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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We had more questions leaving the theater after seeing Iron Man 3 than Tony Stark has mechanical suits. Some just can't be answered. Like, how did Guy Pearce's Aldrich Killian get the funding to fuel and equip a fleet of helicopters, commandeer a shipyard, stage faux terrorist attacks, and maintain a Miami pleasure palace? Wasn't the fact that he didn't get funding from Tony Stark a catalyst for his vendetta? And why the heck didn't Marvel decide to make Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper Potts their first female superhero? We're not even going to attempt to tackle those particular headscratchers. Luckily, there are still eight juicy questions we very much can answer. Consider this your obligatory SPOILER warning, because we're taking on major plot points from Iron Man 3, including the ending and the future of the franchise.
1. How Does Extremis Work Exactly? Considering just how central it is to the plot and its primary villains, it's a little disappointing how nebulous a concept "Extremis" really is. The idea was introduced by comics author Warren Ellis in his 2005 Iron Man: Extremis series, the Iron Man story that's credited in large part for reviving interest in the character and establishing the aesthetic template of the three movies. In that comic, as in in Iron Man 3, frustrated bioengineers Aldrich Killian (Pearce) and Maya Hansen (Rebecca Hall) developed a medical treatment, involving injections that would require the test subject to be strapped-down Frankenstein-style, to "hack" into an individual's Body Recovery Center in the grey matter of the brain and artificially increase the body's rate of repair following incurred traumas. Theoretically, it could render the test subject invulnerable to any harm, much like a synthetically-induced version of Wolverine's rapid-healing mutation. (A shame that Fox has the rights to the X-Men property or that connection could have been made explicit.)
However, Extremis proved extremis-ly dangerous and not every test subject was capable of withstanding the transformation it offered. Some apparently just exploded, and so, in the movie, Killian and Hansen tried to deflect attention away from the faultiness of their product by creating a fictional terrorist, the Mandarin, who would assume responsibility for the blasts. Extremis is pretty conceptual and its logic isn't entirely consistent. There doesn't seem to be a formula for why some people adapt to it and others so violently reject it. Not to mention there's no explanation whatsoever for why it allows Killian to breathe fire.
2. What Is Westworld and Why Did Tony Stark Make a Joke About It? Westworld was a 1973 thriller written and directed by Jurassic Park scribe Michael Crichton and starring Yul Brynner. It was about a dystopian amusement park geared for adults in which visitors are menaced by animatronic cowboys. So when Tony Stark called one of Killian's henchmen "Westworld" he was basically saying that he found that guy to be wooden and personality-lacking, yet indestructibly formidable as an opponent.
3. How Is It That Robert Downey Jr. and Guy Pearce Are So Incredibly Buff? The answer is pretty simple. They don't just train for each individual movie they're in, but rather they maintain a high level of physical fitness at all times. (Or maybe those green health shakes Tony Stark is always drinking in the movies have something to do with it.) Pearce actually entered bodybuilding competitions as a teen. "I was quite a thin kid, so if I put on any muscle, you can see it...I entered [a bodybuilding competition] and I won," Pearce told Muscle Works Magazine. "I don’t think I would’ve really followed a bodybuilding path. But I was actually fascinated in a creative way, the fact that you can change the shape of your muscle was fascinating to me; it was like sculpture." Hence why Pearce has amazing definition in almost every movie he's been in since LA Confidential.
4. What Was Up With That Christmas Story Reference? Iron Man 3 executive producer and director emeritus Jon Favreau (who played the mostly comatose Happy Hogan in the movie, and directed the previous two films) was childhood friends with Christmas Story star Peter Billingsley. When Tony Stark turns to a bespectacled kid and says, "I loved you in Christmas Story," they're just making a family joke. In fact, Billingsley even served as a producer on 2008's Iron Man and had a cameo in the film. Since much of Iron Man 3 was set at the holidays, what better time to include a Christmas Story hat-tip to his friend?
