Monday, June 29, 2009


Year: 1988

Director: Fritz Kiersch

Cast: Oliver Reed, Jack Palance, Urbano Barberini, Rebecca Ferratti, et al.

Format Viewed: VHS

Run Time: 95 minutes

Recommended: Yes, but only if you haven't read the novels and are a fan of campy B-movies.

MPAA Rating: PG (For fantasy violence and graphic depictions of crazy hats.)

Gorean Fantasy: Despite assumptions based on the name this form of fantasy has very little- in fact it has next to nothing at all- to do with blood and gore. Rather this fantasy genre is about self-indulgent male oriented slave girl fantasy.

Life on Gor.

Premise: Tarl Cabot, like John Carter- the character Cabot is all too obviously based upon- is transported to a distant world where he has many fantastical adventures.

The Movie: Professor Tarl Cabot is giving a lecture about a magic ring and the legend associated with it. In fact he drones on and on about this ring and what it's supposed magical powers are. Cut to the professor in his car. As he's driving away a storm kicks up, the professor loses control, and the next thing you know it's WHAM!

Tarl Cabot

The professor wakes up on what appears to be coarse gravel. As the professor gets up and looks around it's sudden shocked realization time. For as far as the eye can see all there is to see is desert. Did he die and go to hell? Is this a concussion induced hallucination? Where the heck is his car?

Before we can fully question what's going on Tarl wanders upon a village, or maybe it's a town, we see it from a distance so it's hard to tell. Again, before the audience can fully question what's going on, we see said town is under attack! Fires are set, men are killed, women run frantically to and fro, and amidst the chaos a single female warrior stands valiantly before a crimson colored stone battling all who dare approach her.

Talena, Warrior Princess

It's obvious that this female warrior is important because we keep seeing her between cut scenes. Alas not even her best Red Sonja impression can help her now. There's just too many enemy warriors. Ultimately they overwhelm her and the other defenders, and this is only the beginning of the movie!

Slave Market

Alas Gor doesn't keep this action packed pace throughout. It has it's moments, a Sapphic tavern brawl here, a bevy of scantily clad dancing girls there, a glimpse of a slave auction, alas the dull plodding drone of the cliché riddled plot gives us a movie that is easy on the eyes but hard on the ears. Nor do the problems end there. Here's a sample of dialogue:

Tarl Cabot: Hey, what is this place?

Talena: It's a tavern.

In case you're wondering if the character is really THAT stupid: Yes, yes he is.

The Tavern

That's Tarl in the "tavern" and the entire time he wears one expression on his face: befuddled buffoon. Granted part of that may be due to the cheapness of the sets and ridiculous scenario and costumes but. .

Assessment: Gor is supposed to be an adaptation of the semi-popular and controversial novel, Tarnsman of Gor, by John Norman; the nom deplume of one John Lange Jr. If you've ever heard anything about the Gor novels this movie will probably baffle you. If you haven't ever heard of the novels not to worry, this movie has not relation to them beyond the use of a few character names and the use of the title. While technically science fantasy; being about a college professor that gets "magically" whisked away to an distant alternate world; Gor plays more like a sword and sorcery feature complete with swords, sandals, and low budget sorcery. Yet, for an 80s era sword-and-sorcery, movie Gor is very tame. Almost disappointingly so.

The Villain

Verdict: For an adaptation of a sword-and-sorcery novel Gor does not have much of the magical in it. The movie lacks even the rudimentary sense of enchantment found in Conan the Barbarian or the truly fantastical found in Hercules in the Haunted World. The special effects are sporadic and less impressive than those found in similar movies like Steel Dawn or The Adventures of Hajji Baba thus rendering Gor barely half as good as either of those movies. Yet it spawned a sequel: OUTLAW OF GOR.

Sadly GOR is only available on: VHS

#End of Line

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Friday, June 26, 2009

Reflections on Barsoom, Part 3

Book 2

3. The Naked Truth of Mars

If the past is prologue Disney, currently helming the John Carter of Mars project, is not likely to rush to take up the baton of aboriginal rights. This studio ran like a scared cat to the editing room to alter a brief segment from Fantasia that featured cartoon Centaurettes. The fact faux nudity and/or characterizations of fantasy creatures in a cartoon bothered anyone would be funny, if it weren't so ridiculous. But, to be fair, that anyone felt a cartoon required editing for content is a sign of shifting attitudes. What once didn't raise an eyebrow several decades ago becomes scandalous, or politically incorrect, today and so too might attitudes that obtain today seem archaic or puritanical decades from now.

