Saturday, November 30, 2013

Comic Review: Dejah Thoris #32


The future is about to get changed. You know all timey-wimey style.

Rescued from her near drowning by her descendant Dejah Carter, Dejah Thoris learns that Barsoom has been invaded by Jasoomians terraforming the planet to make it habitable to them. In order to undo this a plan is hatched to find the time portal in Dorvas, which just happens to be where the new Atlantic Ocean is located. Facing no return to her own time, Dejah agrees to help the cause when the portal is found and brought to the stronghold of their enemies. Both Dejahs come up with a plan to get Dejah T. back to her own time and "unmake the future." An army of Doctors and TARDISes not included.

Playing with the whole time travel scenario, Robert Napton and company have fun with Dejah's reaction to her planet's future, not to mention her discovery of her future and her past. There is mentions of her husband to be and Lt. Jones (whose fate is still open) which helps add some texture to the whole story. Granted the whole solution to the story gets muddled as most time travel stories do but I have to admit having the most fun I've had with this series here.

The typical thumbs up for Carlos Rafael and his work, including some cool action sequences and cool design work, especially the Buck Rogers-esque Jasoomian flying humans. Even though I do think it's funny how more dressed Dejah C. is compared to her ancestor.

With a series that has been uneven as this one has this might be the best story arc that has been done for it. It captures the pulpy tone of Burroughs and offers up a nice escapist story to enjoy. So if you haven't pick up this issue, it's worth it. Next time we'll wrap up another Barsoomain comic book tale. Until then KAOR!

Friday, November 29, 2013

Opinion Time: Will "Tarzan" Swing High?


Or crash into that proverbial tree?

It's been a while since I did one of these but here goes. Since the release of the UK trailer for Constantin Films' Tarzan 3D Wednesday, it seems that the verdict on this latest glimpse of the film is not encouraging. In fact it's been pretty abysmal, with some sites like Geek Tyrant and others lamenting the film's look and plot. They're not alone as the film suddenly has a rating of 3.6 on its IMDB page, despite the fact that the film hasn't even been released in most film markets. So what is the problem?

Most of the reaction seems to boil down to two things: the film's motion capture animation and the plot (that and to some the sacrilege of remaking a Disney film. After all as we all know Disney created Tarzan. And Snow White, Cinderella, Peter Pan, John Carter, etc.) I had been holding off criticizing any aspect of the film until I had seen it but some of this  I do agree with. When it was announced as a 3D animated film I had assumed that it would be done in the style of Pixar or DreamWorks, not motion capture. But when I heard that I began to fear that the film would suffer visually and indeed that "uncanny valley" effect that made such films like Beowulf and Disney's A Christmas Carol unwatchable is present. Now some of the effects and design look good-especially the forest and some of the action sequences-but the motion capture look might be hard to overcome, especially for audiences now used to a certain level of sophistication and polish.

The other issue has been the plot. Most of the early trailers had kept hidden the actual story, with the only information released being that it was an updated take on Tarzan. That didn't really bother me too much since there has been a few updated Tarzan films and TV series so what was another one? Besides I understood that the target audience was going to be kids and that Constantin might have wanted to distance themselves from Disney's film so I wasn't too aggravated about it. But now the plot has been spilled and well...it's Avatar. (In fact I've seen some dub this Avatarzan so prepare for more of that). I know that hoping for a faithful film version that adapted Edgar Rice Burroughs' original novels is like wait waiting for Robert Iger to greenlight a Mopey Carter sequel but why the sci-fi storyline? Or why make it so close to James Cameron's film, with its greedy company after an elusive power source and only one man and his "family" can stop them? Granted the greedy interlopers plot was used by Burroughs himself numerous times and became the standard plot device for every Tarzan movie since Johnny Weissmuller's days but this really seems to much like Avatar that I have a feeling audiences will just shrug it off as a ripoff.

