Without question, the biggest release at the multiplex this weekend will be Disney’s John Carter, the big screen, 3D adaptation of Edgar Rice Burroughs’ classic sci-fi novel series John Carter of Mars. The epic scale of the film is matched only by its immense and diverse cast. Along with a number of recognizable acting veterans, John Carter also features a plethora of stars on the rise. Here are a few notables…
Why not start with the star of the film, eh? Taylor Kitsch, who plays our planet-hopping hero, gleans a lot of attention amongst Austin film and TV geeks for his work on the series Friday Night Lights; based on the 2004 film by Peter Berg. Though born in British Colombia, Kitsch perfectly captures the personality and mannerisms of Texas high school football player Tim Riggins with an added, fascinating edge. The series is filmed here in town. Kitsch has also made his mark on the superhero genre by appearing in Marvel’s 2009 X-Men Origins: Wolverine. While I won’t defend the merits of the film itself, Thor knows it was far from Marvel’s best, I would like to see Kitsch’s Gambit character fleshed out a bit more. Rémy LeBeau was easily my favorite X-Men, and it was unfortunate that the only attention paid to him by the franchise was Kitsch’s brief cameo in this less-than-stellar entry.
From a Texas adoptee to a true Texas native, the gorgeous Lynn Collins plays the love interest in John Carter. She plays a Martian princess called Dejah Thoris whose beauty, grace, and adeptness with a sword will not leave your consciousness even long after you leave the theater. Coincidentally, Collins also appeared in Marvel’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine; playing Logan’s girlfriend Kayla Silverfox. More likely however, you’ll probably recognize Lynn Collins from her five-episode stint as the unfortunate Dawn in the first season of HBO’s sexalicious vampire series True Blood. She also appeared in 2009’s Blood Creek with Michael Fassbender and 2006’s Bug alongside Ashley Judd; two films we highly recommend.
John Carter runs into many strange and interesting characters during his time on the red planet. One such character is the very sympathetic Sola, a female member of the Tharks (a bizarre, green, four-armed race). Though her name may not immediately ring any bells or recall a face, Samantha Morton, who elegantly voices Sola, has been lending her impressive talents to movies and television since the early 90s. After some television work in her native England, including an appearance on the popular BBC series Cracker, Morton appeared in the 1999 Woody Allen comedy Sweet and Lowdown. But arguably her biggest break came when she co-starred in Steven Spielberg’s Minority Report alongside Tom Cruise. Morton played the female telepath Agatha who becomes the key to helping Cruise’s hero solve a decades-old mystery. Morton has since appeared in films such as In America, The Libertine, and Elizabeth: The Golden Age.
When one is facing all manner of aliens, beasts, and humanoid aggressors, it pays to have a skilled warrior by one’s side. Luckily, John Carter allied himself with the skilful and cunning Kantos Kan; a captain of the army of Helium. Portraying Kan is the very talented British actor James Purefoy. Purefoy appeared in several films, among them A Knight’s Tale, Resident Evil, and Vanity Fair, before landing the role of Mark Anthony in HBO’s celebrated series Rome. But if you only seek out one project on Purefoy’s resume, I highly recommend his 2009 actioner Solomon Kane. In the film, based on a comic book by >Conan the Barbarian creator Robert E. Howard, Purefoy plays the titular antihero who sells his soul to the devil and then lives his life trying to win it back through various acts of valor. The film is every bit as exciting and spectacular as a major Hollywood superhero film on a budget a fraction of the size.
Rounding out our list of John Carter’s talent pool is the stunning Polly Walker. Walker lends her voice and movements to the treacherous Sarkoja, another member of the Thark race. A native of Cheshire, England, Walker is a seasoned veteran of some of the most notable television series on both sides of the pond. Walker appeared in the 2003 British political thriller series State of Play, which was re-imagined as a film in 2009 starring Russell Crowe and Ben Affleck, as well as HBO’s Rome and SyFy’s Battlestar Galactica spinoff Caprica. In addition, Walker appeared as the lovely Cassiopeia in 2010’s Clash of the Titans.
