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John Carter: American Civil War veteran (a Rebel, always a rebel) John Carter (Taylor Kitsch) finds himself mysterious transported to Mars where he is thrust into a war between two different races of Martians. WALL-E helmer Andrew Stanton makes his live-action debut with this film that started out under the title of the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel of from which it is adapted, Princess of Mars which was later market researched into John Carter of Mars and finally into its current, thoroughly bland title. The machinations behind the making of the film don’t necessarily mark it damaged goods but there is an undeniably a cloud of disinterest around the film. The film lacks a legitimate star as its lead but Avatar proved that isn’t a problem if the film looks big enough to capture the public’s imagination but there’s something to straight forwardly plain about Carter that keeps it from having the excitement that the bombastic but winking Avengers film seems to have. Doubtlessly, the film will have the same lushness that all of Stanton’s films have had (this is why he was allowed to handle the franchise and not the decidedly more rough and tumble Robert Rodriguez) and it features a score by the great Michael Giacchino so it’ll look and sound great, hopefully great enough to not always be followed up by “shame it wasn’t a better movie.” Also starring Lynn Collins, Mark Strong and Willem Dafoe.
Fun Fact: Stanton claims that the title changed was necessary because Carter only becomes “of Mars” at the end of the film as was the case with the successful 2005 filmBruce Wayne.
Salmon Fishing in the Yemen: Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt star in this romantic comedy-drama about a fisheries scientist who is tasked by a Sheik to introduce Salmon fishing to the highlands of Yemen. Blunt plays a reporter that has been assigned to chronicle the project by her idealistic editor (Kristin Scott Thomas) who hopes to give a more balanced portrayal to Western coverage of the Middle East. The film is directed by Lasse Hallström which suggests that the film will warm and nourishing like a good but not particularly flavorful soup. As long as one’s expectations are appropriately adjusted to consume such a meal, you’re fine. If you’d rather something more substantive or vivid, such options are readily available but sometimes, almost totally in spite of yourself you just crave something forgettable and inoffensive. This is of course one of the worst aspect of aging. Also starring Amr Waked, Catherine Steadman and Tom Minson.
Fun Fact: Yemen is based on a book of the same name by Paul Torday.
Friends with Kids: Jennifer Westfeldt (Kissing Jessica Stein) writes, directs and stars in this film that follows a group of friends and the effect that having children has had on their lives including Jason (Adam Scott) and Julie (Westfeldt), two friends who decide to have a child without having a romantic relationship. This film has the kind of plot that so patently uninteresting to me it nearly overcomes to the appeal of a cast that includes Scott, Maya Rudolf, Kristen Wiig and Chris O’Dowd. It has such a bourgeois low stakes, wine hangover of a premise that I can’t see a way into it. Movies that focus on wildly self-involved people can be excellent, made all the richer by the effort needed to involve yourself in a narrative that is intentionally difficult, but Westfeldt traffics in the kind of narcissism that makes Don Roos’ film so unappetizing. This could be a great leap forward in Westfeldt’s craft but this film looks like the platonic ideal of a Netflix Watch Instantly movie. Also starring Jon Hamm, Ed Burns and Megan Fox.
Fun Fact: The film’s soundtrack features work by The 88, the group behind the theme song for the very fine sitcom Community.
A Thousand Words: A fast talking literary agent (Eddie Murphy) lies to a guru (Cliff Curtis) who has the mild overreaction of cursing Murphy with a Bodhi tree that loses a leaf every time Murphy says a word and will subsequently kill Murphy once all the leaves have fallen. Why would a man who can literally deliver ironic lethal punishments onto people have a crappy literary agent? Setting aside the issue of how monumentally stupid it would be to deceive a high profile spiritual leader, magically empowered or not, why would a demonstrable supernatural individual like that need a literary agent? Wouldn’t there be let ten levels of bureaucracy between an honest to God superhuman and his print media representative? Wouldn’t such a person have a veritable army of Television/Film agents attending to his every whim? Not to mention a vast entourage of advisors and personal assistants? And the first disciples of what would likely become one of the fastest growing religions in history? It’s inconceivable that this modern day prophet would ever even have the opportunity to get that Old Testament angry at the guy who overstated his relationship with Penguin. Also starring Kerry Washington, Clark Duke and Ariel Winter.
Fun Fact: Words helmer Brian Robbins previously directed Murphy in 2007’s Norbit.
Mario blogs regularly at A Polemic Killer Room.