Sunday, December 30, 2012

Book Review: Tarzan and the 'Foreign Legion'


As we close out 2012, I thought I would post my last book review of the year with the final adventure penned by Edgar Rice Burroughs, bringing full circle the centennial of the Lord of the Jungle.

With World War II raging, an American reconnaissance plane is shot down over the island of Sumatra, leaving most of the crew dead. Among the survivors are the pilot, Capt Jerry Lucas; Sgts. Joe Bubonovich and Tony "Shrimp" Rossetti; and British RAF Captain John Clayton. Eventually the group discovers the island is crawling with Japanese forces, rebels and villagers and Corrie Van Der Meer, a young Dutch woman whose parents were brutally killed by the invading forces. It will take all this small group has to escape from capture and find a way off Sumatra. Of course when your RAF Captain happens to be the famous Tarzan of the Apes the odds probably just got better.

Written in 1944 but not published until 1946, Tarzan and the 'Foreign Legion' was the last complete novel Burroughs would write. Having witnessed the bombing of Pearl Harbor while living in Hawaii, Burroughs had volunteered as a war correspondent-in fact the world's oldest war correspondent-and brought that experience to his tale. What is refreshing here is that clearly time away from churning out Tarzan adventures reinvigorated Burroughs as the tale is a fast-paced and often violent tale that grips the reader from start to finish. Burroughs gives his characters enough personality-most of I admit cliched-but like any war film you end up rooting for them. He also plays well with stereotype, portraying both Corrie and the female Eurasian Sarina as smart, resourceful women who don't just stand around and scream.

Burroughs also plays with the character of Tarzan and the formula that had set in. There is no lost civilization here, no clueless or ruthless safaris, just soldiers trying to survive and Tarzan doing his best to help them with his jungle skills and willingness to jump on tigers. He also tangles with orangutans and finds a substitute Nkima named Keta. Burroughs also plays with the character's fame to humorous effect. When Tarzan reveals who he is Shrimp immediately confuses him with Johnny Weissmuller, a reference is made to long time Tarzan film producer Sol Lesser and there is discussion about how Tarzan's stories go way back and are familiar to his fellow soldiers. There is also a brief section where Tarzan talks about how he has lived so long, thanks to saving a witch doctor and those immortality pills he and Jane found in Tarzan's Quest. He however admits that in the end death always wins, an indication that as he was nearing the end of his life Burroughs wasn't immune to thoughts of leaving this world.

On the flip side the book is a product of its time, which means the Japanese are portrayed as stereotyped killers with no remorse and I admit it will leave a sour taste to some readers. You'll just have to remember the time period it was written in and the audience Burroughs was writing for at the time. The book also dabbles in war story cliche more than once, with its ethnic heroes hurling insults at each other, the long marches and constant gun battles can wear one out after a while.

That said Tarzan and the 'Foreign Legion' is an entertaining tale and a nice close to the career of a great story teller. It may not reach the heights of Burroughs' greatest but as a curtain closer it's damn good. Rating: ***1/2 out of 4.

Thursday, December 27, 2012

Book Review: John Carter 3D (A Golden Book)


I promised book reviews, so let's kick off with the book that will take you 3 minutes to finish.

The second of three children "Golden Books" released to promote the movie (you can read my review of another one at http://www.jcomreader.blogspot.com/2012/10/review-john-carter-adventures-on.html), John Carter 3D is the most pricey (7 bucks) and quite honestly the most empty. Unlike Adventures on Barsoom which had puzzles to work, this one is nothing more than a picture book with brief captions describing the characters with the added bonus of 3D glasses.

But like the movie, the 3D is pretty much pointless, plus its those green and red deals that mostly succeed in giving people migraine headaches so it doesn't add much. As for the pictures most of them you've seen before-Dejah holding her sword, etc. On the plus side there is some unintentional laughs with the captions. Sola for example "is given the duty of teaching John Carter the ways of the Tharks." In A Princess of Mars yes, in this movie all she does is give him some voice juice and gets kicked around for it. I also had a laugh-a sad laugh-on Matai Shang's page, describing how Carter begsin to "uncover the true role the Therns play in the conflict on the planet Barsoom." Given that Shang didn't even have a verbal reason for his role did the people who wrote these have access to a different script? Or some other piece of information?

Oh well. Considering the utter lack of merchandise Disney released this will have to do. But I would recommend trying to find it cheap since honestly bad 3D isn't worth 7 bucks.

Wednesday, December 26, 2012

John Carter Up for Collider's Poll of Year's Best


I hope you guys and girls had a safe and Merry Christmas. Thanks to the holiday haul I'll have some upcoming and belated reviews soon but for now some FYI news. Collider is running a poll, asking movie fans to vote for "Your Top 10 Movies of 2012" and John Carter is among the nominees. So if you want to prove-at least to Collider-that Carter and company are among the year's best hit http://collider.com/top-10-movies-2012-poll/220021/ and cast your vote. And for those of us who thought less of the greatest moper of two worlds...well you can vote too.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Book Review: John Carter & the Gods of Hollywood



So, the world didn't end? Talk about disappointing your audience. How's that for a segue way for a review?

At this point every Edgar Rice Burroughs fan and fans of Andrew Stanton's John Carter can tell you the basics of what happened-massively expensive movie+bad buzz and press=box office bomb. Now the merits of the film itself has been debated (and will be before this review ends) but did John Carter deserve it's fate as the 21st Century's answer to Ishtar?

John Carter Files creator Michael Sellers' book makes the argument that it didn't, that like all things it was a combination of elements that resulted in the film's final box office fate. It's that point of view that fuels through Gods of Hollywood and gives for fans some idea of what went wrong.

The first few chapters give a brief history of Burroughs, A Princess of Mars and John Carter's tortured path to the motion picture screen before that fateful day in 2007 when former Disney Chairman Dick Cook called Stanton and set this whole thing in motion. From there the book doesn't detail much of the production which it seems went smoothly contrary to the later press stories of out of control spending and reshoots but really digs in when it comes to Disney's handling of the film. If the book has a narrative through line its here and it is that the powers that be were lax at their jobs. A film studio chief too busy buying things instead of creating them? Check. A chairman apparently too afraid or uninterested in the film to challenge the director? Check. A marketing chief who had no movie marketing experience and who made bad calls? Check. A director in over his head and who contradicted himself? Sort of a check (more on that below). All of these characters show up and Sellers does his best to catalog every misstep-from name changes, lack of Internet exposure, middling trailers and posters to the final declaration that the film was a massive bomb that cost Disney a huge write-off. In some cases its hard to tell whether to sigh sadly about all of the incompetence present or just laugh at how more badly they could screw it up...only to screw it up even more.

It's all told with a nice, direct style by Mr. Sellers. Probably the most interesting parts-at least from a fan's point of view-is where he takes breaks from the film's saga to relate his own personal interest John Carter of Mars and his own disappointment and bewilderment at what was happening. One of the most eye opening chapters is a meeting with some of the Disney PR people and the realization that they were set on their course and were not going to change it no matter what.

That said while I don't want to criticize his work all that much there are a few elements here that I don't agree with and some nitpicks. Part of this is a difference of opinion concerning one area-Andrew Stanton. Sellers gives him in the book not a total 100 percent support but clearly isn't as critical as some of us who were disappointed with Stanton's approach would probably like it to be. It doesn't help that-though I'm sure this was unintentional-with all of his comments here it comes across more that Stanton was oblivious to both his belief that his infallible "Pixar Method" would work despite never having been tried on a live action film, his disregard for actually helping promote the film early on (only when it seemed to be getting bad press did Stanton make any effort to go on Twitter to reach out) or the fact that he really was never a fan of the books and thought very little of Burroughs' gifts-most notably when it comes to his handling of the character of John Carter. In short while it may not present a version of Stanton as some dictator or mad perfectionist (no stories of waiting for perfect clouds a la Michael Cimino's Heaven's Gate) I still came away not liking Stanton or wanting to see him continue with John Carter. A reboot yes I'm all for that but not another round of Shape Shifter Shang and Whiny Emo Carter.

