Tagged: movie

REVIEW: The Descendants

It used to be, Tom Hanks was the everyman who took us into one film after another, giving us a chance to experience the mundane to the fantastic. That role in many ways has been ceded to George Clooney, who displays in one film after another, a charismatic vulnerability that makes you root for him regardless of the circumstances. He brings that empathy to Matt King, the lead figure in The Descendants, out this week from 20th Century Home Entertainment.

Yeah, we all now he was nominated for Best Actor but if you haven’t seen the film; you can watch the video and see the actor lose himself in the character. King is married, with two teen children, and has his world rocked, first by the wife Elizabeth (Patricia Hastie) getting sick and then learning she has been having an affair. While she lingers in the hospital, he goes in search of Brian Speer (Matthew Lillard), his daughters — Alex (Shailene Woodley) and Scottie (Amara Miller) — in tow.  Kaui Hart Hemmings’ acclaimed novel is well adapted by director Alexander Payne. (more…)

REVIEW: Roadie

Let me state for the record that I grew up loving the music of the Blue Öyster Cult, partly because I was the right age and partly because their lead singer, Eric Bloom, is my uncle. Therefore, I am attuned to all things BOC and am amazed I missed the release of Roadie. Now out on home video from Magnolia Entertainment, the film is a small tale about love, life, and yes, rock and roll.

The BOC was among the premiere heavy metal bands of the 1970s, thwarted from super-stardom because New York City AM radio wouldn’t play their music so they peaked. They continue to tour and play around the world with Uncle Eric and guitar wizard Buck Dharma (Donald Roseser) fronting the group. Roadie features the sad life of Jimmy Testagross (Ron Eldard), who was living his boyhood dream of working with the band but now that they play only occasionally, he’s effectively laid off. He returns home to Forest Hills, Queens for the first time in two decades and the film features that fateful day and night.

Pushing 40 with only roadie on his resume, he’s not poised to do much of anything and feels like a failure, whose widow mother (Lois Smith) still smothers him with tough love. Licking his wounds, Jimmy looks at his old room, his old neighborhood, and his old relationships. He sees the world with sad, tired eyes and comes to grips that things have changed. The first thing he notices is that his mother is not herself as the first signs of dementia are evident. Secondly, the girl of his dreams is still around although married. She’s a singer herself, but her music is folk acoustic, seemingly anathema to someone like Jimmy, but he listens with fresh ears. (more…)

REVIEW: Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy

Espionage stories fall into one of two categories: thoughtful, well-plotted stories about characters forced to make difficult choices or high-tech, glossy larger-than-life adventures. Most espionage films and television have focused on the latter while the former has become a staple of modern day fiction with the acknowledged grandmaster being John le Carré. His books are difficult to adapt given the amount of plot and detail but they make for gipping reading and when brought to the screen entirely depend on the skill of the writer, director, and cast.

His best known novel is probably Tinker Tailor Solider Spy which was a wonderful miniseries starring Alec Guinness several decades back. This past holiday season, a big screen version was delivered and for the most part was overlooked by audiences. That’s a shame because as we now know, it gave Gary Oldman one of the most interesting roles of his career and brought him an Academy Award nomination for his work as George Smiley. The movie is out Tuesday on home video from Universal Home Entertainment.

The movie certainly benefitted from le Carré being a producer, but it was the skillful screenplay by Peter Straughan and the late Bridget O’Connor that boiled the novel into a digestible 2:08 movie. Director Tomas Alfredson grabbed the audience by their heads and said to them, “This requires your complete attention so focus now.” Early on, there are a series of scenes, some just seconds long that carefully build a mosaic of images and story points. We open with the resignation of Smiley and C (John Hurt), the head of MI:6, forced out in the wake of a botched mission in Budapest. Soon after, C dies from illness and Smiley is brought back in from the cold to work independently to prove whether or not a mole exists within the agency. (more…)

JOHN OSTRANDER: Casablanca At 70 – You MUST Remember This

SPOILER WARNING: I’m assuming that people reading this have seen the movie and thus will be free with me discussing elements of the plot. If you’re one of those who haven’t, do yourself a favor and DON’T READ THIS. See the movie instead and have your own experience with it. Trust me. You’ll be glad you did. If you need a plot synopsis, IMDB has a good one here

The movie Casablanca turns 70 this year and, to celebrate, Warner Bros is releasing it on Blu-Ray on March 27 and is also showing it, one night only, in selected movie theaters across the country on March 21. I’ve already got the tickets for Mary and myself.

