Posted on 3/10/12 07:44 AM
Before I see the movie I thought I would document my journey from novel to big screen. Some years ago when it came out that John Carter of Mars was coming to the big screen I was instantly intrigued. I knew the stories were considered a sci-fi classic so I went out and and bought "Under the Moons of Mars" which put the first three Carter books under one cover.
So I read the books and found them fun, if not dated. I wondered how some of the scenarios of the books would translate on the big screen. First off everyone is basically nude except for straps, buckles and lots of gems. It goes without saying that actors were going to have to wear clothes. Also many of the heroes notions of the world were dated and felt stiff.
So I put the book on the bookshelf and waited for the trailers...
Then the first rumble of confusion appeared. Disney was dropping the "of Mars" from the title leaving just "John Carter". My brain exploded at that point because it became clear right then and there that Disney marketing had all come down with Goofey-itis.
Then the first posters appeared and they were cryptic to say the least. I thought for sure Disney would of come up with some Frezzeta esqe poster to get audiences in the spirit of the story but that was not to be...
Ok so then last year the first teaser trailer was released. I was -very-disappointed. The music was depressing and where was the action? how could a story that was non stop action have a trailer with no action?
Disney has obviously learned nothing from the failed marketing of past films, like say Bridge to Terabithia.
Then the second trailer came out and I was much happier. Ok here was some action, here was some cool music. Yet when I showed the trailer to friends who were not familiar with the story they either went "Meh" or "It looks confusing" or "It looks like Star Wars".
The I began hearing rumbles on the net that audiences who viewed the trailers were having the exact same reaction as my friends. Yet the word from secret screenings was that the movie was great.
It became quite clear to me that Disney marketing had completely dropped the ball. They had failed to frame the story in its historical context (Carter was the inspiration for 100 years of Sci-fi movies) and thus made it seem like John Carter is a rip off of lots of other movies instead of the other way around.
The feverish attempts to overcome the soft tracking for John Carter in the two weeks before release shows how desperate Disney marketing has become and they -still don't get it-. They keep playing up the same scenes that failed to capture the interest of audiences in the year before.
I will be seeing John Carter of course but I have a very sinking feeling that Disney will fail to see the light and realize any short comings in the box office draw are due to their own failure to market this movie correctly...
Last night I saw John Carter, honestly the movie tries very hard to be great but sputters and fails to deliver on most counts. Carters biggest flaw is in its editing, there is enough material presented in the film that 20-30 minutes could of easily been cut and the streamlined story that could of emerged would of aided the movie greatly. Its hard to believe that Stanton, being the Pixar vet that he is let this mishmashed script make the screen but I guess this really proves that Pixar is a team effort and when you have a lot of very good people working a story great things can happen.
To bad they weren't all together here.
Anyway a short story overview. John Carter is a Human who gets swept away to the planet Mars but not the Mars that you and I know, instead it is the Mars right out of the pulp fiction mind of Edgar Rice Burroughs. Mars (or Barsoom as the natives call it) is a dieing world filled with numerous warring tribes and cities states fighting for the remaining resources. Plopped down into the middle of this struggle, John Carter finds that his Earthly body can do super heroish feats in the weaker Martian gravity. Discovered by the brutish native race called "Tharks" Carter finds himself increasingly engaged in the struggles of Barsoom.
Basically that is what we got in the movie but its stitched together in such a way as to often be nonsensical. You may find your self saying "What is going on?". It all bounces around and the viewers is yanked around the story.
Ok so what works in the story? Well for one, the Tharks. Tall, slim and green with a brutish nature, Tharks are the most "alien" of the surface denizens of Barsoom. The movie captures them -perfectly- the viewer learns right away they are no "Navi", these are a people with a harsh point of view that has been forged on a harsh world. The second element that shines is "Woola", ugly and unfailingly loyal, Woola is the Barsoom peer for a dog. Except Woola looks like some kind of love child between a salamander and a Chow dog. I only wish that he had more screen time.
What didn't work? Well most of the rest. As I said above, the editing and basic story needed to be refocused. Because of those basic flaws the relationship between John Carter and everyone he interacts with comes off lackluster at best.
It amazes me that this movie cost over 200 million and I have great doubts that Disney will see their money back and I will be even more surprised if we see a sequel, which is a shame since there is a lot to like in the original material.
Posted on 2/28/12 09:36 AM
Another piece of art from Studio Ghibli, TSWOA tells the story of Arrietty and her family as they live their lives as "Borrowers". Borrowers you see are little people who live in the secret places of your home. They only take what won't be missed and try their best to avoid the dangers that are numerous and waiting in the larger world.
Like many stories from this studio, the story is quiet yet has its share of excitment and peril. The attention to detail, be it visual, auditory or some nuanced behavior on the part of the story particpants is top calibre.