The other flaws are as I said more nitpicks either over some notable absences (even though all of the previous attempts to film John Carter are mentioned there is no word on the Asylum version of Princess of Mars at all outside of one reprinted comment from a web site) and while he does a commendable job of avoiding falling into conspiracy theorizing as some have, Sellers comes close with-what was clearly shoved in late in the editing process-the idea that Disney chief Robert Iger allowed Carter to be sacrificed in order not to jeopardize his deal to buy Lucasfilm and Star Wars. Since there is no hard evidence of this-and George Lucas' on the record comments about how Burroughs influenced Star Wars-it comes too close to finger pointing and in some respects sour grapes. Sorry have to call it like I see it.

Outside of that John Carter and the Gods of Hollywood is a well-written take from a fan of a story that hopefully will have a better ending in the future. After all John Carter saved Barsoom so one man can make a difference. OK I'll give it a ***1/2 out of 4 rating and go from there.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Lynn Collins Makes Den of Geek's Top 10 List


While we wait the end of the year (or just The End) more best and worst of lists are still arriving. This one though caught my eye: Den of Geek writer Mark Harrison's list of the "10 Underrated Film Performances" of 2012 which he gave praise to Ms. Collins for her turn as Dejah Thoris, writing "In a year of strong, well-rounded female characters, Collins does a great job of portraying more than just a love interest, but a character with the smarts and resourcefulness to be the most watchable part of the film." Considering she gave the film's best performance I'll second that comment. You can check out the rest of his list at http://www.denofgeek.com/movies/23878/the-10-underrated-film-performances-of-2012.

Friday, December 14, 2012

Movie Review: The Hobbit-An Unexpected Journey


I admit I was debating whether or not to post this today due to the tragic events that occurred (and my prayers go out to those affected by this event). But as I began to think about this, the one thing that keeps us going is hope, love and friendship and at times the need to escape from our world. So here is my thoughts on a film that in many ways-sometimes brilliantly, sometimes awkwardly-reafirms all of that.

After a brief reintroduction to old Bilbo Baggins (Ian Holm) and his nephew Frodo (Elijah Wood) as they prepare for Bilbo's birthday, we are told of the downfall of the dwarves of the Lonely Mountain, whose gold and kingdom are taken over by the dragon Smaug. Several years later the heir to the Mountain, Thorin Oakenshield (Richard Armitage) had decided to reclaim his homeland and has turned to the wizard Gandalf the Grey (Ian McKellan) for help. Gathering 12 other dwarves, Gandalf picks a 13th member-Bilbo (played as a younger hobbit by Martin Freeman). At first Bilbo is reluctant to go but decides to join the quest despite his lack of experience of the oustide world and the doubts of Thorin. Along the way the group encounters hungry trolls, orcs, a white orc known from Thorin's past known as Azog and a creature named Gollum (Andy Serkis)...as well as a gold ring that holds more power than any of them realizes.

I will admit it's been a long time since I read J.R.R. Tolkien's original novel The Hobbit. I always remember loving it, even more in some cases that The Lord of the Rings for its simpler narrative. It's that narrative that Peter Jackson and his co-writers (including original director Guillermo del Toro) have stretched out as has been announced to three movies. That explains why An Unexpected Journey is more setup than anything else with subplots being introduced that won't be resolved until the next two films. Among them the discovery of a necromancer bringing back the dead by the wizard Radagast the Brown and the continuing pursuit by Azog seeking vengeance against Thorin for cutting off his arm. I can understand why some critics are complaing about all this setup, especially since this first movie runs only 10 minutes shy of 3 hours and some of this detracts from the main story. But I think some of them are forgetting how much The Fellowship of the Ring did the same thing. That film was filled with lots of setup, long meetings and discussions before the story began to move forward and the story took hold.

What keeps the film involving at least for me was the major characters. Taking over the role of Bilbo Martin Freeman does a good job balancing the fact that the character is a fish out of water, wanting to go home but coming through when necessary. The other newcomer that stood out was Armitage who had the tougher role of Thorin, since he spends quite a bit of the movie as an unlikable, somewhat pompous dwarf whose hatreds threaten to derail the quest. However the two shining performances though come from McKellan, bringing a twinkle, humor and charm to Gandalf and Serkis, who reinhabits Gollum's skin to visceral effect. He steals the show plain and simple with his brief screen time and the game of riddles is the high point. There is also the welcome appearances of Hugo Weaving's Elrond, Cate Blanchett's Galadriel and Christopher Lee's Saurman, along with Holm and Wood. Their presence gives the film a welcome comfort zone, something that I always felt was missing in the Star Wars prequels.

Also the film is a grand display of technical wizardry. You can tell how much technology has jumped since 2003 by looking at how fleshed out Gollum is. The rest of the effects-from Azog to the Jabba the Hutt-like Orc ruler beneath the mountains to the trolls-are all brought to life vividly. There is also breathtaking shots of Middle-Earth, with Jackson's camera flying all over. If nothing else An Unexpected Journey should be seen for that. (I also will note that I saw the movie in standard 2D, not 3D or the debated 48 frames per second version that is causing much discussion. Even in standard the movie looked vibrant so I would suggest just go with that).

I'm not going to say that The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey reaches the heights of The Lord of the Rings trilogy. It's a little flabby I'll admit but it's also a loving return to a land many fell in love with years ago. The film is comfort and as I said at the start a reminder of the things that matter most and that needs to be restated from time to time. Rating: *** 1/2 out of 4.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

John Carter: A Future Cult Classic?


It's Opinion Time! Without Jake the Dog and Finn the Human (or is the other way around?).

With 2012 coming to a close critics left and right have been releasing their best and worst lists of the year and John Carter is making a few. Our pal at The John Carter Files listed two lists that Carter made. It came in number 2 on Time Magazine's worst of movie list but also made Moviefone's list of the 10 Movies Audiences Missed this year, proclaiming it will become a "genuine cult classic." Apparently neither critic is alone. In a case of spilt personality Entertainment Weekly also has Carter on its picks of worst and cult lists, in this case critic Owen Gleiberman called it the worst film of the year while another sides with Moviefone, claiming it's not as bad as its current reputation suggests.

So is John Carter a prime candidate for cult classic status?

I admit that I made a snarky comment on JCF about this, saying that John Carter will become a cult classic the same way that Plan 9 From Outer Space is one, a cult film celebrated not for its brilliance but for everything it got wrong. I know that sounds mean spirited to compare Andrew Stanton's film to Ed Wood's epic but it has to do with the disappointment I feel with the film and the fact that I don't see what the film's defenders see in it.

But it raises a point about cult films. That it takes time for a film to become a cult film, even one like Plan 9. A prime example that many roll out is Ridley Scott's Blade Runner. Now it's seen as a classic, an brilliant study of humanity and Scott's masterpiece. Back in 1982? Mostly it was seen as a downer in the summer of ET, a case of style over substance and audiences had a hard time buying Harrison Ford playing such a conflicted character after Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark. Over time though its stature grew and the complaints about it at the time fell away. It is possible that in 10, 20 years time the complaints I have about John Carter could disappear, that the initial disappointment and anger I felt over it has vanished and I can look at it fresh.

The bigger question though is will the audience that didn't show up for it, that stayed away, will they join the cult of Woola? Will they be able to overlook the negative press about the budget, its poor box office and mixed critical reaction to see the film unbiased? Recently the restored director's cut of the infamous Heaven's Gate has been making the festival circuit and a Blu-Ray release from the high end Criterion Collection and in a few reviews of it I read the consensus is that while its not some masterpiece it is not the total disaster that its reputation-influenced by the stories of out of control spending and directorial excess similar to the stories that now surround Carter-suggests. Most of that opinion I suspect is that the reviewers are seeing it fresh, without the hoopla attached that was back when it came out. And that might be the way for John Carter to achieve that cult status, to be looked at without the negative stories, articles about box office or old fuddy duddies like me complaining about Stanton's mishandling of Edgar Rice Burroughs.