I’ve seen the film at least twice now on the big screen and look forward to seeing it again – I’ve watched it countless number of times on DVD but the experience on the big screen is matchless. Those incredible close-ups of the three stars at the climax of the film are so stunning on a large screen.

My first experience with Casablanca, fortunately, was a showing at a second run small movie theater in Chicago (the 400) in an inspired double bill with Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam. I had put off seeing the film for the same reason I put off seeing or reading or listening to many things that I would later love – because people told me I had to see/read/listen to something and sometimes I’m a pig-headed idiot.

This was an audience that knew and loved the movie; they cheered and laughed at the best lines and scenes. In the famous dueling anthems scene, some audience members sang the Marseilles and the entire audience erupted into cheers when the French anthem triumphed over the Nazis. It was electrifying for the audience as well as the characters. What a great introduction to the film.

Over the years I’ve watched and became aware of different fine points of the movie. It was very much a picture of its time and reflected a reborn patriotism that came with the War effort. In a scene where Humphrey Bogart’s character, Rick, is waiting for Ingrid Bergman’s character, Ilsa, to come back to his nightclub after hours, he’s getting seriously drunk and asks his piano player and confidant, Sam (Dooley Wilson), “If it’s 1941 in Casablanca, what time is it in America?” That line isn’t just drunken slosh.

Earlier in the movie, Rick okays a credit slip dated December 2, 1941. It sets the events of the movie five days before the Japanese bomb Pearl Harbor causing the United States entrance into World War II. Prior to this, much of America is isolationist and Rick embodies that. He “sticks his neck out for nobody.” He’s cynical and aloof; he never drinks with customers or employees. That all changes before the end of the film.

The fulcrum of change is the return of Ilsa, Rick’s former love in Paris before the Nazis matched in. You can’t much blame Rick for being in love with her; as played by a young Ingrid Bergman, Ilsa is radiant. Rick, however, has been burned. He was jilted by Ilsa just as they were to leave Paris together.

Rick’s change comes late in the film when he and Ilsa have been reconciled and she declares that she still loves him. Torn, upset, she tells Rick that he will have to decide for her, for everyone involved. Rick simply says, “Okay. I will.” That, however, changes everything. At that moment Rick becomes the man of action once more and everything moves forward at a gallop towards the climax.

Rick disposes of all his holdings. We assume it’s because he’s going off with Ilsa but that’s not his goal; he’s getting her out of Casablanca (along with her husband). He’s not out to kill the villainous Nazi Strasser (even though he does). He expects to wind up in jail, a concentration camp, or dead. That, more than anything else, marks him as a real hero – the degree to which he is willing to sacrifice himself.

There’s more to be said about Casablanca and I’ll say them next week. Until then – here’s looking at you, kid.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell, R.N., CNOR, C.G. (Comic Geek)

DENNIS O’NEIL: “I’m a rambler, I’m a gambler…”

But before we get to this week’s topic, John Carter (of both Mars and East St. Louis), I’d like to apologize to the students and faculty of the State University of New York at New Paltz for the talk I gave there on Friday, during which I allowed myself to ramble…

But you want to know what’s pathetic? An old fossil, his dome a’shining, unable to remember if he ever edited (or wrote) a John Carter of Mars comic book.

One more thing about New Paltz… I’m not sure why I rambled – I did have notes laying there on the table in front of me. But ramble I did and, again, I apologize…

John Carter? Yes, John Carter. As most of you know, there is a major movie, in 3-D as well as the plain vanilla 2-D, just released and undoubtedly playing at a theater near you – here in Nyack, the nearest screens are at the Palisades Mall and we’ll probably saunter up there one day soon. We didn’t go on opening day because I’d promised to speak at New Paltz…

Yeah, about New Paltz: I think I was okay until I asked for questions from the people in front of me – handsome, lovely young people! – and let me assure everyone that the questions were and are not to blame, the fault is entirely mine….

