Monday, March 19, 2012

Mars Needs Movie Go-ers.



Just this...

Was quite disappointed to find out that Disney declared "John Carter" to be an official "flop".

Which means that the odds of it getting a sequel, let alone the sequel it deserved, are very slim indeed.

Tars Tarkas is confused...Why didn't you like his movie?

I know that the critics hated it, to my confusion.  Doug Walker, a critic I have a great deal of respect for even compared it to "Stargate".  (A movie I hated)  Which confused the heck out of me, because I really didn't see the connection.  As I mentioned in my previous blog post, I loved this, and I will be buying the DVD.  Perhaps a familiarity with the books was required for enjoyment, I don't know.

(Although my sister hasn't read them and she liked it...)

But, 200 Million dollars pretty much speaks for itself.

Disney hopes to make up the difference with The Avengers and Brave, later this year, both movies I am looking forward to, even with this looming over my head.

I just felt like sharing my sad feelings...

Nothing I can do but vent.

Friday, March 9, 2012

John Carter of Mars

By Issus, I was not expecting to like this movie.

Here's the deal.  I have been a fan of Edgar Rice Burroughs "John Carter of Mars" series since I was a kid.  So when they announced a few years back that they were going to be doing a live action movie of one of my favorite childhood book series...I was...Dubious.  Then I heard that Disney was doing it, and that Pixar was going to be doing the effects...And...I was still dubious, but I thought "Well, it IS the best possible hands to be handling this..."  So I resolved that when it came out, I would see it.

And tonight, not three hours ago, I did.

And I am speechless.

I have four categories when judging an adaptation of anything.  I call it the SpecSpidey formula.  Classic, Contemporary, Iconic, and Cohesive.  This is the formula that Greg Weisman and Victor Cook used to create "The Spectacular Spider-man".  This was their rules for adapting it, and it's a big part of what made SpecSpidey work.

Most adaptations only get the "Contemporary".  But John Carter...It NAILED them.  All four categories.

I'll try to limit my spoilers as much as possible, because well, I want you to go see this yourself. It is very hard to maintain a balance that is true to the books, and yet has contemporary sensibilities, and is entertaining as well.  But by God, they did it.

I went into the theater and expected very much to be disappointed. Seriously.  I wasn't expecting more than a fun little popcorn fest with my family (All of whom went with me, my dad, an even BIGGER John Carter fan than I am, also loved this film.  His big complaint...He felt the swords weren't like the ones from the book.  If the biggest John Carter fan I know only has a problem with the swords...Then you know that this was a damn good adaptation of the books.)

I'm not saying I didn't have nitpicky problems.  My biggest issue with the movie was that they gave John Carter a tragic backstory involving a dead wife and child.  I felt that was unnecessary, but in the grand scheme of this fantastic movie, it is a VERY minor footnote.

I had heard ahead of time, that the Pixar Animators actually went to the Burroughs estate, and poured over Burroughs notes on Barsoom and the Martian series...and BY GOD does it show.  Not once did I ever think that any of the CGI animals were ANYTHING but the creatures described in the books.

When I saw Woola, I said "Yep, that's a Calot.  That's always been a Calot, and that will never be anything but a Calot."

When I saw the Great White Apes, I said "Yep those are the Great White Apes of Mars."

And when I saw the Green Martians,

Yes, BY GOD those were Green Martians.

Oh, and can I just take a moment to praise Willem Defoe for his Tars Tarkas?

In my head, for YEARS, Tars Tarkas was voiced by the incomparable Keith David, a man I have met on more than one occasion and is most notable in recent years for Doctor Facilier of "The Princess and the Frog".

But Willem...He just took that role, and OWNED it.

One day, I'll get to voicing my complaints about famous actors being picked over professional Voice Actors...But not in this movie.

Willem Defoe was perfectly cast.  Perfectly.  

I know I'm gushing here...I was expecting this review to be a lot more negative...But I can't help it, I am just thrilled that I got to see something that really wasn't expecting.  A good John Carter of Mars movie.

