The Monuments Men – 3/10

Utter, total, turd.


The prospect of a cast featuring Matt Damon, John Goodman, Bill Murray, Cate Blanchett and George Clooney is mouthwatering to say the least. Add to the fact that The Monuments Men is Clooney’s directorial follow up to the widely successful Ides of March and we are talking about one of the most anticipated films of 2014. It is difficult then to fathom how the end product is so bland and forgettable.

Aside from a typically strong Cate Blanchett performance as a Parisian art curator, the rest of the cast sleepwalks through this one with even the great Bill Murray offering zero respite. Worse than the acting is the script which is so humourless and self righteous it is actually difficult to sit through The Monuments Men until the end.

The message seems to be that art is more valuable than anything, even life, but against the back drop of the second world war this idealistic attitude is borderline offensive to the millions of young men and women that lost their lives. Tonally the film can’t decide what it wants to be. It flits between ‘comedy’ (in the loosest sense of the word) and forced camaraderie to create a frustrating viewing experience.

After universally poor reviews hopefully we can collectively forget about The Monuments Men as a species and just pretend that Bill Murray was never even involved. George Clooney should probably stay in front of the camera exclusively from now on, he is a handsome bastard after all.

Short Film Sunday – The Fly

Title: The Fly

Director: Olly Williams

Released: 2014

Length: 6 min 24 sec

The Fly is director Olly Williams (not be confused with Family Guy’s Ollie Williams) attempt at fusing Reservoir Dogs with Edgar Allen Poe’s The Raven as a protagonist is driven mad by a hellish insect.

Reminiscent of the Breaking Bad episode Fly, The Fly is maddening, violent and also funny at times with Jack Doolan giving an intense performance miles away from his turn as tubby loser Snork in Cemetery Junction.

The final sequence is a fitting end to a continual build up of tension and whilst The Fly is not hugely original, it is at least executed very well and makes for a great ‘what if’ scenario.

Draft Day – 7.5/10

The King of Sports Films prevails again…


It took Kevin Costner’s career a long time to recover from the disaster that was Waterworld but he has had a bit of a renaissance in recent years with solid roles in The Company Men and Man of Steel. Draft Day is a welcome continuation of Costner’s Indian summer and a return to an area he mined so successfully earlier in his career in films such as Field of Dreams and Tin Cup.

Similarly Ghostbusters director Ivan Reitman has also hit on hard times in the last decade so it is especially pleasing to see Draft Day be such a watchable movie with Reitman behind the camera.

The reason Costner works so well in this genre is that it is impossible not to root for him which makes the big fairytale endings less eye rollingly predictable and more heart warming and ultimately satisfying.

The Big K has able support along side him with Jennifer Garner giving a strong performance as well as clich├ęd but enjoyable turns from Dennis Leary and Frank Langella respectively as the team manager and team owner.

The Big K alongside Jennifer Garner

It is a testament to Costner’s charisma that the fact I have zero interest in American Football never felt like a handicap as Draft Day is just as much a character study as it is a sports film.

Draft Day is not original, it does feel like a throw back, but sometimes that is all cinema needs to be – a good story, acted well, that leaves a lasting impression.


How To Train Your Dragon 2 – 7/10

How to make a solid sequel…


The first How To Train Your Dragon movie was not only a huge commercial success but also a hit with the critics as well (It currently sits at #150 in the IMDB top 250 films of all time after receiving two Oscar nominations).

When making a sequel however Dreamworks had every reason to be wary after rival studio Pixar put out the disappointing Cars 2 and the patchy Monsters University. Luckily Dreamworks made a number of solid decisions with How To Train Your Dragon 2. Keeping the original cast and director on board was important and bringing in Cate Blanchett and Kit ‘you know nothing’ Harrington didn’t hurt either. Secondly the decision to make this second instalment the second part of a trilogy gives director Dean DeBlois breathing space to expand the characters and the world that they
live in.


The main obstacle then in the face of cautious optimism was the general premise. Baring in mind the dragon training promised in the title was delivered in the first film, it was vitally important that the sequel was not a retread of the first story. This is mostly done successfully with the introduction of a couple of key characters as well as vital plot points ensuring that How To Train Your Dragon 2 is not just a stepping stone to the final film in the trilogy but an enjoyable spectacle in its own right.

Dreamworks will always be viewed as inferior to Pixar but they have still put out some of the most beloved animated films of all time and How To Train Your Dragon 2 sits nicely amongst the Kung Fu Panda, Shrek and Madagascar franchises.

Fury – 8/10

War is Hell…

After the recent success of of hyper realistic but super boring war films such as Zero Dark Thirty, End of Watch director David Ayer goes back to basics to make an old school war film.

Fury focuses on one five man crew and it is the ensemble cast of Brad Pitt, Shia LaBeouf, Logan Lerman, Michael Pena and The Walking Dead’s Jon Berthal that elevate this gripping WWII tale into a minor classic.

Brad Pitt has hardly been on a decline recently, appearing in 12 Years A Slave, World War Z and Killing Them Softly but Fury is without a doubt his best role since 2011’s Moneyball. A more nuanced and toned down version of his Aldo Raine character from Inglourious Basterds, Pitt gives a gritty and memorable performance.

The supporting cast are on the top of their game as well. Berthal is genuinely loathsome, Logan Lerman as rookie soldier Norman is a revelation and finally fulfils the potential he showed in Perks of Being a Wallflower and Michael Pena is dependable as ever.

This brings us on nicely to Shia LaBeouf…

Shia LaBeouf;Logan Lerman;Michael Pena
Actual cannibal Shia LaBeouf

LaBeouf has been more in the headlines for his erratic behaviour than his acting in recent years, indeed he reportedly pulled out one of his own teeth and refused to shower during the making of Fury, but for an actor who is often inconsistent it is safe to say this is one of his finer performances.

After years of boring Band of Brothers imitations Fury and American Sniper (which also came out in 2014) are a breath of fresh air.

At ease.