So we'll see in time. Who knows, maybe in 20 years time I'll like John Carter's dead wife and Shape Shifter Shang. If not, well it can make a great double bill with Plan 9.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Man of Steel Trailer 2


With The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey a mere three days away Warner Bros has unleashed the new trailer for Zack Snyder's Superman reboot and it looks really good. Watch it and let us know what you think.

Sunday, December 9, 2012

Comic Review: Dejah Thoris #19


Again no snappy opening. So let's continue Dejah the Vampire Slayer!

When we last left off, Dejah had just been betrayed by the Palidor Svero to the Vatheks in exchange for his family. Sent to what seems to be her doom on the main planet of Strio (Saturn) Dejah instead finds herself in the castle of the  Vanthek Dagur Andlaust, who having tasted her blood has fallen for the princess (who hasn't at this point?) Offering her eternal life Dejah agrees if he will help her save Barsoom from the Vathek's plans. Working with the surviving Palidor rebels, Dejah and Dagur launch a final attack that could possibly save Barsoom and damn Dejah at the same time.

With this issue wrapping up the "Vampire Men of Saturn" storyline we see both the good and bad sides of the story. On the good side writer Robert Napton continues building up Dejah's character, her willingness to sacrifice herself for her people and her search for redemption. On the bad side, a vampire falling in love with his intended? While we're spared any sparkly vamps or True Blood bouncy bouncy this plot twist is a little tired, even though Dagur gets a heroic send off. I guess after the last two storylines of witches, demon possession and vampires I'm ready for the return of Swashbuckling Dejah and less resembling Dark Shadows (the TV classic, not the Johnny Depp fiasco).

Debora Carita continues to provide the artwork and it's still nice and colorful. The last few pages when Dejah and Dagur's plans begin have a nice burst of energy and vivid excitement that helps carry the reader to the end.

The next story arc promises Dejah returning to Barsoom and facing a growing underworld. While this story arc was fun, I'm ready for some action and a return to Burroughs style pulp. Until next time faithful readers.

Saturday, December 8, 2012

Comic Review: Lord of the Jungle #10


Let's just jump in shall we?

When we last left off, Tarzan and D'Arnot had lost the elusive Rokoff at a party at the Count DeCoude's house. They find him, but during the stand off and struggle Rokoff manages to get away with the valuable pages that lead to Opar. After a heart to heart with Paul, Tarzan agrees to return to Africa and stop Rokoff from finding the fabled lost city. Rokoff however has taken on a new identity and some new traveling companions-Jane Porter and Cecil Clayton. Tarzan isn't too far behind though as he meets a tribe that can possibly lead him to Opar but will have to prove himself to gain their trust.

As you can tell from this overview, a lot of the second book has been eliminated, condensing Tarzan's time in Paris and his meeting the Waziri along with giving Rokoff an actual goal compared to just causing mischief as he does in the novel. While this might cause some grumbling, especially compared to how faithful he's been to the Barsoom books in the Warlord of Mars series, Arvid Nelson still delivers a good, fast paced read. If anything the plot of an outsider trying to find Opar and its vaults of gold was used by Burroughs himself in both Tarzan and the Jewels of Opar and Golden Lion so I don't have a problem with this change to the story.

I'll just give my usual glowing notice for Roberto Castro's artwork. Seriously how many times can I say how great it looks and how well he captures the look of Tarzan?

Fans of Tarzan and old fashioned pulp adventures will enjoy this issue, a great combination of art and writing that manages to capture the reader and pay homage to Burroughs' style and sense of excitement and fun. What more do you want?

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Star Trek Into Darkness Teaser Trailers


Or what they're calling "announcement" teasers. In either case here's the first glimpse of JJ Abrams' sequel, filled with explosions, running and villain seeking "vengenace." Take a peek at both the English version and then the longer Japanese cut and decide-is the threat Khan? Is that blonde woman exchanging smiles with Kirk Carol Marcus? And is the Enterprise rising or falling into the ocean?




Tuesday, December 4, 2012

John Carter Nominated for Annie Award


With the movie award season starting, it looks like John Carter might get some respect after all. Following being short listed for the Visual Effects Oscar comes another, in this case from the Annie Awards-which honors the best in animation-for best "Animated Effects in a Live Action Production." You can check out the rest of the nominees at http://www.ropeofsilicon.com/2013-annie-award-nominations-announced/.

Monday, December 3, 2012

New Man of Steel Poster


It's new poster time. Following the new one sheet for Star Trek Into Darkness (check the side of this blog if you haven't seen it yet) comes this new one showing Henry Cavill's Superman, in handcuffs. I guess we'll find out why when the movie comes out next year or maybe next week when the new trailer premieres-along with Trek-in front of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Comic Review: The Once And Future Tarzan


As usual I can't come up with an opening so let's just hit the basics and go from there.

After having faced numerous foes-both human and animal-John Clayton now faces the future. In this case a future England that has survived the apocalypse leaving scattered survivors. When Clayton is attacked by a group of female warriors, they learn he is the one they are looking for, someone who is "man and ape and more..." Agreeing to go with them to their leader, the wise Mu Kalan, Clayton and the warriors find a wounded but fierce Tantor, spider-like creatures with human heads called atterzarfs and the revelation that he is John Clayton, Lord Greystoke, better known as Tarzan of the Apes. He's also 300 years old. Eventually Tarzan has to lead the group into battle against a military outfit known as the Cabal and has to use his wits and his centuries of jungle knowledge to survive.

Originally published as a three part serial in Dark Horse Presents, this one shot is, well the word would be interesting. The idea of sending Tarzan into a post-apocalyptic world and having him become a savior it an unique concept, one that writer Alan Gordon exploits to his best efforts. I guess where I have some problems with it is the fact that the reader is dropped into the story without much setup on how the Earth reached this state or what the Cabal really is beyond looking and acting like escapees from a Rambo film. There is some nice touches here and there and welcome cameos from Jad-Bal-Ja and Jane Clayton herself riding an elephant into battle that helps the story along but I still felt it could have used more space to fill in the blanks.

The one reason to get this issue though is the artwork, done by long time Tarzan fan and artist Thomas Yeates. Yeates brings a nice subdued look to the characters and backgrounds, with the color work by Yeates and Lore Almeida having a nice water color look to them. I did like Tarzan resembling Johnny Weissmuller, helping the issue pay tribute to both the book and film Tarzan as well as the handling of Jane and the female warriors, Jad and the animals and the look of a destroyed London.

To wrap up I'm giving a thumbs up for The Once and Future Tarzan. While I had some qualms over the story its still an interesting approach to a Tarzan tale, one that I hope might be expanded upon in a future series. Throw in Yeates' great artwork and its a no-brainer. Pick this up if you love Tarzan or just great art period.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

Comic Review: Warlord of Mars #22


After a two month absence, John Carter returns!

After surviving Matai Shang's trap for him, Carter takes off in pursuit of the Thern leader and his captives when a lucky shot from Thurid's gun damages his one man flier. Crash landing in a forest, Carter and Woola find themselves in the nation of Kaol, whose inhabitants still cling to the fallen religion of Issus and are playing host to Shang. Carter does find an ally in the Jeddak of Ptarth, Thuvan Dihn, when he rescues him from a group of green men that Carter suspects was setup by the Therns. Eventually both men find the ruler of Kaol beginning to question Shang's motives and when he disappears agrees to help Carter and Thuvan Dihn pursue him. Their trek eventually finds them heading to north in search of a "pure race" that still worships the Therns...

As the second part in their adaptation of The Warlord of Mars, this adapts the novel quite well but throws in some interesting changes. The most notable is in the character of Phaidor, who throws herself between her father and Dejah Thoris and remarks how it was Dejah who helped her survive in the Temple of the Sun. We also get more development of Carter's friendship with Thuvan Dihn, since the story does eliminate some of the novel's plotting like Carter going undercover in Kaol. Admittedly most of this issue is talk with little action outside the opening and Carter's fight with the green men but its still skillfully done by Arvid Nelson and crew.

