'John Carter' Poster & Pics

carter-one-sheetIn these pictures from Walt Disney Studio’s JOHN CARTER, we see Carter (Taylor Kitsch) with Dejah Thoris (Lynn Collins) as well as the CGI versions of Tars Tarkas (voiced by Wilem Dafoe) and Carter’s Martian”calot” Woola, a sort of cross between a six legged reptile and a guard dog.  
Kitsch and  Collins both appeared ing X-MEN ORIGINS: WOLVERINE (as Gambit and Silver Fox, respectively).
Directed by Andrew Stanton (WALL-E) from a screenplay by Stanton, Mark Andrews and Michael Chabon, JOHN CARTER is based on Edgar Rice Burroughs’ A Princess of Mars.  
The film, orginally to be called JOHN CARTER OF MARS, is due in theaters in 2-D and 3-D March 9th, 2012.

JOHN CARTER
Nature-gal Dejah must have felt chilly that day.

Personally, I think the settings and character/creature designs are extremely mundane and disappointing, considering the cost of the production and the the fact that they seem to basically ignore Burrough’s  vividly described versions.
JOHN CARTER & Tars Tarkas
Tars Tarkas looks like a pin-head, rather sporting than the novel's spherical cranium.

I realize a Disney film (and any general audience version) couldn’t feature essentially nude characters, but other than Kitsch’s bared chest, you’d expect to see more skln in a wholesome 1960’s Beach Party movie than the released stills and trailer seem to suggest.
The oddly Muppet-y version of Woola
The oddly Muppet-y version of Woola

Barsoom Dogfight
Barsoom Dogfight

Sense of Wonder: Ledger & Wall-E win Oscars

Last week, Cinefantastique Online posted its winners for the Wonder Awards, honoring the best in science fiction, fantasy, and horror films from 2008. Now it’s time to take a look how well the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences did with their 81st annual awards show. Judging by the low bar the Academy has set in the past when it comes to honoring genre entertainment, I have to say that last night’s results were not too bad. Yes, THE DARK KNIGHT and IRON MAN were shut out of high-profile categories wherein they deserved nominations, but  in the categories where nominations were given, there were some worthy winners, including WALL-E for Best Animated Feature film and Heath Leder for his performance as the Joker n THE DARK KNIGHT.
Ledger’s well-deserved win was almost a fait acompli; it is also one of the few instance of agreement between the Academy Awards and the Wonder Awards. As I wrote before, this award was a no-brainer – “merely a great performance but a once-in-a-lifetime piece of magic, the proverbial lightening captured in a bottle.” Seeing Ledger’s family accept the statuette on his behalf was one of the evening’s sentimental highlights, reminding us of the loss not only to the film world but to those who knew the actor personally.
WALL-E’s win in the Animation category was also predictable – it is, after all, a Pixar film. The Wonder Awards does not separate films into live-action and animation, so we had WALL-E competing for Best Picture, where it lost out to THE DARK KNIGHT and LET THE RIGHT ONE IN. In Rationale of a Conflicted Contrarian, John W. Morehead argued the case for WALL-E’s supremacy:

WALL-E was the best overall cinematic experience of the fantastic for 2009. This film took computer animation to new heights, from the height of its realism and the detail of its opening scenes as it depicted a dystopian vision of a planet decimated by pollution, to the depth of emotion the animators were able to invest in its leading characters, Wall-E and Eve. In addition to its visual beauty, the film also told a very human story through its robotic characters as well as the humans adrift in space and in need of a healthy reconnection with the Earth, their own bodies, and community.

Outside of these two happy wins, the rest of the results were typically dire. For example, we were sad to see WALL-E overlooked for original screenplay, musical score, and the original song (“Down to Earth”).
The technical awards were also disapointing. The Academy is not prone to handing out Best Picture gold to comic-book-inspired movies, but a lavish blockbuster like THE DARK KNIGHT usually has a good shot in the technical categories. Unfortunately, the film received only one Oscar in these categories, for Richard King’s sound editing, loosing out in for art direction, cinematography, editing, makeup, sound mixing, and visual effects.