By the way, in case you were wondering, that version of "Jingle Bells" that Tony Stark danced to while first summoning his Mk. 42 Iron Man suit was the Bombay Dub Orchestra's Remix of Joe Williams' bluesy take on the carol.
5. What Episode of Downton Abbey Was Jon Favreau's Happy Watching? By our reckoning this was Episode 4 from Season 2 when the Irish-revolutionary chaffeur, Branson, redeclared his love for Lady Sybil, then working as a nurse in the final months of World War I. Who knew Happy was such a romantic?
6. How Did They Shoot Iron Man's Aerial Rescue? Think that scene of Air Force One's passengers getting sucked into the stratosphere was all CGI? Think again. Stunt performers trained in skydiving actually jumped out of a plane to simulate the freefall, except that, unlike their characters, they actually were wearing parachutes. Multiple parajumpers, like stuntwoman Sarah Farooqui, who was the first person Iron Man plucked out of the sky, jumped at once and attempted to link arms Barrel-of-Monkeys-style in the sky above Oak Island, North Carolina, which subbed for Miami.
7. How Many Different Accents Has Ben Kingsley Had In His Career? Just keeping it limited to his movie career, Kingsley has demonstrated at least 10 different accents: Indian (Gandhi/The Love Guru), Arabic (Harem), Russian (Testimony), Yiddish (Bugsy), German Jewish (Schinder's List), Italian (Parting Shots), Iranian/Persian (House of Sand and Fog/Prince of Persia), French (Hugo), Cockney (Iron Man 3), Baptist Preacher (Iron Man 3). And the last two are while playing the same character!
8. What Is the Future of the Franchise? As of right now, there isn't an Iron Man 4 in the works. It makes sense, really. Iron Man 3 wrapped up Tony Stark's four-film arc (including The Avengers) pretty neatly, with him accepting the transformation of his values that had come with being Iron Man while rejecting the idea of being a superhero because of how it endangers his loved ones. He blew up his suits, finally had that shrapnel removed from his chest cavity, and seemed poised to embrace the good life.
But don't expect to see Tony Stark out of the suit for too long. In an interview with SuperHeroHype, Marvel Studios Head of Production Kevin Feige said, "We’re not developing Iron Man 4. Currently, as you may imagine, Iron Man is a big part of Avengers 2 and that’s what we’re focusing on and what Joss (Whedon) is focusing on. So where we go after that remains to be seen, but certainly, Avengers 2 being the next appearance, the next storyline for Iron Man. Do I think there will be another Iron Man movie? Of course I do. Who will be in that movie and who will be a part of that movie? Who knows? And how far down the line will it be? Will it be right after Avengers 2, will it be a few years after Avengers 2? Who knows?"
Follow Christian Blauvelt on Twitter @Ctblauvelt
More: What Was Up With that ‘Iron Man 3’ Post-Credits Scene? Between ‘Iron Man 3’ and ‘Avengers 2’ Should Newbies Even Bother With the Marvel Movies? Marvel Screwed Up By Not Making Gwyneth Paltrow in ‘Iron Man 3’ Their First Female Superhero ‘Iron Man 3’ Is Marvel’s First True Action Comedu
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I guess it's only natural when you hear about a movie that can be pitched with the phrase "Zombiecops," to think about drugs. In walks one of today's iconic figures in drug-related fiction, Mary-Louise Parker (who stars as Nancy Botwin on Weeds). Parker is in talks to join the cast of Robert Schwentke's graphic novel-inspired film R.I.P.D., about a troupe of deceased police officers whose undead incarnations attempt to track down and take down the individuals who killed them.
Already cast in the film is a fun fleet of heroes: Jeff Bridges (who has wayward ghost written all over him), Ryan Reynolds, and Kevin Bacon, Parker will be in charge of explaining the nature of the 'organization' of these restless spirits to the newly deceased Reynolds.