The major plus here is the artwork by Leandro Oliveira. In fact this might be the best artwork I've seen since the series began as he captures the characters with vivid colors and design. Carter looks less like Tarzan as he has in the previous issues while Oliveira brings the supporting cast alive as well. In particular-as anyone knows me-his Dejah is a knockout. Just take a look at the first page. There is also nice design work on the Kaolian jungle and throne room, an area the series has had problems with in establishing backgrounds.

As John Carter himself would say, Warlord of Mars still lives and is worth getting for fans and newbies to the saga. It's a grand pulp story, masterfully adapted and brought to life. What more do you want?

Friday, November 30, 2012

John Carter Second Trailer: One Year Later


Today marks a year since the release of the second trailer for John Carter, so to honor it here's a second look. You know before the dark times, before the flopping.

Thursday, November 29, 2012

John Carter on Shortlist for VFX Oscar


I guess Woola impressed them. Today the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences revealed their short list of 10 films that are eligible for the Oscar for Best Visual Effects and John Carter is among them. The list will be cut down to a final five after branch members see 10 minutes from each film on January 3, 2013. To check out more info and see the other nominees check out http://blogs.indiewire.com/thompsononhollywood/academy-reveals-visual-effects-shortlist-of-ten-including-john-carter-life-of-pi-and-the-hobbit

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Book Review: Tarzan The Centennial Celebration


It took a little longer to finish going through this but trust me. It's worth the time.

Since his first appearance 100 years in the All-Story magazine, Tarzan has become a household name, starring in countless movies, comics and novels. Its that diverse line-up that writer and Burroughs expert Scott Tracy Griffin charts in his new book, a lavishly illustrated and heavy (and I do mean heavy) exploration of the Ape-Man's journey from the mind of Edgar Rice Burroughs to pop culture icon.

The book is split into several sections, the first charting Burroughs' life and careers up until the publication of Under the Moons of Mars and then Tarzan of the Apes. After that the book devotes a lengthy section to breaking down each novel-all 24 of them-providing brief synopses and background information on each book, all supported by nice reproductions of original cover art and comic book adaptations. Afterwards, there's chapters on Tarzan's comic appearances, the radio and television shows and a long section on Tarzan's movie career, from the silents up to Disney's 1999 animated film. The last few chapters take a look at Tarzan's international appeal, various official print sequels (including recent novels like The Greystoke Legacy and Jane) and the formation of fan clubs and the Internet as a resource.

Writing with a nice, vibrant style, Griffin provides enough details on Tarzan to make any fan go gaga. There's break downs of the original magazine and book publications of each book and individual sections on such characters like Jane, the comparisons and contrasts between Korak and Boy and Cheeta and Nkima. There's also articles on Tarzan's foes, his tendency to lose his memory (which came from an actual incident Burroughs himself suffered from) and a section on the Pellucidar books tied into Tarzan At the Earth's Core. It's all given a good pace by Griffin without piling on too much information. There's also a nice intro by TV Tarzan Ron Ely and a good chapter looking at Burroughs' non Tarzan work that helps put Tarzan into perspective.

The book's major appeal though is the artwork that graces it. From cover art for the early pulps to the paperback covers of Frazetta, Neal Adams and others, the book is one of the most colorful I've seen in a long time. There's also a nice selection of comic book and strip art, images and behind the scenes pics from the various movie and TV shows, along with photos of Burroughs and his family and the author at work and at home in Tarzana.

There's a few quibbles to be addressed. First those looking for an in-depth critical assessment of the books or the movies will need to look elsewhere. As the subtitle states, this is a celebration so there isn't much criticism of the novels or the films (yes even the Bo Derek film escapes unscathed). There's also not much discussion of unauthorized Tarzan projects, with only a brief mention made of foreign film productions made in the chapter on Tarzan's international appeal.

Even with that this is still a magnificent book and a definite tribute to the character and his creator. For fans of Tarzan and Burroughs and those looking for a nice coffee table book with some actual meat to it, Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration is a must have. Just make sure to have a big enough table to place it on. Rating: **** out of 4.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Swords of Waar: Jane Carver Returns!


I hope you survived Thanksgiving and are making it through Black Friday. As some might remember, a few months back I reviewed a book called Jane Carver of Waar (if not here's the review http://jcomreader.blogspot.com/2012/03/book-review-jane-carver-of-waar.html), a parody/homage to Edgar Rice Burroughs. Well while doing some shopping I found out that author Nathan Long has released a sequel that find his Jane returning back to Waar to once again save the day. I ordered a copy so I'll have a review up soon but for now check out http://www.amazon.com/Swords-Waar-Nathan-Long/dp/1597804290/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353703110&sr=8-1&keywords=swords+of+waar for more info. (I did receive today Scott Tracy Griffin's Tarzan: The Centennial Celebration and will have a review up in the next day or so).

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Star Wars: Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg To Write New Episodes


Originally reported by Deadline and now the Hollywood Reporter is confirming that writers Lawrence Kasdan and Simon Kinberg have closed deals to write and produce Episode VIII and IX in the upcoming new trilogy http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/star-wars-lawrence-kasdan-simon-393459. The big news is the return of Kasdan, who co-wrote the scripts for The Empire Strikes Back and Return of the Jedi as well as Raiders of the Lost Ark. Both will be joining already announced screenwriter Michael Arndt who is writing the script for Episode VII. How's that for some news to give thanks for?

Monday, November 19, 2012

John Carter Blu-Ray Black Friday Deal


Some FYI for you shoppers this week. Amazon is having a pre-Black Friday sale with several Blu-Ray titles half off or even less. In this case they're offering the Blu-Ray/DVD combo John Carter for the grand total of 15 bucks http://www.amazon.com/John-Carter-Two-Disc-Blu-ray-Combo/dp/B007MDB71O/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1353378821&sr=8-1&keywords=john+carter. So if you didn't want to pay the full price or just saw this weekend on Starz you can now add it to your collection pretty reasonably.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Comic Review: Lord of the Jungle #9


This week's comic book review finds Tarzan heading to France. Viva La Jungle Lord!

Following his adventures in Baltimore, Tarzan hopes to find peace in Paris. But before he reaches land he ends up rescuing the Countess De Coude from two unknown assailants. Her attackers escape and her husband's response is to chew out Tarzan for being alone with his wife. Talk about gratitude! On reaching Paris Tarzan reunites with his friend Paul D'Arnot who fills in the blanks: the attackers were Russian spy Nicholas Rokoff and his associate Paulovitch, who are suspected of stealing an ancient manuscript that leads the to the fabled city of Opar. Another copy is kept by the Count De Coude, who is attempting to sell his copy to pay off debts. When D'Arnot suggests going under cover at a party the De Coudes are throwing to catch Rokoff, Tarzan agrees and the search is on! Oh and we find out that Jane Porter is heading back to Africa.

As you can tell from that description there has been some major reworking of the plot from The Return of Tarzan, in this case streamlining the novel's episodic nature to a single plot-Tarzan's pursuit of Rokoff to Opar. I admit that is actually a good idea as it focuses the story into a strong narrative and keeps Tarzan front and center. Also returning writer Arvid Nelson does some character restructuring to help keep up the drama. Turning De Coude into an obnoxious count does fulfill the plot requirements for this version, even though I miss the building up of his friendship with Tarzan from the novel. Nelson also gives Jane and Esmeralda in their brief appearance enough to work with. So while it doesn't stick to the novel, it retains enough flavor to keep it enjoyable.

The good news is the return of Roberto Castro to do the artwork after the last two issues. He brings a good hand to the characters, bringing back Tarzan and Jane as realistic looking characters while adding enough texture and color to keep the reader's eye glued to the page.

