Film reviews. Claudia Winkleman and Danny Leigh look at George Clooney's World War II comedy-drama The Monuments Men and Nick Frost gets his dancing shoes on in Cuban Fury.
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Coming up on tonight's show...
George Clooney and Matt Damon
give the Nazis the brush-off in The Monuments Men.
-Aren't you a little old for that?
Sequins and salsa with Nick Frost, Chris O'Dowd
and Rashida Jones in dance comedy Cuban Fury.
It's like a butterfly going out with a parsnip.
And there's romance as Joaquin Phoenix
falls for his computer in Spike Jones' Her.
-Hi. I'm Samantha.
Plus we review Bastards by veteran French director Claire Denis.
-Danny is here and we are joined by guest critic Xan Brooks.
First up, George Clooney directs and stars in The Monuments Men.
The true story of a platoon who rescued art masterpieces
stolen by the Nazis.
Mr President, we are at a point in this war that is the most
dangerous to the greatest historical achievements known to man.
The Nazis have been stealing art out of Warsaw, Amsterdam, Paris.
I'm to put a team together and try to protect what's left,
-and find what's missing.
-The Monuments Men?
-Signed by Roosevelt.
-How many men?
-For now, six.
-With you that's seven.
-That's much better.
Well, this is a story that really very few people know and it's
so rare to do any kind of a World War II story that you don't...
that people don't know.
The Monuments Men are this kind of very eclectic
group of guys from America, from England and from France.
We've been tasked with the finding
and protecting of over five million pieces of stolen artwork.
This is a model of his planned Fuhrer museum.
-It will be one of the biggest in the world.
-He'll need a lot of art to fill it.
-This is why Hitler didn't bomb Paris.
-Well, he bombed London.
Yes, I know. THEY LAUGH
They're men who were spurred on by a higher ideal
and all of those things that we take for granted
that are in the great museums of the world, that a lot of them
were returned by men who were sort of asked to do an impossible job.
Lieutenant, you're not going to have the equipment,
-you're not going to have the manpower.
-I think that went well.
The Nazis are on the run, they're taking everything with them,
so we have to get as close to the front as we can.
It's the greatest bad guy in the history of the world for a movie.
And it's the biggest treasure hunt,
it's certainly the biggest art heist ever.
-I'm interested in what you saw there.
-Thousands of pieces.
They would photograph the art then take it to Hitler.
We never really fully thought of it as a World War II film.
But the first day you get there and everybody puts on their uniforms
and their helmets you go, "Oh, we're doing a war film."
He's one of the best directors working today, without a doubt
and I've worked with a lot of really, really great directors.
And he belongs right on that list with all those great ones.
George's take on the tone of it, it's Wild Geese.
It's The Guns Of Navarone,
it's this Band Of Brothers who've been brought together.
I think you warm to these characters very quickly.
-What have you got?
-I seem to have... stepped on...a land mine.
-Why did you do something like that?
-What have you got?
The Lieutenant here seems to have found himself on top of an unexploded mine.
-Why would you do that?
-You lot are spending too much time together.
Artists, art dealers, architects. All the big Rs.
You know, the truth of the matter is
these guys pulled it off, and that's what's the fun of it.
'You can wipe out an entire generation, you can burn their
'homes to the ground and somehow they'll still find their way back.
'But if you destroy their history,
'you destroy their achievements, then it's as if they never existed.
'That's what Hitler wants, that is exactly what we're fighting for.'
See, that makes it look quite good. Danny.
Well, if logic had any place in movies
Monuments Men would be terrific, because you've got this great,
more-or-less true story and these wall-to-wall stars,
but somehow it just doesn't happen.
And I'm not convinced this is really the movie
that George Clooney wanted to make. It can't be.
On the first day of filming, he'll have arrived,
his man servant will have handed him his dressing gown over breakfast,
he'll have had his apricot croissant and he'd have thought,
"What I'm doing is making something big and broad
"and old-fashioned in the best sense.
"I'm kind of making Ocean's Dirty Dozen."
But he never really gets hold of the tone of it,
so you sort of veer away from Dirty Dozen and straight into 'Allo 'Allo,
with these sort of sweaty, jowly Nazis
and these cynical Frenchmen in berets.