Now I understand that I am-along with the naysayers and to hip for words film bloggers-not the target audience for this film. It is a children's film and for all I know that audience might enjoy and love this film. But the major concern I have-and probably other ERB fans-is can we take another flop or mediocre film? After the entire debacle of John Carter, I don't know if ERB's reputation can stand another blow and while Warner Bros is still planning their Tarzan film if this film doesn't deliver it could lead them to cancel or delay their version even though the failure of the live action Tarzan and the Lost City didn't derail Disney's Tarzan so Warners might still make their version.

So the question is everyone overacting or is this an omen of what's to come when this film finally is released? As we've seen negative buzz can kill a film even before it hits (even though when you have the director boasting about his magic abilities to have studio executives grovel at his feet and how much fans don't matter you probably are asking for it). On the other hand Cameron himself has had two massive blockbusters overcome bad press and such recent films like World War Z has as well. I do hope that Tarzan 3D will be at best a good film and that it will overcome my concerns. But they have a long way to go.

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

"Tarzan 3D" New UK Trailer

 
Yep another trailer, this time from England. There's no new footage but the opening logos confirm that Summit Entertainment is handling the film's release in the UK so it's possible they could be handling the film's eventual US as well. My question is where does that big alien snake thing come from? Watch and come to your own conclusions. UPDATE: A new "quad" poster has also shown up which I posted above.


Tuesday, November 26, 2013

"Tarzan, Conqueror of Mars" TV Spot


Again Youtube delivers another gem. In this case a TV commercial for Trendmasters' Tarzan: The Epic Adventures action figure line, with this one promoting the Mars line with John Carter and Tars Tarkas. Enjoy the memory and let us know what you think below.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Comic Review: Warlord of Mars #29


John Carter faces betrayal and possible death. What else is new?

Barely escaping with their lives from the experimental Thark they found, John Carter and Tars Tarkas decide to leave, only to be captured by the yellow man Marik, who then reveals the real story: Yellow men created the green men through a breeding program involving apts, white apes and the red men. They also included a "ganglion," which acts like a psychic receptor in the brain. And if that wasn't enough, Carter also discovers that Talu, the man he helped to overthrow former Jeddak Salensus Oll, is behind the whole thing. But to cover it up they decide to have Tars "kill" Carter in front of the public of Okar until Carter discovers a way to break their control of his friend, leading to one command, "KILL JOHN CARTER."

I know that this series has played somewhat fast and loose with Edgar Rice Burroughs' series but this one really takes it a little too far. Forgotten is the fact that Burroughs established that most life on Barsoom sprang from the Tree of Life and its first offspring, which then led to the development of the green and red men of Mars, not genetic manipulation. That threw me but the biggest change is the decision to rewrite Talu and the yellow men as the villains of this piece. Granted moving past the opening trilogy doesn't leave many villains left from the books that are in public domain but still something would have been better than turning a previous ally into an enemy. Plus there seems to be no shortage of big bads in the Dejah Thoris series...

With that the issue still manages to create an interesting premise, helped by the artwork, this time by Rafael Lanhellas, who I think is a newcomer to the Warlord of Mars series. He manages to bring a nice look to the issue, with Tars Tarkas in particular standing out. Granted most of this issue is people talking and Carter chained to a wall but it still manages to be well-drawn and moves the story along.

Still this issue is a stumbling block to what has been a pretty good, exciting storyline. Maybe it gets resolved in the next issue's finale but it will take some heavy lifting to undo this turn. Until next time folks.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Movie Review: An Adventure in Space and Time


Let's just see what we got, OK?

It's 1963 and BBC Head of Drama Sydney Newman (Brian Cox) decides he wants a science fiction serial for the channel, only without robots and BEMs. He hands the project-Doctor Who-to an unlikely trio: Verity Lambert (Jessica Raine), a fresh producer facing the "old boys" club; Waris Hussein (Sacha Dhawan), the director who has to deal with the technical limitations of television; and William Hartnell (David Bradley), an actor whose career has seemingly stalled. When the group comes together they manage to produce a show that not only brings in the ratings but captures the public imagination. But they also face the future and the pain that came come with change.

