monu-men

I wanted to like The Monuments Men. Actually, I wanted to love it. I mean, off the bat, what’s not to love. George Clooney. Matt Damon. Need I go on? But, we also have Hugh Bonneville, who I love from TV’s Downton Abbey. And then also Jean Dujardin, the sexy Oscar-winner from The Artist. Add in favorites Bill Murray and John Goodman for comic relief and you have a dynamite cast that could rival the cast of Clooney and Damon’s Ocean’s movies.

Alas, I should have just watched this one on mute and looked at the pretty scenery (and also the French countryside). But, I did not. And while it’s not a horrible movie, it sure does not live up to the full potential of its illustrious cast.

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As with other films, the background I have about this film was limited. South Africa — nada. Rugby — less than nada. But, it’s an Eastwood film and it has two of my favorite actors, so what the heck. And, boy, what a great film. Morgan Freeman does a spectular job of playing Mandela…he’s less about the looks of the Nobel Prize winner and more about the persona. So, at the start of the film in the early 1990s, Mandela gets out of jail and is elected to president. Apartheid is over. Mandela sees rugby and it’s “whites” only popularity as a way to try and help some of the white South Africans that he determined to unite his racially divided country. Matt Damon plays the rugby team captain who is in awe of the inspiring Mandela. Some believe (both black and white) that Mandela’s focus on rugby as a uniting tool is fooling. The blacks want to know why he is focusing this much attention on a white sport. And the whites don’t believe he is sincere and feel he has some sort of ulterior motive. South African politics are a big part of this film, as is rugby. Knowing next to nothing about those subjects did not hinder my enjoyment here. The story is intense and passionate enough sustain interest throughout. This film is about heart and friendship. It’s about determination and spirit. It’s a movie for all — not only political or sports junkies.

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For those of us who have fallen in love with Danny Ocean and his crew through the first installment, 2001′s Ocean’s Eleven and with the harder-to-love second in the series, Ocean’s Twelve (2004), this film is a must! Where Ocean’s Eleven was glitzy and stylish and Ocean’s Twelve was more convoluted and mysterious, this one is a mesh of the two. Admittedly, even the cast and crew says that Twelve did not live up to the high entertainment standards set by Eleven. I’m not sure if I totally believe that, but I can say that Eleven and Twelve do seem like completely separate movies…both with different agendas. Thirteen was their way of rectifying the public dismay with Twelve so when it came to glitz and glamour and entertainment, they held absolutely nothing back. The plot (does plot really matter in these films?) revolves around Vegas developer Willie Bank (played with lots of zip by Al Pacino) who fleeces Reuben (Elliot Gould as one of the “eleven”) out of his share in Bank’s new casino. Enter the rest of the “eleven” to right Reuben’s wrong and get even with Bank. The plot, though, is overshadowed by good looking people, good looking sets, and snappy, witty dialogue that Eleven did with perfection. Apparently, this will be the last in the series, but who knows since, at the end of this one, there seemed to be the perfect entree for a number 14.

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Where the first one was slick, this one is stylized. Where the first one was clever, this one is intellectual. Where the first one is glitz, this one is glamour. Basically, Ocean’s Twelve is for adults…not only for action movie-crazed adults but for adults who need more plot, structure, and development. The look of this film is almost a night and day difference from the first, mostly because there is no “Vegas” in the second film. (I use Vegas here as a noun because in the first film, Las Vegas became an entity onto itself by contributing highly to the slickness and glitziness of the first film.) Amsterdam, Rome, Naples…where the second film is set…lend to more of an old world sophistication that Vegas can’t touch. Vegas is a playground and looks the part. Europe is cultural and classic and looks that part. Director Steven Soderbergh does many of his same tricks with the camera here to try and pump up the pace and plot. But, again, taking Vegas out of the equation brings the movie out of the realm of the fantastic and into the world of the real. Concerning the plot in this second film…well even that seems to lack some of the “Vegas” feel to it. The first one seemed faster and filled with more vigor. Tricks happened right until the every end and the audience enjoyed the ride. The characters looked good and moved quick to keep up with the Vegas scene. In Europe, there seems to be a more laid-back feel to the characters. The film starts off with Andy Garcia’s Terry Benedict character (who was the victim – if you can call him that – in the first film) giving each of Ocean’s men two weeks to return his money. Two weeks!!! They should all be running around frantic. But, they are not. They act like they have all the time in the world. Does the European setting have that much to do with the pace? Maybe or maybe Soderbergh just wanted to make a film that was more intellectual than eye candy. Hey, don’t get me wrong, I LOVE eye candy. But, I also like a good movie. Both of these are good films in their own unique ways, but keep in mind that one is more the kid in you and one is for your adult side trying to break through.