That I don't think is the problem.
I think the problem is there's just no drama here,
it's like the film's had the drama kind of surgically
removed in case people get problems with their blood pressure.
So you don't care.
It feels cosy and, as the heroes are fleeing German gunfire, you're off
thinking about whether the recycling comes on a Wednesday or a Thursday.
I don't think this film is nearly as terrible
as the first wave of gleefully bad reviews
out of the Berlin Film Festival suggest, but, yeah, as I say,
I don't think it's the film Clooney intended to make.
I have to say, there'll be people watching who go,
"Don't they like anything?
"Hold on a minute, that's George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray.
"How can it be bad?" But it is, isn't it?
It is, and you go in with high hopes.
I want to like every film that I see.
And Danny's right, it's actually a weird achievement to make
an un-dramatic film about this kind of dramatic material.
There's a great film to be made about this subject,
about the wreckage of war, the vast human cost and whether art is
a pointless luxury when the whole of Europe's going up in flames.
This isn't quite that film.
It's not even necessarily a bad film but it's weirdly listless.
You've got this great band of brothers,
these first-rate performers, but they're all slightly on half speed.
I was watching them thinking,
"It's almost like they're rehearsing at the read through,
that they're feeling their way into their characters.
And eventually the cameras will start running and they'll go off
and do the movie that they've come to do, and instead that's the movie.
And it's just not quite there, it's 60% of a good film.
I totally agree. It's sort of, dare I say it, a boring watch,
which it shouldn't be with that cast.
It's a big disappointment but we have to be honest about it,
cos if you say that everything is great
then it ceases to have any meaning when something actually is great.
But Xan's right, it's weirdly put together, this film.
Scenes feel like they're building to either a moment of high drama or
a moment of hilarity and then they just stop and you just kind of cut.
Bill Murray will look out of a window
and then we'll cut to a horse and the film carries on.
It is strangely put together.
George Clooney as a director, if you look at all his films,
he's attracted to these films about decency and he shoots them
in this quite stolid, sturdy kind of way, but stolid, sturdy decency,
I mean, that's the kind of quality you want from a lighthouse keeper
or the treasurer at the parents-teachers association,
not necessarily from a movie director.
And I think the problem about the film is that it treats us
like kids, like we have to be reminded that Adolf Hitler
was a very bad man and that obviously the Americans won the war.
And after a while you start to bridle against that a little bit.
I was a little confused about the relationship that they
have to the art as well.
They seem to be after the Catholic religious art
that Hitler himself likes, they have the same taste as Hitler.
The stuff that he didn't like, the decadent modern art,
they're not particularly that interested in.
But actually, even that is beside the point.
I didn't ever quite believe in them as art scholars who are
passionately, intensely interested in art and want to save it.
Cos we never do that stuff,
cos Clooney gives himself on camera all these speeches to answer
that central question in the film, which is, is a man's life worth art?
But I don't think he ever buys it, either,
cos the monuments mend themselves. They don't appear interested
or really that fussed about art whatsoever.
You have this introductory scene in this kind of montage,
the classic montage scene where the gang are all assembled,
and John Goodman's there with a sculptor's mallet.
That's kind of about it. And Bob Balaban...
He looks really angry to be holding that mallet.
He wants to get the hard hat on, doesn't he?
Bob Balaban can recognise the name Picasso on a burnt frame, but that's sort of it.
You'd think they would talk among themselves a little bit.
And Hugh Bonneville, this is the great tragic element in this film.
Hugh Bonneville apparently saw the statue of Madonna when he was
a little boy, and that's the kind of driving force of this film.
Is that the problem, then?
That they're not passionate about it enough
so that we can't get on board with them?
Yeah, it's one of the problems, it's like they have to be
passionate about art but just never talk about it.
The thing is, I think what Clooney's very good at,
Clooney is obviously someone who creates great atmosphere on set
and I think he creates a great atmosphere with other actors
and so you do have this sense that this cast is great
and it's fun to just spend a little bit of time with them.
Jean Dujardin has nothing to do, really,
apart from to sort of smoke and grin and be French,
and he gets less memorable lines than
he did in The Artist, which is quite an achievement.
