FILM REVIEWS: John Carter and Friends with Kids

Mission to Mars in John Carter and a clumsy kind of love in Friends with Kids

What does $250 million buy you in Hollywood these days? Not that much if John Carter is anything to go by. Based on a once-popular fantasy series by Tarzan author Edgar Rice Burroughs, Carter’s eponymous hero is an embittered Civil War captain from Virginia who, quite fantastically, gets teleported to Mars and drawn into a bloody civil war on that planet — one made even more complex by the schemes of a shape-shifting being from outside the solar system who is manipulating events for his own benefit. The combatants include two human-seeming tribes as well as a separate race of nine-foot-tall, four-armed creatures whose heads are reminiscent of a rhinoceros beetle with a Jar Jar Binks-style face.

Despite having been just a cavalry officer back on Earth, the courageous and resourceful Carter somehow proves to be a swashbuckling swordsman of astonishing skill. Add to that his newfound strength and ability to leap vast distances (credit going, rather improbably, to the slightly reduced gravitational pull of Mars) and our hero is well positioned to become Lawrence of Arabia on a dusty red planet. Of course he first has to fall in love with a gorgeous Martian princess (of the human, not beetle, persuasion) and forsake his angry and selfish ways.

This would-be epic is in some ways an able pastiche of rousingly old-fashioned tales of bravery and good humoured derring-do. The fantasy elements occasionally strike a note of wonderment and a few of the supporting actors (Mark Strong, Ciaran Hinds) bring some juice to their roles. But the plot and pacing tend to lumber, while its pumped-up hero (B.C.-born Taylor Kitsch) comes up short on charisma. Although clearly designed to be the beginning of a lucrative movie franchise, this mission to Mars has “abort” written all over it. M

John Carter ★ ★

Directed by Andrew Stanton

Starring Taylor Kitsch, Lynn Collins

PG-13 – 139 minutes

Continues at the Capitol, SilverCity & Westshore

 

 

 

And now we teleport from Mars to the equally amazing planet of Rom-Com, where strange creatures that look exactly like humans do crazy things. Friends With Kids opens with six long-time buddies — including two married couples and a guy-gal platonic pair who are wonderfully compatible but have no romantic chemistry — having dinner in a fancy New York restaurant. One of the couples announces that they are pregnant and the action jumps ahead four years.

Both couples are now knee-deep in nappies and plastic toys, and cartoonishly overwhelmed by the challenges of parenthood. Which leaves Julia (Jennifer Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott) feeling left out. So they promptly go insane and decide to maintain their platonic, separate-apartment status while having a baby together — thereby somehow leaving themselves “free” to have low-stress romantic entanglements with others while also enjoying the joys of parenthood. Needless to say the last hour of the film becomes a painful, logic-stretching exercise in watching these two fall in love.

Kids has a fine cast (including Jon Hamm, Kristen Wiig and Maya Rudolph) and some good one-liners. But the script often seems tossed off, while the tone sometimes shifts weirdly from sit-commish exaggeration to a few scenes of bleak realism. And even though Scott and Westfeldt have some chemistry, their trash-talking characters deserve a stupidity award. M

Friends With Kids ★ ★

Directed by Jennifer Westfeldt

Starring Jennifer Westfeldt, Adam Scott

R – 100 minutes

Continues at the Odeon

 

 

 

Perfectly Potable

After 150 minutes on the arid surface of Mars, it’s time for a beer! One of my favourites, good on its own or with everything from a burger to an East Indian curry, is Victoria’s own Phillips “Longboat” Double Chocolate Porter. Less heavy than a stout but loaded with savoury flavours of cocoa, coffee, and toasty caramel malt, well-balanced Longboat is widely available in both 650ml bottles and on tap.

 

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Just Posted

Scaredy Cats television series has turned Empress Avenue in Fernwood into a Halloween themed neighbourhood. (Travis Paterson/News Staff)
PHOTOS: Trick or treat! Halloween comes to Fernwood in January

New television series Scaredy Cats filming in Victoria

Cindy Foggit plays the lead role of Eliza in Passion and Performance’s film production Eliza: An Adaption of a Christmas Carol. (Courtesy of Rachel Paish)
Victoria adult dance studio releases modern adaption of A Christmas Carol

Instead of usual stage performance, dance studio turns to film

Braden Holtby’s new mask designed in collaboration with Luke Marston and David Gunnarsson. (Mike Wavrecan photo)
Vancouver Island Coast Salish artist unveils new mask for Canucks goalie

Braden Holtby’s new mask features artwork by Luke Marston inspired by the legend of the seawolf

Comox-based cinematographer Maxwel Hohn’s new documentary captures the lives of Vancouver Island’s coastal wolves. Photo courtesy Maxwel Hohn.
New mini-documentary shot on Vancouver Island echoes the ‘call of the coastal wolves’

Photography heavyweights from B.C. come together for Maxwel Hohn’s second wildlife documentary

The 2021 Victoria Film Festival includes Vancouver Island produced feature film All-in Madonna. The festival looks a bit different this year, but film-lovers can still expect a full and diverse lineup. (Courtesy of VFF)
Victoria Film Festival returns with virtual viewing

Lineup features 50 films including Vancouver Island-produced All-in Madonna

Dr. John Hooper is the new conductor of Island Voices. Photo supplied
Island Voices welcomes new conductor

Dr. John Hooper to lead mid-Island based choir

Jorie Benjamin does a modern dance performance to ‘La Vie en rose’ by Édith Piaf, Louis Gugliemi and Marguerite Monnot, choreographed by Elise Sampson during the Cowichan Music Festival’s Highlights Concert at the Cowichan Performing Arts Centre on March 1, 2020. (Kevin Rothbauer/Citizen)
Cowichan Music Festival cancelled for 2021

The festival had already been limited to solo performances only for 2021

<em>Chinook Salmon: Breaking Through</em> by B.C.’s Mark Hobson was selected among 13 entries as the winner of the Pacific Salmon Foundation’s Salmon Stamp Competition.
Stained-glass lighting casts a win to B.C. salmon artist

Painting of chinook is Mark Hobson’s third win in annual contest

Apollonian means “serene, calm, or well-balanced; poised & disciplined”. The natural photo art for the album includes Vancouver Island mountains, rivers and beaches. Scenes from the Cowichan River, Witchcraft Lake, Pipers Lagoon, Wall Beach and other popular Island recreation destinations accentuate the album. (RICHIErichieRichie Music Publishing photo)
Serenity Now! Richie Valley debuts third LP dubbed Apollonian

Apollonian means “serene, calm, or well-balanced; poised & disciplined”

Victoria artist Noah Layne is conducting online workshops on portrait drawing as part of the Metchosin ArtPod’s About Face portrait show. (Photo courtesy of Noah Layne)
Metchosin Art Pod doing an about-face

Renowned artist Noah Layne hosting online classes in portrait drawing

This weekend Amy Pye is holding a virtual book launch for her latest children’s book, <em>Bruce the Silly Goose</em>. (Photo courtesy Amy Pye)
Victoria writer and illustrator pens children’s book about COVID-19 safety

Amy Pye to hold online book launch for ‘Bruce the Silly Goose’

The pantomime ‘Snow White and the 5 Dwarfs’ has been cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions. (Submitted)
Pantomime cancelled in Cowichan due to COVID restrictions

A partnership of the Cowichan Musical Society, the Shawnigan Players, and the Mercury Players.

A rendering shows the entrance planned for the Hornby Island Arts Centre. Image supplied
Work on Hornby Island Arts Centre to start this month

Community worked with award-winning architectural firm on design

Most Read