Sunday, January 31, 2010

Flash Gordon: The Less Campy Script


So to end the month I'll add a neat little find. http://mysite.verizon.net/alancshaw/Flash/script.pdf This is the first draft script by Lorenzo Semple Jr. for the 1980 Flash Gordon film. It is an interesting read and shows what the film could have been-with a less campy approach and more in tone to the Alex Raymond comic strips and the Buster Crabbe serial. Next month might see less postings as I attempt to return to actual novel writing but I'll keep it updated as best as I can.

Friday, January 29, 2010

RIP JD Salinger and Michael Chabon on John Carter of Mars


The first month of the new year is coming to a close with some sad news. Author JD Salinger has passed away at the age of 91. The author pretty much wrote the book on teen angst with The Catcher in the Rye which was the Bible of my teen years. With his passing has come the expected rumors about whether his unpublished work will see the light of day and if Hollywood will now make a movie of Catcher. I hope not. It is a book that no film will ever do justice to and should be left alone.

The other news bit is an interview between Edgar Rice Burroughs expert Richard Lupoff and author Michael Chabon posted on ERBZine. Chabon was brought on to rewrite the Andrew Stanton/Mark Andrews John Carter of Mars script and judging by his comments it looks like the usual "we have to make changes because the story won't work otherwise" malarky that most filmmakers spout. Of course (and yes this is cynical) coming from a man who endorsed the wholesale trashing of his own novel, The Mysteries of Pittsburgh, maybe its not too suprising that Chabon would believe that. You can decide for yourself if I'm being too harsh here-http://www.erbzine.com/mag30/3047.html Even though Mr Lupoff is alawys a joy to read.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Green Lantern Concept Art!


Or at least some. Slashfilm has posted up some art for the upcoming Green Lantern film with Ryan Reynolds which shows off the alien members of the GL Corps. The article does state that they don't know if the art is real or if it will be used for the final film but it looks good and close to the comics. You can check out more at http://www.slashfilm.com/2010/01/27/green-lantern-concept-art/ UPDATE FEB 2: io9 has posted up two more pieces of art showing the Guardians and an early version of Sinestro here http://io9.com/5461089/green-lanterns-new-concept-art-has-blue-aliens-were-actually-scared-of/gallery/

Monday, January 25, 2010

Mandalorian Plots and a Geologist of Mars!


I hope the few out there enjoyed my Conan rant. And now some geek news.

First up MTV's Moviesblog has posted a clip from this Friday's episode of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, entitled "The Mandalore Plot." As you can tell from the picture some familiar looking characters are showing up and ready to get in the action. (For the non geeky, the Mandalorian Supercommandos were a race of warriors who fought the Jedi, at least according to the novelization of The Empire Strikes Back.) You can check out the clip and a familiar voice here-http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2010/01/25/exclusive-mandalorian-plottings-with-count-dooku-in-a-clip-from-this-fridays-star-wars-the-clone-wars/

Next up are two pieces related to John Carter of Mars that might interest the Barsoomian faithful since Disney's rampant paranoia has made news on the current shooting nil. First up is an interview with Dr. Alasdair Bruce, a geologist who along with his wife Kim has been hired to help make sure that Barsoom looks good. Little real news is revealed except for shooting in a rock quarry and that most of Barsoom will be achieved with CGI. You can read more with Dr. Bruce here-http://www.yourthanet.co.uk/kent-news/Rock-Doc-lends-helping-hand-on-Disney-blockbuster--newsinkent32136.aspx?news=local. And finally some fans have expressed concern that Avatar's success will overshadow John Carter or make audiences feel they've seen this before. I09 has posted their thoughts on this http://io9.com/5456045/avatars-dark-knight-victory-a-good-or-bad-sign-for-john-carter-of-mars and they are hopeful if only because of the belief that Andrew Stanton can right better dialogue than James Cameron. But is it really dialogue when its Ben Burtt making noises? Inquiring minds want to know.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Whither Goest Cimmerian...Again?


Taking a small detour into the savage lands of the Hyborian Age...and the age of angry fans.

