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The Monuments Men Blu-rayThe Monuments Men is a classic case of over-expectations. The film sports a dream cast and follows one of the most interesting true-life stories from the World War II era. Its writing is solid and its cast is spot-on, but thanks to a few script choices, The Monuments Men never turns into the epic movie experience many viewers were expecting. In fact, perhaps thanks to those bloated expectations, it didn’t get the moderately entertaining reviews the film deserved, but that doesn’t mean audiences should avoid Sony Pictures Home Entertainment’s Blu-ray release.
Director George Clooney goes old-school with his tale of a group of WWII soldiers fighting to protect famous works of art from the clutches of the Nazis. Despite the urgency of the war efforts, the pace in The Monuments Men is long and winding. The lengthy narrative follows art conservationist Frank Stokes (Clooney), a lieutenant in the Army who assembles a ragtag group of British, French and American individuals to travel around Europe conserving priceless works. With a cast comprised of Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban and Hugh Bonneville, you would think there would be plenty of opportunities for boisterous joke-making, but the setup of the story actually means these moments are few and far between.
In order to save art, it makes sense that the men in the film would split up in order to cover as much ground as possible. However, in the context of the story, when the characters are split into numerous groups, not only is the enjoyable banter cut back on, but the storyline becomes convoluted and there are too many narratives competing for time. Still, despite its faults, The Monuments Men is a worthwhile story, with enough intriguing and amusing moments to keep the average viewer invested through its lengthy 2-hour runtime. As long as audiences don’t plan to catch an Oscar-worthy heart-tugger, they should enjoy The Monuments Men’s breezy movie experience.
You can order The Monuments Men over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature:
The Monuments Men isn’t anything particular special. A lackluster menu page and bonus features make up the disc. Of those, the most interesting award has to go to "In Their Own Words," a short featurette told from the perspective of the real-life Monuments Men (or at least those who are still living). I probably would have enjoyed the extra if it had featured more background historical information, but I’ll take what I can get.
Other Bonus Features:
"A Woman Amongst The Monuments Men"
"George Clooney’s Mission"
"Marshaling the Troops"
Pompeii Blu-rayMost of Pompeii’s marketing was heavily reliant on the explosion of the volcano that should have been at the heart of the narrative. Unfortunately, Pompeii spends a good chunk of its first hour clunkily revisiting gladiator tropes we’ve seen before. Then, finally, Paul W.S. Anderson’s impressive grasp of visuals kicks in, tying an improbable love story to one of the most famous disasters of all time.
The trajectory of Pompeii is that of a rollercoaster. Bad dialogue guzzles and spurts between friendship-building exposition between gladiators and excellent villainous looks from Kiefer Sutherland, who plays the disreputable Corvus in the movie. Chaste meet-cutes slow the narrative down, while fireballs and foreboding skies speed it up at an incredible rate. In short, Pompeii is as messy as the ash-covered streets Vesuvius leaves in its wake—as engaging in moments as it is dull in others.
This doesn’t seem to be the fault of young actors Kit Harington and Emily Browning, who are both becoming prominent names in show business. Outside of Pompeii, Harington plays the golden boy in HBO’s popular series Game of Thrones while Browning has had her share of disasters in the past, including Zach Snyder’s Sucker Punch. Just as in that film, she does her best with the material. In fact, Harington and Browning are both memorable as star-crossed lovers. Unfortunately, Pompeii’s script really, really should have been all about the volcano.
Instead, we follow Milo (Harington), a boy who becomes a slave after witnessing the deaths of his parents and who later becomes an invincible gladiator in the arena. Eventually, his fighting prowess brings him to Pompeii, where he falls in love with the wealthy daughter of a prominent citizen named Cassia (Browning). When the giant volcano erupts, it is up to Milo to save the girl.
In and of itself, the plot is certainly serviceable for a big box office endeavor. The acting is good, and in some moments the story is completely engaging. Pompeii just doesn’t always take advantage of its biggest strengths. It isn’t violent enough to please the 300 audience and it isn’t epic enough to please the Gravity audience. That doesn’t make it the disaster of the century, but it doesn’t make it newsworthy, either.
You can order Pompeii over at Amazon.
Best Special Feature:
Clearly Pompeii is Sony’s big home entertainment release this week. Not only is there a 3D option for the flick, the set comes with plenty of bonus features for fans. Of these, there are a ton of deleted scenes that add even more backstory to the narrative. Among these is a shot of Milo and Cassia having some fun on the back of a horse, etc. Not all the scenes are finished, but most are worth a watch.
Other Bonus Features:
"The Assembly—Cast and Characters"
"The Volcanic Eruption—Special Effects"
2D Deleted & Alternate Scenes
"The Journey—Production Design"
"The Costume Shop—Costume Design"
Pompeii: Buried In Time Behind The Scenes
Other May 20 ReleasesUnless you really, really like the guys in Mountain Men or have a penchant for the cute little girls that pop up on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, there aren’t a ton of other big releases this week, although there are plenty of releases and re-releases for fans to choose from. If you’re looking to give one of these a shot, I’d say give it to About Last Night, the Kevin Hart saucy flick featuring plenty of frank talk about sex and relationships. The R-rated rom-com is probably not one to pull out around the kids, but it’s worth a watch, nonetheless. You can nab a copy of About Last Night over at Amazon.
You can check out some more of this week’s releases, below. Unless otherwise noted, sets are available on both Blu-ray and DVD.
3 Days to Kill
About Last Night
Nikita: The Complete Fourth and Final Season
Warehouse 13: Season 5
The Right Kind of Wrong
The First World War: The Complete Series DVD
Mountain Men: Season 2 DVD
In Secret DVD
Terry Fator: Live in Concert DVD
Sophia Grace & Rosie’s Royal Adventure
Whoopi Goldberg Presents Moms Mabley DVD
The Moneychangers DVD
The Revengers DVD