TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
An hour and change into Pompeii, there's a volcano. You'd think there might have been a volcano throughout — you'd think that the folks inhabiting the ill-fated Italian village would have been dealing with the infamous volcano for the full 110 minutes. After all, volcano movies have worked before. Volcano, for instance. And the other one. But for some reason, Pompeii feels the need to stuff its first three quarters with coliseum battles, Ancient Rome politics, unlikely friendships, and a love story. But we don’t care. We can't care. None of it warrants our care. Where the hell is the volcano, already?
To answer that: it's off to the side — rumbling. Smoking. Occasionally spiking the neighboring community with geological fissures or architectural misgivings. Pretty much executing every trick picked up in Ominous Foreshadowing 101, but never joining the story. Not until Paul W.S. Anderson shouts, "Last call," hitting us with a final 20-odd minutes of unmitigated disaster (in a good way). If you've managed to maintain a waking pulse throughout the lecture in sawdust that is Pompeii's story, then you might actually have a good time with the closing sequence. It has everything you’d expect — everything you had been expecting! — and delivers it with gusto. Torpedoes of smoke running hordes of idiot villagers out of their homes and toward whatever safety the notion of forward has to offer. Long undeveloped characters rising to the occasion to rescue hapless princesses who thought it might be a good idea to set their vacation homes at the foot of a lava-spewing mountain. The whole ordeal is actually a lot of laughs. But it amounts to a dessert just barely worth the tasteless dinner we had to force down to get there.
TriStar Pictures via Everett Collection
To get through the bulk of Pompeii, we recommend focusing all your attentions away from the effectively bland slave/gladiator/hero Kit Harington — sorry, Jon Snow (he's actually called a bastard at one point) — and onto his partner in crime: a scowling Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje — sorry, Mr. Eko (he and Snow actually trade valedictions by saying "I'll see you at another time, brother" at one point) — who warms up to his fellow prize fighter during their shared time in the klink, and delivers his moronic material with a sprinkle of flair. Keeping the working man down is Kiefer Sutherland — sorry, Jack Bauer — as an ostentatious Roman senator, doling out vainglory in Basil Fawlty-sized portions. When he's not spitting scowls at peasants, ol' JB is undermining the efforts of an earnest local governor Jared Harris — sorry, Lane Pryce (he actually calls someone a mad man at one point) — and his wife Carrie-Anne Moss — sorry, Katherine O'Connell from Vegas (joking! Trinity) — and finagling the douchiest marriage proposal ever toward their daughter Emily Browning — sorry, but I have no idea what she's from.
But questionable television references and some enjoyably daft performances by Eko and Jack can't really make up for the heft of mindless dullness that Pompeii passes off as its narrative... until the big showstopper.
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In truth, the last sequence is a gem. It's fun, inviting, and energizing, and might even call into question the possibility that Pompeii is all about how futile life, love, friendship, politics, and pride are when even the most egregiously complicated of plots can be taken out in the end by a sudden volcanic eruption. But you have to wade through that egregious complication to get there, and you shouldn't expect to have too much of a good time doing so.
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"Sorry if my snoring bothered you."
Those are not the first words I'd expect out of the mouth of someone who got up on a Friday morning to catch the 10:30 AM screening of a new movie but that is more or less what the fellow who'd been sitting behind me said as I passed him on my way out. I'd heard him snoring over the constant rat-a-tat-tat of bullets and butt-kicking being doled out by Milla Jovovich et al in this latest iteration of the never-ending Resident Evil series (this time in IMAX 3D) but I figured maybe I was hearing things. Nope he was asleep.
I used to play Resident Evil on my ancient PlayStation when it first came out. It scared the crap out of me. I enjoyed the first two movies — hey they included the skinless zombie dogs! — but I lost interest soon after that. How many times can you make the zombie apocalypse exciting? How many different skintight outfits can Jovovich wear while killing grotesque creatures who shoot evil grasping tentacles out of their mouths? Why should we care about all the blood and guts when we know the people we're supposed to be emotionally invested in will never die? We don't.
Try as he might there are only so many ways for writer/director Paul W.S. Anderson to give the Resident Evil series fresh new layers for each new movie. The Umbrella Corporation is the big bad. They were playing with biological weapons and somehow there was an accident that let one of the viruses loose... and boom you've got a zombie apocalypse on your hands. Our heroine is Alice played by Milla Jovovich and there is a rotating cast of characters who help her fight the good fight against the hordes of brain-eaters and whatever is left of the Umbrella Corporation that's now after her. There are some parallels to the video game series but Paul W.S. Anderson (a gamer himself) has taken lots of liberties with the basic plot over the years. While Anderson's flashy style is especially suited to these types of movies there's not enough plot to make it work.
