Tag Archives: George Lucas

Yoda vs. Yoda in “The Phantom Menace”

OK, hold on a minute, I might have to reverse my decision on one of George Lucas’ “tweaks” to the “Star Wars” films for their Blu-Ray debut. I actually think the new CGI Yoda in “The Phantom Menace” is a huge improvement over the dead-eyed, Cracked-out Yoda puppet that originally appeared in the film. I mean, seriously, what is wrong with that f-ing puppet, man? Yikes…he musta scared the freaking midi-chlorians outta little Anakin!

So, you win this round, Mr. Lucas, but, I still ain’t buying all those damn Blu-Rays till they go on sale. Or, you know, someone like my talented and lovely wife gifts them to me for Christmas…

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Holy blinking Ewoks, Mr. Lucas!

I’m sure you’ve heard the news by now, but, for those of you who haven’t, George Lucas has once again riled up the “Star Wars” faithful by making a handful of incredibly nerdy, holy unnecessary changes to the “Star Wars” movies for their upcoming Blu-Ray debut. And yes, blinking Ewoks is one of them.

Oh, you didn’t notice that the Ewoks in “Return of the Jedi” didn’t have eyelids? Well, neither did I. And neither did the rest of the flipping world, but, something tells me those un-blinking Ewoks kept Lucas awake many a night for the past twenty-something years. How else to explain that and the rest of the completely ridiculous changes he’s made to the sci-fi classics? Oy, seriously, somebody get this man a hobby already…

To see a full list of the absurdities about to be unleashed on Blu-Ray, click here, And in the meantime, I’ll be watching my beloved, un-butchered, un-special-edition Original Theatrical Release version DVD’s of the original series.

They might not look as crisp as the Blu-Ray versions of the films, but any world where Han Solo still shoots first and those loathsome little Ewoks have dry, itchy eyes, is cool with me!

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“Star Wars: The Complete Saga” coming to Blu-Ray this fall!

Even if you didn’t have a ticket to CES last week, self-respecting “Star Wars” fans everywhere felt a powerful disturbance in the Force when it was announced on Thursday that the “Star Wars” saga is finally coming to Blu-Ray Disc this September. Whoo-hoo, thank the maker!

No official street date has been announced, but, you can pre-order your “Star Wars” saga three different ways this time out.

Old School: in a set containing only the original three films and all the extras, New School: the Prequel Films only, with all the extras, or, you can go whole hog and get the Complete Collection of all six films in one big old boxed set for somewhere around $139.99. Hmmm…guess which one I have my eye on?

I think the only bad news for hard-core fans is that we’ll have to buy the full set of “Star Wars” movies…again! I mean, shit, if you count Videodisc, VHS widescreen and full-frame, Laserdisc and DVD, I’ve bought these same damn movies like, five times over. But, hey, who’s counting?

If the rad-ass new trailer (above) is any indication, the Blu-Ray editions are gonna rock, so, start saving your Republic Credits now, baby! Yee-haw!

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Elvis movies: “Viva Las Vegas”

Nerdy as it sounds, ever since our memorable trip to Graceland last year, Christine and I have been trying to see all 31 of Elvis Presley’s movies. Now, if you’ve seen even one of them for yourself, you know how truly difficult this task really is. Because, well…most of them kinda suck.

But with the lone exception of the King’s first movie “Love Me Tender” (1956), which I think was an outright bomb, everything else we’ve seen has at least one or two elements or songs that make them fun and totally worth watching. And despite some awkward turns in a few of the clunkier pictures, Elvis is still freaking Elvis, baby, so…he still totally rules!

For example, “Kissin’ Cousins” (1964) has the King playing a military man and his blond hillbilly cousin, and better yet has not one, but several scenes with a fleet of hooting, hollering mountain gals called the “Kittyhawks” descending upon the homestead to steal single men. I kid you not, that happens at least two or three times in the movie. Crazy!

“It Happened at the World’s Fair” (1963) has a funny cameo by a pint-sized Kurt Russell and some gorgeous shots of Seattle and it’s then brand-spanking-new Space Needle. “The Trouble With Girls” (1969) is a period piece set in and around a traveling roadshow type of deal called a Chautauqua — don’t feel bad, we’d never heard of a freaking Chautaqua either! — and features some of the strangest camera angles you’ve ever seen in a Hollywood movie. It’s downright groovy, man. Gotta love those late-60′s filmmakers…wow!