Mary-Louise Parker has already made of herself a formidable television star. As Weeds has strayed far from what it set out to be (in very questionable, often disappointing ways), Parker maintains a quality of performance that never dips. All in all, if I was an ambiguous manifestation of existence post-murder, I'd feel a little more comfortable if she were around to tell me just how to deal with that.
President Obama asks the big questions. He’s not afraid to question the status quo and promote big change. I guess that’s why he’s agreed to take time out of his jam-packed schedule to appear on another television show.
No, he’s not going to be discussing the Mosque at Ground Zero, or heath care, or the economy. No, it’s not a political program or even a talk show like The View. And no, it has nothing to do with his role as President. He’s going to be a guest on the Discovery Channel’s show, Mythbusters. But hey, what’s the big deal? He’s got a burning question about a myth that needs busting, and he’s got to go to the source to find an answer, duh.
Even though I know he probably shouldn’t be spending time away from his main job as the President, or whatever, I have to admit I’m pretty stoked to see this episode. Obama is scheduled to appear on the December 8th episode of the sciencetastic show, where he’ll enlist the help of bespectacled duo Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman to prove or disprove the theory that the Greek mathematician Archimedes could actually have set fire to a fleet of Roman ships using only sun-reflecting mirrors. Wow, that’s a fairly highbrow myth you want busted, Mr. President. Are you sure you don’t want to ask about tomatoes exploding in the microwave or salami rocket fuel?
Source: NY Magazine
The music mogul turns 50 on Wednesday (07Oct09) but he got the party started early on Saturday (03Oct09), inviting 400 guests to the event at billionaire Sir Philip Green's mansion in Hertfordshire, England.
And the birthday boy spared no expense in entertaining family, friends and A-list celebrities such as Sir Elton John and Kevin Spacey - he is said to have paid a whopping $1.5 million (£1 million) for the party, including $75,000 (£50,000) for a fleet of limousines to shuttle guests to the venue.
He also treated revellers to vintage champagne and performances by boyband Westlife as well as The X Factor winners Lewis and Alexandra Burke, and a rendition of Happy Birthday from supermodel Kate Moss.
Giant images of Cowell were plastered all around the party, while waiters wore masks bearing his likeness. Pre-recorded birthday wishes from David and Victoria Beckham and Jennifer Aniston were played on giant screens.
Cowell's guest list included his American Idol colleagues Ryan Seacrest and Randy Jackson, as well as Naomi Campbell, Sharon Osbourne, Olivia Newton-John, Dannii Minogue and his 82-year-old mum Julie.
Speaking about the party's hefty price tag, the birthday boy said, "I always pick up my own tab whether it’s for four people or 400."
With college graduation now behind her Maggie Peyton (Lindsay Lohan) a third-generation member of a famous NASCAR family looks forward to her new life in New York working for ESPN. But when Maggie's widower father (Michael Keaton) takes her to the junkyard to pick out a car fate is about to lead her in another direction. Because it's there that she meets Herbie a sad little Volkswagen Bug waiting to become scrap metal. With a little persuasion from the bug himself Maggie decides to take the old beat up #53 home and quickly realizes this little car has a mind of his own. Herbie takes her on a wild ride culminating in beating the reigning NASCAR champ Trip Murphy (Matt Dillon) in an impromptu street race. Humiliated Trip will do anything to keep his position at the top and demands a rematch. But Maggie knows she needs to fix Herbie up first and asks her old friend car mechanic Kevin (Justin Long) for help. Even though her father has forbidden her to race Maggie has got it in her blood and in order to save her family's name and business she's going to team up with the unstoppable Herbie to stake her claim. You can take the girl out of the race but you can't take the race out of the girl.