Written by frequent Who writer Mark Gatiss, An Adventure in Space and Time is a love letter to Doctor Who and those who created it. Filled with moments that will tickle Whovians-from the creation of the TARDIS and the introduction of the Daleks-this telefilm manages to capture the moment when a group of "misfits" created a classic that ironically was about misfits. Helped by nice production design and a playful but serious tone, the film shows the problems in creating television in the early 1960s and the impact Doctor Who had without sinking too far into sentiment.

What makes the film worth watching is Bradley's performance. Starting out as a cranky old man who eventually warms before having to face his age and growing difficulties in playing the Doctor, Bradley brings life and spark to Hartnell without turning him into a parody or caricature. He's equally matched by the supporting cast, especially Raine as Verity, a feisty woman who has to deal with snickering department heads and her own ambitions to make Doctor Who memorable.

I'm sure some will find the film lacking in real dramatic "dirt" but it doesn't flinch away from the history of the people who made it or the changes that happened. It reminded me in tone of Tim Burton's Ed Wood, a celebration that still had an edge and touching heart. Even the final scene with its "surprise" cameo works.

So even if The Day of the Doctor doesn't live up to its hype, we already have a great tribute to the legacy of Doctor Who. So try to catch this movie when it reruns. It's worth the time for fans and newcomers. Rating: **** out of 4.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

IO9's Best and Worst of "Doctor Who"


With only three days to go until The Day of the Doctor (and two until BBC America's showing of An Adventure in Space and Time) IO9 has listed the best and worst episodes of the Doctor's voyages. So hit http://io9.com/every-single-doctor-who-story-ranked-from-best-to-wors-1468104049 and see if you agree.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

"Star Wars Episode VII" First Behind the Scenes Pic!


And look who's back. Courtesy of JJ Abrams' Bad Robot and Twitter https://twitter.com/bad_robot/status/401077191087095808 comes the first behind the scenes look at the new Star Wars with producer Kathleen Kennedy and a familiar face. I guess this at least confirms one character's return for the new film.

"The Night of the Doctor" Mini Episode


With The Day of the Doctor arriving next week, BBC has posted up this mini episode prequel that...well just watch it and you'll see. Thanks to Pascalahad for the heads up on it.


Monday, November 11, 2013

Comic Review: Superman Unchained #4


More superhero action. That's all I got.

While he details his plans on how to destroy Superman, Jimmy Olsen finds himself the prisoner of a deranged Lex Luthor. Meanwhile Supes and the creature Wraith fight to save Tokyo from an army of drones created for one specific purpose-to kill Superman. As the two fight to save the city, Lois Lane finds herself fighting for her life against the minions of the villainous Ascension, receiving a mysterious shard that might hold the answer to everything, if she survives and can get back to civilization.

So far I've enjoyed this take on the Superman mythos, a fun piece of work that combines the action and conspiracy thriller aspects that mark the best in any field-movies, books and comics. Writer Scott Snyder also deftly handles the three parallel stories that unfold, balancing all three with skill. It also captures what makes Superman the character he is, especially in a scene where, despite prodding from Wraith to just use the empty buildings to destroy the drones, Supes decides not to since there are still people around and they could get hurt. Some may feel that is corny but as shown in the massive slug fests in Man of Steel where so little concern was shown towards the citizens of Metropolis, this provides a needed counterpoint and makes it more than just mindless destruction.

A big thumbs up also to Jim Lee and his art. This might be one of the best Superman comics I've seen since the John Bryne era, making Superman and everyone look real, not an overly bulky Supes or over sexy Lois. He also handles the big fight scenes and the looks of terror on Jimmy's face with equal skill. All in all a winner in this department.

