Total Recall tie-in by Philip K Dick

I just spotted this book today on www.amazon.co.uk. Gollancz is putting out a Total Recall paperback next month to tie-in with the new movie. The author is given as Philip K Dick so I assume it will be a collection of short stories including We Can Remember If For You Wholesale, upon which the movie is based.

There is precedent for this. Back in 2002 when the Tom Cruse Minority Report movie was out Gollancz published an inexpensive Minority Report collection in hardback with a movie poster design on the dust jacket. It contained the title story and some other PKD stories that had been adapted as movies. In fact I think it probably included We Can Remember If For You Wholesale.

They did something similar in 2004 when the Ben Affleck movie Paycheck was released, although I mainly remember Paycheck as being “the PKD movie that wasn’t as good as Minority Report“.

Going back a bit farther, when the original 1990 movie of Total Recall staring Arnie came out there was actually a novelisation written by Piers Anthony based on the script.

Heres the cover of the new edition.

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And will the movie be any good? I don’t know, although Kate Beckinsale is in it. I like Kate. She’s pretty.

Here’s the movie poster so we can (a) compare and contrast with the book cover and (b) admire Kate.

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Update: I’ve seen the book in a couple of bookshops and it turns out it’s essentially volume 5 of Dick’s collected stories which was originally published years ago as We Can Remember It For You Wholesale.

Star Trek Starships Partwork #3 – Klingon Bird of Prey

A few weeks back I discovered that there is a new partwork featuring Star Trek Starship models running as a pilot in the UK. They have a website (startrek-starships.com) that allows you to subscribe so I thought it would be worth a go.

Model number 3 arrived today, although I should note that I’ve yet to recieve the first two issues. A letter enclosed with issue 3 says it’s because they are out of stock due to “overwhelming popularity”.

Issue 3 is the popular Klingon Bird of Prey from Star Trek III The Search for Spock and many other movies and TV episodes. Below are a few photos of the model.

Pros: It’s nicely detailed and the stand is quite solid.

Cons: The wings don’t go up and down and it really doesn’t want to stay on the stand.

Honestly, I’m not sure the thing is worth £9.99. But I’ll stick with the subscription at least until I get my Enterprise dedication plaque and light-up Borg Cube!

The Dark Knight Rises Review

Here are my thoughts on The Dark Knight Rises

I had tickets booked to see the movie on Friday evening. Unfortunately on Friday morning I managed to inadvertently read major spoilers about the end of the movie. I was feeling a bit annoyed about that until I heard the news about what happened in Denver which sort of put things in perspective. In any case it’s a testament to how good the movie is that I enjoyed it immensely, even with the knowledge of what was going to happen.

Christian Bale remains as solid as ever in the role of Bruce Wayne. The movie starts with Wayne behaving in a reclusive fashion, not unlike Howard Hughes. Batman hasn’t been seen in eight years since he supposedly killed Harvey Dent. In fact Gotham celebrates Harvey Dent day every year and has a Dent Act that allowed criminals to be locked up. But Commissioner Gordon is conflicted about the lie and wants to tell the truth.

Throughout this movie there are flashbacks to moments from the other two movies. This links everything together very nicely and makes the series feel like a genuine trilogy.

At the start of the movie we are introduced to Selina Kyle’s cat burger played by Anne Hathaway, who I have to say was just a little bit outstanding.

Michael Caine is as ever excellent as Alfred and does some Oscar-worthy work as he pleads with Bruce to leave Gotham and the Batman and lead a normal life. Unfortunately he leaves the movie halfway through and is greatly missed.

Gordon Levitt Gordon (as I call him, he’s actually Joseph Gordon-Levitt… Probably) is introduced as cop John Blake. He gets a lot to do and is almost as big a character in this movie as Bruce Wayne. He’s excellent. I’m very happy to see Inception alumni appear in the movie. Marion Cotilard also turns up playing what becomes an important role. No Ellen Page though.

This is a movie of two halves. The first half feels a little like The Dark Kinght Returns graphic novel from the 1980s. Batman has been away for years and for some residents has become a bit of a myth. Did he ever really exist, they wonder. And if he did exist does Gotham even need him any more? Eventually Wayne is forced to wear the mask again.

The second half however spins off into something very different, the less spoiled the better. But it’s fair to say we see very little of Wayne as Batman in the movie.

Tom Hardy is introduced at the start of the movie in a stunning airborne sequence as Bane, the new leader of the League ofShadows. He’s come to Gotham to finish what Ra’s al Ghul tried to do in the first movie. I don’t think its too much of a spoiler to say that there are references to the 1990s Knightfall story where Bane breaks Batman’s back. Bruce Wayne is then imprisoned in a pit and must metaphorically and physically ‘rise’ if he is to escape and return to Gotham and save the city. This all nicely links back to the very start of Batman Begins when young Bruce falls into the well. “Why do we fall?” says his father. “So we can learn to pick ourselves up.” The line has been repeated a lot in the movies but worth repeating here as its the central motif of this movie.

