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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At the moment there are few greater clichés in the media than the freaking out single woman on the cusp of 30. Of course clichés are clichés for a reason worth exploring even through the lens of just one or two women as in Lola Versus. Unfortunately while the intention behind Lola Versus isn't that we should all be happily married by the age of 30 it still fits into the same rubric of all those "Why You're Not Married" books.
Lola (Greta Gerwig) has a gorgeous fiancé Luke (Joel Kinnaman) and they live in a giant loft together the kind of dreamy NYC real estate that seems to exist primarily in the movies. Just as they're planning their gluten-free wedding cake with a non-GMO rice milk-based frosting Luke dumps her. It's cruelly sudden — although Luke isn't a cruel man. Lola finds little comfort in the acerbic wit of her best friend the eternally single Alice (Zoe Lister-Jones) who is probably delighted to see her perfectly blonde best friend taken down a peg and into the murky world of New York coupling. Lola and Luke share a best friend Henry (Hamish Linklater) a messy-haired rumpled sweetheart who is kind and safe and the inevitable shelter for Lola's fallout. Her parents well-meaning and well-to-do hippie types feed her kombucha and try to figure out their iPads and give her irrelevant advice.
Lola Versus is slippery. Its tone careens between broad TV comedy and earnest dramedy almost as if Alice is in charge of the dirty zingers and Lola's job is to make supposedly introspective statements. Alice's vulgar non-sequiturs are tossed off without much relish and Lola's dialogue comes off too often as expository and plaintive. We don't need Lola to tell Henry "I'm vulnerable I'm not myself I'm easily persuaded" or "I'm slutty but I'm a good person!" (Which is by the way an asinine statement to make. One might even say she's not even that "slutty " she's just making dumb decisions that hurt those around her just as much as she's hurting herself.)
We know that she's a mess — that's the point of the story! It's not so much that a particularly acerbic woman wouldn't say to her best friend "Find your spirit animal and ride it until its d**k falls off " but that she wouldn't say it in the context of this movie. It's from some other movie over there one where everyone is as snarky and bitter as Alice. You can't have your black-hearted comedy and your introspective yoga classes. Is it really a stride forward for feminism that the clueless single woman has taken the place of the stoner man-child in media today? When Lola tells Luke "I'm taken by myself. I've gotta just do me for a while " it's true. But it doesn't sound true and it doesn't feel true.
In one scene Lola stumbles on the sidewalk and falls to the ground. No one asks her if she's okay or needs help; she simply gets up on her own and goes on her way. It's a moment that has happened to so many people. It's humiliating and so very public but of course you just gotta pick yourself up and get where you're going. In this movie it's a head-smackingly obvious metaphor. In one of the biggest missteps of the movie Jay Pharoah plays a bartender that makes the occasional joke while Lola is waiting tables at her mom's restaurant. His big line at the end is "And I'm your friend who's black!" It would have been better to leave his entire character on the cutting room floor than attempt such a half-hearted wink at the audience.
Lister-Jones and director Daryl Wein co-wrote the screenplay for Lola Versus as they did with 2009's Breaking Upwards. Both films deal with the ins and outs of their own romantic relationship in one way or another. Breaking Upwards a micro-budget indie about a rough patch in their relationship was much more successful in tone and direction. Lola Versus has its seeds in Lister-Jones' experience as a single woman in New York and is a little bit farther removed from their experiences. Lola Versus feels like a wasted opportunity. Relatively speaking there are so few movies getting made with a female writer or co-writer that it almost feels like a betrayal to see such a tone-deaf portrayal of women onscreen. What makes it even more disappointing is how smart and likable everyone involved is and knowing that they could have made a better movie.
Forbes tags Gibson as most powerful celeb
Forbes magazine's Celebrity 100 power list ranks actor/director Mel Gibson at the top this year, Reuters reports. Gibson, who directed, produced and co-wrote The Passion of the Christ, about the last hours of Jesus, earned $210 million as well as huge media buzz from the film. Forbes magazine factors in media attention, i.e. magazine covers, press clippings, TV and radio coverage and Internet hits. Others on the list included golf star Tiger Woods, talk show host Oprah Winfrey, actor/producer Tom Cruise and Harry Potter author J.K. Rowling. Those missing from the list included singer/actress Jennifer Lopez, who ranked fifth last year and her former fiancé Ben Affleck, who ranked seventh, as well as Eminem and Dr. Dre, who held the No. 2 spot and former reality show darlings the Osbournes (12th).
