“John Carter” (Action/Adventure: 2 hours, 12 minutes)
Starring: Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins, Samantha Morton, Mark Strong and Willem Dafoe
Director: Andrew Stanton
Rated: PG-13 (Violence and language)
Movie Review: Capt. John Carter, a Confederate Civil War veteran, is transported to Mars. There, he encounters very tall, four-armed Martians, two humanoid kingdoms at war and a race of manipulative, technologically advanced beings. He finds Mars needs a savior. Reluctantly, but bravely, he consents to being that savior.
Based on the novel by Edgar Rice Burroughs, the screenplay cleverly makes Burroughs (played by Daryl Sabara) a catalyst character for telling the story. He is engaging like many other players in this film. The characters are intriguing, and their goals are fascinatingly worth following. This does not feel like it is the end of their adventures.
The problem is this screenplay moves too fast. It does not allow one time to really appreciate these interesting characters.
Think of “John Carter” as a Jesus of Nazareth-type story set on a barbarian, intermixed with modern technology, planet Mars. This film is a mix of Superman (Clark Kent), Masters of the Universe’s He-Man and “Avatar.” The hodgepodge works. It entertains. Yet one may easily feel you have seen this before.
Grade: B- (He takes us on an adventure if nothing else.)
“Silent House” (Thriller: 1 hour, 25 minutes)
Starring: Elizabeth Olsen, Adam Trese and Eric Sheffer Stevens
Directors: Chris Kentis and Laura Lau
Rated: R (Violence and thematic elements including terror)
Movie Review: Sarah (Olsen, the younger sister of the famous Olsen twins) and John (Trese), a father-daughter team, are slowly packing up and cleaning their old house. The multilevel house has no electricity. They walk around a virtually dark house lighting the way via lanterns and flashlights. They keep all of the doors secured with key locks. All is well until Sarah’s father is severely injured by an unknown attacker, who stalks Sarah through a dark house where all the doors have padded locks.
She has a difficult time escaping. Audience should not.
Shot in virtually one take, this is essentially a real-time screenplay. All the events were filmed without breaks. The movie is one scene. This is original thinking by the producers of this thriller. Also, the play does a great job of being creepy. Scare tactics work, building intensity until near the conclusion. Too bad, the rest of the movie is not that clever.
Several parts of this film are annoying as all get out. The film plays on the same clichéd thriller-horror themes: a running woman always falls while trying to escape, a large eerie house in the middle of nowhere and plenty dark spaces where people or things surprise viewers. Additionally, no one carries a cellular phone because that would allow a useful manner to end these thoughtless photoplays. The cinematography is crappy, often out of focus or capturing useless visuals on the set.
The end is like a 1950s psycho tale, where the explanation for what transpires is lame material. After this is over, audiences may want to stalk the main character to ask what happened with this lame ending.
Grade: C- (An empty house)
“A Thousand Words” (Comedy: 1 hour, 31 minutes)
Starring: Eddie Murphy, Cliff Curtis and Kerry Washington
Director: Steve Koren
Rated: PG-13 (Profanity, sexual innuendo and drug-related humor)
Movie Review: While a good moral message exists, “Words” is not tangible otherwise. In less than a thousand words, this comedy can be summed up as another one of Eddie Murphy’s lackluster comedies.
Literary agent Jack McCall (Murphy) uses words to make successful deals. The problem is he uses words as subterfuge. After being dishonest with spiritual guru Dr. Sinja (Curtis), a Bodhi tree materializes on McCall’s back lawn. The tree has a connection to McCall. Every time McCall speaks a word, the tree loses a leaf. When the tree loses all of its leaves, McCall will die.
The most touching performances are those provided by supporting cast members. Clark Duke is funny as Aaron Wiseberger. He steals scenes from a more seasoned Murphy.
However, the person scoring the most points for performance is Ruby Dee. She stars as Murphy’s dementia-afflicted mother. She gives the movie a solid grounding, a realistic feel.
Murphy’s problem here is a script that lets him be a recycled funnyman but not convincing. Murphy’s biggest problem of late is his inability to not give the same comedic routine. He plays the different characters similarly.
Grade: D+ (One too many)
“John Carter” (Action/Adventure: 2 hours, 12 minutes)
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