But it's fun to be with him, and Matt Damon and George Clooney
have this natural snap when they're going back and forth.
But there's not enough of that stuff.
Final question, is the problem with this film
our expectations are just too high?
Cos everyone I know is talking about Monuments Men,
it's got a great title.
Is it just that we went in and went,
"Oh, it's not as good as Ides Of March,
-"or not as good as all kinds of war films?"
I think expectations were very high, and then the first wave of reviews
came out where expectations sank like a stone.
As I say, I didn't dislike this film nearly as much as other people
but that's cos I'd read those first wave of reviews.
By the end you just want to go and see a film like The Train,
which does this story a lot better.
Or even Three Kings, which is a film that George Clooney did about
13 years ago, which was set in the first Gulf War,
but this was about a lot of the same things,
it was about the absolute waste of war
and the kind of horrible black comedy of going after
this loot that's been squirreled away.
And it was biting and funny and it felt like it meant it,
it had some sort of passion to it.
And Three Kings rendered all those other films kind of redundant.
Three Kings also starred Mark Wahlberg, who was fantastic in it,
and then Mark Wahlberg crops up in Lone Survivor
a couple of weeks ago, which was exactly the kind of film
Three Kings was supposed to have blown away.
OK, next, Nick Frost stars as a salsa dancing supremo who
returns to the dance floor many years after his dreams had been dashed.
BICYCLE BELL RINGS CAR HORN TOOTS
-Oh, I would not like to be those tyres.
-Yeah, very amusing(!)
Got the new boss starting this morning. I hear he's a ball buster.
Apparently, he is a she.
You mean like a tranny?
'Sad-sack Bruce Garrett,'
overweight, rudderless, no love in his life.
And this beautiful American girl comes to work at his office.
-Are you all right?
-Where am I? Am I in England? No, I'm fine.
-Way out of my league.
She's like a 10, I'm a 2.
It's like a butterfly going out with a parsnip.
'He begins this journey to try
'and woo her using the power of fiery salsa.'
-What do you want from me?
-I'm here to learn salsa.
I wasn't bitten by the bug, no, no.
-My name is Bejan, nice to meet you.
-Bejan means hero.
-What does Bruce mean?
-Er, "bush or hedge."
'You don't realise what an underground craze it is,'
salsa dancing. And they've all got their versions of it.
'But Nick trained for six months.'
Come on, we've got work to do.
Legs of a stallion, arms of an eagle.
And one, two, three. Five, six, seven.
'Well, I like dancing, I've always liked dancing.'
How can you make this drama?
My problem with dancing is I like it
but I had an issue with people watching me do it,
because when you're a big man cutting loose on a dance floor
and you're a good dancer, you get a very weird look from people,
and it's a look that you see people giving a child who has beaten
some terrible disease.
And it's this look. Aww!
They kind of feel slightly sorry for you.
(Women like that use guys like you to get advice about men like me!)
-You don't know about me.
-What don't I know?
I would love to see that!
There's no doubt in my mind that there is a direct correlation
between happiness and dancing.
You know, to a man, every person I met on the salsa circuit were
the happiest people I've ever met.
Oh, my God, they make me feel sick!
This is not a salsa.
Go back to the leisure centre, you bitches!
Do you have a fear of people watching you dance?
That's how you get over it.
A really expensive form of rehab.
I think I might make a film about...
CUBAN MUSIC PLAYS
I've got something that you don't have. Do you know what that is?
Type two diabetes.
-Well, it's a film that clicks its heels and rattles its castanets,
and then falls flat on its face.
It's one of those films that you really want to love because
it's a plucky British underdog movie about a plucky British underdog.
It's clearly a labour of love for Nick Frost,
who is a purely likeable presence.
I'm always happy to see him in a film,
but it feels very thin and overstretched.
And there's also that slightly worrying thing that the
actors do where they're overacting and rolling their eyes,
and mugging...that actors do
when the feel that the material needs a bit of help.
Do you think they're doing that?
I didn't think...
I felt that they were a little bit, yes.
And it felt like a...
It felt like a pilot for a sitcom that wasn't picked up.
But a lovely cast. Olivia Coleman, Nick Frost, Chris O'Dowd...
