plane to and come back to Lima to find him. Finn explains that he needed time to think to which Rachel snaps “You not telling my where you were for four months and sneaking out before sunrise and not saying goodbye, that is not being a man Finn!” The conversation quickly turns ugly as Finn brings up Brody and the fact that he feels like he has no purpose in life. Rachel says that no matter how successful she becomes in New York she is always going to be that girl who fell for him the first day in Glee club. “You were my first love, and I want more than anything for you to be my last, but I can’t do this anymore at least not now. We’re done.” The two share a final kiss and Rachel leaves.
Wemma: In their apartment, Will (Matthew Morrison) excitedly hands Emma (Jayma Mays) a letter and asks his fiancé to open it. It’s from the Blue Ribbon Panel and Will has been asked to be apart of it in to improve arts in education. Although Emma is thrilled, (“Oh my goodness Mr. Schuster goes to Washington!”) her excitement quickly fades after Wills next questions: “What would say about Miss. Pillsbury also going to Washington?” (Side-Note: It would have been way cuter if he had called her "The Future Mrs. Schuester." Right?!) Will asks Emma to give up her job and to move with him while he pursues his dreams. Although he sweetly says that he loves her, Will cannot understand why Emma does not want to leave her job, and more importantly the kids at McKinley, “I don’t think what I'm asking is so crazy, I thought you’d be excited.” To which Emma retorts, “You thought I’d just pop the champagne and follow you around like an obedient little puppy dog? Is that really all you think of me Will?” Emma storms off and Will is left alone in the apartment.
Jarley: When the episode begins we see Marley (Melissa Benoist) quickly try to hid something in her pocket, as Jake (Jacob Artist) sits down next to her. Jake immediately knows what they are: Free lunch tickets. “It sucks being poor” he says after showing Marley that he has the same tickets. Jake then reveals two secrets to Marley: 1.) His mom lost her job and now she’s “the only black waitress working at the Lima Country Club. 2.) He takes dance lessons. Marley begins to realize that she and Jake have a lot more in common then she could ever imagine. The two enjoy a sweet lunch together filled with giggles and flirty eyes. (Side-Note: I'm sorry but they're just too cute)
In a very Quinn-esque move, Kitty (Becca Tobin) corners Marley in the hallway and after calling her “boob-less” she extends and invitation to the McKinley highs newest Christian club. “The Left Behind club accepts everyone, even losers and lezies so your whole glee club is invited.” At the meeting (conveniently located at Breadsticks) Kitty stages a fake rapture to trick a student into believing the the rapture has happened. (Side-Note: Watching that poor girl rock back and forth in the fetal position was so sad!) Marley decides to leave saying, “I just really don’t like that Kitty girl and I can’t believe that you do.” The next day at school Jake explains that the reason that he is dating Kitty is because he is too scared of everyone in school judging him. He’d rather have a cool Cheerio on his arm then face the ridicule that comes from being Puck’s poor little brother. Kitty then pops up out of nowhere and digs her verbal claws deep into Marley, “I heard they’re opening up a new Ronald McDonald house in Lima just for you and your finger-licking, lard-loving, Gilbert Grape-looking mama.” (Side-Note: Becca Tobin in real life is one of the sweetest people you'll ever meet) After telling her to knock it off, Jake says to Kitty, “We’re done” and the sweet smile on Marley’s face is priceless. She then invites Jake to look over the sheet music for Grease but Jake abruptly says he has to leave and Marley is alone in the hallway wonder what just happened.
NEXT: Klaine, Brittana, The Final Five, and Shipper Status!
Klaine: While walking down the McKinley halls, Blaine (Darren Criss) gets a call from his beloved and the bowtie-less senior pours his heart out over the phone saying, “I really miss you, a lot. I miss hugging you and kissing you. I miss messing around with you…” Unfortunately, Kurt’s (Chris Colfer) job has him crazed. The call was a super quick one and Kurt hangs without saying “I love you.” While singing a long distance duet with Finn, (“Barely Breathing” by Duncan Sheik) we see that Blaine is getting some much needed attention—but from another guy! Blaine is Facebook flirting with someone named “Eli. C." This mystery man calls Blaine “sexy “ and then invites him over. After contemplating for about five seconds, we see Blaine leave the choir room. (Side-note: No no no Blaine! NO! Seriously Ryan Murphy? What have you done?!)
Over in New York, Kurt is getting ready for a night out with Finn and Rachel and once again there is a knock on the door. Blaine surprises Kurt with what looks like 6 million roses and a spontaneous visit to NYC. After a quick but amazing kiss (Side-Note: Squeee! That’s all I wanted to see.) the foursome heads off the NYADA piano bar Callbacks. At the bar, Blaine seems troubled but says he’s just tired from the flight. After Rachel and Brody’s duet, Blaine decides to dedicate a song to Kurt, “I want to sing a some that is very special to me. This is the song that I sang the first time I ever met the love of my life.” (Side-Note: This is one of the most beautiful songs I have I ever heard in my entire 23 years of life.) It’s a stripped down, piano version of Katy Perry’s “Teenage Dream” and the raw emotion on Blaine’s face is incredible as he tries to hold back his tears. (Side-Note: Now’s the time that I should tell you all something really important. I’ve had a raging crush on Darren Criss for the past three years and when I first interviewed him, I totally and completely blacked out.)
