Monthly Archives: March 2012

John Carter Is Awesome

John Carter ~ In the year of The Avengers , there are only a few movies that I have been anticipating with the same tension and excitement as that of Earth’s Mightiest Heroes. There is Battleship, which is more a curiosity than anything else, as in how can a flick based on a kids game have such an awesome trailer? There’s also The Dark Knight Rises, which falls more into the morbid curiosity category. Regular readers know how much I absolutely hated The Dark Knight, so I am curious to see how much of a train wreck this one will be. And then there’s John Carter. In some ways, I have been more excited about this one than The Avengers.

First things first, all you critics and naysayers and underage idiots who think it rips off Star Wars can all just go to hell. John Carter is awesome. The books, by Edgar Rice Burroughs about John Carter of Mars are now over a hundred years old. A century, idiots, so if anything, George Lucas was mining Burroughs, not the other way around. And that goes for everything else under a hundred years old the uneducated are saying John Carter rips off. This is the original, literally the great granddaddy of pulp adventure science fiction. Everything from Flash Gordon to Superman to Adam Strange to Avatar owes a huge debt to this property.

And the other thing, yeah, that thing, I don’t want to hear any crap about box office. Yes, it was an expensive movie, and yes, it did not do well at the box office. The box office folks are talking about is domestic, John Carter did quite well overseas, where also apparently folks knew who the character was, despite the “of Mars” being removed from the title, but I’ll get to that in a minute. The fact is not that the movie did do well financially, it just did not do the numbers it was expected to do, that’s all. Let’s look at the facts – John Carter has made more money than The Artist and Hugo combined. Does that sound like a bomb to you?

There were other problems. The project got orphaned at Disney/Pixar, as nearly everyone involved in marketing was no longer with the company when it came out. So Disney only gave it the minimum promotion a motion picture of its size, budget and content should have gotten. Disney had written the film off before it even came out, and in recent weeks has even admitted it. Feeling saturated by the PR blitz of The Avengers and Brave? Well, enjoy, that’s John Carter‘s marketing money at work.

And then there’s the title. Disney had a real bomb last year called Mars Needs Moms, and decided that the word “Mars” was bad publicity, and so removed it. These are also the geniuses who wouldn’t call it A Princess of Mars (the book on which this movie is mostly based) because it would confuse the little girls (and probably the parents as well) in the audience. Not only is that just plain stupid reasoning, it’s also ripping the heart out of the character. John Carter is John Carter of Mars, period. It’s like calling a movie about Superman just “Man.” And also if they had kept the “Mars” in the title, at least some of the folks who weren’t aware of the character wouldn’t have at least known it was scifi of some sort.

Despite all that that, despite all of this crap that has been piled on top of the movie – I loved it. I’ve seen it three times. John Carter is the best movie I’ve seen this year. Now don’t get me wrong, it’s not a great movie, and there’s nothing original you haven’t already seen somewhere else (it has had a hundred years to be ripped off, mind you), but it is a fun movie, and I really enjoyed the two hours plus I spent in the theater each time. There hasn’t been an adventure like this is some time.

Based on the first novel A Princess of Mars, yet borrowing from later novels as well, John Carter stars newcomer Taylor Kitsch (“Friday Night Lights”) in the title role, genre actress Lynn Collins as the Princess, and Willem Dafoe brilliantly voice acting Carter’s Thark friend Tars Tarkas. Rounding out the cast are two veteran actors from one of my favorite HBO series “Rome,” Julius Caesar and Mark Antony, as well as Dominic West and Bryan Cranston who rule the screen while they’re on it.

I loved this pulp adventure of a Civil War vet transported to the otherworldly Mars to fight for and against its various peoples. I read these books as a ten year old at the Camden County Library when it was part of the long gone Echelon Mall, thanks to my reading enabling big sister. They were great then, and great now, as I read the first book again before seeing the movie. A friend of mine called it adventure porn for ten year old boys. I don’t find that all that offensive, I think it’s right on target actually.

John Carter is a fun adventure flick – don’t believe anything the naysayers tell you, go see it, go see it now.

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French Fry Diary 358: Denny’s, Clifton Heights

The Eurovision Song Contest 2012

The Eurovision Song Contest will be held in Baku, Azerbaijan this year, at the end of May. For those unfamiliar with the phenomenon, it is similar to “American Idol,” but predates it by several decades.

Over forty nations, mostly from Europe, but some from Africa and Asia, enter one original song into the contest, and over two semi-finals and one final, all of those nations vote by phone or computer for their favorite. The trick? You cannot vote for your own nation’s entry. The winning nation hosts the contest the following year. Past winners and contestants have included ABBA, Katrina and the Waves, Lordi, Cliff Richard, Nena, Lulu, Johnny Logan, and Celine Dion.

Here are four more entries from the first semi-final:

Albania: “Suus” by Rona Nishliu

Romania: “Zaleilah” by Mandinga

Switzerland: “Unbreakable” by Sinplus

And Belgium: “Would You?” by Iris

While Albania and Belgium present some of the same old ballads that invariably both bore audiences and also win the contest sadly, Romania and Switzerland are more with the spirit of the mad dancey eurotrash tunes that embody the spirit of Eurovision. I kinda like Romania as an early fave, and the Swiss entry is growing on me.

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French Fry Diary 357: Gourmet Basics Smart Fries

The All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast for the Week of 3-28-2012

The All Things Fun! New Comics Vidcast is shot live every week at All Things Fun! – the area’s best comics and gaming store, located in West Berlin, NJ.

Co-hosts Ed (Secretly a Mutant) Evans, Allison (DC Girl) Eckel, and Glenn (Honorary Avenger) Walker discuss the new comics out this week in two fun video segments, in wicked high definition, and available on the YouTube. See it here!