How non-Aboriginal cultures treat depictions of aboriginal cultures often reveal far more about the non-Aboriginal culture than the true state of the aborigines themselves. One need look no further than documentaries aired on channels like PBS, Discovery, History, The Learning Channel, et al to see how such programs come saddled with warnings about "indigenous nudity" and, more often than not, blurring and digital fogging. Yet the MPAA rubberstamps movies depicting amoral violence in which it's okay (by their standards) to display eviscerated human bodies and internal organs yet, unbelievably, insanely, a woman's bared breast or buttocks must be blotted out as verboten to see. What this says about our culture, and it's self-anointed blowhard watchdogs, is too disturbing to contemplate here.

Nudity, in and of itself, is neither salacious nor provocative. Nor is it pornographic or erotic. It merely is. One does not become any less human, or worthy of dignity, because one has disrobed or lacks apparel. If this were the case no one would ever take off their clothes to bathe. We are born naked, not wearing burkas. Strip us of our trappings of culture and civilization and we become little more than naked apes, do we not?

Naked Ape

Such reflections are at the core of the Barsoom novel series. For while nude John Carter is never truly naked, for he retains his wit. Edgar Rice Burroughs novels remind us it is intellect, not clothing, or trappings of civilization, that separate mankind from primates. Yet another reason for the lack of clothing on Barsoom, besides lack of resources for extensive textile manufacture, may be environmental. Extremes of heat and humidity may make it impractical for a primitive culture- or a culture with limited agricultural resources teetering on the brink of collapse, as is the case on Barsoom- to have more than rudimentary and crude textiles. Yet this does not preclude the use of skins or furs. Such certainly seems to be the case on Barsoom, or so we can extrapolate based on the following passage from Warlord of Mars:

The moment we entered the city Talu threw off his outer garments of fur, as did we, and I saw that his apparel differed but little from that of the red races of Barsoom. Except for his leathern harness, covered thick with jewels and metal, he was naked, nor could one have comfortably worn apparel in that warm and humid atmosphere.

Remember the examples of Frazetta's artwork? They're relatively timid and decorous in comparison to the reality of Barsoom as writ. And this is what Disney is planning to adapt into a movie? It doesn't make sense. Already the speculation is circulating with articles like `John Carter of Mars': Will It Dethrone `Twilight' As The Best Romance Flick? Viz:

"While “Twilight” fends off “True Blood” for supremacy over the vampire romance market, the Stephenie Meyer-penned series might have an unlikely lovelorn competitor to contend with — the newly announced “John Carter of Mars” starring Taylor Kitsch could well be Hollywood’s next romantic hit."

As are concerns such as: Disney to Fast Track John Carter of Mars Film:

John Carter is about as Disneyfiable as Tarzan is: In other words, not very. Worse, John Carter was a filthy Confederate reb. That's part and parcel of the character, and while Carter never really shows any racist tendencies in the novel (he does, after all, get along exceedingly well with both the green and red men of Mars), it's an integral part of his character, part of what makes him unique. Disney would whitewash that. And it's hard to believe Pixar would do justice to the visceral bloodshed, violence and carnage of Burroughs' classic martian pulp novels.

The worry is Disney will treat this like the typical Hollywood "property" and hire a hack to make-up their own story, slap the Barsoom name on it, and thus exploit Edgar Rice Burroughs novels to make a quick buck. The marketing possibilities if Disney turns this into a costume epic ala Pirates of the Caribbean, as the director already has indicated is the plan, are extensive. The money Disney could potentially rake in on product tie-ins with clothing lines, T-shirts targeted at 'tweens, fast food chains, action figures and their accessories, Halloween costumes, and plush toys shamelessly targeted at children will likely be phenomenal.