On the walk home Kurt asks Blaine to tell him what’s really wrong. Blaine stops and utters the four words that reveals the truth, “I was with someone.” He quickly explains, “It didn’t mean anything it was just a hook up.” (Side-Note: I hate the term “hook up.” What the hell does that even mean?) Kurt, automatically assuming it’s Sebastian, demands to know who was it, but Blaine refuses to name names and instead tells Kurt that it was his abandonment that caused him to stray. Kurt angrily responds that he’s also been lonely and had temptations, but he never acted on them. After singing an amazingly powerful version of No Doubt’s “Don’t Speak” with Finn and Rachel, Blaine and Kurt when to bed angry. The next morning Kurt tells Finn, “I kind of feel like I’m going to die.” And later in the choir room after Finn returns to Lima, Blaine says he regrets what he did, “There no excuse. He won’t talk to me, I don’t even know if we’re broken up.” Blaine decides to send Kurt a beautiful bouquet of red and yellow flowers to the Vogue.com office with a note attached begging for his forgiveness. (Side-Note: Did anyone else notice that Blaine sent the exact same flowers that Kurt once gave him? These ones!) “I’m okay. I’ll be okay” he tells his Vogue college while throwing the note from Blaine in the trash.
Brittana: Santana (Naya Rivera) is back! And what’s her first order of business? Using her snark to vent about Kurt’s new (and yes slightly farfetched) internship at Vogue.com. (Side-Note: You know we all were thinking it, but it was amazing to hear Santana say it out loud in one of her attack rants.) Santana and Brittany (Heather Morris) are doing laundry and we soon realize there is a reason for that. Santana explains, “I promised myself that I would only do laundry at home that way no mtter how busy I got I would be forced to come home every few weeks and then get to see you.” Santana smiles at a sleepy Brittany and the two share an oh-so sweet kiss. But wait why is Brit so tired? She was up all night reading super intense Christina books for Kitty’s new “Left-Behind” club (Side-Note: Wait. So, what happened to the Celibacy Club? And couldn’t Kitty find her own thing instead of being a Quinn copycat?)
Later at the Left Behind Club meeting (conveniently located at Breadstix) Santana is not happy to see that Kitty has such a strong influence over Brittany. After a devastating fake rapture, (to trick a student into believing she had been "left behind.") Santana is ready to leave, but Brittany says no. “Being left behind sucks. You don’t get it, you left me behind and it hurt.” (Side-Note: Heather Morris' acting in this episode is truly phenomenal)
The next day in the choir room Santana confesses to Brittany, “Sophomore year I used to sit in this back row and secretly watch you. I counted the number of times you’d smile at me. And I’d die on days that you didn’t.” Santana says that she misses the days when she could use music to say things when words just weren’t enough. She then sings Brittany a beautiful tear-filled version of Taylor Swift’s “Mine” (Side-Note: as the song began I legitimately got chills. And when she changed the lyric from to “She is the best thing that’s ever been mine” I bawled like a baby.) Brittany’s face as the song ends is heartbreaking. The two girls tell each other they would never cheat, but Santana feels that if she can’t fully be there for her girlfriend, then it isn’t fair to be together. She concludes, “You know this isn’t working. You know I will always love you the most.” And after one last sweet lady kiss, Brittany and Santana break up.
The Final Five: This week’s final five was set to Coldplay’s “The Scientist” and it was heart wrenching. Finn, Rachel, Blaine, Kurt, Santana, Brittany, Will and Emma all pour their hearts into to the song and each of the lyrics ring true to what each of the couples are going through. A series of flashbacks begin to play and we’re reminded just how far each of these characters have come: Finn and Rachel’s first date and kiss. Kurt and Blaine running through the halls of Dalton Academy. Santana and Brittany’s longing glances. Will and Emma realizing how much they love each other. When the song ends, Finn is left along on stage and the screens fades to black.
Finchel: Broken Up
Klaine: Undetermined/Not Speaking
Brittana: Broken Up
Wemma: Undertermined/In a Fight
Most Heartwarming Moment: I honestly can’t think of one. Most Heartbreaking Moment: The entire episode.
Kitty Quotables: (The rest were too depressing to list.)
“It’s a fact that the book of Revelations predicted Twitter. It’s one of the seven signs of the Apocalypse along with porn, unexplainable weather anomalies, Martian rovers, Barney Frank, The Middle East and MSNBC.”—Kitty “Okay everyone listen up. Y’all are sinners and you’d better get right with God toots-sweet because Jesus just logged onto Orbitz and booked himself a plane ticket back to earth. See he’s got an awesome dad named God who’s throwing him a bitchin’ party called Armageddon where he’s going to get to kick off his sandals, dance a little bit, and judge the crap out of every body.”—Kitty “You do not want to break up with me, mmk? I’m like a bad Carrie Underwood song once I get going.”—Kitty Vote it out!
&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;a href="http://polldaddy.com/poll/6584596/"&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;What was the best song of the night?&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;lt;/a&amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;amp;gt;How are you feeling Gleeks? What are your predictions for your favorite couples? Who do you think has what it takes to bounce back from tonight's devastating episode? Tell me everything you're feeling in the comments below!
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[Photo Credit: FOX]
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