Andy Dick pleads not guilty
Comic actor Andy Dick, best known for his NBC series NewsRadio, pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor marijuana possession charge, The Associated Press reports. Dick, who currently appears in the ABC comedy Less Than Zero, was arrested by Indio, Calif., police on May 2 after a security guard at the Coachella Music and Arts Festival reportedly saw the actor trying to light a joint. Dick's latest drug-related run-in follows another incident three years ago when a Los Angeles judge dismissed felony drug charges of possession of cocaine and misdemeanor charges of possession of marijuana and a smoking device against the comedian after he successfully completed an 18-month diversion program.
Bono violates Ireland's smoking ban
Here's something different: U2 frontman Bono apologized for having a smoke. According to Reuters, the Irish rocker was spotted last week lighting up during a late-night bash at a Dublin restaurant with rock band the Red Hot Chili Peppers, thus breaching Ireland's recent ban on smoking in the workplace. "It was the wee small hours. I was in the company of people from out of town who didn't know about the ban and for a moment nor did I," newspapers quoted Bono as saying Friday. "I was quickly reminded by the staff and a few friends. I apologized then and I apologize now."
Call her Esther
That's the Hebrew name Kabbalah follower Madonna has chosen for herself, AP reports. In an interview with ABC's 20/20, airing this Friday, the singer explained, "I was named after my mother. My mother died when she was very young, of cancer, and…I wanted to attach myself to another name. This is in no way a negation of who my mother is…I wanted to attach myself to the energy of a different name." Madonna also said her Jewish beliefs are not a trend and that she does not take them lightly. "I'm a little bit irritated that people think that it's like some celebrity bandwagon that I've jumped on, or that, say, somebody like Demi (Moore) has jumped on," the 45-year-old singer said. "We don't take it lightly."
Madonna praises Fahrenheit 9/11
Madonna urged fans during her concert Wednesday night at New York's Madison Square Garden to go see Michael Moore's latest film, the anti-Bush documentary Fahrenheit 9/11. Moore screened Fahrenheit 9/11, which opens in New York two days earlier than its nationwide opening June 25, to a crowd of celebrities and members of the press Monday at New York's Ziegfeld Theater. In what MTV News describes as "a genuine, unscripted moment," Madonna told the audience--which included Moore--that she had just seen the film and that it had really affected her. "Not only is it inspiring and educating, but it's proof that people can make a difference, that we can make a difference," she said. "So, Michael, I know you're out there tonight, and I just wanted to publicly thank you for sticking your neck out, for going against the establishment, for giving us hope."
Conservatives slam Fahrenheit 9/11
While Madonna is singing Michael Moore's praises for his anti-Bush documentary, Fahrenheit 9/11, conservative groups have organized campaigns condemning the film and its maker.
One group, Move America Forward, has launched an anti-Moore letter-writing campaign alerting theater chains that they don't support the showing of Fahrenheit 9/11. "(Moore) is critical of what's happening right now, and there's no problem with being critical--but his movie is not a documentary, it's a piece of propaganda," Siobhan Guiney, the executive director for the pro-Bush group, says on the group Web site. Another independent conservative group, Citizens United, is making video ads for TV and the Internet denouncing Moore. The group's head, David Bossie, said the ads would target Moore and George Soros, the billionaire philanthropist who donated nearly $13 million to various groups seeking to defeat Bush.
Kelly Ripa gets $40 million in new Live contract
Kelly Ripa will host Live with Regis and Kelly for five more years in a contract purportedly worth millions. The syndicated TV entertainment show Extra reported the co-host will be paid about $40 million under her new Live contract, or $8 million a year. Ripa, a former cast member on the ABC soap All My Children, landed in the chair next to Regis Philbin in February 2001, replacing Kathie Lee Gifford. Philbin, 72, has two more years on his current contract on Live, which enters its 17th season this fall. Ripa, 33, will also continue to appear on her primetime ABC sitcom Hope & Faith, which begins its second season in the fall.
Hawaii Five-O star honored in Hawaii
Hawaii Five-O star Jack Lord, who died in 1998 from congestive heart failure, is being honored with a bronze bust at one of his favorite walking spots in Honolulu, the AP reports. The 40-pound sculpture, by Hawaii artist Lynn Weiler Liverton, is scheduled to go on display Saturday during a ceremony at Kahala Mall in East Oahu. "We decided on Kahala Mall because it was the place where you could always see Jack," said Doug Mossman, who had recurring roles as Lt. George Kealoha and Frank Kamana on the show. "He'd stroll through the mall in shorts, aloha shirt and straw hat, smiling." Lord, who portrayed detective Steve McGarrett on the series that ran from 1968-80, is credited with being the first star to require local actors be given roles because he believed they captured the flavor of Hawaii. His wife, Marie, still lives in the couple's Kahala residence.
Guylaine Cadorette contributed to this report.