“Girl Happy” (1965) and “Clambake” (1967) both feature a super-cute Shelley Fabares playing basically the same role in basically the same movie, but “Clambake” has a way better theme song!

“Blue Hawaii” (1961) has Elvis surfing with a bunch of adoring Hawaiian kids and a strangely-sinister Angela Lansbury playing his mom. Yes, his mom. I don’t know if Lansbury was gearing up for her iconic role in “The Manchurian Candidate” (1962) or what, but she is crazy weird in this movie…yikes!

And of course, the best of bunch we’d seen to date was “Jailhouse Rock” (1957) which is not just a great Elvis movie, but is also a really great movie in its own right. Cinematic, funny, dark, and beautifully shot in a brooding black and white, there is a reason Elvis fans love this movie. For not only is this probably the King’s best role — playing essentially, a twisted version of himself — this movie is just plain awesome! Seriously, if you were ever gonna buy an Elvis movie on DVD, this is the one to get!

Which brings me, finally, to the most recent Elvis movie on our list…“Viva Las Vegas” (1964). Christine had already watched — and insanely raved about! — this movie without me when I was in Santa Fe, and now we finally caught it again on TCM…and let me tell ya, this is the only other Elvis movie that you simply must have on DVD!

I think Elvis is usually better in his comedies, and here again, he shines playing a gambling race car driver/waiter at the Flamingo Hilton. But this time, the King is joined onscreen by the spectacularly gorgeous Ann-Margret. I don’t know exactly when the term “knockout” came into favor, but I can guarantee you it had something to do with Margret. Seriously, that face, that hair, those legs, that um…posterior…wow, this chick has it all.

And not only can she hold her own with Elvis in the singing and dancing department — actually, I think she’s a way better dancer, but that’s just me — but Ms. Margret can act too. And as written by Sally Benson — who also co-wrote my favorite Hitchcock film, “Shadow of a Doubt” (1943), yay! — her character is no throw-away girlfriend role, but rather a living, breathing firecracker-of-a-swimming-instructior to be reckoned with.

And the chemistry between her and Elvis…wow, I kid you not, you can almost see the sparks crackling off these two onscreen. They are incredible together, and though the first five minutes of so of the movie kinda dragged a bit, the minute Ann-Margret showed up in those skimpy white hot pants…it was on, baby!

Yes the movie has some crazy shit in it — their first date includes a dance class, skeet shooting, water skiiing, a helicopter ride over Hoover Dam and ends on a houseboat, where Margret lives with her father! — but the chemistry between these two keep everything rolling at such a crackerjack pace that you hardly care.

And the extended race car sequence at the end of the movie is really something to behold, especially when you consider the fact that they didn’t have CGI back then! Those are real cars, driven by real stunt men, yo!

I know that George Lucas has said that the chariot race sequence from “Ben Hur” (1959) inspired little Anakin’s pod race scene in “The Phanton Menace” (1999), but I swear to you, there are more than a few similarities between the race in “Viva” and the one in “Menace”. Don’t believe me? Read a hilariously geeky break down of the similarities here.

Anyway, another thing we both loved about “Viva Las Vegas” are the songs! This is one of the first Elvis movies I’ve seen that featured so many rocking duets, and though the title track is still the star, the rest of songs seriously kick ass. And when you factor in two (!) smoking solo songs for Ann-Margret, well, how can you go wrong?

So, if you like your movies loud, fun and loaded to the gills with out-of-control star wattage, check out “Viva Las Vegas”. And if you have a favorite Elvis movie you’d recommend we check out, by all means, let us know.

We’re still dying to see Presley’s last movie — “Change of Habit” (1969), with Mary Tyler Moore as a nun! — but they never play it on TV and the old-ass versions on DVD look pretty crappy. Here’s hoping a deluxe edition is in the works! And in the meantime, we’ll busy ourselves with some of the other movies on our list…next stop, “Harum Scarum” (1965)!

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Yoda statue at Lucasfilm!

