REVIEW: “Pompeii”


I’ve always thought that the story of Pompeii was prime material for a big budget motion picture. Without getting too deep into the history, Pompeii was a Roman city nestled at the base of Mount Vesuvius. In 79 AD Pompeii and its inhabitants were decimated when Vesuvius suddenly erupted sending tons of ash and volcanic rock showering down. At the time somewhere between 12,000 and 20,000 people lived in Pompeii. Obviously it’s a sad and tragic story and I’m surprised that modern Hollywood hasn’t tackled it before.

Enter Paul W.S. Anderson and his succinctly titled “Pompeii”. Not exactly my first choice to direct such a potentially intriguing project, and once you start watching this film you quickly realize that this isn’t the smart and engaging historical epic it could have been. Instead it’s a silly and cliched exercise featuring numerous borrowed plot points and loads of cheese. It’s the kind of film you’re used to getting from Anderson – not totally unwatchable but far from being as good as it could have been.


“Pompeii” plays like a poor man’s “Gladiator”. The problem is here we have no Ridley Scott, no Russell Crowe, no engaging and emotional story, no epic feel, none of the things that made “Gladiator” such a good film. But its clear aim is to be an action film first and foremost. The story starts with a flashback that shows us a young boy witnessing the brutal deaths of his parents on the battlefield at the hands of the Romans, particularly their evil field leader Corvus (Keifer Sutherland). Jump ahead 17 years later. The boy, whose name is Milo, is now a man and has been raised as a Roman slave and gladiator. Milo (played with the emotion of a brick by Kit Harington) and his unmatched fighting skills are noticed by his slave owner who then takes him to Pompeii to fight in their gladiator arena.

On the way there Milo catches the eye of the Pompeii governor’s daughter Cassia (Emily Browning). Can’t you see where this is going? Forbidden love springs up between a beautiful woman with status and a lowly slave with six pack abs and nice hair. We’ve seen this many times before. But what makes this worse is that the love story is so rushed and underdeveloped. The characters are already flimsy and then to have practically no attention given to building up their relationship. Everything about their love for each other feels phony and false.

In addition to being a “Gladiator” wannabe and a lightweight romance, it also becomes a revenge flick once Corvus shows up in Pompeii. Milo certainly hasn’t forgotten the man who slaughtered his family and added fuel comes in the form of Corvus’s affection for Cassia. And once Mount Vesuvius erupts it becomes a CGI heavy disaster movie. Oddly enough Vesuvius takes a back seat to all of the other stuff going on. Occasionally director Anderson throws in a brief scene to remind us of the ominous mountain, but for the most part its threat is terribly underplayed. And even when the eruption does happen the film wanders all over the place and the disaster element feels wasted.


Even more disappointing are the special effects. You would think that this film would at least provide some spectacular visuals. Well, there are moments that look really good, but there are just as many that are underwhelming. Quite frankly sometimes the effects look cheap and they resemble a television show instead of a motion picture with an $80 million budget. There are other glaring issues such as the clunky half-baked dialogue that spells out every thought and every emotion for the audience. We are rarely allowed to feel or think for ourselves. We are rarely allowed to glean emotional information from the character’s actions. It is all told to us.

Yet it’s funny, despite all of these gripes “Pompeii” still isn’t as bad as it could have been. There is an old fashioned quality to it that made it at least entertaining (in an odd sort of way). Also at just over 100 minutes it doesn’t drag itself out and overstay its welcome. Unfortunately its blunders are aplenty and it’s impossible to take anything the film does seriously. It copies off of so many overused storylines and none of the performances are good enough to energize the film. It’s a subpar concoction that is easy to digest, but you won’t care if you ever go back and taste it again.


2 Stars

THE THROWDOWN : Zombies vs. Vampires

Wednesday is Throwdown day at Keith & the Movies. It’s when we take two movie subjects, pit them against each other, and see who’s left standing. Each Wednesday we’ll look at actors, actresses, movies, genres, scenes, and more. I’ll make a case for each and then see how they stand up one-on-one. And it’s not just my opinion that counts. I’ll share my take and then open up the polls to you. Visit each week for a new Throwdown. Vote each week to decide the true winner!

*Last week “Annie Hall” (56%) took out “Midnight in Paris” (44%) in the Woody Allen deathmatch*

In keeping with the Halloween season, today’s Throwdown focuses on two stalwarts of the horror genre. Whether you’re a fan of horror pictures or not, undoubtedly you have seen movies featuring zombies and movies featuring vampires. Both have roots in classic horror films, both have been spoofed, both had been parts of huge franchises. But this is all about the battle. Today we’re putting the living dead in the ring with the blood suckers to determine which are the better horror movie terrors. A great case could be made for both, but ultimately it’s you that will decide. Vote now!