Alas, with the director announcing, before shooting so much as a single frame of film, this will be rated PG-13, and a PG-13 'tween flick at that, John Carter of Mars isn't likely to qualify as a faithful representation of Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom. It may be a pallid Goldkey version but not likely the Barsoom of A Princess of Mars. This may have critics crying foul and asking if Disney hasn't purchased their MPAA rating and that's why the project, which has languished in limbo for decades, is suddenly getting "fast tracked". There's lots of money at stake, yet so too is the literary vision of Edgar Rice Burroughs.


If Disney follows the usual pattern licensed products will be pushed into retail stores all across the country as part of the marketing blitz leading up to the release of the feature film. If we're lucky this may include new deluxe editions of the novels. And, this being Disney, there may even be a John Carter of Mars ride at Disneyland. That could be fun. But Barsoom isn't a carnival funhouse, it's not a joyride, nor should it be portrayed as such.

Studios buy the rights to something and (too often) just ignore the source material and make up an entirely different story, slap on the title of the "property" and wait for the suckers to buy tickets. It's repulsive. But it's business as usual in Hollywood. Yet, if you were to pull this kind of shell game in the food industry by advertising, say, salmon on your menu but serving catfish instead you'd be put out of business and probably fined, if not thrown into jail. Is it that Hollywood doesn't care? They say they respect authors' and their work, yet the movies they produce say otherwise. It's mind-boggling.

So what if Disney isn't likely to have the moral courage to present a candid and true representation of the aboriginals of Barsoom. They're a corporation, not cultural anthropologists. Should we hate them for wanting to make money? It's not like Disney is in the business of shaking kids down for their lunch money. At least there is going to be some version of Barsoom on the big screen, that's a good thing, right?

Book 2

For those interested in the real Barsoom the full text of the novel "A Princess of Mars" can be downloaded from these sites: Project Gutenberg, Books Should be Free, and can be read online here: Those looking for more information on Barsoom or the works of Edgar Rice Burroughs should visit the following sites: Barsoom, Barsoomia, Official Edgar Rice Burroughs Tribute and Weekly Webzine Site, or The Robert E. Howard United Press Association. There's also some old concept art for Set Sketches for John Carter of Mars (1970's version), More John Carter, More JCOM, here's a page of Rare Unreleased John Carter of Mars Illustrations and, of course, there's always the artwork of Julie Bell and Boris Vellejo:


# End of Line

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

Reflections on Barsoom, Part 2

Book 4

2. The Artistic Vision of Mars

Art reflects not only the mores and attitudes of the culture in which it is produced but reflects the sensibilities of the times in which it was created. While most readers familiar with the Barsoom novels may envision Edgar Rice Burroughs' hero, John Carter, and his adventures on Mars as portrayed in the artwork of Frank Frazetta:

Classic Frazetta.

That work represents but one artistic vision of Barsoom. Yet a quick Google for "Princess of Mars" turns up an ad containing this iconic model kit representation of Dejah Thoris:

Iconic princess.

Look for fan art online and this is an example of what you'll find:

Inspired fan art.

Obviously that's inspired by master illustrator Frank Frazetta's work. Thus this artistic vision of Barsoom has obtained as the popular one. Granted times, and cultural mores, change. A Princess of Mars was first published circa 1912 as a multi-part serial in All-Story magazine. And it was portrayed quite differently way back when:

Book 1

Yet it is Frazetta's work which is remembered for it more faithfully captures Barsoom as written in the novels. Yet even Frazetta's art was somewhat inhibited. For comparison here's an example of fan art for the character Dejah Thoris:

Dejah Thoris

Actually, as you may have noticed, this particular character is far more prominent in the artwork than is the titular hero. Dejah Thoris has become an iconic figure, so no pressure on the director or actors, yet if fans don't get something like. .

Dejah in action.

Or perhaps. .

Dejah sketch.

Or maybe even something like. .


The 'fan boys' will probably really get nasty, though not without just cause. Disney is synonymous will family friendly entertainment. That begs the question: What are they doing buying the rights to a pulp adventure series in which the characters seem to be either naked or half naked most of the time? Viz.

I looked first at my lifeless clay there upon the floor of the cave and then down at myself in utter bewilderment; for there I lay clothed, and yet here I stood but naked as at the minute of my birth.

