Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Solomon Kane Site Opens and a Possible (Non) Flash


While there is still no official word of a US release, a new website is now open for Solomon Kane at http://www.solomonkanethemovie.com/. The site is saying the film is going to open in January but I'm guessing in Europe for the time being.
Also making the "file it under yeah right" news is reports that Avatar star Sam Worthington is now on a shortlist for the Flash Gordon film set for 2012. Worthington has also been rumored for the upcoming Captain America so we'll see but I wouldn't put much faith into this. You can share the cynicism about this at http://www.cinematical.com/2009/12/29/sam-worthington-flash-gordon/ UPDATE: Well more usual rumors...Worthington himself has denied the Flash rumor to Aint It Cool News-http://www.aintitcool.com/node/43512 I guess the hunt for the next Saviour of the Universe continues....

Monday, December 28, 2009

Movie Review: Sherlock Holmes


A personal bit first-the first literary character I fell for was Holmes-which was the result of TV showings of the old Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce films and seeing Young Sherlock Holmes when I was a kid. So how does this return of the world's greatest detective to the big screen compare?
As the film opens Holmes (Robert Downey Jr) and his friend Dr. Watson (Jude Law) has just stopped the latest in a ritualistic slayings of young girls. The killer is revealed as Lord Blackwood (Mark Strong) who dabbles in the dark arts and is sentenced to hang for his crimes. With that done Holmes feels empty-no major cases and Watson is about to head into marriage. But when Blackwood seemingly rises from the grave Holmes and a reluctant Watson have to stop him from his master scheme-the usual "rock the foundation of the Empire." Complicating matters though is the sudden return of Irene Adler (Rachel McAdams) the only woman Holmes ever fell for and was outwitted by. Especially when Irene is working for a mysterious employer...

As directed by Guy Ritchie this Holmes is-using the old cliche-not your father's Sherlock. Gone is the guy in the overcoat and deerstalker hat and the usually buffoonish or useless Watson. Instead Ritchie, with help from a good production team-recreates Victorian London and gives Holmes and the viewer a good ride. Most of the film's success is of course Downey who at this point can't seem to make a wrong move. While his accent I'm sure will make some cringe be brings humor and a good physicality to the role. Also and wisely Downey and Ritchie also keep Holmes' ego and off-putting personality that usually goes missing in many other versions. The film's other winning ace is Law. While I was worried when he was first announced he fits Watson well and this can be credited to the writers who don't turn him into a comic character.

But as much fun as the film is it does have some major problems. The biggest one is Lord Blackwood. While Strong does the best he can the character is just not memorable and is rather formulaic. Another problem is the subplot of Blackwood's involvement with a secret sect. In fact the opening scene reminded me of Young Sherlock Holmes and its Egyptian cult. And some of the fight scenes early in suffer from Bourne-itis-too many jump cuts and pans. I miss the old days when fight scenes were designed by stunt coordinators-not editors. And a setup for the sequel can be seen 30 minutes in. I won't give it away but trust me you will figure it out.

In the end this Holmes is a fun film but if there is a sequel (and I'm sure there will be once Downey gets done with The Avengers movie) I hope it fixes some of the faults here. My rating: *** out of 4.

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Book Review: Carson of Venus


I hope whoever is out there had a great and safe Christmas. We now go from Pandora to another shroud covered planet.

Barely escaping with their necks from the Land of the Dead and the "perfect" kingdom of Havatoo, Carson Napier and his love Duare are making their way through Amtor, trying to find safe harbor since neither can return to Vepaja following Duare's declaration of love. But it isn't too long before they find trouble. First Duare is captured by a tribe of Warrior Women of Houtomai then both find themselves caught up in a war between the kingdom of Korva and a tribe called the Zanis. When Carson makes friends within Korva he agrees to help then and is sent on a dangerous mission by Korva's acting ruler (jong) Muso into enemy territory. Of course nothing is as it seems and it isn't too long before Carson has to save Duare and himself from both treachery and the Zanis and their leader Mephis.

Written in 1938, Carson of Venus is a departure from from the previous two novels in the series. If there is one fair criticism of those two it was the choppy, episodic nature where Carson seemed to leap from one death trap to another-almost an outer space Indiana Jones. Here Burroughs has our hero go through one long adventure that has more in common with John Carter-spies, lecherous kings, finding friends and influencing people. The other notable element is Burroughs' none too veiled opinions of the Nazi Party-from the Zani anagram to the people of the kingdom saluting their ruler with hails of "Maltu Mephis" that mirrors "Heil Hitler." What makes it unique in some respects was the isolationist attitude of America at the time and the fact that many parts of the entertainment industry-from movies on down-avoided making such direct or indirect criticism of the Nazis in fear of backlash at home and from Germany itself. That makes this at least more to chew on for the reader then and now than most simple adventure novels.

Currently Carson of Venus is out of print but paperback copies can be found in the usual locations. In a few days I hope to have my thoughts on the Asylum Princess of Mars. Rating: ***1/2 out of 4.

Monday, December 21, 2009

Movie Review: Avatar


So it's now here. It's made its money and wowed the critics (even though naysayers are still prevalent and some are still suggesting it ripped off Delgo-if Cameron was going to rip off a film don't you think he would have picked a GOOD one is all I'll say about that). So what else can I add to it. Not much except I loved it-with some qualms.

First up the film is indeed the visual feast that Cameron promised. Pandora and the creatures that inhabited were fully realized (and if this doesn't win the Oscar for visual effects somebody needs to rethink the voting process). It felt like an alien world-not just some world that sort of resembles are world.

Cameron also delivers in the action setpieces. While their isn't a crowd pleasing final monster battle like Aliens Cameron still knows how to make his scenes work-and does it without the flash pans and crazy quick editing that many films post Bourne have done.

Where the qualms come up is where many are saying is the film's weakness-the story and the characters. The main thrust of the plot is the standard "primitive natives vs. technological giants" plot that has been used numerous times. The military is portrayed as the usual gun happy "wipe them out" grunts while the faceless company-represented by Giovanni Ribisi-is almost a repeat of Aliens (Ribisi even seems like a clone of Paul Reiser's character.) As for the leads Sam Worthington and Zoe Saldana do the best they can but the best performance come from Sigourney Weaver as Grace who brings heart and humor to her character.

But this is a case where the visuals do in many ways overcome the story's shortcomings. And it definetly looks great in 3D. It may not be the greatest film ever but in a year dominated by such empty fare like Transformers:Revenge of the Fallen and X-Men Origins:Wolverine Cameron has made a stunning achievement. Now bring on the Tharks! (and leave the shape shifting bull at home.) My rating: **** out of 4.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

More News-Clash of the Titans, Avatar, X-men and John Carter of Eternia!


Yep more news.

First up is the new full trailer for Clash of the Titans-http://http://www.apple.com/trailers/wb/clashofthetitans/with more footage, including the dreaded Kraken. Looks cool even though I'm sure the Harryhausen faithful are foaming at the mouth.

Next up on the Hollywood Reporter's Heatvision Blog comes another endorsement of Avatar-this time from Steven Spielberg who called it "the most evocative science fiction film since Star Wars." Again sounds good.