CNN CAUGHT IN ANOTHER TAILWIND?
Rekindling memories of CNN's Operation Tailwind fiasco three years ago, the CIA has issued a statement saying that Kenneth Bucchi, who was identified as a former CIA agent by the cable network during two appearances on Monday, never worked for the agency in any capacity and that his comments on the air about being involved in CIA activities involving Columbia drug lords were "utter nonsense" and "complete fiction." Reporting on the apparent hoax, the Washington Post said Thursday that Bucchi had been discharged from the Air Force after being labeled as delusional and quoted Bucchi as saying that he had been "framed" by the Air Force during his ouster. Bucchi also reportedly acknowledged that he could not prove that he had worked for the CIA but did concede that he had never been paid by the agency. A CNN anchor read a statement by the CIA about the matter Wednesday but did not retract the story or apologize, the Post said.
WHICH SURVIVOR WILL BE THE WEAKEST LINK?
CBS announced plans Wednesday to milk yet another Survivor episode from its current Outback series for the May sweeps. The one-hour show, set to air 8 p.m. May 10, will follow the 16 contestants as they return home and, from 8:30-9 p.m.will go head-to-head against a half-hour special episode of The Missing Link, which will be featuring several of the original Survivor contestants struggling to withstand the verbal scaldings of host Anne Robinson. Meanwhile, Pax TV announced Wednesday that beginning June 1 it will air repeats of Weakest Link on Fridays, just days after the original telecast on NBC on Mondays.
"TODAY"'S HIT AND RUN
Seeming to invite criticism for emulating the very thing it was scrutinizing, NBC's The Today Show on Wednesday showed a video six times of a 16-year-old boy being hit by a car as he was allegedly attempting to mimic a stunt on the MTV showJackass. The Independence, Kan., teenager suffered numerous injuries including a broken leg. During the broadcast, Garry Edmonson, the local D.A., said that his office was considering filing charges against MTV. "Certainly they are morally culpable," he remarked. For its part, MTV said that it was "incredibly upsetting" to learn of such incidents but that MTV repeatedly has warned viewers not to attempt the dangerous stunts depicted on the show. It also noted that it had never shown a stunt on Jackass similar to the one involving the injured Kentucky boy.
"NEW YORK TIMES" PUTS TV ON HOLD
Representing a blow to the New York Times' ambition to become a force in nightly television news, the paper has been forced to shelve plans to produce an 11:00 p.m. PBS newscast, published reports said Thursday. According to the reports, the newscast, which was to have been called National Edition, has been unable to find $12 million in corporate underwriting to launch the telecast, which was to have been produced with MacNeil-Lehrer Productions.
"60 MINUTES" CHIEF NOW FAVORS TELEVISED EXECUTION
60 Minutes producer Don Hewitt, who once voiced opposition to the televising of executions, now says he has changed his mind and is in favor of televising the May 16 execution of Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh. "You put a guy on a gurney and stick a needle in his arm. People watch that on E.R. every week," Hewitt remarked in an interview with the Philadelphia Inquirer. "What's the big deal? He goes to sleep and doesn't wake up. It doesn't seem so terrible to me." Reminded that in 1997 he said of televising McVeigh's execution, "That hungry for ratings, I'm not. ... It's in terrible taste," Hewitt replied, "I'm mush. I change on a lot of things." 60 Minutes is planning to repeat Ed Bradley's March 2000 interview with McVeigh, the only television interview with him.
WILL ACTRESS-ANCHOR MAKE IT AT CNN?
An Albuquerque, NM TV news director has sniffed at Wednesday's report that former NYPD Blue costar Andrea Thompson had been hired as an anchor and reporter for the CNN Headline News channel. Chris Berg, who heads the news department at KOB-TV, suggested that Thompson, who has worked at rival KRQE since leaving Blue, posed no competition. "I think working in Albuquerque is out of her league," he told the Albuquerque Journal. "Yes, I think she has improved as a news reporter, but she's still not good enough to work at our station." Readers of the Journal seemed to agree. In a poll conducted on the newspaper's Web site, 64 percent of the respondents answered "No" to the question, "Is KRQE-TV reporter/former NYPD Blue actress Andrea Thompson ready for CNN?"