We don't go to video game movies for plot of course but there has to be something to hold onto; otherwise why would we care if our protagonist were in danger? Anderson tries some neat tricks to snap us back to attention like bringing back characters that were killed in previous movies and throwing in a cloning subplot that calls into question some of the characters' true identities but it's still hard to get worked up about anything onscreen. However it ultimately sidesteps any deeper ideas that might take our attention away from all the guns. And there are so many guns and explosions and elegant butt-kickings doled out by Milla and her pals (or former pals in the case of Michelle Rodriguez's character Rain) that they blend together.
It is especially difficult to work up any interest in the story because it's a franchise and no matter how many times the stars or director might say they're not that interested in doing another everyone is just waiting to see how much money this will make before deciding to go forward. There is no question how franchise movies will end; there will be no derring-do on the part of the writer or director to actually kill off a beloved character permanently. At one point it seemed like Anderson was going to pull the old "And then she woke up!" trick which would have been bold both because it's such a hackneyed idea that it would make writing professors' heads explode all over the world but also because it would have required Anderson to play in a different universe and expand his repertoire a bit. Alas like Alice and Anderson himself we just can't seem to escape this rabbit hole.
The Olympics! You guys! The entire world has Olympic fever and we're not about to stop it until the fat lady (or Paul McCartney) sings this weekend. But seriously, what a crazy event when you think about it, right? Once every four years we have the birth of a new strain of celebrity: the superathlete. These men and women are different from our actor celebrities, because these folks never asked to be famous. They simply asked to run, swim, jump, or shoot things. And so, of course, because of this, we love them even more so! And when the Olympics end, it almost feels like a graduation of sorts. Here was this 2 week training course on consta-attention: now it's time to enter the full-fledged celebrity dome of existence. So as our young athletes go into the great big unknown, they need to be armed with knowledge of their strengths OFF the court/pool/track/field/whatever. So we've decided to give them a little help. And what's more helpful than superlatives, right?! So take note, Olympians--this is your most (or least) future-y thing!
Sport Most Likely To Be Made Into A Raucus Comedy Starring Will Ferrell
Rhythmic gymnastics. I mean we all saw the beauty and grace of Mr. Ferrell in Old School, so why not give his rhythm gymnastic skills their own vehicle? Maybe we can get Vince Vaughn on board.
Sport Most Likely to Influence NYFW
Those synchronized swimming ladies were OUT OF CONTROL, eh? It's, as they say (in the BIZ!), a revelation. You'll surely be seeing Russians Natalia Ishchenko and Svetlana Romashina sitting next to Anna Wintour and inspiring Lady Gaga.
Athlete Most Likely To BEG To Be Let Into NYFW
Most Likely to be A Mime
Xu Lijia of China
Most Confusing Sport, Ever
Laser radial sailing. I have no idea what is happening or how it is a race.
Most Likely To Bare All For Maxim or FHM or Whatever
Sport Most Likely To Signal The Dawn Of Our Very Weird Future
Indoor Track Cycling. Seriously, that s**t is like TRON.
Athlete Most Likely To Cameo In The New Avengers film
Robert "Incredible Hulk" Harting of Germany.
Worst Named Olympian
Vania Stambolova (Sorry about your stumble, p.s.).
Best Named Olympian
Ezekiel Kemboi of Kenya
Athlete Most Likely To Shill. Just Shill.
Athlete Most Likely To Let Everything Go To His Head
Ryan Lochte. JEAH JEAH!
Most Likely to Dance on DWTS
Aly Raisman's parents
Most Likely to Have Their Just-Announced Reality Show Do Mediocrely
Most Likely to Be an Awesomely Mean Judge on the Inevitable Gymnastics Reality Competition Show Coming Soon
Duo Most Likely To Be "Having A Volley-Ball" on a Campy Bravo Reality Special
Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh Jennings
Most It's Just Not Even Fair To Anyone Else
Men's US Basketball
Best Use of Boners
The Men's American Rowing Team (Sorry, the picture was too NSFW for us to post, but look it up)
Athlete for Which Olympics Is Just a Novelty Talent Show
Most "If I Don't Win, The Queen Will Just Buy Me A Pony"-iest
Zara Phillips, granddaughter of Queen Elizabeth II
Most Likely to Host SNL
Thanks to a little birdie named US Magazine, we know that Ms. Douglas wants to be an actress (we can just imagine all of the awkward interviews with Jay Leno now), so it makes the most sense that the littlest flying squirrel we know would gun for the chance to host the show. And! Well, it doesn't seem all that far off--especially since Gabby is arguably the breakout Olympic star from this year. So why not get her a bit ahead of the game and come up with a nice monologue scene for her, eh?