Heavision is also reporting (as was rumored months ago) Bryan Singer is returning to Xavier's School for Gifted Youngsters as he is set to direct X-Men:First Class, the prequel set during the early years of classic characters like Jean Grey, Beast and Cyclops. With Singer returning, let's hope this washes away the bad taste of Wolverine and X3.

Finally Collider has a more extensive interview with Mark Strong-http://www.collider.com/2009/12/16/mark-stong-on-john-carter-of-mars-kick-ass-and-ridleys-scotts-robin-hood/ in which he talks about the plethora of projects he has coming up (including Robin Hood and the comic book flick Kick-Ass.) His comments on John Carter of Mars is pretty lengthy and notably doesn't play up as much the "shape shifter" comment he made earlier but does confirm what many have suspected-Matai Shang has been rewritten into an all-purpose bad guy that our hero must defeat through the trilogy Andrew Stanton has planned. In fact Strong even refers to him as a "master of the universe." I wonder if Stanton hasn't set it on Eternia with Castle Greyskull and Orko. Strong's recent comments have sent out the most heated debates for the film ever since Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins were cast and I don't think it will be as smoothed over for a long time.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Iron Man 2 Trailer and some Mars News


Well first the good news, the trailer for Iron Man 2 has hit Apple-http://www.apple.com/trailers/paramount/ironman/. Again this looks like a winner. I thought the first one was the best superhero comic book flick I've seen in a long time (even better than The Dark Knight) and this sequel looks amazing. Hope Jon Favreau carries on the good vibe.

The next news borders on the ludricous but sadly not surpising. Cinema Blend talked to actor Mark Strong (currently doing press for Sherlock Holmes) about his upcoming role in John Carter of Mars and revealed this nugget of info-Matai Shang can apparently "shift his shape" and Strong revealed he will be shifting into "human beings manly" and will be shot with a 36o degree camera-the type used for CGI work. It's bad enough that Andrew Stanton (who Strong called a genuis-makes me wonder what the qualifications are now for that) is bringing Shang into the story and adding characters not in the novel but this. Let's just hope this is a blunder on Strong's part or a bad joke. http://www.cinemablend.com/new/Exclusive-Mark-Strong-Talks-About-His-John-Carter-Of-Mars-Role-16170.html

Finally for those in the San Diego area who can't get tickets for Avatar, you can still go to another planet-Barsoom! Or Asylum's version of it anyway. The Mars Society of San Diego is having a showing of Princess of Mars with director Mark Atkins and the film's production desginer this Friday (Decemeber 18th) two weeks before the DVD release. For more info go here-http://www.marsmovieguide.com/

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Ridley Scott's Robin Hood trailer


Here's our first glimpse of Russell Crowe as the bandit of Sherwood Forest in Ridley Scott's new take on the classic character-http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=61633 A strong cast is also on board-Cate Blanchett, William Hurt, Max Von Sydow and Mark Strong-and the look is definetly unique. If anything it looks better than the Kevin Costner version. Some photos are also up at http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/gallery/0,23816,5062995-5007115-5,00.html

Monday, December 14, 2009

Sci-Fi Squad's Ten Best of the Decade


With 2009 coming to an end, many are now releasing best of the past decade lists. Here's the Sci-Fi Squad's picks for the ten best science fiction films-http://www.scifisquad.com/2009/12/11/the-best-science-fiction-films-of-the-decade/. Some of these I agree with-Children of Men, Minority Report-while others I just feel are overrated (Eternal Sunshine for example) or unworthy. But still an interesting read.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Avatar early reviews are up!!


The first reviews are trickling in and both the Hollywood Reporter and Variety are praising the movie. HR comments "movie magic is back" and thinks repeat business is high http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/hr/film-reviews/avatar-film-review-1004052868.story while Variety says James Cameron has delivered a film with "universal appeal" http://www.variety.com/review/VE1117941773.html?categoryid=31&cs=1. We'll have to wait and see but it sounds like Cameron has delivered.
An update-Another 4 star review-this time from Roger Ebert who compares viewing it to seeing Star Wars for the first time http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091211/REVIEWS/912119998 (and Ebert may not be far off as Cameron himself has revealed plans for two sequels. The Star Wars of 2010s?)

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Again!!-Another Star Wars rumor (plus JCOM news)


Some might remember a few months back a rumor spread that Lucasfilm was producing a new Star Wars trilogy in 3D. That was quickly denied by the powers that be. Well now Aint It Cool News is once again reporting a new movie is being made. Their source-Thomas Dolby! Yes the She Blinded Me With Science guy. You can go here and see what he says-http://www.aintitcool.com/node/43330. I wonder how quickly that one will be denied.

In other news a new casting sheet is now up at http://www.movies.spoilertv.com/2009/12/disneys-john-carter-of-mars-official.html for John Carter of Mars. This one though sounds a little off-their listing roles not even in the novel-from a shopkeeper to a Mexican stable boy to "twitchy corporal." Also the plot description is that John Carter is "damaged." Does every hero have to be a emotional wreck in modern movies?

Monday, December 7, 2009

The Art of Avatar


As we count down the days until we can visit Pandora, I thought I would go ahead and start the buying recommendations for those last minute Christmas shoppers.

A thing I always loved was those Art of books for films, which started with The Art of Star Wars. So it's no surprise that one of the first things in the Avatar marketing blitz I would get would be this book which shows the various artwork done for the film to help James Cameron shape his vision.

Like most of these books you won't find out much about the film's plot, but it does show some interesting details and influences from previous military hardware to futuristic ideas. There is some interesting early sketches by Cameron himself, full blown and quite beautiful drawings of Pandora and its inhabitants and the creatures-the Banshee looks cool. (Also of interest is the fact that two of the artists Cameron hired-Wayne Barlowe and Ryan Church-are also working on John Carter of Mars.)

Let's just hope the final film matches the imagery shown here. For those interested-http://www.amazon.com/Art-Avatar-James-Camerons-Adventure/dp/0810982862

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Buck Rogers Teaser Trailer?!?


While the big screen version seems stuck in limbo, a new web series (from the creators of a Star Trek web spinoff Phase II) is coming and here's the first trailer. http://scifiwire.com/2009/12/teaser-trailer-for-new-bu.php It looks cool, even though some might be turned off by the retro Sky Captain look.
A brief update-The Geek Files are reporting that Frank Miller is now off the big screen version of Buck. Some good news after all-http://blogs.coventrytelegraph.net/thegeekfiles/2009/12/frank-miller-exits-buck-rogers.html

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Avatar: How will it perform?


With only three weeks to go before James Cameron's Avatar hits theaters (and yes I already got my tickets and 3D glasses-I'm sure I'll have a headache by the end from those glasses) the major question still looming over the project is how will it do? Will it blow your socks off and go through the roof or will it under perform?

Many are actually predicting the latter. And in some cases who can blame them. The film's running time of almost 3 hours and the 3D aspect will cause some problems-not enough showings and limited theaters showing it in 3D. Also expressed is the fact that Cameron's film isn't based on an already established hit. No books, comics, TV shows or even toy brand with a built in audience. No wonder some are saying it won't even out gross Twilight: New Moon at the box office.