Naked and unarmed as I was, I had no desire to face the unseen thing which menaced me.

With the exception of their ornaments all were naked.

She was as destitute of clothes as the green Martians who accompanied her; indeed, save for her highly wrought ornaments she was entirely naked, nor could any apparel have enhanced the beauty of her perfect and symmetrical figure.

There are two ways to interpret this. The characters are either totally nude or they aren't. Naked can imply defenseless, unprotected, exposed, or without covering (as of hair or fur). The word's meaning depends on context. In the above the context is clear, it's used in reference to a character without apparel or clothing. Yet, as typical of many primitive cultures with limited textile resources, they are not entirely lacking ornamental adornments; thus in the context of their culture they are neither naked nor nude. It is only through the prism of our own culture that they appear so.

So why did the author portray the aboriginal inhabitants of Mars this way at all? Surely he must have been aware of this fact?

Indeed he was!

The characters are 'nude' in the novels not for salacious effect but because nudity was, once upon a time, viewed as being metaphoric for a return to an Eden-like state of primal grace. Yet the author also knew that their was a fine line between the "noble naked savage" and the merely "naked savage" and thus it is left to the reader to make their own mind up about the nature of the natives of Mars. Alas, in our contemporary society of the relative present, expressions of sexuality have fallen victim to politically correct fascism. In the lemming rush to judgment nudity has become viewed by purveyors of dogmatic Political Correctness as salacious and impure. This poses a dilemma since the main alien antagonists, a race of being called Tharks, and indeed most of the inhabitants of Barsoom, don't really wear clothes. Then again neither does every culture on our own planet. Witness the following images of Xingu natives of the Amazon river basin in Brazil:


Despite elements of modern influence in their dress their traditional ceremonial garb remains rather minimal, aside from body paint/tatoo art and beads. .


But are they nude or merely naked? Perhaps they are neither. There has always existed a double standard where depictions of aboriginal cultures in their so-called "native state" exist. Edgar Rice Burroughs pulled no punches with his writing about the aborigines of Barsoom, which is perhaps why his novels are so well received. They possess a reality as gritty and candid as any National Geographic article about native cultures. Alas few Hollywood studious have the moral, or intestinal, fortitude to stand up and treat aboriginals and their culture, even fictionalized representations, with the respect they deserve.

But what does this mean for the John Carter of Mars movie adaptation?

Dejah Thoris

# to be concluded in Part 3

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Monday, June 22, 2009

Reflections on Barsoom, Part 1

"This piece is something of a follow-up to last weeks John Carter of Mars is GO! examining certain concerns about the announced movie adaptation. It really began as a reply to a comment and just sort of ballooned into an full on article. While a bit long and dry in places I hope it isn't a entirely dull read. - KP

Book 11

1. The Harsh Reality of Mars

If memory serves there's been talk of adapting Edgar Rice Burroughs' Barsoom novels for the big screen for quite some time, the first almost-was production being an animated feature circa the 1930s then the almost-was Ray Harryhausen version discussed circa the 1980s. Paramount also had the rights circa 2000, but nothing much came of their attempt either. There may have been other aborted projects but these seem to be the best known almost-got-made attempts. So what's the hold up? What's the difficulty?

Perhaps the biggest obstacle are the novels themselves. These are old school pulp science fiction written not just in a time before political correctness but in a era when ideas about utopianism, naturism, socialism, eugenics (betterment of the species through selective breeding and/or genetic enhancement), and progressivism were being explored. Too, herein are aliens that are truly alien- not merely humans dressed up in bad costumes with prosthetic foreheads- and unabashed sexism. Or rather what the post-PC world would view as sexism. The hero, John Carter, is the epitome of what contemporary post-modern feminists would derogatorily refer to as an testosterone fueled chauvinistic male.

Why are these problems? Aside from the potentially awkward "politically incorrect" aspects there has been a shift in our social mores and attitudes. John Carter comes from an era when men were expected to be men, meaning self-reliant individuals who think for themselves and bow to no one. That's quite a departure from the prevailing mentality in our contemporary genuflecting victim culture. Too, the Tharks pose unique challenges all their own as they look like this:


Easy to do in animation or a CGI environment but difficult to do in a live-action movie. And that's just one of many strange looking creatures inhabiting Barsoom. Which explains why Pixar is involved.

