REVIEW: The Monuments Men

The true story of a band of men who set about trying to save mankind’s greatest artistic treasures, it is remarkable that we haven’t heard more of The Monuments Men tale until now.

A cross between Dad’s Army and The Antiques Roadshow, the answer may lie in just how incredibly dull it is.

As the war shifts in the Allies favour, Frank Stokes (George Clooney) petitions President Roosevelt to allow him to set up a team to steal back the art stolen by the Nazis during their occupation of Europe, but then why would anyone care about art at a time when thousands of people were losing their lives? It’s a question acknowledged numerous times during the film, but one that is answered – for Stokes and his team at least – with the assertion that “if you destroy a people’s history, if you destroy their achievements, then it’s as if they never existed.” Fair enough, then.

A bit like this, but with guns.

A bit like this, but with guns.

It you were expecting a wartime Ocean’s Eleven, or an art-based Where Eagles Dare, then you’re going to be exceptionally disappointed, as The Monuments Men comprises largely of people talking about art, walking into churches and looking at art, and talking about art while looking at art inventories and some maps.

Despite an all-star cast featuring Matt Damon, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and John Goodman, it’s an incredibly tedious two hours, and the odd moment of levity (provided mostly by Murray and Bob Balaban) or action does little to salvage a plodding narrative.

The problem lies in that the film requires you to really care about the fate of the artwork which, although everyone can probably agree is significant, doesn’t make for much of a compelling protagonist on screen, and no amount of men looking in awe at paintings or sculptures of women with their boobs out can convince us otherwise.

Of course it is a true story, so it isn’t like we can have Clooney and Co. jumping out of a plane under enemy fire, but that doesn’t mean the film can’t be more engaging for a mainstream audience, yet The Monuments Men just doesn’t do the job of bringing it to life. It’s the sort of thing that would have made for a fascinating hour-long documentary, but as it is it’s a film that oddly enough could do with both more brevity and more historical context.

If a future fascist dictatorship wants to steal the DVD copies of this film, we should probably just let them.


 

Think Outside the News: ITV to launch channel aimed exclusively at black people

Fresh from the news that ITV is to launch a television channel aimed at younger women and ‘housewives with children’, the network has announced that it will also be launching a channel targeted specifically at the black community.

ITVBro will screen repeats of The Montel Williams Show, Wayan Brothers movies at the weekends and a Coronation Street spin-off, Coronation Street. The channel will air during the day – when it is presumed black people are at home – until 7p.m., by which time the network expect them all to be “out roaming the streets, intimidating white people and robbing from houses.”

ITVBe & ITVBro - Because they know what's best for you

ITVBe & ITVBro – Because they know what’s best for you

“It’s really important that we stay relevant to all different walks of life and ethnicities, and for us, this means segregating different demographics into clearly defined boxes” said Peter Fincham, ITV’s Director of Television.

“We’re proud of our continuing work towards gender and racial equality, and we feel that  ITVBe is a big step forward for women in television, and that ITVBro will be an equally important step forward for Coloureds.”

The network are hoping that with the introduction of the new channels catering for lower class and ethnic people, they will be able to focus ITV1’s output on white, middle-class people.

“I really enjoy settling down on a Sunday evening for a bit of Mr. Selfridge or Downton Abbey with a cup of tea and a scone,” said Angela Fotherington, a cheeseboard arranger from Tunbridge Wells.

“I’m not racist, but I’d just really prefer not to see adverts for Trevor Nelson compilation albums or Reggae Reggae Sauce when I’m trying to eat.”

However ITV’s Chief Executive Adam Crozier insisted that viewers would continue to see black people on ITV’s main channels.

“We of course want to continue to use black actors in our ITV1 programming,” said Crozier.

“After all, who else is going to play housekeepers, drug dealers or illegal immigrants?”


 

REVIEW: Dallas Buyers Club

If Dallas Buyers Club teaches us anything, it is that learning you have a terminal illness is a very transformative process indeed.

After discovering he is HIV Positive and has approximately 30 days to live, homophobic, beer-swigging and drug-abusing Texan Ron Woodroof gets himself clean and campaigns against Big Pharma’s dominance over the illness’ treatment, and in particular controversial drug AZT. It’s a pretty impressive turnaround for a guy who, for the first half hour of the film, appears to be more like an extra out of Deliverance than a male Erin Brockovich.

With this in mind, here at Think Outside the Box we can only presume that the film’s star Matthew McConaughey has AIDS. Why? Because a look back over the star’s acting career displays a very sudden and dramatic sea change in his film output.

Back in 2009 a spectacularly under-whelming rom-com, Ghosts of Girlfriends Past, was the latest addition to a career that included the likes of Failure to Launch, The Wedding Planner and Fool’s Gold, all of which involved turning up, looking attractive and taking his shirt off.