The other question is competition. Peter Jackson's film version of The Lovely Bones is only coming out in limited release December 11 and not going wide until January, apparently so it won't be buried by Avatar. But Jackson seems to be the only one. Already set to open opposite Avatar is a Hugh Grant-Sarah Jessica Parker comedy (to appeal to the female market) and Nine, an adaptation of the Broadway musical. And then the next week sees Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr, which could cut into Avatar's guy audience and (heaven help us) Alvin and the Chipmunks 2.

But if Cameron has one thing on his side it is history. People seem to forget that when Titanic opened it faced stiff competition from the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies, Wes Craven's Scream 2 and Quentin Tarantino's Jackie Brown. Titanic buried most of them. The other thing going is the lack of a pre-sold audience. Cameron at least won't be criticized by fanboys for altering something or changing the plotline.

For me I just want to see Avatar because I'm a science fiction fan and have always enjoyed Cameron's other films. Considering that we've been drowning in comic book films, pointless remakes and sequels the fact that Cameron could even make a film like Avatar is at least something to be respected. It might not be the greatest film ever. But if I come out entertained, then he did his job right. We'll find out in a few weeks.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

More Justice Society Pics


Okay here's a follow-up to yesterday's post. Entertaiment Weekly has posted two new pics from the upcoming Absolute Justice movie set to air February 5. Up above is Hawkman (played by Michael Shanks of Stargate fame) laying down the law to Green Arrow and the other pic shows Dr. Fate and Stargirl. Go here for that one-http://ausiellofiles.ew.com/2009/11/27/smallville-doctor-fate-stargirl-hawkman/

Friday, November 27, 2009

JSA Goes Live-Action! (and some other news)


Well I hope you had a great Thanksgiving and are surviving Black Friday. Here though is some cool news and some maybe news.

First up, showing how out of it I am, is the trailer for the upcoming Smallville:Absolute Justice two parter, set to air in February on the CW-http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mUVwb47F7c0 I'm burnt out on superhero movies at this point but one of the few comics I still read on a regular basis is Justice Society of America and this sees such classic characters like Hawkman, the original Sandman and Dr. Fate (pictured above, courtesy of http://blogs.coventrytelegraph.net/thegeekfiles/) in action so I'll check it out.

Next up is two brief items, both from the Internet Movie Database, which at this point is right even less than Aint It Cool News. First up IMDB is reporting a 2012 release date for the movie version of Michael Chabon's The Amazing Adventures of Kavalier and Clay, his award winning novel about two Jewish boys and their comic book creation the Escapist during World War II. The film has been on and off now for almost a decade with names like Tobey Maguire and Natalie Portman attached at one point. Maybe the film will finally show up but I'll believe it when I see it. Also updated is IMDB's page for Carson Napier, the film version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Pirates of Venus that was mentioned here months ago. For a long time IMDB listed the film's status as "unknown" but now is saying it is in pre-production with a release date of 11-11-2011. Again we'll see but I won't be surprised if it doesn't emerge at some point to cash in on John Carter of Mars.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

FG:Something Something Dark Side Trailer


Okay how about something different. Here's the trailer for Family Guy: Something, Something, Dark Side-their spoof of The Empire Strikes Back. The first one was funny so hopefully Seth McFarlane and company can top it. http://www.apple.com/trailers/fox/familyguysomethingsomethingsomethingdarkside/

Monday, November 23, 2009

Princess of Mars TRAILER


I guess we get an early reason to give thanks-the trailer for Asylum's version of Princess of Mars is now up at http://www.theasylum.cc/product.php?id=163. It plays up Edgar Rice Burroughs, the story's influence on Avatar and shows up some decent looking effects and Antonio Sabato Jr and Traci Lords in action. It might not look as spectacular as Cameron's film or (we hope) Andrew Stanton's film but all things considered it don't look too bad. The film is still set for December 29 release on DVD.

JCOM Brief News-Kitsch may have to sit out FNL

Apparently Taylor Kitsch doesn't have John Carter's ability to astral projects between locations (sorry bad joke). According to Entertainment Weekly http://ausiellofiles.ew.com/2009/11/20/exclusive-taylor-kitsch-leaving-friday-night-lights/ Kitsch may have to set out the fifth and suspected final season of Friday Night Lights due to scheduling conflicts with the production of John Carter of Mars. Kitsch himself stated in an online chat JCOM would begin shooting this January while EW reports FNL will begin shooting in March. The producers are hoping to work out a deal to get Kitsch back but we'll have to see.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Retro View: Doc Savage:The Man of Bronze


With the recent buzz about a possible new movie adventure for Clark Savage Jr. and the Fabulous Five I decided it was time to go back and watch the original film epic. Oh boy...

While away at his secret arctic hideout, the Fortress of Solitude, Dr. Clark Savage Jr. (Ron Ely) suddenly feels something is wrong. When he returns to New York he receives word from his close friends that his father has died in the land of Hidalgo. But before he has time to grieve, an assassin attempts to kill Doc. When a second attempt fails Doc and his team head to Hidalgo and discovers that his father had left him the deed to an ancient land thought long gone. It isn't too long though before he has to find this missing land, fight the villainous Captain Seas and rescue the girl. Will he succeed? Will that pet pig get roasted? Will you get that theme song out of your head?

I first discovered Doc Savage back in the early 90s when I got one of Bantam's paperback reprints from the 1960s with the James Bama cover. At the time I thought Doc had ripped off Superman since it was The Fortress of Solitude book. But as I got more into the character I discovered it was the other way round. I also found out that a movie version had been made but had never seen it (the local video stores never had it on video) and it was only recently released as part of Warner Bros' Archive collection. Most of the reviews and comments I had found dismissed it as campy, along the lines of the 60s Batman TV show and the 1980 Flash Gordon.

And were they right. Opening with that theme song (actually set to a John Phillip Sousa march) we get a lot of cheese-from Doc having his name on all of his vehicles to the bizarre sight of one of Captain Seas' henchmen sleeping in a giant baby crib! As Doc Ron Ely (best remembered as TV's Tarzan) does the best he can with the part. Not that he's required to do much except show off his physique and mouth some cornball speeches. On the plus side though the film at least in the first part is really faithful to the first novel in the series-complete with the attempt on Doc's life, the gathering of the Five and the red fingertips. And there is some familiar faces in the cast-including Paul Gleason (long before he raided Barry Manilow's wardrobe), Michael Berryman (best known for Wes Craven's original The Hills Have Eyes) as a coroner and Pamela Hensley (who would later dazzle us with her skimpy attire on Buck Rogers) as ourhero's love interest. The disc itself presents a good looking version of the film and the original trailer. Let's just hope the new version gives Doc Savage the proper film treatment he deserves. Rating: *** (just for the cheese factor alone).

