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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Stars including Lily Tomlin and Li Bingbing have designed elephant sculptures to raise awareness of the threat against the endangered species. The actresses join reality TV star Khloe Kardashian in the Elephant Parade campaign to create the sculptures, which will go on display at Dana Point in California until November (13), when they will be auctioned off.
The funds raised will go to The Asian Elephant Foundation to cover costs of habitat restoration, veterinarian care and research projects.
Transformers 4 star Bingbing says, "The threat of extinction is more real than many realise. And the damage done to elephants directly leads to destruction of the ecosystem."
Sure, sure, "Bear Necessities" is the more recognizable number, but I will defend to the death the honor of King Louie's "I Wan'na Be Like You," one of the greatest songs in Disney animation history. No matter where you stand on this fiery debacle, you're sure to be fond of The Jungle Book, one of the more timeless gems from Walt's classic era. Which means you're sure to have mixed feelings about a live action reboot of the Rudyard Kipling source material, the announcement of which was made by The Hollywood Reporter. But then again, what don't we all have mixed feelings about these days? I guess we're pretty steadfast on Nutella, but otherwise the life is moreover nebulous.
In any event, the new film will be written by Justin Marks, who has crafted the scripts on a handful of shorts and TV movies, as well as on the 2009 film Street Fighter: The legend of Chun-Li. And when I think the whimsical adventures of a young orphan through a fantastical Indian jungle, I think Chris Klein doing video game martial arts.
So we're already getting off to an iffy start, but let's hold out hope — Kipling's literature is masterful enough to lend to a number of great visions packing disparate charms. And hey, a real life bear playing Baloo does sound like a pretty good time.
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A decade-long gap between sequels could leave a franchise stale but in the case of Men in Black 3 it's the launch pad for an unexpectedly great blockbuster. The kooky antics of Agent J (Will Smith) and Agent K (Tommy Lee Jones) don't stray far from their 1997 and 2002 adventures but without a bombardment of follow-ups to keep the series in mind the wonderfully weird sensibilities of Men in Black feel fresh Smith's natural charisma once again on full display. Barry Sonnenfeld returns for the threequel another space alien romp with a time travel twist — which turns out to be Pandora's Box for the director's deranged imagination.
As time passed in the real world so did it for the timeline in the world of Men in Black. Picking up ten years after MIB 2 J and K are continuing to protect the Earth from alien threats and enforce the law on those who live incognito. While dealing with their own personal issues — K is at his all-time crabbiest for seemingly no reason — the suited duo encounter an old enemy Boris the Animal (Jemaine Clement) a prickly assassin seeking revenge on K who blew his arm off back in the '60s. Their street fight is more of a warning; Boris' real plan is to head back in time to save his arm and kill off K. He's successful prompting J to take his own leap through the time-space continuum — and team up with a younger K (Josh Brolin) to put an end to Boris plans for world domination.
Men in Black 3 is the Will Smith show. Splitting his time between the brick personalities of Jones and Brolin's K Smith struts his stuff with all the fast-talking comedic style that made him a star in yesteryears. In present day he's still the laid back normal guy in a world of oddities — J raises an eyebrow as new head honcho O (Emma Thompson) delivers a eulogy in a screeching alien tongue but coming up with real world explanations for flying saucer crashes comes a little easier. But back in 1969 he's an even bigger fish out water. Surprisingly director Barry Sonnenfeld and writer Etan Cohen dabble in the inherent issues that would spring up if a black gentlemen decked out in a slick suit paraded around New York in the late '60s. A star of Smith's caliber may stray away from that type of racy humor but the hook of Men in Black 3 is the actor's readiness for anything. He turns J's jokey anachronisms into genuine laughs and doesn't mind letting the special effect artists stretch him into an unrecognizable Twizzler for the movie's epic time jump sequence.
Unlike other summer blockbusters Men in Black 3 is light on the action Sonnenfeld utilizing his effects budget and dazzling creature work (by the legendary Rick Baker) to push the comedy forward. J's fight with an oversized extraterrestrial fish won't keep you on the edge of your seat but his slapstick escape and the marine animal's eventual demise are genuinely amusing. Sonnenfeld carries over the twisted sensibilities he displayed in small screen work like Pushing Daisies favoring bizarre banter and elaborating on the kookiness of the alien underworld than battle scenes. MIB3's chase scene is passable but the movie in its prime when Smith is sparring with Brolin and newcomer Michael Stuhlbarg who steals the show as a being capable of seeing the future. His twitchy character keeps Smith and the audience on their toes.
