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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In our quest to bring you the best TV content, sometimes we have to look... backwards. That's why we have Thursday TV Throwback, wherein each week our staff of pop culture enthusiasts will be tasked with bringing back some of the best television clips that have been forgotten by time, space and the general zeitgeist.
This week, we decided to take our quest to the big leagues — during last week's FX Upfronts, we asked some of the network's biggest stars what scared the crap out of them as children. From Sons of Anarchy to Justified to Legit, we grilled em' all. Read on, as their answers might surprise you...
Rob McElhenney, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: "It. Stephen King's It. Tim Curry played Pennwise the clown, and it was horrific. I don't know why he didn't do more stuff. He should have been a romantic lead. He's a great actor!"
Theo Rossi, Sons of Anarchy: "Stephen King's It, easy. He was a clown with yellow teeth, I mean... I have nightmares, but they're not about clowns."
Glenn Howerton, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: "V. V and V: The Final Battle. Enough said."
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Jim Jefferies, Legit: "TV-wise, H.R. Pufnstuf scared me. He was just creepy, H.R. Pufnstuf. And the talking trees, and the witch with the nose... it just didn't sit with me."
*Jacob Pitts, Justified: "Just after Sesame Street... I don't know what it was... in retrospect I think it was a staged opera of some kind. It was very hard for my three-year-old mind to understand. It wasn't Zoobilee Zoo. It was adults, in plastics, screaming. Which makes me think it was an opera. I saw it as people on a boat, screaming. That terrified me."
*ED Note: We do not know what he is talking about, but it sounds awful.
Kim Coates, Sons of Anarchy: "My dad used to do some bad things to me, man. He would watch black and white horror nights. I was about 6-7 years old, and my dad would go '[makes ghost noise] The Shadow knows!' Scared the s**t right out of me. I mean, Dad! Then he'd make up to me and say, "It's okay, it's just Dad." So yeah, black and white stuff.'
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[Photo Credit: Warner Bros Television]
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FX knows its viewers well and gives them what they want: raunchy comedies that don’t apologize for being what they are. But if you’re expecting another of the same when the network’s newest comedy, Legit, premieres on Thursday, Jan. 17, you’ll be sorely disappointed… well actually, you’ll be pleasantly surprised. Because if you look deep down inside every FX comedy, you'll find that secret ingredient that makes them all successful: heart.
The newest show to mix raunch with emotion stars Aussie stand-up comedian Jim Jefferies as an edgy, foul-mouthed guy in his mid-30s, living in LA, struggling to make his life and career more legit – She said the show title! Drink! – only to find a difficult uphill battle every step of the way. Jim's cheerleading team is made up of his best friend/neurotic roommate Steve Nugent, a cyber-law library salesman struggling to stay on his feet in the wake of his divorce, and Steve’s brother Billy Nugent, who suffers from advanced stage Muscular Dystrophy and is confined to a wheelchair. Jim realizes the way to make his life more meaningful is to help Billy experience all the wild and crazy things his condition has prevented him from doing. In Jim’s mind, the way to help Billy is to take him to a whorehouse in Las Vegas to get him laid. Because, of course.
While this premise may sound like a Hangover-like debauchery-filled road trip (which it kind of is), Legit takes it a step beyond that and gives the story meaning. Jim really does care about his friend experiencing something everyone else may take for granted. There is compassion in the way Jim wants Billy to experience all the fun and happiness his condition prevents him from having, that normal life that seems so out of reach. These are real people, with real issues, albeit in hilarious situations most people don't find themselves in all too often. The balance of raunch to heart is perfect.
Before you watch the series premiere tonight, get acquainted with all the crazy people bringing Legit to life. Hollywood.com spoke with the cast at the show's red carpet premiere, so who better to tell you about the characters than the actors who play them?
Jim Jefferies as Jim: I’m playing a version of myself. It’s a slightly douchier version of myself. If I just played myself it would just be a whole episode of me sitting around eating cereal playing video games. It’s really me from about five years ago. It’s me when I was still taking drugs and sleeping around. As for this season, you’re going to be seeing a lot of development in Billy’s character, John Ratzenberger comes in to play Billy’s father, you’ll see a women thrown in a trunk, you’ll see an episode where we are in a disability home where we literally cast every disabled actor in Hollywood. We had them all there, there was chairs all over the place. It’s a mental show.