As I'm sure some have heard by now, Baywatch and Stargate: Atlantis actor Jason Momoa was recently announced to be taking on the role of Conan in director Marcus Nispel's rebooting of the franchise. And the reaction has been more savage than even the Cimmerian could have found. Some have flat out denounced the casting, seeing it as further proof that the film is a disaster waiting in the wings with a poorly received leaked script and the hiring of Nispel (whose "talent" seems to be making pointless remakes of films like Friday the 13th) after original director Brett Ratner (who didn't exactly win over Howard fans either) left. Others have used the casting as a pulpit to deride not only this film but the previous John Milius film and it's "sacrilegious" handling of Robert E. Howard's character and the current filmmakers for apparently using Milius' film as a template. Other concerns have been more normal-complaints about yet another "origin" film, the condition of the script and rumors about other castings (one recent one hinted that Mickey Rourke has been approached to play Conan's father.)

While I'm not a full 100 percent fan of Howard in that I can't quote script and verse all of his work, I've read his stories and enjoyed them. He was a talented writer with a vivid imagination and a gift for storytelling. And I can understand the concerns from Howard's fans-other attempts at Howard-inspired films-from Conan the Destroyer to Kull the Conqueror-have been utter disasters. And in many ways I can sympathize with them. After all I've spent almost the last year expressing my concerns (if not outright outrage) with the casting of Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins in John Carter of Mars, the condition of that script and the changes being made to Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels and the intentions and motives of Andrew Stanton. Like Howard, Burroughs has also been mistreated by Hollywood and a faithful attempt-not hampered by budget or misguided filmmakers-seems like a dream that will never come to fruition.

But the sad reality is, this is Hollywood. The studios have never shown much concern for fans' feelings on such matters-unless it's a loud vocal group like Harry Potter or (heaven help us) Twilight fans-but even then it was because they knew that they were the target audience. If you tick them off, the film won't succeed. With Howard (and an equal measure, Burroughs) the problem is they are little known to the mass public. While both have devoted groups of fans, neither can claim the overwhelming and vocal fan base that JK Rowling or Stephanie Meyer and their work have now. In the studios' eyes they are making a film to appeal to a mass audience and have to make "changes" to make it more accessible or to "fix" problems with the material. The Milius film is a prime example. Howard never gave a back story for his hero but since the thinking was they couldn't just drop the viewer into the plot without some sort of introduction, a back story had to be created that in many Howard fans' eyes was unfaithful to the character Howard wrote. Not helping matters at the time was the growing hatred of the pastiche novels that some writers-notably L. Sprague De Camp-had been churning out, causing Howard's original material to in some cases disappear from print. (With Burroughs some have thought the reason for Stanton adding Matai Shang was the lack of a proper villain for our hero to overcome. John Carter has no Darth Vader or Lord Voldemort to overcome in his quest.)

I'm not happy with this mentality. It has resulted in a humorless and annoying Spider-Man, not one but two misguided film versions of Dune, the PC-ing of James Bond and the endless stream of bad Tarzan movies. The only way this can be stopped is if the films themselves bomb. Fans complaining or protesting won't do it since their attempts fall on deaf ears. Only when they lose money do they finally admit that they were wrong. In the case of Conan (and John Carter of Mars) it might be what it will take to show them that these are classic characters from talented writers who deserve the proper respect. But like so much that is a dream unfulfilled as well.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Book (Or Short Story) Review: Conan-Red Nails


It's been awhile since I posted my thoughts on anything print related. So with the famed Cimmerian apparently getting ready for a new movie (even if the casting looks heinous) I decided to revisit one of Conan's best known and loved adventures. And the last penned by his creator.

As our story opens, Conan might have finally found the perfect woman-Valeria of the Red Brotherhood, a feisty Aquilonian Pirate who had just left the camp of Zarillo after having killed a Stygian and lost Zarillo's protection. But things take a turn when both are attacked by a seemingly indestructible creature. After managing to defeat it, the two find what appears to be a deserted city only to discover it has been split into two by two different factions-the Xotalanc and the Tecuhltli. When they save a Tecuhltli native named Techotl, they agree to go with him to his king Olmec. Olmec sees a possible way to end the war with help from Conan. His wife Tascela has other plans though...plans that involve Valeria.