Men in Black 3 digs up nostalgia I wasn't aware I had. Smith's the golden boy of summer and even with modern ingenuity keeping it fresh — Sonnenfeld uses the mandatory 3D to full and fun effect — there's an element to the film that feels plucked from another era. The movie is economical and slight with plenty of lapses in logic that will provoke head scratching on the walk out of the theater but it's also perfectly executed. After ten years of cinematic neutralizing the folks behind Men in Black haven't forgotten what made the first movie work so well. After al these years Smith continues to make the goofy plot wild spectacle and crazed alien antics look good.
S7E18: The most important thing to take from this week’s episode of How I Met Your Mother, “Karma,” is this: the writers of this show really hate Long Island. And it’s an irrational, haphazard hate. One week, they depict Long Islanders as a bunch of Rosie Perezes circa Do the Right Thing. Now, they’re switching to a sort of Stepford retirement community. Just pick a stereotype and stick to it. But I guess there actually are more important things to focus on regarding “Karma.” For instance, Karma.
"I swear, I never say crap like this. But I think, maybe, the universe is telling us something." - Barney Barney drives the A-story in his attempts to get to know Quinn, the girl he slept with around Valentine’s Day. He learns that she’s a stripper at the club he frequents (he’s not really one for eye contact), but does not let her profession stop him. Barney admits to genuinely liking and feeling challenged by Quinn. So, he makes an attempt to take her out. But here’s the kicker: she’s exactly like him. Quinn lies to Barney—tricking him into thinking that buying dances at the strip club is the only way he can spend time with her due to a fictitiously vigilant manager. Barney is head over heels for Quinn, so he eagerly gives into all of her tricks…right up until he notices her pulling the same exact game on some other guy at the club. Barney has a rare moment of profound reflection, recognizing that he deserves everything she is doing to him and then some. But he also admits that he is trying to be a better person, and that he actually has sincere intentions with her—due, naturally, to the fact that they’re practically kindred spirits. "I am so sorry. Your clothes accidentally ended up in this bag I donated to Good Will." - Lily At least a little bit moved by Barney’s speech, Quinn agrees to give him a chance. Two reformed sociopathic swindlers making a go at falling for one another. If that ain’t true romance… Can we hope that Barney’s fling with Quinn is just filler until he gets together with Robin? It is getting a little close to the end of the season for a Stinson-Scherbatsky reconnection/courtship/engagement/marriage. Could Quinn be the one Barney ends up with? A female Barney capable of turning him into a better man as he turns her into a better woman? Is this the fate we are meant to accept?! A little dramatic, I know, but we shippers are a passionate bunch. “Also, diary, I think writing in you is stupid, but you were a gift from Lily, and she’s watching me right now.” - Robin Speaking of Robin, she decides to stay with Marshall and Lily out in East Meadow, LI, for the time being (she moved out last week thanks to Marshall’s recommendation). Unfortunately, Robin finds this to be a hostile arrangement. Marshall and Lily have become boring suburbans who compulsively rope her into their mundane ideas of fun...and they won’t let her leave. Eventually, Robin gets it out of Marshall and Lily that they, too, hate Long Island, and need her there to ease the pain of living in what these writers apparently think is the worst place in the world. I believe it needs to be pointed out that Long Island is famous for its exquisite array of beautiful beaches, haunted locations and terrific bagels. So ease up, HIMYM. Marshall and Lily insist on staying, despite their misery, because they believe it’d be better for their baby—but more so, because they seem to be afraid or ashamed of “backing out” of this commitment. Robin tries to convince them that they should do whatever makes them happy, but to no avail. Until Ted comes along. "Shirley’s forty-two and rides a rascal. I swear, it’s the second half of Wall-E up here." - RobinAll episode long, Ted is dealing with his own misery. The misery of losing Robin, and of being alone, and of finding himself incapable of wood crafts and meat-smoking (he takes up a lot of hobbies to get his mind off his unhappiness). All the while, Ted talks to an imaginary Robin, who tries to convince him that all of this is a waste of time, and that he needs to do something more substantial to rid himself of the loneliness he feels in his apartment. And then, the real Robin shows up. They discuss a few things. Marshall’s and Lily’s unhappiness on Long Island, for one. More substantially, they discuss the end to their on-again-off-again ordeal…tacitly, but hardly subtly. Ted understands a little bit more that he really needs to move on, so that he can find something more meaningful than just a distraction from what he really wants… And he does. Ted calls Marshall and Lily, asking them to meet him at the apartment. But when they get there, all of his stuff is moved out, and there is only a note to greet them: he has given them the apartment—and they’re pretty thrilled about it. But the questions arise: what is Ted going to do now? Is this when he gets back into actually being an architect and building that skyscraper in the New York City skyline? We know it won’t be ‘til May that he meets the mother, so I predict a whole lot of existentialistic futzing around on Mr. Mosby’s part. In other words, I feel like there is a chance we might be in for a lot of Marshall/Lily/Robin/Barney-centric episodes—which is a shame, because when Ted is at his best, he is my favorite character. But we’ll have to see where this new conquest takes him. On the same token, where is Robin living? Are both of them homeless? Will the economy finally take a toll on this group of over privileged alcoholics? Let us know what you think about where Barney, Ted and Robin will go from here in the comments section, or on Twitter @Hollywood.com and @MichaelArbeiter.
