Film Review: Pompeii

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 8th April 2014.

Pompeii is the latest 3D action epic from English director Paul W. S. Anderson. Not to be confused with Paul Thomas Anderson (There Will Be Blood, Magnolia, The Master, Boogie Nights) who is a director of repute with a body of brilliantly crafted motion pictures, Anderson is generally a director of disposable eye candy with a preference for exploding bodies, usually of the zombie kind.

Milo (Game of Thrones’ Kit Harington) is a slave forced to become a gladiator in Pompeii, where he attracts the eye of Cassia (Australian actress Emily Browning), the daughter of the city’s ruler Severus (Jared Harris). Unfortunately, Cassia is betrothed to the Roman Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland). As the battle for her heart becomes physical, proceedings are interrupted by a natural disaster, namely the eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

Does this plot sound familiar? Yep, it’s the storyline from Titanic, ripped off wholesale and transplanted to sword and sandal land. Where James Cameron’s epic benefitted from strong performances from a talented cast, in particular the magnetic Kate Winslet and star on the rise Leonardo DiCaprio (I can’t really explain Billy Zane), Pompeii suffers from a uneven lineup of thespians ranging from emerging star Harington (treading water in a role not far removed at all from his character in Game of Thrones) to the scenery chewing antics of Sutherland (who is easily next in line to replace his father Donald Sutherland as cinema’s bad guy de jour). Even the usually reliable Browning, who shone in the mediocre Sucker Punch and the arduous Sleeping Beauty, can do little but look concerned.

Pompeii is director Anderson’s fourth foray into using 3D cameras (as opposed to post- production rendering) which I found surprising as the film rarely popped on the screen and reminded me of the disastrous 3D conversion of Clash of the Titans. Besides a singular moment when the guy next to me and I ducked to avoid a flying log, the visuals lacked a depth of field and I pretty soon forgot that I was watching a 3D movie. Lots and lots of CGI ash falling in 3D is hardly a reason to force me to wear those annoying glasses for ninety minutes.

Pompeii has flopped at the US box office so far with a meagre $10 million taking on its first weekend. With a $100 million budget to recoup, plus marketing expenses, German production house Constantin Film may well have a disaster (about a disaster) on its hands.

With the majority of the cast reduced to the famous death casts that can be found in museums (although I understand that these were actually produced by injecting plaster into the spaces left by decomposing bodies but hey, it’s a Paul W. S. Anderson film) and the credits rolling, I left the cinema with a feeling of positivity and hope. At least there can’t be a sequel.

R.I.P. Jack Bauer

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 30th March 2010.

This weekend has seen the announcements that two very popular television shows will meet their demise in 2010. Both 24 and The Bill will cease production after long and successful runs. Featuring very different styles of crime fighting, these shows will be missed by Australian audiences. The Bill is somewhat of an institution in the UK, having been in production for an amazing 27 years. It has also been a high rating staple of ABC TV programming. Set in the fictional Sun Hill police station, located somewhere in East London, this procedural drama focuses on the lives of one shift of police officers. Over 2300 episodes, almost no subject has been left untouched by The Bill. From corrupt politicians to gay officers, from violent crime to the mandatory police station fire, the Canley Borough Operational Command Unit is certainly an eventful place to work, although the chances of a police officer making it to retirement alive is rather slim, with many characters biting the dust over the show’s 26 seasons. Once commanding UK audiences of 7 million viewers in 2002, ratings have now slumped to half those numbers in recent years. This has prompted broadcaster ITV to put The Bill out to pasture. Iconic hero Jack Bauer (Kiefer Sutherland) burst onto our screens in 2001. 24 was revolutionary in its real time approach to television storytelling. Told in 24 episodes of 44 minutes each (the fight against terrorism still needs commercials), each season followed the events of a single day as the US came under attack from terrorists. A product of 9/11, Jack and the Counter Terrorist Unit controversially used torture and endorsed sacrificing lives for the greater good of the American people. Over 8 eventful days (or seasons), Jack has fought off Middle Eastern terrorists, Mexican drug cartels and American conspirators to prevent nuclear bombs, deadly virus attacks and Presidential assassinations, respectively. Don’t forget that he also overcame heroin addiction in season two. The real time storytelling style of 24 worked well in a weekly episodic format. Watching several episodes together however, often revealed huge plot holes and lapses in logic. No-one seemed to eat, drink or go to the toilet during the 24 hour period either. Maybe they did this in the commercial breaks, just like the audience. Similarly to The Bill, which English actors saw as a rite of passage due to its high turnover of performers, 24 has also provided employment for almost every ethnic looking actor in Hollywood. The only catch, you almost certainly needed to play a terrorist. I’m sure that despite any reservations from actors regarding ethnic stereotyping, the need to eat and pay rent won out each time. So the fictional towns of Sun Hill and Los Angeles will soon be without their crime fighters and law enforcement agencies. Loyal fans and viewers at least can take some solace in the fact that the cancellation announcement has occurred early enough for the producers of The Bill and 24 to give their shows a proper send-off. There is nothing worse than a final episode that ends in a cliffhanger.

Published in: on April 5, 2010 at 10:49  Leave a Comment  
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