Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Buck Rogers and John Carter Comic News


I guess I'm still on the grid following my lack of love for TRON. But here's some comic book news to make up for it.

First up Dynamite Comics will be publishing Buck Rogers Annual 1 this coming February http://www.dynamiteentertainment.com/htmlfiles/viewProduct.html?PRO=C725130159823 I had read some of their short-lived Buck series and it was just getting good when they cancelled it so maybe this will restart it.

Fans of Barsoom might also need to make a trip to the comic book store this week. Several sites, like this one http://dailypop.wordpress.com/2010/12/28/new-releases-122910/ are reporting that Dark Horse Comics' John Carter of Mars: Weird Worlds collection-which has the DC Comics version of the character-will be released tomorrow, December 29. Previously it was announced for a January 12 release and the listing on Dark Horse's website still has it, so I'll try to check or if someone knows for sure can you let me know.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Movie Review: TRON Legacy


I hope you faithful readers had a good and safe Christmas. And I know this review is coming late but I only just got to see it during the holiday break. Be warned though, you'll be singing "you're a mean one, Mr. Grinch" by the time I get through with this...

Our story opens in 1989 when we meet once again computer genius Kevin Flynn (Young CGI Jeff Bridges) telling his son Sam the story of the Grid and the adventures of Tron and Flynn's alter ego Clu (which is probably a good thing since Disney yanked the original off the market reportedly for fear of ruining this one's box office chances and we need the refresher). Dad departs to go to work and then disappears, causing much confusion for his company Encom and leaving Sam the standard Disney Orphan. We then move ahead 20 years where Encom is now being run by corporate sharks and Sam (Garrett Hedlund) is a young dude with a cool motorcycle, computer skills up the wazoo and a bohemian lifestyle (which is probably the least realistic plotting in the movie). After pulling a mass prank in which he releases an upcoming software package for free, Sam gets a visit from his father's old friend Alan Bradley (Bruce Boxleitner) who has news of his own-a page from Kevin Flynn's office at the shut down arcade Flynn owned. And even though he says he doesn't care Sam goes there to investigate, finds dad's office and before he know is zapped in the Grid-a computer universe created by Flynn to help the world. But things didn't work out and before you know it Sam is captured, forced into gladiatorial combat with flying Frisbees of death and meets the Grid's new ruler-Clu! After a game of lightcycle smash-up Sam is rescued by Quorra (Olivia Wilde) a program who is living off grid (so to speak) with the real Flynn (Non-CGI Jeff Bridges). Sam then has to find a way to get his father home and stop Clu's master plan. And do it while wearing hip hugging leather pants, survive an encounter with a David Bowie clone (Michael Sheen) and not get creeped out by the CGI version of the Dude.

OK confession times folks-I never cared much for the first TRON. My memories of it was it looked nice but was boring and poorly scripted and directed. Well on that level TRON Legacy sort of lives up to the original in that is also poorly scripted and directed. In this case director Joseph Kosinski (a former commercial director, continuing Disney's track record of bad director choices for their films) seems more interested in the light show going on and less on the characters or devising a gripping story to keep the audience interested. Then again the story might have been more interesting if it wasn't cribbed from other movies-in fact the film could have been called TRON: Star Wars since it includes elements from that franchise-our orphaned hero searching for his missing father; the lightcycle tournament (which was the coolest element of the original) sequence is pretty much the pod race from The Phantom Menace; old Flynn is Obi-Dude Kenobi, spouting mumbo jumbo and surfer lingo; a fight in a bar; a character loses an arm, etc. Flynn even has a final confrontation with Clu where he admits he failed, a la Obi-Wan in Revenge of the Sith. Also not helping is the acting-or rather what the actors do. As Sam Hedlund is bland in the part, substituting groan worthy one-liners and a non changing facial expression for acting. And what planet did Sheen beam down from? His performance belongs in a Monty Python sketch more than this. Of course the biggest thing has been CGI Jeff Bridges-honestly it looked OK-but the problem is Clu just isn't memorable. Older Bridges meanwhile seems to be channeling the Dude because the writers couldn't come up with anything else. It's a shame as Bridges is a great actor stuck with nothing to work with. As for the much vaunted 3D, honestly I couldn't tell it made much of a difference. Maybe it was the overly dark Blade Runner look but nothing seemed to pop off the screen. You would think with Frisbees of death and lightcycles that would be cool 3D effects but nothing (makes you wonder if this wasn't retrofitted).

