Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, James Kirk, Luke Skywalker. Bleep those guys; as an interplanetary adventurer, John Carter has ’em all beat by at least ten years. Bringing the star of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ series of Barsoom novels to the screen has been a long-sought-after passion project for a number of filmmakers, including Bob Clampett, Ray Harryhausen, John McTiernan, and Robert Rodriguez, but it was Andrew Stanton — previously known for his work at Pixar, including directing FINDING NEMO and WALL-E — who finally got the chance, with Disney as his generous backer. Now his big-budget, live-action debut (laced with a healthy portion of computer-generated characters) JOHN CARTER, based on the debut tale A Princess of Mars, has come to the big screen, with Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, and Willem Dafoe starring. beabetterbooktalker.com‘s Andrea Lipinski joins Cinefantastique’s Lawrence French and Dan Persons to to soak in the magnificent vistas of Mars and see whether the adventure matches the scenery. Also: Andrea gives her thoughts on the Eddie Murphy comic fantasy, A THOUSAND WORDS, and Dan talks about the real-time horror film SILENT HOUSE, the surreal Swedish musical fantasy THE SOUND OF NOISE, and the borderland whatsit TIM AND ERIC’S BILLION DOLLAR MOVIE. Plus: What’s coming to home video. Technical Note: The long running time for this show means we’ve had to settle for lower audio quality. Just imagine it’s 1933 and you’re listening to Little Orphan Annie. Keep drinking your Ovaltine!
La-La Land Records sent word of their latest genre release.
THE GOLDEN CHILD: LIMITED EDITION (3-CD SET) LLLCD 1180
Music Composed and Conducted by John Barry
Music Score by Michel Colombier
Limited Edition of 5000 Units
STARTS SHIPPING JULY 12th
RETAIL PRICE $29.98
La-La Land Records presents, in association with Paramount Pictures and Capitol Records, the premiere release of both John Barry’s unused score and Michel Colombier’s score to the 1986 Paramount Pictures action/adventure motion picture THE GOLDEN CHILD, starring Eddie Murphy, Charlotte Lewis, Charles Dance and directed by Michael Ritchie. Mr. Barry’s (FROM RUSSIA WITH LOVE, BODY HEAT, A VIEW TO A KILL, DANCES WITH WOLVES) unused orchestral score is simply put, wondrous — a powerful, majestic work brimming with action, suspense and romance that strongly recalls the recently departed composer’s 80s Bond period while still retaining its own robust identity.
Composer Michel Colombier’s (RUTHLESS PEOPLE, THE MONEY PIT, AGAINST ALL ODDS) score, only a portion of which has been previously released, is finally given its proper due here as well, showcasing the composer’s knack for traditional action scoring blended with the era’s contemporary, synth-based pop sound.
Produced by Lukas Kendall and mastered by Mike Matessino, this comprehensive 3-Disc collection of music contains additional unreleased Barry cues, including the unused song “Dance A Little Closer” performed by none other than Randy Edelman! Along with Barry’s “Best Man In The World,” performed by Ann Wilson of Heart fame, all songs featured on the original 1986 soundtrack album are presented here, including tracks from such artists as Ratt, Ashford & Simpson, Meli’sa Morgan and others.
Film music writer Jon Burlingame takes you behind the film’s duo of scores in his exclusive liner notes. A must for film music fans, this limited edition release of 5000 units showcases the work of two brilliant composers who remain with us through the timelessness of their talent.
