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.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
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.
Follow @Michael Arbeiter
| Follow @Hollywood_com
The genesis of Universal's 47 Ronin is almost as tragic as the actual history that the movie is culling from. As the story goes, Universal saw the sprigs of talent sprouting from fresh faced director Carl Rinsch, whose previous experience was limited to just a couple of commercials and a nifty short film. The studio decided to ease the new director into feature filmmaking by cutting him what amounts to virtually a blank check, and giving him charge over a multi-national samurai fantasy epic. Almost impossibly, the film isn't a complete disaster. It's just a minor one.
47 Ronin follows the classic story of the titular team of warriors, a group of disgraced samurai who band together to seek revenge against a merciless warlord that betrayed and killed their master. But this isn't your grandfather's version of the story. 47 Ronin is an international affair, and it's covered with a veneer of Japanese mysticism and a thick coating of Hollywood lacquer, but east meets west rather uncomfortably, and it's mostly due to Keanu Reeves. Reeves' character is clearly crowbarred into the story that has no room for him, and it's plainly obvious where the seams of the story were stretched in order to patch him into the narrative. Reeves plays Kai, a half Japanese, half English orphan who is adopted by the samurai clan. His character serves no real purpose beyond being white, slicing things until they die, and playing the male lead of the most superfluous love story of the year. Rinsch simply can't make the inclusion of the character feel organic in any way, and "Kai" ends up feeling like a calculated studio move. It's a shame that the film spends so much time on Reeves when the real star is clearly Hiroyuki Sanada, who plays off the stoic samurai most believably among the rest of the cast.
It's also shame that with all the mysticism pumped into the story, there's no magic in the actual center of the film, the ronin themselves. The only personality trait a samurai is allowed to possess seems to be unerring stoicism, and between all 47 ronin, there are probably only three distinct samurai with any discernible character traits beyond an intense need to brood, and you'll probably only remember those three by the time the credits roll, only to promptly forget about them only a few hours later. Thankfully, Rinko Kikuchi's slinky and treacherous witch adds some much needed camp and personality to the mostly forgettable human characters.
And that's the issue with 47 Ronin. It's largely forgettable. When your film takes on a historical legend like the tale of the 47 ronin, a story that has been told and told again ad nauseum over the years, you really need to justify your own version. There are reels and reels of film dedicated to this story, and 47 Ronin doesn't manage to add anything significant to the canon. It promises to weld myth and history together, but does so clumsily, and while some of the action scenes are exciting, especially a particularly inspired set piece that involves the ronin noiselessly breaking into a heavily guarded fortress, the film is a bore when it's not clanking swords together.
The best player in the World for movie trailers, Hollywood interviews and movie clips.
47 Ronin is a film with many stories. As much as it is a tale about the revenge of four dozen masterless samurai, it's also the tale of an inexperienced filmmaker swallowed up by the enormity of blockbuster filmmaking. Most of all though, It's proof that you shouldn't cram Keanu Reeves into a movie that doesn't really need Keanu Reeves. What you're left with is a dull and bloated samurai epic that has its moments, but feels largely unnecessary.
The God of Legion secular Hollywood’s latest Biblically-inspired action flick is old-school an angry spiteful Almighty with a penchant for Old Testament theatrics. Fed up with humanity’s decadent warmongering ways He’s decided to pull the plug on the whole crazy experiment and start over from scratch.
Fortunately for us the God of Legion is also a rather lazy fellow. Instead of doing the apocalyptic work himself and wiping us out with a giant flood which worked perfectly well last time He opts to delegate the task to His army of angels — a questionable strategy that starts to fall apart when the archangel charged with leading the planned extermination Michael (Paul Bettany) refuses to comply.
Michael who unlike his boss still harbors affection for our sorry species abandons his post and descends to earth where inside the swollen belly of Charlie (Adrianne Palicki) an unwed mother-to-be working as a waitress in an out-of-the-way diner sits humanity’s lone hope for survival. Why is this particular baby so important? Is it the one destined to lead us to victory over Skynet? Heaven knows — Legion reveals little details its script devoid of actual scripture. What is clear is that God’s celestial hitmen want the kid whacked before it’s born.