The first and most important thing you should know about Paramount Pictures’ Thor is that it’s not a laughably corny comic book adaptation. Though you might find it hokey to hear a bunch of muscled heroes talk like British royalty while walking around the American Southwest in LARP garb director Kenneth Branagh has condensed vast Marvel mythology to make an accessible straightforward fantasy epic. Like most films of its ilk I’ve got some issues with its internal logic aesthetic and dialogue but the flaws didn’t keep me from having fun with this extra dimensional adventure.
Taking notes from fellow Avenger Iron Man the story begins with an enthralling event that takes place in a remote desert but quickly jumps back in time to tell the prologue which introduces the audience to the shining kingdom of Asgard and its various champions. Thor (Chris Hemsworth) son of Odin is heir to the throne but is an arrogant overeager and ill-tempered rogue whose aggressive antics threaten a shaky truce between his people and the frost giants of Jotunheim one of the universe’s many realms. Odin (played with aristocratic boldness by Anthony Hopkins) enraged by his son’s blatant disregard of his orders to forgo an assault on their enemies after they attempt to reclaim a powerful artifact banishes the boy to a life among the mortals of Earth leaving Asgard defenseless against the treachery of Loki his mischievous “other son” who’s always felt inferior to Thor. Powerless and confused the disgraced Prince finds unlikely allies in a trio of scientists (Natalie Portman Stellan Skarsgard and Kat Dennings) who help him reclaim his former glory and defend our world from total destruction.
Individually the make-up visual effects CGI production design and art direction are all wondrous to behold but when fused together to create larger-than-life set pieces and action sequences the collaborative result is often unharmonious. I’m not knocking the 3D presentation; unlike 2010’s genre counterpart Clash of the Titans the filmmakers had plenty of time to perfect the third dimension and there are only a few moments that make the decision to convert look like it was a bad one. It’s the unavoidable overload of visual trickery that’s to blame for the frost giants’ icy weaponized constructs and other hybrids of the production looking noticeably artificial. Though there’s some imagery to nitpick the same can’t be said of Thor’s thunderous sound design which is amped with enough wattage to power The Avengers’ headquarters for a century.
Chock full of nods to the comics the screenplay is both a strength and weakness for the film. The story is well sequenced giving the audience enough time between action scenes to grasp the characters motivations and the plot but there are tangential narrative threads that disrupt the focus of the film. Chief amongst them is the frost giants’ fore mentioned relic which is given lots of attention in the first act but has little effect on the outcome. In addition I felt that S.H.I.E.L.D. was nearly irrelevant this time around; other than introducing Jeremy Renner’s Hawkeye the secret security faction just gets in the way of the movie’s momentum.
While most of the comedy crashes and burns there are a few laughs to be found in the film. Most come from star Hemsworth’s charismatic portrayal of the God of Thunder. He plays up the stranger-in-a-strange-land aspect of the story with his cavalier but charming attitude and by breaking all rules of diner etiquette in a particularly funny scene with the scientists whose respective roles as love interest (Portman) friendly father figure (Skarsgaard) and POV character (Dennings) are ripped right out of a screenwriters handbook.
Though he handles the humorous moments without a problem Hemsworth struggles with some of the more dramatic scenes in the movie; the result of over-acting and too much time spent on the Australian soap opera Home and Away. Luckily he’s surrounded by a stellar supporting cast that fills the void. Most impressive is Tom Hiddleston who gives a truly humanistic performance as the jealous Loki. His arc steeped in Shakespearean tragedy (like Thor’s) drums up genuine sympathy that one rarely has for a comic book movie villain.
My grievances with the technical aspects of the production aside Branagh has succeeded in further exploring the Marvel Universe with a film that works both as a standalone superhero flick and as the next chapter in the story of The Avengers. Thor is very much a comic book film and doesn’t hide from the reputation that its predecessors have given the sub-genre or the tropes that define it. Balanced pretty evenly between “serious” and “silly ” its scope is large enough to please fans well versed in the source material but its tone is light enough to make it a mainstream hit.