If TSWOA has a flaw its in the Human character Shawn. Shawns fatalistic view of the world as he awaits his surgery makes him come across as a "Debbie Downer". Still the quibble is minor and not worth missing the show.
In the end, TSWOA is another classic that should be in the collection of anyone who has children or has children visit their home.
Posted on 2/10/12 08:09 AM
Chronicle is a cautionary tale of what happens when power falls into the hands of those who cannot handle it.
When three teens discover a mysterious object that grants them telekinetic powers, the fun to dangerous curve swings as their level of prowess grows.
Andrew, outcast and abused is a powder keg waiting to explode. Matt, handsome and intellectual is the voice of reason. Steve, charismatic class president is the cool kid who is not afraid to include friends from other circles of life.
The story is told mostly from the point of view of Andrews hand held camera. Honestly though I think the story would of been better served without this modern realism troupe. The plot elements of Chronicle are fairly easy to predict, I wasn't surprised by anything in the plots progression. However that being said I was entertained throughout.
In the end we get a rumble that trashes a large portion of Seattle and only one telekinetic will be left standing.
Where is Professor X when you need him?
Posted on 12/05/11 06:59 AM
Well its better then the total garbage that was Revenge but that isn't saying a whole lot. Uneven action porn at its finest, Transformers is complex where it should be simple and simple where it should be complex. However all that being said my main issue is that the characters do not grow. You know that thing called "character development"? Transformer skips that (and in some cases regresses).
I just imagine the studio execs had a check off list of things that had to be in the Transformer franchise because they worked in the first movie...
Item 1: Sam must be dating a hot chick that is totally out of his league. His parents must also harp on him about snagging said hot chick as he is unlikely to do better.
Item 2: Bubblebee must talk in radio speak (this is the character regression I spoke of before).
Item 3: Everyone must give Sam a hard time even though he has proven himself in two previous films (The best job he can get is copy boy? really? really??).
Item 4: Even though they work together the Humans and Transformers must learn nothing from each other.
Thing is I could just go on and on.
Also may I add the only reason I watched this movie is because I got it from a family member who won it in a raffle, I swore after Revenge I would give no more money to this franchise and I have kept my promise.
Posted on 11/28/11 08:31 AM
Puss in Boots...
Such a bad kitty...
He showed up in Shrek 2, gave us sad kitty eyes and a thick Spanish accent and my heart was stolen.
Now he is back to tell his own story and what a story it is! I went into Puss in Boots with my nieces expecting to be mildly entertained, instead I was completely entertained. Every character was deep and true to their story, the story itself was filled with top action and was just a plain old good fun ride!
Ok so the story goes something like this...
Poor Puss was an Orphan, yes, sad but true and he was taken in by a sweet woman who...umm...collects orphans. In the orphanage his one true friend was a real egghead (sorry could not help myself) named...umm...ok... Humpty Dumpty. Problem was though Humpty for all his brains could not think of anything but getting free of his low class orgins. So he became something of a ...umm... bad egg. This drove a deep wedge between the Egg and the Cat and they bitterly went down seperate paths.
It is in the reunion of the two friends that the movie finds its drive. Is Humpty a good egg or a bad egg? How will Puss manage to put right what went wrong? Its all so, dramatic! and silly! The movies writers might of left well enough alone right there but no, they just had to go and introduce another fun player who goes by the name of Kitty Softpaws. Kitty is a thief, scoundrel and one damn fine dancer (The dance to the death scene between Puss and Kitty in hysterical, especially if you have ever owned a cat). She is the perfect addition to the team, Humpty is the Brains, Puss the bravado and Kitty the sleight of paw to pull off a heist.
In the end Puss is just good fun, the voice acting is spot on, the story fun, the animation clear and bright. Go out and enjoy!
"How dare you do the litterbox at me!" (hehe)
Posted on 11/28/11 07:47 AM
Hugo, Hugo, Hugo...
Hugo has left me somewhat confused for several days. Why? because I was not sure how I would rate the movie. 70% seemed low, 80% seemed high. Why?
I guess I will start with what I feel is the gist of my opinion. Hugo is not a movie for everyone. Most children under the age of 9 and many viewers of a less 'cerebral" nature will be bored to tears. At its heart Hugo is a movie for those who love the movies.
In the end I went with the 70% rating because for all its visual beauty (superb use of 3d, from a visual aspect the move is 100%), the movie failed to engage me on an emotional level. Given that movie deals with the loss of a beloved parent, Adult depression, Love, being orphaned etc. etc. I feel like I should of had a stronger connection to the characters and sadly I did not.
What is even sadder is that when I went home, I watched a silly Phineas and Ferb movie with the same niece who went with me to Hugo. I laughed and gasped more during an animated movie about a secret agent platypus then I did during the whole of Hugo.
