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Saturday, May 24, 2014

The Monuments Men Blu-ray Review

Handsome and all-around nice guy George Clooney must have made a few calls to assemble the cast for The Monuments Men, because it comes off as sort of an Ocean's-Eleven-meets-Inglourious-Basterds-style caper. Clooney is the star of his fifth feature-length directorial effort, but he shares the poster with the likes of Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville and Cate Blanchett.

With that cast, you'd expect the same quips and smirks from the Ocean's series. However, instead of beautiful backdrops and leading ladies, the scene here is WWII. It's definitely not as glamorous. It's also not as entertaining.

Believe it or not, The Monuments Men is based on a true story. It's about a group of art and history geeks who cross enemy lines to retrieve great artworks from the evil clutches of Hitler and his not-so-merry men. Damon is horrible at French, even though he's tasked with getting info from French curator Claire Simone (Blanchett), while Goodman and Dujardin are briefly teamed up with unsuccessful results. Murray and Balaban are definitely the best pairing of the bunch. They have the most entertaining moments in the film and just work really well off of each other.

 John Goodman, Matt Damon, George Clooney, Bob Balaban, and Billy Murray star in "The Monuments Men." Photo: Sony.

Clooney is probably the most disappointing of the lot. Despite all of his passion and pep talks, his character doesn't seem to get a lot to do. Maybe he was too busy directing, but that's just one of the wasted opportunities in The Monuments Men. The pace is slow and the tone is all over the place, which creates sort of a cross between The Dirty Dozen and Hogan's Heroes. Not that that's a bad thing, but it just never comes together. Part of that may have to do with the fact that the lengthy cast doesn't spend a whole lot of time together on-screen. That makes the group's comradery just something that the viewer gets to assume instead of actually enjoy.

The Picture

This is an all-star extravaganza helmed by Hollywood's handsome George Clooney; Sony isn't going to skimp on the image here. The 2.40:1 transfer is pretty textured, between Clooney's salt-and-pepper facial hair, his slick suit, and his dress uniform. The outdoor scenes are absolutely stellar in both detail and color. However, once the action moves inside, the colors are tinted to a warmer tone and there are a few softer moments. That opening bar scene offers a peek at what I'm talking about. It's hard to complain, though. The Monuments Men is a really good-looking movie overall.

The Sound

Despite all of the action you'd expect from a WWII-themed movie, The Monuments Men is mostly about the dialogue, which comes through nicely on this DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 track. That's not to say that the surrounds are silent. The soundtrack is pretty bold and detailed and there are plenty of explosions, gunshots, airplanes, ocean spray and other ambient sounds to keep a full system pretty busy throughout the film.

The Extras
Given this film's performance at the box office, it isn't so surprising that the extras are a bit lean. There are a pair of deleted scenes, five minutes on George Clooney, a short on Cate Blanchett, and another piece on the overall cast. The gem of the lot is certainly "In Their Own Words." While a bit on the short side (12 minutes!), it's the most interesting of the lot, combining clips from the film, the cast and crew, and interviews with the surviving members of the real-life "Monuments Men."
Final Thoughts

George Clooney's track record is nothing to scoff at. However, Hollywood's golden boy isn't so golden with The Monuments Men. On paper, it has everything going for it: a good story, historical significance, and a phenomenal cast. The extras are skimpy, but the AV is certainly great. It's just that the slow pacing and uneven tone will leave viewers hunting for the few treasures buried in the actual movie.

Product Details
Actors: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, Hugh Bonneville, Cate BlanchettDirector: George ClooneyAudio/Languages: DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 (English), Dolby Digital 5.1 (French), DVS 2.0 (English, French)Subtitles: English, English SDH, French, SpanishAspect Ratio: 2.40:1Number of Discs: 2Rating: PG-13Studio: SonyBlu-ray Disc Release Date: May 20, 2014Run Time: 118 minutesList Price: $40.99Extras: Deleted ScenesIn Their Own WordsGeorge Clooney's MissionMarshaling the TroopsA Woman Amongst the MenPreviewsStandard-Def DVD

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