‘Elstree 1976’ Broadens The ‘Star Wars’ Universe More Than Ever Before

Courtesy: MVD Visual/FilmRise/British Film Company/Verax Films/Canal Cat Films/The Works

Courtesy: MVD Visual/FilmRise/British Film Company/Verax Films/Canal Cat Films/The Works

Forty years ago a little-known director named George Lucas started work on a movie by the name of Star Wars.  A year after he started work on the movie it made its U.S. debut and has since gone on to be one of the biggest sci-fi movies of all time.  It has also gone on to be one of the biggest movies in Hollywood’s modern history, making superstars of its lead cast, Mark Hamill, Harrison Ford, and Carrie Fisher.  The immediate supporting cast of Sir Alec Guiness, Peter Mahew, Anthony Daniels, Kenny Baker, and David Prowse gained their own notoriety as a result of the movie.  Though, Mahew and company sadly never really became as famous as Hamill, Ford, Fisher, Guiness, or Mahew.  The same obviously applies to the hundreds of extras brought on board to help flesh out the movie’s universe.  Now thanks to MVD Visual, Prowse and a handful of those others finally get to tell their stories in a new documentary titled Elstree 1976.  This documentary feature is a powerful presentation that every Star Wars fan should see.  That is due in part to its overall story.  That will be discussed shortly.  The work of those behind the program is just as important to note as the stories that make up the documentary’s presentation.  Last of note is the documentary’s bonus material.  Each element plays its own part in the documentary’s presentation.  All things considered, they make Elstree 1976 a Star Wars documentary unlike any other to date.  They make it one that every Star Wars fan should see.

Elstree 1976 is a Star Wars documentary unlike any other released to date.  It is a presentation that every Star Wars fan should see.  That is due in part to its overall story.  The story in question is one of the now legendary movie’s lesser-known cast members.  It is a story of actors who regardless of their roles, have never really gotten the credit that they deserve.  It is powerful in its own right.  That is because of the stark contrast of their lives to that of the movie’s famed lead cast.  It will move viewers to laughter at some points, and emotional pain at others, believe it or not.  The emotional pain is the result of the revelation of the stark contrast in the lives of the featured cast members to that of Hamill, Ford, and Fisher.  One of the program’s most intriguing revelations is that of the hierarchy even among its supporting cast and extras.  As audiences learn through the various stories, there is actually a divide among the movie’s supporting cast and extras involving who deserves to be at the Star Wars conventions and who doesn’t.  It all depends on the place of said cast members in that hierarchy.  The frustration felt between those cast members as a result of the noted hierarchy is interesting to say the very least.  One would never have suspected its existence.  But it is there.  In an even bigger picture, the contrast of the lives of those behind some of the movie’s most iconic characters to those of Hamill, Ford, and Fisher is just as eye-opening.  David Prowse is a prime example of the shocking nature of that contrast.  Prowse was the man behind Darth Vader, not James Earl Jones.  All that Jones did was read the lines originally assigned to Prowse in the movie’s production.  According to Prowse’s own words, he didn’t even know until after the fact that his lines–that he had recited–were replaced by Jones in post production.  He goes so far as to note that he thought his voice would still be the one behind the mask and was surprised by what had been done.  And now decades later, Prowse is not even invited to a number of annual Star Wars conventions.  He even notes that he doesn’t know why.  So he has had to live life largely anonymously.  His isn’t the only intriguing story.  Paul Blake’s story is another interesting part of the documentary’s overall story.  He is the man behind Greedo, the green alien shot by Han Solo in the cantina.  Yet even as iconic as the scene has become, Blake’s name is hardly known in connection to Greedo.  It is only thanks to the conventions that he has managed to build his fan base.  Again, his story is a prime example of the contrast of the cast’s notoriety and lives.  There are plenty of other stories shared throughout the program that serve to illustrate the stark contrast in the lives and fame of the movie’s cast.  Altogether those stories make the documentary’s overall story one that will both surprise and move Star Wars fans of any age.  It is a story that will put the movie into a whole new light for those fans and hopefully give fans a whole new respect for the movie’s lesser-known cast members.  It is just one of the documentary’s most important elements.  The work of those charged with bringing Elstree 1976 to life is just as important to note in its presentation as those interviewed to make up its story.