Discussion featured in this brand new extended episode includes: The big Avengers Vs. X-Men costume dance event at All Things Fun!, Avengers Vs. X-Men #0, The Vision is the fo-shizzle, Secret Avengers #24 by Rick Remender, Allison loses it, more ‘vengin’ comics, Daredevil #10 by Mark Waid, Moon Knight #11 by Brian Michael Bendis, Allison tackles FF #16, Ed’s Marvels and X-titles, X-Men Legal, Aquaman #7, Firestorm needs a hand and an editor, All-Star Western #7, Teen Titans #7, The Flash #7 by Francis Manapul, the rest of the New 52 DCs, The Walking Dead #95, Archie marries everybody, Dorothy of Oz Prequel #1, indies, kids comics, and trades.

Be sure to check out the thrilling new All Things Fun! website, and the All Things Fun! Blogs, by Allison and Glenn, and ATF! on YouTube.

Special thanks go to Dina Evans who keeps us all in line, and on the straight and narrow, and runs the show from behind the scenes. And be back here every Wednesday (or Tuesdays at midnight) to watch the new broadcast, and thereafter throughout the week!

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Random Tater Pic of the Day #41

Eurovision 2012 Is Coming

Yes, it’s that time of year again, time for the annual Eurovision Song Contest. Today, I’m giving you a peek at the first four entries from the first semi-final on May 22, 2012.

Competing for Montenegro: “Euro Neuro” by Rambo Amadeus

For Iceland: “Never Forget” by Greta Salome & Jonsi

Greece: “Aphrodisiac” by Eleftheria Eleftheriou

And Latvia: “Beautiful Song” by Anmany

Greece is always a fierce competitor in Eurovision, and it looks like this year is no exception. Latvia’s song is growing on me, mostly because it’s about Eurovision. There are many more to come. We’ll see what happens.

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French Fry Diary 356: Herr’s Lattice Cut Potato Chips

So Who’s This Zelda Chick Anyway?

Nothing hits home with the admission that I am a non-gamer more than when I am confronted with stuff I don’t know, and worse yet, stuff I know I should know. Like Zelda.

The Dark Crystal recently invited me to a big orchestra event where they would be playing the music from the Legend of Zelda videogames. The inference in the invitation is first, that this was a big thing, and second, that everyone knows who Zelda is. I do not, and I felt stupid.

Even my buddy Ray had recently given me a hard time because I admitted not knowing who Zelda was. Apparently he was further incensed because it was a game even I could play. Ray was ashamed of me. I was crushed. Who was this Zelda chick, and why was she ruining my life?

I did what everyone does in this situation, I visited Google, and then Google for dummies (that’s me apparently in this case), Wikipedia. Turns out she’s not just anyone named Zelda, bitch is legend, as in The Legend of Zelda. I knew she was a Nintendo product, but I had no idea she was the star of some sixteen different games on at least a dozen different game systems. Zelda gets around.

Now here are the facts. Zelda was named after the famous Zelda Fitzgerald, wife of the even more famous F. Scott. Game designer Shigeru Miyamoto thought it was a pleasant sounding name for a princess. The game itself is based on the designer’s own experiences as a boy where he explored the hills, lakes, forests, and caves around his home.

As inferred by Crystal’s invitation to a concert, the music of The Legend of Zelda is also quite famous and distinctive. Koji Kondo, a legend in music and audio for Nintendo composed the soundtracks for much of the game series, including musical clues and cues throughout. His work can also be found in the Mario and Starfox games.

The story of the game is fairly simple, or at least I’ll dumb it down quite a bit here. You play the hero Link, and you have to quest for stuff in the land of Hyrule to rescue the princess, Zelda. Like I said, I streamlined this baby. It gets more complicated the more you get into it. Link is sorta a cross between Peter Pan and the elf from Gauntlet in appearance, and has been parodied on Cartoon Network’s “Drawn Together.” Hyrule is your typical fantasy land, and Zelda, is usually the damsel in distress, only there to be saved or served. Later versions of course are playable, and more independent.

Well now that I have a little foreknowledge, and won’t be made to feel as stupid as before, maybe I’ll play one of these games in the future…

Marathon Man

Marathon Man ~ This is actually, just by weird coincidence, my second John Schlesinger and Dustin Hoffman movie this week. Like Midnight Cowboy, Marathon Man is an interesting time capsule that maybe doesn’t hold up as well. Midnight Cowboy still holds its own as representative of its era while Marathon Man comes off lacking its initial impact and in fact feeling dated. It’s the 1970s, but it’s not as timeless and is showing its creaks and groans.

Based on the book by William Goldman, who also wrote the screenplay, this tale of runaway Nazi dentists, smuggled diamonds, and the slacker graduate student caught in the middle just isn’t as hard hitting as it was in 1976. Roy Scheider, the king of the seventies, has little to do, while Hoffman does a bad naive Benjamin Braddock imitation throughout, and William DeVane’s best bit is when he recites the plot aloud in super speed. Scheider is wasted because the screen feels so empty when he’s not there, and it similarly feels that that is the only times the direction appears skilled and careful.

The grueling scenes of torture between Hoffman and Laurence Olivier, what the film is remembered chiefly for these days, are all that still stand up. These scenes are horrifying. I often have conversations with folks who won’t watch horror but do watch things like this. I don’t get it, I really don’t. Olivier as a Nazi scares the crap outta me, yet I laugh at Freddy Krueger. And the Nazis were/are real. It’s the real monsters that scare me. The scariest movie I ever saw was The Incident, about two hoods terrorizing a subway car full of innocents. No boogieman there. I just don’t get it.

Marathon Man is a good thriller for its time, just don’t see it before a dentist appointment.

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