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Disney dumps Captain Nemo but still behind John Carter

According to Variety, a new take on 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea with McG and Will Smith attached has been cancelled by Disney, reportedly the first major casualty of the studio's regime change. However the article also states the studio is still committed to John Carter of Mars and the sequels Tron Legacy and Pirates of the Caribbean:On Stranger Tides. For more-http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118011454.html?categoryid=13&cs=1

Sunday, November 15, 2009

JCOM Casting-Ciaran Hinds playing Tardos Mors

According to the actor's site http://www.ciaranhinds.eu/ he has been cast to play Tardos Mors, ruler of Helium. Mr. Hinds has appeared in some of the best films of this decade (including Road to Perdition, Steven Spielberg's Munich and There Will Be Blood) and is next set to play Dumbledore's brother in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows.

Friday, November 13, 2009

More Trailers-Prince of Persia/Clash of the Titans


Again more trailer fun! First up is the trailer for Prince of Persia-The Sands of Time http://www.apple.com/trailers/disney/theprinceofpersiathesandsoftime/, based on the video game and starring Jake Gyllenhaal and Gemma Arterton (pictured above taking a splash). It looks fun in that brainless Bruckheimer fashion and Arterton looks hot as the female lead. (In one shot she actually looks like my vision of what Dejah Thoris should be. Wonder how much time at the tanning salon and costume and makeup departments Lynn Collins will need to look like that?)

Second up is the teaser for the remake of Clash of the Titans, with Sam Worthington (of Avatar) and Ms. Arterton (man's she busy) rubbing shoulders with CGI creatures and Liam Neeson and Ralph Fiennes. Don't know about this one-all I remember about the original was the Ray Harryhausen effects and actress Judi Bowker rising out of the tub. (I'm sure that raised some eyebrows back in 1981 for what was supposed to be a kids movie.) Hit http://www.davestrailerpage.co.uk/ and again scroll down.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Solomon Kane ISN'T coming

The last time it was a new Star Wars trilogy...now this!

Director Michael J. Bassett has confirmed on his blog that Solomon Kane is NOT being released by Lionsgate (even though he admits it would be a good fit.) You can read his comments-http://michaeljbassett.wordpress.com/ here. No wonder journalism has such a bad reputation.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Some movie news-Sherlock Holmes and Solomon Kane


With news now nil on John Carter of Mars, here's some cool news on some upcoming films.

First up is a new trailer for the upcoming Sherlock Holmes with Robert Downey Jr. as the master detective and Jude Law as Watson. It looks really good and a fun different approach to the character. The trailer is on this page http://www.davestrailerpage.co.uk/ just scroll down and make sure to have a good internet connection.

Second is news from Fangoria magazine that Lionsgate have picked up the rights for Solomon Kane in North America. The film based on the Robert E. Howard character stars James Purefoy (recently cast as Kantos Kan in JCOM) as Kane. The article suggests the studio is considering a theatrical run before its DVD release. Come on, considering Lionsgate's output of late has been Tyler Perry movies and more worn out Saw sequels, they can at least give it a release. The full article is here: http://fangoria.com/home/news/9-film-news/4546-lionsgate-opens-for-solomon-kane-genius-takes-tell-tale.html

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Princess of Mars casting


Since things are quiet on the big budget John Carter of Mars front, Asylum's Princess of Mars film has finally an IMDB page-http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1531911/ with some members of the cast listed. It looks like most of the main characters from the novel are retained-including Tars Tarkas (played by Matt Lasky), Kantos Kan (Matt Logan), Sola (Noelle Perris) and Sab Than (Chacko Vadaketh). However Asylum has added three new ones-a character called Sarka (also being played by Vadaketh), Cornwell Sams (played by Tomas Boykin) who I guess is filling in for the James Powell character and Saroh Kan (Kimberly Ables Jindra)-is that Kantos' wife, mother, etc? We'll have to wait and see how these characters are intergrated. (And yes another pic of Traci Lords in her Dejah Thoris-by way of Jabba the Hutt's slave tailor.)

Thursday, November 5, 2009

Taylor Kitsch:JCOM will begin in January

Earlier today actor Taylor Kitsch sat down for an interactive chat promoting the current season of Friday Night Lights. Sadly very little info popped up about John Carter of Mars except for two bits-first the film will be "something special" and Kitsch has been prepping for it and second that filming will begin middle of January 2010. If you want to see the full chat http://www.tv.com/untitled/story/19139.html?tag=search_results;title;3 still has it up.

Book Review: The Moon Maid


Another trip to Mars that doesn't go exactly as planned.

After a brief prologue that reveals a lengthy war that has consumed the Earth and now has come to an end on June 10, 1967 with the interception of a message from Helium on Barsoom (or Mars to us non-Martians) we meet Julian the 5th, who is the first (or third...I never understood this). In the future Earth and Mars has decided to begin crossing the galaxy to visit each other. Julian is assigned a ship, The Barsoom to take his men across the stars. However a jealous colleague, Orthis disrupts the ship's tanks and the crew must make an emergency landing on the Moon. What Julian discovers is life does exist in the form of half-human, half-horse creatures called the Va-Gas, the Kalkars (a race bent on supreme domination) and the Laytheans who are suffering from growing distrust of their leader Sagrorth spread by the feared Ko-Tah. And in typical ERB fashion a beautiful creature Nah-ee-lah who Julian swears to protect.

Published in 1923, The Moon Maid at first glimpse seems a carbon copy of A Princess of Mars-Earthling hero, beautiful princess, vile creatures and backstabbing races-but Burroughs goes off in a different direction. Julian is no master swordsman like John Carter and doesn't have the sheer luck that befalls Carson Napier. Instead of making friends with any of Va-Nah's (as the Moon is referred t0) inhabitants he finds a bunch of people ready to kill to dominate and to feast. (Yum, cannibals!) With the elements that made John Carter so popular missing it's probably not surprising that this didn't turn into a long series (Burroughs did write two sequels, The Moon Men and The Red Hawk) but it shows an author willing to at least test the waters of what science fiction could be in the pulp arena.

Rating: **** out of 4.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Zorro comes to DVD!


One of many shows I grew up on (in reruns anyway) was the classic Zorro series that Walt Disney produced with actor Guy Williams. Well finally their releasing the first two seasons on DVD this week. Now can someone release the Batman TV series?

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Some tricks and treats for Halloween


With All Hallow's Eve now upon us its time to pull on the costumes, get out the candy and watch some scary flicks. But surprisingly very few horror films are actually set on Halloween. Well here's some that takes the love of October 31 and delivers some good fun.
1. It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown. Okay so it's not a movie, nor is it scary. But the classic animated special is still required Halloween viewing. Plus who doesn't love the World War One Flying Ace or Linus's straight view of the world-"three things I've learned never to discuss with people-politics, religion and the Great Pumpkin."

2. Halloween. The original John Carpenter flick, long before poor Michael Myers had a sister, a niece, became part of a Druidish cult, had to fight Busta Rhymes and was rebooted by Rob Zombie into poor white trash.

3. Sleepy Hollow. It's not set on Halloween but Tim Burton's offbeat take on the Headless Horseman story has a lot of imagery we associate with the holiday. Throw in Johnny Depp, Christina Ricci and three Sith Lords and you got a cool cast also.

