POMPEII. Disaster movies are hard to mess up. Pick an act of nature or far-fetched interpretation of astronomy, toss in a family with a dog or a character with a time-sensitive illness like diabetes, amplify the tension and let it rip. The formula is simple, and even if the follow-through is ridiculously predictable, it's still likely to entertain — giggles, groans and mocking can be just as fun as quality thrills. Pompeii fails on all counts. At its best it elicits yawns and fidgets, and at its worst it makes you check Facebook on your phone.
Director Paul W.S. Anderson can add Pompeii to his list of other failed action thrillers (Resident Evil and Alien vs. Predator). With a team of three writers, Anderson can't take all of the blame. The plot is a convoluted mixture of gladiator combat, political deception and a bland love story. When Milo (Kit Harrington, Game of Thrones) is a child, the Roman army, under the command of Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) slaughters his entire village. He survives but later is captured, forced into slavery and eventually gladiator blood sport. Once he arrives in the city of Pompeii, he wins the heart of the senator's daughter, Cassia (Emily Browning). Their love can never be, not just because of the obvious issues of social structure, but because Cassia is betrothed to Corvus. After an hour or so of exposition, Mount Vesuvius finally starts to erupt. Cue the running, screaming and falling ash (which is the most boring use of 3D ever).
The acting is adequate, considering the script. The only exception is Kiefer Sutherland's Snidely Whiplash-esque attempt at playing the villain. Like most films about Romans, the whole cast uses British accents and Sutherland's is combined with a pointless and distracting hissing.
Even in 3D, Pompeii is an exceedingly boring disaster film. It tries too hard to be too many things and misses the mark with all of them. If you're going to make a film about a volcanic eruption that killed nearly 20,000 people, let the volcano do all the work. PG13. 100m.
3 DAYS TO KILL. Luc Besson (Taken, Taken 2 and probably Taken 3-5) will keep writing the same movie over and over again until people stop paying to see Liam Neeson or Jason Statham run from explosions. 3 Days to Kill lacks the oomph and punch of the Taken and Transporter franchises. This is particularly disappointing because 3 Days is a Neeson away from actually being another Taken blockbuster.
Ethan Renner (Kevin Costner) is ready to hang up his gun and leave the international spy business. He's lost touch with his daughter, his ex-wife hates him and he has cancer. It's a retirement triple-threat. His plan for the final few months of his life are thrown out of whack, though, when he returns to Paris to find that his daughter is now a moody and understandably bitter teenager, and his ex-wife is skeptical of his devotion to his family. To top it all off, someone makes him an offer he can't refuse. If he kills a few more people and finishes the mission he'd previously failed, the CIA will give him access to experimental cancer medication that could give him more time with his estranged family. Can he finish the mission without ruining the tiny amount of progress he's made with his daughter? It takes two hours of annoying subplot and pathetic attempts at humor to find out, so buckle-up and prepare to be let down.
We may never know what Besson's obsession is with adding a father-daughter element to his scripts. It's a dynamic that has already been overplayed in Taken, and it's monotonous in 3 Days. The subplot pops up too often and dulls what could otherwise be a fairly entertaining, explosion-filled action film.
A bland and monotone Costner adds to the flatness of the film. He seems bored, flattening any sort of comic relief. Costner can be funny, but only when he is playing the straight man to a funny man. But 3 Days has no funny man. He's also getting a little old to be a typical action hero, and the aging secret agent niche is already filled.
If audiences are lucky, 3 Days is just paying Besson's bills in between Taken 2 and Taken 3, which is currently in pre-production. Though Besson has a tendency to be redundant and predictable, he doesn't usually disappoint. Here's hoping we're not subjected to 4 Days to Kill. PG13. 117m.
— Dev Richards
ANCHORMAN2 SUPER-SIZED R-RATED VERSION. That pretty much says it. R. 143m.
NON-STOP. There's trouble in coach when air marshal Liam Neeson's plane is held for ransom mid-air. PG13. 106m.
SON OF GOD. Drama depicting the birth, life and crucifixion of Jesus Christ (Diogo Morgado). Don't spoil the ending. PG13. 138m.
ABOUT LAST NIGHT. An '80s movie remake with Joy Bryant and Kevin Hart trying to go from hooking up to settling down. R. 100m.
AMERICAN HUSTLE. David O. Russell takes a stellar cast, including Bradley Cooper and Amy Adams, back to the '70s for an ambitious and entertaining ABSCAM-inspired caper. R. 138m.
FROZEN. Kristen Bell in some standard Disney Princess fun with Josh Gad as a slapsticky snowman. PG. 108m
HER. What if HAL crossed with Siri and sounded, you know, hot? Joaquin Phoenix is an introverted writer who falls in love with his upgrade. Like the relationship, it feels surprisingly real. R. 126m.
LEGO MOVIE. Underdog, villain, evil plan, destiny, heroism, jokes — the usual stuff, but with Legos! PG. 100m.
LONE SURVIVOR. A Navy SEAL team mission in Afghanistan goes sideways leaving Mark Wahlberg and Emile Hirsch between the rocks and the Taliban. Gripping and heartbreaking. R. 121m.
MONUMENTS MEN. Clooney's squad of artists and curators liberate art from the Nazis. A rousing and impressive detective story. PG13. 118m.
PHILOMENA. Steve Coogan helps Judi Dench track down the son who was taken from her as a baby. PG13. 98m.
RIDE ALONG. Ice Cube is a scowling cop with plans to terrify his sister's mouthy fiancé, Kevin Hart, by taking him on patrol. R. 89m.
ROBOCOP. A canned remake of the '80s classic about a cop turned cyborg. Neither the movie nor the robot has the chutzpah of the original. PG13. 108m.
WINTER'S TALE. A mess of magic and maudlin romance that a crew of solid actors can't save. With Colin Farrel. PG13. 118m.
— Jennifer Fumiko Cahill