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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Today marked a sunny day for The Dark Knight.
Also for a guy who grows younger as he gets older and a kid who beats all odds to win Who Wants to Be a Millionaire.
The Producers Guild of America has announced its nominations for best movies, documentaries and TV shows. Nods in this movie category often foreshadow what’s to come by way of Oscar later on.
The 20th Annual PGA Awards will take place Jan. 24 at the Hollywood Paladium.
The complete list of nominees is as follows. First, for theatrical movies:
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
Kathleen Kennedy & Frank Marshall
The Dark Knight
And for documenaries:
Man on Wire
Standard Operating Procedure
Julie Bilson Ahlberg
Trouble the Water
And for animation:
Kung Fu Panda
And for episodic TV/comedy:
Curb Your Enthusiasm
Lori Jo Nemhauser
And for episodic TV/drama:
David E. Kelley
Mark A. Baker
Todd A. Kessler
Robert Lloyd Lewis
Edward Kitsis & Adam Horowitz
And for "nonfiction" TV:
Kathy Griffin: My Life on the D List
Lisa M. Tucker
This American Life
And for "live and competition" TV:
Bertram van Munster
Hayma “Screech” Washington
The Colbert Report
Stephen T. Colbert, DFA
Real Time with Bill Maher
And for "long-form" TV"
Bernard and Doris
A Raisin in the Sun
Finally, honorary awards and recipients:
Brian Grazer and Ron Howard
David O. Selznick Achievement Award in Theatrical Motion Pictures
Norman Lear Achievement Award in Television
MySpace founders Chris DeWolfe and Tom Anderson
The Stanley Kramer Award
Dan Jinks and Bruce Cohen
MORE NEWS: It's Dolly and Charlie Romijn-O'Connell!
There are five new wide releases this weekend along with an important expansion, but this three-day is certain to “go to the dogs.” Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Disney), starring Piper Perabo and Jamie Lee Curtis and featuring the voice talent of everyone from Drew Barrymore to George Lopez to Placido Domingo, is tracking through the roof, and it is a surefire box office winner.
Beverly Hills Chihuahua is the first of four likely blockbusters from Disney set for release in the fourth quarter. The distributor will be scoring big with High School Musical 3 on October 24 followed by the animated 3D Bolt, arriving on the Friday before Thanksgiving, and the Adam Sandler family adventure film Bedtime Stories coming Christmas Day. It would not be surprising for this to become a quartet of $100M grossing pictures.
My sources tell me that Beverly Hills Chihuahua is scoring big in industry tracking with Females, both Under 25’s and Moms, and that the movie will ride a family audience wave through Saturday and Sunday matinees. The film will also hit big with Latinos thanks to the Mexican setting and the voices of not just Lopez and Domingo, but also Andy Garcia, Cheech Marin, Paul Rodriguez, Edward James Olmos and popular Spanish-language radio deejay Eddie “Piolin” Sotelo. It all adds up to a possible $30.5M opening weekend.
Last week’s winner Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount) may dip as little as 40 percent-45 percent from opening weekend to something in the $17M range. That will keep the high-tech Shia LaBeouf thriller on track for a final domestic haul of $95M-$100M.
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Sony), from director Peter Sollett (Raising Victor Vargas), has gained real traction among the Under 25 set according to the latest tracking. It seems that 20-year-old Michael Cera is the key to the movie’s appeal. The Canadian-born actor, who first made a splash in the cult TV hit Arrested Development, is the nerdy heartthrob for a generation of girls who loved him in Superbad ($121.5M) and Juno ($143.5M). Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist will likely open at No. 3 with the possibility of a very solid $15.3M.
The new movie from Oscar nominee Fernando Meirelles (City of God, The Constant Gardener) is the tough-to-market Blindness (Miramax). Reviews are verging on awful for this adaptation of Jose Saramago’s novel with a score of just 41 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes as of Wednesday night, and now the picture will be fighting a national protest as well. This thriller, starring Oscar nominee Julianne Moore, tells the story of a terrifying plague of blindness, and Dr. Marc Mauer, President of the National Federation of the Blind says that his group “Condemns and deplores this movie, which will do substantial harm to the blind of America and the world.” With 1,700 playdates, a sign that Miramax is trying to grab what it can before bad word-of-mouth sets in, it could still manage $2,600 or so per location for a possible $4.5M.
