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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How would you like to spend a night shopping with the stars? It's all possible thanks to the ever-intimidating Anna Wintour! The Vogue editor-in-chief came up with an idea in 2009 where retailers in NYC would stay open past their normal hours and offer in-store events to promote shopping and help stimulate the struggling economy. She called the night Fashion's Night Out, and it always takes place the Thursday before New York's fashion week begins.
FNO has become such a phenomenon that celebrities even take part in the festivities. From performances to guest appearances, A-listers are stepping out to support this stylish shopping extravaganza. And so in case you plan to participate, here is a list of where you can go tonight (in New York, Los Angeles, Miami and Chicago) to rub elbows with some of your favorite Hollywood stars.
NEW YORK CITY
Bloomingdales (1000 Third Avenue New York NY 10022): Actor Eddie Cibrian (6-8 p.m.), star stylist Rachel Zoe (6:30-7:30 p.m.)
Bottega Veneta (699 Fifth Avenue New York NY 10022): Actress Rose Byrne (6-11 p.m.)
Coach (595 Madison Avenue New York NY 10022): Saturday Night Live's Seth Myers (7-9 p.m.)
Completely Bare (25 Bond Street NYC NY 10012): RHONY's Cindy Barshop (6:30-10:30 p.m.)
DASH (119 Spring Street New York NY 10012): Kim and Kourtney Kardashian, Jersey Shore's DJ Pauly D (6-8 p.m.)
David Yurman (712 Madison Avenue New York NY 10065): Camilla Belle (6-11 p.m.)
Dolce & Gabbana (825 Madison Avenue New York NY 10065): Justin Bieber (6-11 p.m.)
Giorgio Armani (760 Madison Avenue New York NY 10065): Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett (8-10 p.m.)
Jeffrey New York (449 West 14th Street New York NY 10014): Harry Potter's Daniel Radcliffe (6-11 p.m.)
Kiehl's (109 Third Avenue New York NY 10003): AJ Maclean of the Backstreet Boys (6-11 p.m.)
Lord & Taylor (424 Fifth Avenue New York NY 10018): Solange Knowles (6-9 p.m.) and Ivanka Trump (6:30-7:30 p.m.)
Lucky Brand (535 Broadway New York NY 10012): Project Runway star Tim Gunn (6-11 p.m.)
Macy's Herald Square (151 West 34th Street New York NY 10001): Tommy Hilfiger (5:30 p.m.), celeb DJ Samantha Ronson (6-7 p.m.), Kelly Rowland (7-8 p.m.), Pretty Little Liars actress Shay Mitchell (8-9 p.m.)
MAC Cosmetics (109 Spring Street New York NY 10012): Beth Ditto (8-9 p.m.)
Manolo Blahnik (31 West 54th Street New York NY 10019): Sarah Jessica Parker (6-11 p.m.)
Marc by Marc Jacobs Men's (382 Bleecker Street New York NY 10014): Bar Refaeli (6-10 p.m.)
Marc Jacobs (163 Mercer Street New York NY 10012): Dakota Fanning (6-10 p.m.)
Michael Kors (610 Fifth Avenue New York NY 10020): Michael Kors (6-11 p.m.)
New York & Company (715 Lexington Avenue New York NY 10022): Real Housewives of NY cast mates Countess LuAnn de Lesseps, Kelly Killoren Bensimon and Ramona Singer (6-10 p.m.)
Payless Shoe Source (716 Lexington Avenue at 58th Street New York NY 10022): Designer Christian Siriano (7:30-9 p.m.)
QVC (428 Broadway at Howard Street New York NY 10013): Kris Jenner, Heidi Klum, Donald Trump (6-11 p.m.)
Rag & Bone (119 Mercer Street New York NY 10012): Stars of Lala's Full Court Life Carmelo Anthony and La La Vazquez (6-11 p.m.)
Saks Fifth Avenue (611 Fifth Avenue New York NY 10022): Kris Humphries (6:30-10 p.m.), Ne-Yo (8-9 p.m.)
Sephora Times Square (200 West 42nd Street New York NY 10036): True Blood's Kristin Bauer, Kat Von D, Kate Walsh (6-11 p.m.)
Stuart Weitzman (625 Madison Avenue New York NY 10022): Michelle Trachtenberg and Hayden Panettiere (6:30-10 p.m.)
Ted Gibson Salon (184 5th Avenue 2nd Floor New York NY 10010): Twilight star Ashley Greene (8-10 p.m.)
Tiffany & Co (727 Fifth Avenue New York NY 10022): Leighton Meester (8 p.m.)
Versace (647 Fifth Avenue New York NY 10022): DRAKE (7-10 p.m.)
Victoria's Secrets (591-593 Broadway New York NY 10012): Angels Adriana Lima, Alessandra Ambrosio, Erin Heatherton and Lily Aldridge (7-10 p.m.)
The Beverly Center (Beverly Blvd lvd, Los Angeles, CA 90048): Nicole Richie (5-11 p.m.)
The Grove (189 The Grove Dr Los Angeles, CA 90036): Lauren Conrad (7-8 p.m.)