Published as a three part story in Weird Tales in 1936, Red Nails shows Robert E. Howard at his best. Throwing in rousing action, from Valeria's fight with three Xotalancs to the bloody battle near the story's end, a pinch of humor and some horror, Howard weaves a masterful tale that keeps the reader riveted from beginning to end. I'm sure some though will find it juvenile and even though Howard does present a strong female protagonist in Valeria, he still isn't above some 1930s titillation (for some reasons naked women strapped to a table seemed to be a fetish for pulp writers of the time.) Still for those who wonder why Conan and Howard exudes such pull on readers this is where to begin. The story is available in two books-The Conquering Sword of Conan, the third in Del Rey's excellent trade paperback series of Conan stories and Black Hounds of Death, the fifth in a cheaper paperback series called The Weird Works of Robert E. Howard.

Monday, January 18, 2010

News Time: Red, Green and Blue


With John Carter up and running I'm hoping it won't be too long before either images or footage shows up-of course it will probably be bootlegged and online for an hour before Disney issues cease and desist orders. So how about some news where people are not acting like their planning a military operation?

First up is a trailer for The Red Baron, a biopic of the famous World War I German pilot http://www.apple.com/trailers/independent/theredbaron/ I've always been fascinated with the story and this German production looks interesting. That and 300's Lena Headey don't hurt either.

Next up casting is apparently going full speed for Green Lantern with Heatvision reporting that actor Peter Saarsgard (whose credits range from good films like Flight plan and Shattered Glass to the abysmal film version of The Mysteries of Pittsburgh) has joined the cast as Hector Hammond, a more Earth bound nemesis for Ryan Reynolds' Hal Jordan http://www.heatvisionblog.com/2010/01/peter-sarsgaard-green-lantern.html . The casting for GL's arch nemesis Sinestro has changed though. Previous reports linked Watchmen star Jackie Earle Haley for the part but director Martin Campbell told MTV that instead he has talked to Mark Strong for the part. I guess for Strong after Sherlock Holmes, Kick-Ass, Robin Hood and John Carter of Mars another villain part was necessary. I guess I was rooting more for Haley who was great in Watchmen. For more with Campbell-http://splashpage.mtv.com/2010/01/15/exclusive-green-lantern-director-says-mark-strong-in-talks-to-play-sinestro-confirms-kilowog-more/

Finally in the "you probably already know" arena Avatar took home some prizes this weekend. First it surpassed the original Star Wars in the US for the number 3 position and seems certain to pass The Dark Knight for number 2. And if that wasn't enough the film also took home the top prize at the Golden Globe Awards and won best director for James Cameron (who did mention his ex-wife and fellow director Kathryn Bigelow, nominated for the excellent The Hurt Locker in his speech, saying he thought she would win.) Could Avatar actually break through the Academy Awards' prejudice against such fare and actually win? I guess we'll soon see.

Friday, January 15, 2010

John Carter of Mars Has Begun!


At least Disney says it has. http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=62442 A statement has been issued confirming shooting has begun in London. The release also confirms the casting even though much of it was already confirmed or rumored earlier. It also has one element I'm sure will drive some nuts-Dejah Thoris is described as a "warrior princess." Start the Xena jokes.

While the news is a relief after all these years and near-misses I can't say that I'm overly enthusaistic. I still have some issues with certain decisions that Andrew Stanton has made concerning this film and whether or not he is even the right person to make it. But at this point there is no turning back. So I wish the cast and crew good luck and have a good production and make the best film you can.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Casting News UPDATE: Conan and Malcolm's Dad Goes to Mars


With the Princess now reviewed we turn our attention to a famous Cimmerian and a former college professor turn drug dealer. That's an interesting lot.