The stories that make up the overall body of Elstree 19976 are in their own right hugely important to the documentary’s presentation.  That is because of the new light that they shed on the movie’s legacy.  It also sheds a whole new light on the movie’s cast.  That new light is certain to create a whole new respect among audiences for the movie’s lesser-known cast.  It is just one part of what makes Elstree 1976 such an interesting program for Star Wars fans.  The work that went into bringing the documentary to life is just as important to note as the program’s stories.  That is because it is their work that audiences are really experiencing, not just the cast’s stories.  The program starts a little bit slow, at first providing some background bio information on each of the featured actors.  It seems unnecessary at first.  But as the program progresses, audiences begin to see in hindsight the importance of all of the background information that is provided.  Viewers are eventually taken behind the scenes of the movie’s production before eventually into the lives of those actors post Star Wars.  The program’s editing plays its own role in the story, too.  As each actor introduces his or her character, the editors present key footage from the movie that aligns with the actors’ main appearances.  It serves to help viewers make a connection, especially if viewers are visual learners.  Even the footage of the conventions is well placed within the related discussions by the actors in question.  The whole thing comes full circle in the end with the return of the actors’ action figures with the actors discussing the legacy that they helped to create right along with that footage.  It is a great way to complete the program and remind viewers that while these actors may not have the notoriety of Star Wars lead cast, they are still just as important to the movie as Hamill, Ford, and Fisher.  There are plenty of other pieces that could be cited in explaining the importance of the documentary’s actual production.  These are just some of the examples that can be cited in explaining its production.  All in all, every element of the program’s production shows why it (the production) is as important to its presentation as its stories.  Even as important as both elements are to this documentary’s presentation they are not its only important elements.  The documentary also comes with bonus material in its special Blu-ray director’s cut.  It rounds out the documentary’s presentation.

Both the stories that make up the body of Elstree 1976 and its production are important in their own right to the documentary’s presentation.  The stories give a whole new angle to the bigger story of the movie’s creation and a new respect for the movie’s lesser-known cast.  The production ensures just as much viewers’ engagement.  As important as both elements prove to be in the bigger picture of the program they are not its only important elements.  The program’s special Director’s Cut edition is available only on Blu-ray.  It comes with a number of bonus features that are not available in the program’s DVD presentation.  Why this is the case is anyone’s guess.  It honestly would have been nice to see all of the bonuses included in the Blu-ray presentation also included in its DVD presentation.  But that’s a moot point by now.  The bonus material in question includes feature-length commentary from filmmaker John Spira, extended interviews with the cast members, and best of all a tour of Elstree Studios (thus the program’s title) where Star Wars was filmed.  Each extra is fully deserving of being called a bonus in its own right.  Altogether they give an even deeper look at the Star Wars legacy.  They couple with the program’s stories and overall production to make the program in whole one that, again, every Star Wars fan should see at least once.  It may not take fans to a galaxy far, far away.  But it will definitely broaden the horizons of the Star Wars galaxy.

Elstree 1976 is hardly the first Star Wars documentary to ever be released.  It is however a documentary unlike any ever released about the legendary sci-fi flick.  That is because as its stories make clear, it is focused not on the movie’s celebrity cast but those that brought some of the movie’s most beloved characters to life, yet were hardly as acclaimed as Hamill, Ford, or Fisher.  The stories presented in this documentary will leave fans seeing the movie and its cast in a whole new light.  They will keep viewers engaged, entertained, and enlightened.  The program’s production ensures viewers’ engagement just as much as its stories.  This includes its pacing, editing and even writing.  The bonus material included in the program’s limited edition Director’s Cut Blu-ray presentation brings everything full circle.  It would have been nice to have that material included in the program’s DVD presentation, too.  But that just wasn’t to be.  So that aside, the bonus commentary, Elstree Studios tour, and extended interviews prove to be just as engaging for fans as the program’s main material.  It comes together to bring the program in whole and complete its presentation.  Each element is important in its own right.  There is no denying this.  Collectively though, they make Elstree 1976 a presentation that will definitely broaden the horizons of the Star Wars galaxy.  It will be available Tuesday, June 28th and can be ordered online direct via MVD Visual’s online store.  More information on this and other titles from MVD Visual is available online now at:

 

 

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Old School Action Flick Fans Will Enjoy Lionsgate’s Latest Expendables Outing