Burroughs' Martians also seem to be an idealized eugenic society presaging the current trends in "green" eco-progressivism demanding the exertion of control over not merely the environment, per se, but how humanity lives (and dies) within it. Witness the following passage from A Princess of Mars:

I do not mean that the adult Martians are unnecessarily or intentionally cruel to the young, but theirs is a hard and pitiless struggle for existence upon a dying planet, the natural resources of which have dwindled to a point where the support of each additional life means an added tax upon the community into which it is thrown.

By careful selection they rear only the hardiest specimens of each species, and with almost supernatural foresight they regulate the birth rate to merely offset the loss by death.

Each adult Martian female brings forth about thirteen eggs each year, and those which meet the size, weight, and specific gravity tests are hidden in the recesses of some subterranean vault where the temperature is too low for incubation. Every year these eggs are carefully examined by a council of twenty chieftains, and all but about one hundred of the most perfect are destroyed out of each yearly supply. At the end of five years about five hundred almost perfect eggs have been chosen from the thousands brought forth. These are then placed in the almost air-tight incubators to be hatched by the sun's rays after a period of another five years. The hatching which we had witnessed today was a fairly representative event of its kind, all but about one per cent of the eggs hatching in two days. If the remaining eggs ever hatched we knew nothing of the fate of the little Martians. They were not wanted, as their offspring might inherit and transmit the tendency to prolonged incubation, and thus upset the system which has maintained for ages and which permits the adult Martians to figure the proper time for return to the incubators, almost to an hour.

The incubators are built in remote fastnesses, where there is little or no likelihood of their being discovered by other tribes. The result of such a catastrophe would mean no children in the community for another five years. I was later to witness the results of the discovery of an alien incubator.

While the term eugenics has become disused or carefully tiptoed around this is only because when taken to it's extreme it can become a dogmatic doctrine of racial purity. Such a doctrine was espoused by Nazi eugenicists, but then any science taken to extremes can become sinister. It is important to remember that Mr. Burroughs was not alone in writing about such thematic issues in his novels and that they were written long before the Nazi's came to power in Germany. Nor does the fact John Carter was a officer of the Confederacy bear any greater implications beyond the facts as laid out in the opening chapter of A Princess of Mars; namely that our would be hero finds himself destitute and adrift:

At the close of the Civil War I found myself possessed of several hundred thousand dollars (Confederate) and a captain's commission in the cavalry arm of an army which no longer existed; the servant of a state which had vanished with the hopes of the South. Masterless, penniless, and with my only means of livelihood, fighting, gone, I determined to work my way to the southwest and attempt to retrieve my fallen fortunes in a search for gold.

John Carter, formerly Captain of the Army of Virginia, was thus a man who found himself handed the shit end of fortune's stick yet managed to turn it around to his advantage. These facts form the thread from which the world of Barsoom was woven. Pull one out, white wash the facts, or substitute other threads and it is no longer Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom.

Book 1

The current Barsoom project, tentatively titled John Carter of Mars, was first announced sometime circa 2006 or 2007, after Disney acquired the rights from Paramount, and, needless to say, this has had numerous actors and directors attached to it over the years. But, if the news from last week is any indication, it seems Disney/Pixar has finally decided to green light the project. More than that it appears this is planned to be a trilogy. But will it be Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom that makes it to the big screen?

Book 4

One can only hope this adaptation wont be turned into some ludicrous, nonsensical, piece of garbage aimed at ADD riddled 'tweens and thus avoid the fate that befell the Land of the Lost movie. Alas this is Disney and Hollywood, where the odds that any adaptation will be faithful to the source material are slim to none. That may be a cynical view but then Hollywood is a cynical town. Then again considering this is also a Pixar movie that means there should be some potentially awesome CGI, I say potentially because Pixar does animated movies well but it remains to be seen how well they will be able to integrate their work into a live-action feature. Hopefully they'll do the VFX very well.