Herbie: Fully Loaded's stellar cast puts the high-octane Herbie in gear. Media-hounded Lohan leaves the paparazzi far behind and gives another spunky performance proving she's got the acting chops to stick it out. But it may be time for you to let go of the Mouse House ears Lindsay. Move on to bigger better and Meaner things. Veterans Keaton and Dillon also add credence to Herbie. Dillon's role as the "villain" suits him well as he displays a delightful comedic side while Keaton does a nice job as the overprotective dad who just doesn't want to lose his daughter like he lost his wife. The sweet-faced Justin Long (Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story) is Maggie's inspiration and wears his heart on his sleeve. And the usually hilarious Breckin Meyer has a small part as Maggie's brother who knows he isn't the one who should be out there on the track. It would have been nice to see more of him though.
Director Angela Robinson (D.E.B.S.) makes the movie what it is: A high-speed no-brainer comedy adventure. Starting from the opening title sequence Robinson uses split screens and graphics to enhance the visuals and trace Herbie's historic progression from his Love Bug years to the present. The biggest marvel however is Herbie himself. Back in the 1960s when the original was being made filmmakers had no idea what model of vehicle they wanted to use in a story about a lifelike car. They filled a Disney backlot with models as diverse as Chevys and Toyotas. But when they asked employees to pick out the car they liked best the majority of them pet the only VW Bug on the lot-and Herbie the Love Bug was born. For his 2005 makeover Robinson uses the same classic 1963 Volkswagen design and creates Herbie's realistic movements by using giant robotic puppets not just CGI. She also had to gather a whole fleet of VW bugs including the original Love Bug himself. The end result does justice to the classic original and instantly revives the franchise. As Trip Murphy says "There is nothing ordinary about this Bug." Herbie: Fully Loaded also has a rockin' soundtrack with old standards from groups such as The Beach Boys Steppenwolf and Loverboy.
Among the major U.S. newspapers, only the Los Angeles Times gives Pearl Harbor a snappy salute. Curiously, the Times' review is not written by lead critic Kenneth Turan but by the newspaper's veteran movie writer, Kevin Thomas, whose taste in films generally runs to independent and foreign-produced fare, not big blockbusters. Thomas calls the film "a superb reenactment" of the events of Dec. 7, 1941 that also provides "an engaging love story" and reels off at "a brisk pace that makes this three-hour war epic seem like half that time." The filmmakers, he concludes, "have given us a Pearl Harbor to remember." Compare those words with these of Glenn Whipp, film critic for the cross-town Los Angeles Daily News: Director Michael Bay and producer Jerry Bruckheimer have created a movie, he writes, "that is so clichéd and boring that even the WB television network would reject it out of hand for being too insipid." Stephen Hunter in the Washington Post argues that the movie seems to work when it attempts to evoke old World War II war flicks, but by the end, he concludes, "it becomes the wrong kind of same old story: Hollywood stupidity and callowness, writ large across the sky." In the very first sentence of his review, Joe Morgenstern in the Wall Street Journal describes the film as "a blockheaded, hollow-hearted industrial enterprise," and in his last sentence calls it "a movie without a soul." Several critics praise the scenes of the attack on the U.S. fleet, but Jami Bernard in the New York Times is among the many who conclude, in her words: "An intense half-hour of cool, wall-to-wall combat sequences is sandwiched between hours of a predictable, sappy romantic triangle that is hardly worthy of the epic treatment it receives." Or as Lou Lumenick puts it in the New York Post: "The 40-minute attack sequence in Pearl Harbor is as spectacular as you could imagine -- but come prepared to suffer through hours of soggy, corny, predictable and interminable romantic drama." But even the spectacle of the recreated raid troubles Roger Ebert in the Chicago Sun-Times, who asks: "What is the point, really, of more than half an hour of planes bombing ships, of explosions and fireballs, of roars on the soundtrack and bodies flying through the air and people running away from fighters that are strafing them? How can it be entertaining or moving when it's simply about the most appalling slaughter? Why do the filmmakers think we want to see this, unrelieved by intelligence, viewpoint or insight?"