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.

Advertisement

Concert Review: Paul Simon Live – 2 April 2013 Sydney Entertainment Centre

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 9th April 2013.

Many, many moons ago, for my twelfth birthday party, I compiled a wish list of cassettes that I wanted to receive from my family and schoolmates. For the uninitiated, cassettes were the precursor to compact discs and had a tendency to melt in the car on hot days in summer. They were also much harder to use as drink coasters.

My list was varied and contained just as many albums that would be considered classics as embarrassments. For every Crowded House debut album, there was a Rick Astley disaster. For every Kick by INXS, there was a Tiffany album. As always, I will deny owning these terrible albums if asked (I’m still talking to you, Doug, the newspaper guy).

One cassette I loved from the moment I pressed play was Graceland by Paul Simon. My gateway track was the hit single You Can Call Me Al, which featured a music video starring Chevy Chase, back when he was funny (he later became funny again in the hit comedy series Community but sadly left the show last year, which for fans like me wasn’t funny).

Graceland was the amalgam of Simon’s pop and folk roots and his discovery of South African music. Every track is a gem and the album, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, is still on regular rotation in my home and car (on CD even).

So it was with great excitement that I witnessed a 70 year old Paul Simon in concert at the soon-to-be-demolished Sydney Entertainment Centre last Tuesday night. I missed his support act, Rufus Wainwright, but heard some audience members giving him scathing reviews in the foyer, so I may have dodged a bullet there.

Opening with the Graceland classic, Gumboots, it was clear that the capacity crowd were in for a musical treat. Simon’s eight piece multi-instrumentalist backing band was absolutely remarkable and recreated the sound of the Graceland tracks, in particular, flawlessly.

In his awkward introductory speech, Simon announced that he wanted to play an upbeat set, which was fine by me as I had just driven for three and a half hours from work and had the same journey ahead of me immediately after the concert. Hit after hit followed in rapid succession: 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard, The Obvious Child. Unfortunately, the overzealous security folk kept those wanting to dance in their assigned places, however, with a largely baby boomer audience, arthritis may have also been responsible for everyone else staying comfortably seated.

Simon performed six Graceland tracks during the show, including You Can Call Me Al, as well as songs from his earlier solo work right up to his new album, 2011’s So Beautiful or So What. He also performed some covers including a beautiful version of George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun.

Returning for his third encore, Simon announced that he felt like playing some Simon and Garfunkel tracks and sent us all home after two hours of pure musical bliss with joyful renditions of America, Homeward Bound and The Boxer. I might have shed a tear or two during the final track. I said “might have”, Doug.

Published in: on April 9, 2013 at 18:42  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,