KATHIE LEE SAYS SHE'S HAD TALKS ABOUT REPLACING ROSIE
Kathie Lee Gifford on Monday confirmed that she had had "preliminary talks" about replacing Rosie O'Donnell on Donnell's syndicated talk show beginning next June. During a conference call, Gifford said that the talks were "nothing serious, and I don't know. ... To commit to something longterm, I would be throwing myself right back in that same frying pan."
CALLS MOUNT FOR BBC CHIEF TO STEP DOWN
Word that BBC Chairman Christopher Bland has been appointed chairman of British Telecom has sparked demands that Bland relinquish his job at the publicly funded broadcasting corporation. Norman Baker, a spokesman for the Liberal Democratic party, told Britain's Guardian newspaper: "Sir Christopher Bland can't possibly do two jobs at once. He cannot give the BBC his full attention if he believes the job is that part-time. ... There is a clear conflict of interest."
NO MOVIES, NO INTERVIEWS?
If an actors' strike materializes this year, not only will TV and film studios be hard hit, but so will entertainment publications and TV shows whose stock-in-trade is running interviews with celebrities who are plugging their latest projects, the Los Angeles Times observed Thursday. Entertainment attorney Tom Hansen told the newspaper that despite actors' contractual obligations to studios to promote their films or television shows, "the union collective bargaining agreement will always trump the individual actor's agreement. ... If the guild says you cannot render publicity services, you will not be in violation of your contract."
MGM: BIG HITS, BUT BIG LOSSES
Despite back-to-back hits with Hannibal and Heartbreakers, MGM on Wednesday reported a net loss of $399.8 million in the first quarter. It attributed the result to accounting rules changes, noting that operating income (EBITDA) soared to $12.6 million from $5.2 million during the same period a year ago. In a statement, MGM Chairman and CEO Alex Yemenidjian commented, "MGM's first-quarter performance was a great start to what promises to be another strong year in 2001." The studio plans to release 20 films this year versus seven in 2000.
TRADE PAPER REPORTER QUITS AFTER HIS STORY IS QUASHED
Entertainment labor and legal reporter David Robb has quit the Hollywood Reporter after the trade paper's publisher, Robert Dowling, blocked a story that he had written concerning Reporter gossip columnist George Christy, the online media magazine Inside reported Wednesday. The story reportedly concerned an investigation by the Screen Actors Guild to determine whether Christy actually worked in numerous films and TV shows for which he had received acting credits since 1985. Those credits, Inside maintained, allowed Christy to qualify for benefits under the guild's health and pension plan. According to Inside, Dowling spiked the story over the objection of editor Anita Busch. It quoted Robb as saying that Dowling "reassigned" the story to another reporter. None of the principals in the dispute except Robb responded to Inside's requests for comment.
COLUMNIST ATTESTS "TOWN & COUNTRY" IS AS BAD AS FEARED
Syndicated columnist Liz Smith has confirmed many movie writers' speculation that Town and Country, the costly and long-delayed comedy starring Warren Beatty, Goldie Hawn, Diane Keaton and Garry Shandling, is a disaster. Saying that she had seen the film this week -- most critics viewed it Wednesday night -- Smith concludes that "it is one of the most chaotic and puerile movies ever made, full of tasteless adultery and some downright offensive vulgarity." As for the top-flight cast, Smith remarks: "It is awful to see talented stars without a clue as to who they are supposed to be portraying or what they are supposed to be doing." (A digest of other reviews of the movie will be included in tomorrow's edition.)
BUSH WATCHING BOWDLERIZED VERSIONS OF MOVIES
President George W. Bush has ordered that scenes of graphic sex and violence be cut from movies shown on Air Force One flights, the British Web site Ananova reported Thursday, citing reporters traveling with the president. It was not clear from the report who was assigned to the bowdlerization of the films, nor what guidelines for cuts had been set. Ananova observed that Bill Clinton always ran the uncut versions of films on the presidential plane and at the White House, even those "that Mr. Clinton regularly condemned when he was talking up family values."