“Pompeii” is half sword-and-sandal epic, half disaster movie and all guilty pleasure. Director Paul W.S. Anderson, taking a break from cranking out “Resident Evil” movies, has a strong command of CGI technology and 3-D effects, and the movie is so grand in scale that you can’t help surrender to the spectacle, even if the stuff that’s going on with the people in the film is often close to risible.
In a hydra-headed Oscar race, “American Hustle,” “12 Years a Slave” and “Gravity” all have legitimate claims to favorite status. And that’s a good thing. Even if a front-runner emerges from the much-nominated trio over the six weeks leading up to the 86th Academy Awards on March 2, the credentials of each film should be plenty to heighten nerves and add to the drama on Oscar night.
Oksana Ezhokina plays piano the way she talks. As she launches the staccato opening of Beethoven’s first piano concerto, her phrases are direct, forthright, and with a bluntness that echoes her words. But as she switches to a dreamy Scriabin etude, her tone is as veiled and mellifluous as her voice.
Salma Arastu sees humanity united in a single line, fluid and continuous, scrawled across her 6-foot canvases. Sometimes the line loops in circles, representing a sea of people with featureless oblong faces, huddled in a mass of script and scribble. Her line forms prayers, too, in Arabic calligraphy layered against harmonic watercolor backgrounds.
“The Monuments Men” is the “Last Vegas” of World War II movies. A roughly true/fictionally embellished account of the efforts of American arts scholars drafted into the Army to preserve the artistic patrimony of Europe from the scourge of combat and theft by the Germans, it is a cute but clunky ensemble piece that director George Clooney rarely bestows with the gravitas and jauntiness this material demanded.
NEW YORK — He was only 46, busy as ever and secure in his standing as one of the world’s greatest actors. There were no dissenters about the gifts and achievements of Philip Seymour Hoffman, whose death Sunday in New York brought a stunning halt to his extraordinary and unpredictable career.