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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Last week’s episode of Grey’s Anatomy resulted in the shocking resignation of five of Seattle Grace’s finest — Cristina, Meredith, Derek, Arizona, and Callie, to be exact — as part of their big plan to buy the hospital themselves and restore it to its former glory. (Piece of cake, right?) Well, "This Is Why We Fight" centered on the repercussions of that bold decision and showcased just what our dear doctors are up to now that they are unemployed millionaires (at least for the time being). Meanwhile, the rest of the staff (interns included) found themselves contemplating resignations of their own as they discovered just how dire the hospital’s money situation really is. And then there’s Avery, who received quite the shock of his own… Let’s dig in, shall we!
Should I Stay or Should I Go: Word has spread fast about Seattle Grace’s possible closing, which made the staff (or, rather, what’s left of the staff) extremely nervous. Bailey even prepared to go on job interviews, but quickly reconsidered once Owen buttered her up and called her the "Heart of the Hospital." But she wasn’t the only one who had been contemplating greener pastures. Avery’s mother tried persuading him to relocate to Boston with the promise of getting pretty much the carte blanche treatment. Intern Stephanie’s reaction was pretty much the same as mine: NOOO!!! Don’t take those beautiful eyes away! (Okay, so maybe only one of us screamed that out loud.) But the point is that she didn’t want him to go anywhere, and if he did, she was more than willing to follow. (Stage two clinger alert!)
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Jo was also having a hard time coping with the idea of leaving since it would mean seeing much less of Alex , who’s become not only her good friend, but an excellent role model for her as well. (That’s right, Alex is now role model material. Who knew?!) After watching him perform an amazing surgery in which he removed a tumor (named Phil) from a young boy, she broke down crying and confessed, "I don’t want to never see you again," which is just a confusing way of saying that she’d really miss him. Somehow a kiss still doesn’t happen. I’m upset.
Slicing and Dicing: Alana told Owen that she managed to convince Pegasus to follow through on buying the hospital by 8 a.m. the next day. However, she failed to mention that they’re now only interested in buying it for scrap and basically liquidating what remains of Seattle Grace. (B***h move, lady!) Luckily, Intern Heather accidentally overheard Alana discussing the plan to a board member and proceeded to tell everyone about it. Furious at being lied to yet again by another woman he trusted, Owen walked out of surgery to confront Alana. (Side note: I hope real doctors don’t make a habit of walking out of surgeries because that is not cool… or safe, for that matter)
Buy or Bye: Finally we got to the unemployed millionaires (Cristina, Meredith, Derek, Arizona, and Callie), who I’m having a hard time feeling sorry for. Don’t get me wrong — finding yourself jobless is THE WORST. But when you just nicely inherited a whopping $15 million each from a settlement deal, it’s hard to wrestle up much sympathy. If only we could all face such hardships, aimirite? But I digress…
The five docs were busy looking for potential investors to help cover the remaining costs needed to buy Seattle Grace. It wasn’t too much — just an extra $175 million. One buyer — a gazillionaire — was extremely interested, but quickly backtracked after discovering they wanted to run the hospital themselves. And since none of them have much administrative experience, I can kinda see his point. But you know who does have quite a bit of experience — ex-Chief of Surgery, Richard Webber!
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So while Meredith went to recruit Richard, Cristina paid Owen a much-needed visit to explain their plan. He immediately got on board with the idea and even got the board of directors to postpone the sale to Pegasus for one more day, claiming that there was another interested buyer. But alas, it was all for naught. Even after meeting Richard, the potential investor just wasn’t “feeling it” and decided to opt out of the deal, leaving them all back to square one.