I'll end by giving this issue a good thumbs up. That's it, just buy it and enjoy the fun.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Alexander Skarsgard Top Choice For Tarzan


After hearing from one Tarzan comes word of a potential another. Variety is reporting that True Blood star Alexander Skarsgard is director David Yates' top pick for Warner Bros' upcoming live action version of the ape-man http://www.variety.com/article/VR1118062211?refCatId=13. The article also has a plot description and brace yourself ERB fans:

"John Clayton III, known around the world as the famous "ape man" Tarzan. Years after he's re-assimilated into society, he's asked by Queen Victoria to investigate the goings-on in the Congo. Tarzan teams with an ex-mercenary named George Washington Williams to save the Congo from a fierce warlord who controls a massive diamond mine."

Yeah. No word on Jane Porter but I guess we know not to expect a faithful adaptation. Variety is also reporting that Samuel L. Jackson is being eyed for the Williams part and that a green light should be coming soon to start filming next summer even though there is no official offer yet to either actor.

Kellan Lutz On Tarzan 3D


More ape man news. The Hollywood Reporter has posted a video inteview with Kellan Lutz discussing his work on the upcoming motion capture version of Tarzan and you can watch it at http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/heat-vision/breaking-dawns-kellan-lutz-tarzan-390124. The video is brief but Lutz does mention how the film is  one of his “favorite things I’ve done in my acting career," working with the motion capture and comparing Tarzan to his Twilight character.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

John Carter: The Comedy Version


Maybe this is how it should have been made. Youtube user Angerush has put together a trailer that asks the question: What happens when a hero who constantly bumps into things meets a princess who isn't the sharpest member of the royal family? A collision course of wackiness! Watch it and have a few laughs. :-)

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Comic Review: Dejah Thoris #18


Is it just me or is that cover art beautiful? OK moving on...

When we last left off, Dejah had been captured and taken to one of the moons of Saturn (or Xasoom) by the Vathek, a race of Saturnian vampires who plan to conquer Barsoom for fresh supplies. Dejah escaped with Svero, a member of the race of Palidors that the Vathek are feeding on. After a dangerous flight and learning that her density allows her to defy gravity, Dejah meets the Palidors' leader Julz and vows to help him stop the Vathek. But time is running out: the Vathek have sent an ultimatum to the people of Barsoom as well as a device that will destroy the atmosphere plant. Taking the risk, Dejah and Svero break into the Vathek headquarters. However everything is not how it appears.

Keeping the pace moving fast and clipped, writer Robert Napton manages to establish the threat and a course of action while keeping the storyline grounded in Dejah's quest to redeem herself. Her decision to help the Palidor people and to risk her own life to save Barsoom shows the character Edgar Rice Burroughs created, a woman willing to live and die for her people. I also liked how Napton worked in some interesting ideas like Dejah's abilities to jump mirroring her later husband's abilities when he arrives on Barsoom. Granted the twist at this issue's end should have been seen a mile a way but I'll wait and see how it plays out in the next issue.

Continuing to provide the artwork is Debora Carita and she manages to keep it nice and clean. Granted I still miss Carlos Rafael's work and there is some things I don't like-Dejah's wool socks for example-but Carita's design of the characters and ability to serve the story is a strong plus.

I have to say that so far this might be the best story arc for the series yet. So if you've written off Dejah Thoris, especially after the Boora Witch storyline, give it another try and you might enjoy it.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

Michael Arndt To Write Star Wars: Episode VII


Well here's one rumor that is true. The official Star Wars web site has confirmed that Oscar-Winning screenwriter Michael Arndt (Little Miss Sunshine, Toy Story 3 and the upcoming The Hunger Games: Catching Fire) has been hired to write the full screenplay for the next chapter in the saga. You can read the news at http://www.starwars.com/news/michael-arndt-to-write-screenplay-for-star-wars-episode-vii.html

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Review: A Princess of Mars (A Graphic Novel)


Because you can never have enough versions.

I had heard about this one and had seen some artwork on a web site but this had flown under my radar until I saw it at the local Barnes and Noble over the weekend and got a copy. Adapted by Ian Edginton (whose credits include an adaptation of The War of the Worlds for Dark Horse Comics as well as some Star Wars and Star Trek comics), this one wins the prize for being the most faithful of the three adaptations that have shown up in the past two years (the others being Dynamite's Warlord of Mars and Marvel's abysmal John Carter-A Princess of Mars). From the opening which keeps Burroughs' framing device right through it presents the entire novel with only some minor tweaks in dialogue and a few clarifications to keep it moving. I know some will find his approach boring and would welcome a more original take than just sticking to the original so you're warned.

For the artwork, the job here is handled by I.N.J. Culbard, who did art for the same original publisher, Self Made Hero, on adaptations of At the Mountains of Madness and a couple of Sherlock Holmes stories. The art here is, well muted in that it lacks the overly bright colors of the Dynamite comics. It also has a more retro feel to it, which actually helps tell the story without drawing attention to itself. I know that sounds strange but in comics sometimes artists seem to get carried away trying to wow the reader with splashy colors and action and Culbard instead goes with a more subdued palette. That's not to say it doesn't deliver action or there isn't some brightness. Just don't expect the standard comic book look.

Also don't expect clothing. This is definitely adult oriented so those who complain about Dejah's skimpy attire should probably just avoid it now.

I guess after having a swarm of John Carter of Mars comic books this past two years, I thought another one was overkill. But I'm pleasantly surprised how well this one turned out and how it pays tribute to Burroughs and his creation. So give it a chance if you're not burned out on Barsoom. Rating: ***1/2 out of 4. Next time I'll give opinions on the return of Tarzan and the dreaded Star Wars commentary.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

Tarzan: David Yates Set as Director


According to Vulture anyway http://www.vulture.com/2012/11/david-yates-committing-to-tarzan-at-warner-bros.html. Harry Potter veteran David Yates has agreed to direct Warner Bros' live action reboot of Edgar Rice Burroughs' Lord of the Jungle after much speculation over who would direct. The article also lists the studio's wish list to put on the loincloth with the top contenders being new Man of Steel Henry Cavill, Charlie Hunnam of Sons of Anarchy and the upcoming Pacific Rim, Christopher Nolan veteran Tom Hardy and True Blood star Alexander Skaarsgard. So there's this week's poll question and we'll see what Yates does with Lord Greystoke.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Star Wars Episode VII Rumor Time


Begun the Rumor Wars Have!

Yep we're just a few days after the big news of Disney's purchase of Lucasfilm and we already have two rumors hitting the web. The first comes from Collider's Steve Weintraub who reports that Matthew Vaughn (best known for Kick-Ass and last year's X-Men: First Class) is in talks to take the director's chair for the sequel http://collider.com/star-wars-episode-7-matthew-vaughn/208715/#more-208715. Topping that one is former LA Times Hero Complex writer Geoff Boucher whose reporting for Entertainment Weekly that Harrison Ford is considering reprising his role as everyone's favorite scruffy nerf herder Han Solo for the sequel along with a possibly returning Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher http://insidemovies.ew.com/2012/11/05/star-wars-sequel-harrison-ford-han-solo-exclusive/. We'll have to see if any of these stories turn out to be true but for now there you go. UPDATE: More rumors! In this case another name has been floated as a potential director, indie filmmaker Colin Trevorrow, whose feature Safety Not Guaranteed caught the eye of George Lucas himself while TMZ has a comment from Carrie Fisher who told them she was willing to return to as Princess Leia for the sequel. You can read the Trevorrow rumor here http://heyuguys.co.uk/is-safety-not-guaranteeds-colin-trevorrow-on-the-list-of-directors-for-star-wars-episode-7/ and Fisher's comments at http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=96798


Thursday, November 1, 2012

The Future of John Carter of Mars


Consider this an "Opinion Time" piece.

