Tag archives for Fantasy
Written by Corey Taylor
Art by Richard Clark
A man wakes up in a strange land with no idea who or where he is, suddenly chased by ghostly mobs and a doppelganger. Sounds intriguing enough, but does the book go anywhere with it?
This first issue follows an unnamed human male around a dreamlike field. The character is unnamed except for the label “Zero” on his jumpsuit, almost like a prison suit. He also doesn’t know who he is, so don’t expect any answers from him anytime soon.
During his escapade, he meets a ghost-like creature who takes his likeness and calls himself Allen. He warns the human of an unknown event called “The Conflagration.” Allen tells the human and us that the key to leaving this crazy world is at the House of Gold and Bones, but can the human get there before Black Jack’s ghastly gang catches up to him?
If this sounds particularly surreal, it is. We readers are as unaware of what’s going on as the human, so we become just as frustrated as he is at this confusing predicament. Why is he being chased? Where is he and where is he going? What is going on? Who is this guy? No idea to any of these.
Yes, it’s the first issue, so it’s supposed to set up the general mystery of the story. It’s also supposed to introduce us to the characters and the world so that we have a starting point we can grasp. I’m not the biggest fan of overdone exposition, but it’s better than none.
The human himself is a bland character. He’s confused and angry about this strange situation he’s in, as anyone would, but he doesn’t do anything to gain our favor as an interesting protagonist. I don’t care what happens to him and would much rather explore the world, which doesn’t get done much in this first issue. It reminds me of the 2009 The Prisoner remake with Jim Caviezel and Ian McKellen, except without anyone as charismatic as Jim Caviezel or Ian McKellen.
There’s no foundation set to hook us into this world, and there’s no character we feel drawn to, so there’s no real investment to keep us readers wanting to know the mystery of this world and this book.
The artwork is serviceable for the story. Unfortunately, as the story isn’t really exciting as you can tell from the above, the art follows suit and feels bland. Several of the panels and the character blocking are bland. Some of the facial expressions are off-putting and unnatural.
The key scene for the art to make its mark – the scene where the human and we readers get a look at this strange new world – is a letdown by how unremarkable it is. This is supposed to be a strange, disorienting world, and we just see a plain valley and some mountains with a sunset.
One of the variant covers, a red and black portrait of the man screaming, is a neat artistic take with the title in white with some splattering effects and a definition of “overture” (the title of the issue). It’s a good cover, but the inside just doesn’t measure up.
Overall (Not an Average)
First issues are hard, especially for brand new series without any established characters or tie-ins. You have to hook readers right away, or else they won’t stick around for issue two. I won’t be sticking around for issue two of this one. I hope the story develops more quickly for those who do.
Overall (Not an Average) 4/10
Directed By: Ron Howard
Starring: Val Kilmer, Warwick Davis, Joanne Whalley
Did you ever wonder how good a live action version of The Hobbit would look if it were produced by George Lucas and directed by Ron Howard? Well look no further.
Willow (Warwick Davis) is an unlikely hero who must rescue an infant destined to overthrow the evil Queen Bavmorda (Jean Marsh) before she can sacrifice the child. Assisting him in his quest is Madmartigan (Val Kilmer), the opossum turned sorceress Fin Raziel (Patricia Hayes) and two comical creatures known as Brownies (Rick Overton, Kevin Pollak). Also along for the ride is Sorsha (Joanne Whalley) who is the daughter of Bavmorda and burgeoning love interest for Madmartigan. Much adventure is had.
Willow started as a story idea by George Lucas who brought the project to Ron Howard during his post-production of Coccoon. Bob Dolman wrote the script. I had fond memories of this film but it has been many years since I last watched it. Sadly it doesn’t hold up as well as I had hoped. I have come to expect this from most of the television and movies from my youth but I always hold out hope. But the epic feel of Willow does remain. There is grandeur and Biblical imagery (Moses in the bull rushes anyone?) that is augmented by the practical effects and actual sets instead of CGI and green screens that proliferate today’s films. Peter Jackson could learn a thing or two from this film.
I remember Willow being considered a bit of a flop back in 1988 and its legacy has been one of silence for the last decade. While other lesser films from the era (I have a list that I’m not going to share) have gone into the pop culture pantheon this charming little film has faded into the background. Maybe this blu-ray release will help to raise Willow’s profile a bit and let it take its rightful place among other great movies from the 80’s.
Presented in Widescreen 2:39:1 and I must say that I am still amazed at how good a lot of these older movies look on blu-ray.
Presented in DTS-HD Surround Dolby Digital. I really need to invest in a surround sound system for my living room. The standard speakers on my television just do not cut it. But everything did sound crisp and clear.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This release does have a moderate amount of bonus features but the packaging is a bit disappointing. Granted most blu-ray/dvd releases these days simply come in a standard blue clamshell case but the lack of a digital copy is surprising. It can’t be that expensive or difficult to package along with the blu-ray and dvd.
As far as the bonus features nothing really jumps out. Sure we get a making of, a video diary, deleted scenes and some special effects behind the scenes but this is all standard stuff nowadays. Strangely there is not a feature commentary. I was hoping for more from Lucas Film and Disney.
