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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Critically-acclaimed drama 12 Years A Slave looks set to dominate the 2014 Independent Spirit Awards after landing seven nominations. The period movie, about a free black man from New York who is abducted and sold into slavery, has landed filmmaker Steve McQueen a nod for Best Director, while Chiwetel Ejiofor is shortlisted for Best Male Lead, and Michael Fassbender and Lupita Nyong'o will compete in the supporting actor and actress categories, respectively.
12 Years A Slave has also scored nods for screenplay and cinematography, and the film will also be up against All Is Lost, Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis and Nebraska for the Best Feature title.
Father-and-son movie Nebraska is another multiple nominee, earning five mentions - Alexander Payne is up for Best Director, alongside McQueen, J.C. Chandor for All Is Lost, Jeff Nichols for Mud and Shane Carruth for Upstream Color; and Bruce Dern will battle for Best Male Lead, against Ejiofor, Oscar Isaac (Inside Llewyn Davis), Michael B. Jordan (Fruitvale Station), Robert Redford (All Is Lost) and Matthew McConaughey (Dallas Buyers Club).
Meanwhile, the Best Female Lead contenders include Cate Blanchett for Blue Jasmine, Julie Delpy for Before Midnight, and Shailene Woodley for her role in The Spectacular Now.
Among the other notable nominations: James Gandolfini has been shortlisted posthumously for Best Supporting Male for his performance in his last film, romantic comedy Enough Said, and the Best First Screenplay category features Lake Bell for In A World and Joseph Gordon-Levitt for Don Jon.
Jeff Nichols' Mud will receive the Robert Altman Award, which recognises the director, casting director and ensemble cast of a movie.
To be eligible for an Independent Spirit nod, all films must have been made for less than $20 million (£13.3 million). Movies must have either screened at a major film festival, including Sundance, Toronto or the Los Angeles Film Festival, or run for at least a week at a commercial theatre.
The winners will be unveiled at a ceremony in California on 1 March (14), on the eve of the 2014 Academy Awards.
Actress Kaley Cuoco is planning to usher in 2014 by marrying tennis player Ryan Sweeting in a festive ceremony on New Year's Eve, according to a U.S. report. The Big Bang Theory star became engaged to Sweeting in September (13) after only three months of dating, and she celebrated her impending nuptials by throwing a bridal shower over the weekend (22-23Nov13).
It has now emerged that Cuoco, 27, plans to begin 2014 as a married woman by holding her wedding on 31 December (13), according to Usmagazine.com.
The ceremony will reportedly be held in southern California and the reception will feature a 'fire and ice' theme.
Classic rockers Quiet Riot have recruited a new frontman who will make his debut with the band on New Year's Eve (31Dec13). The group has been hunting for a permanent singer since Kevin DuBrow's overdose death in November, 2007, and now the bandmates hope they've found their man in former Love/Hate vocalist Jizzy Pearl.
He will replace Scott Vokoun in the line-up, and he'll take to the stage for the first time with Quiet Riot when they perform in Flagstaff, Arizona on the last day of the year (13).
Pearl is currently in the studio with his new bandmates working on an album.
Announcing the departure of Vokoun in a statement, the band says, "We thank Scott for his past dedication and wish him much continued success."
The singer joined the Cum On Feel The Noize rockers in March, 2012.
Clint Eastwood's model daughter is reportedly following in Britney Spears' footsteps by ending her marriage to talent manager Jordan Feldstein, just days after the couple stunned family and friends by exchanging vows in Las Vegas. Francesca Eastwood wed actor Jonah Hill's brother on 17 November (13) and the couple filed its marriage certificate in Clark County last week (19Nov13), but now sources claim the week-long union is over.
One insider tells media outlets the newlyweds had immediate regrets following their Simple Wedding Chapel nuptials, which were fronted by an Elvis Presley impersonator.
The source tells Us Weekly Eastwood and Feldstein had "a wild night in Vegas" and "didn't know what they were doing" when they decided to get married.
Eastwood has been dating Feldstein since splitting from longtime photographer boyfriend Tyler Shields earlier this year (13).
Britney Spears annulled her 55-hour marriage to childhood friend Jason Alexander in early 2005. The couple wed in Las Vegas on New Year's Eve, 2004.
Neither Feldstein nor Eastwood, who was spotted at a party in Los Angeles last week (21Nov13) without a wedding ring, have commented on the marriage story.
Wrestler-turned-reality TV regular Hulk Hogan battled suicidal thoughts after his marriage crumbled, his son was imprisoned and his family TV show was axed, all within months in 2008. The former fighter admits splitting from Linda, his wife of 24 years, in late 2007 was just the start of a terrible year, revealing he felt helpless when their son Nick was charged, and later imprisoned for eight months, following a horrific car crash which left his friend and passenger John Graziano fighting for his life.
The final blow came as the family's reality show, Hogan Knows Best, was axed, and the series of unfortunate incidents left the now-60 year old reeling.
He says, "Everything kind of went downhill really fast. There was an accident that my son was involved in and a good friend of ours was in the accident with my son. Just the marriage basically crashing and burning...
