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.

Death Race

August 30, 2008 by  
Filed under Reviews

Starring: Jason Statham, Joan Allen, Ian McShane
Directed by: Paul W.S. Anderson (“AVP: Alien Vs. Predator”)
Written by: Paul W.S. Anderson (“Resident Evil”)

If “Speed Racer” wasn’t enough to satisfy your need for future NASCAR-racing concepts, then “Death Race” might add a little more fuel to the fire for those who like their asphalt track chock-full of human remains.

A remake of the 1975 sci-fi action flick “Death Race 2000,” which starred David Carradine and Sylvester Stallone, “Death Race” is set only four years into the future. Forget the 2012 Summer Olympics in London. When the U.S. economy hits rock bottom, the face of sports entertainment changes so drastically, people are paying money to watch a group of felons kill each other on the racetrack on TV. Another cliché film about America’s blood lusting for violence in the media? That would be giving “Death Race” entirely too much credit.

Recruited by the prison’s stone-cold warden (Joan Allen), Jensen Ames (Jason Statham), who is thrown into the pen after being falsely convicted of killing his wife, is told that he can win his freedom back by secretly replacing one of the prison’s best drivers, Frankenstein, who was unknowingly killed in the last race.

Hoping to one day see his little girl again, Jensen accepts her offer and is teamed up with a few greaser cons who strap him into a supped-up black Mustang to go head to head with other twisted-metal vehicles equipped with machine guns and other dastardly weapons. Along with his boys in the pit, Jensen is matched with Case (Natalie Martinez), a tight-bodied co-driver brought in from a women’s prison facility (hint: she’s cast for the sex appeal) for the three-day event.

Directed by Paul W.S. Anderson (“AVP: Alien Vs. Predator”), “Death Race” is rip-roaring fast, sleazy, and mind-numbing. While Anderson gets some cool points for a few exciting loops around the track, his screenplay misses its opportunity to give its characters some life behind their deadened eyes. Instead, Anderson focuses on the gruesome deaths, Allen’s bitchy and underwritten persona, and keeping the camera on Martinez’s assets.

If you’re accepting of all low-brow entertainment no matter how tacky, “Death Race” will probably be your new favorite sport pastime. If you don’t want to risk it, you can get the same effect by reading a lowrider magazine while stabbing yourself in the leg with a rusty nail. Tetanus anyone?