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Posts Tagged ‘Edgar Rice Burroughs’

This week I re-watched “good night, and good luck.” (GNGL), and “John Carter“, (JCoM) both on DVD. 
 

During the 1960’s-70’s, when I was coming of age, the most trusted man in America was Walter Cronkite who presented the evening new for CBS.  But before Cronkite, there was another journalism legend at CBS – his name was Edward R. Murrow.   GNGL is a movie about the abuse of power by a government figure (Senator Joseph McCarthy) and the struggle to contain / curtail that abuse by CBS TV journalist Edward R. Murrow.  While Murrow did not “personally” bring down McCarthy, Murrow’s programs marked the start of McCarthy’s fall from grace.  GNGL is the story of the broadcasts which ultimately led to the vote of censure by the U.S. Senate against McCarthy.
 

The movie is shot in black and white to highlight the “feel” of 1953 America – in the days before color television (yes, kids, there was a time when TV was in black and white ONLY) – like watching an Ansel Adams nature portrait come to life.   It worked for me, even though I generally don’t care for new films (that is, non-classics) which don’t seem to use the drama provided by black and white as well as it appears in GNGL.  The writing and performances are crisp and David Strathairn captures Murrow perfectly (or as near as I can imagine it to be).
 

I did not see this film at the theater and this was my second time viewing the DVD.  I’m not sure why, but I don’t have my first viewing on this blog.  The movie is from 2005, so it’s possible I saw the DVD before I started this blog (in ’09).   In any case, this is a highly recommended!!
 

As an aside, as a young child, I grew up listening to a box set of 78 LP’s titled: “I Can Hear It Now“.  I still have vivid recollections of sitting in an old red armchair and listening to history over and over again: “Fear Itself”, “Day of Infamy”, “Greatest Hour”, the destruction of the Hindenburg, etc.  Some of the greatest moments of 20th century radio and the thread which linked them in my mind was the voice of Edward R. Murrow. 
 

The second movie I watched was “John Carter“, which was originally supposed to be called “John Carter of Mars” or “John Carter and the Princess of Mars“.  I did see this movie at the theater and I’ve watched it on DVD when I first bought it, but for some reason, I didn’t review it – probably, because I watched it mid-week and didn’t get back to a review on the weekend (procrastinating me).
 

For those not familiar with the story, Edgar Rice Burroughs wrote a series of eleven short novels about a Civil War officer who is transported to Mars and who then has a series of adventures leading up to his becoming a War Lord of Mars.  The books were written / published over a number of decades.  I first encountered the books while I was in the Army.  My roommate knew of my interest in adventure novels (mostly SciFi) and told me about the series, which was his favorite while he was growing up.  He seemed quite surprised I had never heard of the series.  Anyway, I bought the series and carried them around for the better part of 35 years before finally getting around to reading them.  I was motivated to read them by the up-coming release of the movie.
 

This is one of those movies people say can never be shot because of the nature of the special effects required to convey the story.  Well, I’m happy to say technology has caught up with imagination in this age of the super-hero movie, so this movie could finally be made.  You can read my initial review here.  On re-watching the DVD, my opinion remains – it’s a VERY entertaining little movie.  Is it a great movie?  No…  Has a lot of the stuff (FX) been done before?  Yes.  Does it matter?  Nope, not to me anyway.  Summer escapism / action flick…  If the movie gets you to go back and read the books or the Tarzan series (also written by Burroughs), then the movie has served its purpose in history. 
 

The shame is the movie was so badly marketed, it lost Disney a ton of money and there will probably not be any sequels developed.  That’s a shame because there are a lot worse movies out there that have a ton of abysmal sequels.  Strong recommendation (borderline high recommendation) – I enjoy it more each time I view it.
 

 

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No matter how instinctively gregarious one may be there are times when one longs for solitude.  I like people.  I like to be with my family, my friends, my fighting men; and probably just because I am so keen for companionship, I am at times equally keen to be alone.  It is at such times that I can best resolve the knotty problems of government in times of war or peace.  It is then that I can meditate upon all the various aspects of a full life such as I lead; and, being human, I have plenty of mistakes upon which to meditate that I may fortify myself against their recommission.
 

—  John Carter (of Mars)
from the book “Llana Of Gathol
written by Edgar Rice Burroughs

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Friday night, I took my daughter Sarah to see “John Carter Of Mars“.  This is the new movie from the eleven volume JCofM series written by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  The movie is based on book one: “The Princess Of Mars“.  It follows the book fairly well – as well as can be expected.  The movie is a Romance /Sci-Fi / Fantasy / action genre and it does well at all of those levels.  Is it “great” cinema?  How many action / fantasy / romance movies are?  Is it entertaining?  Definitely!!!
 