Mama Knows Best: But there was still one card yet to be played and I’m surprised no one thought of it right away. After being rejected by the gazillionaire, Richard filled Avery’s mother, Catherine, in on their failed attempt to save Seattle Grace. As soon as she asked, “How much money did you need?” you knew what the solution would be. And sure enough, the next morning Catherine called everyone into an emergency meeting and announced that the Harper Avery Foundation would be happy to invest in Seattle Grace. Their one condition was that they get to choose one seat on the board…. which she declared would be filled by none other than her son, Jackson Avery. "Give your mama a kiss, Jackson. She just bought you a hospital." Oh dear…
So what did you think of this week’s episode? Did you predict Catherine would save the day? Were you surprised about Avery’s promotion? Do you think he deserves to be in charge? Will this become an issue for his fellow docs? Sound off on your dissections and opinions in the comments below!
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[Photo credit: Ron Tom/ABC]
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While the rest of the world has been busy these last few days indulging in delicious, heart-shaped sweets and fantasizing about the perfect Valentine (his name is Ryan Gosling, by the way), the good doctors over at Grey’s Anatomy have been busy contemplating their futures at Seattle Grace. Do they leave their precious hospital to its fate, or should they — as Callie suggested — take matters into their own hands and buy the hospital themselves (you know, with the same money that they just took from said hospital)?
“Hard Bargain” was all about picking a course and sticking with it. It’s fight or flight time and, as you can expect, everyone wanted to put in their two cents on the matter (though they’ll need way more than that if they plan to go through with option B. Let’s dig in!
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The (S)Ex Talk: Things are starting to get a little more serious between April and Matthew these days. So serious, in fact, that Matt suggested going on an actual date instead of just making out inside his ambulance. (But that’s what they’re normally used for, right?) He said he wanted to go “someplace that doesn’t have wheels” together. Someone put that on a Valentine’s Day card, STAT! Of course, in true April form, she freaked out and went to her ex, Avery, for advice about how to tell Matt that she was a virgin… and then wasn’t… and now is again. You know, because that’s not awkward/confusing or anything.
But she needn’t have worried because, guess what, Matt’s a virgin too! Now, his definition of a “virgin” is probably a little different (and, let’s face it, a lot more accurate) than April’s version, given that she has actually had sex… like a lot. But she opted to keep that piece of information to herself, at least for now. I’m sure that won’t come back to bit her in the ass late.
Not Your Average Jo: Jo and Alex found themselves working together once again, this time to save the life of an infant baby who was the result of a one-night stand between two co-workers. This prompted Jo to openly question if office romances are a good idea. (Side note: They are almost never a good idea whether we’re talking about a TV show or real life.) But since Alex has now realized that he harbors actual feelings for Jo (about time, dude!), he told her that they can work out and she should totally go for it. Naturally, we thought she was referring to Alex. Nope! That’d be way too easy. She’s got the hots for some new guy the interns have nicknamed Chest Peckwell. Don’t worry; we’re still rooting for you Alex. I simply refuse to root for anyone with a nickname like that.
RELATED: 'Grey's Anatomy' Recap: The Fate of Seattle Grace Comes to a (Fore)Closure
Calling It Quits: Derek, Meredith, Arizona, Cristina, and Callie continued to weigh the pros and cons of buying Seattle Grace. Both sides had valid points: Arizona wanted to save the money to ensure their daughter’s future, while Callie, Meredith, and Derek were more focused on reclaiming the hospital to its former glory. (Cristina was too busy having sex with Owen to have an opinion at that time.) But they weren’t the only ones facing life-altering decisions.
Bailey’s young cancer patient was in need of an important procedure that could help save his life, but due the hospital’s dire financial problems, her request was denied. Infuriated at the injustice of it all, Bailey advised her patient to seek medical treatment elsewhere and told Arizona that she was thinking of taking her own advice and quitting. (Say it ain’t so, Bailey!) That was all it took, though, to make Arizona change her tune and agree to move forward with the plan.
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Cristina, however, took a little more convincing, especially once she learned that this would all have to be done behind Owen’s back. Apparently, if Owen got wind of their plan, he’d be obligated to tell Pegasus or else face severe punishment — potentially even jail time. (This is why it isn’t a good idea to sleep with your boss… or your ex-husband for that matter. It clouds your judgment.) She eventually got on board with the plan, knowing that it would benefit everyone in the long run, Owen included.
