Kiss a Wookie for George

14-May-09 5:55 PM by
Filed under Star Wars; Comments Off on Kiss a Wookie for George

Happy birthday, George Lucas! (And just a week after Star Wars Day, too!)

Whether or not you approve of his coda to the Star Wars movie series (the tenth anniversary of Episode I's release being this coming Tuesday, May 19th), Mr. Lucas is still the man who introduced us all to a galaxy far, far away, leaving an undeniable impact on pop culture and the imaginations of millions.

In tribute, I offer this a cappella rendition of Star Wars lyrics, set to the various tunes of John Williams:

It's worth noting that the above video is not a live performance, but is actually a lip-sync of a song by a quartet called Moosebutter. I'm not sure why this one-man version was the one that became popular, but to his credit, he never claimed the song as his own, giving full attribution to Moosebutter.

Beyond Star Wars, other singers have also proven their versatility in playing multiple roles. For more such fun, turn your attention to Beaker and one Zelda video game fan.

Casualties of the Clone War

03-Sep-08 11:00 AM by
Filed under Star Wars; 2 comments.

A new Star Wars movie used to be a thrice-in-a-generation event. This summer's The Clone Wars has broken that tradition, and no one seems too happy about it. With only a 20% rating on aggregate review site Rotten Tomatoes. It continues a trend of anti-Star Wars sentiment that began in 1999 when young Anakin Skywalker first debuted as a podracing slave who, with a battle cry of "Yahoo!", miraculously saved the day.

I've not seen George Lucas' new animated entry into this storied series, but I do wish to take exception with those who suggest it's the fourth consecutive instance of the distant galaxy's creator flushing the franchise down the drain. Sure, the bar was set high, with Episodes IV and V earning an average rating of 96%, again on Rotten Tomatoes. But Return of the Jedi sunk to 74%, which provides good company for the three prequels, which garnered 63%, 66%, and 79%, respectively.

Even without comparing the prequels to their older siblings, there's still much to like. I won't dispute the obvious, like Jar-Jar's presence making light of a trilogy that, by its very subject matter, should be dark. But too often, the hate that is harped on these brilliant examples of all that is wrong with Star Wars overpowers the moments that truly shine.

Take Attack of the Clones which ends with a battle that's worth the previous two hours. Before then, we'd only ever known the galaxy's oldest Jedi as a shriveled Muppet on his death bed. Here, we learn Yoda is a force (no pun intended) to be reckoned with on so many levels.

That is one of only several jaw-dropping lightsaber battles to grace the trilogy. Whereas Jedi were scarce in the original films, Episodes I-III brought them out en masse. The Phantom Menace gave us the excellent music and choreography of "Duel of the Fates". Not only was the battle set to a song I always wished to be in the choir for, but it was the first battle against a prequel-exclusive Sith lord — and one equipped with a heretofore-unknown variation on the light saber! Now that's how to kick it up a notch.

Revenge of the Sith

Remember this? I thought so.

Compared to that single struggle, Revenge of the Sith was a smorgasbord of skirmishes, with at least five lightsaber battles among the greatest heroes and villains of the entire six-episode epic. In the prequel's conclusion, not only had Anakin Skywalker grown up, but so had Hayden Christensen, with a portrayal of young Vader that was less whiny and more ambitious than we'd previously seen. It makes his perfect manipulation at the hands of Darth Sidious all the more painful to watch. Watching Revenge of the Sith was like watching Titanic: a tragedy that you knew couldn't be averted, but you hoped would nonetheless be derailed and fail to play out. I took me days to realize the extent of Palpatine's machinations, and at least a week to recover from my depression over his success. I mentioned this to a friend of mine, who laughed, saying he'd never considered the possibility that someone could be depressed over a movie. But taken in the larger context of what these three movies did to the Star Wars universe and the stage they set for Episodes IV-VI, I can conceive of no other response. To this day, I can't bring myself to endure that experience again.

We've already commemorated the impact made by the original trilogy's simple yet stellar tale of good vs. evil. The prequels are more complex, in where they were coming from, where they had to get to, and audience reception and interpretation. I submit that among those variables are many kernels of quality. Another site offers 11 concrete reasons for that supposition; I encourage you to rewatch the films and come up with your own.

