On DVD & Blu-Ray: May 20, 2014


When the first trailer for George Clooney's latest directorial endeavor premiered it was clear that this wasn't going to be the large, dramatic, Oscar-bait piece everyone expected it to be given the caliber of the cast, the subject matter and the release date. We were originally scheduled to receive The Monuments Men on Christmas Day last year, but after The Wolf of Wall Street was pushed to that date it simply became too crowded. Clooney knew what he had on his hands here though and he knew he wasn't going for Oscar gold, but even more impressive is that he didn't fold under the pressure of these stipulations and force what felt unnatural upon this story to make an overly-serious or pretentious film that would fit squarely into the wheelhouse of highly-praised, but undeserving best picture winners. It is nice to know Clooney made what he wanted to make, what he first envisioned upon reading Robert M. Edsel's nonfiction book chronicling the adventures of these museum directors, curators and art historians that were out of their element, but took the risks anyway to preserve the culture this art represented. In that first trailer, one of the biggest signs that this wasn't going to be exactly what we expected was the music and it is in the soundtrack that we find more than anything the revealing nature of what Clooney is going for. It is not about the epic sacrifices of war, it is not touching on the moral dilemma of what war actually accomplishes or if the lives lost are lost for good reason or a justified outcome, but it simply takes war for what it is and tells an interesting adventure story while consistently asking our group of protagonists if during this time of war, is their endeavor too small? Sure, there are plenty of complaints to be made about The Monuments Men as it could have very easily been more entertaining, more fleshed out, less awkward and more authentic, but for what it is and what it seems intent on accomplishing we get the version Clooney wanted to deliver. Despite these complaints though I was very much intrigued by what these men were trying to accomplish, what they stood for and how their story turned out. This may not be the best interpretation of their story that could have been made, but it is a beautiful and professionally rendered version that does well to pay tribute to their mission statement. Full review here. C+

I've never been a big fan of director Paul W.S. Anderson as I've never even seen a single Resident Evil movie (though he's only directed three of the five) and while I did rather enjoy his 2008 re-make of Death Race that was as much due to the fact it starred Jason Statham as anything else. In light of that film and all of the facets that his 2011 Three Musketeers interpretation had going for it I was rather interested in seeing how it turned out, but I couldn't even make it through the entirety of that flick when I rented it at home and I doubt I would have made it through Pompeii either had I not been sitting in a theater. The story of the city of Pompeii is no doubt a fascinating one as what occurred in the aftermath of Mount Vesuvius exploding in 79 AD and wiping out the entire city, killing two thousand people within a matter of moments and leaving everything covered in several feet of ash and rock, allowed those moments in time, those moments of fear and humanity to be captured, frozen in time and preserved for thousands of years creating a mystery around the city. It would be impossible not to delve into the stories that exist under the ash, but Anderson is not the director I would have chosen to create what is inherently an epic because once his name was attached it became immediately clear what type of film this would be and the final result proves nothing if not the fact he is a predictable and safe director. While it is only of my opinion, it would seem this kind of story lends itself to that of a gritty realism and an opportunity to ask and address bigger questions such as at the end of the world, what are we? This as well as investigating the human element of survival and of meaning under circumstances completely out of our control. Instead, Anderson makes the whole point of this film feel like a reason for the 3D technology to exist because watching fireballs zoom by and crash into ancient cities is more entertaining than story or character development. I'm all about having fun at the movies and being completely wrapped up in the outlandish worlds of pure popcorn entertainment, but Pompeii doesn't so much have a story as it does serve as an excuse to blow shit up on the biggest scale possible. It is a disaster movie that keeps its promise in terms of action, but only skims the surface of what the circumstances of these events bring to the lives of those who suffered under them. Full review here. D-

From the opening moments of 3 Days to Kill I wasn't sure whether I was supposed to be laughing or not. That the first real "name" we see on screen comes in the form of Amber Heard is nothing but disheartening, but when you start throwing in nicknamed bad guys like "the albino" and "the wolf" I think everyone sat back in their seats and immediately realized what type of movie we were in for. As Luc Besson has done ever since truly breaking through in America with Taken six years ago it seems he has been keen to write another action hit starring a credible, middle-aged actor at the center of it. Granted, Besson only writes these things and hardly directs, but his distinct European flavor is written all over them and while neither Lockout nor this will work the way Neeson's surprise hit did it was nice to see Kevin Costner give it a try and it was surprising, if not concerning, to see McG behind the wheel of another seemingly brainless action movie that if not proving to be exactly artistic could at least be fun. The guy has directed competent action/comedies before, I actually enjoyed the two Charlie's Angels films though history doesn't look too kindly on them now, but has had a rocky road of swaying back and forth between genres since and has never really found a way to re-gain his footing. This is also the problem with 3 Days to Kill as not only does it not know what it wants to be, but it never seems to gain its footing in the first place. From the opening sequence that has Costner's senior CIA agent tripping and coughing through a large European hotel we are made to think he is going to be the nonchalant charmer who does his incredibly difficult job with an ease that makes him appealing, but instead it simply turns out he is in the right place at the right time and there isn't necessarily anything special about him other than the fact that he is dying and sees the error of his ways in choosing to chase bad guys rather than develop meaningful relationships with his wife and daughter. 3 Days to Kill could have easily been that dumb fun action flick that sees Costner re-gain some of his prime in a leading role, but instead it just turns out to be dumb with an identity crisis that leaves us nothing if not discontent. Full review here. D

Kevin Hart has officially become everything the studios behind him want him to be. He is a bankable star that can show up in the advertising for a film and almost guarantee a certain amount of audience because they know if Hart is present in the film, it will likely be a good enough time for them to dedicate part of a weekend night to. The good part of this line of thinking is that it is true. Hart, who has been around for years and serving as comic relief in any number of comedies finally was allowed his film breakout when his sense of stand-up was brought to his supporting character in Think Like A Man. Since, the guy has been pretty much unstoppable. Just look at the last year the guy's had: he single handily saved December's Grudge Match from being unwatchable and had one of the biggest January debuts when he teamed up with Ice Cube for the generic, but entertaining Ride Along all on top of the success he found last summer with the theatrical release of his stand-up special, Let Me Explain, which led to this past Valentine's Day release that seemingly only existed to prove how much Hart is actually worth. The good news is that About Last Night is not the exercise in safe movie-making Ride Along was, it is a better film and one that isn't afraid to let its actors loose on the material and approach it in the most honest way possible. While this is still a remake of the 1986 flick starring Rob Lowe and Demi Moore (which I have not seen) it seems to have modernized the relationship dynamics well enough while utilizing both Hart and Regina Hall in a way that counteracts the typical beats of a PG-13 romantic comedy while still fulfilling those requirements through the relationship explored by Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant's characters. As with almost every rom-com we know where things are heading and so it is really the journey that matters and for the most part, About Last Night delivers a fun, diverting and to a certain extent even an enlightening experience. Full review here. B

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