4. Trick R Treat. I already raved about this one earlier. A fun anthology fest with some laughs and scares. Plus Anna Paquin in a Little Red Riding Hood outfit. What's not to like?

So happy Halloween and stay safe.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

AVATAR trailer and website now here!


Finally the full trailer and website for James Cameron's epic is up. The trailer looks great and definetly sells it better than the previous one. The CGI effects, heavily criticized earlier look much more realistic. My only complaint is what bonehead decided to stick the trailer on Yahoo? Oh well here's a copy on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2LQkTQ1foSU and the official movie site-http://www.avatarmovie.com/

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Flash Gordon-The Ice Monster


The things you find in used bookstores...Long before the idea of the graphic novel or trade paperback collection, publishers decided instead to reprint comics in standard paperback size. One of these is this collection, copyrighted around 1968 which collects three stories from a short lived comic book series published by King Features. And as the cover plays up, its Al Williamson providing the art work-at least for the first two stories.

The first one, untitled in the book but I guess "The Ice Monster" finds Flash and company returning to Mongo (after a rather lengthy section retelling the previous adventures) to get radium to continue Dr. Zarkov's experiments. Once there they venture to the frozen kingdom of Frigia where they discover a scientist who has invented a serum to allow people to live forever. But when a plot to poison the serum is hatched, Flash will have fight to save himself and Dale Arden.


The second story-"The Mole Machine" has Flash and Zarkov head to Earth's Core in Zarkov's new machine where the discover the land of Krenkelium. Here they find a paranoid king, his hot daughter (who as usual gets attached to our hero) and prehistoric monsters.
The final story-"The Death Trap of Mongo"-finds our heroes facing death at the hands of a vengeful nobleman and his advisor-scientist. I'll let you have three guesses who the advisor is.

The fun thing is looking back at the stories and how simple they are. No elaborate over-plotting or pointless subplots-just Flash Gordon saving the universe. The artwork of Williamson is also great, the best next to creator Alex Raymond. (A book collecting Williamson's Flash stories from the 60s, along with a two-issue Marvel series from the 90s and his adaptation of the 1980 movie was recently published). Also fun is the references to other sci-fi stories. In particular Edgar Rice Burroughs-the serum that extends life from the Carson Napier books to Krenkelium (named after fellow artist Roy Krenkel) and the setup being lifted from At The Earth's Core. They certainly don't make them like this anymore.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Some new Avatar pics


While those of us wait for Thursday for the new trailer to hit the net (sorry I just couldn't pay to see crap like Saw VI to see it) some new images of James Cameron's Avatar has popped up-http://www.comingsoon.net/imageGallery/Avatar December can't get here quick enough.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

New Doc Savage movie in the works?!-UPDATE

According to Harry Knowles it is. http://www.aintitcool.com/node/42832 Knowles ran into screenwriter Shane Black (of Lethal Weapon fame) who admitted he has been hired to write a new movie version of the 1930s pulp superhero for producers Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman (who recently wrote the new Star Trek and both Transformers movies.) Doc Savage for those who don't know was introduced in his own pulp magazine back in the 1930s and found renewed success in the 60s when paperback reprints sold and would prove an influence on characters ranging from Superman to Indiana Jones. A previous movie version, produced by legendary sci-fi producer George Pal, flopped in 1975 (mostly due to its campy humor) so hopefully this version will do the character right.

Well so much for AICN getting it right-http://www.collider.com/2009/10/26/exclusive-producing-duo-alex-kurtzman-roberto-orci-not-producing-doc-savage/ According to this Shane Black is writing and possibly could direct the film but Orci and Kurtzman are not producing. Instead the producers of the upcoming The Green Hornet and in limbo Flash Gordon remake is producing. Considering their idea of a superhero is Seth Rogen I'm now cringing at the idea of who they'll want for Clark Savage Jr-Paul Rudd or Jason Siegel or any of the other Apatow stock company available?

Friday, October 23, 2009

Today's rumor-New Star Wars trilogy...in 3D!!

You got to wonder where people get their information? Marketsaw in an article has stated that Lucasfilm is now prepping a new Star Wars trilogy, to be filmed in 3D with Steven Spielberg and Francis Ford Coppola directing chapters and George Lucas just producing, depending on how James Cameron's Avatar peforms. http://marketsaw.blogspot.com/2009/10/exclusive-lucasfilm-gearing-up-another.html This was quickly rejected with Quint at aintitcool getting a response from Lucas's public relations department-http://www.aintitcool.com/node/42788 that denies any new movies are being worked on. Lucas has stated his intention to make 3D versions of the current movies even though work has been put on hold while the current live action TV series and The Clone Wars animated series are in production.

Check your sources!

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Dafoe, Dafoe and More Dafoe

With about a 100 movies coming out (okay that's a slight exaggeration) Willem Dafoe is hitting the press circuit and giving some information about John Carter of Mars.

First up is a brief comment he made to Roger Ebert-http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20091018/PEOPLE/910189995 Ebert asks if the already announced PG-13 rating will affect the film. Dafoe says no and that he's looking forward to working with Andrew Stanton again.

Next up is from Aint It Cool News-http://www.aintitcool.com/node/42770 He confirms Tars Tarkas will apparently be around 9 feet tall and is that "Thark school" will be soon in session.

Finally he endures this interview with MTV-http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2009/10/20/willem-dafoe-says-john-carter-of-mars-will-have-political-undertones/ According to them, the film is some sort of political drama, even though Dafoe flat out says it's not. It's also apparent the interviewer has never read the novels and even assumes that the books stand for the plight of Native Americans (sure and Lord of the Rings is about short people's problems.)

Monday, October 19, 2009

Some DVD news

Normally I don't do this but I figured since they both go with this blog to give readers a heads-up.

First Amazon is taking pre-orders for Princess of Mars, slated for DVD release December 29. http://www.amazon.com/Princess-Mars-Antonio-Jr-Sabato/dp/B002RUNJCW/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1255971007&sr=1-1 No word on any extras (other than a making of featurette listed on Asylum's page.)

Second up is a new two disc special edition of Buck Rogers, the classic 1939 serial starring Buster Crabbe set for release November 3. http://www.amazon.com/Buck-Rogers-Buster-Crabbe/dp/B002KVSJ6O/ref=sr_1_4?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1255970896&sr=8-4 According to Amazon the set will include a 1933 Buck Rogers short, liner notes and as reported on a few websites three documentaries-one on the serial, another on Crabbe and his career and the third being the panel from this past summer's San Diego Comic Con.

Book Review: John Carter of Mars


A Reviewer's Note: This review has been changed a little

Well, we've reach the final entry in the series...

In the first of two adventures included, Dejah Thoris is kidnapped while out for a ride with John Carter. A ransom note is left demanding that their iron mines to Pew Mogel, a self-proclaimed "most powerful ruler" of Barsoom. When John and his friends attempt to rescue her what they find is a mad eye popping villain, an army of intelligent white apes and Joog-a simple minded giant under his control. With Pew and Joog heading for Helium, John has to save the day-and that includes dancing ulsios and a lot of silliness.