Universal’s Flash of Genius, the real-life story of Robert Kearns, who invented the intermittent windshield wiper, had the invention stolen by Ford and then sued the auto giant, will open on a more limited 1,000 or so screens. Reviews are very good (80 percent Fresh on Rotten Tomatoes as of Wednesday night), and, with a cast including Oscar nominee Greg Kinnear (As Good As It Gets, Little Miss Sunshine), Golden Globe nominee Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls) and Oscar nominee Alan Alda, Flash could score a $4,100 PTA for a $4.1M opening and a No. 6 finish.
Two other new releases look very soft in tracking research. David Zucker’s conservative comedy rant An American Carol (Vivendi) seems headed for $3M and may miss the top 10 altogether. Things could be even tougher for MGM’s How To Lose Friends and Alienate People, which, despite the presence of rising British star Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead, Hot Fuzz), will probably manage no better than $2.5M.
Finally, the Ed Harris-directed western Appaloosa (Warner Bros) will expand to 800 or so screens, and $1.8M could be the ceiling despite strong reviews and a cast that includes Viggo Mortensen and Academy Award winners Renee Zellweger and Jeremy Irons.
FINAL PREDICTIONS FOR THE WEEKEND
1. NEW - Beverly Hills Chihuahua (Disney) - $30.5M
2. Eagle Eye (Dreamworks/Paramount) - $17.5M
3. NEW - Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist (Sony) - $15.3M
4. Nights in Rodanthe (Warner Bros) - $7.4M
5. NEW - Blindness (Miramax) - $4.5M
6. NEW - Flash of Genius (Universal) - $4.1M
7. Igor (MGM) - $3.55M
8. Lakeview Terrace (Sony) - $3.5M
9. Fireproof (IDP Films/Samuel Goldwyn) - $3.3M
10. Burn After Reading (Focus) - $3.25M
*NEW – An American Carol (Vivendi) - $3M
*NEW – How To Lose Friends and Alienate People (MGM) - $2.5M
*Appaloosa (Warner Bros) - $1.8M
The producers of upcoming movie Death Race have been accused of copyright infringement.
Writer Adam Stone claims producer/director Paul W.S. Anderson and producer Jeremy Bolt have been using his ideas for their movie.
Stone claims the film is based on a script he previously pitched to Anderson and Bolt.
According to the lawsuit, filed in Los Angeles federal court on Tuesday, August 19, Stone is seeking a court order to stop the film's release.
Death Race is purported to be a remake of the 1975 film, Death Race 2000, but Stone claims it is based on his movie, Joust.
The picture, which stars Jason Statham and Joan Allen, is set for release on Friday, August 22.
Stone seeks unspecified damages.
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July 1 marks the halfway point of the movie year, and there is a clear winner among the major Hollywood studios. With the top 3 grossing movies of 2008, Paramount is riding high with both Marvel’s Iron Man and Lucasfilm’s Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull topping $300M and DreamWorks’ Kung Fu Panda at $181M now and a cinch for $200M+. The Melrose gang will be the first studio in history with back-to-back-to-back $200M+ grossing movies.
With an estimated $1.054 billion in domestic box office, it will be impossible for anyone to catch Paramount in the market share race for 2008, especially when the studio has 2 sure bets for $100M+ due in the next 6 months. First comes the much buzzed-about DreamWorks comedy Tropic Thunder in August, featuring another standout Robert Downey Jr. performance and a scene-stealing turn by Tom Cruise. Then comes Madagascar 2, also from DreamWorks, in November, which I am hearing very positive reports about.
Paramount is likely to exceed the $1.49 billion in domestic box office it generated last year, and they have an outside shot at surpassing the all-time record $1.71 billion generated by Sony in 2006. To do it, the studio would need Madagascar 2 to be huge and to get help from DreamWorks’ DJ Caruso/Shia LaBeouf re-teaming for Eagle Eye in September, David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button in December and perhaps Joe Wright’s follow-up to Atonement, The Soloist, starring Robert Downey Jr. (again), Jamie Foxx and Catherine Keener, which is expected sometime this fall with plenty of Oscar buzz.
The battle is on for the year’s #2 spot, which Fox now holds with almost $650M domestic. Horton Hears a Who ($154M domestic) has led the way for Fox, and the rest of the studio’s year has been comprised of good solid hits like 27 Dresses, starring Katherine Heigl ($76.8M), Doug Liman’s Jumper ($80.15M) and the Ashton Kutcher-Cameron Diaz vehicle What Happens in Vegas ($79M). The always smartly run Fox even managed to wring about $60M out of M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening so far.
