'John Carter' proves to be an enjoyable 'Boy's Life' movie June 25, 2012
By G. Michael Dobbs
This week's DVD column spotlights a much maligned science fiction film and a truckload of "reality" television series.
Many critics trashed this film adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs' venerable pulp science fiction series and honestly I don't why. Perhaps they didn't know what to expect from source material aimed at boys and men and first published in 1917?
This is what I call a "Boy's Life" movie no slam intended to the Boy Scout magazine I certainly loved when I was kid. The hero acts like a hero, the princess is beautiful and capable, there is rousing action, interesting visuals and at the end you've had a good time.
There is no message, no outrageous sex, nudity or violence in this PG-13 movie. It's an old fashioned good guy versus bad guy adventure film.
John Carter is a Civil War vet who finds, quite by accident, a way to transport himself to Mars, or as the Martians call it Barsoom. There he finds several species of people fighting among themselves, including the tall green, multi-armed Tharks.
Because of the lower gravity, Carter can jump great distances shades of the earliest form of Superman and becomes a valuable warrior to the Tharks.
There's plenty of intrigue as well supplied by the Thern, an intergalactic race who go from planet to planet manipulating civilizations for their own purposes.
Andrew Stanton, the director of the animated hits "Wall-E" and "Finding Nemo," is a Burroughs fan and he does right with the material, even working Burroughs himself into the narrative.
I think the marketing of the film helped sink it at the American box office, where the film lost money. Interestingly, it was a huge hit overseas and, with DVD sales as well as pay-per-view, the film just might break even, eventually. The trailer of the film didn't seem to convey what this film was about and the title "John Carter of Mars" or the original book title "A Princess of Mars" would have been better.
If you're looking for a perfect summer movie that all but the youngest members of the family can enjoy, gamble a rental fee and get "John Carter."
Billy the Exterminator, season four
Storage Wars, season two
Gene Simmons Family Jewels, season six, volumes one and two
Top Shot, season four
Pawn Stars, volume four
Thanks to DVDs, we can have summer television reruns whenever we want them as this new group of releases proves.
I will sheepishly admit that I do watch reality television, but I can't see collecting reality television to watch over and over. I will also admit that is a position that makes no logical sense as I do collect movies and will watch them multiple times.
I can't explain it. It's an enigma, wrapped in a conundrum with a creamy puzzle center. However, to each their own.
"Billy the Exterminator" perhaps is the most formulaic of the bunch. Billy gets a call to remove some sort of varmint. Billy goes out to the work site and removes the offending animal. He does so wearing heavy metal country rock clothes and giving us play-by-play commentary showing his familiarity with the critter.
How many times do I need to see him do this?
At least "Top Shot" is a marksmanship contest, which like any athletic event has the elements of uncertainty.
"Storage Wars" merely pushes the concept of finding something valuable in a heap of crap and then finding out who has made the most money by doing so. Frankly, "Pawn Stars" and "American Pickers" are more interesting and informative.
A group of "characters" with various backstories compete with each other bidding on abandoned storage lockers and the stuff therein. They hope their cursory examinations of the contents give them some idea if the material is worth something.
Rock entrepreneur Gene Simmons is probably the smartest guy in pop music as he turned KISS into a juggernaut of merchandising. At a time when other musicians of his age are either oldies acts or signing autographs for $20 bucks at conventions, Simmons is rising much higher with this reality show depicting his family life.
Simmons, who also co-produces the show, understands both the fundamentals of soap opera and the sit-com. Like many classic TV comedies, Simmons knows the role of the father is to be an idiot and he gladly plays it. He also knows the dramatic value of those episodes in which he debates whether or not he should marry Shannon Tweed, his long-time girlfriend and mother of his two children.
Simmons' show can be entertaining at least, something many other similar shows are not.
The reality show that is my most frequent guilty pleasure is "Pawn Stars," only because I actually learn things from the show but also, like "Antique Roadshow," I'm intrigued by items that people have either stumbled across at flea markets or acquired through their families.
The interaction among the Harrison family who run the pawnshop in Las Vegas is far less interesting to me than what people bring in to sell.
Of this group, a positive nod to "Pawn Stars," and furtive approval to "Family Jewels."