As I stated before I hadn’t watched Willow in a very long time and it was fun to revisit a this family-friendly fantasy film from the 80’s (say that ten times fast). In so many ways I enjoyed this more than any of Peter Jackson’s takes on Tolkien even if some of the effects were a bit dated. Maybe now that Disney has acquired LucasFilm we’ll see some more tales from this world. Or more preferably a themed ride.
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
The Movie 7/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 9/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 6/10
Overall (Not an Average) 8/10
Directed by Sam Raimi
Written by David Lindsay-Abaire and Mitchell Kapner
Starring: James Franco, Mila Kunis, Rachael Weisz, Michelle Williams
Somewhere, over the rainb…oh wait, this isn’t that movie.
Oscar Diggs (James Franco) is a two-bit hustler in a traveling circus who finds himself in a mess when the circus strong man finds out Oz has been sweet talking his lady. So Oz jumps in a hot air balloon to fly away from his trouble only to wind up in a bigger mess when he is swept into a tornado and whisked away to the Land of Oz. There he meets Theodora (Mila Kunis) who promptly tells him he is the great wizard that was prophesied to be king. She takes him to the Emerald City to meet her sister Evanora (Rachel Weisz) and Oz finds out that the wicked witch Glinda (Michelle Williams) killed the king and he must destroy her wand. And without getting too spoilery I’ll leave the story at that. But needless to say there isn’t much to spoil because we’ve all seen The Wizard of Oz.
Where to begin? I was a bit hesitant to accept James Franco in the leading role when I first saw the trailers for this film. I really liked him in Freaks and Geeks as well as Pineapple Express (I’m also looking forward to Spring Breakers later this month) but those roles have never let him stretch as an actor. Accepting him as the future wonderful wizard of Oz was going to be a hard sell. But he did it, and in spectacular fashion. Also of note is Mila Kunis’ Theodora. I have liked her since her turn as Jackie on That 70’s Show and she has truly grown as an actor in the last fifteen years. I was looking forward to seeing her as a villain and she delivers. Damn, does she deliver! Her transformation from wide eyed and hopeful proponent of Oz to the angry and wicked witch is spectacular and she could have easily made this turn without the make up. But by far the best casting was Michelle Williams as Glinda the good witch. She is perfect to reprise the role that Billie Burke made famous without being quite so sugary. No, Williams is channeling a bit of her Marilyn Monroe from 2011’s My Week with Marilyn and turns Glinda into a real character not just a plot device to move the story along.
This Land of Oz doesn’t have musical numbers and elaborately choreographed dances but it does have Munchkins and flying monkeys (as well as baboons). Zach Braff plays the role he was born to play by voicing Finley the flying monkey whom Oz saves from a lion. But Rachel Weisz gets the short end of the stick with her remarkable but underused antagonist Evanora. When she is on screen she shines but that screen time is limited by a script that is trying to get in a lot of material. And this is where the Disney influence shines through. Taking a cue from their previous Alice in Wonderland the Land of Oz becomes a hyper colored CGI-fest that is more than a little distracting. Sam Raimi does what he does best by directing around action rather than through scenery and he helps to turn down the acid trip a little but gone are the days of the MGM spectacle and Disney isn’t in the live action musical business these days (no, I do not count High School Musical).
Oz the Great and Powerful opens the way any good MGM musical opens in 1939. Only this isn’t 1939. Nor a musical. And MGM lost the rights to The Wizard of Oz a long time ago. And in part these three elements are very evident from the beginning. I did like the retro opening credits and the way Kansas is once again depicted in black and white (although the original 1939 release did see Kansas in sepia rather than black and white). Once we get to Oz the brilliant colors come to life, sorta. This was probably the biggest discrepancy from the Oz we all grew up seeing. In 1939 Oz was a Technicolor wonderland filled with spectacle. Much of today’s Oz seems like a green screen rather than an actual place, most noticeably when Theodora and Oz are walking through a field of flowers on their way to the Emerald City. I started getting shades of The Phantom Menace with the video game like backgrounds and more than once the actor’s voices felt like overdubs rather than true line readings. Don’t get me wrong this movie is not any of the Star Wars prequels. It is a very good base for a future franchise even if it is a bit too on the nose at times. Where it does veer into “prequel” territory is the obvious references to what we already know. Oz calling the lion a coward when he saves Finley, the pause on the face of the scarecrow the villagers are making, and the reference to “John Gale” by Annie in the beginning. All of this stuff could be a wink at the audience but it feels more like Raimi saying, “Hey, look how clever I am.”
One thing I did find kind of funny and a bit intriguing was the video game feel of Oz. Not just because of the obvious 3D cues (and they are obvious if you watch this in 2D) or the unfortunately bad green screen but more because of the RPG elements of the story. Oz crashes down in the Land of Oz and immediately meets a stranger that tells him his coming was prophesied and he starts a journey to become a king but along the way has to find his allies. Once he starts on the path to destroy the Wicked Witch he takes a side mission to prove he is “magic.” Then after meeting Glinda in the Dark Forest he discovers it was all a lie and he must now sneak back into the castle with his new allies and vanquish the evil witches. And after the evil is driven out it is set up that they will one day try to stop him again. Hell, throw in an anthropomorphic animal and a beautiful woman wearing a corset and it could be the next Final Fantasy game. Oh, wait….
