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.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Book Review: The Outlaws of Mars


Okay back to Mr. Kline's Mars.

This time around our hero is Jerry Morgan, a disgraced army soldier who has turned to his uncle for help. As readers of The Swordsman of Mars knows, Uncle Richard has achieved unlimited abilities to send men to Mars and plans to help Jerry escape his problems. Using a spaceship, Jerry lands on Mars and in hot water when he kills the beloved pet of Junia, the daughter of the ruler of Kalisvar. Fearful that the earth man is a possible spy for the religious leader Sarkis The Torturer, Jerry is forced to fight both the Kalisvar Numin Vil, the power seeking Thoor Movil, the masked Sarkis and the spurned Nisha, sister of Thoor to save his hide and the woman he loves.

Kline's second novel set on Mars, The Outlaws of Mars is a well-written if somewhat formulaic adventure. In fact it has several things lifted not only from Edgar Rice Burroughs-Jerry suddenly develops super jumping abilities and is an expert soldier-but also from Kline's famous client Robert E. Howard. Sarkis with his ability to manipulate others through religious fears brings to mind several of Howard's Conan stories and the hell hath no fury Nisha seems almost lifted from Howard's work.

That said, it still delivers for readers looking for a good pulpy read. Rating: **1/2 out of 4.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

News on John Carter of Mars, Solomon Kane and The Beatles

Sorry for the delay. Got backed up but I have finished a few books I'll be posting my thoughts on soon. For now here's some brief news-

First up Disney production chief Dick Cook announced that John Carter of Mars will be hitting theaters summer 2012 at the recent Disney D23 Expo. In addition some artwork was shown and Cook confirmed the film is the first in a planned trilogy.

Next up for fans of Robert Howard. The trailer for Solomon Kane is now available here http://movies.ign.com/dor/objects/490947/solomon-kane/videos/Solmonkane_trl_trailer_91109.html It looks great. The film was shown at the Toronto Film Festival this week and hopefully will be picked up soon.

Finally moving away from Barsoom and ancient lands to Pepperland. Yep with all the news this week of The Beatles:Rock Band game and the new remastered versions of their albums (got Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's and they both sound great) news also came from D23 concerning a new remake of Yellow Submarine. Robert Zemeckis will be applying his motion capture technique he used in Beowulf and his upcoming A Christmas Carol to the film also set for 2012. The big news was the revelation that the original Beatles music will be used. I loved the original film as a child and still do so I'm a little dubious about this but it might be interesting.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Book Review: Pirates of Venus


Reviewer's Note: This review has been changed.

Well I promised a trip to Amtor, here goes...

Carson Napier has decided after the loss of his mother and those close to him to head for the stars. He plans to shoot his rocket towards Mars and explore the red planet. But some unforseen problems involving the Moon's gravitational pull throws him off course and he lands instead on Venus. After surviving his parachute jump he discovers despite scientific suggestion that Venus does have life and immediately attempts to fit in. He finds himself among the Vepajans, a race of Venusians who treat him well, even though Carson begins to feel like a prisoner. Things change though when he meets a young woman catches his interest. But like most things, life on Amtor isn't simple. While gone on a trip to collect material called tarel with his friend Kamlot, Carson is nearly killed by a giant spider, captured by birdmen called the klangan and deposited into the hands of Thorists, who are the enemies of Vepaja. Leading a revolt aboard their ship, Carson manages to take over the ship, and rescue the princess of Vepaja. Guess who that turns out to be...

As mentioned in both the forward and afterward of the Bison Frontiers version, Pirates of Venus and its sequels were less regarded among even Burroughs' most adrent fans. Indeed Carson Napier is no John Carter or Tarzan, the master hero who can save the day, conquer a kingdom and restore freedom. Carson has little interest in that. In fact his major concern is for Duare, the princess who he has fallen in love with. Pirates of Venus doesn't have that wish fullfillment plot that A Princess of Mars or Tarzan The Ape Man did. Carson doesn't develop superpowers nor can he defeat savage animals with his bare hands and Duare spends most of the novel telling him to leave her alone, not exactly the lovestuck Jane or Dejah Thoris.

Also pointed out is the rather lack of a plot in Pirates. Indeed the first 90 pages almost are setup, introducing us to the world Carson has crashed into and establishing the world order. By the time the adventure begins it almost resembles such other pirate stories-especially Raphael Sabatini's Captain Blood with its slaves revolting and hitting the seven seas to plunder and find adventure more than Burroughs' past fiction. This though isn't a bad thing. If anything it provides a nice contrast to the plot driven John Carter of Mars series and Carson's down to earth approach is a breath of fresh air compared to John Carter's ego. Make sure to read this and the sequel to get the full experience. Rating: ***1/2 out of 4

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Disney buys Marvel

Okay so I'm a day late and a buck short but if you haven't heard by now the Mouse House plunked down 4 billion and bought Marvel Comics. According to reports the deal won't affect Marvel's deals with other studios producing their movies (a shame really as maybe Disney could have spared us Spider-Man 4). One thing related to this blog though is whether or not Marvel will reissue their John Carter, Warlord of Mars series from the 1970s or publish new comics to tie in with the upcoming movie since Disney is producing it. Hard to say. I would think ERB Inc probably would have last say over any comic book deals but I guess we'll see.