The Valdosta Daily Times
“The Monuments Men” (Biography/ War Drama / Action: 1 hour, 58 minutes)
Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman and Cate Blanchett
Director: George Clooney
Rated: PG-13 (Violence, profanity and thematic elements)
Movie Review: Historical films can relay a good message without being as solid as the events they chronicle. This case exists with this World War II drama. It follows the attempts of an eight-man platoon led by Lt. Frank Stokes (Clooney) to save valuable pieces of art masterpieces from Nazis and return them to their owners. The unlikely team of artists, architects, art historians face grave dangers, but these dangers do not dissuade them from achieving their task.
This is an adaptation of a true story. It is nice film. It easily gets one’s attention, but it has its detractions. A gratifying overview of fine art and its history is an agreeable presentation. This is one of the film’s greatest accomplishments. It nicely shows how art was also one of the many things Hitler wanted from the countries he conquered. The film also focuses some of the Nazis’ other atrocities.
These likable moments also have an interesting, affable cast. Blanchett is the film’s jewel. Her character delivers the needed drama which the film lacks at other parts. Clooney, Damon, Murray, Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Bob Balaban and Dimitri Leonidas are the men tasked with saving art. They are likable, although the group seems an unlikely group to send into a war zone.
The notion that members of this group eagerly and without seeming reservation agree to enter war zones are part of the least compelling moments. They all appear to agree instantly. The film tackles their recruitment in a mere two to three minutes. It all appears too easy. This is just one moment where co-writers Clooney and Grant Heslov fail.
The two wrote the screenplay for the Oscar-nominated hits “Good Night, and Good Luck” (2005) and “The Ides of March” (2011). Their pairing for “The Monuments Men” is not nearly as quality driven.
The first half is comical and seemingly another addition of the “Ocean’s Eleven” (2001) films. This contrasts the latter half that is a serious war drama. The two appear as different films. A certain difficulty to appreciate this part of the film is present because of that. The first half does not do the later moments justice. Despite a tale worthy of the big screen, an adventurous mission regarding art is lessened because of this unevenness.
Grade: C+ (Enjoyable, but no monument to modern cinema.)
“The Lego Movie” (Animation/Action/Comedy: 1 hour, 40 minutes)
Starring: Chris Pratt, Will Ferrell, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson and Morgan Freeman
Directors: Phil Lord and Christopher Miller
Rated: PG-13 (Violence, mild language and crude humor)
Movie Review: “Alice in Wonderland” meets the “The Matrix” is a manner to envision this animated feat. It is an adventurous movie with plenty of action and laughs. It combines superheroes with a regular person, Emmet Brickowoski (voiced nicely by Pratt). It is not Batman, Superman or President Lincoln saving the day. The atypical hero saves the day. That person is Brickowoski, who is the first to reveal he is no hero. Nevertheless, he has to be in this tale because he is “the one” known as “The Master Builder” and the keeper of “The Piece of Resistance.”
Emmet Brickowoski is a construction worker who falls down a hole, only to arrive in a world where the evil President Business (Ferrell), also known as Lord Business, is a supervillain. Lord Business plans to stop movement of everything using super glue. Emmet must find his heroic nature to save the Lego universe.
Animated features have become the better of movies lately. They are entertaining and usually have a better plot. Although the plot appears a mixture of other films, it is good entertainment for multiple ages.
Pratt, Ferrell, Banks and Freeman are great voices. They are among a large cast of well-known talents providing good humor, even if some may be crude.
This is a well-done moment helmed by directors Lord and Miller, who both previously co-directed “21 Jump Street” (2012) and “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs” (2009). They prove two heads are better than one, just not on the same body.
Good humor, a good cast and a good story make this prime entertainment. Even more, the live-action scenes near the conclusion are a nice, symbolic touch. “The Lego Movie” easily makes the animated world part of the actual realm without losing integrity.
Grade: B (A blockbuster movie.)
“Vampire Academy” (Action/Fantasy: 1 hour, 44 minutes)
Starring: Zoey Deutch, Lucy Fry, Danila Kozlovsky, Sarah Hyland and Victor Dashkov
Director: Mark Waters
Rated: PG-13 (Violence, sexual innuendo, strong language and sensuality)
Movie Review: Combine “Harry Potter” films and the “Twilight” saga and the result is this, a tepid tale based on Richelle Mead’s novel. The main personality is a “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”-type named Rose Hathaway (Deutch). She is a Dhampir, the half human/vampire protectors of the Moroi, the discreetly mortal vampires. As a Dhampir, Hathaway is tasked with protecting Lissa Dragomir (Fry), a vampire princess, from the bloodsucking, immortal vampires called the Strigoi, the good vampires’ main adversaries.
Fuzzy plot of a lackluster screenplay, jittery editing and poor acting plague this production. As mentioned earlier, the story offered is similar to “Harry Potter” and “Twilight,” so audiences are really getting the next addition to the “Potter” and “Twilight” films. “Vampire Academy” tries to combine those two narratives. Instead, it comes off as being an eclectic mix of too much. Magic, vampires, large werewolf-like beings and an elite private school are an assorted mess, a large-scale copy of better stories.
The scenes also move quickly in a jumpy fashion. Scenes move from one to the next without smooth transitions. While the story is easy to follow, it creates a mystery that is not worth following because the nature of the mystery is an elementary layout.
Last, the acting is not convincing. The players exist in a story, but the adolescent nature of it all makes this a lesser story. This is a shame, since a few of the characters are likable.
Waters (“Mean Girls,” 2004) directs. He could do little to make this more interesting, so an incomplete story sets up sequel. Perhaps, that will be an attempt to make better what this film could not. Based on this present feature, producers should table a future film unless a better sequel is possible. That should be an easy task.
Grade: D+ (Not intelligently produced for a movie taking place in a school.)