So if you're heading out this week to buy the Blu-Ray of Man of Steel I recommend you pick this issue up-along with the first three if you missed them-as another vision of the Last Son of Krypton, one that captures the spirit of Siegel and Shuster's classic character much better than the massive piles of broken buildings does.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Movie Review: Thor-The Dark World



It's Hammer Time...Again (Sorry for the lame pun).

Picking up after the Battle of New York and the previous destruction of the BiFrost, Thor (Chris Hemsworth) is cleaning up and bringing peace to the other Nine Realms while still thinking about Jane Foster (Natalie Portman). Back on Earth Jane makes discovers a temporal disturbance and finds herself zapped by a mysterious energy that causes to disappear from the site of the all-seeing Heimdall (Idris Elba). Concerned, Thor finally makes it back to Earth and finds Jane, who has a force flowing threw her. No not that one, rather a force called the Aether, a force that was once sought by Malekith (Christopher Eccleston), the ruler of the Dark Elves, who following his defeat has been in a stat of suspended animation but now awakes. And when Thor takes Jane to Asgard, Malektith follows, bringing death and destruction. Disobeying his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Thor decides that there is only one way to defeat Malekith and his minions...and he's going to need help from Loki (Tom Hiddleston) to do it.

Yeah that's a lot of story and depending on where you sit an asset or a flaw. For this reviewer-and fan of the first Thor film and the comics-its sort of a flaw. Part of the problem is that again, like so many of the Marvel films, the plot hinges on a Macguffin that the bad guys want and the good guys have to stop them-in this case the Aether. After a lot of exposition about their early defeat, temporal portals and a lot of running around, you would think the screenwriters could come up with something new or less predictable. Also the film suffers from too much deja vu, and not just from previous Marvel movies. The opening with Malekith's troops and their ships reminded me of the opening melee of Man of Steel, a fight on the home planet of Hogan the Grimm resembles a leftover fight from The Lord of the Rings while the attack on Asgard and Thor and Loki's escape looks like someone had studied Star Wars too much. I know some people were not thrilled by Kenneth Branagh's handling of the first film and probably hoped that new director Alan Taylor would bring a more gritty take on the material (especially after his run on Game of Thrones) but personally I miss Branagh's more deft hand when it came to the action and spectacle.

That's not to say that Thor-The Dark World is a complete loss. In fact it has much to recommend it, starting with the performers. Hemsworth brings a more toned-down attitude to Thor here, now a man struggling with his personal feelings towards Jane while maintaining his duty to Asgard. There is some fun-if too brief turns-by Rene Russo and Elba, and some welcome comedy from Stellan Skarsgard. The humor also extends to a comic "cameo" from a fellow Avenger and the big finale. In fact it's the last part that kicks in and saves the movie, finally putting the exposition away and focusing on the action. The film's biggest asset though is Hiddleston, who again steals the movie as a spiteful and angry Loki, who still brims with resentment towards his brother and father but shows some touching moments with Russo.

If I'm making the film sound bad it isn't. It just doesn't capture the fun spirit of the first film. That said considering the rest of this year's comic book crop (Iron Man 3 was fun while Man of Steel went overboard in the wrong way) Thor-The Dark World manages at least to fit in between. At least there is no annoying computer girls (thanks Agents of SHIELD for delivering the most annoying TV character of the past decade).

I'm giving the film a *** out of 4 with reservations. The good parts are that good and I might change my mind later so I'll leave it for now. Just leave any comments below.

Saturday, November 9, 2013

"The Day of the Doctor" Trailers


With only weeks to go, the BBC has released the first trailer with footage from the upcoming 50th Anniversary Doctor Who special. So take a peek and get ready for November 23. UPDATE: A second longer trailer has shown up so here it is.



Friday, November 8, 2013

Comic Review: Lords of Mars #4


After three issues of setup, John Carter and Tarzan finally meet! Well sort of...