I don’t mean to sound like I’m complaining about this movie because I really did love it. The only thing that bothered me was the transformation Mila Kunis goes through to become the Wicked Witch of the East. The green paint and facial prosthetics just cannot make her ugly. Or maybe I’ve just always had a thing for green women (DAMN YOU, Star Trek!!). I walked away from this movie loving it and looking forward to the future. Just don’t make it a musical.
We have some fun stuff for you this week! Battlestar Galactica lives on with a new movie; Battlestar Galactica: Blood and Chrome airing on Syfy. We got an early sneak peek! Also Syfy will be throwing down some robot battles arena style and we have an interview with wrestler Chris Jericho talking about hosting this new fun series for Syfy. We have more Defiance and Merlin for you too! Finally the great home video company Shout Factory! Has a kids category of shows and films and we have early clips of their latest release!
Continuum—Airs Mondays at 8/7c.
A Test of Time – Sneak Peek
SUMMARY: Kagame’s return begins with a reset of Liber8′s agenda, away from violence and towards blending into the community and fostering their revolution through co-opting existing structures. But they have a vulnerability – the possibility that if their ancestors, living in this time, are murdered, they might cease to exist. A test of this theory is devised and Kiera and her grandmother are the guinea pigs.
Robot Combat League
So we all new it was inevitable, Syfy is launching a series called Robot Combat League in which human opponents duke it out via giant robot avatars. This seems like the Hugh Jackman movie Real Steel come to life. Let’s just hope this doesn’t bring about the reality of the rest of that film! At any rate we have for you an interview with wrestler Chris Jericho who will be hosting the show. He talks about his interactions with the robots and the show in general. Check it out:
Defiance—Premieres April 15 at 9/8c.
Fight Risk – Trailer
SUMMARY: This is a town worth fighting for. Join the fight with Defiance premiering April 15 at 9/8c.
Merlin—Airs Fridays at 10/9c.
The Dark Tower – Sneak Peek
SUMMARY: When Gwen is snatched from Camelot without warning, Merlin knows there can be only one person responsible: Morgana. Watch a sneak peek into “The Dark Tower,” when Merlin meets Queen Mab.
Colin Morgan Talks Ep. 505 – Recap
SUMMARY: Merlin star Colin Morgan talks about the important events from episode 505 ‘The Disir.’
Mordred’s Moment – Clip from Ep. 505
SUMMARY: Mordred sacrifices himself for the sake of his king.
For the Druids – Clip from Ep. 505
SUMMARY: A druid elder spends his last breath pleading with Arthur to make amends with the old religion.
Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome—Premieres Sunday, Feb. 10 at 9/8c.
Blood & Chrome – Trailer
SUMMARY: The story you never knew of William Adama. Catch the premiere of Battlestar Galactica: Blood & Chrome on air, premiering Sunday, Feb. 10 at 9/8c.
On February 12th, Shout! Factory Kids, in collaboration with Nerd Corps Entertainment, will release SLUGTERRA: RETURN OF THE SHANE GANG on DVD! Check out these clips:
Lionsgate has kindly provided their 2013 film slate to The Weekly Tease for your perusal. The below information is a mix of many things that have already been out and some new things just released. We’ve got information and video for Texas Chainsaw 3D, The Last Stand, You’re Next, I. Frankenstein and The Hunger Games: catching Fire. This is by no means the companies entire list of upcoming films, these are just the ones cherry picked for CineGeek fans! Yes they also have a new Tyler Perry film on the way and some romantic comedies. Scroll on down to get a look at the good stuff though!
Texas Chainsaw 3D
Lionsgate’s TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D continues the legendary story of the homicidal Sawyer family, picking up where Tobe Hooper’s 1974 horror classic left off in Newt, Texas, where for decades people went missing without a trace. The townspeople long suspected the Sawyer family, owners of a local barbeque pit, were somehow responsible. Their suspicions were finally confirmed one hot summer day when a young woman escaped the Sawyer house following the brutal murders of her four friends. Word around the small town quickly spread, and a vigilante mob of enraged locals surrounded the Sawyer stronghold, burning it to the ground and killing every last member of the family – or so they thought. Decades later and hundreds of miles away from the original massacre, a young woman named Heather learns that she has inherited a Texas estate from a grandmother she never knew she had. After embarking on a road trip with friends to uncover her roots, she finds she is the sole owner of a lavish, isolated Victorian mansion. But her newfound wealth comes at a price as she stumbles upon a horror that awaits her in the mansion’s dank cellars…
With gruesome surprises in store for a whole new generation, TEXAS CHAINSAW 3D stars Alexandra Daddario, Dan Yeager, Tremaine ‘Trey Songz’ Neverson, Scott Eastwood, Tania Raymonde, Shaun Sipos, Keram Malicki-Sanchez, James MacDonald, Thom Barry, Paul Rae and Richard Riehle, along with special appearances from four beloved cast members from previous installments of the franchise: Gunnar Hansen (the original Leatherface), Marilyn Burns, John Dugan and Bill Moseley. The film is directed by John Luessenhop (TAKERS), from a screenplay by Adam Marcus & Debra Sullivan and Kirsten Elms, based on a story by Stephen Susco and Adam Marcus & Debra Sullivan and based on characters created by Kim Henkel and Tobe Hooper, and produced by Carl Mazzocone. Lionsgate presents a Millennium Films production and Main Line Pictures production.