After that adventure John Carter hopes to have some peace and quiet when he is summoned by Tardors Mors. But it's a trap and he's for once abducted by skeleton like creatures from Sasoom-better known as Jupiter. When their mad leader decides he wants Barsoom for himself, John must act to save his adopted home world and his incomparable Dejah before it's too late. Will he stop the Skeleton Men?

As you can tell by the two plot descriptions, John Carter of Mars isn't a complete novel. Instead it collects one finished novel and an unfinished one, both published in magazine form during Burroughs' life but not collected until nearly 15 years after he died. The first entry John Carter and the Giant of Mars also bears another distinction-it was the first John Carter story not written by Burroughs but by his son Jack for a planned entry in the Little Big Book series (a popular children's book series that had illustrations on one page and the story on another.) Ultimately Burroughs senior did some work and it was published in 1941 and it shows why his style was hard to imitate. Also it suffers from many errors with regard to the previous novels and just never overcomes the fact it was written for small children. They might enjoy it but the older reader probably will just laugh.

The second story-The Skeleton Men of Jupiter-would see print in 1943 but Burroughs never completed it. In some ways maybe it was for the best-Skeleton Men is predictable and unsatisfying and repeats some of the same problems as the last two novels. What really does this one in is the lack of suspense. By this point we know John Carter will escape, rescue Dejah Thoris and save the day but it never felt this worn out before. Some have speculated that Burroughs never finished this because even he saw it as poor compared to the previous entries. It might have picked up in the second half though. But we'll never know.

So the final entry gets a collective ** out of 4 for both stories.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Traci Lords IS Dejah Thoris


Yep here's our first official pic of Ms. Lords from Asylum's Princess of Mars. A couple of other new photos are up showing more of Dejah and Antonio Sabato Jr. in his Martian costume. Go here for more http://www.theasylum.cc/product.php?id=163

Do we need anymore X-Men movies revisited.

Some might remember over a month ago I posted my thoughts about making anymore X-Men movies. Well now they might have come up with a way to get me into the theater. In an interview Bryan Singer has revealed he has talked with 2oth Century Fox about returning for a possible fourth film in the proper series (not the Origins or First Class spinoffs). He's not alone in wanting a fourth film-producer Lauren Schuler Donner also mentioned in an interview she also the possibility of a fourth film. While it doesn't make up for the pointless Deadpool spinoff, the Wolverine sequel or the First Class film, another Singer X-Men might be what can salvage this series.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Book Review: Llana of Gathol


A Reviewer's Note: This review has been altered.

Sorry for the delayed trip back to Barsoom...

After the standard visit to his favorite Earth-bound nephew, John Carter begins spinning his latest adventures which starts while out for some "me" time. Flying over the apparently "dead" city of Horz, he rescues a man from Green men to discover the latest unknown species-a white race living inside the city. But proving no good deed goes unpunished he is taken prisoner for fear he will reveal their existence. Sent to the pits with the man he rescued, Pan Dan Chee, he begins to play Jetan when Pan falls for the likeness of one of the game's pieces-modeled after John Carter's granddaughter, Llana of Gathol. And as you can guess from the title it isn't too long before Llana herself shows up and gets swept into an adventure involving suspended animation, a settlement of the First Born, a braggart who intends to conquer Barsoom and take Llana for himself and some invisible menaces.

As mentioned in my review of Escape on Venus, Burroughs wrote this novel as four interconnected novellas. Unlike that one though, Llana of Gathol maintains at least a through-line : John Carter's attempts to stop the apparent Jeddak of Jeddaks Hin Abtol from conquering Barsoom and John's attempts to rescue his granddaughter. And it is an improvement over Synthetic Men of Mars thanks to keeping John Carter front and center. What also makes the novel interesting is that like Carson of Venus, Burroughs shows his opinions of the Nazis with Hin Abtol, a petty tyrant who thinks he deserves to conquer the world. While it isn't on the nose as the Zanis that Carson has to fight, it's still present.

Where this one falls short though is the episodic nature with John and Llana escaping, being captured and escaping again. This one also runs through some of the same ideas-invisible enemies, another woman who can't seem to resist the Warlord of Mars (which does cause some humor when he admits he feels awkward being a grandfather who never ages while being seduced)-all those tropes are present and accounted for. I guess what I was hoping for was a grand final go around but instead it's just a regular day for our hero.

Ultimately as the final complete novel of the series, Llana of Gathol isn't the grand slam finale the series deserved but an okay book. But you can't have everything. Rating: **1/2 out of 4

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Some John Carter movie news

Some casting and fx news this time. First IMDB is reporting that Daryl Sabara has been cast as "Edgar Rice Burrows." (Someone needs to check their spelling.) Sabara is best known as one of the leads in Robert Rodriguez's Spy Kids films and roles in things ranging from Disney's Wizards of Waverly Place to Rob Zombie's Halloween.

The other news is that an outfit called Double Negative has been hired to work on the visual effects for the film. Among their credits are The Dark Knight, Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince and some upcoming films like Sherlock Holmes and Prince of Persia. Here's their credit list. http://www.dneg.com/projects/projects_list.html

Friday, October 9, 2009

Spook review-Trick R Treat


What the heck, it's October so time for a few good scares.
In this case, Trick R Treat actually delivers a few, along with some humor. Following the template of the George Romero-Stephen King fright fest Creepshow, Trick has four interconnected stories that plays through its brief but tight 82 minute run time. The first finds a principal (Dylan Baker) celebrating Halloween in his own way; the second one finds a group of kids reliving an urban legend concerning a bus accident; running through both segments and culminating in the third finds Anna Paquin (decked out as Little Red Riding Hood) trying to find that special someone and finally an old curmudgeon (Brian Cox) gets the trick or treater from Hell.

Directed with tongue in cheek by Michael Dougherty (who co-wrote X-Men 2 and Superman Returns) the film is definitely a step up from such recent junk like the Friday the 13th and Sorority Row remakes and Rob Zombie's Halloween II. In fact (rant coming in!) my only complaint is with the shabby treatment its distributor Warner Bros has given the film. Reportedly setting on the shelf for 2 years (I first saw a trailer for it on the 300 DVD) the studio is only now releasing it direct to DVD and Blu-Ray despite the fact the film has gathered some good notices (and the presence of Paquin, currently hot with HBO's sexy vampire show True Blood). To me it's another sad sign of how far the horror genre has fallen when good horror films like this (or Splinter or Let the Right One In) gets either scant release or DVD while crap like the pointless Saw sequels or the recent Orphan get wide multi theater release.

Beyond that give Trick R Treat a try. And be nice to that trick or treater next time.

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Princess of Mars Poster


Asylum has updated their site with our first view of the poster for their Princess of Mars. As you can tell we get a buff Antonio Sabato Jr; giant spiders and what looks like Traci Lords engaging a Thark in swordplay. Well she got the jump on Lynn Collins anyway.

Friday, October 2, 2009

Bossk's Back!

