Reel Critics: 'John Carter' a mix of other successful franchises

Disney managers invested $250 million to make"John Carter,"the next blockbuster of fantasy adventure films.

They borrowed major elements from other hit movies. They spent serious money to illustrate the exploits on screen with riveting special effects. They clearly hope to create a new franchise with many sequels to come.

The screenplay is based on a science fiction story written by "Tarzan"creator Edgar Rice Burroughs. The fantastic tale begins in the late 1800s, when Civil War veteran John Carter is suddenly and magically transported to the planet Mars.

There, he becomes the unlikely champion of the Tharks, a primitive race of tall green people with four arms and tusks. They are at war with humanoid tribes seeking to annihilate them with advanced weapons and flying machines.

Comparisons to"Star Wars"and "Avatar" are obvious. Epic battle scenes between the different races come straight out of the "Lord of the Rings" movies.

It's all very well done, with kids at my screening clapping at the end of this high-powered movie. But grown-ups will know this giant spectacle is a Frankenstein that has been patched together from the body parts of other successful movies.


Funny 'Friends With Kids' great for dates

Thoughtful, funny ensemble acting makes"Friends With Kids"a welcome departure from the standard rom-com. It's like"When Harry Met Sally,"if Harry and Sally had decided to have a baby together but just stay friends.

Seeing how having a family has changed their friends' relationships (and not all for the better), best friends Julia (Jennifer Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott) still want kids, but haven't met "the one" yet.

They come up with the idea of raising a child but maintaining separate lives and separate homes. This frees them up for dating and meeting their ideal partner down the line without ruining a friendship. No one chafes because of too much togetherness, lack of sleep or lack of sex.

Of course, having a child does change the dynamics in a relationship. Kids are messy. Life gets messy — especially when one develops romantic feelings that are not returned.

It was fun to see some of the cast members of "Bridesmaids"Kristen Wiig, Jon Hamm, Maya Rudolph,Chris O'Dowd — reunited but with a grown-up sensibility that's not just about laughs.

Westfeldt (who also wrote and directed) and Scott aren't the sexiest couple, but they do have an easy charm that makes "Friends with Kids" a terrific "date night" movie.

JOHN DEPKO is a retired senior investigator for the Orange County public defender's office. He lives in Costa Mesa and works as a licensed private investigator.

SUSANNE PEREZ lives in Costa Mesa and is an executive assistant for a company in Irvine.

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