Music Composed and Conducted by John Barry
(The Child Is Taken) 5:55
2. The Best Man in the World
Performed by Ann Wilson
Produced by Ron Nevison 3:21
3. 2M1 1:45
4. 2M2 2:11
5. 3M1/2/3/4 3:36
6. 3M5/6A (Tin Can Man)
(Includes “Puttin’ on the Ritz”
composed by Irving Berlin) :53
7. 3M7/4M0 (Follow That Bird) 2:54
8. 4M1 (Best Man) 2:03
9. 4M2 :58
10. 5M2 1:12
11. 5M3 1:51
12. 5M4/6M0 2:34
13. 6M1 (Chandler’s Dream) 6:18
14. 7M1 :50
15. 7M2 (Love Theme) 2:21
16. 7M3AR/C :35
17. 7M4/8M0/1 6:13
18. 8M2 2:32
19. 9M1 (Bottomless Pit) 4:51
20. 9M2R (Wisdom of the Ages) 3:50
21. 10M2/3 2:19
22. 10M4 (Kee Nang Gets the Arrow) 2:58
23. 11M1 3:04
(The Final Act) 10:23
25. 12M1 1:04
Disc 1 Time: 77:14
Music Score by Michel Colombier
1. Sardo and the Child 5:27
2. Blood in Oatmeal 1:47
3. Child in Warehouse 1:21
4. Astral Projection 1:57
5. The Bikers :43
6. We Sold Her 4:16
7. Demons 1:58
8. Kee’s Tied Up :34
9. Dream Sequence—Last Part 1:19
10. Kee Nang Offers Herself :47
11. Child in Truck/Chandler Follows Bird 2:09
12. Take It :24
13. The Mountain 1:17
14. The Corridor 2:14
15. The Knife Retrieval 3:35
16. Golden Love 3:47
17. Malibu/Battle at Malibu House 4:47
18. Looking for Sardo 3:07
19. Confrontation 5:31
20. Sardo Is Back 1:01
21. Kee Nang Lives :49
22. The Chosen One (Michel Colombier)
Performed by Robbie Buchanan 3:55
23. Love Goes On (Love Theme From The Golden Child)
Performed by Ashford & Simpson 4:52
Disc 2 Time: 58:07
Additional Music Composed and Conducted by John Barry
1. The Best Man in the World
(Instrumental) (4M1R/2M2R) 3:39
2. 2M1R 1:21
3. 12M1R 1:04
4. 2M4 (Source) 1:53
5. Dance a Little Closer
Performed by Randy Edelman 4:19
Additional Songs From the 1986 Soundtrack Album
6. Deeper Love (Diane Warren)
Performed by Meli’sa Morgan 4:25
7. Shame on You (M. Price–D. Chang)
Performed by Martha Davis 4:14
8. Body Talk (Croucier–De Martini–Pearcy)
Performed by Ratt 3:47
9. (Let Your Love Find)
The Chosen One
(M. Jackson–K. Wakefield)
Performed by Marlon Jackson 5:02
Disc 3 Time: 30:17
Total 3CD Time: 165:38
The so-called “Final Chapter in the Shrek franchise may be presented in 3-D, but its execution is flat, even by the standards of Dreamworks Animation (which has always run second to Pixar in the computer-generated animation sweepstakes). The premise is serviceable, putting the familiar characters into an alternate reality that prevents them from simply replaying their old routines, but the good jokes are spaced too far apart, eliciting only occasional laughter, and for all the franchise’s patented “We’re too snide to believe this fairy tale bull” attitude, the supposedly tender moments are milked in the misguided hope of yielding a genuine emotional response. Consequently, SHREK FOREVER AFTER features only a moderately interesting storyline, periodically interrupted by gratuitous, explosive set pieces that do little to enliven the tedium; the only real relief comes from the occasional funny character bit.
After a brief prologue to introduce new villain Rumplestiltskin, a montage cleverly portrays Shrek’s growing angst over the repetitious daily ritual of domestic life (diapers, nosy tourists, clogged outhouse), culminating in an embarrassing temper tantrum at a birthday party for one of his and Fiona’s children. Yearning for the good old days when he was an unmarried ogre – and an object of fear among the human villagers – Shrek signs a magical contract with Rumplestiltskin, allowing him to enjoy one full day as it used to be.
The catch is that Shrek must give up a day in return, and Rumplestiltskin chooses the day on which Shrek was born. Before you can say, “It’s a Wonderful Life,” this creates an alternate reality in which Shrek did not rescue Fiona from her curse in the first film, and instead her parents tried to save her by signing a contract with Rumplestiltskin. Once Shrek’s magical day is over, he will cease to exist; his only escape clause is to get Fiona to fall in love with him again before morning.
The script for SHREK FOREVER AFTER is marred by inconsistencies: although Shrek is the one who was never born in this new reality, it is Fiona’s royal parents who wink out of existence, and Rumplestiltskin manages to claim their kingdom without fulfilling his half of the bargain (which was to save Fiona). Does it matter? Probably not – at least, not if the jokes fly fast and funny enough to make us forget the details.
Sadly, that doesn’t happen. It is mildly amusing to see Shrek trying to reunite with old companions who no longer recognize him, and there is at least some novelty in seeing him among other ogres (who make Shrek look relative small and tame by comparison). But that is not enough to sustain a movie for over 90 minutes, especially when the level of on-screen humor is about equal to that of the poster tagline: “It’s not ogre till its ogre.”
Apparently aware that this will not have audiences rolling in the aisles, the filmmakers pump up the soundtrack with pop tunes, sometimes cleverly juxtaposed, sometimes not. Much more invigorating is the original score by Harry Gregson-Williams, which features a clever mix of disco rhythms and ominous organ for an early party sequence in the royal castles, after Rumplestiltskin has taken over and filled it with his minions (who seem to be predominantly look-alike witches riding brooms).