We imagine it to start off with assertions of her non-squirrel status ("many people call me by my nickname, the flying squirrel. I'm hear to tell you I'm not a squirrel, nor can I fly"). However, we all know that a goofball (yes, you, Bobby Moynihan) would egg her on, and they would have a high-flying battle where Gabby's high-flying kicks and flips will eventually launch her into the air where a slow-motion battle royale set to the music of West Side Story would take place. Gabby's teammates would also be rigged up and battle the SNL boys to an epic defeat. That's one way to get them back for the terrible hair-related sketch that will undoubtedly happen later on in the evening.
[Photo Credit: NBCOlympics.com; Tomás González via @tomasgonzalez1]
[GIF Credits: Youshang (Robert Harting); BadBoiBilli (Ezekiel Kemboi); Grazia (All Others)]
Follow Alicia on Twitter @alicialutes
Olympics Injuries and Fails: That's Gotta Hurt!
Celebrate the One-Week Anniversary of the London Games With More LOLympics
Olympics Round-Up: Hey LADIES!
We've trawled through the happenings and the hits, the flops and the fuss to bring you the last 12 months in quiz form.
So, as we ring in 2010, here's your chance to test the old grey matter with 30 posers about the closing year.
Best of luck...
1. Name Kate Hudson's former baseball beau.
a. Alex Rodriguez
b. Derek Jeter
c. Manny Ramirez
2. Who won the 2009 Oscar for Performance by an Actor in a Leading Role?
a. Sean Penn
b. Brad Pitt
c. Mickey Rourke
3. And who won Oscar gold in the Actress in a Supporting Role category?
a. Amy Adams
b. Penelope Cruz
c. Viola Davis
4. Name the actress who won damages from U.K. tabloid the Daily Mail after the publication called her "the most irritating actress".
a. Kate Winslet
b. Dame Judi Dench
c. Kate Hudson
5. Name the Russian who gave birth to Mel Gibson's baby in October.
a. Petra Nemcova
b. Oksana Grigorieva
c. Anna Kournikova
6. How many kids does Mel Gibson now have?
7. Which actress fasted for 12 days to highlight the plight of refugees in Darfur?
a. Angelina Jolie
b. Charlize Theron
c. Mia Farrow
8. Which great Brit recovered from a late 2008 coma to start work on his 74th film role this past summer?
a. Christopher Lee
b. Lord Attenborough
c. Sir Ian McKellen
9. Which top TV actress said, "I was named after my great-grandmother. If you look it up it's Greek, but my grandmother was apparently named after an Irish Catholic saint, who had an indiscretion with the Greek god Zeus and was kicked out."
