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.

Sherlock Holmes

December 24, 2009 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Jude Law, Rachel McAdams
Directed by: Guy Ritchie (“RocknRolla”)
Written by: Anthony Peckham (“Invictus”), Simon Kinberg (“Jumper”), Michael Robert Johnson (debut)

It’s really not necessary to walk into the hip new version of “Sherlock Holmes” knowing anything about the legendary 19th century detective stories written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle. Actually, it might benefit moviegoers to forget anything about the English gumshoe they might have learned in prep school.

While there are some glimpses of Doyle’s source material, director Guy Ritchie (“RocknRolla,” “Snatch”) attempts to amp up this Holmes tale for the next generation, but fashions it around a mass-appealing storyline that becomes more soupy that scholarly.

That shouldn’t take anything away from two-time Oscar nominee Robert Downey Jr.’s stylish portrayal of the title character. As Holmes, Downey Jr. commands the screen as the world’s most famous, fist-fighting detective. Here, he is matched up nicely with actor Jude Law, who is a solid casting choice for Holmes’ sidekick, Dr. Watson. Despite the impressive paring and chemistry, screenwriters Anthony Peckham (“Invictus”), Simon Kinberg (“Jumper”), and newcomer Michael Robert Johnson can’t match the magnetism of Downey Jr. or the menacing art direction that turns London into a tarnished locale.

In the film, Holmes and Watson are on the heels of Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong), a serial killer involved in black magic who apparently rises from the dead after the duo watch him hang for the murders he committed. From there, the film falls into a tale of world domination that is hardly unique on any level. Blackwood wants to bring down Parliament with a chemical weapon. Holmes must find him before he does. Where’s Guy Fawkes when you need him?

An under-used Rachel McAdams (“The Notebook”) plays Irene Adler, a secondary character only mentioned in one of Doyle’s numerous writings but is undoubtedly high on the Holmes hierarchy. The always-reliable Eddie Marsan plays Scotland Yard’s Inspector Lestrade with his usual bitter approach to his characters.

Set pieces aside, “Sherlock Holmes” goes as far as the supernatural-themed narrative allows it. There are some highlights in the film including the rousing action sequences Ritchie is known for, which work well for a while before we’re reminded that all the loose ends and twists still have to be revealed before the bloated story pops. Then, there’s the fantastic score by Hans Zimmer that is far removed from his usual extravagant musical offerings. The funky piano playing throughout reminds us that not every period blockbuster needs a swelling orchestra to be effective.

But when a film feels like all it’s doing in the final act is setting up for a sequel, something is wrong with its cinematic logic. There’s far more story to tell in the mystery series, but it’s insane for “Holmes” to stop short without a concrete promise of a follow-up or without earning the right to dole out cliffhangers. It really acts more self-important than it should. Just be thankful Holmes never utters the word “elementary” or things could have gotten really ugly on Baker Street.