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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While recent animated blockbusters have aimed to viewers of all ages starting with fantastical concepts and breathtaking visuals but tackling complex emotional issues along the way Ice Age: Continental Drift is crafted especially for the wee ones — and it works. Venturing back to prehistoric times once again the fourth Ice Age film paints broad strokes on the theme of familial relationships throwing in plenty of physical comedy along the way. The movie isn't that far off from one of the many Land Before Time direct-to-video sequels: not particularly innovative or necessary but harmless thrilling fun for anyone with a sense of humor. Unless they have a particular distaste for wooly mammoths the kids will love it.
Ice Age: Continental Drift continues to snowball its cartoon roster bringing back the original film's trio (Ray Romano as Manny the Mammoth Denis Leary as Diego the Sabertooth Tiger and John Leguizamo as Sid the Sloth) new faces acquired over the course of the franchise (Queen Latifah as Manny's wife Ellie) and a handful of new characters to spice things up everyone from Nicki Minaj as Manny's daughter Steffie to Wanda Sykes as Sid's wily grandma. The whole gang is living a pleasant existence as a herd with Manny's biggest problem being playing overbearing dad to the rebellious daughter. Teen mammoths they always want to go out and play by the waterfall! Whippersnappers.
The main thrust of the film comes when Scratch the Rat (whose silent comedy routines in the vein of Tex Avery/WB cartoons continue to be the series highlight) accidentally cracks the singular continent Pangea into the world we know today. Manny Diego and Sid find themselves stranded on an iceberg once again forced on a road trip journey of survival. The rest of the herd embarks to meet them giving Steffie time to realize the true meaning of friendship with help from her mole pal Louis (Josh Gad).
The ham-handed lessons may drag for those who've passed Kindergarten but Ice Age: Continental Drift is a lot of fun when the main gang crosses paths with a group of villainous pirates. (Back then monkeys rabbits and seals were hitting the high seas together pillaging via boat-shaped icebergs. Obviously.) Quickly Ice Age becomes an old school pirate adventure complete with maritime navigation buried treasure and sword fights. Gut (Peter Dinklage) an evil ape with a deadly... fingernail leads the evil-doers who pose an entertaining threat for the familiar bunch. Jennifer Lopez pops by as Gut's second-in-command Shira the White Tiger and the film's two cats have a chase scene that should rouse even the most apathetic adults. Hearing Dinklage (of Game of Thrones fame) belt out a pirate shanty may be worth the price of admission alone.
With solid action (that doesn't need the 3D addition) cartoony animation and gags out the wazoo Ice Age: Continental Drift is entertainment to enjoy with the whole family. Revelatory? Not quite. Until we get a feature length silent film of Scratch's acorn pursuit we may never see a "classic" Ice Age film but Continental Drift keeps it together long enough to tell a simple story with delightful flare that should hold attention spans of any length. Massive amounts of sugar not even required.
[Photo Credit: 20th Century Fox]
Top Story: Wynonna Judd Sentenced on DUI Charge
Country singer Wynonna Judd, who was arrested last month for drunk driving near Nashville, Tenn., will lose her driver's license for one year and must perform 200 hours of community service, The Associated Press reports. Judd, 39, was pulled over Nov. 13 for driving 47 miles per hour in a 30 mile per hour zone. After consenting to a Breathalyzer, Judd blew a .175--more than twice the state's legal limit of 0.08 percent. Judd said in a written statement after her arrest that she had been celebrating her impending nuptials and a friend's birthday "and clearly let my excitement get the best of me." Judd married D.R. Roach, her longtime bodyguard, in a private ceremony in Leiper's Fork, Tenn., on Nov. 22, according to her official Web site. On Tuesday, sessions Judge John Brown gave Judd the choice of 48 hours in jail or the community service--an option available to any first-time drunken driving offender in Nashville. Judd received an 11-month, 29-day suspended sentence, during which time she will be on probation, and she must pay almost $1,000 in court costs and fines.