Fast-forward to 2014 however and McConaughey, the perennial leaning on the side of a bus man, is being tipped as a serious contender to edge out Chiwetel Ejiofor for the Best Actor Oscar for his star turn as blue collar worker-turned-activist Woodroof, hot on the heels (ish) of the critically-acclaimed The Lincoln Lawyer, Killer Joe and Mud.

It is difficult to truly compare the two starkly different roles performed by McConaughey and the British 12 Years a Slave actor, however what is for sure is that the former gives an absolute tour de force, so much so that it has gotten us talking in French platitudes.

With such an impressive display it would be understandable if the supporting cast shrunk into the background, yet Jared Leto is brilliant as Woodroof’s transgender business partner Rayon, picking up a Best Supporting Actor nomination for his trouble. It is arguably the most impressive performance in the film, requiring Leto to portray sassy confidence underlined by a rampant vulnerability, compared to Woodroof’s unrelenting confidence and bravado.

Jennifer Garner has a tough job matching up to two such powerful characters and performances, but does so ably, putting in a perfectly good shift as the fairly straight-down-the-line Dr. Eve Saks.

Although a biopic that is based on a true story, Rayon and Eve Saks are fictional, however the artistic licence taken (and it is acknowledged that there is some, including in the portrayal of Woodroof himself who friends insist was never as extreme in his views as the film suggests) not once damages the film’s credibility, instead only enhancing the story where necessary, and otherwise complimenting the genuinely incredible true story.

A combination of first-class acting performances, perfect pacing and length (3 minutes shy of 2 hours), as well as cinematography that feels authentic for the period, Dallas Buyers Club would surely be a shoe-in for the Best Film Oscar any ordinary year that wasn’t so strong. Instead it will just have to make do with being a major contender.

Perhaps Adam Sandler and Vince Vaughn should consider getting themselves some AIDS too…


 

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Trailer Trash: The Lego Movie, Winter’s Tale, 300: Rise of an Empire, Noah

Following a rather excessive two month Christmas/New Year break from posting anything – during which time TOTB descended into a fairly extreme acid-induced festive hellscape where half-human, half-reindeer creatures marauded the land enslaving the population (never EVER take LSD while watching The One Show’s Christmas Special) – we return to a world that is just as bereft of hope and optimism as the nightmarish unreality we have just emerged from.

Yes, the ‘post-Awards Season’ Season is very much upon us, and my word did we find it hard to bring together a collection of trailers that would encourage only mild feelings despair.

The Lego Movie, released 14th February 2014

Hand’s up who didn’t love Lego when they were a kid?

You there, with your hand up, take a long hard look at yourself in the mirror. Now jab yourself in the eye.

Lego is awesome, but the obvious question to ask when you first hear about a Lego movie is ‘why, exactly?’ That being said, this film does look like it might be some fun – even for grown-up versions of humans – and it is worth noting that the Lego videogames have proven very popular.

Winter’s Tale, released 21st February 2014

IMDB.com’s synopsis of Winter’s Tale, describes it as thus:

“A burglar falls for an heiress as she dies in his arms. When he learns that he has the gift of reincarnation, he sets out to save her.”

It’s fair to say that Colin Farrell and Russell Crowe’s latest vehicle sounds pretty saccharine, but just wait until you watch the trailer, which offers up some of the cheesiest dialogue we’ve ever had the misfortune of listening to. It is a veritable cheese board in fact.

Our highlights include:

“What’s the best thing you’ve ever stolen?”
“I’m beginning to think I haven’t stolen it yet”

and…

“Is it possible to love someone so completely they simply can’t die?”

No. No it’s not.

300: Rise of an Empire, released 7th March 2014

Set in the aftermath of the first film, 300: Rise of an Empire is director Noam Murro’s first major release with previous helmsman Zack Snyder shifting to a producer role, and although it looks stylistically at least much like the successful first film, we can’t shake the feeling that this will prove to be an absolute turkey.

In terms of the action and battle sequences the blood and guts all seem to be present and correct, but it does help for that action to be punctuated by some half-decent narrative. We won’t be holding our breath.

Noah, released 4th April 2014

You’d never really have thought of the story of Noah making for a great film – not unless you’re really into nature or the inevitable inter-family relations – but it looks as though Darren Aronofsky has looked to sex things up a bit with an angry Ray Winstone and fighting and stuff. There’s even water flowing out of the ground towards the end of the trailer, so God must have been really pissed.

There wasn’t even the internet back then so the global population must have been really debauched. Nowadays we can legalise gay marriage, sexualise everyone that is old enough to stand up and watch all the porn we like and all that happens is Cornwall gets a bit flooded.

It must be a more liberal God now, like the Pope. Amen.