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Courtesy: Lionsgate

Lionsgate’s new action flick The Expendables 3 is one of the best new movies of 2014. The third installment in the studio’s fan favorite franchise, it held its own quite well against the rest of the annual summer blockbusters that filled theaters this year. While it might not have exactly performed as expected domestically in theaters, those numbers mean nothing. The only reason that it didn’t pull in the numbers of its counterparts from Marvel Studios and others is that it didn’t have the notoriety of those properties. This is despite the fact that it was front loaded with some of the greatest names in the world of action flicks. That in itself is actually one of the reasons that audiences who haven’t yet seen this movie will enjoy it. It will be discussed later. The central reason for the movie’s enjoyment is its writing. This includes the movie’s story and its dialogue. Both elements are classic action flick elements in every sense of the word. Together, they make for plenty of reason for every lover of the action genre to watch The Expendables 3. The acting on the part of the cast adds even more reason for audiences to check out this throwback to Hollywood’s golden era of action flicks. Last of note to the movie’s positive is its pacing. The movie’s run time is just over two hours. To be precise, it is listed at two hours and six minutes. Over the course of that time, the story’s pacing rarely lets up. The rare times when it does it is only in moments that help to advance the story. The end result of that solid pacing coupled with the cast’s wholly entertaining acting and the movie’s writing overall is a movie that is one more great trip down memory lane for any fan of classic action flicks. In turn it proves itself to justifiably be one of the best new movies of 2014.

The Expendables 3 is, on the surface, just one more sequel among seemingly countless others churned out over the course of 2014. While few if any of the sequels thrown out there this year were really worth seeing, Lionsgate’s The Expendables 3 is an exception to that rule. This movie is a fun outing for any lover of action movies. It is especially so for anyone that grew up in the golden age of action flicks. It proves to be so fun thanks in large part to its writing. At the heart of the movie’s writing is the movie’s story. The movie’s story is a time honored element that any classic action flick fan will appreciate. It sees Barney and his team having to hunt down former Expendables co-founder turned bad guy Conrad Stonebanks (Mel Gibson) for war crimes. Believe it or not, this is something from which writers seem to have increasingly strayed in the current era of film making. Whether it be action flicks, dramas, or otherwise, writers today seem to be trying to outdo one another in who can churn out the most convoluted and overly busy script possible. It’s nice to see that lead actor Sylvester Stallone and co-writers Creighton Rothenberger and Katrin Benedict were able to work together and keep the story behind this movie so simple. It’s also nice to see other classic elements incorporated into the story such as the script’s dialogue.

The story that was crafted by Stallone, Rothenberger, and Benedict is a full-on old school action flick story. The story itself isn’t all that’s old school about the trio’s script. The dialogue that is incorporated into the script is a throwback in itself. There are classic one-liners peppered throughout the course of the movie’s run time. And then there is also Stonebanks’ equally classic soliloquy explaining his motives for having gone rogue. Conrad explains that he joined the bad guys’ side because of his hatred for the people that sent The Expendables to clean up their messes and the human cost associated with said missions. That is within itself another throwback. It is a throwback to so many classic action movie villains before. Considering the classic action flick dialogue and the equally classic story line that are used in The Expendables 3’s script, one can’t help but make a slight comparison to another movie released this year. The movie in question is Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles. The reason for the aside is that where that movie teased old school Ninja Turtles fans with references to their childhood favorite series and movies, The Expendables 3 has done the exact opposite, which is why TMNT failed and The Expendables 3 succeeded even if it didn’t do as well as hoped at the box office. It didn’t tease audiences with references to the golden era of action movies or the action movies that some audiences grew up with. It goes for the jugular, giving audiences of all ages another example of what once made action movies so great and what can still make them great again.

As if the direct throwbacks to the action genre’s old days wasn’t enough for audiences, there is one more element to the script that solidifies its success. That element is the commentary on the place of the classic action star in today’s movie market. At one point, the commentary makes for some great self deprecating humor with the younger members of the team throwing out verbal barbs at the team’s older members and vice versa. At another point before that, Barney ruminates on the place of himself and his team mates in their line of work. This is in essence the other side of that discussion on whether or not the old school action star still has a place in today’s action movies. It is a rather interesting moment especially when juxtaposed against the more light-hearted moment that later follows. The ultimate revelation is that there is and always will be a place for action stars of the past and of the future in today’s world of action flicks. Stallone and company don’t come right out and say it with these moments. But it’s pretty obvious that this existential discussion of sorts is what they were using. It just so happened that it worked both as its own discussion and as part of the story in whole, too. And it is a nice addition to the movie’s script. Together with the previously noted factors, it helps to prove once and for all why the writing behind The Expendables 3 is the most important aspect to the movie. While it is the most important aspect of the movie’s success, it isn’t the only factor that makes the movie enjoyable for lovers of real action flicks. The work of the cast in terms of its acting is just as notable to the movie’s enjoyment.