Do you have to read the book to “get” the movie?  No, but you’ll probably enjoy it (the movie) more if you see it first, read the book and then see it again (DVD).  I’ve read the book twice and the entire series once (just finished in anticipation of the movie).  Does it do justice to Burroughs’ JCofM concept?   Yes, I think it does.  How’s the acting and “pace/direction” of the movie?  Hello??!!??  Action movie…!!!  The Princess (Lynn Collins) is suitably gorgeous.  JC (Taylor Kitsch) is remarkably Timothy Oliphant-ian (is that a word?).  They both start out stilted, but warm to their roles.  The two “stars” of the movie are the “dog” (a calot) named Woola and the four-armed green Thark – Tars Tarkas.  They both add surprising moments of humor – the book is NOT very funny.
 

All in all, I found it to be a surprising entertaining / fun action movie and well worth the price of admission.  I WILL be buying it when it comes out on DVD.
 

Other news:
Today, Hil and I took a trip up to Sacramento to visit our daughter Rebecca and help her start to move to her new place.  She’s moving from her studio close to the Capitol Bldg, to a one-bedroom a little farther away and on the other side of the Capitol Bldg.  It’s an old, Victorian style and it’s really nice.  We both think she’s really going to enjoy her next couple of years there.
 

 

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This week I completed the last four books in the John Carter of Mars series written by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  The books are titled: “Swords Of Mars” (#8) (1934©);  “Synthetic Men Of Mars” (#9) (1939©);  “Llana Of Gathol” (#10) (1948©) – originally published in four novelettes in 1941; and, “John Carter Of Mars” (#11) (1964©) – published posthumously.
 

As mentioned in previous blogs, this was a series recommended to me by an Army roommate, way back in the mid-1970’s, which I’ve just gotten around to reading.  I read the first one back then, but never got around to the rest.  About two years ago, I looked at them and said to myself, “Enough already, just read them…”  I re-read the first and burrowed (pun intended) through the next four.  I then got bored and put the rest aside, until last year when I read number six.  It still didn’t catch my taste, so I again put the rest aside.  Now, with the movie coming out next month, I decided (again) to bite the bullet and complete the series.  I read number seven last week.  Now I’ve completed the rest. 
 

In a way, it’s a strange feeling to carry a series of books around for 30-plus years (over half your lifetime) and then finally to complete reading them.  Kind of a combination of accomplishment and loss at the same time. 
 

Here’s the full list from the series:
1)  “A Princess Of Mars” (1912©);  John Carter wakes up on Mars, meets his future spouse (Dejah Thoris) and a lifelong green Martian friend (Tars Tarkas).
2) “The Gods Of Mars” (1913©);  John Carter discovers the Gods of Mars are legends of evil men.
3) “Warlord Of Mars” (1913©);   John Carter (again) saves Dejah Thoris and ultimately becomes Warlord of Helium (and Mars).
4) “Thuvia, Maid Of Mars” (1963©);  Carthoris (John Carter’s son) must rescue his future spouse; originally published in 1916.
5) “The Chessmen Of Mars” (1922©);  The story of Tara of Helium (John Carter’s daughter) and her spouse (Gahan of Gathol).
6) “The Master Mind Of Mars” (1963©);  A second Earthling (Ulysses Paxton) comes to Mars, becomes Vad Varo and must rescue his future spouse.  Originally published in 1927.
7) “A Fighting Man Of Mars” (1930©);  Tan Hadron of Hastor meets and saves his spouse, a slave girl who is actually a princess.
8) “Swords Of Mars” (1935©);  John Carter must save Dejah Thors (yet again), but at least he’s back to being a main character…
9) “Synthetic Men Of Mars” (1939©);  Vor Daj (one of John Carter’s lieutenants) must save his future spouse.
10) “Llana Of Gathol” (1948©);  first published in 1941 as a serial format as four separate stories; Llana (John Carter’s grand-daugther) meets and must be saved by her future spouse.
11) “John Carter Of Mars” (1964©);  two novelettes consolidated into a single book and published posthumously;  John Carter fights another “super-intelligent” synthetic man who has (in turn) created a giant synthetic man of his own; and, the start of a new series which starts a war with the inhabitants of Jupiter.  The series is never completed due to the death of Edgar Rice Burroughs.  The two works were originally published separately in 1941 and 1943 respectively.
 

The first three volumes make up one complete story.  They are pretty good to very good.  The middle section, volumes four through seven are so-so.  The last four are pretty good again.  Are any of them “realistic”?  No more than the “StarWars” or “Indiana Jones” movies.  Are they entertaining anyway?  Yeah, they are.  I’m very much looking forward to the movie release on 9 March 2012 of the first book.  They are supposed to make the trilogy if the first movie is a big enough hit.  Here’s to smash hits…!!!
 

One interesting final note: there was approximately 30 years between the publishing of the first volume and the last one.  It is ironic that it took me a similar length of time to go from one to eleven.
 

