Cinema Review: The Monuments Men

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DIR: George Clooney • WRI: George Clooney, Grant Heslov  • PRO: George Clooney, Grant Heslov  • DOP: Phedon Papamichael •ED: Stephen Mirrione  • MUS: Alexandre Desplat  • DES: James D. Bissell  • CAST: George Clooney, Cate Blanchett, Matt Damon, Bill Murray

It’s impossible not to view The Monuments Men in advance as some sort of ‘Ocean’s 14’/Dad’s Army comedy caper, and George Clooney’s overwhelming presence certainly cements that.  Thanks to the relentlessly enthusiastic trailer that’s been pumped on every screen, it’s also managed to conjure The Great Escape – if only because of the incessantly jarring jaunty music.  While it does manage some capering, and even surprises with sporadic comedy chuckles, it tends to jump-ship too shrilly into the dramatically saccharine to really feel cohesive overall.

 

It begins with the premise (based on a true story) that a bunch of older patrons of the arts fly into Europe as the Second World War is drawing to a close in order to save priceless works of art from first German hands, then German flames, then Russian commanders.  This is of course very admirable, and any effort to save symbols of a beautiful humanity at a time when nations appeared devoid of it has huge resonance, but the movie can’t seem to really trust itself in its central idea that art has this much value.  It’s left, then, to the occasional monotonous soliloquy from George Clooney as he details the myriad reasons we should want art preserved, and why this bunch of Americans should be the ones to do it.  Since his band of merry men is made up of Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville and Bob Balaban the rest of the movie is spent making sure each character has had a caper, a comic pratfall, a sentimental moment, and some drama.  Side characters appear to have more interesting storylines, like Cate Blanchett’s French resistance curator, which leaves the movie floundering for where its forward momentum should come from.  Focusing on a single statue as the symbol of redemption does little to appease the gnawing feeling that, apart from hyperbolic German histrionics and sardonic Russian smirks, these men are in a personal conflict without opposition.

 

Clooney has talked about this movie as a labour of love, and it’s clear to see that he has drawn influence from older movies – something he mentions when discussing his reasoning behind bringing this story to life.  It’s very much his version of ‘how it used to be’ – and no better man to attempt it, considering his charisma and screen presence.  But what was once charming is now bordering on smarmy, and Monuments Men suffers as a result.  Throwing in dramatic moments for the sake of it – because remember, we’re at war! – seems tacked-on, and the movie’s insistence on jingoist drama and moments of anti-German and anti-Russian patriotism just don’t quite cut it.  A caper that goes wrong I can handle, a caper that ends in tragedy equally so, but a caper that stops and starts at all the wrong moments with ill-fitting intensity and drama just ends up being no kind of caper at all.

 

While not the worst movie I’ve seen this year, it’s an eminently forgettable one.  What Monuments Men highlights, more than anything, is the Clooney effect: how to attract a stellar cast to mediocre roles in a movie that never reaches the sum of its parts.

 

Sarah Griffin

12A (See IFCO for details)
118  mins

Monuments Men is released on 14th February 2014

Monuments Men– Official Website

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Cinema Review: Hyde Park on Hudson

 

DIR: Roger Michell • WRI: Richard Nelson • PRO: David Aukin, Kevin Loader , Rosa Romero • DOP: Lol Crawley • ED: Nicolas Gaster • DES: Simon Bowles • CAST: Bill Murray, Laura Linney, Olivia Williams
 
Never meet your heroes, they say. An addition to this adage should be: never watch bad films about your heroes’ private lives.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was one of the most inspiring human beings to have lived in the past 100 years, but Hyde Park on Hudson’s sin is not that it paints him as a layabout or a womaniser, but worse, it paints him as terribly, terribly boring.

Set in the later years of the Great Depression, the film finds the wheelchair-bound president, played here by Bill Murray, escaping the pressures of office for regular visits to his mother’s estate in rural New York, where he begins a pedestrian affair with his distant cousin, Margaret Suckley (Laura Linney), known as Daisy. The film is based on her private diaries, which were not discovered until her death in the early 1990s and, as it turns out, were not particularly interesting.