Despite this silver lining the fact remains it's a Disney production. One can't help but despair that what will be produced is a dumbed down, white washed, politically correct version of Barsoom. How much of the Barsoom found in Mr. Burroughs' novels will actually make it onto the screen? Sadly given the current trend to pander to the 'tween demographic with tweaked-out adventures one can only hope the worst that will be done is John Carter of Mars will be turned into a action adventure comedy with a romance subplot.

Dejah Thoris

# to be continued in Part 2

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Thing Below

Year: 2004

Director: Jim Wynorski

Cast: Billy Warlock, Kurt Max Runte, Catherine Lough Haggquist, Peter Graham-Gaudreau, Warren Christie, Kiara Hunter, David Richmond-Peck, Colin Lawrence, Jim Thorburn, Craig Brunanski, Julie Hill, &tc.

Format Viewed: Satellite Broadcast

AKA: Sea Ghost/ Ghost Rig 2

MPAA Rating: R

Score Card:

Click for Score Card info.

Premise: An pathetically cheap looking CGI tentacle creature-alien-monster-mutant something gets loose in a oil rig/secret military lab/ship board corporate research facility someplace and kills a bunch of people then other people get sent in to deal with-find-recover something and the mutant-alien-crazed monster whatever starts killing/stalking/eating/mating with their corpses/G-d knows what.


The Reality: THE THING BELOW plays like an awful, ineffective, plodding, illogical, and utterly pointless knock-off/remake of DEEP EVIL.

The Story: Until recently I thought the worst movies ever produced were made by the Polonia Brothers, but those are relatively competent no-budget productions in comparison to this phoned in ineptitude. As the movie starts and the titles roll we are treated to library stock footage of naval vessels. This is used to establish an ethereal military relationship before the credits cut to a storm tossed ship wherein a gaggle of idiots decide...

Psst.  Radiation hazard!

At the height of a hurricane-like storm no less, to move an super-ultra-amazingly dangerous container. .

Notice anything strange?

A container holding the super-ultra-amazingly dangerous what-the-hell-ever. As if that wasn't retarded enough they even DROP said container (after a character comments on how bad it would be if they dropped it). .

Monster in a Canister!

And then proceed to stand around like stoned monkeys staring on in dim-witted confusion. (Actually stoned monkeys would have enough sense to fling their own poop at the critter.) Even The Asylum would be ashamed to release a movie this ill conceived. THE THING BELOW isn't just a fillip on the ear of reason it's an visual frontal lobotomy. From here on it only gets worse. The first 40 minutes are a listless vacuum of purpose. .

Looking for the director.

It's very obvious the cast was in this strictly for the money/screen credit/ craft services table/because someone had nude pictures of them. Speaking of nudity the filmmakers obviously realized what utter worthless shite they were working with and decided to try to distract the audience with a strip tease (about 38 minutes too late). .


Assessment: Words fail. Seriously this movie is the bastard child of inbred morons from the planet Ludicrous. The premise is clichéd, the plot ill defined, and the movie itself a complete and total bore. Which is astounding considering how much inane exposition the characters bring the movie to a screeching halt to recite. Bad enough THING BELOW contains a slurry of regurgitated stock footage, most of which can be seen in such prime z-grade action flicks as AGENT RED, CURSE OF THE KOMODO, and, believe it or not, DEEP EVIL. .

Deja Vu!

Verdict: This is essentially the cinematic version of a mad lib with the director filling in gaps between recycled footage. According to IMDB it took three writers to come up with this plebian silliness, at least one of which also worked on DEEP EVIL. Three writers and it's still inept garbage! If bad movies were a medieval village THE THING BELOW would be a murdered leper buried in it's dung heap. To say this "movie" appears to have been edited together from an motley assortment of library stock footage, scenes rescued/lifted from other DTV projects, and held together by the loose rubber band of a script written on rolling papers would be like calling a Category 5 hurricane a little bit of bad weather.

A 3 hour tour...

Caveat Emptor THE THING BELOW is available on: DVD

# End of Line

Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

John Carter of Mars is GO!

But will you want to watch it?