Always good, but all of them have done slightly better work than this,
so even though they're pros and they give it their all,
there was a sense that the material was kind of letting them
down a little bit.
It's a little bit like Monuments Men.
The cast is packed with people you just enjoy spending the time with.
They don't necessarily get that much to do.
Olivia Coleman and Alexander Roach, neither of them
have very much to do, but what they do they do with proper panache.
Kayvan Novak, who crops up here,
kind of channelling Bronson Pinchot in Beverley Hills Cop, I think.
He's like the undiscovered jewel of British comedy.
He's fine but he's been a lot funnier in Four Lions
and Peep Show, which is cruelly underrated.
Someone should make a movie of that.
I think someone needs to get hold of Kayvan Novak and put him in a very funny movie.
Chris O'Dowd is also very good here and weirdly impressive as a monumental dickhead,
that seems almost something that he's kind of slotted into.
Although, by all accounts, a lovely man.
Chris O'Dowd, I saw him in a film earlier called Calvary which he stars in
and I kind of want to talk about that, really, cos that doesn't come out till April.
That film is... It will just take your head off with how superb that film is.
And Chris O'Dowd completely breaks free of every kind of box he's been put in.
I mean, who will be a film maker?
Cos again, like Monuments Men, this film looks great on paper.
I mean, essentially, you can see why the idea took root,
cos it's Rocky played for laughs if Rocky was, you know,
a big-boned man in a sequin shirt who works as a lathe manufacturer.
And Nick Frost is Rocky and then,
Rashida Jones comes in, she's playing Talia Shire
-as Adrian. Ian McShane dipped in furniture polish is kind of Burgess Meredith.
-I love furniture polish.
You know, so that kind of makes sense,
but again yes, it doesn't click into place sometimes.
It's easy for us, cos we would sit here and talk about movies
and we'll try to think of smart things to say
and get an actor's name right and that's easy.
So no-one here will pretend that what's happening
on the set of Cuban Fury is easy at all, but...
And it's made with heart, I think.
-I think it doesn't have a bad bone in its body.
-Yeah, I found it moving.
-Yeah, I like it when the lanyards cross.
The lanyards is a nice moment.
-The parsnip and the butterfly.
-Do you like that?
-I'm not giving anything away, cos that's in the trailer, I promise you. But that's funny.
And they play it like they mean it and they're doing their best
with it and it's like watching a mediocre busker on the street.
You know, you might not give him your money, but at least he's having a go.
-Calvary, Calvary, though. Calvary is a fantastic movie.
Now, Joaquin Phoenix plays a man in the not-too-distant future who
falls in love with his computer's operating in Spike Jonze's Her.
Mr Theodore Twombly.
Welcome to the world's first artificially-intelligent
-We'd like to ask you a few questions.
-Are you social or anti-social?
I guess I haven't been social in a while...
How would you describe your relationship with your mother?
Please wait as your operating system is initiated.
-Hello, I'm here.
-Hi! I'm Samantha!
-Good morning, Theodore!
You have a meeting in five minutes.
-You want to try getting out of bed?
-You're too funny.
-Good, I'm funny.
I want to learn everything about everything.
I love the way you look at the world.
-How long before you're ready to date?
-What do you mean?
I saw in your e-mails that you're going through a break-up.
You're kind of noisy!
-So what is it like being married?
-There's something that feels
so good about sharing your life with somebody.
How do you share your life with somebody?
-How are you?
-I guess I've just been having fun.
-You really deserve that.
It's been a long time
since I've been with somebody that I felt totally at ease with.
What's it like to be alive in that room right now?
I wish I could put my arms around you.
I wish I could touch you.
How would you touch me?
Can you feel me with you right now?
-I've never loved anyone the way I love you.
-Me too. Now I know how.
# ..a million miles away... #
Such a beautiful film and also feels totally believable.
Well, it's possibly not the greatest week of films this week.
I mean, it's a relief really that we've got Her, which is not just a wonderful movie,
but it's three wonderful movies. It's a love story inside a comedy inside a sci-fi movie.
And all three of those could be film of the week by some distance.