Despite the film’s passionate narration by an elderly Daisy, the style of which owes far too much to the old lady in Titanic, the affair with FDR is mundane and soulless. The two enjoy drives across fields of flowers before parking and, like a pair of awkward teenagers, engage in some mutual masturbation. The narration continues to insist that Daisy is falling in love with FDR, but Linney’s purse-lipped, shifty-eyed performance makes her out to be more of an obsessive stalker. FDR indulges her more sexual favours – the film repeatedly implies his wife, Eleanor (Olivia Williams), was a lesbian.

Because the FDR/Daisy storyline is so inherently weak, the film shifts its focus to the preposterous notion that a visit to Hyde Park by the King and Queen of Britain in 1939 secured the freedom of the world by making firm allies of the USA and Great Britain. This is despite the fact the war had not yet begun and would rage for two years before the USA sent anything more than a few supplies.

There is simply no way to get across how inane Richard Nelson’s script is, except to clarify that the emotional crux of the movie is King George VI eating a hotdog. On that note, many of the film’s most desperate attempts at humour revolve around the late Queen Mother’s continued pronunciation of hotdog as if it were two words. The narration, which the film practically drowns in, manages to be both pathetic and patronising. ‘She was one of mother’s spies,’ older Daisy tells us. ‘Mother had her spies too.’ Yes Daisy, we gathered as much from your previous statement.

Linney gets lost with where to go with her role, uncertain whether to play it as wide-eyed love-struck girl or smalltown simpleton – either way, neither suits her. Bill Murray tries to act as FDR, but struggles even with the accent, occasionally lapsing in a Colonel Sanders-style drawl, and fails to find any romance or compassion in this lazy demonisation of the great man.

Samuel West does a fine impression of Colin Firth doing a fine impression of George VI, while Olivia Colman is reduced to portraying Queen Elizabeth as every uptight posh English woman in film history rolled into one. Their scenes together are excruciating, and yet the highlight of the film.

Featuring a lengthy debate about whether or not the moon shining one night is indeed full, Hyde Park on Hudson is an astonishing work, in that it ever got made. Director Roger Michell (Notting Hill, Venus), shows a fine eye for landscape imagery and historical set design, but even he can’t convince these actually great actors to drag any life from this stillborn script.

I promise you this, if you go to see Hyde Park on Hudson, you will want to leave, and if you don’t leave, you will regret after that you didn’t.

On the plus side, be thankful that it is only February and the worst film of the year is already behind us. It is only uphill from here.

David Neary

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)

94mins

Hyde Park on Hudson is released on 1st February 2013

Hyde Park on Hudson – Official Website

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Cinema Review: Moonrise Kingdom

DIR: Wes Anderson  WRI: Wes Anderson, Roman Coppola  PRO: Scott Rudin, Wes Anderson, Jeremy Dawson, Steven Rales • DOP: Robert Yeoman • ED: Andrew Weisblum • DES: Adam Stockhausen • Cast: Bruce Willis, Ed Norton, Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Harvey Keitel, Jared Gilman, Kara Hyward

A filmmaker like Wes Anderson is in a tough position. His visual style and direction is so well-known, so unmistakably his, that for him to try something different would be akin to committing career suicide. He has built up a reputation of making quirky films with colour-drenched scenes and razor-sharp dialogue. Moonrise Kingdom doesn’t break the mould in terms of his previous work. And yet, it is by far his most accessible film to date. The story takes place in the summer of 1965 on New Penzance Island, off the coast of New England. Sam and Suzy (Jared Gilman and Kara Hyward) are two odd children who decide to run away together for a period of time. Sam, who is a Khaki Scout and wilderness expert, escapes from his summer camp and meets Suzy. Their plan is to retrace the steps of the local Native American migration. The scout master, Randy Ward (Ed Norton), takes his troop out to locate the runaways – along with the help of local police Captain Sharp (Bruce Willis) and Suzy’s parents (Bill Murray and Frances McDormand).