Williams Takes Stage in Baghdad
Comedian Robin Williams took to an outdoor stage at Baghdad International Airport Tuesday in a U.S. military show that also featured actress Shannon Tweed, wrestler Kurt Angle and stock car driver Mike Wallace. According to the AP, Williams kicked off his comedy routine with "Goooood morning Bagh-dad"--a play on his 1987 movie Good Morning, Vietnam. Williams entertained a crowd of about 200 American and Australian soldiers.
Ben Affleck To Start Daytona 500
Ben Affleck, whose sci-fi thriller Paycheck opens Dec. 25, will take on a new role in February. According to the AP, Affleck has accepted Daytona International Speedway's invitation to be the grand marshal at the upcoming Daytona 500. Affleck, a NASCAR fan, will begin the Feb. 15 race with the traditional command to the 43-car field: "Gentlemen, start your engines." John Travolta started last year's Daytona 500.
Man Sues Sony Over Wedding Planner
A Virginia Beach man has filed a federal copyright infringement lawsuit, claiming the 2001 romantic comedy The Wedding Planner starring Jennifer Lopez copied his screenplay. Jeffery R. Ballard's lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in Norfolk this month, accuses the companies that made and distributed the film, including Sony Pictures Entertainment, of illegally basing The Wedding Planner on a screenplay he wrote in the 1990s titled, In the Palm of My Hand, about a wedding planner who falls in love with a client. He is seeking unspecified damages and a share of the profits from the movie, Reuters reports, adding that a Sony spokesperson declined to comment.
J.Lo Rocks the Vote
Jennifer Lopez has taped a public service announcement urging politically disengaged Americans to register to vote, Us Weekly magazine reports in its latest issue, set to hit newsstands Friday. According to Reuters, the TV spot, which was taped Dec. 12 in New York City, will debut during the Super Bowl telecast in January and run on MTV throughout 2004 leading up to the November presidential election. The magazine reports that J.Lo registered to vote via Rock the Vote's Web site on the day she filmed the PSA.
Model Heidi Klum Expecting
German supermodel Heidi Klum is expecting her first child with Flavio Briatore, the managing director of Renault's Formula One team, the AP reports. Klum, 30, and Briatore, 53, have been together for about a year. Klum declined to say when the baby was due or whether she already knew the sex of the child. The Sports Illustrated swimsuit model separated from her husband of five years, hairstylist to the stars Ric Pipino, last November.
Singer Mary J. Blige Weds Record Producer
Singer Mary J. Blige married record producer Kendu Isaacs at her Bergen County, N.J., home Dec. 7, People magazine reports in its Dec. 22 issue. According to the magazine, a guest played "Here Comes the Bride" on the piano, and Blige's mother and sister cooked up a menu of oxtail, barbecued chicken, crab, red rice and salad. "He completes me in the areas that I'm weak in. He's an analytical brain. I'm a creative brain. We pray together. We read the Bible together," Blige is quoted as saying on her official Web site.
Prime-Time Nielsen Ratings From Dec. 8-14
Relying heavily on Survivor: Pearl Islands and CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS took half of the top 10 spots in last week's prime-time viewership numbers, compiled by Nielsen Media Research for the week of Dec. 8-14. The top shows were: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, CBS; Survivor: Pearl Islands-Finale, CBS; Survivor: Pearl Islands, CBS; Survivor: Pearl Islands-Reunion, CBS; ER, NBC; 60 Minutes, CBS; Average Joe, NBC; Trista and Ryan's Wedding, ABC; Without a Trace, CBS; NFL Monday Night Football: St. Louis at Cleveland, ABC.
Role Call: Suvari Goes Six Feet Under, Pardue's Chasing Fate
American Beauty star Mena Suvari is re-teaming with the film's Oscar-winning writer Alan Ball for a six-episode arc on the HBO series Six Feet Under. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Suvari will play a student attending the same art school as Lauren Ambrose's character Claire ... Kip Pardue (The Rules of Attraction) will play the lead role in the romantic comedy Chasing Fate, being developed by Madonna's Maverick Films. Pardue will pla