First up Deadline Hollywood (who you may remember broke the news on Sam Raimi's exit from Spider-Man 4) has broken news on the possible candidates to follow Arnold Schwarzenegger in a new Conan film. The battle is between actors Jason Momoa (best known for Stargate: Atlantis and Baywatch) and Kellan Lutz (one of the hunk vampires of Twilight) with a third candidate not named. No offense but is this the best they can come up with? Suddenly makes Taylor Kitsch's casting as John Carter seem brilliant. For more info-http://www.deadline.com/hollywood/whos-conan-the-barbarian-wheres-avi-lerners-co-ceo-and-indieprod-co-founder/ UPDATE JAN. 22: Well it looks like it is Momoa after all-http://www.deadline.com/hollywood/toldja-conan-the-barbarian-hires-momoa/ Well at least this guy isn't getting screwed by Jay Leno even though I'm sure Howard fans will be split. At least it wasn't the Twilight guy.

And speaking of Mr. Carter, the reliable Heatvision blog has a new casting announcement up. This time around Bryan Cranston (best known as the aformentioned prof from Breaking Bad and the put upon father from Malcolm in the Middle) has been cast as a "colonel who has conflicts" with John Carter. If you don't remember that don't worry-there is no character like that in the novel. You can determine for yourself if that is a needed addition here-http://www.heatvisionblog.com/2010/01/bryan-cranston-john-carter-of-mars-pixar-breaking-bad-willem-dafoe.html

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Movie Review: Princess of Mars


Well it finally showed up. So how is the first film version of Edgar Rice Burroughs' science fiction classic? Is it the total disaster that some has written it off as or actually a decent film? Actually somewhere in between. (And a quick spoiler warning-some plot details will be discussed.)

John Carter (Antonio Sabato Jr) is a US soldier attempting to infiltrate a terrorist cell in Afghanistan when things go awry. Mortally wounded he is given only one choice-be used as a guinea pig for a scientific experiment where he will be sent to the planet of Mars. Once there he is uninjured and discovers he has gained super human powers. Those come in handy when he is captured by an indigenous race of creatures known as the Tharks. His abilities though earn him the respect of one Thark-Tars Tarkas (Matt Lasky) . Their trust is tested when the Tharks capture the Princess of Helium Dejah Thoris (Traci Lords) who is on a mission that could change the course of the planet. With the Tharks and their leader Tal Hajus on one side and a deadly assassin on the other John must navigate through these savage lands, rescue the princess and the planet itself.

When I first sat down to watch this I admit I was skeptical. The Asylum's reputation, the casting and the early word on the film from some who have seen it seemed to peg it as the lost cause some predicted. Yet some also admitted that while it had flaws it also worked as a good little "B" sci-fi film and despite some claims was not the worst adaptation of an ERB novel (that honor probably still goes to the Bo Derek Tarzan The Ape Man). And in many ways both are right. First the weak points-some of the characters are short changed. Even though both Sola and Kantos Kan are in the film they are relegated to the sidelines and given little to do. The film also removes Sola's story which to me was one of the most moving parts of Burroughs' novel. The film's effects are also uneven-the princess' air ship looks really good but the Thoats (here two legged almost bird like creatures) are pretty rubbery (though no worse than most SyFy flicks). And yes the two-arm Tharks are disappointing (even though the masks and makeup on them are quite good.) The film also reworks the finale probably due to budget constraints. I guess the most debatable element I've seen is Traci Lords' performance. I don't think she's necessarily a bad actress but she is definitely all over the place here.

So what does work? Well quite a bit actually. The best part in fact is Sabato. While I had my doubts he actually does a pretty good job as John Carter, bringing a sense of humor to the part while taking the dramatic parts at least as seriously as someone can in this type of film. Also good is Matt Lasky as Tars Tarkas, who follows Sabato's lead and brings humor and some seriousness to the proceedings. The story while it removes much and updates it actually maintains the main thrust of Burroughs' novel (even though the opening experiment part reminds me most of Avatar). Some of the action scenes are well done also-the attack on the flier in fact is lifted whole from the novel. I also liked the fact that the Tharks do speak an alien tongue for the first little bit, setting up the world they inhabit. And while it is overused the location shooting in Vasquez Rocks (which will be familiar to Star Trek fans) adds some alien luster.