Only the sci-fi film, I think what it understand about sci-fi completely it's that you only need
to nudge things five minutes into the future for them to work,
and we're already in this world where everyone dates online
and nobody can look away from their phone for longer than 30 seconds,
so it makes perfect sense that we'd start to fall in love with our computers.
But then, as a love story, although that sounds like a strange concept,
it's actually sweet and soulful and I think what I like so much about the film as well
is it's so packed full of ideas, which will kind of tap you on the shoulder
and whisper in your ear in the kind of the days and the weeks after you watch the film,
so it's a little bit like a kind of romance in itself.
You'll find that the movie will take you out and seduce you a little bit,
and you'll find you still like it in the morning.
It's incredibly original.
And bathed in this beautiful light.
I think it's two hours long. I would have watched another three hours.
Spike Jonze is a great director in that he
has that depthless atmosphere that's not shallow.
It's this weightless vibe that's going across this film
that in another director's hands
could be this terrible, dystopian, sci-fi tale.
The obvious point to make about the best sci-fi -
it isn't about the future at all, it's holding up a mirror
to how we live now.
This is a film about how technology has changed our relationships,
how it has brought us closer in some ways and alienated us in others.
There are great scenes where he's walking through
these communal spaces in LA
and he's talking on his headset
and everyone else is as well.
That's just how people are now.
Ten years ago, if you saw people, supposedly
hearing voices and talking to themselves,
that would be seen as a sign of serious mental illness.
Now the people who aren't doing that,
they are the ones who are at odds.
Computers and computer culture, it's the kind of thing
that Hollywood and films in general have got wrong a lot
but Her gets right to the heart of the matter,
which is that at the moment, where everything is online
and where we can tweak and tailor everything
to what we know we already like,
how does real life compete with that?
How can real people, if you're looking to get into a relationship,
be anything other than boring, irritating?
They'll say things that you don't like.
Rooney Mara plays the real life ex,
this terrible figure, who's a real person,
she is great in the movie.
She fulfils a similar role in The Social Network.
She's got that opening scene with Mark Zuckerberg.
She will lead the revolt,
once we overthrow social media and get rid of the whole lot.
Rooney Mara will be our girl.
And yet Rooney Mara is the one who is out of step
with the rest of the world.
-What is great about this film...
-She is still old-fashioned.
-"Why are you having a relationship?"
-And yet the thing about
this film is the character that Joaquin Phoenix plays isn't weird.
When he confesses, "I'm seeing my computer"
people say, "OK, I know someone else who's doing that as well."
Let's go on a double date. We should talk about the performances.
Amy Adams, Joaquin Phoenix, Rooney Mara -
there isn't anybody...
This isn't a film which is made up of awe-inspiring CGI.
It's handmade and feels ultra modern
and yet it's made by humans.
Joaquin Phoenix, it's not as crazed and ramshackle
as the performance that he gives in The Master.
But it's every bit as accomplished. Scarlett Johansson is such a clever piece of casting as well,
because as soon as we hear her voice as cement for the OS system,
we see her as well and because we see her,
we see what Joaquin Phoenix is seeing.
So, that makes perfect sense.
Spike Jonze as a director, he's kind of been in the shadow of Charlie Kaufman,
you know, with the scripts, and I think people haven't quite given him
the credit that maybe he deserved for Being John Malkovich and Adaptation.
I think the script here is great. I mean, it's incredibly funny.
We talked about George Clooney not quite getting the tone of The Monuments Men,
he gets this tone absolutely right, which is this kind of sunshine melancholy.
-And it is very funny, and it's also got this sort of ache the heart of it.
One slight reservation, talking about Charlie Kaufman, I kind of wish that he'd worked with him on this.
I think Charlie Kaufmann would have interrogated the subject matter
just that little bit more,
whereas Spike Jonze is allowing it to waft free a little bit.
I don't know. I like the simplicity of it, to be honest.
I also think, as a romance, where it works so well is that it feels,
when they first become intimate with each other, it reminds me of Harold and Maude.
You have this kind of breathtaking, "Are they really doing that?"
Because it does feel a little bit wrong, it's almost like Vertigo.
And those are big names of films just to throw around, but I think the film deserves it.
He's saying it's a weird relationship, but isn't every relationship weird?
It doesn't feel weird towards the end. It's a beautiful film.