(Hat tip to TheForce.net)

Indiana Jones Rides Again

29-May-08 6:12 PM by
Filed under Reviews; 1 comment.

I'd heard rumors of a fourth Indiana Jones film since before George Lucas set out to diminish the Star Wars universe with three prequels. Now that he's fulfilled that undertaking, I worried he may have set his sights on a similar fate for the other franchise that made Harrison Ford a household name two decades ago. Though nothing so severe has occurred with The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, this latest Indiana Jones film is not the note I would've preferred the series to end on.

The twenty years since Harrison Ford last donned the whip and fedora translates to about the same time for Indiana Jones, as since 1989's The Last Crusade, the series' setting has leapfrogged from 1939 to 1957. We're reintroduced to professor-by-day, archaeologist-by-night Colonel Jones (WWII has come and gone) as he is forced to reveal to Russian spies a discovery the United States government would rather keep secret. The object of their desire seems an unlikely find for an Indiana Jones film; unfortunately, as with the movie's three predecessors, the opening sequence hints at elements that will play a larger role in the overall plot.

Scrapped ideas from the Lucas drawing board often find their way into the finished product; consider the haunted house that was rejected as the focus of the third film but nonetheless made an appearance. In the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull's case, the idea for Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars has worked its way more deeply into the final film's plot than I would've liked. Xenoarchaeology has always been the domain of Captain Picard, not Professor Jones. The series needn't necessarily be limited to its roots — with each new film, the franchise becomes something it was not. But I've historically expected Indiana Jones to contain elements of magic and mysticism, not science fiction.

Despite that departure, much of the film is consistent in appearance and style with its predecessors, there is some obvious CGI in effect. Most noticeable are when it's used to generally wholly fabricated animals, such as gophers and monkeys, which might be acceptable were they integral to the plot, but more often they prove unnecessary set decoration, distracting from the story. Raiders of the Lost Ark had a genuine monkey; why couldn't this one? The Tarzan-style action that followed, though true to the pulp of the era in which the film is set, was absurd. Again, I've always found that Indiana Jones action which is not mystical is realistic, but this film strains one's credulity.

What isn't strained by this film is Harrison Ford, as he handles the action sequences surprisingly well, his performance as an adventurous archaeologist appearing not to have suffered the ravages of time. Near the film's beginning is a fun motorcycle ride through the streets of New Haven, Connecticut, which was made more enjoyable to this actor by noticing the many extras and saying, "That could've been me!" A later exhilarating scene is a rain forest car chase with clever combat and constantly shifting terrain that involves the entire cast. It culminates in a pugilistic bout that's accentuated with the satisfyingly sound of many meaty connections, reminiscent of Indy's round with the bald German boxer in the first film, which was similarly set on the precipice of annihilation.

But it does seem that Harrison Ford needs more help from his friends than usual, as evidenced by his growing party. Though Indiana Jones has never ventured out alone — where would he have been without Marian, Willie, Sallah, and Short Round? — this time his entourage numbers five, which detracts from Ford's spotlight. But the return of Karen Allen as Marian Ravenwood is a nice bookend to the series, and even I must admit that Shia LaBeouf didn't ruin Indiana Jones nearly as much as he did Transformers. A similarly expansive, though better received, effort is made when the film references the Young Indiana Jones Chronicles, as pointed out to me by Showbits contributor GeneD. Though I've never seen that television series, I appreciated the official gesture to expand (or at least acknowledge) the canon of the expanded universe.

The Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is not the weakest of the four Indiana Jones film, but it is, with any luck, the last. As another review pointed out, The Last Crusade was a more fitting farewell to Henry Jones Jr. and Sr., and now feels a bit diminished by this continuing adventure. Yet Crystal Skull nonetheless gives us the thrill of seeing our hero back in the saddle, and the adventure he takes us on has enough surprises to make it worth the ride.

The Skull That Wouldn't Die

14-Feb-08 5:47 PM by
Filed under Trailers; 1 comment.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull recently wrapped filming — just in time to precede today's opening of The Spiderwick Chronicles with this blessedly spoiler-free trailer:

On one hand, this preview doesn't offer many clues about the plot, Karen Allen's return, or Indy's relationship to Shia LaBeouf. But on the other hand, we don't want the trailer to give much away. Either way, what could a trailer do to make us want or not want to see the film? I've met people as recently as this calendar year who didn't know a new Indiana Jones was in production, let alone on the cusp of release. So perhaps the advertising Lucasfilm does need not be persuasive so much as declarative: yes, this film exists. You know the name, and you want to see it. What more is there?