Yep as the picture tells, the famous bounty hunter makes his animated debut in Star Wars: The Clone Wars, which returns tonight on Cartoon Network under the subtitle "Rise of the Bounty Hunters." I know many dismissed it early on after the movie but the show rebounded and definetly looks good this season. I'll let you know what I thought after I watch the premiere.

UPDATE-Well no Bossk. Still the premiere did give the viewer plenty of new bounty hunter Cad Bane in action. The episode all showed a lightsaber wielding librarian and a fussier robot than C-3PO. I'll just have to wait and see if we see our favorite Trandoshan.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Book Review: Escape on Venus


Reviewer's Note: This review has been changed.

In this adventure, Carson Napier and his love Duare are attempting to find safe haven after being booted out of Vepaja over their illicit love affair. The two are heading for the friendly country of Korva when their are captured first by Myposians-fish like creatures and then a horde of following tribes, including Japalans and Vooyargans, who freeze them from the neck down and show them off in a zoo. At the end both end up stuck in the middle of a war between Falsans and Pangans...who honestly I couldn't even tell apart.

If my description sounds vague and flat...well the "novel" is that way as well. It probably has to do with the way Burroughs wrote it. Written just as World War II broke out, Burroughs wrote 12 short novellas for publication-four that would make up this book, another set that would make up Savage Pellucidar (the final entry in that series) and the final set that would result in Llana of Gathol (the 10th in the John Carter of Mars series and the last one published in book form during Burroughs' life.) While this might have spiced up his writing, it leaves the reader somewhat worn out by the end. Indeed all four novellas have the same setup-Carson and Duare escaping one death trap only to land in another. The villains introduced aren't memorable and by the end you even get the feeling Burroughs had run out of things for his hero to do. That may explain why this was the last Venus novel (even though a novella, The Wizard of Venus would be published after Burroughs' death.)

So it gets a ** out of 4.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

3 More Cast for John Carter-UPDATE!

According to several sites, Thomas Haden Church, Mark Strong and James Purefoy have now join the cast of John Carter of Mars. Church, who has been rumored to be attached for months, will play the villainous thark Tal Hajus; Purefoy, who stars in Solomon Kane, is Kantos Kan, John Carter's friend from Helium; and Strong, also rumored for months is Matai Shang, the leader of the Therns. But the Therns nor Matai Shang is in A Princess of Mars. Either Stanton is combining elements from both novels, pulling a Lord of the Rings and filming all three at once or somebody has got the wrong information. We'll wait and see.

Well apparently the casting is true. Again all three are good actors but the announcement of Mark Strong as Matai Shang and the description of Kantos Kan as "the captain of the Xavarian, the kingdom of Helium’s grand warship" makes it sound like Stanton is planning ahead for The Gods of Mars. In any case with these characters now cast the film is looking good.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

To comment or not....

As I reported earlier, MTV talked to Lynn Collins about John Carter of Mars, helping to ease up the concern over the film possibly being cancelled. But her comments now seem to have shaken up more concerns over what's going on with the film. Among her comments I posted earlier was her character getting "a great tan" and her having seen early versions of action scenes her character is to be involved in. Her other comments have also including describing Dejah Thoris as a "priestess of science and letters" and that the film is "completely satirical and politically on point."

Okay I don't know what to make of some of these comments. But some have already complained, especially about her comments of being involved in the action scenes-leading to concerns that Dejah is being revamped into a Xena or Ripley like character. In some cases the reaction reminds me of the outcry fans had over the first Lord of the Rings film over the character of Arwen and the changes made by Peter Jackson and the casting of Liv Tyler, which even mirrors the underwhelming support Ms. Collins has received from some. Some also complained about the tan remark-they want red or at least copper not a day at the beach.

My own concerns are over the last two statements. First while it is true the character had some scientific education, at no point is Dejah Thoris ever referred to as a priestess of anything. It almost sounds like Collins is attempting to make her role sound more important, possibly to deflect some of the criticism the character has always received. The other comment about the film being political and satirical though is the biggie for me. While there is humor in A Princess of Mars, it is by no means a satire. This isn't Dr. Strangelove. It makes me wonder if Andrew Stanton is attempting to add meaning that isn't there to make the film have more appeal with critics or if Collins is reading something there that isn't. While it is at least nice to have someone finally talk about the movie (Stanton seems to speak only in Twitterese while the rest of the cast have been mum over the film) this is a case where it might have been best if Ms. Collins had thought out her responses more clearly. Because if her comments are right there might be some who feel the movie has already lost course.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Some pics from Asylum's Princess of Mars


Again better late than never...Asylum has posted some still images from their upcoming film version of A Princess of Mars. Among the photos are some shots of their versions of Tharks, some shots of star Antonio Sabato Jr (looking like he stepped off his reality show) and a pic of him in modern fatigues with the caption "Special Ops." No word yet on a trailer and no shots of Traci Lords as the Princess but I'm sure they'll be showing up. You can see them here http://www.theasylum.cc/product.php?id=163

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Book Review: Synthetic Men of Mars


Reviewer's Note: This Review has been altered from the previous one.

As our latest Barsoomian adventure opens, things are looking dire. The beloved Dejah Thoris has been badly injured in an accident, leaving her crippled and unconscious. With Helium's best doctors unable to revive her, John Carter takes off to find Ras Thavas, the Master Mind of Mars in the hopes that he can save his wife. Along with him goes Vor Daj, a padawar in the royal army. It isn't too long though before they are captured and discover a horrifying secret-Ras Thavas has been imprisoned and has been forced to create men out living tissue. The creatures, called Hormads have taken over the small island of Morbus and plans to take over Barsoom with their indestructible army. But Vor Daj has his own concerns-the beautiful Janai. Vor Daj has his brain swapped with a Hormad in order to help save her, but when a vat of the growing tissue begins to go out of control, Vor Daj must put his wits together not only to rescue Janai but Barsoom as well.

By this time the Barsoom series was beginning to run down with Synthetic Men of Mars and it shows. Maybe it was that Burroughs was spreading himself thin trying to keep alive four major series or that he had just run out of ideas but it definetly ranks as the least of the entire series The first issue is the fact that what is supposed to be the major plot of the novel-John Carter's search for Ras Thavas-ultimately is tossed to the side and virtually forgotten about, leaving us with a rather uninteresting hero, more brain switching and the Hormads, which while they might have been interesting here just come across as silly. It also seems to recycle the whole subplot of The Master Mind of Mars in which someone-in this case Janai-develops feelings for our hero but seems unwilling to pledge her love while he's running around as a misshapen creature, just like Vad Varo's decision to retrive Vallia Dia's body. It seems a little shallow to imply that only beautiful people deserve love but I guess that's the way the story goes.

What might interest some is this riddle-did the screenwriters behind The Blob read this book? I saw on a board the idea that the growing tissue might have been the precusor to the 1958 cult favorite. I never heard anyone claim it but it seems an intriguing possibility.

But even with that this one definetly leaves the reader pining for the earlier entries. Rating: ** out of 4.