Also audio-enlivening are the solos for the Pied Piper, a sleek and impressively rendered character, whose flute is his voice; the character’s mystique is maintained by not giving him dialogue, making him this sequel’s most impressive creation. (Whether this is a comment on the quality of the screenplay’s dialogue, I will leave for others to decide.) In any case, the Piper is on screen just long enough to make you wish there were more of him; one hopes he is well represented on the soundtrack album.
Rumplestiltskin follows in the series habit of creating villainous pipsqueaks (anybody remember Farquad?). He’s not overtly ominous, but he has his devious appeal. The character design and the voice (by Walt Dohrn) seem deliberately designed to invoke old Rankin-Bass animated TV specials. (Presumably, after trashing former employer Disney for three films, DreamWorks Animation chief Jeffrey Katzenberg is going after other targerts.) And his penchant for donning different wigs depending on his mood is amusing.
As for the returning characters, Shrek is just Shrek, going through the predictable character arc of regretting his present life until he learns how good it really was. Fiona is now a warrior-ogre (ho-hum). Donkey (thanks to Eddie Murphy’s delivery) is still funny). Almost all the best jokes are at the expense of Puss in Boots, who still sounds sleek and sexy (thanks to the voice of Atonio Banderas) – even though he’s gone fat and soft due to easy living and too much cream. (Yes, the animators use the big, sad eyes expression again, and yes, it still works, eliciting verbal “aw”s from the audience.)
There has always been a whiff of narcissistic egotism in the IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE storyline, but in Frank Capra’s 1946 classic it is at least possible to “read” the sequence as a vision that Clarence the angel bestows upon George Bailey in order to teach him a lesson. In other variations (like THE BUTTERFLY EFFECT and here), the point seems less to teach a humbling lesson than to expand a sense of self-importance: “Look at how miserable the world would be without me!” is the underlying message of SHREK FOREVER AFTER. It’s a pleasant enough fantasy to indulge, but it worked better when Capra used at a plot device for the third act, not the plot for the entire film. SHREK FOREVER AFTER (2010). Directed by Mike Mitchell. Written by Josh Klausner, Darren Lemke. Cast: Mike Myers, Eddie Murphy, Cameron Diaz, Antonio Baderas, Julie Andrews, Jon Hamm, John Cleese, Craig Robinson, Walt Dohrn, Jane Lynch, Lake Bell, Kathy Griffin, Mary Kay Place.
Huh, imagine that: I actually discovered a certain amount of charm within IMAGINE THAT. Not a lot, but some. It’s not getting stellar reviews, to say the least, but I can say that for the most part the filmmakers involved knew what it was they were making — a simple, light-hearted children’s film — and unlike those involved with BEDTIME STORIES they didn’t pretend the movie was anything else. For that they earn a modicum of respect from yours truly. Could they have worked harder on the plot and characters so that the film could better appeal to those older than ten? You betcha, but at least it didn’t turn off the wee ones (those in the theater I saw it in were happy).
IMAGINE THAT involves imagination and a bit of fantasy, and that’s why we’re looking at here. In it we have a husband & wife (Eddie Murphy, Nicole Ari Parker) who have recently gone through an amicable divorce, but their daughter Olivia (Yara Shahidi) is undoubtedly struggling with the breakup and apparently seeks solace in a special blanket — which helps her communicate with an imaginary queen and three princesses. Or are they real in some way? Well, ultimately you’ll have to decide for yourself, but Murphy’s character, Evan, winds up believing.
Evan’s a very successful financial forecaster who’s suddenly lost confidence in his abilities and begins going through a slump. His bosses decide to bring on an up-and-comer named Mr. Whitefeather (Thomas Haden Church) — a supposed Native American — to shake things up, generate some competition, and get the ol’ creative juices flowing again. And at a crucial point in the competition Evan has to take Olivia for a week while struggling to make some important buy/sell suggestions for a big client. Long story short, Olivia’s “imaginary” friends wind up telling Evan — through Olivia — that his choices are wrong and that he should be going with Yada, yada, yada.
Well, of course, the information turns out to be right, as does some follow-up info, so Evan decides he needs to learn the secret and use it to his advantage. Soon he’s hooked on the process almost as if it was a drug, and he can’t make a decision without going through Olivia’s blanket & friends.
Along the way we’re supposed to learn lessons about love, faith, loyalty, trust, confidence, honesty, and responsibility. I suppose these are nice lessons to learn and maybe if one is, oh, eight or so, one might walk away feeling that they got something out of this little picture. But then again, the five to ten crowd is IMAGINE THAT’s target audience, so maybe – just maybe – it lands on its mark.