The writing behind The Expendables 3 is a solid foundation for the movie’s success. Resting just as easily on that foundation is the cast’s acting. The cast’s acting is just as enjoyable as the writing. Watching Barney (Stallone) and Hunter (Schwarzenegger) go was itself like watching a time capsule being opened up. At no one point do either of the duo’s portrayals feel forced. And even Drummer (Harrison Ford) is entertaining in a supporting role. Audiences that grew up watching Ford as Indiana Jones and Han Solo will be pleased that Ford wasn’t entirely relegated to the back burner in his role. And Blade himself, Wesley Snipes was just as entertaining in his portrayal of Doc. Watching Doc is just like Watching Blade, especially early on when he is first broken off of the train. While the performances by Snipes, Ford, Stallone, and Schwarzenegger were each impressive in their own right, it is Mel Gibson’s portrayal of Stonebanks that is most notable. Gibson has his own experience in the action realm. But his portrayal here is peculiar. That’s not to say that Gibson did a bad job. Rather, he walks a fine line throughout the movie. He never really goes full classic, hammy action movie villain. Nor does he go the route of say Heath Ledger’s Joker a la The Dark Knight or any other villain. It’s almost like he tried to really channel certain classic action movie villains and those of recent years all into one for his portrayal. While a little bit uneasy, the end result is still a villain that remains believable enough. And set against Stallone and the rest of his team, Stonebanks becomes even more entertaining. The rest of the team is just as enjoyable in its own right. But it really is these core actors that make the acting in The Expendables 3 so enjoyable and an important part of the movie’s enjoyment.

The writing and acting that went into The Expendables 3 are both important in their own right to the movie’s overall success and enjoyment. The last element that makes the movie work as well as it does is the movie’s pacing. Over the course of the movie’s two hour run time, the movie rarely lets up. The only time at which it slows even slightly is when Barney is telling his team mates about breaking up the team. Even in a later moment when they–Lee Christmas (Jason Statham), Doc (Wesley Snipes), Gunner Jensen (Dolph Lundgren), and Toll Road (Randy Couture)–sit ruminating on the development, the pacing doesn’t let up. It would have been so easy to go over the top with this moment. But Stallone and his co-writers don’t allow that to happen. They keep the story moving, allowing for the bulk of the story to be spent on its more important moments. And it is because of this that the movie never loses a step. Because it never loses a step, it allows for more enjoyment of the cast’s acting and of the elements incorporated into the movie’s script. It connects everything, making the movie complete and proving once more why it stands out proudly among Hollywood’s current forgettable crop of prequels, sequels, and remakes.

Hollywood’s current crop of prequels, sequels, and remakes is largely forgettable. They are movies that were churned out by Hollywood’s Power Five studios more for the sake of making money than actually entertaining audiences. The Expendables 3 is not one of those movies. It has proven through the combination of its in depth writing, the acting by its cast, and its pacing, that it actually sets out both to make money and to entertain audiences. It succeeded in both areas thanks to its global ticket sales total and despite being largely covered up by the rest of the blockbusters churned out this summer. Those flash-in-the-pan flicks will largely be forgotten. But this modern blast from the past is one that every true lover of action flicks will remember and want to watch again and again proving once and for all why it is one of the best new movies of 2014.

The Expendables 3 is available in stores and online now. It can be ordered on DVD + Digital via Lionsgate’s online store at http://www.lionsgateshop.com/search_results.asp?Search=The%20Expendables%203. More information on this and other releases from Lionsgate is available online at:

Website: http://www.lionsgate.com

Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/lionsgate

To keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news, go online to http://www.facebook.com/philspicks and “Like” it. Fans can always keep up with the latest sports and entertainment reviews and news in the Phil’s Picks blog at https://philspicks.wordpress.com.