But I was telling you about John Carter: I know I once worked on a title that featured some John Carterish material, probably adapted from the work of John Carter’s creator, Edgar Rice Burroughs… By the way, did you know that he also created Tarzan of the Apes, which was his big, big success…

I should mention to you kids at New Paltz that I often ask for questions from the audience or class or whatever I’m talking to – well, actually, there’s no particular reason I should mention it, it’s just that I want to mention it…

And while we’re on the subject of mentioning – did I mention that John Carter is one of my oldest friends? That I was best man at both his weddings? Wait…this might be confusing. I wasn’t at the wedding or weddings of John Carter of Mars, assuming he was ever married – did he make an honest woman of Dejah Thoris?… no, my John Carter is from East St. Louis, Illinois, though he now lives in Northern California near San Francisco, which has always been one of my favorite cities, even before John Carter – the one who never got to Mars…never even got as far as the moon, unless he did and neglected to mention it to me – even before that John Carter took up residence in the Bay Area and that’s got to be something like forty years, more or less, and single-parented one of my favorite people, Katie, who teaches psychology in Washington State…by the way, I’m also fond of John Carter of East St. Louis’s other offspring, Dylan, who lives and works in Missouri – I haven’t seen either of John’s children in years, though I did exchange email’s with Katie and had a phone conversation with Dylan…

Five hundred and twenty eight words already? Where does the space go?

FRIDAY: Martha Thomases and the Doonesbury Strip-Tease

ESO Episode 102: Reboots, Reimaginings, Remakes & Relaunches. Oh my!

This week, the Earth Station One podcast tackles a topic that pulp fans can understand and sympathize with. That’s right. They’re talking Reboots, Reimaginings, Remakes & Relaunches. Oh my!

Stop if you’ve heard this one before! The ESO crew gets deja vu all over again as we discuss the hot button topic of remakes in TV, movies, comic books, and more. Are they just money grabs or is imitation indeed the sincerest form of flattery? Mike Faber, Mike Gordon, and Bobby Nash point out the good, bad, and completely unnecessary. We also talk to Rebecca Perry about her spine-tingling experiences at the Days of the Dead show in Atlanta and artist Anthony Owlsey takes a turn in The Geek Seat. All this, plus the usual Rants, Raves, Shout Outs and Khan report!

Join us for yet another episode of The Earth Station One Podcast we like to call: Reboots, Reimaginings, Remakes & Relaunches. Oh my! at http://www.esopodcast.com/
Direct link: http://erthstationone.wordpress.com/2012/03/14/eso-episode-102-reboots-reimaginings-remakes-relaunches-oh-my/

Table of Contents
0:00:00 Intro / Welcome
0:04:56 Rants & Raves
0:39:17 The Geek Seat w/ Anthony Owsley
0:56:56 Reboots, Reimaginings, Remakes & Relaunches
2:00:08 Khan Report w/ Rebecca Perry
2:31:36 Shout Outs
2:36:17 Show Close

If you would like to leave feedback or a comment on the show please call the ESO feedback line at (404)963-9057 (remember long distance charges may apply) or feel free to email us @ esopodcast@gmail.com

REVIEW: The Three Musketeers

Like most Americans, I learned about Alexander Dumas’ Three Musketeers from their countless adaptations on screen and in print. For me, it was probably Sheldon Mayer’s Three Mouseketeers reprints along with the rallying cry of “One for all, and all for one” shouted by just about every cartoon, sitcom and prime time drama at one point or another. Sure, there was the delightful two film adaptation made by Ilya Salkind that was instrumental in their approach to Superman the Movie and my kids grew up adoring the somewhat boiled down, tongue-slightly-in-cheek version from Disney with a great cast (Oliver Platt, Kiefer Sutherland, Tim Curry, etc.). It wasn’t until last year that I actually read the book in its entirety and it was a revelation.