With his fleet landing outside the Fortress-Temples of the Holy Therns, John Carter and Kantos Kan find no welcoming committee but a defiant Jagati Khen and his new weapon-a mass repulsor based on the Eighth Ray that powers the airships of Barsoom. After making short work of the fleet Carter and Kantos are captured and set for the arena. Meanwhile Jane discovers the treachery at work and attempts to warn Tarzan but is captured before she can, leaving Tarzan to come face to face with the Warlord of Mars in a game to the death.

So after all the setup we finally get to the big duel--and have to wait another issue. Now I don't mind setup but you know maybe it's time to get the action moving. Even the promised air battle is cut short when Khen reveals his super weapon, leaving Carter without much to do except surrender without a fight (after talking about how he loves the thrill of combat) and Kantos to invoke the "tits of Issus." Did he ever see Issus because that's the one body part I wouldn't want to invoke (Dejah on the other hand...)

Even the usual reliable artwork by Roberto Castro is limited to mostly people standing around talking or explaining things or creeping around with little action and somewhat dull and indistinct backgrounds. I just hope he gets to show what he's capable of in the next issue when he finally gets to the big fight between Carter and Tarzan.

I've enjoyed the first three issue but this one feels just to anti-climactic and suffers too much from not enough action or tension that should be there. Let's hope the next issue delivers what fans of ERB and Dynamite expect. Also is anyone else disappointed that we haven't seen Jane in that dress shown on his issue's Alex Ross cover? Until next time faithful readers.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Arvid Nelson Talks "Lords of Mars" and ERB


With the fourth issue hitting this week, Bleeding Cool has a chat with writer Arvid Nelson and fellow comics writer Nancy Collins online http://www.bleedingcool.com/2013/11/05/arvid-nelson-on-science-fiction-edgar-rice-burroughs-and-warlords-of-mars/. Among the topics discussed are Nelson's introduction to the work of Edgar Rice Burroughs and his influence on pop culture, the strength of the Mars novels and his approach to the characters of Tarzan and John Carter and more. For fans it's an interesting talk so take a look and let us know what you think.

Monday, November 4, 2013

Comic Review: Dejah Thoris #31


It's Dejah Thoris: Days of Future Past!

While visiting the dead city of Dorvas, Dejah gets a demonstration of a new discovery-a "time portal" that as you can guess open time and bring up any period in Barsoom's history. But when a Zodangan spy attacks, Dejah finds herself hurled into the future where Barsoom is in turmoil as rebel forces are fighting off invading armies...from Jasoom. Before too long she's captured by the Jasoomians who think they can alter history and prevent the current rebellion but their plans go astray when both rebels and a rescue party from the past arrive to save Dejah. Eventually Dejah comes face to face with the rebels' leader-a young woman who holds the key to red and green men of Barsoom's survival...a young woman named Dejah Carter.

In other words where's a flux capacitor when you need one?

After the wrap up of the Metal Men story arc I was ready to embrace anything, And much to my surprise I loved this issue. I've always been a sucker for time travel stories and the idea of sending Dejah into the future with no idea of what was to come later in her life is an intriguing idea that writer Robert Place Napton has fun with. Also we finally get back to that cliffhanger that was left at the end of the Warriors of Mars miniseries as the battle between the Jasoomians and the rebels is still raging. There is no appearance of Gulliver Jones here (maybe the next issue or he hasn't shown up yet in the timeline) but seeing Dejah Carter in charge and leading the troops brings a good plot twist, especially when she runs into her ancestor and brings up an interesting dilemma that I hope gets explored more-what would happen if she told Dejah Thoris her future?

In addition this issue brings back Carlos Rafael and again the artwork is great, with nicely defined characters and a skillful handling of the action pieces. He also brings a vibrant style to this issue, helped by the coloring and design work. Even though I'm sure some will wonder why Dejah Carter seems to be wearing more than her great-great-great-great grandmother. Yikes!

So after some less than stellar stories this issue brings us a winner and a cool story to boot. It's a fun piece that handles the setup and action well and gives us a good adventure in the pulp tradition. Just sit back and have fun.