In the end Princess of Mars is what it is-a low budget film made quickly. It might not be the John Carter film many wanted (and for those people my advice is skip it and just wait and pray Andrew Stanton's version actually delivers). But for those with an open mind and a fondness for B films it isn't too bad. Hell it was better than X-Men Origins: Wolverine or Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen which have no excuse for their awfulness. My rating (in this case on a B movie scale) ** 1/2 out of four. (The DVD extras do include two notable bonuses-a brief making of that shows that director Mark Atkins at least takes his work seriously and does show some tests for 4-armed Tharks that were eliminated because of budget and about 10 minutes of deleted scenes.)

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Meet The (New) Beatles! Plus Favreau Goes Clone?


I'm sure some are still recovering from yesterday's Spider-Man news. Chin up-we're getting a new one.

As for the rest of the brief news...Some might remember a few months back Disney and director Robert Zemeckis announced plans for a 3D motion capture remake of Yellow Submarine. Well The Hollywood Reporter's Heatvision blog has revealed who will be playing the Fab Four. As follows-Dean Lennox Kelly (who is on the BBC Robin Hood series) is John; Peter Serafinowicz (whose credits include Shaun of the Dead and the voice of Darth Maul in The Phantom Menace) is Paul; Cary Elwes (who recently worked with Zemeckis on A Christmas Carol and Steven Spielberg and Peter Jackson's upcoming TinTin film) is George and Adam Campbell (whose credits mostly seem to be films like Epic Movie and Date Movie) is Ringo. More info can be got here-http://www.heatvisionblog.com/2010/01/beatles-yellow-submarine-robert-zemeckis-3d-performance-capture-cary-elwes.html

The other news brief comes from The Force.net which is reporting that actor-director Jon Favreau will be providing a voice for an upcoming episode of The Clone Wars. The news was reported via Favreau's Twitter. For more info-http://www.theforce.net/latestnews/story/Jon_Favreau_In_The_Clone_Wars_128725.asp

Monday, January 11, 2010

Indiana Jones and the Spider-Tharks of Doom!


Well it's one of those days. (And yes Princess of Mars is still lost in the mail. At this rate the big budget version will be released by the time it gets here.)

But on with the geek news (or my geek news)...First up Harrison Ford has confirmed work is underway on a new Indy adventure. Promoting the upcoming Extraordinary Measures, Ford revealed that George Lucas has an idea for the film and that he hopes the film will explore the relationship between Indy and Shia LaBeouf's Mutt. Ford also expressed his hope that Karen Allen will be back. I know Kingdom of the Crystal Skull split many but I'm sure some fans would welcome another go around. For more-http://moviesblog.mtv.com/2010/01/11/exclusive-harrison-ford-hopes-to-deepen-the-relationship-between-indy-and-son-in-the-next-indiana-jones-movie/

Also making the press rounds is actress Polly Walker (and in a humorous six degree bit, Ford's Patriot Games co-star) promoting the upcoming Battlestar Galactica prequel Caprica and getting ready to hit Thark Boot Camp as Sarkoja for John Carter of Mars. She talks to SyFy briefly about the part and is looking forward to the film. You can read her comments here-http://m.syfy.com/inf/infomo?site=syfy&view=wirestoriesdetails&feed:a=stories_wire&feed:c=stories_wire_channel&feed:i=29.30468

And finally it looks like old Spidey might be getting rebooted while Sam Raimi and Tobey Maguire are just getting the boot. Deadline Hollywood is reporting that Sony has decided to start over with Spider-Man following the recent scripting clashes with Raimi. We'll have to wait and see if Sony or Raimi actually confirms this but starting over may not be a bad idea instead of another sequel with a bad script. You can decide for yourself here-http://www.deadline.com/hollywood/urgent-spider-man-4-scrapped-as-is-raimi-and-cast-out-franchise-reboot-planned/...UPDATE: And they are. Comingsoon has an official statement from Sony confirming Raimi and Maguire's exit. The reboot will now hit 2012 (yeesh guys are you buying that Mayan calendar stuff and shoving every movie into that year). The official statement is here-http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=62315

Saturday, January 9, 2010

Star Trek, Green Lantern and More Avatar News


I've put off my diatribe due to the weather. But the geek news continues...