So does anything work? Well as I said before it looks visually spectacular. Disney did spend the money to make it look big and bold and the film can't be faulted for that. The return of Boxleitner from the first film is also nice. And the score by Daft Punk really rocks. But I say probably the best thing in the film is Olivia Wilde-and not just because of her form fitting outfit. As Quorra, an artificial being who has spent her entire life inside a computer, her questioning about what is to be human adds what little human emotion there is. She also handles the action scenes well-much better than Hedlund-and by the end makes you care about her. Maybe if the film was about her quest instead of our dull hero it might have made it better.

In the end, TRON Legacy is full of sound and fury but with nothing underneath. It's a light show and a desperate attempt to grow a blockbuster out of a marginal idea. If you're a fan of the original you might find it more enthralling than I did. If not well I warned you. Rating: ** out of 4.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Comic Review: Warlord of Mars #3


First up Happy Holidays and I hope it's a good and safe one for you and your loved ones. Now let's hit Barsoom!

And that's where this third issue begins, with John Carter landing on the planet (sans clothing so again readers use caution!), discovering his new found abilities and...well if you read A Princess of Mars you know the rest as this issue follows the the novel closely-the incubator, meeting Tars Tarkas, sakking, Sola and the introduction of every one's favorite Calot (which art-wise looks to have been inspired by this piece of art done for the Paramount movie version http://www.erbzine.com/mag23/wool02.jpg ) .

Again like the last issue, this one shows signs of improving. Of course now with John Carter on Barsoom the story will seem overly familiar to readers of the novels and that might seem a little boring since we know where the story is going but maybe that's for the best. If anything we'll be spared shape shifting Therns. There are some nice touches I did like in this issue-the Tharks' dialogue is presented in alien symbols, which makes the read feel as alien as John Carter and the design of Korad the abandoned city that John Carter is taken to. Also cool is some drawings of the inner bone structure of a Thark included in a text piece "written" by John that explains the effects of Mars on his physiology as well as how it affects the Tharks.

So we finally get the good stuff. And the next issue finally promises the arrival of the most beautiful woman of two worlds (just in time for her own series to start). About time!

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Dejah Thoris Gets Her Own Comic


Some news courtesy of Marooned http://sffbooksonmars.blogspot.com/ According to the site Comic Book Resources http://www.comicbookresources.com/?page=article&id=29893 Dynamite will be publishing Warlord of Mars: Dejah Thoris, a spinoff of their current Warlord of Mars series. The book will be a prequel, following the adventures of Dejah before she meets John Carter, and I'll let writer Arvid Nelson explain: "Burroughs left so many tantalizing breadcrumb trails in the first few Mars novels, but he never followed most of them. This series is going to follow some of those trails. We're going to see how Dejah Thoris' kingdom of Helium rose to preeminence. We're going to see her first suitor. And we're going to see Dejah herself kick some ass. She's a great character, totally deserving of her own series. It's great having her in a more active role." More Dejah the better I say! The book is set to hit comic racks March 2011.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Conan Renamed and Reshoots


CROM! More news from the upcoming Conan reboot. First up the film has been renamed, originally just Conan, then Conan 3D (Crom no!) to (wait for it...) Conan the Barbarian! So much for trying to distance themselves from Arnold. The second news comes from Conan The Movie Blog that is reporting that producers Nu Image have ordered reshoots after a test screening of the film http://www.conanmovieblog.com/2010/12/08/conan-the-barbarian-early-test-screenings-provoke-reshoots/. Usually this is a bad sign that things aren't working and they're trying to salvage it. We'll just have to wait and see on August 19, 2011 if it helps.

Friday, December 10, 2010

New Thor Poster AND TRAILER!