The Last Stand
After leaving his LAPD narcotics post following a bungled operation that left him wracked with remorse and regret, Sheriff Ray Owens (Schwarzenegger) moved out of Los Angeles and settled into a life fighting what little crime takes place in sleepy border town Sommerton Junction. But that peaceful existence is shattered when Gabriel Cortez (Eduardo Noriega), the most notorious, wanted drug kingpin in the western hemisphere, makes a deadly yet spectacular escape from an FBI prisoner convoy.
With the help of a fierce band of lawless mercenaries led by the icy Burrell (Peter Stormare), Cortez begins racing towards the US-Mexico border at 250 mph in a specially-outfitted Corvette ZR1 with a hostage in tow. Cortez’s path: straight through Summerton Junction, where the whole of the U.S. law enforcement, including Agent John Bannister (Forest Whitaker) will have their final opportunity to intercept him before the violent fugitive slips across the border forever.
At first reluctant to become involved, and then counted out because of the perceived ineptitude of his small town force, Owens ultimately rallies his team and takes the matter into his own hands, setting the stage for a classic showdown.
Arnold Schwarzenegger stars in THE LAST STAND. Directed by KIM Jee-Woon and written by Andrew Knauer, THE LAST STAND also stars Forest Whitaker, Johnny Knoxville, Rodrigo Santoro, Jaimie Alexander, Luis Guzmán, Eduardo Noriega, Peter Stormare, Zach Gilford and Genesis Rodriguez. The film is produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura (the TRANSFORMERS series, RED, GI JOE, SALT).
One of the smartest and most terrifying films in years, YOU’RE NEXT reinvents the genre by putting a fresh twist on home-invasion horror. When a gang of masked, ax-wielding murderers descend upon the Davison family reunion, the hapless victims seem trapped…until an unlikely guest of the family proves to be the most talented killer of all.
I, FRANKENSTEIN is a modern-day epic: Frankenstein’s creature, ADAM, has survived to present day due to a genetic quirk in his creation. Making his way to a dark, gothic metropolis, he finds himself caught in an all-out, centuries old war between two immortal clans. The film hits theatres in September of 2013. Look for images, trailers, and much more right here as the release draws closer.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE begins as Katniss Everdeen has returned home safe after winning the 74th Annual Hunger Games along with fellow tribute Peeta Mellark. Winning means that they must turn around and leave their family and close friends, embarking on a “Victor’s Tour” of the districts. Along the way Katniss senses that a rebellion is simmering, but the Capitol is still very much in control as President Snow prepares the 75th Annual Hunger Games (The Quarter Quell) – a competition that could change Panem forever.
THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE is directed by Francis Lawrence, and produced by Nina Jacobson’s Color Force in tandem with producer Jon Kilik. The novel on which the film is based is the second in a trilogy that has over 50 million copies in print in the U.S. alone. THE HUNGER GAMES: CATCHING FIRE opens on November 22, 2013.
So, yeah that happened. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey came out and we all had some differing opinions about the film and the hfr presentation. Yes we do manage to discuss a few other things this week too! There were technical issues so you’ll have to check out the video presentation here until those issues are worked out!
Merlin has officially been cancelled in the U.K. so that means the season that’s about to start on Syfy is the last one. So how does it all end? You can find out for yourself starting in January. So for this week’s weekly tease we have sneak previews of the upcoming season as well as a few neat little bonus videos from the stars of the show!
Colin Morgan Answers Your Questions!
Katie McGrath Facebook Q&A
Bradley James Responds to You!
Being Human is back Monday 1/14/2013
Lost Girl also returns of 1/14/2013
That’s right but if you stop and think about it having the home of the Lord of the Rings films represented at SDC by their department of tourism isn’t such a huge stretch. They are actually there to give away a pretty nifty prize. Here are the details:
The New Zealand department of Tourism will be giving away a trip of a lifetime to Middle Earth to one lucky fanboy –including tickets to the World Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in Wellington, New Zealand.
In association with Weta and Air New Zealand, the journey to Middle Earth for the winner and a companion will include:
• 6 day trip for two to New Zealand – www.newzealand.com
• Round-trip flights on Air New Zealand – http://www.airnewzealand.com
• VIP tour of the Hobbiton Movie Set – http://www.hobbitontours.com/
• Visit the Weta Cave and meet the artists from Weta Workshop – http://www.wetanz.com/
• See movie set locations in Queenstown – http://www.queenstownnz.co.nz/
• PLUS – two tickets to the World Premiere of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey, in Wellington on 28 November, 2012-06-13 –
Fans can enter to win exclusively at the Weta booth at Comic-Con San Diego.
John Carter is the disaster that the rumors had led us to believe. Check out our review for our complete thoughts on the film. The disaster had to have come from the marketing of the movie because after watching the film there’s no reason it shouldn’t have been a much greater success. It will probably find its legs on home video starting this week. Disney has provided us the below interview with the films star to celebrate the new blu-ray release:
What was it like to work on John Carter?
Working on this movie was incredibly demanding, but it was also incredibly rewarding. I had tons of action scenes in the movie and it was exhausting because I had long, very physical days for four months straight. However, it was all worth it.
How would you describe your average day on the set of John Carter?
In the beginning, I’d start training at 4.30am in the morning before going to work on set all day and way into the night. Sometimes I’d get home at 10pm – but I’d be doing this all week. It was tough, but it was also fun. I feel like I had to put all of that energy into my character to portray what John Carter is like as a person because he’s a hero and a warrior. It’s amazing to see everything come to life in the finished film.