False alarm-everything is all right

At least according to MTV. The network's movie blog caught up with Lynn Collins last week and the actress confirmed this week she was starting makeup and costume tests-with the idea that Dejah Thoris will have a "great tan." She also confirmed she has seen pre-viz action scenes in which her character will be involved (involved how? I hope that doesn't mean Dejah Thoris, Warrior Princess). At least the film is still on. Thank Issus.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Is there trouble on Barsoom (or Disneyland)?

Some might remember a few weeks ago when Disney Chairman Dick Cook announced the release date and showed production artwork for John Carter of Mars at Disney's D23 Expo. Since then though things have taken a drastic change at the Mouse House with Cook resigning last week. The resignation (or firing if some sources are to be believed) has already put Pirates of the Caribbean:At Stranger Tides into trouble with Johnny Depp admitting his enthusiasm for the project has dropped since Cook left. Some have also speculated this maybe causing trouble for John Carter. Indeed the last few weeks have been quiet, with no news at all on the film. Even director Andrew Stanton's Twitter page hasn't been updated since Sept. 6. All of this not surprisingly has had some fans on edge, since this is the closest John Carter of Mars has come to fruition as a film.

In some cases many are saying maybe there is no reason for alarm. The film is indeed much further along than previous attempts, with casting, major design work, location scouting and script work moving along. Also and there is two other points to make-first if things do go south with Depp, Disney could possibly shelve Pirates and turn towards Stanton to make their next big blockbuster. In fact it could lead to the film being moved up to 2011. Also Disney might want to reconsider another clash with Pixar. Both companies nearly fell apart a few years ago under Michael Eisner's reign with Pixar threatening to leave and set up shop elsewhere. Even though this would seem unlikely considering how involved Pixar's big three guys John Lassiter, Steve Jobs and Ed Catmull are involved with Disney, it could still lead to problems.

On the other hand and the worst case scenario Disney could just drop the project all together. Other studios who had shakeups with executives have dropped films, some cases after major casting and directors were hired. In fact I'm still convinced the executive shakeup at Paramount in 2005 and 2006 was one of the reasons their Princess of Mars film was shelved. Another possibility is that they could keep the film but demand changes to script and casting. Stanton could either agree or leave and take the project elsewhere but then he would have to deal with Disney wanting restitution, other executives and the high probability that by the time a deal would be in place, the script would have to be reworked and roles recast either because of scheduling conflicts or studio demands.

We'll learn soon what the outcome is I'm sure.

Monday, September 21, 2009

Book Review: Swords of Mars


Reviewer's Note: This review hasn't been changed much.

The Warlord returns back to action...

After a brief visit to his favorite Earth bound nephew, John Carter relates his attempts to eliminate assassination on Barsoom. To do this he takes on the disguise of Vandor and heads to Zodanga. There he meets Rapas The Ulsio (or Rat to us Jarsoomians) and his boss Fal Sivas. Sivas immediately hires John to be his bodyguard and wipe out Gar Nal, a rival scientist who is being protected by Ur Jan, leader of the assassin guild. Both scientists are developing their own crafts that can leave the planet and visit other worlds. But it isn't too long before John Carter has to take Sivas' craft to stop Ur Jan and Gar Nal who are heading to the moon Thuria...with Dejah Thoris as their unwilling passenger. Once there though, everyone discovers an invisible threat...

It has been a long time since I had read Swords of Mars so I had little memory of the actual plot. And for good reason. Probably the best thing was the return of John Carter after be nothing more than a supporting character in the previous 4 novels. The first part as he infiltrates Sivas' organization and his attempts to end the assassins' guild are the best as it shows some of the street life of Barsoom. I also liked the character of Zanda, a slave girl owned by Fal Sivas that devotes herself to John Carter, even though she has a secret hate for the Warlord himself.

But that's not to say Swords of Mars is perfect. In fact this one starts the downward trend that the next two books would continue. The major problem is despite the change of location on Thuria, it's the same plot again-John Carter has to rescue Dejah Thoris from a fate worse than death. Also Sivas and his rival Gar Nal come across as poor imitations of Ras Thavas but lacks Thavas' appeal and aren't memorable once the final page is turned.

In the end it's a fun novel but compared to the earlier entries leaves the reader wanting a more substantial adventure for John Carter's return to leading man. Rating: **1/2 out of 4.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Do we need anymore X-Men movies?

I ask because I just read a piece on comingsoon.net about the upcoming X-Men:First Class film now being set for production in 2010. This is on top of Hugh Jackman's recent comments about a second Wolverine film and a spin off film for Ryan Reynolds' Deadpool character. (Reynolds will be pulling double superhero duty as he will also be starring in the upcoming Green Lantern.)

Now I admit I haven't kept up with the X-Men comics for a while and I'm sure many only have been introduced to them through the movies. But honestly do we really need 3 more movies in a franchise that has almost ran itself into the ground. The first two films to me are perfect examples of what could be done with comic book material, clearly paving the way for films like The Dark Knight and Iron Man. Yet the third film, X-Men The Last Stand was an empty and noisy mess while the recent X-Men Origins: Wolverine was the Batman and Robin of the franchise, throwing in pointless characters and bad screenwriting and then trying to cover it up with over the top action scenes. (And before it comes out, yes I admit my initial reluctance over the casting of Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins for John Carter of Mars came from this film. Kitsch is wasted in his part as Gambit while Collins is empty and fails to even have chemistry with Jackman.) The fact that Fox and Marvel are planning 3 films seems to indicate nothing more than seeing how much more money they can bilk from fans before they finally grow some sense and realize how bad this franchise has become.

Hopefully they will learn the mistakes from the previous Batman and Superman franchises and end now. But I doubt it.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Book Review: Almuric


One of Mr. Howard's most debated works, Almuric opens by introducing us to Esau Cairn, an Earth man seeking to escape after being branded a criminal. He ends up agreeing to a scientist's plan to send him to the distant planet of Almuric. While there Esau works his way through the wilderness until he ends up in the kingdom of Koth. Here he wins over the beastly people, including their ruler Kossath the Skullsplitter with his incredible strength. Esau has to put both his strength and wits to the test to rescue the beautiful Altha when she is captured along with Esau by the Yagas, hawkmen who serve the vicious but seductive Yasmeena who plans to sacrifice Altha and other women to the gods...

Almuric's history has always been open for debate among fans of Robert E. Howard. Published first in 1939, a good 3 years after Howard's death, many have suspected that it was completed by Howard's agent Otis Adelbert Kline. Having just read Kline's Outlaws of Mars, I honestly can't say. The first section indeed lacks the fast pace of Howard's best Conan or Solomon Kane stories while the second section (where the plot kicks in) is 100 percent Howard.

That being said it is a predictable novel with a very heavy Edgar Rice Burroughs influence. Indeed Yasmeena and her followers could be replaced with Issus and the First Born from The Gods of Mars and the reader wouldn't notice. The first section also feels repetitive of Princess of Mars while the final chapters where Esau leads his fellow Koths and their enemies the Khor to rescue Altha resembles John Carter and the Tharks' raid on Zodanga from Princess. If Howard had continued with further adventures hopefully he would have made it more his own but as it stands, Almuric is an interesting piece from a talented writer but I would still recommend one of the Conan or the Solomon Kane collections first. Rating: *** out of 4.