With only two months left in 2012, the 100th anniversary of John Carter of Mars will be coming to a close, not with a bang but with a whimper. What was supposed to be a big year for the character was mired in the box office failure and fallout of the John Carter movie, an event that in some people's eyes has now left the Warlord of Barsoom and his incomparable Princess Dejah Thoris in a no win situation. But as Carter himself always says "I Still Live" so the question is where does the future of the character lie? What follows is some thoughts on where I feel could happen and that might rejuvenate and rehabilitate the character's image to the public. Now I don't expect anyone to agree with me, nor do I expect that anyone from ERB Inc will care what I think should be done (if they even read this blog). But this is just some ideas from a fan. So to kick off:

John Carter of Mars' film future.
Let's be blunt here. Disney is not making a sequel. That was a forgone conclusion back in March when they declared John Carter cost them a 200 million write down and with this week's announcement of them gaining the rights to Star Wars unlikely that the studio has any interest at all in a second Carter film. Also director Andrew Stanton has already jumped ship to salvage his career with Finding Nemo 2 so there is no one probably even pushing for it at Disney. So the question is where to go with Carter's film future? Here's what is known: Disney holds the rights to John Carter until 2015 at which time they either had to make a second movie or release them back to ERB Inc. I don't know if ERB Inc can get them back earlier than that but this might be a course of action, especially since Disney has already washed their hands of it. But let's say for argument's sake that ERB Inc does get them back, what direction should they go in? I've already made it clear I'm a supporter of rebooting, of starting over and ignoring Stanton's film in favor of a film that is more faithful Edgar Rice Burroughs' novels and I feel that is where they need to go. Another option is to consider producing a film based on one of the later novels that possibly doesn't feature John Carter as a lead character, The Master Mind of Mars or A Fighting Man of Mars possibly.Or maybe another route is needed.

Television and Animation.
How about going with one of those? One of the major issues that some had with the books-especially those defending Stanton's tossing out the plot of A Princess of Mars-was the episodic nature of them, with some suggesting that the only way to do it and keep it faithful would be a TV series. Well why not? Granted I doubt a major network would be appropriate but as HBO, Showtime and Starz have shown, there are networks willing to take risks with unique material that doesn't have to appeal to a mass audience. And sometimes they hit pay dirt. Just look at Game of Thrones, which not only proves they can do a fantasy series and do it straight but can get viewers. Plus the HBO format of 12 episode seasons would be good a fit for John Carter of Mars since they can do a book a season. It could also serve as a fallback until a new movie gets made. Granted I understand the drawbacks, the chief being a budget. Stanton's film alone cost 250 million to produce but there is already some corners that can be cut: the FX budget for example could be spent on the Tharks, Woola and the White Apes instead of moving cities, shape shifting Therns or Carter's absurd jumping. Also with television there won't be any reshoot happy directors which could keep costs down.

The other option I mentioned is animation which could also be explored. After all Bob Clampett's surviving test footage shows it could be done. The question is which way to go with it. Personally I would love to see a John Carter of Mars animated show done old school with traditional 2D animation, along the lines of Filmation's 1970s Tarzan, Lord of the Jungle or Flash Gordon series. I however do understand the appeal of 3D animation given the fact that most animated shows with sci-fi or fantasy elements seem to be going in this direction. There is also the question of whether or not a series or just an animated movie would work best. If anything going with a movie-probably direct to DVD-might allow fans of Stanton's film their chance to see his version of The Gods of Mars with the original actors returning to provide voices (it was done for two animated Hellboy movies a few years back) so there is that avenue to explore.

New Books and Comics
Interestingly the one place where Barsoom has not been explored much has been the printed word. ERB Inc has recently allowed authors to play with Tarzan, turning him into a young adult hero and an object of lust for Jane so why not allow an author to explore Barsoom? Earlier this year an anthology book-not endorsed by ERB-called Under the Moons of Mars was released that while it had some uneven stories, showed there was writers I'm sure would be not only interested but willing to tackle the characters and world Burroughs created. I understand that some fans might be have doubts about a new author writing a John Carter of Mars novel-after all how many shelves are there filled with sub par Conan and Sherlock Holmes pastiches-but it may help get the character back on book shelves.

As for comics, well again we have some facts to work with. We know that ERB Inc made a big deal out of their contract with Marvel last year and that they also sued Dynamite Entertainment over their Warlord of Mars comics and spin offs. But here's the truth-without Disney putting pressure on them, its unlikely Marvel will continue with any new John Carter comics, as the lack of any announcement following the end of their Gods of Mars series indicates. I don't know where the lawsuit sets at this point but maybe its time to reach some sort of agreement and just allow Dynamite to continue. Because if not and the suit is awarded to ERB Inc then what? It will be like the movie, the rights will be stuck with a company that now has no interest and the character will disappear from comic stores.

I'm now opening this up to you guys. What are your thoughts on the future of John Carter of Mars and where he should go? Is there any other places that can be explored-merchandising for example-that can help keep the character going for another 100 years? Leave your thoughts and open up the discussion. We still live.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

Star Wars: New Trilogy from Disney


Yep that disturbance you felt was real. Several sites have confirmed that the Walt Disney Company has purchased Lucasfilm Lmd from George Lucas and has announced the start of a new Star Wars trilogy to begin in 2015. Coming Soon has the full press release here http://www.comingsoon.net/news/movienews.php?id=96524 and has comments from Lucas, including his plans to pass on the series to a new generation of filmmakers. The site also has a video of Lucas and new Lucasfilm chief Kathleen Kennedy talking about the Future of Star Wars so take a peek.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Comic Review: Lord of the Jungle #8


This weekend's other comic book review. Let's just jump in.

After failing to kill Tarzan before, gangster Robert Canler hatches a new plan: Abduct Jane and her father and use them as bait and leave a message for Tarzan where he can find them. And you can figure out the rest-Tarzan arrives and all hell breaks loose. Not much left to say there.

I know this plot description sounds really short but that's pretty much all that happens in this issue. As a bridge between adapting the first and second novels, its been handled well by writer Arvid Nelson, especially in extending Canler's role as Burroughs never did anything with the character afterwards. The story does setup some plot points for the next story arc, including Jane's doubts about Cecil Clayton and a theft involving a possible Russian spy so Nelson is connecting the dots. As for Tarzan he does his usual schtick-beating up bad guys and rescuing Jane.

For the artwork, Sergio Fernandez Davila handles the duties and does a good job with the characters. Given that most of the action takes place in a warehouse there isn't much bright colors or anything that really pops but Davila still manages to keep the action flowing and helps the story move swiftly.

In all not a bad fill-in issue. The next issue promises Tarzan's return to the jungle so we'll see where it goes. Take care and try to stay dry and safe.

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Comic Review: Warriors of Mars #5


OK the first of two comic book reviews this weekend brings us the "conclusion" to Gulliver Jones' tale...or does it?

After helping John Carter rescue Dejah Thoris from the Thithers last time, Gulliver decided to check out Barsoom's future, landing in the 29th century, only to discover that it's not how he thought it would be as he discovers Earthmen on Mars. Thanks to a "great catastrophe" the Earth has been destroyed and now Jasoomians are Terra forming Mars into another Earth and eliminating any remaining Barsoomian. Thinking Gulliver is a spy, an evil colonel has a "worm" implanted in his brain and dumps in the remains of Helium. Here he finds the last resistance being led by the last descendant of John Carter and Dejah Thoris: Dejah Carter, Warlord of Barsoom. Soon enough the bad guys arrive and Gulliver has to prove his worth to the distrusting Dejah and her Thark ally Tarkan Dar, leading to a new chapter in his life.

Yeah I know. It sounds like Edgar Rice Burroughs and Edwin Lester Arnold meets Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles with a dash of Avatar (the evil military colonel ready to slaughter the indigenous population) thrown in. For a first issue this would be a compelling opener but for what is being hyped as a last issue of a mini series its a little much. Let me restate that, its too much. In fact my major complaint here-and it applies to the series as a whole-is that it seems like there was three separate series planned and then condensed into one five issue series, leaving this reader with a serious case of whiplash. Robert Napton does his best here trying to balance the pieces but I feel this should have been separate from the get-go with a five issue adaptation of Gulliver of Mars, another series where he meets John Carter and this one as an the first chapter in a new series.