What went through your mind when you saw the finished movie for the first time?
I thought it was awesome! It’s tough to watch myself on the screen – but I’m very proud of this movie. I’m also proud of the movie’s director, Andrew Stanton. I’m proud of [co-star] Lynn Collins and everyone that’s been part of the movie. We’ve had so many great actors involved in the project, from Willem Dafoe to Dominic West, as well as an incredible crew and stunt team.
What was it like to work alongside Willem Dafoe?
I love Willem. He’s such a great guy. Listen, I’ve worked with lesser actors that have bigger egos. He is amazing.
What did you learn from him during your John Carter experience?
I learned that Willem Dafoe is a professional through and through. He was really committed to the project and he spent a lot of time on set even if he didn’t need to be there. I think that’s why he’s had such a great career. He makes anything he’s in better.
Do you hope people will say the same thing about you one day?
Definitely. I very much hope so. For me, it’s all about the work. I won’t be remembered for the magazine covers or the fame. Hopefully, I’ll be remembered by the work I’ve put in.
What do you think of your character’s costumes in John Carter?
I have about 15 different costumes in the movie, but people seem to comment a lot on the outfits where my character doesn’t wear too much. I knew what I was getting myself into when I signed up for the role, so I was fine with everything they gave me to wear. The wardrobe was great.
Do you feel flattered by the female fan attention you receive?
Sure, it’s very flattering. Don’t get me wrong, it’s great – but I don’t want to be remembered for the guy who takes his top off. I want to be remembered for playing a great role.
Did you have to adhere to a special diet in order to stay in shape for the role?
I had a very strict diet because the role was extremely physical, but I love the power you can have over your body and how you can manipulate it with nutrition. I’ve studied nutrition in the past because I wanted to become a nutritionist for kids. If I wasn’t an actor, that’s definitely what I’d like to be doing.
Why did you want to become a nutritionist for children?
Why kids? Because I love kids. I guess it’s that simple.
Are you conscious about what you eat?
I usually eat quite healthily – but at times I’m the first guy to hose down a pizza. I’m also a big breakfast guy. I love food. I’m always dining out and feasting on the good stuff.
John Carter is based on a series on sci-fi books by Edgar Rice Burroughs. Did you read the books before you started work on the movie?
I did. When I started prepping for the role, I didn’t have the script, so I used the books to get into character and to find out about the guy I was going to play.
Would you recommend the books?
I like the books without a doubt. If you’re into epic stories, you’ll love the books of Edgar Rice Burroughs.
What books did you read when you were a teenager?
I didn’t read too many novels when I was 13. I was outside playing hockey and having fun.
What were you like as a teenager?
I had a very typical Canadian upbringing. I spent a lot of time playing hockey and heading outside with my friends. I didn’t have any video games and I didn’t hang out in front of the TV too much. I was outside using my imagination.
Why did you decide to become an actor?
When I was younger, I wanted to become a professional hockey player – but a knee injury stopped that dream. I enjoyed acting, so I thought I’d give it a go. However, I didn’t just move to Hollywood and immediately become a star. I had to work hard. I was homeless in LA and New York along the way – but thankfully all the hard work eventually paid off.
How do you keep your feet on the ground after being thrust into the spotlight in John Carter?
I guess it helps that I don’t live in Hollywood. I live in Texas where I have a very different life. I don’t go out in LA, I don’t date an actress and I don’t foresee me doing that in the future. I feel like I’ve got my feet on the ground and they are not going anywhere.
Will you ever move back to Hollywood?
I’m not sure about that because I’m very happy in Texas. Being out of LA makes you see a lot clearer. A lot of my friends are non-actors, so that helps a lot, and the actors that I am friends with, they’re very similar to what direction I’m going on as well. They are more about the work than about celebrity. I like that.
What advice would you give to aspiring actors that want to follow in your footsteps?
I would say, “Man, you’ve got to go for it.” Don’t be denied and never be outworked. This is a tough industry, but you can make it if you try hard.
Directed by: Andrew Stanton
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Willam Dafoe
John Carter has become universally known as the biggest f@*k up of the 2012 movie season. It cost $250 million to make and market and it barely made an impression at the box office. At first blush it appeared that this film good or bad should have made a killing at the box office because for much of its run there was no similar competition but it just never found the audience. At the end of the day the problems stem from Disney more than the movie directly. The marketing was just messy. The ads and trailers never did a good job of selling the film in the way it needed to be sold. I’m sure there are a number of other problems that played a part in the film’s demise also. After seeing the film it’s hard to argue that the creators didn’t put every bit of their budget on screen though. The question remains, is the movie any good?
John Carter is based on a classic series of novels by Edgar Rice Burroughs. John Carter appeared as a lead character in the first Burroughs novel, later retitled, A Princess of Mars. He then appeared in subsequent volumes of the series, most prominently in The Gods of Mars (2nd in series), The Warlord of Mars ( 3rd in series), Swords of Mars (8th in series), Llana of Gathol (10th in series) and the final installment John Carter of Mars (11th in the series) . The movie has apparently been in the works for at least the last 20 years and for various reasons, mostly technology related, just never got made. It took a team that included the director of Iron Man producing and the director of Wall-E and Finding Nemo directing to get studio confidence in the project. When Disney finally did take on the project they gave the film a wide birth to grow with plenty of talent and money too.