"After the show, I kind of hit rock bottom. Everything got dark, everything happened at once. I was drinking alcohol very heavily. It just all kept piling up. It just kept mounting and mounting, and I didn't know how to handle it. I always wondered how could someone possibly take their own life? I got to that point where I thought, 'You know what, maybe this would be easy. Maybe this would be an easy way to fix things.'"
Luckily, Hogan managed to pull himself together after a warm greeting from a group of fans during a miserable New Year's Eve in Miami, Florida made him realise he had plenty to live for.
Speaking to TV titan Oprah Winfrey, he explains, "It hit me that there is clean air and there is dirty air. Once I walked back inside again (the New Year's Eve party), I realised that I couldn't take it anymore. I got sick and tired of being sick and tired."
Blink 182 frontman Tom Delonge is set to release a Christmas-themed children's book. The guitarist and father-of-two, who also fronts Angels and Airwaves, collaborated with illustrator Mike Henry to create The Lonely Astronaut On Christmas Eve.
Described as a "wistful story for the young and young at heart alike", the book tells of a spaceman spending a solitary Christmas Eve on the moon who is visited by extraterrestrial characters bearing gifts.
Pre-orders for a limited edition package containing a hardback first edition of the book with a certificate of authenticity signed by DeLonge, a digital version of the story, an etched acrylic ornament and a limited edition T-shirt are priced at $50 (£31).
DeLonge and Henry are also planning an auction of the book's original artwork on website CharityBuzz.com later this month (Nov13), with proceeds going to the Rady Children's Hospital Foundation in San Diego, California.
Billy Joel is returning to New York's Madison Square Garden for what is expected to be a sell-out gig in January (14). The Piano Man shattered the arena's record for the most consecutive sold-out shows in 2006 when he performed 12 concerts there. He will be back as he embarks on a comeback for a concert on 27 January (14).
Joel last performed at the Garden last year (12) when he took part in the 12-12-12 concert for the victims of Hurricane Sandy at the fabled venue.
The new gig will come at a high time for the singer/songwriter - in December (13), Joel will receive The Kennedy Center Honor and he'll perform on New Year's Eve (31Dec13) at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.
Late comedian Andy Kaufman's brother has postponed a major interview after making a headline-grabbing statement, in which he suggested his brother is alive. The Taxi star lost his battle with lung cancer, aged 35, in 1984, but fans have long speculated that his death was a hoax, and rumours went into overdrive on Monday (11Nov13) after his brother Michael gave a bizarre speech during the annual Andy Kaufman Awards in New York.
Michael told the audience that he believes the funnyman faked his own death, and claimed he discovered an essay written by Andy, which included details about his death hoax plans.
He also claimed the letter instructed him to go to a specific restaurant on Christmas Eve, 1999, upon which an anonymous man handed him another note, which he read aloud to the New York City crowd.
Andy allegedly wrote "everything was great in his life and he just wanted to get away from being Andy Kaufman," adding that he had fallen in love with a woman and the couple was raising a daughter together.
At that point, Michael shocked the audience by bringing a young woman onto stage and introduced her as the daughter Andy spoke of in the letter.
Footage of the stunt, which was obtained by TMZ.com, made headlines around the world and now Michael Kaufman admits he has been "overwhelmed" by the story.
Cancelling a planned interview with The Hollywood Reporter on Thursday (14Nov13), he said, "This is so, like, out of my league what's going on here."
He added, "I think I've been misquoted, OK? I never came out with, 'He's alive'. I'm as skeptical as anybody else."
Meanwhile, reports suggest the mystery 'daughter' is 23-year-old actress Alexandra Tatarsky.
Sources tell TheSmokingGun.com website that she met Kaufman's brother while she was working at an Andy Kaufman-themed exhibit at the Maccarone Gallery in Manhattan.
Andy Kaufman's brother has fuelled the mystery surrounding the comedian's death by claiming the funnyman is still alive and even fathered a daughter after he is said to have lost his battle with lung cancer. The Taxi star passed away at the age of 35 in 1984, but fans have long speculated that his death was a hoax.
Rumours about Kaufman's fate resurfaced on Monday (11Nov13) after his brother Michael gave a bizarre speech during the annual Andy Kaufman Awards in New York City.
Michael told the audience that he believes the funnyman faked his own death, and alleged that he discovered an essay written by Andy which included details on how he planned to pull it off.
He also claimed the letter instructed him to go to a specific restaurant on Christmas Eve, 1999, upon which an anonymous man handed him another missive, which he read aloud to the New York City crowd.
Andy allegedly wrote "everything was great in his life and he just wanted to get away from being Andy Kaufman," adding that he had fallen in love with a woman and the couple were raising a daughter together.
At that point, Michael shocked the audience by bringing a young woman onto stage and introduced her as the 24-year-old daughter Andy spoke of in the letter.
In video footage taken at Monday's event, obtained by TMZ.com, the unnamed woman backed Michael's story and claimed Andy has been living in secret as a stay-at-home dad.
She also claimed that Andy originally agreed to come out of hiding after 29 years to attend the awards, but backed out at the last minute.
The Hollywood Reporter has since contacted Michael, who claimed the mystery woman was impossible to reach for further questions.
If Kaufman was still alive today, he would be 64 years old.