With the trailer for the film hitting the Internet latter today-early descriptions imply that it is an edited version of the longer Comic-Con reel that popped up online months ago-Marvel has released its first teaser poster for the film, showing off the God of Thunder and his big hammer. I'll add a link to the trailer when it shows up. UPDATE: Well it's here http://movies.yahoo.com/movie/1810026342/video/23447610 I'll save my rant about how annoying Yahoo is for another time and just enjoy the show

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Thark Choreography Video


Another post for the day. This time a friend emailed me a video link on Youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ff_FuWLbUqw with the title "Paradox Pollack - Alien / Creature Choreographer." The video's description is that it was a bid for an upcoming sci-fi flick involving "12 foot 4 armed green bug aliens from Mars." I don't know if Mr. Pollack-whose other credits based on info from IMDB includes playing an "infected" creature in I Am Legend, stunt double for actor Colm Feore on the upcoming Thor and creature choreographer for JJ Abrams' Star Trek-was hired for John Carter of Mars or not but the video shows him and others working out the ways a Thark could move and fight. Hope you guys enjoy the video.

Lynn Collins Tweets John Carter of Mars


Our old friend at http://www.barsoomia.org/ has dug up some Twitter comments from none other than Dejah Thoris herself. The tweets were apparently made while filming was going on in Utah and...well there wasn't much to report, except that Utah looked great and had some weird weather. The last comment posted though was interesting: "did some final photo kills for jcom...we worked hard and it looks great." I guess I need to brush up on my movie speak-does anyone know what "photo kills" are? PR shots possibly? You can read more at Barsoomia and check out Ms. Collins' other posts at http://twitter.com/lynncollins7

Monday, December 6, 2010

The Lost Continent Goes Graphic


It looks like Warlord of Mars isn't the only comic book adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs we have in the works. Coming out December 28 is a full graphic novel version of The Lost Continent, one of Burroughs' lesser known novels from Random House http://www.randomhouse.com/catalog/display.pperl?isbn=9789380028316 as part of a deal with a company called Campfire Graphic Novels out of India, which specializes in adaptations of classic novels. And that's not the only ERB-inspired comics coming from the company. A week later, on January 4, 2011, adaptations of The Land That Time Forgot and The People That Time Forgot will also be released, so check your local bookstores or Amazon.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

30 Years of Flash Gordon


All together now...GORDON'S ALIVE!

Yep, this Sunday, December 5, marks the 30th anniversary of one of the campiest (if not THE campiest) sci-fi spectacles ever to reach the big screen. So let's hop into a rocket and look back at Flash Gordon in all of its disco-era glory.

I first saw it probably around 1984 when it my parents finally got HBO. At the time I was completely unfamiliar with the character of Flash Gordon-the local newspapers didn't carry the comic strip (even though they did have The Phantom, go figure) and the Buster Crabbe serials were not being ran on TV at least around where I lived. So my first introduction to the world of Mongo was Sam Jones-fully dubbed-as Flash, Max Von Sydow's gleefully evil Ming, the kitschy spaceships and Queen belting out the title theme. At the time I was unaware of the film's reputation-a critical and commericial disappointment-and just sat there I'm sure slack jawed at what I had just seen. Of course as I got older and discovered both Alex Raymond's work and the Crabbe serials, I began to see why so many despised this version. It had taken a serious piece of 1930s sci-fi pulp and turned into a Vegas stage act. It was the Batman television series run riot.

Looking at the film now I have to admit it is a definite guilty pleasure but it does have its strengths. The supporting cast is rich-from Von Sydow to a pre-Bond Timothy Dalton channeling Errol Flynn as Prince Barin to Brian Blessed's Vultan, probably the film's best performance to the sexy Ornella Muti as Princess Aura-all of them give it their all. The effects, while laughable I'm sure for even 1980, at least stick close to the design of the comic strips. And the last 30 minutes-the Hawkmen attack and Flash becoming the ultimate wedding crasher-is a rousing finale. I admit it does have its problems and just flat out silliness-the fact that Flash comes out of the swamp of Aboria both spotless and with perfect hair is laughable, the character of Zarkov-played by Topol-borders on ludicrous in this version, the Darth Vader inspired Klytus, the bizarre Wizard of Oz references and two rather flat leads in Jones and Melody Anderson, even though both try with what they're given.

So is Flash Gordon an over the top romp? Yes it is- a glorious one, the type they just don't make anymore. I guess you can give credit to director Mike Hodges (even if he has admitted it virtually destroyed his career) and producer Dino De Laurentiis (may he rest in peace) for having the guts to make such an outrageous epic. Here's to you Flash, the one savior of the universe who never fails!