Meet Dave, starring Eddie Murphy, is Fox’s next release with director Brian Robbins trying to recapture the box office glory of Norbit ($95.6M domestic). If Murphy scores, Fox will have a leg-up on the competition for the year-end 2nd-best market share, although they follow with the animated Space Chimps on July 18 and the long-awaited X-Files sequel on July 25, both of which are viewed as less-than-sure things. The studio’s late year breakout hit candidates include Bill Murray and Tim Robbins in the futuristic City of Ember in October, Baz Luhrman’s highly anticipated Australia at Thanksgiving, a remake of 1951’s The Day the Earth Stood Still (featuring Keanu Reeves as Klaatu) in December and Marley & Me, based on John Grogan’s bestselling memoir and starring Jennifer Aniston and Owen Wilson, at Christmas.
The surest blockbuster in the second half of 2008 is, without question, The Dark Knight. With $200M all-but-assured for the Christopher Nolan sequel and Get Smart a safe bet to exceed $100M, Warner Bros will have three $100M grossing films (Sex and the City is the 3rd) and one near-miss with Roland Emmerich’s 10,000 B.C., which topped out at $95M domestic. The studio is currently #3 in market share with an estimated $505M in U.S. theaters.
When you consider that Warner Bros still has Star Wars: The Clone Wars due in August, the re-teaming of Diane Lane and Richard Gere in Nights in Rodanthe in September, Ridley Scott’s House of Lies, based on the excellent David Ignatius CIA thriller Body of Lies and starring Russell Crowe and Leonardo DiCaprio, in October, and the next Harry Potter installment set for Thanksgiving, Warner Bros is probably the betting favorite to be 2008’s #2 studio.
With $472M banked so far in 2008, you cannot count Sony out of the battle for 2nd place. Although Hancock will be the studio’s first $100M+ hit of 2008, it certainly will not be their last. The year has featured 3 good, solid box office successes with You Don't Mess with the Zohan ($91.67M so far), 21 ($81.15M) and Vantage Point ($72.26M), and the Will Smith superhero film, which opened last night, is a can’t-miss.
Four major blockbusters loom for Sony starting with Step Brothers, starring Will Ferrell and John C. Reilly, on July 25, followed by Judd Apatow’s The Pineapple Express, which will compete with Tropic Thunder for the biggest late-summer hit. (James Franco, who plays a hilarious stoner, could be one of the breakout stars of the year.) The studio will finish the year with the newest James Bond film Quantum of Solace and Will Smith in the Oscar-friendly-but-still-commercial 7 Pounds.
Universal is currently #6 with $447M domestic, but the year is heating up for them. Although the Marvel-financed and -produced Incredible Hulk appears to have stalled out and will finish its domestic run with less than Ang Lee’s version 5 years ago, it still should reach about $130M. Wanted, starring Angelina Jolie and James McAvoy, is just beginning what should be a healthy run well above $100M. The studio follows next Friday with Hellboy II, a Guillermo Del Toro sequel to his wildly original 2004 movie Hellboy. The franchise-starter generated a domestic gross of only $59.62M, but the movie found new fans on DVD and cable and Del Toro had a few more dollars to play with this time. If Universal connects with Hellboy II, a streak of five $100M+ grossing films is not out of the question because both Mamma Mia! and The Mummy: Tomb of the Dragon Emperor are good bets to pass that magical threshold.
The end of the year for Universal features a few Oscar contenders, including Flash of Genius and Frost/Nixon, an important prestige film with both Oscar pedigree and some box office upside, Clint Eastwood’s Changeling, starring Angelina Jolie, and the animated Tale of Despereaux.
Disney's biggest 2008 hit to-date is The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian with an underwhelming $138M, but Wall-E, after a $60M+ opening weekend, is a game-changer with $250M domestic not out of the question. Disney has generated a total of $475M domestic so far, but its only remaining titles that show blockbuster potential are High School Musical 3 in October, the animated Bolt in November and Adam Sandler's Christmas comedy Bedtime Stories. Because of its strictly limited number of releases, Disney is unlikely to compete for the #2 market share in '08.
Among the 5 studios above, I consider Warner Bros to be the favorite to finish the year with the 2nd-best market share with odds of 5/2. Sony is the next best bet at 7/2 followed by Fox at 6/1, Universal a live underdog at 8/1 and Disney 15/1.