After spending a good chunk of the weekend clearing off the Tivo — finished up watching most of the Olympics and the tail end of both political conventions! Whew! — I am finally getting around to uploading the scads of pictures we took this summer onto our Flickr page. Yay!

And while sorting through some pics from our weekend jaunt to San Francisco in July, I came across some rocking pictures I took of the crazy-cool Yoda statue outside the Lucasfilm: Letterman Digital Arts Center on the Presidio.

Yes, I said Yoda, as in, the baddest Jedi in the galaxy. And yes, there is an actual statue of Degobah’s finest that you can pose in front of if you know how to find it…cool, huh? As luck would have it, Christine and my friend Ginger and I kind of accidentally discovered the statue a couple of years ago.

While cruising around San Francisco in Ginger’s sweet ride, the three of us explored the beautifully reimagined Presidio — the place was kind of a ghost town when we lived in SF in the 1990′s — in search of the mythical Yoda statue. It was getting dark, and it was cold and totally foggy, and we were about to give up the search  entirely when I spotted an unmarked employee entrance to the Lucasfilm offices near the base of the Presidio.

And after driving the wrong way through the “exit only” driveway — much to the chagrin of both Christine and Ginger! — I found my Yoda statue! And though I had to drag them out of the car with me, we posed for tons of pics outside the gleaming new home of Lucasfilm’s Letterman Digital Arts Center. Then, to our horror, a security guard emerged from the building…

But rather than making a run for the car, being the gigantic goober that I am, I asked him to take a picture of the three of us with Yoda. I know, nerd-tastic! But he was super cool and not only took a picture, but actually invited us inside to see some of the full-scale “Star Wars” models in the lobby.

Aside from shelves full of awards, they had a life size statue of both Darth Vader and Boba Fett towering over the couches in the waiting area…I’m not kidding, man, I just about fainted…talk about geek heaven!

Sadly, most of those pics we took that day were lost to the ages when my laptop Hal 9000 fried earlier this year. So, this past July, I begged Ginger to drive us over to the Presidio (again!) for some all new pics with Master Yoda. And guess what…she agreed! Thanks, Ginger!

So, here, for your viewing enjoyment are my favorite pics of the amazing Yoda statue/fountain at the Presidio. We didn’t get to go inside this time, but hey, been there, done that. Getting some fresh pics with Yoda was my goal, and as you can see, we picked a perfect day for it!

Rock on, Master Yoda! And may the Force be with you…always.

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“Indiana Jones” @ the Arclight

After all the Indiana Jones build-up last week, you’d think I would have written at least something about the experience of seeing the actual movie by now, right? Well, as much as I’d like to say that I loved “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” so much that I’ve been busy hurrying back nightly to see it again…sadly, that is not the case, amigos.

The main reason I haven’t written about the movie yet is that there is practically no movie to write about. No there…there, so to speak. More of a preview for what I’m sure will be some very cool video games and theme park attractions than an actual movie, “Crystal Skull” is everything I hoped it would not be.

After the movie ended, while stumbling numbly to the parking lot…wait, I take that back, “numbly” would imply that we actually had emotional feelings about this crapfest, I think a better word would be indifferently. So, while stumbling indifferently back to our car I said to my brother: “Well, at least it wasn’t as bad as “The Phantom Menace”, right?”

Shaking his head, Ryan pointed out something surprisingly wise considering the late hour. He said that while “Menace” was a huge disappointment, it at least had the promise of two other movies to come. And, the artistic value of the subsequent “Star Wars” prequels aside, that is totally true.

I mean, love it or hate it, “Menace” did have Darth Maul and the fascinating — and up to that point, never before mentioned! — concept of midi-cloriens: the little unseen mystical thingies that make up the Force.

And not only did Anakin Skywalker have a buttload of said midi-cloriens flowing through his body, but it was even alluded to that the annoying little “chosen one” from Tatooine was born of the Force itself. Wow! Now that is cool idea. And though he tried really hard at every turn, even musty old George Lucas couldn’t make that shit boring!