Westfield Topandga Canyon (6600 Topanga Canyon Blvd, Canoga Park, CA 91303, USA): Tori Spelling (6:30 p.m.)
900 Shops (900 North Michigan Avenue Chicago IL 60611): Bravo fashion guru Brad Goreski (6-9 p.m.)
Macy's State Street (111 North State Street Chicago IL 60602): Kelly Osbourne (6-8:30 p.m.)
Macy's Aventura (19535 Biscayne Boulevard Aventura Miami FL 33180): Real Housewives of Miami's Alexia Echevarria (6-7 p.m.), Real Housewives of NY's Jill Zarin (6:30-7:30 p.m.)
“I don’t know if I can do this much longer ” groans an exhausted Milla Jovovich shortly after dispatching a horde of corporate paramilitary goons in the explode-tastic introductory sequence of Resident Evil: Afterlife. I feel her pain. But Jovovich in her fourth turn as Alice the genetically enhanced zombie-slaughtering heroine of the video game-inspired series isn’t the only one looking a bit tired. The entire film suffers from a severe case of franchise fatigue the hallmarks of which no amount of “big guns beautiful women [and] dogs with heads that explode ” as producer Jeremy Bolt so artfully boasts in the film’s official press notes can possibly hide.
This latest edition finds Alice stripped of her superpowers by her arch-nemesis the blond Matrix reject Albert Wesker (a cringe-worthy Shawn Roberts) whose evil Umbrella Corporation created the virus that inadvertently turned most of the planet’s population into flesh-devouring zombies. Though she can no longer pull off fancy tricks like triggering spontaneous earthquakes she’s still able to withstand powerful blasts without shielding and fire handguns the size of her head without any visible recoil. Both traits come in handy when she's charged with leading a small ethnically diverse group of human survivors through an army of undead many of whom are armed with face-sucking tentacles in lieu of tongues to a refugee camp located on a ship anchored off the coast of Los Angeles.
For all of its recycled plot elements predictable twists and cliched dialogue Resident Evil: Afterlife does feature one genuinely interesting new wrinkle (and no it's not the aforementioned dogs with heads that explode though they are quite nice): It’s the first film of the franchise to be shot and edited entirely in 3D — the real non-Clash of the Titans variety. Who knows perhaps writer-director (and Jovovich hubby) Paul W.S. Anderson returning to the helm after ceding directing duties on the prior two Resident Evil films was simply too drained from the work of adding an additional dimension to all of the film's flying limbs and bursts of blood to devote much creative energy to anything else. More likely there was never any creative energy there in the first place.
And still Anderson sees fit to end the film with a transparent pitch for yet another sequel. Might I suggest Resident Evil: Straight to Video?
WHAT IT’S ABOUT?
When all-American girl Susan Murphy is inadvertently hit by a falling meteor on her wedding day she grows to be nearly 50 feet tall. The U.S. military gets wind of this renames her Ginormica and locks her away with a slacker group of other “monsters” in a top-secret compound. But when a mysterious alien robot lands on Earth and begins wreaking havoc these good-hearted but inept creatures are called into action by the President and must band together as a team to save the world from certain catastrophe.
WHO’S IN IT?
As usual Dreamworks has assembled a stellar A-list voice cast led by Reese Witherspoon as Susan/Ginormica. Playing one of the rare female animated heroes Witherspoon’s sweet/confused demeanor — in light of her highly unusual status as a fearsome freakazoid — hits just the right tone generously letting her zanier colleagues steal scenes from right under her (a long way down by the way). Chief among these are a not-so-bright gelatinous blue mass named B.O.B. hilariously voiced by Seth Rogen; the genius Dr. Cockroach Ph.D in the capable hands of House doc Hugh Laurie; and Will Arnett’s half-ape half-fish The Missing Link. In the human roles there’s Stephen Colbert as the idiotic U.S. President Kiefer Sutherland as the monster’s prison guardian Paul Rudd as the ego-driven weatherman fiancé of Susan; and a deliciously villainous Rainn Wilson as Galaxhar the alien determined to take over Earth.
Superb 3-D effects aren’t overdone and add immeasurably to the ginormous fun of the film but even seeing it in theaters that only show it in regular 2-D doesn’t spoil the pure joy of this cartoonish War of the Worlds. Throw in parodies of every cheap '50s sci-fi movie you can think of and you have the ingredients for a silly monster mash sure to appeal to just about anyone who wants to laugh. Despite the impressive production elements it’s the smart and clever script that really sets it apart from its competitors — and that even includes the similar Monsters Inc. from Pixar.
Like any kid-oriented comic ‘toon today the action can be a bit too frenetic and Monsters vs. Aliens piles a lot of it on in its trim 95 minutes. Still the lovable characters carry the day and somehow make it all palatable.
When Susan now Ginormica brings her new friends home to meet her parents chaos ensues and so do the laughs. Also impressive are the large action scenes that make fine use of CGI animation breakthroughs.
BEST SUPPORTING BLOB:
It's easily the one-eyed lame-brained blue lug of a people hugger named B.O.B. perfectly matched to the talents of Rogen. He rolls away with the movie and inevitably the merchandise tie-ins.