Last up, French director Claire Denis films Bastards.
When a woman's life is destroyed,
her brother returns home to seek justice.
To show all is obscene, I think.
We understand no more than the main character.
He is working on a supertanker and he has a great life.
His sister calls him.
She says, "Help! Help me!
"I need you, I need your help."
Family, for me, it's not always fun.
In family, you have no choice. It's your family.
Paris, I think the aspect I show is really unfriendly.
The story maybe is hard and shocking, maybe violent,
maybe cruel, but image or not,
I'm not a sparkling person, you know?
My ideas are slow, not sparkles.
The best I can hope is that they do not dislike the film
and hope again they will adore the film.
But it's only wishes.
Well, we all know the experience of arriving late to a film where
you walk in the dark and you don't know what on earth's going on,
you don't know who these people are, what their relationships are.
The drama has already kind of started and you're frantically trying to catch up,
and that's the experience you have,
very deliberately, with watching Bastards.
Claire Denis, I think, is a brilliant director.
She's absolutely great at the elliptical edit,
the fractured narrative, at the puzzle, at the threat in the wings -
you know something terrible is going to happen, but you don't know what it is.
She's absolutely brilliant, but here, I think
she almost trips herself up,
that she's so intent on spinning us round and keeping us in the dark
that eventually, when she eventually pulls back the curtain
and we what this film is, your expectations by that point
are so high, it has to be something great to justify it.
-Well, because you've bought into it...
-When it's not, you're kind of let down.
But as a creator of mood, I mean, it's extraordinary.
Oh, yeah. I mean, you're right.
She gets a film noir and basically breaks it up into puzzle pieces
and then throws it all up in the air and then,
as they land, it's kind of left up to you as the viewer
to try to keep up or try and piece that breadcrumb trail for yourself,
or wait for her to kind of unveil the secret.
While that's happening, you're left with just the ambience
and the atmosphere and I think, yeah, you're right, as a maker of ambience, she's fantastic.
You've got this nocturnal Paris filled with dread and gloom,
and you've got Stuart Staples' electronic score kind of
burbling away in the background, which is incredibly good.
But Xan's right, I think the problems start once the story starts assembling,
because then the story feels quite hokey and again,
you start to think, "What, I was waiting for THIS?"
Because this story seems weirdly predictable
and the only reason you're surprised is you think,
"Claire Denis can't do a story which is quite this..."
It's kind of Get Carter in Chinatown
and a million other revenge thrillers that we're very, very familiar with.
That is what takes you by surprise, and that it does feel like a little bit of a let down.
Great, meaty performances from Vincent Landon as the uncle,
who looks a bit like Mel Gibson's nice European cousin,
and Lola Creton as well.
I'm pleased you brought that up. Very quickly, Film of the Week?
-Oh, Her, easily.
OK, good. That's all from us.
We'll be back next Wednesday at 11:05pm,
when we review Lars von Trier's Nymphomaniac
and Tilda Swinton in Only Lovers Left Alive.
We're going to play out tonight with a clip from Bright Eyes,
starring Shirley Temple, who died yesterday.
-Thank you very much for watching. Good night.
# On the good ship Lollipop
# It's a sweet trip to a candy shop
# Where bonbons play
# On the sunny beach of Peppermint Bay
# La la la la la la la
# Lemonade stands everywhere
# Crackerjack bands fill the air
# And there you are
# Happy landing on a chocolate bar
# Doo doo doo doo
# See the sugar bowl do the tootsie roll
# With the big bad devil's food cake
# If you eat too much
# Oh, oh!
# You will wake with a tummy ache
# On the good ship Lollipop
# It's a night trip into bed you hop
# And dream away
# Dream away
# On the good ship Lollipop
# Mm mmm
# You'll awake with a tummy ache
# On the good ship Lollipop
# It's a nice trip into bed you hop
# And dream away
# On the good ship Lollipop. #
Claudia Winkleman and Danny Leigh review World War II comedy-drama The Monuments Men, which features an impressive ensemble cast and is directed by - and stars - George Clooney.
Plus, Nick Frost gets his groove and dancing shoes on for salsa dancing comedy Cuban Fury and French director Claire Denis directs dark family drama Bastards.