BARROW-IN-FURNESS – After the mega-flop that was Andrew Stanton‘s John Carter – AKA John Carter of Mars – the idea of a sequel was as welcome as a policeman with a grim expression ringing your doorbell at 4 o’clock in the morning to tell you they’ve found the body.

However, it turns out Disney made loads of toys that they haven’t sold and so for artistic reasons will be making a sequel after all, but one with a much lower budget. Andrew Stanton – the ‘director’ – said: 

We’ve slashed the budget. And we’ve decided we’re going to have to be much more creative . Unfortunately when you don’t have a large budget it does impact on the kind of story you can tell. So for instance, John Carter of Mars? Well, Mars is kind of expensive. Barrow-in-Furness on the other hand is a small English industrial town in the North West of England, where accommodation is very cheap. Importantly, for some of the action sequences, so is life.

Located south of the Lake District and with a population of 69,000, Barrow-in-Furness has been used before as a location for John Hilcoat’s The Road and Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, where it stood in for New York. Giorgio Valentino – Mr Kubrick’s dentist – said, “It looks nothing like New York, but it is cheap.”

In the original film, John Carter was able to jump massive distances due to the difference in gravity between Mars and Earth. As he will only be travelling from America to England such jumping advantages is likely to be eliminated.

John Carter Manager of Stitch Express

“I consider that a win win,” Stanton says, “The jumping looked silly and it will be cheaper not to do it. Plus we won’t have a huge civil war between alien races. Rather, I think we’re going with story in which John Carter becomes manager of Stitch Express and gets into a row with the herbal store next door but they unite to defeat the council who are digging up the road for maintenance work on the sewers.”

John Carter 2: John Carter of Barrow-in-Furness will be released in 2017.


AFGHANISTAN – Lone Survivor is a war film which asks the important question: which Mark Wahlberg will survive?

The film begins with footage of the real life and arduous training of Navy frogmen with lots of shouting and ferociousness, if you were being cynical you might think of it almost as a recruiting video but we can put a pin in that. 

Then we’re in Afghanistan where the trivia of home – picking out the color scheme for redecoration – mixes with the gung-ho rituals of on base military life. The professional soldiers prepare for a mission with power point presentations and a close attention to detail – and then four of the squad (Wahlberg, John Carter, Into the Wild and Ben Foster) are dropped into hostile territory where things begin quickly to go wrong. 

Accusing a true story of cliché might seem a bit rich, but US foreign policy has a tendency to repeat its mistakes with such grinding regularity that familiar ground is hard to avoid. For some this will be a patriotic piece of action cinema, a stirring tribute to the fallen. To others it might be a piece of pernicious propaganda which manipulates the suffering and death of the American soldiers for maximum effect while utterly disregarding the suffering and death of everyone else. Hoping for geopolitical nuance from the director of Battleship might be asking too much, but his action sequences are much better and clunking clichés and lachrymose coda aside, there’s a punchy  and tense war film here.