Paramount’s Latest Installment In The Jack Ryan Franchise Falls Flat

Courtesy:  Paramount Studios

Courtesy: Paramount Studios

2014 has not been a good year for movies.  As a matter of fact, one could argue that this year has been one of the worst years for movies in recent years.  Marvel and DC spent the summer trying hard to one-up the other on a bigger scale than ever before.  And both of Michael Bay’s big screen blockbusters failed to reach audiences in the way that had been hoped.  And the summer season wasn’t the only disappointing part of the year, either.  Paramount tried to make a hit with its latest installment in the Jack Ryan franchise in the form of Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit.  Sadly, even putting that movie at the start of the year didn’t help this largely disappointing, formulaic flick.  Compared to the big name films that filled out (and flopped) the summer movie season this year, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit is not much better.  The most obvious of reasons for its failure is the fact that it’s not just a continuation of the late author Tom Clancy’s Jack Ryan franchise, but that it is yet another complete re-working of that franchise.  That is nothing new from the Jack Ryan franchise.  Another reason that this movie fails is its writing.  Rather than paying homage to the stylistic approach of previous Jack Ryan films, this one is more of a formulaic action flick than one with the substance of say The Hunt for Red October, Patriot Games or Clear and Present Danger.  The one positive to the whole thing is believe it or not the acting on the part of veteran actor Kevin Costner.  That’s the biggest surprise of all considering how overrated he and the movies in which he has starred throughout his career have proven to be over the years.  It’s the one shining light in a movie that does absolutely nothing to honor the legacy of Tom Clancy’s one great franchise.  Had this movie been any other movie and not part of the Jack Ryan franchise, it might have worked.  But sadly that wasn’t the case.  And as a result, it will ultimately end up becoming a largely forgettable film.

When Paramount Studios decided to back Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, the studio’s heads had to have known that this movie was a major gamble.  The last time that audiences heard from Jack Ryan was in 2002’s largely forgettable film The Sum Of All Fears.  That movie failed for many of the same reasons that this latest installment in the Jack Ryan franchise failed, too. The primary reason for that failure is the fact that it is obviously set on a completely different timeline than the franchise’s previous installments—The Hunt For Red October, Patriot Games, and Clear and Present Danger.  Those that remember that far back will recall that according to the original canon, Ryan was injured in a  helicopter accident in Vietnam or Korea.  This movie sees Jack being injured after his chopper was shot down in Afghanistan.  And the movie itself is set not long after the events of September 11th, 2001.  So right from the beginning, audiences are introduced to a story that is set on yet another completely different time line.  At least the transition between the original Jack Ryan movies (The Sum of All Fears not included) was believable.  This isn’t the first time that lead actor Chris Pine has starred in a reboot, either, sadly enough, either.  Anyone remember the recently rebooted Star Trek franchise?

The fact that Paramount has not only rebooted the Jack Ryan franchise, but put it on a completely different timeline is bad enough.  But that’s only the beginning of the problems for this movie.  Things get even worse when taking into consideration the movie’s script.  This movie’s script hardly echoes the quality scripts presented in the original movies in the Jack Ryan franchise.  It is a formulaic action flick rife with car chases, explosions, the standard hero and villain roles, and equally standard chase to save the damsel in distress.  The damsel in question is Ryan’s love interest Dr. Cathy Muller, played well enough by Keira Knightley (Pirates of the Caribbean 1 – 3).  It’s all set against a story that is anything but original.  As a matter of fact, it lifts liberally from some all too familiar events from the early 1990s.  The original Jack Ryan movies didn’t need to rely on actual events to be enjoyable.  The people behind their scripts crafted stories that were both original and enjoyable all in one.  This movie sadly doesn’t do that.  The result is yet again a story that will in the long run be anything but memorable.

