Matthew Lickona 1 p.m., July 22
Here's what you know about the Italian city of Pompeii: it was buried in ash when a nearby volcano erupted with sudden fury in 79 AD. If you're plunking down $12 to watch a volcano erupt and destroy a city — first via earthquake, then via flaming boulder bombardment, then via tidal wave, and finally via superheated ash cloud — then you'll get that. But all that meaningless, computer-generated, natural-disaster carnage gets tedious, and quickly. What's much, much more fun is what comes before. You got yer enslaved "savage" (Kit Harrington, fit and fresh as a daisy) who's more civilized than his imperial overlords, gladiating his way across the Roman Empire. You got yer forbidden love across class lines set against the backdrop of spectacular disaster. You got yer political maneuvering, dominated by a dirty Roman senator (Kiefer Sutherland, having the time of his life) who's got his eye on the same girl as our hero. You even got yer arena combat narrated by Greek chorus! And hell if director Paul W.S. Anderson doesn't serve up some actually interesting overhead shots of the doomed city pre-destruction. With all this goodness, who needs a script or a compelling lead? 2014.
- "A bad year for good movies" • December 31, 2014