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OK—I know. It’s not the BEST movie ever made. But, it’s just plain fun to watch…in more ways than one. It’s a highly entertaining action caper. You will not be bored at all during this one, trust me. Also, the entire cast is just a pleasure to look at (you can trust me on that one, too). Basically, it’s just two hours of good times and enjoyment. The plot revolves around ringleader George Clooney’s decision to rob three casinos owned by power-monger Andy Garcia. Clooney takes Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, Bernie Mac, Carl Reiner, Elliott Gould and six others along for the ride, including ex-wife Julia Roberts. Based on the 1960 Frank Sinatra/Rat Pack film of the same title, this 2001 movie takes little from the original other than the basic premise (casino theft), the number of players, and the name of the man in charge (Danny Ocean). By adding style, class, glitz, high-tech gizmos, and a lot of good looking people, this Ocean’s Eleven will certainly satisfy your craving for entertainment.

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Like its predecessor, The Bourne Supremacy, this film holds up well against the first one of the series, The Bourne Identity. When it comes to series films, regardless of how good or bad the first one is, the subsequent films are usually never good…or at least as good…as the first. By a third film in a series, everything just seems to run out of steam…especially the screenplay. Plot is just mostly ignored…since blowing things up for no reason does not fall under the list of acceptable plotlines. In The Bourne Ultimatum, the script stays taut and clever from start to finish, the action stays consistently tied to the story, and the actors do not behave like they are sleepwalking through their performances. Beginning with the plot thread that left Supremacy up in the air, Ultimatum takes charge right from the beginning. Jason Bourne, this time, remembers more about his past and is determined to find out who is the person responsible for that said past. No, it’s not MUCH of a plot but at least it’s some justification for all of the action and fighting. It’s simple…a simple story…Jason Bourne wants to find out who he is and why he does what he does. Basing all the action on that logic, the movie makes sense. And it is one heck of a wild ride – once again Greengrass and his crew incorporate the camera in the action…make sure to take your Dramamine before this one because when Jason Bourne gets in a brawl, you feel like you’re punching right along with him. If you were a fan of the first two films, this one is a must see!

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Like the 2002 film, The Bourne Identity, this film features amnesiac Jason Bourne on his quest to find the truth out about himself and his possibly nefarious former life. Identity ends with Jason reconnecting with love Marie in an island paradise and Supremacy continues at that spot. From there, it spins you into a world of action, intrigue, and governmental intelligence like nothing ever before. Identity lays the groundwork for the character and plot, but this film answers most, not all, of the questions. It is faster, more intense, and a bit more easy to follow than the first installment. And, there is a car chase in Supremacy (one of the best car chases ever in movies, I feel) that will make you want to walk around for a while since just the sight of automobiles will make you sick. Matt Damon plays Jason Bourne to the hilt, capturing the right level of stamina, compassion, and strength of mind and body. The supporting characters (some carried over from Identity, some new) round out the film by filling in some of the holes about Jason’s past, that, of course, he can’t do since he’s lost his memory. This is one of the best action films in recent years (or decades). It takes the audience on a ride of fun and thrills, all while maintaining a level of plausibility, smarts, and common sense…things VERY few action movies do anymore.

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