First up Paramount has set June 29, 2012 as the release date for the sequel to JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot. No word on plot or if Abrams is returning to the director chair. With John Carter of Mars, Flash Gordon and the Avatar sequel (some rumored) hitting the same year sci-fi geeks will have some tough choices to make. The brief is posted here-http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=62201

Next up the Hollywood Reporter's Heatvision Blog is reporting that actress Blake Lively (best known for the trashy teen soap Gossip Girl) has been cast as Carol Ferris in the upcoming Green Lantern with Ryan Reynolds. Considering Carol in the comics is dark haired (and becomes Star Sapphire) and Lively is blonde let's hope we don't get a bad dye job. You can read more here: http://www.heatvisionblog.com/2010/01/blake-lively-cast-as-female-lead-in-green-lantern.html

Finally Fox has posted the complete script for Avatar online in pdf form. You can get a copy here-http://www.foxscreenings.com/media/pdf/JamesCameronAVATAR.pdf I wonder if Disney will ever do the same for John Carter of Mars (given their paranoia probably not.)

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Daily News: Avatar, Buck Rogers and 1970s John Carter


At this point my next post will be a long diatribe about the United States Postal Service and/or the Asylum's shipping department. But for the news...

First up James Cameron gets the last laugh...again. The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed Avatar has now passed both The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King and Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest as the second biggest moneymaker of all time, just behind Titanic. So he really is the king of the world after all.

Next up and I don't know how this got lost (except for the holidays) but production has begun on the new Buck Rogers web series (a trailer was posted last month). Among the cast of the series will be 70s Buck stars Gil Gerard and Erin Gray. The series according to the official site will premiere possibly by September. For more-http://www.buckrogersbegins.com/

Finally in the cool department. While Disney went overboard last fall to prevent artwork for the new John Carter of Mars film from leaking out, the fan site http://www.johncartermovie.com/ has linked to artwork done for the never made 1970s Amicus version. Among the work is locations, characters and action scenes and some bizarre changes-including a white haired Dejah Thoris and two arm Tharks (makes me wonder if Asylum didn't see these and use them for their movie.) You can see more at http://www.design-concepts.co.uk/Mars/johncarterplaces.htm

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

John Carter of Mars Studio and Start Date!


While I admit my enthusaism has dipped recently, the fact the film is now apparently ready to shoot is something I thought I would never see. Pulled from http://www.barsoomia.org/ (hope you don't mind) the film is set to begin production on January 28th at London's famous Pinewood Studios (the home of James Bond for you film geeks.) Pinewood's own site has a listing of the stages to be used and you can explore them here-http://www.pinewoodgroup.com/gen/z_sys_infoProduction.aspx?intProductionId=1907.

UPDATE: In a new interview, Willem Dafoe (promoting the vampire flick Daybreakers) says he is heading to London next week to begin filming. Well the sooner the better. For more of Dafoe's comments on playing Tars Tarkas-http://io9.com/5441944/willem-dafoe-gears-up-to-start-making-john-carter-next-week (and a special thanks to Mr. Tarkas for pointing out the article.)

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

More News: Spider-Man, PGA Sci-Fi Love and a Mars What If?


Okay the daily news...

First up is news on a film that honestly I couldn't care less about...Spider-Man 4. Earlier sites like Aint it Cool News reported that the film was facing script problems that possibly could lead to it being delayed from it's May 2011 release date. The rumor was quickly denied but looks like it has resurfaced if this story is correct-http://www.deadline.com/hollywood/exclusive-spider-man-4-officially-has-no-start-date-as-of-today-because-of-script-problems-sony-unlikely-to-make-5112010-release-date/ While I liked the first one, the second one was overrated and the third one a complete disaster so if 4 never gets made I won't be upset but I'm sure some Spidey fans are biting their nails over the possibility of it being canned.

Next up the Producers Guild of America has announced their nominees for best produced films of the year and have went geek-three of the nominees are sci-fi flicks-James Cameron's Avatar (getting more good news after its record breaking box office), Neil Blomkamp's excellent District 9 and JJ Abrams' Star Trek reboot. The Guild also nominated Pixar's Up which bodes well for it being a possible nominee at this year's Oscars. Good luck guys and congrats.