Brad Pitt
Brad Pitt

Instead, THE CURIOUS CASE OF BENJAMIN BUTTON – the only other genre winner of the evening was – prevailed in several of these categories. Shut out of the so-called “major” awards for which it was nominated (including Brad Pitt for Best Actor), the film earned some love from the Academy in three technical areas:  James J. Murakami for art direction, Greg Cannom for makeup, and Eric Barba, Steve Preeg, Burt Dalton and Craig Barron for visual effects.
Cannom’s win in the makeup category is the only other point of agreement between the Oscars and Cinefantastique Online’s Wonder Awards. We selected HELLBOY 2: THE GOLDEN ARMY for visual effects and production design, but that title was not among the Academy’s nominees in either category. If forced to choose from the Oscar’s list, BENJAMIN BUTTON was a worthy choice in both areas.
On a non-genre note, I just want to add that last night’s strategy of having a quintet of previous winners pay tribute to the nominees in each of the acting categories was absolutely brilliant. As Bruce Dern said in THE DRIVER, there are “winners and losers in this game,” and it’s always sad to see one person walk away with the award when there are four other worthy candidates. I think this may be the first year in which losing lost much of its sting. Sure, it’s nice to take home the statuette, but how disappointed can you be when one of your peers has stood up on worldwide television and told millions of people how much he or she loves your work?

Wall-E (2008)

Click to view a larger version of the WALL-E poster

A wonderful CGI film that teeters on the brink of greatness

By Steve Biodrowski

Is it “one of the absolute best hard science fiction films” of the past decade?  Or is it “leftist propaganda about the evils of mankind“? Well, neither actually. In the former case, Harry Knowles was perhaps bucking a little bit too hard to get himself quoted in the advertising campaign; at least his reaction in some way reflects what is up on the screen – the 97% approval rating at Rotten Tomatoes proves he is not alone in bestowing praise on the film. In the later case, Shannen Coffin – along with the likes of Glenn Beck and Jonah Goldberg – was simply indulging in what passes for “thinking” among paranoid wing-nuts, who see liberal conspiracies everywhere, especially in Hollywood movies (for example, the silly advance reaction to THE HAPPENING, discussed here). Read More

WALL•E: An interview with Pixar's Andrew Stanton

Wall-E frantically pushes buttons in an escape pod. 

9 X 9: When Andrew Stanton first joined Pixar he was only the fledgling company’s ninth employee. Now, 18 years on, Stanton has delivered us Pixar’s ninth movie, WALL•E (Short for: Waste Allocation Load LifterEarth-Class.) Not so surprisingly, given Pixar’s track record, WALL•E is already being hailed as another animation “masterpiece.”
Below the fold are some of Andrew Stanton’s thoughts on the film (provided by Disney’s head of communications, Howard E. Green), which I have combined with an interview I conducted with Stanton at the time MONSTERS, INC. was first released. Read More

Cybersurfing: Is Wall-E good enough to be Best?

Hollywood Reporter opines that Oscar Season unofficially begins with the release of Pixar’s computer-generated animated sci-fi film WALL-E, which critics seem to be embracing with rabid enthusiasm:

The critics are just beginning to weigh in on “Wall-E” — the Village Voice’s Robert Wilonsky has already called it “both breathtakingly majestic and heartbreakingly intimate” — but the buzz surrounding the film about a lovelorn robot already is so heady, there’s no doubt it will be the movie to beat for best animated film. The bigger question is whether it might become a candidate for a best picture slot.
At one point last year, director Brad Bird wanted to position his “Ratatouille” in the best picture heat, but he was convinced to focus on the best animated film category, which it handily won while also picking up noms in four other categories.
But if today’s moviegoers warm to “Wall-E” the way an earlier generation embraced “E.T. the Extra-Terrestial,” then the latest Pixar effort could find itself contending with the big boys for best picture.
In any event, the photo-real, computer-animated “Wall-E” should dominate the animation arena, which given the number of films expected to be released this year should yield three Oscar nominees.

There was some griping earlier this year when Pixar’s previous critical and audience favorite RATATOIULLE was not nominated in the Best Picture Category. Oscar voting is notoriously driven by considerations beyond quality, with nominees receiving awards because they were percieved to be snubbed for previous Oscar-worthy work. I would be willing to be that, with the momentum from RATATOUILLE, Pixar’s WALL-E will at least be nominated in the Best Picture category next year.
UPDATE: While we’re on the subject of how good WALL-E is, here is Variety reviewer Todd McCarthy’s assessment:

Pixar’s ninth consecutive wonder of the animated world is a simple yet deeply imagined piece of speculative fiction. Despite the decade-plus since its inception, “WALL-E” is a film very much of its moment, although in a cheeky, uninsistent way; it has plenty to say, but does so in a light, insouciant manner that allows you to take the message or leave it on the table. Adroitly borrowing from many artistic sources and synthesizing innumerable influences, Pixar stalwart Andrew Stanton’s first directorial outing since “Finding Nemo” walks a fine line between the rarefied and the immediately accessible as it explores new territory for animation, yet remains sufficiently crowd-pleasing to indicate celestial B.O. for this G-rated summer offering.