This news item has been percolating for some time. But as there have been announcements before that came to nothing I decided to take a wait-and-see approach. Seems, this time, the news may be more than mere pipedream rumor. Long story short the long awaited John Carter of Mars movie is finally a go. The bad news: It's going to be a Disney production. According to Screen Crave: "The director is leaning towards an older target audience, and expects the movie to be rated PG-13."

In other words it's going to be another dumbed down piece of 'tween targeted drivel. But then we already knew Hollywood was probably going to rape this "property", so don't expect a faithful adaptation; the novels are too politically incorrect for that. But maybe the director, Andrew Stanton (Wall-E, Nemo), is intelligent enough to realize such target audience pandering didn't work for Land of the Lost and come to his senses. Wouldn't you much rather hear a director talk about how faithful an adaptation he's going to make? The man's not even started shooting and he's already more worried about target demographics than shooting a faithful adaptation of the novels. Such is the way of Hollyweird; business first filmmaking last.

As for the cast so far it includes Taylor Kitsch (as John Carter), Lynn Collins (as Dejah Thoris) and, according to Screen Rant, Thomas Haden Church in an as yet to be identified role. The movie is slated to begin production either sometime in 2010 or this November, depending on which article you want to believe.

For more info see the articles at Screen Rant, Hollywood Reporter, MTV Movies Blog, Reel Talk, Screen Crave, KSL, and Slash Films.

# End of Line

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Gemma Arterton "Clash of the Titans" update

Seems there's some minor buzz about pictures from the set of Clash of the Titans being posted to actress Gemma Arterton's website. Not much of real substance in the online articles so I'll just briefly recap what's known so far. The current U.S. release date for Clash of the Titans is listed as March 26, 2010. It's a remake/re-envisioning of the 1981 movie. Louis Leterrier (The Incredible Hulk, Transporter 2) is the working director. Cast includes Sam Worthington as Persues, Liam Neeson as Zeus, Ralph Fiennes as Hades, and a whole lot of other people you've probably never heard of filling in various other roles. And what's Gemma Arterton's role?

This from actress Gemma Arterton's official website: "I'm playing a demi-goddess named Io. It's going to be a huge ensemble piece with loads of characters. The original was one of my favourites when I was a kid. The script is quite different from the previous film, though." (Read full comments here.)

Some pics of the actress as Io from her site:

There's also scans of a UK Empire magazine article about the movie to be found in the site's Clash of the Titans galleries. If you're looking for some real information about the movie I'd recommend the article Sam Worthington Talks Clash of the Titans, Avatar posted at Screen Rant in which the actor is quoted as saying: "We’ve done two weeks…We took on the Medusa. We’ve took on the witches. Next week we’ve got to take on the Scorpius and then we go and f*cking kill the Kraken." Classy. There's also a interesting article up at ScreenCrave, Two Join Clash of the Titans Remake, that's a bit dated but has some interesting snippets of character information.

# End of Line

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Star Runners

Familiar font.

Year: 2009

Director: Mat King

Cast: Connor Trinneer, James Kyson Lee, Toni Trucks, Aja Evans, &tc.

Format Viewed: Satellite Broadcast

Rating: TV-14 (LSV)

Premise: In a far distant future two "Runners", being cargo haulers who operate within the "gray area" of legality, are cajoled by officials of the U.P. (United Planets) into picking up a "crate" which turns out to contain something far more unusual, and sought after, than even these veteran smugglers expected.

The Reality: A quaint space opera throwback whose first few minutes has the feel of an episode of FIREFLY or STARHUNTER but quickly evolves into a laid back action-adventure hybrid of PITCH BLACK and STARSHIP TROOPERS.

Battling the bugs.

The Movie: This was the Sci-Fi Channel "original" movie for Saturday June 14, 2009 and stars Connor Trinneer, who played Trip in ENTERPRISE; and James Kyson Lee, Ando from HEROES.

Wandering dark corridors.

The plot of STAR RUNNERS is reminiscent of SERENITY sans the "Reavers" but retaining an shadowy corporate-government-military organization worried about maintaining the lid on one of it's secret cover-ups. .


