‘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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The Sandlot Still A “Hit” Twenty Years Later

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox/20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Two decades ago, what is one of the best modern coming-of-age stories ever crafted was released in the form of 20th Century Fox’s baseball based story, The Sandlot.  In the twenty years since that movie first debuted, it hasn’t’ lost a single bit of its shine, even with a previous Blu-ray release having been put out a little over two years ago.  What continues to make The Sandlot so appealing to this day is its continued ability to relate to viewers of every age.  It reminds older audiences what it’s like to be a kid.  It reminds them of all the joys and simplicities of being young.  And despite being set in the 1960’s, it’s a story to which even today’s younger audiences can relate.  Older viewers remember the “good old days” of hanging out with friends, and getting into all kinds of trouble.  They remember the joys of simply being kids as well as the trials and tribulations of being the “new kid” trying to fit in in a new environment.  And even today’s generation knows of these joys.  So for those audiences who have yet to see this movie, it makes for a nice addition to said individuals’ home libraries.

The Sandlot 20th Anniversary Edition was released on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack last week, only a little over two years since its previous Blu-ray release.  Little has changed between that release and this one.  But that isn’t necessarily a bad thing.  The story is so enjoyable in its own right there really is no need for much in the way of bonus features.  Though some audio commentary would have been a nice addition to offer viewers more insight into the story and how everything came into place.  Especially being that 20th Century Fox is celebrating the movie’s 20th birthday, it would have been just as interesting to have any of the original cast members that could have been recruited to offer their own retrospective on the movie and its meaning to each one to this day.  Perhaps that could be taken into consideration for the movie’s twenty-fifth or thirtieth anniversary edition.

The bonus features aside, The Sandlot 20th Anniversary Edition is still a wonderful addition to any family’s home library.  It offers so many fun and funny moments both for parents and kids alike.  Watching Squints fake a drowning in order to get a kiss from a certain young lifeguard is one of the story’s many funny moments.  What young boy hasn’t fantasized the way that Squints did?  And the boys’ various plans to get the Babe Ruth signed baseball back from “The Beast” will make viewers of all ages laugh.  There is a certain reality to those scenarios.  It’s one of those “boys will be boys” types of scenarios.  And speaking of “The Beast”, his ability to thwart the boys’ every attempt is equally comical in its own way.  Then of course, there is also the famous chase scene in which Benny is being chased by the massive Mastiff.  The music and shooting style made this one of the movie’s best moments, if not the best moment in the movie.  It’s tough to put a finger on exactly what makes this such a memorable moment.  But audiences of all ages will love the entire sequence. 

The chase scene with “The Beast” and the boys’ attempts to get Smalls’ signed baseball back make for their own share of enjoyment.  Just as enjoyable and relatable is the story element of the myth surrounding the owner of “The Beast”, Mr. Mertle (James Earl Jones).  The boys all believe that Mr. Mertle is this evil man who told “The Beast” to eat a boy years ago.  But after Benny retrieves Smalls’ baseball, the pair meets Mr. Mertle for himself, dispelling the myth once and for all.  Again, while this story is set in the 1960s, this is another element to which audiences even today can relate.  Every young generation has its myths surrounding certain figures.  And the revelation about the figures’ always turns out to be entirely different from what is believed.  It makes for yet another of so many great moments included by writer/director David Mickey Evans and co-writer Robert Gunter.  The Sandlot 20th Anniversary Edition offers more memorable moments than could be shared in one sitting.  There are so many that audiences will consider their favorites.  And it’s because of this abundance of wonderful moments and equally wonderful writing (and camera work) that anyone who has yet to add this timeless story to their home library will want to do just that.  The movie is now available in stores and online and can be ordered direct online via the 20th Century Fox store at http://www.foxconnect.com/the-sandlot-20th-anniversary.html.