I guess I should nitpick at a few of the little things that did irk me, for a more entertaining review...But...Really, between John's backstory being tweaked a bit, and...the fact that they made his learning the language of Barsoom into a mystical experience...I can't fault this movie for any of the changes that they made.  (In the books, John learned the Barsoomian tongue like a normal person learns a language.  ie. Over time.)

I think that the man they cast as John himself was a bit weak, but ultimately, he was more than adequate.

Their Dejah Thoris, simply was Dejah Thoris.  She tackled the role by the horns and made it hers, and I never doubted for a moment she was Dejah.

Now the movie was definitely an adaptation of the first book in the series "A Princess of Mars", though a LOT of elements from latter books were thrown in.  Including the Therns or "White Martians" from the Second and Third books.  And I think the movie was better for it.  You'll understand when you see it.

I truly hope that they make a sequel, because it's rare when a movie leaves me craving more, as this one did.  I went and saw it in IMAX 3D.  And normally, I don't care for 3D. (in fact, I hate it!)   I saw "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader" in 3D, and didn't care for it.  But it really did work for John Carter, and while I don't insist, I actually do think that it was worth it this time.

And because I went to see it in IMAX 3D on Opening Night, I got this nifty poster that now hangs on my wall (PROUDLY--No small thing, since the other posters on my wall are for "Gargoyles" and "The Chronicles of Narnia", and if you know me--You know what a big deal that is.)

See, nifty poster

So, in a very good mood, the Disney Wizard signs off.  

Dejah Thoris

Sunday, March 4, 2012




Recently this Disney Wizard got himself a wakeup call.  I was a self-proclaimed Greg Weisman fanboy...And I hadn't seen season 2 of W.I.T.C.H.

Yeah...I'm kind of embarrassed here...

I suppose that I could make the excuse that "it's too girly"...But that wouldn't be true, because I DID see season 1 on ABC.  I just...Never made the effort to look it up.  Eventually, some friends metaphorically smacked me in the head and I got to watching.

Okay, for those of you who don't know W.I.T.C.H. is an italian comic series about five girls Will, Irma, Taranee, Cornelia, and Hay Lin (get it?)  who learn that they are the "Guardians of the Veil" between the worlds of Metamoor and Earth.   For this purpose, powers over the five elements have been given to them (And eventually more worlds get thrown in) It was created by Elisabetta Gnone, Alessandro Barbucci and Barbara Canepa.

Well, Disney, in it's infinite wisdom, decided that it needed an animated series as well.  An American one...Okay...

The comics were always owned by Disney, so they could do that.  The set the creative team up with the premise.  Middle school/High School girls with a bit of magic tied in.  Only...Halfway through season 1, they decided to make it an action-adventure series and move it Disney's (now defunct) Jetix block.  Despite the premise that it starred 5 female protagonists, and Jetix was aimed at 6-11 year old boys.  One might like to think that the Disney Execs were simply being enlightened...But I really doubt it.

Yeah...I don't get executive mentality.

But the genre shift, caused problems for the folks in charge of season 1 and they ended getting fired and a whole new team was brought in to replace them.  And that new team included Greg Weisman as Head Writer and Story Editor.  In other words, he was in charge of Season Two.

And...I never saw it.

So, realizing at once the absolute error of my ways, I set for the watch the entire series season 1 and 2 (there was no season three--Why does Greg Weisman never get a third season?!?  WHY?!?)

Season One...I tried to rewatch in one sitting...But it was a chore...  An absolute chore.  They DRAGGED the over arching plot out over way more episodes than necessary.  Elyon's stupidity got bothered the hell out of me (in the comics Phobos's deceptions of Elyon were a lot more elaborate), Phobos and Cedric were annoying villains, and the girls--That's W.I.T.C.H. themselves the lead characters--were SO bland and boring.  There most interesting moments where when Cornelia was insisting that they tell Elyon the truth, and Will was against--though Will never could give a reasonable explanation why she was against.

That being said...There IS a highlight of season one that I enjoyed very much.

This is Blunk.  And I love him.

A character and species exclusive to the TV show, Blunk is a Passling.  A small toad-like goblin adverse to bathing and capable of smelling portals between Meridian (Metamoor in the comics, Meridian was merely the capital city, but Metamoor was never named in the show) and Earth.