For all of the negatives that weigh down Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit, there is at least one positive to the whole thing, albeit a small positive.  But good is good, right? The one positive to the entire presentation is the work of veteran actor Kevin Costner.  Those that are familiar with Seth McFarlane’s hit animated Fox sitcom Family Guy will recall the joke asking “How does he keep getting work?”  The joke is fully substantiated considering Costner’s own acting and the movies in which he has starred throughout his career.  In this critic’s own view, the only good movie in which Kevin Costner has ever starred was Field of Dreams (1989).  His acting was good.  And the story was just as good.  Other than that, he hasn’t really landed a memorable role or starred in a memorable movie.  In the case of this movie, Kostner takes a back seat to the much younger Pine.  He doesn’t try to hog the screen as some sort of mentor or anything to that extent.  He is just someone older with more experience.  He passes on some knowledge to Pine’s younger Ryan at one point.  Other than that, he is largely a supporting character.  And he does quite well in that role, too. He is actually believable in that role, interestingly enough.  That being said, his acting is about the only thing to which audiences have to be excited in this movie.  Other than that, it is mostly a forgettable movie.

When Paramount Studios decided last year to release Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit at the back end of the annual winter movie season, the studio’s hopes were obviously that it would bring in better numbers, not being jumbled in with the far too overcrowded summer blockbuster season.  Sadly, even now in its home release, audiences will see that no matter when the movie was released, it was doomed to failure.  It could be argued that in examining the movie’s script, it is little more than a fictionalized and modernized story “based on actual events.”  That’s especially the case for those that remember certain events from the early 1990s.  The fact that the movie places Jack Ryan in a wholly different timeline once again takes away from its enjoyment even more.  Even the star power of veteran actor Kevin Costner couldn’t help the movie even though he actually succeeded in his supporting role.   Keira Knightley does very little to help the story, either.  Her character Dr. Cathy Muller comes across as little more than the helpless love interest to Pine’s Jack.  All things considered, Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit proves to be one more in a long line of prequels, sequels, and reboots churned out this year that will ultimately end up being forgotten amid that mass of other equally forgettable  films.  Here’s to hoping that should audiences ever see any new adventures of Jack Ryan, Paramount and company will get it right next time.

Scott’s Directorial Debut An Underrated Work Of Film Art

Courtesy:  Shout! Factory

Courtesy: Shout! Factory

Ridley Scott is one of the most revered directors in the movie business today.  To his credit, Scott has directed numerous hits including Bladerunner, Alien, Gladiator and many others.  While the aforementioned flicks have done more than their share in making him one of Hollywood’s head names, it was this far lesser known movie that gave Scott his real start behind the camera on the big screen.  It goes without saying that The Duellists is very much a niche film.  As much as it’s a niche film though, it’s a movie that could so easily generate quite a bit of discussion.  What makes it so worthy of discussion is its story.

The crux of The Duellists’ story centers on two men who let a single misunderstanding become the fuel for an ongoing feud that gets rather violent to say the least.  And it’s set against the backdrop of the Napoleonic era France.  On the surface, that’s all that this story is.  But on a deeper level, one could argue that it serves as an allegory of sorts about pride and human emotion.  A simple misunderstanding between D’Hubert (Keith Carradine) and Feraud (Harvey Keitel) lead to the pair’s ongoing feud.  While the story does start off a little bit slow, once it gets going, it has no trouble keeping its audiences’ attention.  What audiences get once they’re pulled in is two men who are increasingly wrapped up in the anger directed at the other.  The real reward to the near two-hour story is its surprise twist ending.  The ending won’t be given away here.  But it should be noted that the ending is a fitting closer to the story, offering total closure and an important moral to add to the discussions raised by the story.

It goes without saying that The Duellists is not a movie that will hit home with just one watch.  That’s not an entirely bad thing, though.  It’s really one of those stories that will grow on audiences more with each viewing.  It’s sort of like the old adage says, once you’re at the top, there’s nowhere to go but down.  In the case of The Duellists, there’s nowhere to go but up.  That’s thanks in large part to the story.  What helps to really make that the case isn’t so much just the story, but one of the bonus features included in the brand new Blu-ray re-issue of this must see movie and its companion commentary.  The new Blu-ray re-issue includes a bonus feature titled, “Duelling Directors: Ridley Scott and Kevin Reynolds Featurette” that is just as informative as the bonus audio commentary by Ridley Scott included with the movie.  Both the commentary and this bonus feature go a long way toward helping audiences understand everything that went into bringing this story to life.  Audiences will in turn have more appreciation for the movie with each viewing.  The new Blu-ray re-issue will be available Tuesday, January 29th in stores and online.  It can be ordered online direct via the Shout! Factory store at http://www.shoutfactory.com/?q=node/215688.

Paramount, Lucasfilm’s new Indiana Jones Box Set The Best Yet

Paramount Pictures/Lucasfilm, LTD.