Alas the background universe is not as well developed here as in either FIREFLY or STARHUNTER. There's mention of an "underground" though who or what they're fighting against isn't entirely clear. One assumes the 'verse STAR RUNNERS inhabits is supposed to be similar to that of FIREFLY and STARHUNTER but that's pure conjecture. There's mention of a "U.P." but it's never explained who or what this organization is, though at one point there is mention of a "United Planets" so one assumes they're the equivalent to the Alliance or Federation from Star Trek. There's also a mysterious female, Asta, found in a cryogenic shipping container- just like River from FIREFLY- around whom the story more or less revolves.


Nor do the similarities end there. Seems River, I mean Asta, is being hunted by shadowy corporate-military goons that want to keep her from spilling the beans about what happened on Miranda, er, Alpha Centari 3 or some such. However Asta was not victim of sinister medical experiments, rather she's more of a evolutionary mutation, a super human with preternatural ability ala Leeloo from FIFTH ELEMENT, so I guess that means she has the Divinity Cluster gene? (If you got that reference give yourself a Dr. Pepper!)

And that's just explaining the set-up for the characters! Long story short the Runners are forced to transship their "item" via civilian starliner. Said craft is attacked, the pilots knocked-out, our erstwhile Han Solo anti-heroes forced to take the helm and hyper jump into uncharted space where the vessel crashes on a planet. Here the plot becomes something of a crazed amalgam of PITCH BLACK and STARSHIP TROOPERS.

Asta looking bored.

Assessment: This is a Sci-Fi Channel original movie. Why it was labeled TV-14 LSV is beyond me as it seemed tame. The dialogue is suggestive of a good movie and nothing more, the only real violence was against CGI creatures that were about as realistic as the CGI critters in a FPS shooter from a decade ago, and there was no overt sexuality. That said I've been ignoring Sci-Fi original movies for a while. So I was rather surprised to see SERENITY listed on my menu as playing on Sci-Fi followed by a Sci-Fi original movie called STAR RUNNERS. It sounded like a space opera adventure. I was hooked!

There is a reason the Sci-Fi channel had SERENITY playing before this movie. And that reason, I feel, is because this has the feel of a fan boy's homage to that movie and the series it was based on. Alas the CGI is typical of a Sci-Fi Channel production. .

Get the windex it's a screen smudge!

Which is to say it's fairly bad. You can take a screen cap of a creature in a scene from any Ray Harryhausen movie and it will look like something. The above is just an amorphous smudge. But which is more embarrassing the above or the below. .

Battlestar Garbagescow?

How's that for a CGI knock-off of the Battlestar Galactica! It actually looks a lot better when viewed during playback. Don't worry. The movie didn't end with everyone getting killed off. Believe it or not the movie leaves itself open to a sequel, or potential series, though it's doubtful anything will come of it. Shame as Connor Trinneer does very well in the role of congenial yet no-nonsense space smuggler.

Verdict: There's two ways to look at this movie, kindly and with a hypercritical eye. The kind reviewer will note how this appears to be a homage to a number of series and movies and, while a bit slow at times, seems to be a movie made by those with a sincere love for the genre. The hyper-critical reviewer will note how the opening titles use the Battlestar Galactica font and use this as a launching point to rail against the director, producers, CGI/VFX. .

Blurry UFO.

And blame the post production team for lack of originality while lambasting the Sci-Fi channel for airing such clichéd yada-yada-yada. True, the plot may not have been any more imaginative than titling a movie BATTLE PLANET and while the dialogue was a bit lame in places there was also good dialogue and dialogue delivered lamely. However this is not a terrible movie. Yes, some things could have been handled better, like Asta's reveal, but a good critic will realize why it was done the way it was. To do it any other way would have people griping about the movie copying FIREFLY.

However the pacing could have been better but the movie didn't have me rolling my eyes and wanting to channel surf to see what else was on until about the one and a half hour mark when the "shaky cam" effect started to become annoying and the CGI started to get overused. STAR RUNNERS could have been an unused script for STARHUNTER or FIREFLY turned into a feature length film but it feels more like this was a fan boys love letter to the space opera genre. Otherwise, aside from the annoying vagueness of the back story, this is okay viewing for a evening in which you have nothing better to do. Those who aren't fans of sci-fi and space opera with a low tolerance for campy borderline lame drama should probably avoid this one.


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Copyright © C. Demetrius Morgan