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Thursday, Sep 1, 2011
The entire Star Wars saga hits Blu-ray in a few weeks and... guess what? George Lucas has tweaked them once again. Surprised? You shouldn't be.

With the Blu-ray release of George Lucas’ seminal Star Wars films just a few days away, the Web is already abuzz with - you guessed it, more anger and childhood rape ire. Apparently, geeks given review copies of the six film box set (three origin and three pathetic prequels) are already immersed in the uber-nerd details only to discover - shock and horror - that the creator has been fiddling with his classics once again. More than just replacing Sebastian Shaw with Hayden Christensen or the whole nonsensical “Greedo shot first” furor, these latest alterations have the faithful flummoxed and the haters hollering.

Among the many noted changes: Darth Vader screaming “NOOOOOOOO” as he kills the Emperor at the end of Jedi; Ewoks blinking; R2-D2 hiding behind some CG rocks; Ob-Wan Kenobi’s altered ‘dragon yell’; Menace‘s Yoda goes from puppet to digital….yadda, yadda, yadda. There’s no avoiding it - like a crying baby on a long distance air flight. Words like “radical” and “uncalled for” are once again being used to describe these latest incarnations, but for the most part, it’s nothing new. Since the initial rerelease of A New Hope (aka, the original Star Wars) to theaters back in the ‘90s, Lucas has made it very clear that these are his films and history and fandom be damned, he will tweak them at will until he gets them “right.”

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Friday, Jul 8, 2011
The last two months were pretty bad. Looking ahead, it's about to get worse.

A critic friend of mine wrote the other day that she really isn’t looking forward to the rest of Summer 2011. After picking out a couple of potential highlights (Harry Potter, Cowboys and Aliens) and some sound low points (The Smurfs, Rise of the Planet of the Apes), she concluded that the next month and a half will be a major snore/bore/chore. What any fan of film could have told her, sadly, is that, for the most part, the previous two months argue for one of the worst popcorn movie seasons on record. From underperforming tentpoles to a real lack of original alternatives, May through July have been a trial. Of course, good and bad are a matter of opinion and the laws of probability clearly establish that all perspective is a crapshoot, but a quick overview proves the pathetic trappings.

After the surprising fun of Fast Five (which, while released at the end of April, many considered to be the start of Summer 2011), May measured out quite a bit of mediocrity. Thor, while splashy and flashy, definitely suffered from “Origin Story Syndrome” while certified dung like Something Borrowed and Jumping the Broom belied the ongoing, lingering death of the Romantic Comedy. Bridesmaids and The Hangover II succeeded in selling their scatology to both sides of the gender gene pool, big budget action adventures like Priest and Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides underperformed. Unless you count the limited releases - Hersher, The Beaver, Tree of Life, or on the opposite end of the indie spectrum, Passion Play - or carefully created kiddie fare (Kung Fu Panda II), the first month of the annual entertainment overload was very little of either.

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Thursday, Jun 9, 2011
It's the kind of jaw droppingly bad experiment in misguided moviemaking that makes you run to the comforting cover of the Village People's Can't Stop the Music or Menaham Golan's sci-fi musical religious allegory The Apple.

Mae West definitely deserved better. A camp fixture for most of the ‘60s and ‘70s, she had taken her career as controversial early talky “bad” girl and transformed it into a combination of gay icon, culture curio, feminist fixture, and in her mind, still sizzling sex kitten. Never mind the fact that she was starring in vaudeville in 1907, and that the majority of her fame was achieved in the early ‘30s (when she was nearly 40). West was an institution, an example of a boundary pushing beauty that wasn’t afraid to flaunt what proper society (and its so-called moral watchdogs ) thought was perverse.

West was more than just her measurements and her ferocious frankness. She was a keen marketer, creating projects for herself when none were available or even being offered. She took her talents to Broadway, to regional theater, she toured the country with her revue, and kept her soon to be celebrated vulgarity as a topic of publicity rag reality. By the time the ‘40s rolled around, she was mostly forgotten, and during the ‘50s, her mantle was moved over to figures more formidable, such as Marilyn Monroe and Jane Mansfield. Yet via radio or Las Vegas revival, West still kept her star. It may have dimmed a bit, but it certainly still held some show business sway.

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Monday, May 16, 2011
A few reasons why this version of the famed Korean comic, and movies like it, routinely fail at the box office.

As a tentpole, it tanked. As an example of the kind of suspect Summer popcorn fare Tinseltown regularly tosses on the movie going populace, it’s par for the course. Still, some held out hope that Priest, a big screen adaptation of a beloved Asia comic book, would live up to its several years in development promise. There has been both anticipation and apprehension about his movie ever since it was first announced. Early on, Andrew Douglas (The Amityville Horror remake) and 300‘s Gerard Butler were attached. Then the current creative team of Scott Stewart and Paul Bettany (responsible of the ridiculously awful Legion) took over, and with the help of a meandering script from first timer Cory Goodman, fashioned this $60 million flop in the making. Critics have been cruel, audiences uninterested.

That’s the issue with many of these so-called Goth Apocalypses. Filmmakers find interesting ideas, twist them up into the standard motion picture pabulum, and then the studios serve it up like the big steaming bowls of bullspit they are. Only the most devoted members of Messageboard Nation climb onboard for the ride. The rest, waiting for how word of mouth will play out along the slippery social network, guarantee that the only money this movie will make comes from endless repeats on and the lesser Showtime networks. But the bigger problem here comes from the creative, as well as the commercial aspects of the work. Vision is avoided for the sake of a watered down, weak willed sense of entertainment.

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Monday, May 2, 2011
Only five!?!? If anything, the Spring of 2011 was more miserable than previous January to April junkfests.

Summer indeed came early to 2011 as Vin Diesel, Paul Walker, and a goatee-d Dwayne Johnson tore up box office figures with their near $90 million take for Fast Five. Clearly, after a Spring of almost completely diminished returns, audiences are eager for some of the mindless action and adventure the next four months promise. How else would you explain a two hour heist film featuring characters who used to be stunt savvy street racers raking in so much dough. Heck, between Fast Five, Rio, and a certain candy-coated bunny, it’s been a battle between the May to August standards - cloying kid vid vs oversized visuals. Anything more substantial or subtle fell by the wayside…usually, with good reason.

Oh sure, there were some worthy entries in the post-Oscar leftover parade, movies that made their attempt at standing out before being pummeled by the sun-bleached toys of the season. On the other hand, there were so many failures, so many films that deserved their spot in the sloppy seconds (or more like, unfathomable fifths) department that it’s easy to see why Hollywood turns this time of the year into the creative equivalent of a landfill. After all, when you bet nearly a billion dollars on product you are sure the public will love, there has to be a few missteps for every memorable mainstream entry.

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