a. Vivica A. Fox
b. Penelope Cruz
c. Calista Flockhart
10. Which movie star quit acting to become a batty rapper?
a. Hugh Grant
b. Joaquin Phoenix
c. Mark Wahlberg
11. Which Irish actor became a dad for the second time this year?
a. Colin Farrell
b. Colin Firth
c. Daniel Day-Lewis
12. She played TV chef Julia Child and Fantastic Mr. Fox's wife in two 2009 films. Name the Oscar winner.
a. Nicole Kidman
b. Julia Roberts
c. Meryl Streep
13. The castmembers of which famous TV sitcom reunited for an episode of Curb Your Enthusiasm?
14. Which sexy star inhabited Jennifer's Body?
a. Megan Fox
b. Eva Mendes
c. Kate Beckinsale
15. Which Charlie's Angels star died on the same day as Michael Jackson?
a. Cheryl Ladd
b. Jaclyn Smith
c. Farrah Fawcett
16. Which 2009 movie did George Clooney not appear in?
a. Fantastic Mr. Fox
b. The Men Who Stare At Goats
c. The Blind Side
17. Which funnyman had heart surgery in 2009 to replace a heart valve?
a. Robin Williams
b. Pierce Brosnan
c. Alec Baldwin
18. Which box office smash hit featured balloons, an old man and a boy scout?
c. Monsters Vs. Aliens
19. Jaime Pressly, Claire Danes, Marla Sokoloff and Anna Faris all had what in common in 2009?
a. They got married this year
b. They had a baby this year
c. They spent time in rehab
20. Which actress was unceremoniously ditched from the Twilight franchise?
a. Ashley Greene
b. Dakota Fanning
c. Rachelle Lefevre
21. And which filmmaker's daughter will replace her in Eclipse next year?
a. Bryce Dallas Howard
b. Jessica Capshaw
c. Eva Amurri
22. Which Beatle does Aaron Johnson portray in Sam Taylor-Wood's directorial debut Nowhere Boy?
a. Paul McCartney
b. Ringo Starr
c. John Lennon
23. Which British actress was left "mortified" when Esquire magazine named her the year's Sexiest Woman?
a. Kate Winslet
b. Katie Price
c. Kate Beckinsale
24. Name the director of Inglourious Basterds.
a. Steven Spielberg
b. Ron Howard
c. Quentin Tarantino
25. Which British actor played the roles of Scotty in Star Trek and an adventurous mammal in Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs?
a. Hugh Laurie
b. Simon Pegg
c. Colin Firth
26. And which original Star Trek castmember was 'beamed up' for the summer sci-fi epic?
a. Leonard Nimoy
b. William Shatner
c. George Takei
27. Name the apt title of tragic movie star Patrick Swayze's memoirs.
a. The Time of My Life
b. No More Dirty Dancing
c. Next of Kin
28. Who will co-host the Oscars in March?
a. Brad Pitt and George Clooney
b. Hugh Jackman and Nicole Kidman
c. Alec Baldwin and Steve Martin
29. Which former heavyweight boxing champion played himself in hit comedy The Hangover?
a. Muhammad Ali
b. Mike Tyson
c. Lennox Lewis
30. And, here's a real toughie to finish on... Name Sarah Jessica Parker and Matthew Broderick's surrogate, who carried and gave birth to the couple's twins.
a. Kim Cattrall
b. Katherine Ross
c. Michelle Ross
The Dark Knight (Warner Bros), which has generated an estimated $315M since opening 10 days ago, has provided a huge boost to the film industry. 2007 was a record-breaker for the business with a total domestic take of $9.65 billion, almost 5 percent better than 2007. The current year is at $5.66 billion so far, which is less than 1 percent behind last year’s pace.
The final five months of 2008 look very strong, and I believe that Hollywood will set a new all-time box office record, proving once again that the movie business is recession proof. Gas prices have led to more “staycations,” and at a national average of just over $7 for a movie ticket, a trip to the local multiplex remains a very good value .
In 2007, the August-thru-December period included 4 films that went on to gross $200M+, 10 movies that ultimately surpassed $100M domestic and 13 titles that topped $75M in U.S. ticket sales.
December 14 - I Am Legend (Warner Bros) - $256.39M
August 3 – The Bourne Ultimatum (Universal) - $227.47M
December 21 – National Treasure: Book of Secrets (Disney) - $219.96M
December 14 – Alvin & The Chipmunks (Fox) - $217.32M
December 5 – Juno (Fox Searchlight) - $143.49M
August 10 – Rush Hour 3 (New Line) - $140.12M
November 2 – American Gangster (Universal) - $130.16M
November 21 – Enchanted (Disney) - $127.8M
November 2 – Bee Movie (Dreamworks/Paramount) - $126.63M
August 17 – Superbad (Sony) - $121.46M
December 25 – The Bucket List (Warner Bros) - $93.46M
September 28 – The Game Plan (Disney) - $90.63M
November 16 – Beowulf (Dreamworks/Paramount) - $82.19M
I am projecting that this year’s August-thru-December period will feature at least 2 films with $200M+, 11 movies surpassing $100M domestic and 2 more that seem certain to get past $75M. Plus, there are seven more “Wild Card” movies with real breakout potential.
November 7 – Madagascar 2 (Dreamworks/Paramount)
Everyone at Dreamworks Animation is very high on this one. The original 2005 movie finished with $193M US, and this one has a real shot at $200M domestic.
November 21 – Harry Potter & The Half Blood Prince (Warner Bros)
There is a guaranteed $250M in a Harry Potter movie, The last November HP release was Goblet of Fire, which hit $290M. It is fair to expect something in that range.