The film tells the story of a John Carter, a Civil war vet devastated by loss and lacking a cause in his life that accidentally finds himself transported to Mars, a dying planet but not a lifeless one. On Mars he’s incredibly powerful and inadvertently falls into a war between factions; one bent on taking over what is left of the planet and the other bent on saving it. This film utilizes state of the art technology to craft and epic science fiction opera that feels so very classic. John carter is a true evolution of those black and white shorts that showed before features in the early days of film. There have been other similar and better films such as Star Wars, and Raiders of the Lost Arc. While John Carter doesn’t compare with those films in quality of story it does fit in the same space as those films. John Carter is more of a cross between Dune and Flash Gordon, minus all of the spoofing and campiness of Flash Gordon.
The story of John Carter at its most base is a simple and well-worn fish out of water story with many typical themes and elements including romance and a man that doesn’t want to fight anymore but his heart makes him constantly do the right thing. There are some clever twists here and there and these twists are also where the problems begin. The twists in the story muddy the waters and make the film a little tough to follow in a few places. One more pass on the script would probably have solved these issues. Another problem is that the entire film sits on the shoulders of its lead, Tyler Kitsch. As much as the director wants to sell Kitsch it just doesn’t work. While Kitsch isn’t bad he’s just not charismatic enough to carry a film of this scope. Hopefully Andrew Stanton has learned his lesson with Kitsch because John carter flopped and now it appears that his follow up film Battleship, in which he again cast Kitsch, is flopping like a fish out of water at the box office. Lynn Collins on the other hand owns the screen for what little she has to do. Willam Dafoe is also quite good although he’s heard and not seen.
John Carter’s story is messy for sure and the middle feels like the whole thing might just collapse under the weight of it all but once that hump is crossed the film is back to being fun again. The visuals are a true spectacle to behold on a big TV too. It’s definitely no classic but it’s no Ishtar either. See it; you might be surprised that you’ll have a good time.
The widescreen images literally pop on screen from this blu-ray. Colors are dynamic and gorgeous and black levels are mostly nice and inky with little loss of detail. Some of the special fx look just a little edgy in some shots but overall everything is a true spectacle as it was meant to be.
The audio presentation is immersive throughout the film with the massive fight scenes in particular offering lots of surround use. There are some instances where the dialogue was just a little buried and tough to hear but overall everything is loud and clear.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The two disc set comes packaged in a standard slim blu-ray case with good but not amazing cover art. Wouldn’t it have been great if the art resembled some of those classic book covers from which these stories sprung? Just an idea….
There’s actually a nice set of supplements here. The feature best being an extensive featurette covering a day of shooting with behind the scenes footage, interviews, and even catering. This documentary truly offers up a feeling of what it was like making this film, good stuff. There is other cast and crew interviews and even a look at the long process of finally getting the film made after so many failed attempts. There are also deleted scenes and a gag reel that actually isn’t all that funny. Some of the most entertaining parts of the bonus footage are the quotes from the writer of the original novel discussing his career and books.
The blu-ray also includes Disney’s iPad app syncing so that you can look at information on your I device as the movie plays. It’s kind of neat stuff but not something worth doing more than once. I was looking for a digital copy and a 3-D copy from this set too but none are included. There may be a deluxe set that includes those items but we weren’t sent that one for review.
John Carter isn’t as good as it should be but it’s much better than you are probably expecting. Give it a go. You’ll probably have a great time.
Overall (Not an Average) 7/10
The Movie 6/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7.5/10
Overall (not an average) 7.5/10
Directed by Ralph Fiennes
Starring Ralph Fiennes, Gerard Butler
Shakespeare’s story about societal strife and class warfare, with an introverted soldier stuck in the middle, comes to home video. All thanks to Voldermort.
In this modern retelling of the Shakespearean play, the infamous Roman soldier Caius Martius Coriolanus defeats all of Rome’s enemies and moves up the political ranks of the government through no effort of his own. Whereas the high-ranking, privileged class sees an icon, the downtrodden common people see an oppressor who bears no love towards them. They cast him out of Rome and into the welcoming arms of both Rome’s and Coriolanus’ greatest enemy – Tullus Aufidius and the Volscian army.
This is the story of a guy who just can’t catch a break. Coriolanus isn’t especially a nice guy, but everyone is trying to make him out to be something he’s not, be it a hero, a political idol, or a tyrannical demon. Really, he’s a really good soldier with poor social skills. He’s great on the battlefield with his men, which is probably the most thrilling scenes of the film, but forcing him to take any sort of political position where he must deal with all types of people is the mistake that leads to this tragedy.
The film is the directorial debut of renowned actor/He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named Ralph Fiennes, who also stars as the titular Coriolanus. As his first go-around, he does a great job. Everyone knows what to do. Everything is shot and cut well. It’s a well-put-together film. The story fits well in modern day, supplanting the ancient Roman/Volscian political strife into an urban warfare environment more reminiscent of Middle Eastern or ‘90s eastern European struggles.
The cast does a great job, especially Fiennes, Gerard Butler (Coriolanus’ frenemy Aufidius), Brian Cox (the senator and number one Coriolanus cheerleader Menenius), and Vanessa Redgrave (Coriolanus’ controlling mother Virgilia). Even those whose characters felt underused, as with Jessica Chastain’s Volumnia (Coriolanus’ wife), still bring emotion to the character. Plus it’s always impressive to see actors effortlessly recite Shakespearean dialog, which also happens to be what I think the film’s biggest weakness is.