 

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On Saturday, I completed the 7th in the John Carter of Mars (JCoM) series book: “A Fighting Man Of Mars“, by Edgar Rice Burroughs (1930©).   I’ve been carrying the series around with me since my early 20’s, and couple of years ago I decided to bite the bullet and read them.  I actually read the first book in the series way back when, but never progressed to any of the others.  I managed to read the fist six and then stalled out.  I believed the series was about John Carter.  Actually, only about half the books are.  The rest are about his son, daughter, grand-daughter and this latest, about an arbitrary low ranking officer in the Helium Army.  (Helium is the city-state on Mars over which John Carter has become Warlord.)
 

As I thought I’d been recording the books I’ve read on this blog, I went back to see what my other (earlier) blogs said about the series – only to find out there is only the briefest of mentions that I’ve started reading the series and have completed the first five.  I then went back to see if the same was true for any number of other books I’d read and found it was(is).  I’ve therefore decided to go back and begin reviewing other books I’ve read.  I’ll try to come up with a notation of some type to indicate which are current reads and which are prior, but I haven’t come up with anything yet.
 

Anyway, there is a new John Carter of Mars movie coming out on March 9th which really looks promising, so I’m going to try to complete the series before then.  I believe the movie only covers the first and second book, so I may try to re-read those, too.
 

For anyone not familiar with Edgar Rice Burroughs, he’s the creator of the “Tarzan of the Apes” series of books which came out in serialized fashion back in the early 1900’s.  Roughly the same time, he was producing the John Carter series (from 1910-ish to 1940-ish).  As the time predates TV and air flight – let alone spaceflight, his novels are very much science fiction.  Beyond that though they are what I would call Sci-Fi/Sword and Romance novels.  I would estimate the target audience for teens to mid-twenties (about the same as now, but you could probably throw in some younger pre-teens) and mostly male.  Women are always “virginal” and men (good-guys) are always swashbuckling and heroic.  The reverse is also true for the “bad-guys” (and gals).  The bad women are always vicious and conniving and the men are always fat, detestable, frequently ugly, and almost always willing to “take” the heroine’s “honor” – usually by force, but sometimes by manipulation.
 

This book (“A Fighting Man Of Mars”) follows the familiar format: hero falls in love, love interest is kidnapped (becomes endangered), hero sets off on quest to save love interest.  Hero goes through many trials, but finally saves the love interest.  In this case, the twist is the initial love interest is undeserving and inevitably loses the hero to a more worthy love interest.  If you are intending to read this book (and are under 15 years of age) – stop reading here because I’m about to disclose the final plot twist.  The hero believes the new love interest to be a slave and on the last pages of the book, she is discovered to be a long lost (kidnapped AGAIN) princess of Helium.   And they live happily ever after…
 

As you can deduce from my review, the reason I stopped reading the books is they are not that interesting to me.  They are light, adventure novels with a little too much Victorian-era romance thrown in for my taste.  Will I complete the series?  Yes.  They are not bad; they’re just not that good.  They make a nice change from any heavy reading – kind of like watching a half-hour situation comedy on regular TV after watching a documentary on PBS.
 

A final thought, if you were trying to get your 8-10 year old son or grandson to enjoy reading, you could do worse than reading these to him…
 

 

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Well, it’s been about 7 weeks now and I’m down just over 26 pounds!  Not great, but not bad either.  I’m now at 306 and a bit…  I’m now hoping for sub-300 by Christmas.
Last Thursday, 3 Dec 09, Hil and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary.  We went out for an Indian dinner.  It was quite nice – quiet, because it was the middle of the week.
Over the weekend, we went out and bought a replacement PC for the home and a netbook for wandering around the house (or just sitting in bed).  The desktop is just a netbook without a built-in monitor.  Since all we do is a bit of word processing and web surfing, it should be more than enough for us – for now.  I can always go out and get a beefy-er PC if it turns out we really need one.
We got the DVD “Up” over the weekend.  It is a terrific little movie!!  We both thoroughly enjoyed it.  Definitely a movie to watch repeatedly – Squirrel!!
Way back when I was in the Army, my roommate was a guy named Jeffery Barron.  He noticed I was into serial adventure novels and he suggested his personal favorite – John Carter of Mars by Edgar Rice Burroughs.  I bought the series (11 books) but never got past the first one.  Anyway, I was looking at my shelves and I’ve been carrying these books around the world for almost 30 years, so I’ve decided to read them.  I’m now into book four.  They’re pretty good in a “Indiana Jones” kind of way.  The problem is you always know he’ll somehow survive for the next book.  Still, it’s good light reading to get the mind off of the “real” world.
Two political updates: health care is not doing well.  We need a national health care system with 100% of the public able to apply for it.  It should also have private options for anyone who wishes to supplement their regular coverage.  At the moment, the insurance and drug lobbies have too much money invested for there to be a real solution.  It looks like once again, we’ve missed a major opportunity to improve America.
The second note is on President Obama’s decision to increase the troop level in Afghanistan.  As mentioned in my previous blog, this is a terrible mistake.  The “war” there is not sustainable, let alone winnable.  We need to get out – plain and simple.

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