Billed as a modern retelling, The Three Musketeers  from Summit Entertainment, was therefore eagerly awaited. It had been over a decade since the Disney film so the time must have felt right and director Paul W.S. Anderson, certainly knew how to make commercial fare to appeal to today’s younger audiences. Screenwriter Alex Litvak certainly knows how to handle action given his work on Predators and the casting sounded right: Athos (Matthew Macfadyen), Aramis (Luke Evans), Porthos (Ray Stevenson) and D’Artagnan (Logan Lerman) versus Cardinal Richelieu (Christoph Waltz) and Rochefort (Mads Mikkelsen). There was the sex appeal of Milady (Milla Jovovich) and her would-be lover Duke of Buckingham (Orlando Bloom). (more…)


This week marked fifteen years since the death of my sometime writing partner and lovely wife, Kimberly Ann Yale. Since here we talk about pop culture in so many different forms, I thought I would pose myself a question – WWKL? What Would Kim Like? What has come out since her death that she would really have gotten into?

Let’s start right here – on the Internet. First of all, she would have loved ComicMix and probably would have had her own column here. Kim was a terrific essayist – much better at it than me, I think. She was thoughtful, she picked words with care and grammar and punctuation really mattered to her. Me? If it gets past spellchek, I’m good.

In fact, I think Kim would have been all over the Internet. She would have had a blog or two or three, she would have been answering other peoples’ blogs, she would have been Queen of Facebook. Facebook was invented for someone like Kim. She would have had a bazillion friends on FB. I would have had to pry the computer from her.

Kim was also big into monsters and horror, vampires being her especial faves. I think she would have favored True Blood over the others because of the sex and the melodrama and the Southern-fried aspects of it all. (Kim’s mom was Southern and Kim fancied herself as a Southern belle. Kind of hard to do when you’re born up North but her mind worked it around.) The Dark Shadows movie starring Johnny Depp? Eeeeeeeeee! She would be camped out for it right now.

I think both The Walking Dead comic and TV series would have sucked her in but she would have been tickled by Shaun Of The Dead. Kim had a terrific sense of humor and the world’s most infectious laugh. Trust me – if you were a stand-up comic or doing a comedy in the theater, you wanted Kim in the audience.

I wonder what she would have made of Cowboys And Aliens? She was the one who got me started watching westerns and they were among her favorite genre films and, of course, adding sci/fi to it would have really intrigued her but I’m not sure what she would have made of the execution. I only give it two stars and I think she would have agreed (Kim also worked as a movie critic back in Chicago for a small suburban newspaper, so she could really knew how to dissect a movie.)

On the cowboys and spaceships mode, I think she would have been into both Firefly and the movie tie-up, Serenity. And Nathan Fillion would have led her to the Castle TV series (she also loved fun mysteries and strong female characters).

Then there’s Doctor Who. Kim and I met at a Doctor Who con (actually, a combined Doctor Who / Chicago Comic Con) and she would have rejoiced at the Doctor’s return. I think she would have liked David Tennant’s Doctor the best; she would have described him as a “creamie” – as in cream your jeans. However, she would have liked all three incarnations that have come out since the series’ return and, as a writer, would really enjoyed Stephen Moffat’s writing and now running of the franchise. She would have also liked his take on Sherlock Holmes and on Jekyll and Hyde. I stopped watching the latter during its first season; not because it wasn’t good but because it really creeped me out too much.

On movies, she would have been amazed and ecstatic with The Lord of the Rings trilogy and would, as Mary and I are doing, been waiting impatiently for The Hobbit movies coming out. Viggo Mortensen would also have been counted as a creamie.

She would have been fascinated by how CGI made superhero movies possible and what happened as a result. Christopher Nolan’s Batman films, especially The Dark Knight, would have sucked her in and, come Hallowe’en, she would have dressed up as Ledger’s Joker, no question in my mind about it.  I think, however, she would have been even more taken with Inception – Kim had an active dreamscape and tried to spend as much time in it as possible so the movie’s setting would have fascinated her.

She would have liked Robert Downey Jr. as Iron Man (less so the sequel) not only because he was so good (and he was) but because she was also a sucker for redemption stories and Downey’s reclamation of his career would have stirred her. She would also have really liked Chris Hemsworth as Thor (creamie) and the whole Captain America film and she would really be anticipating The Avengers, not the least because Joss Whedon is helming it.