The Screaming Skull

10-Sep-07 4:46 PM by
Filed under Films; 2 comments.

Several titles have been bandied about for the next Indiana Jones film. Some may've been tongue-in-check references to its aging cast, such as Ravages of Time. Others, such as The City of the Gods, suggested a continuation of the first and third films' theme of searching for Biblical artifacts.

Finally, today we are presented with the official title — which tells us almost nothing:

HOLLYWOOD, Calif. (Sept. 9, 2007) — The title of the new Indiana Jones adventure, now in production under the direction of Steven Spielberg, is Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, it was revealed today by actor Shia LaBeouf.

LaBeouf, who stars in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull with Harrison Ford, Cate Blanchett, Karen Allen, Ray Winstone and John Hurt, announced the title during today's MTV Video Music Awards, which were broadcast live from Las Vegas.

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a Lucasfilm Ltd. and is being distributed by Paramount Pictures. It will be released in the U.S. and simultaneously in most territories worldwide on Thursday, May 22, 2008. Frank Marshall returns as producer, with Kathleen Kennedy joining George Lucas as executive producer.

Breaking news about Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull can be found at http://www.indianajones.com.

Now, I don't need spoilers anymore than this film needs advertising. And maybe, not being an archaeologist myself, I'm missing the connotations and backstory implied by the title. But it sounds as fabricated as the Temple of Doom. Come on, Steve — just a hint as to the plot? Pleeease?

Over My Dead Body

02-Aug-07 6:40 PM by
Filed under Star Wars; 1 comment.

From IndianaJones.com's video entitled "Indy Arrives", dated 07.11.2007, I took this shot of Steven Spielberg, Harrison Ford, and George Lucas:


Spielberg Ford and Lucas on Indiana Jones 4 set

Compare Lucas' shirt to this one:

Han Shot First shirt

WTF is George Lucas doing wearing a "Han Shot First" shirt?! He's the last person I ever expected to be seen in such a thing… It's further proof that his assault on Star Wars canon was just a scheme to make more money by releasing the unremastered trilogy on DVD.

"Who's gonna come to save you, Junior?"

07-Jun-07 5:03 PM by
Filed under Films; 1 comment.

Straight from the horse's mouth: Sean Connery will not appear in the fourth Indiana Jones movie, as stated today on the official site for the film:

I get asked the question so often, I thought it best to make an announcement. I thought long and hard about it and if anything could have pulled me out of retirement it would have been an Indiana Jones film. I love working with Steven and George, and it goes without saying that it is an honor to have Harrison as my son. But in the end, retirement is just too damned much fun. I, do however, have one bit of advice for Junior: Demand that the critters be digital, the cliffs be low, and for goodness sake keep that whip by your side at all times in case you need to escape from the stunt coordinator! This is a remarkable cast, and I can only say, "Break a leg, everyone." I'll see you on May 22, 2008, at the theater!

His absence is disappointing, though not entirely surprising; if we think Harrison Ford is too old for the role, then the years have probably been even less kind on Mr. Connery (not that 76-year-olds can't act — just maybe not in a whip-toting action-adventure).

To be honest, I didn't even know until reading the above announcement that Mr. Connery had claimed to have retired. Too bad he couldn't have gone out on a higher note than The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen.

Moving on, confirmed cast members in Indiana Jones 4 are Harrison Ford, Shia LeBeouf, Cate Blanchett, Ray Winstone, and John Hurt. Of course, that's only because I haven't auditioned yet…

The Circle Is Now Complete

25-May-07 9:18 AM by
Filed under Star Wars; 4 comments.

At last, this is the day we've all been counting down to: the 30th anniversary of Star Wars. On May 25th, 1977, A New Hope debuted, forever changing the scape of film and American culture.

I don't remember Star Wars having ever been in the news this much — not even when the prequels were coming out. With the commemorative stamps coming out today, documentaries being filmed, and specials on television airing soon, it seems everyone has their minds on a galaxy far, far away. Here are some of the best Star Wars spotlights for you to observe today:

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