But Michael won’t let humanity fall without a fight. Armed with a Waco-sized arsenal of assault weapons he hunkers down with the diner’s patrons a largely superfluous collection of thinly-sketched caricatures from various demographic groups led by Dennis Quaid as the diner’s grizzled owner Tyrese Gibson as a hip-hop hustler and Lucas Black as a simple-minded country boy.
Together they mount a heroic final stand against hordes of angels who’ve taken possession of “weak-willed” humans turning kindly old grandmas and mild-mannered ice cream vendors into snarling ravenous foul-mouthed beasts. They descend upon the ramshackle diner in a series of full-frontal assaults commanded by the archangel Gabriel (Kevin Durand) the George Pickett of End of Days generals.
Beneath its superficial religious facade Legion is really just a run-of-the-mill zombie flick a Biblical I Am Legend. Bettany an actor accustomed to smaller dramatic roles in films like A Beautiful Mind and The Da Vinci Code looks perfectly at ease in his first major action role wielding machine guns and bowie knives with equal aplomb. Conversely first-time director Scott Stewart a former visual effects artist does little to prove himself worthy of such a promotion serving up some impressive CGI work but not much else worthy of note.
Madonna and Warner Music Settle Maverick Dispute
Warner Music Group has agreed to buy Madonna out of Maverick Records, the label she co-founded 12 years ago, The Associated Press reports. The label debuted strongly with Alanis Morissette's 1995 multiplatinum debut album Jagged Little Pill and more recently scored hits with Michelle Branch, the Prodigy, the Deftones and Story of the Year. Madonna, along with partners Guy Oseary and Ronnie Dashev, owned 60 percent of the company while Warner Music held 40 percent. But the partnership turned sour in March when Maverick filed a lawsuit against WMG, claiming the company didn't adequately fund the label. WMG rejected that claim in a counter suit, referring to Maverick's $64.2 million in losses over the last six years. The label had been scheduled to dissolve in December but Maverick's investors would have had to reimburse WMG for $92.5 million in losses, loans and fees in order to buy Warner Music's 40 percent share in the label. Under the new agreement, both sides will drop their lawsuits. WMG will also keep Oseary, who will stay with Maverick as CEO. WMG said Maverick will place greater emphasis on signing and developing artists and will have the ability to draw on the parent company's resources.
Distributors Seek PG-13 Rating for Fahrenheit 9/11
Distributors Lions Gate Films and IFC Films are appealing to the Motion Picture Association of America to lessen its current R rating for Michael Moore's documentary Fahrenheit 9/11 to PG-13. Images in the film include a public beheading in Saudi Arabia, Iraqis burned by napalm and a gruesome scene of an Iraqi man dumping a dead baby into a truck bed loaded with bodies. "It is sadly very possible that many 15- and 16-year-olds will be asked and recruited to serve in Iraq in the next couple of years," Moore told the AP. "If they are old enough to be recruited and capable of being in combat and risking their lives, they certainly deserve the right to see what is going on in Iraq." A screening by the MPAA's appeals board has been set for June 22--just three days before the film's US release date.
Judge Refuses To Lower Jackson's Bail
In a ruling released Monday, Santa Barbara County Judge Rodney S. Melville has refused to lower Michael Jackson's $3 million bail in his child molestation case, saying the singer's wealth justified the higher-than-normal bail amount, the AP reports. Melville added that the bail should remain higher than what is typically imposed on defendants facing similar charges to ensure that Jackson appears at future court dates. Jackson's bail was set and uncontested when he was arrested in November, but the singer's new attorney, Thomas Mesereau Jr., requested bail be reduced to no more than $435,000 when he took over the case in April. He said there were no legal grounds for setting Jackson's bail higher than normal simply because of his wealth, but prosecutors argued the pop star was likely to flee the country if his bail was reduced.