There have been variations of zombies in the movies for years. But they really made their way into the limelight in 1968 in George Romero’s horror movie classic “Night of the Living Dead”. Since then, zombies have found their way in hundreds of films. But they’ve also been spotlighted in comic books, video games, and television shows. But their real position prominence came from the big screen and you can almost expect a new zombie movie of some kind every year. There have been loads of sequels to Romero’s classic film. But we’ve seen different approaches to zombies from a variety of films such as “28 Days Later”, “Resident Evil”, and “The Evil Dead” just to name a few. But there have also been zombie spoof films that are tons of fun, movies like “Zombieland”, “Dead Alive”, and “Shaun of the Dead”. So there are no shortage of zombies in the movies and personally I’m happy to hear it.

You can trace vampires in the movies all the way back to the silent movie era. I mean who can forget the classic “Nosferatu”? And Bela Lugosi’s Dracula was a driving force during the Universal movie monsters craze in the 1930’s. While vampires did hit a lull in popularity, they are certainly back with a vengeance and you can see them in a huge variety of films. To prove the point just look at the variety of people who have played big roles in movies as vampires – Gary Oldman, Keifer Sutherland, Kate Beckinsale, Christopher Lee, Leslie Nielsen, Tom Cruise, Wesley Snipes, and even Pee Wee Herman! But even more than zombies, vampires have leaked over into several other genres including comedies and even teen romance flicks (unfortunately). Movie lovers have a fascination with vampires and it’s easy to see why. And with the current creature of the night craze, don’t expect any shortage of vampire movies in the near future.

So what say you? Are you partial to the walking dead or the blood suckers? You decide who comes out on top as the better movie monster. Is it the zombies or the vampires? VOTE NOW!


Vampires has seen a rise in popularity over the past several years. Both television and movie theaters have experienced an influx of vampire movies and shows. Now I have to admit that none of the current vampire stuff have impressed me, but there have been some really great movies about these blood-sucking creatures of the night in the past. Going all the way back to the silent movie era, vampires have been a part of cinema history. So with such a vast number of movies to choose from, I decided to pick five of the best vampire flicks. Now as always, I wouldn’t call this the definitive list, but there’s no denying that these five vampire movies are most certainly phenomenal.

#5 – “UNDERWORLD” (2003)

Underworld” isn’t a typical vampire picture. It’s a full-blown action horror movie about a boiling conflict between vampires and lycans (also known as werewolves). Kate Beckinsale stars as undoubtedly the prettiest vampire in movie history and Scott Speedman is her hybrid lycan/vampire boyfriend. The dark, gloomy gothic tone of the movie is quite effective and the grisly action that takes the place of the normal vampire horror gives the movie its own special uniqueness. Several sequels have followed but none have matched the first film.

#4 – “DRACULA” (1931)

The images of Bela Lugosi’s Count Dracula were the first I ever had of a vampire. Tod Browning’s 1931 horror classic was based on Bram Stoker’s chilling novel and Lugosi portrayed the character that would become one of the famous Universal movie monsters. The movie maintains a creepy vibe from the moment we enter Dracula’s castle in Transylvania until Van Helsing puts the stake through the heart. It’s a pure Hollywood classic.

#3 – “FRIGHT NIGHT” (1985)

Sure, 1985’s “Fright Night” has some issues but it’s one of those films that holds a special place in my heart. It’s the story of Charlie Brewster, a teenager who’s convinced that a vampire has moved in next door. He spies on and later goes too far in investigating his new neighbor and soon finds himself and the people he loves in some serious vampire-styled trouble. He teams up with a low-budget horror movie actor (played by the great Roddy McDowall) in hopes of ridding his town of the blood-sucking threat. It’s a fun mix of scares, gory special effects, and fantastic humor and I still love watching it.

#2- “THE LOST BOYS” (1987)

A truly funny and sometimes creepy teenaged horror tale about a vampire problem in a small California coastal town. This is hands down the best movie of “The Two Coreys” collaborations and it was certainly different from any other vampire film I had seen at the time. It features good work from Jason Patric, Dianne Wiest, Edward Herrmann, and especially Kiefer Sutherland who I felt stole the show. The movie has a great soundtrack and a cool 80’s vibe to it, but mainly it’s just incredibly fun and features more memorable lines than any other vampire film you’ll see.

#1- “NOSFERATU” (1922)

While it was a completely unauthorized adaptation of Bram Stoker’s novel “Dracula”, I still feel it’s the greatest version of the vampire classic ever put on film. While the names have been changed, the story is very much the same and the incredible vision of German director F.W. Murnau brings it to life in a genuinely eerie way. And Murnau’s ability to maintain such a level of creepiness through a silent movie is another testament to his incredible skill at visual storytelling. Max Schreck’s Count Orlok is both sinister and unnerving and I will always remember the scene of him rising from his coffin. This is an incredible film that should be seen not only by horror fans but also by fans of movies period.

Alrighty, there they are. And no, it’s not a mistake, no “Twilight” movies even came close to making this list. So what do you think? What did I miss? Be sure to take time to leave your favorite vampire movie below.