On the art front though, artist Jack Jadson still delivers a nice and pleasing look to the characters and some unique designs even if there is some bizarre choices. I don't know about you but being told its the 29th century and having Earthmen flying around in outfits that look like a cross between Buck Rogers and The Rocketeer would seem a little strange. Still it has been well drawn series from start to finish so Jadson gets a solid "A" in that department.

I'll wrap up here by giving Warriors of Mars a **1/2 out of 4. The artwork has been great but trying to condense three stories into one miniseries leaves little breathing room and not a lot of time to explore. Maybe this issue's ending is a setup for a continuing series of adventures which would be good since I hate to think its ending on such a note of uncertainty. I'll be back tomorrow.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

The Legend of Conan: Arnold Returns!


Apparently it's official. Deadline has confirmed that Arnold Schwarzenegger will reprise his role as the Cimmerian in The Legend of Conan, with a release date of 2014 being announced by Universal Pictures and Paradox Entertainment. As for the plot, the film's writer Chris Morgan told Deadline it will pick up after John Milius' 1982 original and ignore the campy Conan the Destroyer and last year's reboot with Jason Momoa. For more info, including comments from Arnold himself check out http://www.deadline.com/2012/10/arnold-and-conan-the-barbarian-reunited-universal-reboots-action-franchise-with-schwarzenegger/

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

John Carter Nominated For People's Choice Award


OK it's time to vote in the most important election of the year-Best Superhero! Yep despite whining about that cave of gold, Taylor Kitsch has landed a nomination in this category at the People's Choice Awards and the voting is now online at http://www.peopleschoice.com/pca/nominations/vote.jsp?pollId=120015. He's facing some stiff competition from Christian Bale's Batman and the entire cast of The Avengers (except Agent Coulson, start protesting!) but that's still some good news for fans. So take the time and vote (and you have to vote in every category for it to count, so you'll need some time).

Monday, October 22, 2012

Making of John Carter Clip


A little more video fun to start your week. This making of was previously posted on Disney's website so I don't know if most of you have seen it or not so have a look and see.

Saturday, October 20, 2012

Comic Review: Dejah Thoris #17


This week's comic adventure finds our intrepid princess facing her most dangerous foe yet. She took down a colossus, fought pirates, and faced possession by a witch and her own self banishment. But can Dejah Thoris stop the Vampire Men of Saturn?!?!?

Opening in a dream state, Dejah finds herself pulled back to reality when she remembers seeing a strange ship in the sky of Barsoom and being taken prisoner. She awakens to find herself a prisoner of the Vathek, a race from the sixth planet in our solar system (Dejah calls it Xasoom, to them its Strio). Landing on the moon Titan (or Vona) she finds an ally in Svero, a member of another race called the Palidor. He reveals that the Vanthek became infected with a plague that has caused their condition and are now planning to seek out new blood supplies with Barsoom their first stop. Its up to Dejah and Svero to escape and stop their plans, leading to a chase on winged creatures called dyrio that ends with Dejah...well I'll let you find out.

At this point the Dejah Thoris series has been the most divisive of Dynamite's Barsoomian series partly because the stories have went off in some offbeat directions. If it hasn't already happened I have the feeling that this one might be the make or break story arc for some who might have problems seeing Dejah fighting vampire men. On the other hand so far writer Robert Napton does a good job setting up the premise and not resorting to a supernatural explanation as in the Boora Witch arc. In fact the use of a plague as an explanation for the Vanthek brings to mind I Am Legend with its scientific reasoning for vampirism. I'm sure some will quibble over some of the plot twists or usage (Xasoom anyone) but so far so good.

On the art front Debora Carita returns from the previous issue and does a good job, even though I do hope Carlos Rafael returns soon. That said Carita brings a nice style to Vanthek's ships and the dryio. The designs of the Vathek are a little on the predictable side-at this point is there a new way to draw a vampire?-while Svero is actually drawn wearing Flash Gordon's outfit. Otherwise its got the same pleasing, colorful look as before.

I know that "Vampire Men of Saturn" might be pushing it. Even though Edgar Rice Burroughs himself gave us "Skeleton Men of Jupiter" so no one can complain about leaving Barsoom for a while. Fans of the series will I think enjoy this as long as they are open to the cross between Burroughs and Bram Stoker. Besides its October, so sink your teeth in and see what you think.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Review: John Carter-Adventures on Another World


Sorry for the lack of updates. I've been busy but I do have some reviews coming up. For now I thought I would take a look back at what little merchandise Disney did release from John Carter. I know some of you may ask why if I was mixed on this movie would I? Well despite a century in the public eye there has been little John Carter of Mars memorabilia to buy compared to say Tarzan. So yeah I've bought some of this stuff to satisfy the completest part of me. So with that out of the way...

With its promise of "Stickers, Codes, Puzzles, Mazes" Adventures on Another World was one of three children's activity books that Disney released through Golden Books and the least expensive (2.99). And well it delivers what it promises: Two pages of color stickers; some word scramble codes to be solved; puzzles that reveal secret clues and mazes that among other things reveals Sab Than's evil scheme and what Dotar Sojat means (in Stantonian terms). There's also some blank pages to practice up drawing Tharks, weapons and your very own tattoos.

Now I admit some nostalgia for old coloring books (heck I still have an uncolored Empire Strikes Back book from 1980) so I can see how this book might have some appeal, even though in this day of video games, IPads and other distractions I don't know if kids have the patience to solve puzzles. As for the adult fan what is there to interest them in this book? There is some nice black and white images from the movie, some of which I don't think I've seen released online, including some shots of Carter and Dejah exploring the Thark temple, more shots of the other characters and Lynn Collins showing some leg in her wedding dress.

It's not going to win a spot on any fan's list of prized possessions but given the lackluster work Disney did in this area, fans might want to snatch it up. Next time I'll be back with this week's Barsoomian comic book review and hopefully more news. 

Monday, October 15, 2012

John Carter of Nothing!


Leave it to the New York Comic-Con to provide laughs. In this case Next Movie has posted this humorous video clip showing a despondend John Carter attempting to conquer the convention. Have a good laugh and enjoy!

Get More:

For more from NextMovie: More videos | Trailers | Movie news | DVD & Blu-Ray

Saturday, October 13, 2012

The Art of Barsoom Video


Some more video fun. In this case a Youtube user named justatrolling has put together a cool video piece showing various artists portraying the world and characters of Barsoom. I hope you enjoy it.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Tarzan 3D New Teaser Poster


I'll just jump in here: A new poster has shown up showing off a new logo and a nice golden glow to the jungle. 

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Beatles At The Earth's Core


More fun from Youtube. In this case, an episode from the 1960s Saturday morning Beatles series that finds the Fab Four falling down a well and ending up in an "inner world" inhabited by dinosaurs, a beautiful princess and a bird like creature ruling over all of them. I don't know if the show's writers got the idea for this one from Edgar Rice Burroughs or not so take a peek and decide for yourself.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Book Review: Jane


As anyone knows who reads this site I can have a hard time coming up with witty openings. Here's one of those instances, so let's take a look at this retelling of a classic tale.

After a presentation at the Chicago Public Library where her findings are laughed at, a budding paleoanthropologist named Jane Porter meets struggling pulp writer Edgar Rice Burroughs. Having already published his first work-concerning a man going to Mars-Burroughs is looking for a new subject for a story. Agreeing to tell him her story, Jane relates her adventures that led to her discovery...and the lord of the jungle.

Working her way through England's Cambridge University as the first female medical student, Jane finds herself embraced by her scientist father Archimedes Porter and the cause of grief for her proper mother as Jane is more interested in cadavers than tea times. When a dashing stranger named Ral Conrath appears, promising to back an expedition to Africa, both Jane and her father leap at the chance to finally prove Professor Porter's theory about the missing link between man and ape. Arriving on the continent they meet other characters, including a Frenchman name Paul D'Arnot who agrees to go on the safari, but Jane discovers Conrath's true colors: He's helping the vicious King Leopold of Belgium find a path through Africa as well as find a fabled lost city that contains riches. When he betrays Jane and leaves her injured in the jungle, Jane finds herself suddenly rescued by a strange white man who she will come to know as Tarzan. Eventually she heals and both become teacher and student-she teaches him English and about his past, he teaches her about the jungle and leads her to the possible answer she is looking for, a tribe of creatures known as the Mangani. They both also learn about love as Jane finds herself falling for the savage but gentle Tarzan. Along the way there is danger and heartbreak and a final confrontation with Conrath that will change both Jane and Tarzan's future.

