Clooney’s Zeroes

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There are two George Clooneys. There’s the actor who has appeared in serious weighty dramas like The Descendants, Ides of March, Good Night and Good Luck and Syriana and then there’s the Hollywood heartthrob who has been seen in fluffy, vacuous Hollywood blockbusters like Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve and Leatherheads. The Monuments Men is a film based on the book by Robert Edsel and Bret Witter about the army unit whose job it was to rescue valuable works of art from the clutches of the Nazis. Clooney plays Frank Stokes who gathers together a group of mismatched soldiers of different nationalities like Frenchman Jean Claude Clermont (Jean Dujardin), Briton Donald Jeffries (Hugh Bonneville) and Americans Walter Garfield (John Goodman) and James Granger (Matt Damon) to assist him. It is obvious that Clooney is a massive fan of films like The Great Escape and Kelly’s Heroes but the problem here is that The Monuments Men lacks the anarchic edge of something like Kelly’s Heroes and the epic drama of The Great Escape. Despite a very impressive cast and an intriguing premise, the film comes across as cheesy, flimsy and lightweight with no real chemistry between the cast. Cate Blanchett is also wasted as Frenchwoman Claire Simone, who takes a shine to Granger. It may just be a temporary blip in his career but The Monuments Men is a lazy love letter to far better films. Disappointing to say the least…

An Uncomfortable Birth

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Jason Reitman has been known up to this point for making comedies (Up In The Air, Thank You For Smoking, Juno) or at least comedy dramas in the case of Juno. Labor Day, based on the novel by Joyce Maynard, sees him heading in a different direction. Kate Winslet plays depressed single mum Adele, who encounters Frank (Josh Brolin) with her son Henry (Gattlin Griffith) at their local grocery store. The encounter changes their lives forever as it turns out that Frank is an escaped convict and he becomes a major part of their day to day existence. Labor Day is well acted and likeable but mostly it feels like one of those made for TV Channel 5 afternoon films albeit with a better cast and better acting. Brolin is always a personable screen presence and he is credible here with some charisma. Winslet, of course, is a very good actress and there is some chemistry between Adele and Frank. But it is very predictable and you can guess the end almost from the start. You also have the annoying voice of Tobey Maguire as adult Henry, which becomes quite grating. It’s not that Labor Day is a bad film but there is nothing here that lifts it above a solid but unmemorable drama. Perhaps Reitman should stick to comedy dramas in future…