Finally an interesting piece on the Asylum Princess of Mars has been posted on ERBZine-http://www.erbzine.com/mag30/3034.html. While most of the piece is a history of the company it does raise two interesting possibilities-one that Asylum could continue to milk Barsoom for all its worth by either adapting the public domain John Carter novels or possibly titles like Gullivar of Mars and second that their film could lead to other companies doing their own Barsoom films. It's an interesting possibility. (Two quick words of warning on the article-one the piece's author expresses his opinions on the upcoming Andrew Stanton version and its makes some of my comments seem optimistic and two included with the article is a picture of Lynn Collins in her "birthday suit" so use your own discretion when reading it.)

Monday, January 4, 2010

Dune Gets a New Director


More news while I'm still waiting for Princess of Mars to show up. Entertainment Weekly is reporting that director Pierre Morel, who directed the Liam Neeson hit Taken, has been hired by Paramount to direct the new film version of Dune following the departure of original director Peter Berg. For more info-http://hollywoodinsider.ew.com/2010/01/04/dune-remake/

Friday, January 1, 2010

DVD Review: Buck Rogers "70th Anniversary Edition"

Well I hope you had a good new year's eve and day. To kick off the new year we head to the 25th century-or the 1939 version of it.
While on a scientific expedition around the North Pole in a dirigible (don't ask) Lt. Buck Rogers (Buster Crabbe) and his young friend Buddy Wade (Jackie Moran) are knocked off course and eventually crash. Lucky for them they have a canister of "nirvano" gas aboard that renders them into suspended animation. Unlucky for them however they eventually are awaken to discover it is the 25th Century and that the Earth is being ruled by a dictator known as Killer Kane (Anthony Warde.) A few rebels living in a hidden city are hoping to end his tyranny by striking a deal with the inhabitants of the planet Saturn. So it's up to Buck, Buddy and Wilma Deering (Constance Moore) to forge the alliance. But Kane and his men aren't too far behind...

By 1939 Buck Rogers had been around a whole decade, first appearing in the pulp Amazing Stories and then transferred to the comics page by writer Phil Nowlan and artist Dick Calkins. But when he made his big screen debut in this 12 chapter serial from Universal, his arch-rival Flash Gordon had already made the leap with two successful serials. Using the same team that helped shape the last one and with Buster Crabbe starring, the studio hoped to repeat their success.

Sadly they didn't. It's not that Buck Rogers isn't a fun serial but compared to the Flash Gordon serials they are extremely lacking. The major fault is the lack of a good villain-Kane just doesn't have the flair of Ming the Merciless and while Anthony Warde was good in other cliffhangers he lacked Ming actor Charles Middleton's flair. The other problem is the series runs out of plot about half way in-the running back and forth to Saturn gets a little tiring and it turns into chases, fist fights and air battles (complete with model rockets and sparklers for engines) before reaching the climax. What keeps it afloat is Crabbe. While not an actor of vast range, Crabbe always brought a warm and fun personality to his work and that's the same here. Fans of more recent science fiction may also get a good chuckle-from the opening titles that George Lucas "borrowed" for Star Wars to the first teleporter long before Scotty beamed his first person the cliffhanger is fun for those looking for a retro sci-fi serial. But I would still go with Flash first.

As for the DVD, VCI has done a great job with it. Their previous disc suffered from a poor image and lacked extras but here they have remastered the image and it looks sharper than before. The extras are also nice with three featurettes-the first a history of the character than includes his pulp origins, the comics and mentions of the TV series from the early 1980s and the recently cancelled Frank Miller film (even Daffy Duck gets mentioned. The second is an audio piece of Crabbe from the 1970s talking to college students about his career with humor and honesty while the third is a video piece from this past summer's San Diego Comic-Con with artists and TV Buck Gil Gerard and Erin Grey. Also included is two radio shows and the ancient short Buck Rogers and the Tiger Men of Mars that acts more as a promo for Buck toys and has some of the worst acting and effects this side of Ed Wood. Still a fascinating piece of history for sci-fi and Buck fans. All in all a pretty good set and I'm sure fans of serials and Buck Rogers will be happy with it.