If you find actual Shakespearean dialog impenetrable, then you’re out of luck here. Despite taking place in modern times, almost the entire dialog is lifted straight from the original play or written to match. I’m not a fan of Shakespearean dialog, as I find it wordy. Some of the lines do add an impressive theatricality, especially to the main battle scene. Still, most of the time, it’s a struggle to translate in your head as the film continues (watching with subtitles helps a bit). The dialog also probably makes the film longer than it would have been otherwise; as I’m sure the two-hour run time could have been an hour and a half with contemporary and to the point dialog.
The more I think back on the story after it’s had time to sink in, the more I remember fondly and respect it. Yet dredging through that dense, but expertly delivered, dialog takes away some of the joy of watching as it feels more like homework.
The Blu-Ray presents the film in 1080p high-definition, 2.35:1 widescreen. The film is well shot. Everything is clean and clear, without compromising the grungy look of the war-torn urban landscape.
The audio track comes in 5.1 DTSHD-MA. Unfortunately the audio for the dialog is on the quiet side, which with the dense verbosity led me to watch the film with subtitles on. Also unfortunately, a particularly large explosion in the film is a good bit louder, so I’m sure you can imagine the surprise when it occurred with my volume already turned high just to hear what everyone is saying. My neighbors probably heard it too.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This set comes with a making-of documentary and directorial commentary, as well as a DVD copy of the film. The making-of is only five minutes, playing mere lip service to what looks to be more interesting effort that went into this. I wish it were a more fulfilled feature.
The directorial commentary, however, does an excellent job taking you through the film and explaining everything you need to know (especially if the dialog didn’t). If you do watch the movie, I recommend watching it with the commentary after.
Overall (Not an Average)
This isn’t really an easy watch, but I think the story is compelling enough to make it worth it. Shakespeare’s original play is shown here to be just as relevant today, even if his own dialog isn’t. For anyone who enjoys Shakespeare or is studying it (or teaching a class and need something action-filled to get the students’ attention), Ralph Fiennes’ Coriolanus is a worthwhile watch to work through.
The Film 7/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 6/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 7/10
Overall (Not an Average) 7.5/10
Directed by Hayao Miyazaki
Featuring Voices by Anna Paquin, James Van Der Beek, Cloris Leachman, and Mark Hamill
One of Hayao Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli’s most acclaimed works, how does it hold up on Blu-Ray?
Castle in the Sky is a wholesome tale of two children – Pazu and Sheeta – bonding together while on the run from pirates and the military, all searching for the mythical flying kingdom of Laputa. The adults want treasure or power. Sheeta just wants to go home, and Pazu wants to protect her and prove his father’s stories of Laputa.
This film is a fun and captivating adventure. These kids run, fight, jump on trains, fall out of the sky. It’s an exhilarating chase. Pazu and Sheeta are so earnest and innocent that you can’t help but cheer them on. This isn’t to say the adults are automatically the bad guys. Several help the children along the way, and some who seemed evil turn out to be kind-hearted heroes by the end.
The design of this fantasy world is super, beautifully drawn. The overall locale is inspired by early 20th century Europe, from rolling green hills that go on forever to the cramped mining town that’s refreshingly not overly slathered in soot. The fictional airships – from gigantic war behemoths to single-passenger air carts with dragonfly-like wings – are remarkable yet still aesthetically fit in with a world where cars are still uncommon. The flying castle of Laputa itself is a neat mix of old-school castle fantasy with overgrown shrubbery and sophisticated science.
The English voice-acting cast does a good job with their characters. James Van Der Beek and Anna Paquin voice the two stars Pazu and Sheeta respectively. They play the children a bit older than their Japanese counterparts (sounding maybe early teens instead of younger adolescence). While Paquin occasionally slips in and out of an accent, Van Der Beek does a decent job. Of course though, it’s all about top voice actor and occasional Jedi Mark Hamill, whose villain Muska sounds like a sane yet still villainous Joker. All around though, good work.
Clocking in at two hours and five minutes, the film sounds long, but it grabs you for the ride and keeps you. This is a journey you’ll enjoy all the way through the deepest mining tunnels and the highest heights of the sky.
The film is presented in 1080p, 1.85:1 widescreen. The animation is smooth, and the art is beautiful. I wish the colors popped a bit more, seeming a bit muted at times, but that’s more of the coloring choice than video quality. With its various shots of the lush landscapes and gardens, it’s still a gorgeous work.
The main audio is English 5.1 DTS-HD Master Audio, with French and Japanese being in 2.0. The Japanese track, master audio of the original production, seemed louder than the English at times when switching back and forth. Also included are subtitles in English (both standard and for hearing impaired) and French. However, the English subtitles when played over the Japanese audio are obviously transcribed from the adapted dub script as opposed to being a more strict translation of the Japanese one.