Blunk was a smuggler (or "Value Wholesaler" as he puts it) and not really interested in anything but himself.  He was created to be a comic relief character.  But I call him the hero of season 1.  He's literally the only character who changes or develops (okay, MAYBE Elyon does too, but her blindness to what her friends and the rebellion were trying to tell her really irked me.  Partially because they dragged it out so long)

Blunk starts out as a smuggler and is tossed into a cell with Caleb--the leader of Meridian's resistance against Prince Phobos, the villain.  When Caleb is rescued, Blunk get's dragged along with him and ends up in Heatherfield. (Earth) There, he becomes a reluctant ally to Caleb (helping him track down portals back and forth between Earth and Meridian) and to the girls.  Over the course of the 26 episodes, Blunk goes from a reluctant ally, to a more willing ally, to an actual friend--he goes out of his way to get the Heart of Kandrakar back when he's framed for it's theft--to an actual full-on hero when he attacks Cedric in the season finale.  (He did this to save Elyon's life) For reference, Blunk is 3 feet tall and has no powers whatsoever.

And Cedric is a giant snake.

And that is why I love Blunk.

And then came season 2.

I have, in the past, gushed a little about my love of Greg Weisman's shows (I've mentioned Gargoyles of course, and The Spectacular Spider-man and Young Justice are on my list of Fav non-Disney shows) And of course my friends kept telling me how good Season 2 of W.I.T.C.H. was compared to season one.

I was a afraid that they had oversold it...

They hadn't...

Season 2 was ADDICTIVELY good.  How good you ask?  Well, the five girls SUDDENLY developed distinctive personalities, and their backstories and family lives became clearer.    I went for not caring for them at all--except Irma's occasional snark--To LOVING these girls.  Rooting for them in both their personal lives...And their lives as Guardians of Infinity (yeah, they went from the Veil to Infinity and that's just ONE of their major developments)

To me, Will Vandom--their leader--became a breakout character.  I fell hard for her.

It's hard to talk about her growth in Season 2 without spoilers...But...She has to deal with A LOT this season, and you can't help but want to hug her.

And I love that cute "blow her bangs out of her face static-hair" thing she does in this season.  It's a very nice touch.

And that's not to say the others don't develop either, because they most certainly do.  Will was just my favorite.

But Irma learns a lesson on the power of words (not in a cheesy way either)

Taranee and her mother start fighting about Taranee's boyfriend.

Hay Lin deals with her Grandmother going to the Dark Side (Long story--some of it even true, check out the season and you'll see what I mean)

And Cornelia learns that her little sister may just be the Heart of Earth.

On that note: U is for Undivided may just be one of the best episodes of anything I've ever seen...SO GOOD.  No spoilers on that one.  (Keeping to a minimum for S2 anyway, go watch it yourself)

That being said...Season 2 is SO much better if you've taken the time (as I did) to watch season one.  It builds on top of what was already established, and makes it better.

And then there's the villains...

While Phobos and Cedric got old really quick in Season one, Nerissa the ex-Guardian of Quintessence (Will's element, thus her counterpart from the previous team) is a cold, calculating, and extremely competent villain.  With a huge amount of personal angst, and an inability to take responsibility for her actions.  Oh yeah...And a HUGE Ego.  She's a lot like a cross between Demona and Xanatos from Gargoyles.  ie...Scary good at what she does.

AND...If you watch Season 1...She's been there the whole time...Manipulating the girls and the resistance.

And there were two more 'breakout' (bad puns!) villains in season two.  Phobos and Cedric.

Yeah...You read that right...

While I got SO sick of Phobos and Cedric in S1...S2 Phobos and Cedric are...Well, I'm going to cop out and say "watch it yourself" and then you go ahead and get back to me.  Let me know what YOU think about Phobos and Cedric in S2 compared to what they did in S1.

                                             PHOBOS: "Am I not down with my bad self?"

I think that it's a credit to Greg Weisman (and the talented people he often associates/surrounds himself with) that he can take two villains I hated in season one...and make them...

Into something that I adored in S2.  As I say far, FAR too often with Greg's shows "It's a pity there was no season three."