I could go on much longer but I think I’ve tried everyone’s patience enough. I may be just projecting onto Kim what some of my own likes and dislikes are but it refreshes her memory in my own mind and heart, keeping the flame alive. She was full of life and she would have brought that with her into the future. Like all those we treasure, she lives on in me and in all those she loved and loved her.

Memory doesn’t die with the body, and neither does love.

MONDAY: Mindy Newell


Derrick Ferguson Gets Himself To Mars To See JOHN CARTER

Walt Disney Pictures
Directed by Andrew Stanton
Produced by Jim Morris and Colin Wilson
Screenplay by Andrew Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon
Based on “A Princess of Mars” by Edgar Rice Burroughs
It was while waiting in the theater lobby for my wife after we had just seen JOHN CARTER that I heard a snatch of conversation that most likely was duplicated in one way or another in movie theater lobbies all across the country.  It went something like this; “It would have been a better movie if it didn’t try to rip off so many other movies.”
If I was not the sweet, gentle soul you all know and love I would have put that worthy in a serious headlock and informed him that the book the movie JOHN CARTER is based on, “A Princess of Mars” was written back in 1912 by Edgar Rice Burroughs who just about created the sub-genre of science fiction which could well be termed “Sword and Planet.”  With his series of novels set on the Red Planet, Mr. Burroughs also created a template for heroic adventure fiction that has has been homaged, borrowed, copied and downright stolen from then until now.  John Carter is the great-great grandfather of dozens, if not hundreds of heroes in comic books, novels, movies and television.  Not to mention the influence the books has had on writers, artists and scientists.  Most American astronauts will claim “A Princess of Mars” along with “Star Trek” as the major influence in them wanting to be an astronaut.  The importance of Edgar Rice Burroughs, his creation of John Carter and his vision of Mars simply cannot be overstated.
But that’s enough of the history lesson.  You’re here to find out if I think JOHN CARTER is worth your time and money.  Okay, for a change I won’t make you read the whole review to find out.  Yes.  JOHN CARTER is most definitely worth your time and your money.  Not having read the book in quite some time I’m not going to swear to the faithfulness of the adaptation but most of the major scenes rang true to me and they’re what I wanted to see and I wasn’t disappointed.
John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) is a former Confederate Army soldier who goes west to prospect for gold after The Civil War and finds a whole cave full of the stuff.  He also finds trouble from a Union Captain (Bryan Cranston) and some bloodthirsty Apaches.  This leads to Carter being trapped in the cave and transported to Barsoom, which is what the inhabitants of that planet call Mars.
The bewildered Carter is captured by Tars Tarkus (Willem Dafoe) the Jeddak (king) of the Tharks, the fierce Green Warriors of Barsoom.  Standing some seven feet tall with tusks, and a double torso with four arms, they are the first clue to the bewildered Earthman that he isn’t in Virginia anymore.  But it’s not as if Carter is entirely helpless.  Due to the lesser gravity of Barsoom and his denser bone/muscular structure he has the strength of a hundred men and is able to leap incredible distances.
Meanwhile, over in Helium which is home to the human looking Red Martians, they are realizing that they cannot win their long war with their hereditary enemies, the Zodanga.  Arraignments are made to marry the Princess of Helium, Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) to Zodanga’s ruler, Sab Than (Dominic West).
However, Dejah Thoris doesn’t think much of this at all and runs away, an act which leads her to being captured by the Tharks and meeting John Carter.  Once she sees his extraordinary abilities, combined with his exceptional swordsmanship, she sees a way out of her marriage and a way for Helium to win the war.  However, unknown to all, there is a third faction at work in this conflict.  The Holy Therns, led by Matai Shang (Mark Strong) have been secretly manipulating conflict between the various tribes and races of Barsoom for thousands of years for their own hidden purposes.  And they’re not about to let a wild card like John Carter interfere in the plans they have for Barsoom.  Or Earth…
The sheer joy of seeing a major motion picture based on anything written by Edgar Rice Burroughs probably prevents me from seeing any flaws in the movie.  Taylor Kitsch wouldn’t have been my first choice for John Carter but after seeing him I don’t know who else could have played the role so well.  He commits himself fully to the story and the character and there was never a moment he wasn’t convincing. 
As Dejah Thoris, Lynn Collins has a lot to live up to as Burroughs described her in the books as being so impossibly beautiful that any real woman would have a hard time fulfilling that description but she does the job admirably.  And her role in the story is fleshed out considerably by having her be a scientist/swordswoman  as well and not just a princess to be rescued.
Willem Dafoe as Tars Tarkus and Thomas Haden Church as Tal Hajus, a rival Thark warrior do a superb job of giving the giant green warriors personality but Dominic West’s character could have been a better villain.  He’s little more than the errand boy for the Holy Tharns but West is such a good actor, I’m willing to let it go.
And maybe it’s just my thing, but when a movie costs as much as JOHN CARTER, I appreciate seeing it up on the screen and I certainly did.  This is a big-budget movie that actually does look like a big-budget movie with some really astonishing sets and eye-popping locations.  This is how a larger than life movie with larger than life characters is supposed to look.  Not like a TV movie on steroids.
Bottom line: I liked JOHN CARTER a lot.  It’s a movie made by talented folks who respect the source material and delivered what I was looking for and that’s more than enough for me.  Enjoy.
132 minutes
Rated PG-13

