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"Monuments Men" is good - if you know what to expect (DVD review)

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The Monuments Men

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The Monuments Men (2014)

Starring: George Clooney, Matt Damon, Bill Murray, John Goodman

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The film begins in 1943, as Frank Stokes (Clooney) heads a platoon tasked with the protection of culture and the recovery of historical artifacts from wartime Germany. The artifacts in question are works of art by famous artists and sculptors such as Michelangelo, Rembrandt, Picasso, and others. Stokes' ragtag team of art connoisseurs, who call themselves "the Monuments Men," begins to hunt down the masterpieces in a race against time. As World War II rages on, a document called the Nero Decree announces that if Hitler dies or if Germany falls, the Nazis will destroy city infrastructure, architecture, archives, and art - which they have been stealing in bulk and stockpiling. Essentially, Hitler's aim, if defeated, is to make it seem as though that culture never existed. It's up to the Monuments Men to prevent that from happening - and to preserve an enormous piece of the world's collective history.

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The Breakdown:

First and foremost, one thing must be addressed: "The Monuments Men" is not a comedy. For some reason, it seems that many moviegoers saw the big names and assumed the movie would turn out to be some sort of "Ocean's Eleven" or something. News flash: comedic actors also occasionally star in dramas. Such is the case with this movie. Although there are some brief bits of humor, it is a historical drama from start to finish. Those who see guns and army helmets and automatically expect a shoot-em-up thriller are also looking in the wrong place. While set in the midst of the World War, there isn't much explosive action to speak of, either. There is not much jarring activity in the plot and the conclusion is rather smooth.

The movie is evenly paced, in the sense that it occasionally alternates between drama and brief situations of mild peril. It's a slower approach than most other war movies and viewers who are expecting otherwise will likely be disappointed. But if you take the movie for what it's worth - the thought-provoking story of a forgotten group of heroes - it ends up being a pretty interesting show that will appeal largely to more mature (read: older) audiences and art lovers.

With that being said, the star-studded cast should, indeed, be a big draw for this movie. With names like Clooney, Damon, Murray, and Goodman, who shine among other standout performances, it's hard to go wrong. The characters are likable and pleasant and each provides his own unique charm to the movie.

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The Verdict:

In the end, "The Monuments Men" is a bit dry and definitely won't keep audiences riveted to the edge of their seats, but it's a story that needs to be told. Based on actual events, it is nice to take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices of these unsung heroes who put themselves in harm's way to protect some of Earth's greatest historical artifacts. Being able to see real photographs of those soldiers in action at the end of the movie is a nice touch and it puts a dab of reality to the film. This is probably not a movie you need to buy right now at full price, but it should be worth your time eventually, whether that means dropping a buck-fifty and Redboxing it this weekend or waiting a month or two for the price to drop before purchasing it. Try it out when you have a chance - just put your expectations in check first.

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Similar movies: "The Book Thief" (2013), "Saints and Soldiers" (2003), "Valkyrie" (2008)

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DVD bonus features:

- Audio in English, French, English Descriptive Audio, French Descriptive Audio

- Subtitles in English, French, Spanish

- No other bonus features available on rental version

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Directed by: George Clooney

Studio: Columbia Pictures, Fox 2000 Pictures

Running time: 118 minutes

MPAA rating: PG-13 for "some images of war violence and historic smoking," including some profanity (two moderately offensive religious references) and a couple brief glimpses of nude artwork.

Costars Bob Balaban, Jean Dujardin, Hugh Bonneville, Dimitri Leonidas, Cate Blanchett,

DVD release date: May 20, 2014

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