ANOTHER fantasy adventure has rolled off the production line, but JOHN CARTER (12: Walt Disney) has much to recommend it.
This lavish production of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burrough’s series of novels could be the overture to a lucrative new franchise.
Model-turned-actor Taylor Kitsch is muscular and cool enough as a widowed American Civil War soldier transported to alien planet Barsoom – better known as Mars – that’s in the middle of its own inter-tribal conflict.
He gets caught up in this struggle when he rescues a princess from captivity and must win the trust of a fierce primitive tribe to save the world
Carter is determined to return to Earth, yet he uncovers injustice and betrayal within the ranks of the opposing Mars species and takes on the role of planetary saviour.
There’s a good balance between emotion and epic battles, with Samantha Morton giving a heartfelt vocal performance as a computer-generated creature and Lynn Collins terrific as the princess who’s no fool with a sword.
Mark Strong, Dominic West and James Purefoy provide robust support.
> PROJECT X (18: Warner) is a rude, outrageous and occasionally very funny comedy about a trio of misfit high school students planning the party to end all parties.
Birthday boy Thomas (Thomas Mann) and his two pals take advantage of his parents’ absence to hold the shindig and boost their social standing at school.
They intend to capture the event on camera, but are not prepared for the chaos that ensues.
As Thomas desperately tries to contain the festivities and prevent his suburban home from being wrecked by 1,000 party animals, the bash attracts the attention of angry neighbours, police and a TV helicopter news crew.
The ‘found footage’ technique used in Blair Witch and Cloverfield is employed, so the entire film has purportedly been captured on video cameras and mobile phones.
The viewer is planted to great effect in the centre of the debauchery and although the movie loses its way as the night wears on and the partygoers’ behaviour gets more excessive, the dialogue in the earlier scenes is witty and snappy.
> All the star power in the world can’t save JACK AND JILL (PG: Sony), a sorry excuse for a comedy.
I don’t know what’s worse – Adam Sandler’s lazy attempt to impersonate a woman or Al Pacino, playing himself, having to fall in love with this creature.
The messy plot has Sandler as a successful LA advertising executive dreading the holiday arrival of his twin sister (Sandler again), a loud and obnoxious single woman from New Jersey.
The visit takes an unexpected twist when Pacino, whom Sandler desperately needs to sign up for a Dunkin’ Donuts commercial, falls for his sister.
Johnny Depp, John McEnroe and Shaquille O’Neal offer cameo turns, while Katie Holmes looks embarrassed as Sandler’s long-suffering wife.
Pacino at least has some fun sending up his own super-serious image, although Sandler’s performance has no saving graces in a film that marks a new low in his career.
> It’s hard to care for either of the two main characters because of their appalling behaviour in slapdash comedy THIS MEANS WAR (12: Twentieth Century Fox).
FDR (Chris Pine) and Tuck (Tom Hardy) are best buddy CIA operatives pitched against each other when they discover they’re dating the same woman, perky Lauren (Reese Witherspoon).
They call upon all manner of spy hardware and espionage tactics and brazenly abuse America’s security resources to stalk the object of their affections as if she was a terror suspect and gain the upper hand in the battle for her heart.
The dubious methods of the love rivals make for uncomfortable viewing and not enough laughs.
Pine’s wise-cracking ladies’ man and Hardy’s more humble, sensitive divorced dad are painted so stereotypically that the audience is quickly nudged towards rooting for the latter.
> Sean Bean swaps his usual doublet and sword for civvies and gun to play a British secret service agent in CLEANSKIN (15: Warner), a rough, tough and often very violent picture.
He’s ordered to go undercover to track down some missing Semtex explosive and the home-grown Islamist suicide cell that possesses it.
The film’s title is spy-speak for terrorists with no criminal record who are so unknown to the security services that they’re almost impossible to trace and keep tabs on.
It’s an ambitious effort with some memorable fight scenes, but it lacks the extra oomph that could have done for Bean’s action-movie career what Taken did for Liam Neeson’s.
Bean is his usual gruffly minimalist self and considering he’s the star of the show, he’s not on screen a lot. A case of too much terrorist, not enough secret agent.