Indiana Jones is one of the most famous and beloved heroes in the stories annals of Hollywood.  His original trio of adventures has transcended generations.  And his more recent adventure has its own legions of fans, too.  To this day, Indiana Jones costumes are still popular every Halloween.  And much like his costumes are so popular, so are his adventures to the point that they have seen multiple releases both as stand-alone features and box sets.  Now fans have the opportunity to see all four movies in a whole new way thanks to the release of the brand new “Indiana Jones:  The Complete Adventures” on blu-ray.

Paramount and Lucasfilm have officially released the complete four film set along with the bonus features included in the previous sets.  Among those bonus features are the “Making of” features for all four of the movies and the feature discussing the now famed “melting face” sequence from Indiana Jones and the Raiders Of The Lost Ark.  That in itself is a great feature for anyone who has any interest in Hollywood special effects and movie production.  Some of the features even include bonus pop up trivia that adds even more appreciation for these classic movies.  For instance, audiences learn through the pop-up trivia that when Indy comes face to face with a King Cobra in “Raiders”, he was never really in danger, of course.  He was actually separated from the snake by glass.  That the glass was made invisible in post production is a tribute to the work of all involved.  Another little tidbit is that the canyon scene in which the Nazis were carrying the ark was the same canyon from a certain other famous science fiction movie.  Give up?  Does the title Star Wars mean anything to anyone?  That’s right!  It’s the same one.  Obviously it’s a little more than mere coincidence.

The bonus features included in this set are much like the ones from the previous DVD releases.  But not everyone has had the opportunity to own this piece of movie history.  For those who have yet to include it in their home libraries, the bonus features make the whole viewing experience that much more enjoyable.  They are just a drop in the bucket, though.  The clarity of the picture in all four movies is so much clearer in each one.  Everything is more clear and defined.  Even the original grainy footage is still evident here and there.  Nothing has been lost in the transfer to blu-ray.  If anything, so much has been gained with this set.

The enhanced picture and the extensive bonus features go a long way to making this a must have set for Indiana Jones fans of any age.  They aren’t all that make it an impressive set.  Unlike the previous larger “Complete DVD Movie Collections”, this set is far more ergonomically designed.  It’s presented in a much more slim case shaped like a book.  Each “page” contains the disc for each movie.  Also included on each page is a promo poster and production shots to enhance the design.  This compact design will save space on anyone’s DVD and/or blu-ray rack.  And combined with everything else included in this set, most audiences will agree that “Indiana Jones:  The Complete Adventures” is not only the “complete” adventures of Indiana Jones, but the complete definitive adventures of Indiana Jones.

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Alvin & the Chipmunks: Chipwrecked is a wreck

First there was Alvin and The Chipmunks on the big screen.  Then Alvin and his brothers met the Chipettes and blatantly ripped off Disney’s High School musical franchise.  And now, the people behind this ever worsening movie franchise has made for itself an even worse reputation with a second sequel to what should have only been one movie.  “Chipwrecked” is the perfect movie for a 7 year-old with ADHD. 

It’s pretty obvious that little to no effort was put into writing the story (if there really even is one) behind this second sequel to the first movie in the trilogy.  How many times can Hollywood do the story of someone stranded on a seemingly desserted island before it gets really old?  It was great with Gilligan’s Island way back when.  But it’s gotten far beyond old and tired now with this movie.  It tries to justify the whole idea of the “family” being shipwrecked by tossing in something of a coming-of-age story that sees Alvin actually mature some, while thanks to a spider bite (convenient, huh?), Simon becomes the carefree member of the group.  Along the way, the Chipmunks and Chipettes meet evil treasure seeker Zoe.  Throughout all of this, no one on the island is aware that they’re on an island with an active volcano.  Obviously this leads to the big climactic ending which doesn’t have to be given away, because it’s been done countless times before in any number of other movies.

Add in a bunch of pop culture references to the likes of Indiana Jones and Castaway just to name a few, and audiences get a movie that shows its makers to be just as vile as Ian.  Just like he only cared about the money for most of the story, the people behind this movie obviously only cared about the money.  Had they actually cared about more than that, they would have made a movie that made up for the first equally awful sequel in the franchise.  But being that they didn’t, this movie already has become, and will be just one more movie added to the “worst of” list from both 2011 and now 2012.