DJ Qualls as Billy Nugent: Well I turned [the role] down initially because I was afraid of it. And then I realized the reason I was afraid of it wasn’t the subject matter, which I thought it was. Out of all of the messed up stuff that I’ve done, this is the most messed up. But it wasn’t the material, it was the fact that I was afraid of being that vulnerable. I’m in a wheelchair and I can’t move except my fingers and my neck. It’s a scary place to be as an actor because you can’t use any of your bag of tricks. I can’t play with that physicality. I was really afraid of that. I’m more proud of this work than anything I’ve done in five years. And that feels good.
Dan Bakkedahl as Steve Nugent: Throughout the course of the season, you’re seeing Steve holding on [from his divorce]. For the first five or six episodes, I’m still wearing my wedding ring. I’m convinced that it’s just a separation. I’m not going to live a house with this guy smoking pot and my brother in a wheelchair peeing in a bottle. That’s not going to be my life. I’m going to go back to my regular life with my wife and kid, very soon. And we’re going to see that deteriorate. There’s a big event that makes it blow up for sure, right in my face. There’s a real finality to it where you just kind of go, Wow, that’s over. We see Steve go from a witless, hapless sidekick to kind of losing his mind to realizing the finality of the relationship with his wife to wanting to make his life his own.
Sonya Eddy as Ramona: Ramona is the caregiver in the house for Billy. She’s a little tough, she’s loving, she’s imposing, but she also likes to have fun and she gets in there with the guys. You know how sometimes the inmates are running the hospital? She sometimes gets in there with the inmates and causes some trouble. She is one of the most fully realized characters I’ve ever had the chance to play. You’ll see her laugh, you’ll see her cry, you’ll see her be sexy. You’ll get to see her in some sexy situations… heh heh heh! You’ll get to see her confront some issues from her past.
Mindy Sterling as Janice Nugent: I am a mother with flaws. With Steve, she thinks he’s a big fat loser. With Billy, the younger son who’s wheelchair bound, that’s her baby. She wants to take care of him and do for him but at the same time she’s annoyed by him. She does not like Jim. She finds him completely inappropriate, politically incorrect, foul mouthed, just wrong for her family. And later on in the season, there’s an intervention she has to go through… it’s pretty wild.
Legit airs Thursday nights on FX at 10:30 PM ET/PT.
[Photo Credit: Fox]
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Since the age of 12 Marcus (Curtis “50 Cent” Jackson) wanted to be a rapper. After his mother Katrina (Serena Reeder) is brutally killed Marcus’ rap dreams are put on hold and he begins hustling drugs to make enough money for a nice pair of shoes. Only he doesn’t stop at the shoes. When Marcus gets involved with Majestic (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) he sees how much money there is to be made in the drug business and he wants it all. Then his childhood best friend Charlene (Joy Bryant) moves back to Queens and they fall in love. But it isn’t too long before she gets pregnant and he is arrested. While perfecting his rap skills in jail he meets Bama (Terrence Howard) who becomes his manager and lifesaver on the outside taking him out of the drug game for good. 50 Cent may have the rap world locked up but his acting skills leave a lot to be desired. Watching him trying to emote is sort of akin to watching a bad comic bomb on stage. He seems to be the first rapper-turn-actors these days who can’t cut it. Thankfully Get Rich’s supporting cast help out--a little. Marc John Jefferies (Stuart Little 2 Spider-Man 2) who plays the young Marcus nearly steals the show. At first loving and caring then turning cold and unforgiving Jefferies made it look easy to flip the switch between the two. Another standout is Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje (HBO’s Oz) as the crooked drug lord Majestic. And in a year chockfull of good performances Terrence Howard who obviously just wanted to work with Sheridan adds much needed comic relief as the quirky Bama. Director Jim Sheridan whose resume includes Oscar-winning films such as In America and My Left Foot probably thought that if Oscar-winning director Curtis Hanson could handle Eminem’s 8 Mile with aplomb then he could do the same thing with a gangsta rap story. Guess he forgot the fact Hanson (L.A. Confidential) can do gritty. The very Irish Sheridan is just clearly way out of his element. Get Rich jumps around so much you don’t have any time to figure out what’s happening who’s who or where the heck the film’s heading. And it doesn’t help that the chaotic script is peppered with such stereotypical dialogue. Honestly if you want to see a compelling story about a wannabe rapper getting his shot (and not shot at) rent this year’s Hustle & Flow.