I'm sure I left something out but there is a lot of plot, subplots and twists and turns in Robin Maxwell's Jane: The Woman Who Loved Tarzan, a well-written and entertaining take on the classic Tarzan of the Apes. And while I did have some issues with the story I did enjoy it as a fun adventure novel with dashes of romance and danger.

The big difference here is the fact that it does retell the story from Jane's point of view and that Maxwell doesn't stick to Burroughs' original novel. While I know that will ruffle some purists, Maxwell at least tells the reader up front this. In fact it plays in well to the opening prologue of Burroughs' original novel as he mentions hearing the tale from someone "who had no business to tell it me" as he wrote. After that the novel takes on Jane's first person point of view as an independent woman. While I never found the Jane of Burroughs' novels a weak woman-especially in later entries like Tarzan's Quest-this Jane is a feminist before there was feminists, proving her opinion and wanting to expand her field of research. The opening sequences are more setup but once Maxwell shifts the story to Africa things open up and Jane becomes an engrossing read.

Which is good considering it takes a while for Tarzan to appear, even though Maxwell jumps around in time as she tells her story. The ape man here is presented as an outcast of the Mangani tribe but here he does remember his real parents as he was taken at age 4 and seeks revenge against the vicious Kerchak for their deaths. In that way his quest parallels Jane's quest to stop Conrath who she holds responsible for her father's misery. In these scenes the book comes alive as we see the emotional bond develop between Jane and Tarzan as she works to understand him and he teaches her about his life.

Don't worry though, it doesn't sink into the pretentious mess that the film Greystoke did as Maxwell keeps the story rooted firmly in the jungle and its mysteries. Eventually there is a city of treasures and massive earthquakes to provide some needed action sequences. There is also the final fights between Tarzan and Kerchak and Jane and Conrath.

There are some things to note though and some short comings. First Conrath isn't well developed beyond being a liar and a thief who at one points gropes Jane-in short a clone of Burroughs' villains like Nikolas Rokoff so he fits in but isn't given much to do and disappears for a long stretch. Also I didn't like Maxwell's rewriting of D'Arnot into a self-pitying drunk from the character in Burroughs. I understand this is her take but I still felt that character deserved better.

Probably the biggest change from Burroughs is that in this book Jane and Tarzan get physical-yes in that way. I get the feeling the major target audience is women as Jane relates her sexual yearnings, to the point that she spends an entire paragraph calling Tarzan's backside one of the seven wonders of the world. Now this material doesn't become salacious or vulgar-it's not Fifty Shades of Tarzan-it's still there so you might want to be prepared.

With all that said, I'm giving Jane a ***1/2 out of 4. It's an entertaining take on a classic tale that manages to keep the reader invested from beginning to end. So give it a chance and see what you think.

Monday, October 8, 2012

John Carter Premieres on Starz November 17


First I'm finished with Jane and will have the review up tomorrow. Moving from that, Starz has announced that John Carter will make its TV debut on November 17 at 9 P.M. So mark your calendars if you're a fan. If not, well you can practice up on your MST3K skills. Hi-Keeba! If you can't make that date check out http://www.starz.com/titles/johncarter for more air times and a short promo trailer.

Saturday, October 6, 2012

Comic Review: Dejah Thoris #16


Is it just me or are they knocking these out quickly? Oh well, more Dejah, more the merrier.

Still in her self-imposed exile from Helium, Dejah has now headed towards the frozen pole of Barsoom when she nearly is killed by an Apt. But fate intervenes in the form of a one-armed (with a hook!) Okarian who kills the apt and then offers Dejah a warm place to stay-as his slave. Not taking to the slave life lightly, Dejah manages to escape but now has two enemies to face, the Okarian and the Apts of the Carrion Caves.

As with the last issue, this one is pretty much a stand alone story with little in the way of forward momentum. In fact it's pretty basic storywise-Dejah gets herself in a pickle and gets out of it. Nothing too big and epic. That said Robert Napton does a good job letting us in Dejah's head as she still ponders her faith and wonders whether or not Issus is testing her. Plus it has a good with a hook for an arm. How can you beat that?

For the art we get yet another new artist to Barsoom, Debora Carita. Carita (whose previous credits include Wonder Woman) does a good job here, even though the standard bland background issues are there. She does manage to make Dejah look attractive yet vulnerable (even though it just could be me but wouldn't she wear more in the frozen wastelands of Okar?) and draws a mean looking apt, complete with a creepy bug head. Plus a guy with a hook. Have I mentioned that?

So this issue is an OK fill-in until the next story line starts. And if the promised title of "The Vampire Men of Saturn" is an indication, we'll get a doozy. Until next time, and I promise to have Jane finished I'll see you then.

Friday, October 5, 2012

Opinion Time: Are Damaged Goods Heroes Over?


I'm a 100 pages from finishing Jane, so I'll have my review up soon. But here's some food for thought for this Friday.

I have just read an article on the Guardian's web site where the writer was talking about the upcoming Man of Steel and how a recent comment by the film's writer David S. Goyer hints that Superman will not be a dark, brooding character, despite the involvement of Dark Knight director Christopher Nolan http://www.guardian.co.uk/film/filmblog/2012/oct/05/superman-man-of-steel-time. One of the major points brought up was that this year's biggest superhero film wasn't Nolan's The Dark Knight Rises but Joss Whedon's light and comedic The Avengers and how the landscape for the superhero has once again changed. It raises the question-are audiences done with brooding heroes and ready to embrace heroes who don't refuse the adventure? If the box office success of The Avengers and the poor US box office take of the recent Dredd are any indications than possibly yes.

And I'm sure you know where this is heading in reference to this blog. One of the biggest debates concerning John Carter was Andrew Stanton's stated decision to take Edgar Rice Burroughs' character (who Stanton dismissed in an interview as a "vanilla" do-gooder) and make him more "relatable" to audiences by turning him into a "damaged goods" hero. A hero who is reluctant to help. Or as he says in the film "It's not my problem." Now it is debatable how much of that had any impact on the box office but-if you look at how much has been written about it-the gloomy tone of the first trailer with Peter Gabriel's moody cover of "My Body is a Cage" and the shots of a depressed looking Taylor Kitsch and Lynn Collins definitely didn't inspire the buzz the film needed to succeed.

The issue for me with John Carter was how Stanton went too far with his "damaged goods" approach. The character's constant reluctance to help, his stated selfish goal only to return to his cave of gold-all of that began to wear on me as a viewer. Probably the biggest moment where this misfired was after the "Warhoon slaughter as Grief Counseling" sequence where-despite telling Dejah he was late before but won't be again-what does he do? He refuses to help her. Yep, he's all sorry that she has to marry that jerk Sab Than but he has his cave and his own dead wife and kid to mope over and her-and Barsoom's-problems are not his. This flew in the face of Burroughs' original character, a man who risked his own life to save Dejah over and over again, from the Tharks, the Warhoons, from marrying Sab Than...that was the character that has lasted for a 100 years and no one had a problem with him before. Except Andrew Stanton it seems.

The writer of the above mentioned piece makes an interesting statement that while he appreciates the approach that Nolan took with Batman, that Superman is different. Yes give him depth but don't remove the joy of being a man who can fly, a man who can save the world. Stanton missed that with John Carter and if The Avengers proved anything it's that people want their heroes and a good time at the movies. So here's the question: Do you think John Carter would have done better with a more pro-active and less reluctant damaged hero? Take a moment and ask yourself who would you want to be, Burroughs or Stanton's Carter and you'll have your answer.