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Scholastic Set An Excellent Tool In The Classroom And The Home

Courtesy:  Scholastic/New video/Weston Woods/New Kideo

Courtesy: Scholastic/New video/Weston Woods/New Kideo

Scholastic’s African-American heritage based box set, Stories About African American Heritage featuring MARCH ON! The Day My Brother Martin Changed The World is a wonderful box set.  This triple-disc set is an excellent tool both inside the classroom and in the home, regardless of whether viewers are celebrating Black History month or simply to learn about an important part of African American history.  The stories culled for this collection celebrate some of the most respected and notable figures in the African American community such as musicians Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald.  Also featured in this set are stories of famed civil rights figures Rosa Parks and the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.  Viewers are even introduced to some of the most well known African-American stories.  In all, this collection includes thirteen stories for audiences.  As an added bonus, interviews with the sister of Dr. King, Dr. Christine King Farris and with author of Henry’s Freedom Box, Ellen Levine.  There are even discussion questions included for students, children and parents both in the classroom and at home.  And what Scholastic set would be complete with the optional Read-Along feature?  That is here, too.  It all comes together to make a box set that any viewer will appreciate and enjoy.

Stories About African American Heritage (as it will henceforth be known) opens fittingly with a collection of stories centered on two of the most well known figures in the Civil Rights movement; Rev. Dr. martin Luther King, Jr. and Rosa Parks.  It opens with a story by Dr. King’s sister, Christine King Farris titled, March On! The Day My Brother Martin Changed The World.  In this story, Mrs. Farris describes not only how her brother prepared for his landmark speech at the nation’s capitol, but the reaction of the people who were in attendance.  The story is made even more interesting as it includes actual photos of Dr. King throughout the story as well as of those in attendance.  Audiences also learn that Dr. King wasn’t the first minister in his family.  His grandfather, A.D. Williams was also a minister.  Just as interesting to learn is that while most people remember this moment in history for Dr. King’s speech, many may not know that Dr. King had also come to meet with Congressional leaders about passing a new law that would make whites and blacks truly equal.  He hadn’t come just to give a speech.  This story is more than just a story.  It’s a trip back in time to a pivotal moment in history.  It’s a trip that everybody young and old, white, black and otherwise should take at least once.  While the story’s companion interview with Christine King Farris is dated (it mentions the monument built in his honor before it had been built), her interview helps to bring the story full circle and show just how significant his speech was and still is today to Americans as a whole.

The main feature on Dr. King is a very powerful and moving piece.  It’s just one of the interesting pieces included in this set of thirteen stories.  Also included as part of the set, is a feature on famed pianist/composer and band leader Edward Kennedy Ellington, A.K.A. Duke Ellington.  Right from the start, audiences get a little history lesson on Ellington that’s easily accessible for all audiences.  Whitaker reads to viewers that Ellington was born in 1899 in Washington, D.C. and that the name “Duke” was a name he brought on himself as he told people to call him by that name.  Viewers will be interested to learn that Ellington apparently originally did not lean towards music.  Rather, according to the story—narrated by veteran actor Forest Whitaker—Ellington originally was more interested in playing baseball than the piano.  The story of how Duke was drawn back to the piano is just as entertaining as his early lack of interest in the instrument.  The history lesson centering on Duke’s rise to stardom is equally easy to grasp for audiences.  Being that it’s being read out loud, both parents and kids alike will easily remember the majority, if not all, of what they are taught.  That’s really what makes this an especially nice addition to this set.  Just as with the feature on Dr. King, it doesn’t come across as a history lesson.  It comes across simply as a story about important historical figures since it’s coming across on the screen instead of in a book.  The visual images will stimulate the eyes and mind, while the history will stick with viewers.  As a result, it could help to foster an interest in music in younger viewers just as the piece on Dr. King could get young audiences interested in politics.  Again, it’s one more wonderful tool for viewers both in the classroom and in the home.

The last disc in this set celebrating African American heritage focuses on the literature of a people.  Just as religion, politics, and music are important parts of African American history, so is literature.  In the set’s final disc, viewers get a healthy dose of literature from the African culture as it includes five classic stories anchored by the story, Why Mosquitoes Buzz in People’s Ears.  This tale tells the story of why mosquitoes buzz in people’s ears, just as the title notes.  According to the story, the mosquito buzzes in people’s ears because it has a guilty conscience after causing the death of a baby owl.  This concept might be a bit much for some younger audiences.  So parents should use their own discretion with this story.  That aside, it still is an interesting addition to this final disc’s collection of stories.  Added to the set’s other stories, the entire collection comes together to make a set that again is a wonderful tool that any parent or educator will want to use every year any time of year, not just for Black History Month.  It is available now and can be ordered online via New Kideo’s official website at http://www.newkideo.com/scholastic/the-heritage-collection/.