Not nearly as good as Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl but still infinitely better than The Country Bears this third Disney theme park ride to come to life finally explains all those ghosts haunting that moss-covered wrought iron-gated mansion you've stood in a three-hour line to visit. Haunted Mansion starts off with the attraction's familiar ghoulish music and classic line "Welcome foolish mortals!" and quickly gets into how the now-decrepit house was once a thriving and stately antebellum palace that hosted 19th century New Orleans' wealthiest (aha the dancing ghosts in the Great Hall!). Its owner Master Gracey (Nathaniel Parker) was the consummate Southern gentleman but had fallen in love with Elizabeth a beautiful woman who unfortunately was considered beneath Gracey's stature. Disregarding the advice from his trusted confidante and butler Ramsley (Terence Stamp) Gracey planned to marry his beloved Elizabeth anyway but tragedy intervened. Apparently Elizabeth could not face ruining the life of her one true love and rather than live without him she committed suicide--or so it seemed (ominous enough for you?). Utterly heartbroken Gracey hanged himself from the observatory tower thus cursing the house and trapping all who had dwelled there or in the sprawling graveyard behind the house (999 ghosts to be exact) forever. Cool.
Then suddenly Eddie Murphy appears showing off his trademark pearly whites and trying to sell said mansion to a married couple. Wait what's going on here? Oh right that's the other part of the movie. Jumping ahead to the present Murphy plays Jim Evers a workaholic real estate agent whose lovely wife Sara (Marsha Thomason) wants him to spend more quality time with his family. When she convinces Jim to take a weekend vacation with their two kids he agrees--but first they have to make one quick stop to check out an eerie old mansion as a possible house to sell. That's when it all goes to hell. Unbeknownst to the Evers Sara is the spitting image of Elizabeth--and Gracey's ghost is determined to keep her with him at the mansion. To be fair it's the script's fault not Murphy's that he has to run around like an idiot chased by any number of poltergeists yelling "Don't you let no dark spirits out!" and "There are dead people in the backyard!" while trying to save his wife and break the curse. But let's just say he's no Johnny Depp and can't quite carry the film past its innate silliness. At least the funnyman gets a little help from the kids played by an unfazed Aree Davis and arachnophobic Marc John Jefferies as well as the hilarious Jennifer Tilly who portrays the psychic Madame Leota (you know the floating head inside the crystal ball from the ride who spouts gloomy predictions in rhymes. Love her). Of the apparitions Stamp seems to enjoy playing his ghoulish Ramsley the most while friendly ghosts Wallace Shawn as a manservant and Dina Waters as a maid add some levity to the already madcap proceedings.
The promise of The Haunted Mansion comes from its source. Opening in 1969 the Haunted Mansion attraction was considered very innovative for its time as Disney Imagineers toyed with all manner of visual effects and animatronics. Even to this day it's a perennial favorite. Director Rob Minkoff (Stuart Little) wants to make sure fans experience the thrill of it again this time through the machinations of modern-day special effects and the art of filmmaking. The film's look and feel aptly captures the spirit of the Disney attraction. Evers walks down the very same hall as in the attraction past the pastoral pictures on the wall that change into sinister images as the eyes of unsmiling stone heads follow him. He and the kids take a ghostly coach ride through the graveyard where all the wacky spirits are doing their thing including those wayward spirits ready to hitch a ride with them. Even the singing busts are there now a barbershop quartet that riffs off whatever anyone says. It's just a shame screenwriter David Berenbaum's story couldn't have been a little less contrived. While the fascinating back story cleverly answers some of those questions enthusiasts may have had about the ride the present-day scenario starts to fall apart once Evers sets out to break the curse and things get really looney. Even when the family finds out about Master Gracey's sad tale the film doesn't really live up to the imagination the theme park attraction inspires; instead figuring the "insider"-isms will go over the young heads in the audience the film sticks with trite dialogue and over-the-top shenanigans to please the tykes.