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RISING from the ruins

Pompeii star Kit Harrington's career ready to erupt

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Kit Harrington in a scene from the movie Pompeii. (Supplied image)

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Kit Harrington in a scene from the movie Pompeii. (Supplied image)

MOVIES

BIG RELEASE: Pompeii (Friday)

BIG PICTURE: Pompeii is like Gladiator meets Volcano meets Titanic... Joe Versus the Volcano. Kit Harrington (Game of Thrones) stars as slave-turned-gladiator Milo, who pines for noblewomen Cassia (Emily Browning). Poor Kit! In Thrones he is banished to an icy, woman-less wall at the edge of the world. In Pompeii, he's banished to a violent, woman-less gladiator ring next to a deadly volcano. (Quick, somebody get this guy a sitcom). You thought Romeo and Juliet had it bad what with the family feud, the stabbings and the poisonings? Try having an entire volcano rain down on your forbidden love parade. The cast includes Kiefer Sutherland as a corrupt senator (and Cassia's would-be husband through forced marriage), but not even Jack Bauer-style antics would be enough to save this doomed city. You can't torture a volcano. (But maybe Pompeii had it coming. The film's tagline describes Pompeii as "a place of corruption, temptation and a battle for survival." I guarantee seconds after Toronto Mayor Rob Ford first saw the trailer, he headed to his garage to begin building a time machine. "Pompeii, eh? Never heard of it. Sounds like a great place to be mayor. What could go wrong?")

FORECAST: Ashes to ashes, dust to dust. Now is your chance to watch a city demolished by a volcano in spectacular 3D. Pompeii might be ruins, but Harrington's career is on the rise. This might be the curly-locked Englishman's ticket to big-time action hero status. Fingers crossed. Anything to keep the has-been action stars of the 1980s from making an endless parade of The Expendables sequels. We need fresh blood.

HONOURABLE MENTION: 3 Days to Kill. An unshaven, grizzled Kevin Costner plays Ethan, a dying secret agent who speaks like the Marlboro man and says things to his beautiful, young female handler (Amber Heard) such as "I don't want to spend the rest of my life killing for you!" Hailee Steinfeld (True Grit) plays his estranged daughter. Of course, just when he thought he was out, they pull him back in. Even worse, his new mission overlaps with rare father-daughter bonding time. As one might expect from a McG-directed action extravaganza, many explosions, car chases, one-liners, fisticuffs and assassinations ensue. (Speaking of time travel earlier... Kevin Costner as an action hero? Quick, someone take a copy of this film back in time and release it in the 1990s.)

TV

BIG EVENTS ON FEB. 23: About a Boy (Global, NBC, 9 p.m.), Growing Up Fisher (Global, NBC, 9:30 p.m.)

BIG PICTURE: Two new series get special, early premieres on the last day of the Sochi Winter Olympics. In the first, Nick Hornby's popular book gets a new adaptation -- this time, thankfully, without Hugh Grant's wavy mop and "oh shucks, I accidentally picked up a prostitute" grin. Remember how cute it was to watch an unemployed, rich, self-centered songwriter named Will learn the meaning of life through a quirky 11-year-old boy named Marcus over the course of two hours? Now you get to watch it for potentially multiple seasons. Yay! Minnie Driver brings acting chops to the table as Fiona, the needy, single mother who moves in next door with her son. Will's (David Walton) carefree, aimless bachelorhood is, of course, quickly challenged. When Marcus (Benjamin Stockham) begins dropping by unsolicited, Will realizes pretending to have a son is a real turn-on for the ladies. A deal is struck, and life lessons ensue. (Maybe this is what George Clooney needs to finally settle down. Does anyone know any quirky single moms and charming, oddball sons who feel like relocating next door to his Italian villa?) Meanwhile, the gifted J.K. Simmons (Juno, Spider-Man) gets his own sitcom, playing Mel Fisher, a blind, divorced and highly eccentric father. Mel might be blind but that won't stop him from doing things like sawing down a tree or teaching his son Henry to play football. Joyce (Jenna Elfman, Dharma & Greg) plays Mel's immature ex-wife. She is essentially the mother character from Freaky Friday, if her teenage daughter remained trapped inside her forever. Jason Bateman (Arrested Development) provides voiceover as an adult Henry. (Both series move to their regular NBC timeslots on Feb. 25. Global will begin airing them the week of March 10; About a Boy will air Wednesdays and Growing Up Fisher will air Thursdays).

FORECAST: Growing Up Fisher also stars a seeing eye dog named Elvis, giving it four-legs up in a head-to-head competition.

HONOURABLE MENTION: The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon (Monday, NBC, 10:35 p.m.). New and improved, and now with an 80 per cent less chance of making you wish you were watching paint dry instead. Farewell Leno, and long live the new late night king.

MUSIC

BIG RELEASE TUESDAY: NO (El Prado)

BIG PICTURE: Canada's Arts & Crafts label has found another gem, releasing the debut album of NO, an L.A.-based six-piece that sounds like a less depressing version of indie band The National, only with more kindling on their emotional fire. Bradley Hanan Carter's dark, brooding vocals straddle the fine line between magical and melancholy, desire and desperation. From the pounding, percussion-driven anthem North Star to the layered guitars and haunting chorus of Leave the Door Wide Open, the group offers a diverse, emotionally raw debut.

FORECAST: NO could be one of indie rock's breakthrough artists of 2014. More importantly, maybe they'll finally change the trend of indie band names that seem formed by putting together two random nouns (Vampire Weekend, Arcade Fire). I, for one, hope the one-syllable naming trend continues: YES, ME, YOU, SO, I, DO. So many future bands that will be easy to remember.

HONOURABLE MENTION: Lost in the Trees (Past Life). Lost in the Trees prove they are anything but. The North Carolina group's orchestral folk-pop will probably never earn Grammy love, but their esoteric musical journey is a thing of beauty. Classically-trained composer and front man, Ari Picker, is reminiscent of Sufjan Stevens.

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Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 16, 2014 ??65525

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