The Couch Potato Report – May 24th, 2014
For many years now War has been good for business for Hollywood. While musicals and westerns and most other genres tend to go out of style every now and then, there are always movies about fighting and War being released.
In fact, there are three this week, including the made-in-Toronto action, adventure, drama POMPEII which features warring gladiators.
Our hero, a slave-turned-gladiator, finds himself in the doomed Roman city of Pompeii in a race against time to save his true love from having to marry a corrupt Roman Senator, played by the great Canadian actor Kiefer Sutherland of 24.
And as Mount Vesuvius erupts – which it does, in 79 AD, destroying the city of Pompeii, leaving it mostly buried under twenty-feet of ash – as Mount Vesuvius erupts, the gladiator must fight to save himself and his beloved, AND get away as the city crumbles around him.
Kit Harington – who was Jon Snow on GAME OF THRONES – plays the gladiator, and he, Keiffer and the rest of the cast aren’t bad. The problem here is the director isn’t up to the material.
In the past, Paul W.S. Anderson has given us the RESIDENT EVIL films, the remake of DEATH RACE, AVP: ALIEN VS. PREDATOR and a handful of other not great low budget action films.
POMPEII is never awful, but I went in with very, very low expectations. I’ll give it a mild recommendation to you, just as long as there is absolutely nothing else to watch. And I mean absolutely nothing else.
This next war movie actually takes place during World War II.
George Clooney plays an art expert who is asked by the President of the United States to put together and lead a platoon of fellow art experts.
Their responsibility is to rescue art masterpieces from Nazi thieves and return them to their owners.
In addition to Clooney – who also co-wrote and directed the picture – the rest of THE MONUMENTS MEN are Matt Damon, John Goodman, Jean Dujardin, Bob Balaban, and Bill Murray.
I am a huge fan of every member of the cast of this film, which also includes Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett, and together they provide us with some really great scenes, but as a whole the movie doesn’t add up to something that is worthy of this cast or your time.
It’s too slow, there’s not always enough going on to hold our attention, and it doesn’t move smoothly between the seriousness of war and the whimsy and humour the script and actors bring to their roles.
THE MONUMENTS MEN could have been something great, but in the end it’s just for people who are huge fans of the cast.
We’re staying in World War II for this final fighting film, STALINGRAD, a Russian film, about The Battle of Stalingrad.
That was a major battle of the second World War. Nazi Germany and its allies fought the Soviet Union for control of the city of Stalingrad in the southwestern Soviet Union.
A group of Russian soldiers fight to hold a strategic building in their devastated city against the German army.
STALINGRAD is the first Russian movie completely produced using Canadian IMAX technology and it looks great. There are some really interesting and impressive shots in the movie.
But the movie itself just slowly moves along. After some great action and battle scenes to start the film, the two sides just wait each other out. And then there are the two women who are there for the men to fight over and fall in love with. Those storylines didn’t really connect with me either.
So STALINGRAD is great to look at, but only mildly entertaining otherwise. Should war movies be the genre you enjoy the most, search this one out. Otherwise, skip it.
Finally this week, a comedy, that sort of features war, but in a more comedic sense. The war between men and women when they fall head over heels in love.
ABOUT LAST NIGHT is a romantic comedy starring Kevin Hart, Michael Ealy, Regina Hall, and Joy Bryant.
It’s based on the 1974 David Mamet play “Sexual Perversity In Chicago” and is a remake of the 1986 film of the same name. That film starred Rob Lowe, Demi Moore, James Belushi and Elizabeth Perkins and it is fantastic!!
I’d even call it one of the best romantic comedies of the eighties and so you can imagine that I didn’t think we needed a remake.
And you’d be right…but – much to my surprise – I actually enjoyed the remake.
I’m not usually a fan of Kevin Hart, from RIDE ALONG and GRUDGE MATCH, as all he really does is yell in movies, but here he is toned down and that helps. Plus, television actors Michael Ealy and Joy Bryant are very charming together.
I will always love the original ABOUT LAST NIGHT, but I do also recommend the remake. In fact, see them both. They are each great romantic comedies.
The very good remake of ABOUT LAST NIGHT; the interesting but only okay WWII film STALINGRAD; George Clooney’s World War II based THE MONUMENTS MEN – which has some great scenes but is only an okay movie; and the made-in-Toronto mildly okay gladiator disaster flick POMPEII are all available now, either on disc or on demand.
And that’s this week’s COUCH POTATO REPORT.
Enjoy the movies and I’ll see you back here again next time on The Couch!