The soundtrack though is quite excellent, ranging from fast and whimsical to more somber and serious, all conveying vastness of the world and the adventure the characters partake.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
This Blu-Ray has an impressive set of bonus interviews. Three interviews are with writer/director Hayao Miyazaki, detailing his inspiration for using normal children characters, English-like settings, and themes of flight in the story. I especially like the interview with music composer Joe Hisaishi – Miyazaki’s go-to guy for his films – explaining his inspiration behind several of his signature tunes in various Miyazaki’s works. I’m not generally a music guy (obvious by how poorly I describe it, I’m sure), but Hisaishi does some great and memorable work. All told, these are some good interviews for any Ghibli fan.
A DVD is also included in this release, with the film and the same John Lasseter introduction as on the Blu-Ray.
Overall (Not an Average)
This is an enjoyable and fun romp with emotional depth and beautiful art and music to match. The film, released in 1986, is technically Studio Ghibli’s first film (the studio being founded after Miyazaki’s Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind). Considering how Miyazaki and Studio Ghibli knocked it out of the park with early hits like this, it’s no wonder they remain a powerhouse in animation today, over 25 years later.
The Film 10/10
The Video 9/10
The Audio 8/10
The Packaging and Bonus Features 10/10
Overall (Not an Average) 10/10
Directed by: Tarsem Singh
Starring: Julia Roberts, Lily Collins, Armie Hammer and Nathan Lane
There was a time when Julia Roberts was a queen of sorts, and as queen she wore many masks. She was a Pretty Woman, a Runaway Bride and even won a golden statue for wearing an Erin mask. The decade that followed was sad indeed and no matter of eating, praying and loving could restore her to the status she once enjoyed. Enter Mirror Mirror and the queen once again has a chance to shine.
Undertaking the re-working and directing of a much loved and known fairy tale can be a daunting task but Tarsem Sigh does it and does it well. Mirror Mirror is the story of Snow White from the Evil Queens point of view, or so we think. Julia Roberts plays the evil queen with a mix of sarcasm and humor but not enough evil bite to fully make her a character we want to hate. For true fans of Julia Roberts it’s a movie to love. For fans of the fairy tale Snow White there’s a little too much of Roberts personality infused into the queen to make us happy. That being said, Roberts did a good job making us laugh with her facial expressions and flippant attitude.
Mirror Mirror opens with an animated telling of the early life of Snow White. From her birth to the time Snows’ father marries a new queen and leaves to fight in some unexplained conflict little Snow lives the life of a princess. Lily Collins is Snow White. Her character is bland and honestly a little boring. After being locked away in her tower bedroom for eighteen years the entire town and most of the palace servants think Snow is a hermit with some horrible disformity.
Stepmom has run the kingdom into financial ruin and sends her bootlicker, played by Nathan Lane, to inform the town people of yet another tax hike. The queen tells her manservant to sell the idea, “you know, bread is meat, just sell it…”. In order to continue to rule in high fashion the queen must marry a wealthy prince. As if sent from the skies enter Prince charming, played by Armie Hammer.
Armie Hammer who still continues to be slightly fussy and formal at least looks like a charming prince and plays the part well. Retelling you the movie is not called for since it’s a story that we all know but what I can tell you is that the twists and visuals in this retelling make it a breath of fresh air for the tired parent who is looking for a movie to share with their children. Director Tarsem Singh last made the movie Immortals and in Mirror Mirror he puts his strange imagination to even better use. We get dwarfs with badass attitudes and names like Butcher, Grub, Half-Pint and Chuck(call him chuckles for short). They rule the forest like Robin Hood’s mini men and there’s not a “Heigh-Ho” ever heard. We get Stilts that collapse like bellows, a meek princess that becomes the leader of the mini forest vigilante’s, magic potions, and a Mirror that is somewhere in the middle of a vast ocean inside of a hut on stilts. Add to all of this costumes that are Tim Burton(ala Alice in Worderland) looking and you get a fast paced, funny and at times action packed retelling of a much loved fairy tale.
Do I wish the queen were more wicked? Yes. Would I have liked more character development? Yes . Am I asking for a lot from a PG13 Fairy Tale retelling? Probably yes but even without those things this is a good Saturday night flick to go to with your kids and honestly, it’s nice to see a princess not be helpless and step up to the plate to win the kingdom back.
The Hunger Games is a feature film based on the popular novel. The film is getting tons of hype behind it and now we get our first real look at the film outside of the really useless brief teaser trailer that was previously released. In case you aren’t in the know here’s the official synopsis:
Every year in the ruins of what was once North America, the evil Capitol of the nation of Panem forces each of its twelve districts to send a teenage boy and girl to compete in the Hunger Games. A twisted punishment for a past uprising and an ongoing government intimidation tactic, The Hunger Games are a nationally televised event in which “Tributes” must fight with one another until one survivor remains. Pitted against highly-trained Tributes who have prepared for these Games their entire lives, Katniss is forced to rely upon her sharp instincts as well as the mentorship of drunken former victor Haymitch Abernathy. If she’s ever to return home to District 12, Katniss must make impossible choices in the arena that weigh survival against humanity and life against love.
Now check out the trailer:
(Editor’s Note: All of this hunger talk is making me want a snack)
One of NBC’s most anticipated new shows finally makes its debut this Friday at 9/8c directly after the season premiere of one of the most under appreciated shows on TV, Chuck. Grimm is one of a couple of fairy tale themed series hitting the small screen this season. Of the two Grimm appears to be the darker in tone. Check out this preview of the show and a behind the scenes featurette!
Special Extended Preview
Meet David Giuntoli
The star of Grimm shares the story of his character, Nick.