Posted on 10/08/11 11:33 AM
Much in the spirit with the first movie, Hellboy II was fun. My only complaint was that the movie was not playing on a digital projector and the theatre I saw it at played it just didn't do the visuals justice (low projector bulb setting). The story moves at a good pace and the characters are well developed. Underneath the adventure story is a actually a very deep message about how mankinds actions are making the world a poorer place for everyone...
Posted on 10/08/11 06:37 AM
Let me lay my cards on the table.
I like Robots and I like Hugh Jackman.
Taken in that light I guess you could say Real Steel was a sure bet for me, however all that being said I have been disappointed in the past by other "sure things"-insert Wolverine here-.
Anyway the world of Real Steel is not far removed from our own. In the near future Human boxing has been replaced by the brutal violence and showy smackdown of Robot vs Robot boxing (Has anyone out there watched Robot Wars? you know where people face off with real homemade bots? if not you are missing a good time). Anyway Charlie (Hugh Jackman) was one of the last flesh and blood boxers of some renowned but has now thrown his hat into the ring of guiding robot fighters.
This would be all good and well except for the fact Charlie is down on his luck and is the poster child for irresponsibility and impulsiveness. Things take a turn for Charlie when he gets custody of his 11 year old son for the summer and so begins the heroes journey.
Is Real Steel predictable? Yep, you can see that train coming way down the tracks.
Is Real Steel uneven? Yep, I wished the human element had been as smooth as the Robotic action.
Did Real Steel have me clapping and cheering? Yep, As Charlie, his son and their Robot 'Atom" begin to fight I found myself totally immersed in the action in a way I have not felt in a long time at the theater. Rousing is a good word.
In the end Real Steel is a great "Father Son" movie, so Dads out there, do you need to earn points with the little guy in your life? go see Real Steel and go to Dairy Queen afterward and have a conversation about how cool it would be to watch robots knock the pistons out of each other.
Posted on 8/13/11 07:52 PM
There is a secret place of the mind that exists for children, where the simple objects of the world take on a wonderous glow. Do you remember them? it was that stick that became a space ship, it was the tallest tree that became your fort, it was the first time you see a hundred tadpoles, a hundred living quotation marks that would grow legs and sing.
This is the world of "My Neighbor Totoro".
You see a Totoro is a forest spirit, varied in form and visible only to children. A deeply engaging and moving film, MNT follows the adventure of two young sisters as they move to a new home with their Father, all to be closer to their mother who has taken ill. Along the way though they make the friend of and keep company with the spirits that live in the surrounding woods.
MNT is filled with visuals that will stay with you for a lifetime. A little girl standing in the rain as her giant spirit friend holds an umbrella, Spirits in the moonlight sharing the beauty of night sky. As you watch MNT, you too may remember what it was like to have the spirit of a child.
Totoro is a classic of animation and film for good reason, share it with anyone who has a "spark" for life, young or old.
Posted on 7/31/11 08:41 AM
2011 appears to be the summer of "good but not great" movies as Cowboys and Aliens falls squarely into that niche.
So with a name like Cowboys and Aliens you are flooded with the number of cliches that could possibly appear in this movie, however like any tried and true movie genre it is the script and performances that will allow a movie to float above its shortcomings.
Sooo with that being said C&A does have some rock solid performances. Daniel Craig as a hardened Cowboy who has lost his memories but not his fighting skills provides a pitch perfect performance. I'm not a fan of westerns but DC could get me to change my mind in that regard. The other strong performance is Harrison Ford as a soured civil war vet, now successful rancher who has learned that life is tough so you better be tougher.
The movie moves along smoothly through the standard western stereotypes, you know them well, the dusty town down on its luck, bandits, the guy named Doc, the crusty no nonsense preacher etc.
The something not in genre occurs. Flying machines in the night appear and like the ultimate strangers from out town, shoot up the place and make off with a number of the townspeople. Everyone has a big WTF moment and then the question becomes 'what are we going to do?".
Thus begins the movies journey into the west. As the movie progresses we pick up several allies along the way. Olivia Wilde as the mysterious out of towner, A tribe of Indians who have also lost some people and a gang of Bandits who owe Craig their loyalty.
The Aliens themselves are scouts and rare resource gatherers. The alien design is nothing clever but suitably ugly and dangerous to our Human sensibilities (Just once I want a squadron of doe eyed Panda cubs show up and kick Human butt... "awww look, they are sooooo cute...ZAP!).
In the end, all the Western stereotypes (Cowboys, Indians, Cattlemen, Gunfighters etc. etc.) have to team up to repel the invaders of their genre and in the end its pretty fun time!
Oh and I wish to give a 100% score to one aspect of this movie... Daniel Craig in a Black Cowboy hat and chaps, LORD HAVE MERCY!