But there wasn’t enough time to get the rest of the money pooled together because the deal was mere minutes away from going down! So the five doctors did the only thing they could do: They all resigned, thus ruining the deal with Pegasus and breaking Owen’s heart. (It’s for the best Hunt, we promise!) Either way, this is bound to put a huge dent in Cristina and Owen’s already messed-up relationship. He even told that awful Alana woman, “You are all that I have now.” Uh oh… I think I see where this is going…
So what did you think of this week’s episode? Did they make the right decision by resigning or was it a huge mistake? Will Cristina and Owen’s relationship be able to survive this? What should they name their management company? Personally, I like Blind Leading the Blind. Sound off on your dissections and opinions in the comments below!
Follow Kelly on Twitter @KellyBean0415
[Photo credit: Ron Tom/ABC]
A kids’ movie without the cheeky jokes for adults is like a big juicy BLT without the B… or the T. Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted may have a title that sounds like it was made up in a cartoon sequel laboratory but when it comes to serving up laughs just think of the film as a BLT with enough extra bacon to satisfy even the wildest of animals — or even a parent with a gaggle of tots in tow. Yes even with that whole "Afro Circus" nonsense.
It’s not often that we find exhaustively franchised films like the Madagascar set that still work after almost seven years. Despite being spun off into TV shows and Christmas specials in addition to its big screen adventures the series has not only maintained its momentum it has maintained the part we were pleasantly surprised by the first time around: great jokes.
In this third installment of the series – the trilogy-maker if you will – directing duo Eric Darnell and Tom McGrath add Conrad Vernon (director Monsters Vs. Aliens) to the helm as our trusty gang swings back into action. Alex the lion (Ben Stiller) Marty the zebra (Chris Rock) Gloria the hippo (Jada Pinkett Smith) and Melman the giraffe (David Schwimmer) are stuck in Africa after the hullaballoo of Madagascar 2 and they’ll do anything to get back to their beloved New York. Just a hop skip and a jump away in Monte Carlo the penguins are doing their usual greedy schtick but the zoo animals catch up with them just in time to catch the eye of the sinister animal control stickler Captain Dubois (Frances McDormand). And just like that the practically super human captain is chasing them through Monte Carlo and the rest of Europe in hopes of planting Alex’s perfectly coifed lion head on her wall of prized animals.
Luckily for pint-sized viewers Dubois’ terrifying presence is balanced out by her sheer inhuman strength uncanny guiles and Stretch Armstrong flexibility (ah the wonder of cartoons) as well as Alex’s escape plan: the New Yorkers run away with the European circus. While Dubois’ terrifying Doberman-like presence looms over the entire film a sense of levity (which is a word the kiddies might learn from Stiller’s eloquent lion) comes from the plan for salvation in which the circus animals and the zoo animals band together to revamp the circus and catch the eye of a big-time American agent. Sure the pacing throughout the first act is practically nonexistent running like a stampede through the jungle but by the time we're palling around under the big top the film finds its footing.
The visual splendor of the film (and man is there a champion size serving of it) the magnificent danger and suspense is enhanced to great effect by the addition of 3D technology – and not once is there a gratuitous beverage or desperate Crocodile Dundee knife waved in our faces to prove its worth. The caveat is that the soundtrack employs a certain infectious Katy Perry ditty at the height of the 3D spectacular so parents get ready to hear that on repeat until the leaves turn yellow.