August 1 – The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor (Universal)
Should easily top $100M in its US theatrical engagements. Industry tracking looks exceedingly solid, and Brendan Fraser has the “family-friendly action star” thing down pat.
August 15 – Tropic Thunder (Dreamworks/Paramount)
I long ago tapped this as the late summer’s biggest hit. Robert Downey Jr. will have his second consecutive $100M, and look out for Tom Cruise, who reportedly steals the movie.
August 15 – Star Wars: The Clone Wars (Warner Bros)
My guess is that anything with Star Wars in the title and the George Lucas seal of approval is good for at least $100M.
October 24 – High School Musical 3: Senior Year (Disney)
No-brainer. The Disney Channel phenomenon comes to the big screen and $100M is a certainty. The on-again, off-again real-life romance of Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens will make great copy, and director Kenny Ortega has this formula down.
November 7 – Quantum of Solace (Sony)
Bond is Bond, and Daniel Craig is the best version since Sean Connery. I do not love the title, but my gut says it will be the biggest Jame Bond movie ever.
December 12 – The Day the Earth Stood Still (Fox)
I saw the trailer on the big screen for the first time before The The Dark Knight, and the audience seemed to respond well. I have my reservations, namely Keanu Reeves as Klaatu, but there is always room for an aliens attack/end of the world movie with a lot of great F/X.
December 12 – Seven Pounds (Sony)
Will Smith has 8 consecutive $100M grossing hits, and I do not think that streak will be broken here. Director Gabriel Muccino and the rest of the creative team from The Pursuit of Happyness return with the world’s biggest star in tow, and it cannot miss.
December 19 - Yes Man (Warner Bros)
Jim Carrey is coming off of The Number 23, his weakest live action film since The Majestic, but he is returning to his fool-proof brand of comedy. Funny premise. Life-affirming, feel-good movie for the holidays. Feels like a very safe bet for $100M+.
December 25 – Bedtime Stories (Disney)
In the same slot as last year’s Night At the Museum, Ben Stiller returns in a family-friendly story about a handyman whose bedtime stories begin to become real.
August 6 – Pineapple Express (Sony)
Huge buzz. The formerly humorless James Franco reportedly steals the show with an outrageously funny performance. This picture has a shot at $75M-$100M.
October 3 - Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Disney)
Part of what should be a huge fourth quarter for Disney. Talking chihuahuas, Disney’s marketing machine and an all-star Latino voice cast should bring tweens and families--especially Latino families. Salma Hayek, Andy Garcia, Edward James Olmos, Cheech Marin, Paul Rodriguez and George Lopez lend their voices along with Drew Barrymore. There is at least $75M in this family film.
September 26 – Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount)
Director DJ Caruso and Shia LaBeouf, who scored a surprise hit with Disturbia, re-team on a thriller coming to theatres in late September.
September 26 – Miracle at St. Anna (Disney)
Spike Lee’s WWII drama about four African-American soldiers sounds uplifting, but his venomous back-and-forth with Clint Eastwood has taken some of the shine off of this project. Lee’s last movie, Inside Man, was his most accessible film yet.
October 10 – Body of Lies (Warner Bros)
Oscar winner William Monaghan (The Departed) has adapted the excellent David Ignatius novel of the same name. With director Ridley Scott and Leonardo DiCaprio and Russell Crowe in the leads this picture could break out the way R-rated titles like The Departed and American Gangster did the last two years in this release slot.
October 17 – W (Lionsgate)
It is certain to be much talked-about, especially a few weeks before the Presidential election. This is an A-list cast and Oliver Stone’s typically creative version of the truth, and it may score big.
November 26 – Bolt (Disney)
With at least 800 3D locations (probably more by late November) and Miley Cyrus providing one of the voices, this animated movie will be a big family event for the Thanksgiving holiday weekend.
December 12 – Twilight (Summit Entertainment)
I have not read the books that spawned this film (probably because I am not a teenage girl), but there is no question that there is a huge audience waiting with bated breath for the film adaptation of Stephenie Meyer’s series of novels. Hard to say how big the film will fly, but it certainly has a shot at $75M.
December 19 – The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Paramount)
Brad Pitt stars as a man who begins aging backwards. With a script by Oscar winner Eric Roth (Forrest Gump, The Insider) and directed by David Fincher (Zodiac, Se7en), there is a real Oscar pedigree here, and there could be significant commercial upside.
Go to our Box Office section for recent weekend movie analysis.