Now, I have to confess that I’m not a huge Eddie Murphy fan. He’s usually too busy being, well, Eddie Murphy, instead of truly allowing himself to be absorbed into the whole of the character that he’s supposed to be portraying. And for the most part the same can be said for his performance in IMAGINE THAT. But there are moments in which he shows that he can be real when he wants to. Someday I’d like to see him play a serious villain. I mean, a serious villain.
Thomas Haden Church was rather annoying as Whitefeather, but through no real fault of his own. His character was written that way. And though this was done purposefully, I couldn’t make up my mind whether I was annoyed by the character in the manner I was supposed to be, or just annoyed by him, period. I think I wound up coming down on the latter. But I wasn’t alone; one potential ueber client (Martin Sheen in a cameo) finally said out loud what I was thinking through entire film.
Ah, but now we come to the magic. If you’re looking for a reason to sit through IMAGIN THAT with your young child or children, this is it as far as I’m concerned: Yara Shahidi. Generally speaking, I find the average young actor trying to play things one of two main ways: I’m much-wiser-and-more-worldly-than-my-years, or I’m-cooler-smarter-and-more-wise-cracking-than-the-adult-schmucks-around-me. There was none of that in little Miss Shahidi. I felt her to be an incredibly charming bit of fresh air. I was ready to adopt her 20 minutes into the film. She seems to instinctively know what works.
The script was written by Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson (BILL & TED’S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE and BILL & TED’S BOGUS JOURNEY). The BILL & TED ventures may not have been Shakespearean in nature either; however, there was a certain wild aspect to them that was somewhat appealing. One of the problems with IMAGINE THAT is the more by-the-numbers feel it has. You can almost see the writers working with the paneling feature in Final Draft (a commonly used screenwriting program). It lacked truth, or a spark, or a sense of anything original. Bits seemed plugged into the layout regardless of whether they truly fit or not.
I was also troubled by issues such as the placement of a Beatles song titled “Nowhere Man” because at that point in the film our one-time nowhere man was going somewhere under his own power. He just didn’t quite know it yet; still, it was happening. And there were other things, like Evan freezing up in a dinner meeting and using the excuse of wanting to hit the restroom so he can drive across town (Denver’s not a small city) to consult Olivia’s “imaginary” friends through her blanket. There are several other scenes and jokes that play badly or don’t make sense (think birthday party scene), but you get the idea.
The direction by Karey Kirkpatrick (OVER THE HEDGE, the upcoming CAPTAIN ABDUL’S PIRATE SCHOOL) didn’t seem quite confident or edgy enough. But he did see to it that most of his characters were likeable and that the pacing was kept brisk and relatively bouncy, just the sort of qualities that should keep a young audience interested. Kirkpatrick is relatively new to directing. He built a career as a screenwriter of youth oriented films like THE SPIDERWICK CHRONICLES, CHARLOTTE’S WEB, THE HITCHHIKER’S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY and CHICKEN RUN.
Mr. Kirkpatrick’s choice in hiring Mark Mancina as the film’s composer was an appropriate one; Mr. Mancina’s music added to the buoyancy of the piece instead of lagging behind and simply acting as filler, as I’ve seen in other films made in the nature of this one, such the aforementioned BEDTIME STORIES. In fact, though these two films share a commonality, I would place IMAGIN THAT above BEDTIME STORIES. It’s a little less ludicrous and more likeable. And of course there’s the charm of Miss Shahidi, which accounts for a lot of the likeability.
At one point in the film Mr. Whitefeather explains that “Venison is a savory meat.” Perhaps so, but the movie isn’t. It’s a pleasant, quite safe offering for little ones, but as he is also fond of saying, in the end “it ain’t nothin’ but a thing.”
IMAGINE THAT (Paramount Pictures, 2009; 107 min.) Directed by Karey Kirkpatrick. Screenplay by Ed Solomon and Chris Matheson. Produced by Lorenzo di Bonaventura and Ed Solomon. Executive produced by Ric Kidney. Cinematography by John Lindley. Production Design by William Arnold. Costumes by Ruth E. Carter. Visual Effects Supervision by Jamie Dixon. Edited By David Moritz. Original Music by Mark Mancina. Cast: Eddie Murphy, Thomas Haden Church, Yara Shahidi, Nicole Ari Parker, DeRay Davis, Vanessa Williams, Ronny Cox, James Patrick Stewart, Mel Harris, Tim Sharp, and Martin Sheen. MPAA Rating: PG for some mild language and brief questionable behavior.