But visual delights and adventurous zoo animals aside Madagascar 3’s real strength is in its script. With the addition of Noah Baumbach (Greenberg The Squid and the Whale) to the screenwriting team the script is infused with a heightened level of almost sarcastic gravitas – a welcome addition to the characteristically adult-friendly reference-heavy humor of the other Madagascar films. To bring the script to life Paramount enlisted three more than able actors: Vitaly the Siberian tiger (Bryan Cranston) Gia the Leopard (Jessica Chastain) and Stefano the Italian Sealion (Martin Short). With all three actors draped in European accents it might take viewers a minute to realize that the cantankerous tiger is one and the same as the man who plays an Albuquerque drug lord on Breaking Bad but that makes it that much sweeter to hear him utter slant-curse words like “Bolshevik” with his usual gusto.
Between the laughs the terror of McDormand’s Captain Dubois and the breathtaking virtual European tour the Zoosters’ accidental vacation is one worth taking. Madagascar 3 is by no means an insta-classic but it’s a perfectly suited for your Summer-at-the-movies oasis.
Theatrics slapstick and cheer are cinematic qualities you rarely find outside the realm of animation. Disney perfected it with their pantheon of cartoon classics mixing music humor spectacle and light-hearted drama that swept up children while still capturing the imaginations and hearts of their parents. But these days even reinterpretations of fairy tales get the gritty make-over leaving little room for silliness and unfiltered glee. Emerging through that dark cloud is Mirror Mirror a film that achieves every bit of imagination crafted by its two-dimensional predecessors and then some. Under the eye of master visualist Tarsem Singh (The Fall Immortals) Mirror Mirror's heightened realism imbues it with the power to pull off anything — and the movie never skimps on the anything.
Like its animated counterparts Mirror Mirror stays faithful to its source material but twists it just enough to feel unique. When Snow White (Lily Collins) was a little girl her father the King ventured into a nearby dark forest to do battle with an evil creature and was never seen or heard from again. The kingdom was inherited by The Queen (Julia Roberts) Snow's evil stepmother and the fair-skinned beauty lived locked up in the castle until her 18th birthday. Grown up and tired of her wicked parental substitute White sneaks out of the castle to the village for the first time. There she witnesses the economic horrors The Queen has imposed upon the people of her land all to fuel her expensive beautification. Along the way Snow also meets Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer) who is suffering from his own money troubles — mainly being robbed by a band of stilt-wearing dwarves. When the Queen catches wind of the secret excursion she casts Snow out of the castle to be murdered by her assistant Brighton (Nathan Lane).
Fairy tales take flack for rejecting the idea of women being capable but even with its flighty presentation and dedication to the old school Disney method Mirror Mirror empowers its Snow White in a genuine way thanks to Collins' snappy charming performance. After being set free by Brighton Snow crosses paths with the thieving dwarves and quickly takes a role on their pilfering team (which she helps turn in to a Robin Hooding business). Tarsem wisely mines a spectrum of personalities out of the seven dwarves instead of simply playing them for one note comedy. Sure there's plenty of slapstick and pun humor (purposefully and wonderfully corny) but each member of the septet stands out as a warm compassionate companion to Snow even in the fantasy world.
Mirror Mirror is richly designed and executed in true Tarsem-fashion with breathtaking costumes (everything from ball gowns to the dwarf expando-stilts to ridiculous pirate ship hats with working canons) whimsical sets and a pitch-perfect score by Disney-mainstay Alan Menken. The world is a storybook and even its monsters look like illustrations rather than photo-real creations. But what makes it all click is the actors. Collins holds her own against the legendary Julia Roberts who relishes in the fun she's having playing someone despicable. She delivers every word with playful bite and her rapport with Lane is off-the-wall fun. Armie Hammer riffs on his own Prince Charming physique as Alcott. The only real misgiving of the film is the undercooked relationship between him and Snow. We know they'll get together but the journey's half the fun and Mirror Mirror serves that portion undercooked.
Children will swoon for Mirror Mirror but there's plenty here for adults — dialogue peppered with sharp wisecracks and a visual style ripped from an elegant tapestry. The movie wears its heart on its sleeve and rarely do we get a picture where both the heart and the sleeve feel truly magical.