Skip 'John Carter'; go 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen' -

Skip ‘John Carter’; go ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’

Taylor Kitsch is as buff as Carter is bloated; Ewan McGregor’s wit has the soft barb of single-malt Scotch.


Amr Waked (left) and Ewan McGregor in 'Salmon Fishing in the Yemen'

John Carter, the year’s first big blockbuster opens this weekend, and looks like it’s headed for box-office disaster. I certainly found it pretty tedious. It feels about half an hour too long. And it plays like a cheesy rip-off of Star Wars and Avatar—but that’s because it’s based on the century-old work of Tarzan creator Edgar Rice Burroughs, whose work exerted a primal influence on both George Lucas and James Cameron, back when they were fanboy bookworms. So even though John Carter is based on the original prototype, it plays like a knock-off.

It’s the sage of a Confederate Civil War veteran who is mysteriously transported to Mars (aka Barsoom), where he plays Lawrence of Arabia to a horde of  green, four-armed, tusked barbarians. The movie marks the live-action directing debut of Pixar wiz Andrew Stanton. It also launches the action-hero career of Canadian Taylor Kitsch, who is as buff as the movie is bloated. If he’s lucky, the movie’s box-office failure will nip any future sequels in the bud. As Kitsch has already proven in Friday Night Lights and The Bang Bang Club, he’s too good for this shlock. To read my recent interview/profile of this 30-year-old actor from Kelowna, B.C, go to: The next action hero.

So, unless you’re still looking forward to puberty, you should avoid John Carter. But do try to see Salmon Fishing in the Yemen, one of the biggest hits at TIFF last fall.Ewan McGregor and Emily Blunt generate terrific chemistry in this quirky romantic comedy from Lasse Hallström (Chocolat), which is based on the bestseller by Paul Torday. McGregor plays a fisheries scientist and avid angler who is confounded when Blunt’s character asks him to embark on what seems like a preposterous project: creating a salmon river in the sands of Yemen.

A Yemeni sheik with a Scottish mansion and a passion for fly-fishing—played with tender charm by Amr Waked—is bankrolling the project. And the British PM’s press secretary (Kristin-Scott Thomas) is spinning the venture as an upbeat distraction from the horrors of war in Afghanistan. Her satirical caricature throws the tone of the film off—she seems to be locked in her own screwball comedy, one torqued way higher than the rest of the film. It’s as if she’s casting with a heavy lure, and everyone else is fly-fishing.

But McGregor and Blunt are  a picture of droll restraint, as their shy romance slowly bubbles to the surface. McGregor’s wit has soft barb of single-malt Scotch, the story sings through a sweet arc, and the landscapes are lovely.

Elizabeth Olsen in 'Silent House'

Finally, there’s an ambitious little thriller called Silent House starring Elizabeth Olsen, sister to the Olsen twins. Here she shows that her breakout performance in Martha Marcy May Marlene was no flash in the plan. Olson plays a woman terrorized by an unseen predator in a house by the sea. But the film has an overpowering conceit. The whole thing is presented as if it’s shot in one continuous take. In fact, there are probably 5 or 6 takes. But the tension of Olsen’s virtually uncut performance becomes a big part of the suspense. And that performance, which dominates every frame, is a tour de force. Problem is, I found myself thinking more about the virtuoso camerawork and the sustained feats of acting than about the story, which leads to a rather banal payoff.

Follow Brian D. Johnson on Twitter @briandjohnson


Skip ‘John Carter’; go ‘Salmon Fishing in the Yemen’

  1. you sir, are an idiot, John Carter is an epic movie, but then again, your probably a leftest avatar climate change idiot too, thanks but John Carter is way better than star wars and avatar could ever be.

  2. Brian your a goofy bastard

  3. Just Saw The 1pm Imax 3d At Chinnook And It Was Awesome! Totally A Fun And Exciting Action Flick. Not Enough Buzz About This Film But It Really Was Worth The $$. Taylor Kitsch Held His Own As The Lead And The Visuals Especially The Aerial Battles Are Breath Taking. I’m Going To Go Again Sunday, It Was That Good. If You Liked Avatar You’ll Like This One. 

  4. This is a great film! Fun and entertaining! All this negativity towards John Carter makes me wonder if reviewers are being paid to trash the film for rival studios, perhaps?…Oh, yea.. I agree with 88rock2!!!

  5. John Carter is fantastic bro, you werent paying attention to the film! I have noticed that if people go in predetermined to hate a movie, they hate it!

    this isnt some high art, its just awesome fun action bro

    oh and no, John Carter is not some fancy savior of the green people. HE MURDERED THEIR LEADERS AND TOOK CONTROL OF THEIR POPULATION AND ARMY.

    He is a warlord of mars, not a white messiah and I garuntee he would have murdered a lot more green warriors if he had too. Two was sufficient though to scare them into submission!

  6. Mr. Johnson, you sir, are a total idiot.

  7. What a condescending snob you are. John Carter will be a smash at the box office and it deserves to be. It is nothing but pure Saturday afternoon matinee fun. You need to climb into your wheelchair and roll off into the sunset.

  8. Awesome movie!!
    Loved it!! Both my son and my daughter loved it…….which is odd because they never like the same movies. It encapsulated an Indiana Jones, Star Wars (first one), and E.T. feel and flavour. Fantastic !!
    These new critics need fart humour and blatant nudity to enjoy a movie…they are attention deficit.
    This epic was brought to us by the man who gave us Finding Nemo and Wall-E…….He does not disappoint with John Carter !! Take your family to see this triumph !!