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FHE Celebrates Upcoming Re-Issue With New Promotions

Courtesy:  20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

Courtesy: 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment

The 2013 MLB season is right around the corner.  And just in time for the start of a brand new season, 20th Century Fox is set to release its classic baseball-centered coming-of-age story, The Sandlot in a special 20th Anniversary Blu-ray/DVD combo package.  The new re-issue will be released Tuesday, March 26th.  The movie features an all-star cast including: James Earl Jones, Denis Leary, and Karen Allen just to name a few cast members. 

Along with the re-issue of this classic movie, Fox Home Entertainment will partner with Benny The Jet’s favorite shoe brand, PF Flyers for a very special one-of-a-kind promotion.  The companies will release a limited run of “The Secret Weapon” the same day the movie hits stores.  The shoes will be sold in a vintage 1960’s shoebox.  The shoes won’t be all that fans get when they purchase a pair of PF Flyers.  The box will also include a $3 Sandlot coupon with the shoes.  And anyone who picks up the new 20th Anniversary edition of The Sandlot on Blu-ray/DVD combo pack will get a coupon for 10% off a pair of PF Flyers inside the box.  More information on this special is available online at http://www.pfflyers.com

The special limited run of PF Flyers is just one promotion being put on by FHE along with the classic movie’s re-issue.  FHE is also partnering with Major League Baseball and the Fox Sports Networks for what is being dubbed the “Sandlot Baseball Field Program.”  The program’s aim is to renovate baseball fields across the country so that baseball lovers the nation over can have a “Sandlot” of their own in their own backyards.  And many of the nation’s Major and Minor league baseball parks will present screenings of The Sandlot with Director, Writer and Narrator, David Mickey Evans.  A full schedule of screenings is listed below.

The Sandlot

Screening Locations/Dates

(*Subject to Change)

ARM & HAMMER Park, home of the Trenton Thunder (Trenton, New Jersey) – 4/13/13


Fluor Field at the West End, home of the Greenville Drive (Greenville, South Carolina) – 4/19/13


Arvest Ballpark, home of the Northwest Arkansas Naturals (Springdale, Arkansas) – 4/21/13


Rangers Ballpark, home of the Texas Rangers (Arlington, Texas) – 5/11/13


Tucson Padres at Kino Stadium (Tucson, Arizona) – 5/18/13


Busch Stadium, home of the St. Louis Cardinals (St. Louis, Missouri) – Date to be announced


Target Field, home of the Minnesota Twins (Minneapolis, Minnesota) – Date to be announced


Chickasaw Bricktown Ballpark, home of the Oklahoma City RedHawks (Oklahoma City, Oklahoma) – 6/1/13


AutoZone Park, home of the Memphis Redbirds (Memphis, Tennessee) – 6/15/13


Steinbrenner Field, home of the Tampa Yankees (Tampa, Florida) – 6/22/13


Dell Diamond, home of the Round Rock Express (Round Rock, Texas) – 6/25/13


Whataburger Field, home of the Corpus Christi Hooks (Corpus Christi, Texas) – 6/29/13


Fifth Third Field, home of the Toledo Mud Hens (Toledo, Ohio) – 7/5/13


Classic Park, home of the Lake County Captains (Eastlake, Ohio) – 7/12/13


CommunityAmerica Ballpark, home of the Kansas City T-Bones (Kansas City, Kansas) – 7/26/13


Security Service Field, home of the Colorado Springs Sky Sox (Colorado Springs, Colorado) – 8/2/13


Fifth Third Field, home of the Dayton Dragons (Dayton, Ohio) – 8/10/13


Werner Park, home of the Omaha Storm Chasers (Omaha, Nebraska) – 8/17/13


The Epicenter, home of the Rancho Cucamonga Quakes (Rancho Cucamonga, California) – 8/30/13


Coolray Field, home of the Gwinnett Braves (Lawrenceville, Georgia) – 9/21/13


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