It was enjoyable to see little cameos from Liam Neeson and Cillian Murphy. There was a noticeable little ripple of ‘is that him?’ in the cinema when Murphy appeared as Crane.

There’s a very effective plot twist towards the end of the movie that recalls a similar surprise in the first movie when the true identity of Ra’s al Ghul was revealed.

And the movie is definitely an ending. Any new Batman movies will be a reboot or will have to take place in a different continuity. And it’s very hard to see how they can even begin to compete with this trilogy.

John Carter revisited

Last night I was in the mood for movie and I found myself reaching for the John Carter DVD that I bought just a couple of weeks ago. That’s strange. I normally don’t watch a movie again quite so soon after buying it.

Well, I have to say I enjoyed the movie just as much on the second go around and it’s reminded me of a few things I missed on my first review.

First things first. I liked Lynn Collins very much as Dejah Thoris. And she’s pretty. Cue obligatory photo.

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What I enjoyed most about how she played the Princess was the little undercurrent of humour that she has in a lot of her scenes. For example the first time we see her she is speaking to the camera fairly seriously. Then she laughs and we see she’s in an empty room practising her speech.

Willem Dafoe plays the leader of the green Tharks, and Samantha Morton plays the outcast Sola. I don’t know if they did any Avatar-style motion-capture. I must look that up.

Mark Strong has a great line as he describes to John Carter what his people, the mysterious Therns, do: ‘We do not cause the destruction of a world, Captain Carter. We simply manage it. Feed off it, if you like.’

Michael Giacchino of Lost and the 2009 Star Trek supplies the music and it’s pretty effective.

There’s an impressive bit of editing in the middle with John Carter single-handedly taking on a Thark army while intercut with shots of him finding his wife and child killed in the old west.

I mentioned in my review that the success of a movie could be measured in making you want to read the source material. Well, as of last night I’ve already started reading A Princess of Mars on my Kindle, and the movie paperback edition arrived in the post today. (interestingly it contains both the novelisation of the movie script plus the Edgar Rice Burroughs original so the reader can compare the different versions for themselves. Nice.)

So in summary, I like.

John Carter Review

I missed John Carter when it was in the cinemas earlier this year, so I had to wait for the DVD release to see it. Having said that there was no way I could miss the widely reported news that the movie was apparently a flop. Yet most of the reviews I had read were favourable, plus the movie appeared to do very well outside North America.

In any event I was curious to see the movie. The trailers had presented some amazing looking visuals and while I was vaguely aware of the Edgar Rice Burroughs Barsoom series I was largely unfamiliar with the story.

The story is presented with a framing device that turns out to be quite important to the plot. Young ‘Ned’ Burroughs gets a message to visit his uncle John Carter who has been using his fortune on various archaeological digs across the world. On arriving at Carter’s home he discovers that his uncle is apparently dead and Burroughs is handed a notebook telling Carter’s amazing story.

Carter, played by Taylor Kitsch, describes in his journal how he was mysteriously transported to the world of Barsoom, or, as we would call it, Mars. There his different bone density (apparently) allows him to perform feats the natives cannot. He gets captured by the Tharks, giant green-skinned, four-armed creatures and then has the misfortune to stumble into the middle of a civil war.

Dominic West plays warlord Sab Than who is being manipulated by mysterious grey-robed men, whose leader is played by Hollywood’s favourite baddie Mark Strong. He gets Sab Than to gives an ultimatum to the last free city, Helium. He will spare the city if he can wed the princess Dejah Thoris, played by Lynn Collins. By the way, she’s an American actress but plays the Barsoomian princess with a very good English accent.

So inevitably Carter is drawn into the war and has to deal with Sab Than, rival Tharks, Mark Strong and find a way home. While, inevitably, falling in love with the princess.

The movie is essentially an enjoyable slice of pulp entertainment. The production design is impressive, the visuals are stunning. I particularly liked the big solar powered airships. I liked how the ‘human’ Barsoomians have redish-tinted skin and elaborate tattoos. The Tharks are CGI-creations and are nicely done. There’s an amusing running gag about how the Tharks get Carter’s name wrong.

I was struck that the story is not dissimilar the Stargate movie; A man from Earth gets mysteriously transported to a desert planet, has to take sides in a local war and falls in love with the princess.

I always think the true sign that a movie has done its job well is when it makes me want to discover the source material for myself. This movie certainly makes me want to track down a copy of A Princess of Mars, which I understand has been fairly faithfully adapted.

Overall it’s well worth a look.