Pompeii

February 21, 2014 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Kit Harington, Emily Browning, Kiefer Sutherland
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson (“Resident Evil”)
Written by: Janet Scott Batchler (“Batman Forever”), Lee Batchler (“Batman Forever”) and Michael Robert Johnson (“Sherlock Holmes”)

Part gladiator soap opera, part SyFy channel disaster movie, the infinitely silly period action flick “Pompeii” might fit into director Paul W.S. Anderson’s wheelhouse perfectly, but after an almost 20-year career of building a filmography only a mother (or Milla Jovovich) could love, it’s probably time Anderson fully realized he’s one of the dullest tools in the shed.

Of course, that doesn’t mean Anderson should stop making movies per se (“Resident Evil 6” is currently in pre-production). He still somehow has an audience who forgave him a long time ago for “Mortal Kombat” and “Alien vs. Predator.” It’s a good thing most of them probably didn’t see the mess he made out of “The Three Musketeers” tale in 2011. This time, Anderson takes his lack of cinematic storytelling to ancient Rome, specifically the legendary city of Pompeii, which, in 79 AD, was buried under a wave of ash when the nearby volcano Mount Vesuvius erupted.

In Anderson’s “Pompeii,” the director of “Event Horizon” sloppily sticks in a love story between Milo (Kit Harington), a slave-turned- gladiator, and Cassia (Emiliy Browning), the daughter of a wealthy merchant who has caught the eye of the vicious Roman Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland, chewing up scenes like a madman). Aside from the atrocious dialogue and gladiator-movie clichés, “Pompeii” tries to hang its toga on the third act of the film where CGI-heavy scenes abound and Anderson, based on his past work, is probably the most comfortable.

It’ll take a lot more than a few flaming lava rocks and swooning between layers of smog to pull “Pompeii” out of the trenches, however. It’s another haphazard effort by Anderson, who just hasn’t figured out a way to make anything you can remember then next morning. Maybe it’ll take him another 20 years, but until then, at least he’s finding semi-interesting ways for wife Jovovich to kill the undead. They’ll always have Raccoon City.

Sucker Punch

March 27, 2011 by  
Filed under CineStrays

Starring: Emily Browning, Abbie Cornish, Jena Malone
Directed by: Zack Snyder (“300”)
Written by: Zack Snyder (“300”) and Steve Shibuya (debut)
 
From putting a stimulating spin on an American horror classic in 2004’s “Dawn of the Dead” to slightly entertaining us with his next two highly-stylized films “300” and “Watchmen,” there’s no denying that director Zack Snyder can at least deliver some attention-grabbing imagery. But what he’s upchucked for “Sucker Punch,” an exceedingly erratic softcore male fantasy for gamers, is beyond inexcusable. Girls in an insane asylum imagining they’re in a whorehouse imagining they’re on a mission of girl-empowerment against German zombie soldiers, dragons, and samurai robots? Seriously, what the hell is going on here? Whatever it is, it’s not suspenseful or inventive and besides probably giving 13-year-old boys boners, it’s not very sexy either. This is the type of movie that will hang over Snyder’s head like “Showgirls” does for Paul Verhoeven. Now fanboys can officially fear for the “Superman” reboot.

The Uninvited

January 17, 2009 by  
Filed under Kiko, Reviews

Starring: Elizabeth Banks, Emily Browning, David Strathairn
Directed by: Charles and Thomas Guard (debuts)
Written by: Craig Rosenberg (“After the Sunset”), Doug Miro (“The Great Raid”) and Carlo Bernard (“The Great Raid”)

The comedy genre has the Farrelly brothers, action flicks have the Wachowskis, and the Coens are at the top of their game in the drama department. Could the Guard brothers be the answer horror movie lovers have been looking for in familial filmmaking? Don’t hold your breath.

In “The Uninvited,” Charles and Thomas Guard give their own take on the 2003 Korean horror film “A Tale of Two Sisters.” A hybrid ghost story and domestic thriller, the film feels like a cheap combination of “The Hand that Rocks the Cradle” and “The Sixth Sense” and cheats the audience out of what should have been a supernatural indulgence.

Australian actress Emily Browning (“Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events”) stars as Anna Rydell, a young girl recently released from a mental hospital where she was staying after the death of her mother. Despite still having indistinguishable nightmares and creepy hallucinations when doctors discharge her, Emily returns home to live with her sister Alex (Arielle Kebble), her father Steven (David Strathairn), and his girlfriend Rachael (Elizabeth Banks), who was once a live-in nurse for their sickly mother. “Welcome to your new ward,” Alex tells her sister. “Better food, crazier people.”

Something, however, is not sitting well with Emily when she becomes part of the new family dynamic. She is convinced the ghosts in her nightmares are trying to warn her about her future stepmother. When a young man who works at the local grocery store tells Emily he saw something unusual the night of the fire that took her mother’s life, she starts to believe the images she sees hold the secrets of the tragedy.

Short on shocking moments, the biggest flub “The Uninvited” dishes out is its horribly uneven tone. At times, it feels like it wants to go the way of “The Grudge” or “The Ring” in terms of scare tactics and then it flips on a dime and tries to become a serious Hitchcockian thriller. The Guard brothers can’t muster up nearly enough imagination to have the best of both worlds. It’s evident that they’ve lost their way from the muddled first half to the typical twisting conclusion that doesn’t come soon enough.