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.