Disney’s John Carter Of Mars

If Disney had kept the much more alluring title ‘John Carter Of Mars’ instead of hacking off the last bit and just keeping the dude’s name, I feel like Andrew Stanton’s John Carter would have had a better chance in marketing and taken flight, because it’s not even near as bad a film as people would have you believe. In fact, it’s a gorgeous, beautifully told, elaborate retro science fiction dream and a flat out great film. I suppose it’s kind of like Waterworld, where a film tanks so badly that people start to confuse bad numbers with bad quality and a whole negative stigma is whipped up around it. Speaking of Waterworld, another great film, John Carter bears similarities in production design and visual atmosphere, albeit set on Mars for most of the duration. Based on a series of books by Edgar Rice Burroughs believed to be some of the earliest works of literary SciFi, Taylor Kitsch plays John Carter, an ex Civil War badass who finds himself whisked away to Mars through a dimensional cave portal out in the desert, propelled on an adventure with warring clans, giant alien yeti beasts, a princess (Lynn Collins), humanoid extraterrestrials led by a green Willem Dafoe, an adorable little dog/toad/road-runner animal and more. This is one of those old school epics that doesn’t just hire a few leads and a gaggle of supporting players but turns a whole casting agency upside down, shakes it and signs any actors that fall out, and as a result we get a jaw dropping lineup that includes Samantha Morton, Polly Walker, Thomas Haden Church, Ciaran Hinds, Jon Favreau, James Purefoy, Daryl Sabara, Mark Strong, Don Stark, Bryan Cranston as a crusty cavalry general and Dominic West in full Shakespeare mode as an evil Martian prince. Oh, Ross from Friends is apparently in there somewhere too but I’ve never been able to spot him, keep your eyes peeled though. The plot at base level is a fish out of water story as John adjusts to the planet (seeing him mess around with the gravitational field is so much fun), bonds with Dafoe and his tribe of Tharks, takes on giant furry Pokémon things in an intergalactic gladiator arena and casts his gaze starward, wondering if he’ll ever see his blue planet again. A few convoluted subplots get in the way including Mark Strong’s weird metaphysical warlock priest dude, but for the most part this a propulsive, rollicking, operatic space adventure with special effects that won’t quit and a real sense of wonder. Why this flopped so bad is anyone’s guess and it’s a shame because when this happens people tend to focus more on the event of its release and that perceived failure more than the film itself, and the legacy gets clouded. Forget the losses a studio with billions in couch change ‘suffered,’ forget any bad press or skewed marketing and just enjoy the film on its own, because it’s one for the ages.

-Nate Hill

Bobcat Goldthwait’s World’s Greatest Dad: A Review by Nate Hill 

Worlds Greatest Dad is a true curiosity, a film I had to sit back and really think about right after I had watched it. It has such a strange arc, and wasn’t the pithy dark comedy I was expecting from the trailers. I mean, it is a pithy dark comedy, just not in the way you’d think at all. I still can’t even figure out if I liked the thing, but it wouldn’t leave my head for a while after, so it certainly has a kick to deliver, one that’s decidedly below the belt. Williams is Lance, a high school English teacher with traces of old world in his methods. He prefers to instruct his students in poetry, which makes him a bit unpopular, sadly. He also has an absolute snot nosed, shithead fuckwit douchebag of a son, played by Spy Kid’s own Daryl Sabara. Think my description of him is too harsh? Nah, son. This kid is a royal asshole of the highest degree, and one wonders what Lance did in a previous life to deserve such evil spawn. He’s a mean, spiteful, discouraging, porn addicted little piss stain, and ironically enough, it’s the spank material that results in his untimely death. I won’t say exactly how it happens, but for those who know what I’m talking about, he and David Carradine share an embarrassing fate. What’s curious is Lance’s reaction upon discovering the body: the kid treated him with nothing but disdain and disregard for years, but he’s still devastated. A father’s love, I suppose. He then writes a passionate suicide note and passes it off as his son’s, to hide the perverse truth. Everyone at the school, in town, even the local newspaper goes ballistic and praises the deceased boy’s work. Suddenly he’s a local hero, a beacon of hope for troubled youth everywhere, and a martyr to spur copies in flying off the shelves. There’s the joke, though. He was pretty much the worst person ever in the world, and now the writing Lance worked so hard on is being not only credited to, but hailed as that of his shitty dead kid. Even in death, one final jab of abuse bites back. Like I said, a very odd turn of events, and definitely like no other dark comedy, or other film, for that matter. When you consider this is a script by irreverent comedian Bobcat Goldthwait, who also directed, it’s easier to understand and appreciate the twisted nature of the story, and the places it goes. Williams is inspired, turning Lance from a sulky mess to a hero behind the curtain, finding his own life in Sabara’s demise, as wrong as that sounds. I guarantee you’ve never seen a film like this, and we probably will never get another just like it.