 

Wes Anderson has crafted a touching film that isn’t bogged down by the usual overbearing dialogue that plagues his other films. The film’s strength lies in both the chemistry between the two runaways and their story. While it is very innocent and eccentric, their story is more based in reality than other films Anderson has made. This doesn’t detract from that other-worldly quality that are his trademark; it means that their story is more easy to relate to. Where the runaways’ story is centred around first love, the relationship between Murray and McDormand is strained and reserved. However, the film cleverly eschews delving into it. Theirs is shown through what the child see and, as such, the true state of their marriage is kept suppressed from Suzy. As well, Sam’s home-life is only brought up later in the film as it doesn’t factor in until it is needed. Anderson’s use of the supporting cast is inspired. No extra screen-time is given to Murray, Norton or Willis needlessly. The film’s central focus is on the runaways and their adventure together – not the search parties that are looking for them.

 

Moonrise Kingdom is a gentle, heartfelt film that never feels like it’s anything but sincere. Willis gives a fantastic performance as the good-natured policeman who only wants to help Sam. As well, Norton excels as the earnest scout master, all salutes and quick-smart marching. Bill Murray is, admittedly, underused as is Frances McDormand. However, a scene featuring the two of them is particularly emotional when, exasperated, the two come face-to-face with the reality that they’re failing as parents. It’s true, Wes Anderson is working with familiar material here. The film has certain echoes of Lord of the Flies and Roald Dahl stories, however Anderson has put his unique stamp on a timeless story that is sure to win over his fans – and may win him some new ones as well.

Brian Lloyd 

Rated 12A (see IFCO website for details)
Moonrise Kingdom is released on 25th May 2012

Moonrise Kingdom – Official Website

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Midday Movies

Bill Murray may star as Roosevelt as spirit of The King’s Speech lives on

The legacy of The King’s Speech lives on: King George VI and his wife are to make a return to the big screen in Hyde Park on the Hudson, an adaptation of a BBC radio play, directed by Roger Michell. The main focus of the story is the love affair between US president Franklin D Roosevelt and his distant cousin Margaret Stuckley, which comes to a head in June 1939, when the American leader was visited at his upstate New York cottage by Bertie and Elizabeth. Michell is reportedly courting Bill Murray to star as FDR.

Read more at: www.guardian.co.uk


Lucas: 3D is the new colour

Star Wars creator George Lucas says 3D film-making will eventually take over at the cinema in the way colour replaced black and white. Lucas and fellow technology pioneers James Cameron, the maker of ‘Avatar’, and DreamWorks Animation boss Jeffrey Katzenberg pointed out that digital film-making was only in its infancy but would bring vast improvements to how movies were made and seen.

Read more at www.irishexaminer.com

BFC to run under Film London

As Film London, the U.K. capital’s film and media agency, gears up to take on the shuttered U.K. Film Council’s role of encouraging investment in the British film biz, it has unveiled a new strategy to manage the duty. The British Film Commission, which worked under the UKFC to bring foreign industryites and studios to shoot in the U.K., will now operate under Film London.

Read more at www.variety.com

‘The Governator’ is back

With his years as California governor behind him, Arnold Schwarzenegger could return to his acting career with a new animated TV series. The planned action-comedy cartoon is called The Governator, according to A Squared Entertainment, a partner in the venture. It will focus on a superhero living a double life as an ordinary family man and Terminator star Schwarzenegger will provide the voice of the title character.

Read more at www.irishexaminer.com

Parallel Supermen In The Works?

Hot on the heels of the Batman Rebooted story, and the news that DC honcho Jeff Robinov plans to have a Justice League movie up and running for a 2013 release, comes this intriguing nugget from new Superman director Zack Snyder. Heyuguys scooped the scoop from the red carpet at the UK Sucker Punch premier. Asking Snyder how his and Henry Cavill’s Clark Kent would fit in the JLA, the simple response was ‘He doesn’t. What I’m doing with Superman is like what Chris Nolan did with Batman,’ quoth Snyder, ‘and what they’ll do with Justice League will be its own thing, with its own Batman and its own Superman. We’ll be over here with our movie, and they’ll kinda get to do it twice, which is kinda cool…’

Read more at www.empireonline.com

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