Unfortunately, “Crystal Skull” has none of those elements. And worst of all, it is really, really slooooow. At least “Raiders” started out big with the whole imploding temple bit. And that rock rolling after Indy? Kind of an iconic moment! But this movie opens with a groan and just keeps getting worse as it goes…

Of course, there were a few bright spots. Karen Allen looked great and it was really awesome to see her in a movie again. I thought Cate Blanchett was entertaining and despite the hisses from the rest of our party at her vicious scenery-chomping, it was very clear to me that she was having fun. And, hello…isn’t the queen of doom and gloom Oscar-bait allowed to have a little summer movie fun now and then? That’s right, you rock that crazy “Rocky and Bullwinkle” Russian accent, chica!

Speaking of over-acting, John Hurt — who I usually love — is also very strange in this. But hey, the summer blockbuster brigade isn’t exactly pounding on his door all the time either, so I cut him some slack.

On a positive note, Shia LaBeouf’s character, “Mutt”, didn’t totally suck. His Marlon Brando routine was lame and the fact that he had his name embroidered on his leather jacket was, well…kinda gay, but LaBeouf’s a great actor, and his chemistry with Harrison Ford was pretty nifty too, so it worked.

And while Ford still managed to work some of that Indiana Jones magic in spots — particularly during a scene involving Allen’s character and some quicksand! — overall, he felt more like a cartoon character than a real man.

I know, I know, the series isn’t exactly realistic, give Dr. Jones a break. But hey, realistic or not, audiences made some pretty big leaps of faith in the earlier movies too…I mean, come on, do you think anyone but Indiana Jones could hang onto the top of a Nazi submarine all the way to a secret island hideout? Please. But we were so into the movie back then that we bought it!

That is not the case in “Crystal Skull”. Here, the leaps of faith just seem bigger and way too hard to swallow. I won’t spoil it for you by going into detail, but there are at least two things that Indiana Jones does in this movie that defy the laws of physics in such a huge way that the audience actually laughed. And no, it was not in a good way.

Anyway, love to hear what the rest of you thought of the movie, so comment away. In the meantime, enjoy these pics I took of some of the cool promo posters and props they had strewn about the lobby of the Arclight. I know it’s hard to tell from the picture, but those giant banners above were actually draped down the entire length of an office tower on Sunset, cool, huh?

So, my advice is that if you live in Los Angles and you’re itching to see “Crystal Skull” on the big screen, see it at the Arclight. That way if you totally hate the movie — which you will — you can drown your sorrows by snapping some fun pics of Mutt’s groovy motorcycle in the lobby on your way out.

Hell, it worked for me…

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Countdown to “Indiana Jones 4″

Reviews be damned…I am literally counting down the hours and minutes till we get to see “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” tonight at the Arclight. By my last count, I have 5 hours and 46 minutes to go…and even though that sounds like a short time frame, when you’re really excited about something…it kinda seems live FOREVER!

Christine keeps telling me not to get too excited as I might be in for another bout of soul-crushing, post-”Phantom Menace” depression if the movie sucks…but you know what, I don’t care. I mean, sure “Menace” sucked, and I did weep openly for days afterwards, but I lived through it — even seeing it twice on opening weekend! — so nothing Lucas pumps out can ever burn me that bad again.

Of course, I haven’t seen “Crystal Skull” yet, so, that might change come Saturday morning…but either way, I’m just excited about the fact that the movie is finally coming out! So, back the breathless waiting…

I guess the best thing about the wait this week is that it did give me time to watch some of the previous Indiana Jones movies on DVD. I’m about half-way through “Temple of Doom” right now, and even though I know most people hate this one, I gotta say that is the one I probably watched the most as a kid.

Even then I knew it was kind of racially insensitive and downright lame in parts — especially the God-awful Kate Capshaw, who never could hold a candle to Karen Allen in my book — but I still loved it! Hell, even that annoying little Shortround kid even grew on me after a while…

So, as I try and finish up the trilogy before we head out tonight in our dusty fedoras and whips — just kidding about the whip part, I do have a fedora, but I doubt Christine will let me sit next to her if I wear it! — I’ll leave you with some of the super cool pics from Sunday’s world premiere of “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” at Cannes…enjoy!

Oh yeah, and if anyone out there knows who the hot African-American chick (pictured above and bellow in yellow) with George Lucas is…drop me a line.

I’m not sure who she is, but any way you look at it, that fetching young lady is a huge upgrade from Lucas’s first wife, Oscar-winning “Star Wars” editor Marcia Lucas, so…rock on, Jedi Master George!

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