T-Boz Files for Divorce
T-Boz of the female R&B group TLC has filed for divorce from her husband, rapper Mack 10, saying he committed adultery and threatened to kill her, the AP reports. The 34-year-old singer has also arranged for a temporary restraining order against the rapper, barring him from coming within 100 yards of her, and is seeking full custody of their 3-year-old daughter, Chase Anela. The couple married in August 2000 and is now separated. T-Boz, whose real name is Tionne Tenese Watkins Rolison, said in an affidavit that Mack 10 threatened to kill her several times, beginning in October 2002 and most recently on June 8. Mack 10, whose real name is Dedrick D-Mon Rolison, denied the allegations, saying his wife has made the claims "for the sole purpose of attempting to gain an advantage in these proceedings" and to prevent him from seeing their daughter.
Author Claims Extreme Makeover Was Her Idea
Author Diana Locke filed a lawsuit in Los Angeles Superior Court late last week claiming a talent agency and a producer stole her idea for what has become the hit TV series Extreme Makeover, Reuters reports. According to the suit, Locke pitched the idea of a show focusing on the emotional and psychological aspects of plastic surgery to a producer friend in August 2001. He then discussed the idea with his agent Sean Perry. But after failing to sell the idea to a cable network, Locke's friend dropped the concept. The suit alleges Perry then presented the idea to producer, Howard Schultz, who sold it to ABC as Extreme Makeover. The suit, which claims breach of confidence, conspiracy and unjust enrichment, seeks damages of at least $10 million.
P. Diddy Hits the Road
Rap mogul Sean "P. Diddy" Combs will launch the Daddy's House Dance Party world tour this summer, along with a new album on his Bad Boy record label, the AP reports. Combs, who hasn't released an album since 2002's We Invented the Remix, will preview what's in store for fans at a party in Manhattan Thursday for Entertainment Weekly's upcoming "Must List" issue, which hits newsstands Friday. Combs, 34, has been starring as Walter Lee Younger in the Broadway revival of Raisin in the Sun and was recently named menswear designer of the year by the Council of Fashion Designers of America for his Sean John clothing line.
Charo, Flava Flav Join Surreal Life
VH1will air the third season of the former WB reality series The Surreal Life with the likes of Charo, Dave Coulier (Full House), Public Enemy's Flava Flav, New Kids on the Block alum Jordan Knight, Brigitte Nielsen (Red Sonja) and American Idol contenstant Ryan Starr. The series bows Sept. 6.
Role Call: DiCaprio's in Bear Market, Aniston Shoots War, Whitaker Brings a Gun
Leonardo DiCaprio and his production company Appian Way have teamed with Columbia Pictures to produce the biopic The Man Who Loved Grizzlies, about environmentalist Ted Treadwell. Based on Ned Zeman's article published in the May issue of Vanity Fair, the film focuses on Treadwell, a controversial and charismatic figure, the bears' self-appointed goodwill ambassador who looked like a Malibu surfer. Spending months at a time in the wilds of Alaska, he took the anti-poaching cause as his own but had no training beyond his talents as a photographer and naturalist ... Jennifer Aniston is being touted to play famed war photographer Dickey Chapelle in Warner Bros. biopic. Chapelle, a blonde, blue-eyed beauty who covered WWII for Look magazine and Reader's Digest, became a heralded photographer because of her willingness to march to the front lines. She died in Vietnam after tripping a landmine while accompanying Marines on a secret sabotage mission ... Forest Whitaker is set to star in American Gun, an ensemble drama described as "a series of interwoven story lines focusing on how the proliferation of guns in America affects and shapes lives," the filmmakers told the Hollywood Reporter. Donald Sutherland, Linda Cardellini (Scooby-Doo 2) and Garcelle Beauvais-Nilon (Barbershop 2) are in negotiations to join Whitaker, who will also serve as an executive producer.
Kit Bowen contributed to this report.