MIKE GOLD: John Carter Returns To Earth

I was about 14 years old when Ballantine Books started their reprint series of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ John Carter of Mars. Being a science fiction fan, a character fiction fan, and fan who’s attracted to anything numbered sequentially, I devoured the series. I re-read the first five books about 12 years ago and I enjoyed them, albeit with a nostalgically jaundiced eye.

I was both amazed and, oddly, not surprised (they’re two different emotions) when my father told me he was a John Carter fan. He started reading them around 1928 – by then, the first book was about 16 years old. Sharing this bond was quite comforting: both John Carter, my father, and I were created in Chicago over a 38 year span.

There have been numerous comics adaptations. The first was for the newspapers and for Dell Comics, created by Burroughs’ son John Coleman Burroughs. Gold Key tried a few issues; despite Jesse Marsh’s art, they were pretty lackluster. Later on, both DC and Marvel got into the John Carter business – sequentially – and those projects attracted an amazing line-up of artists, including Murphy Anderson, Dave Cockrum, Ernie Colón, Larry Hama, Carmine Infantino, Gil Kane, Frank Miller, Walt Simonson, and Mike Vosburg. Whereas the latter Marvel issues were written by Chris Claremont and Peter Gillis, the majority of the DC/Marvel runs (by far) were penned by Marv Wolfman, and that stuff is among my favorite of his. And that says a lot. Later on, Dark Horse did some crossovers with Tarzan, and John Carter even popped up in the waning days of the classic Tarzan newspaper strip. Currently, both Dynamite Comics and Marvel are publishing the character – the latter is tied into the new movie, and the former is tied into a lawsuit.

There had been a great many attempts to bring John Carter to the screen, both large and small. If you dig around, you’ll find the legendary cartoonist Bob Clampett’s test footage and sketches – they were amazing, and I wish he was able to sell the project. I remember going to the International Licensing Show in the early part of this century and seeing a huge display for an upcoming movie adaptation – some stunning artwork, particularly in their mammoth backdrop. Sadly, none of these projects came to be. There was a movie released just a couple years ago starring Antonio Sabàto, Jr. and Traci Lords, but because I’m a nice guy who always maintains a civil tongue, I won’t mention it again.

This Friday, John Carter of Mars finally makes his big-time movie debut. Produced by Disney – not coincidentally the owner of Marvel Comics – if you haven’t seen any of the trailers, commercials or ads for the movie you just might be Stevie Wonder. For many, many reasons, I have set the bar for John Carter pretty high. My dad died six years ago, so I won’t be able to see it with him. But I notice my daughter Adriane is pretty excited about the movie, and I hope to extend the family bond to her this weekend.

By the way, this is John Carter’s 100th anniversary. If you’re planning on sneaking a cake into the theater, please, don’t light the candles.

THURSDAY: Dennis O’Neil