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Pompeii Review


Like an ancient Roman version of 2012, this disaster epic is a pure guilty pleasure, sparking plenty of laughter along with the massive effects-based carnage. It also helps that the screen is packed with muscle men in skimpy skirts. The actors dive in with gusto, adding plenty of personality to the ridiculous dialogue, while director Paul W.S. Anderson shamelessly ramps up the action mayhem.

It begins in AD 79 Britain, where Roman Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) is on the rampage, slaughtering the entire Celtic community of young Milo (Kit Harington), who is taken to Londinium to become a gladiator. When he rises to fame, he's transferred to Pompeii, where he immediately catches the eye of young noblewoman Cassia (Emily Browning), much to the scowly disapproval of her politically active parents (Carrie-Anne Moss and Jared Harris). An outsider among the local slaves, Milo is befriended by tough guy fellow gladiator Atticus (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje). And when Corvus comes to town to claim Cassia as his bride, Milo decides to take a dangerous stand for both revenge and the girl. Meanwhile, Mount Vesuvius is rumbling, getting ready to unleash plenty of movie-style havoc.

It's impossible to watch this without thinking of the cheesy, similarly styled TV series Rome or Spartacus, with their corny melodramas, excessive violence and bare flesh. Even though this is on a much bigger scale with seriously enormous 3D special effects, it's just as cheesy. And equally entertaining as well. Harington is terrific as the hunky hero, building much stronger chemistry with the honourable Akinnuoye-Agbaje than the distressed Browning. And seasoned veterans like Harris, Moss and Sutherland clearly have a great time chomping madly on the scenery as Pompeii burns.

Continue reading: Pompeii Review

The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Review


Fans of Cassandra Clare's book series won't mind that this film is overcrowded and chaotic, but the uninitiated will be worn out by what feels like a superficial mash-up of leather-clad stereotypes. Director Zwart (who remade The Karate Kid) certainly creates a lively sense of energy, zipping through each scene as if he's trying to cram every moment in the book into two hours. But as a result, nothing grabs hold.

Our hero is Clary (Collins), a New York teen whose mother (Headey) never told her that she was a Shadowhunter, a half-angel whose job is to protect humanity from demons. But just as she meets goth dreamboat Shadowhunter Jace (Campbell Bower), her mom is kidnapped. So she and her best pal Simon (Sheehan), who has a secret crush on her, travel with Jace into the city's underworld of angels, demons, werewolves and vampires. At the secret Shadowhunter headquarters, she meets leader Hodge (Harris) as well as siblings Alec and Isabelle (Zegers and West). And everyone warns her about the villainous Valentine (Meyers), who has some sort of nefarious master plan involving Clary and her magical cup.

The film is structured as a series of quests, as Clary learns about her supernatural abilities by visiting the City of Bones under a cemetery, breaking into a church to collect a stash of demon-fighting weapons, consulting with a variety of magical creatures, and so on. But these individual sequences never quite connect together into a story with any momentum. It's simply impossible to get involved in these events without being able to identify with the characters, none of whom are properly developed. Obviously, readers of the books won't have this problem, but such a fragmented film is unlikely to draw new fans to the franchise.

Continue reading: The Mortal Instruments: City of Bones Review

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