culture, entertainment, family, humor, life, movies, pop culture, technology, television

No, I won’t go see your $150 million 3D movie in the theater

Thing 2 likes “Star Wars,” but he’d never seen the prequels, and when he saw a trailer for “The Phantom Menace” in 3D, he asked to see it.

So, I went to Fandango.com and got 2 tickets to last Sunday’s bargain matinée for $29.25. The theater charges extra for 3D movies, and there was a $2.50 “convenience fee” for buying the tickets online. Obviously, my idea of a bargain matinée clearly isn’t the same as Carmike Cinemas’.

A medium popcorn, a couple of sodas and a box of Nerds came to about $15. So, going to the movies with my 6-year-old became a $45 outing, and as I sat there watching this terrible movie — it earned only a 38% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes — I had an epiphany:

I’m not doing this again.

Then, I thought, don’t be stupid. Of course, you’ll do this again. You’ll take the kids the movies. They’re kids. You like movies. You’re not an ogre.

So, I had another epiphany:

I’m not taking the kids to the movies again unless the movie a) gets great reviews and b) is something they really, really want to see — unless c) we’re talking about going to a drive-in, in which case the movie is less important than the adventure of going to the drive-in, because d) drive-ins are awesome, or e) the restored old movie theater in the town where we live that shows old movies and charges only $5 a ticket.

I also thought, f) great reviews or not, if it’s a movie for grownups, I’ll wait and get it from Redbox or Netflix.

I’m sorry, but I’m looking at you, “Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy.”

The last grownup movie I saw in the theater was “Midnight in Paris,” the Woody Allen movie. I liked it a lot, but I don’t think I’d have liked it any less if I’d waited 3 to 6 months and watched it at home.

Hollywood hears that a lot, apparently. BoxOfficeMojo.com says total ticket sales in the U.S. fell almost 4% between 2009 and 2011.

This is why so many new movies are in 3D. The studios are hoping we’ll pay extra for an experience we can’t easily duplicate at home.

The problem is that a) 3D glasses make everything look too dark and b) a bad movie in 3D is still a bad movie, while c) a good movie is a good movie, either way.

“The Phantom Menace,” for example, was just as bad in 3D as it was in plain old 2D. It still didn’t make a lick of sense, and Jar Jar Binks was still annoying.

On the other hand, George Lucas was thoughtful enough to replace the puppet of Yoda with a computer-animiated cartoon of Yoda, so, at least, there was that.

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culture, entertainment, humor, life, movies, pop culture, random thoughts, television

Worst. Holiday special. Ever.

It’s hard to come up with a Christmas special that’s actually good. For every one we want to year after year (“A Charlie Brown Christmas”), there are dozens, maybe scores, that aired once or twice and then were forgotten (“It’s Christmastime Again, Charlie Brown”).

Then there’s the “Star Wars Holiday Special,” which is the rare special that was so spectacularly awful that George Lucas forbade CBS from showing ever it again. Or, maybe CBS was too embarrassed to show it again.

The “Star Wars Holiday Special” has survived, though, in the form of bootlegs.

Lots of people taped it and copied the tapes and traded them, and when the Internet came along, they uploaded the special.

For a while, the special were pulled down by George Lucas’ lawyers almost as soon as the geeks uploaded it, but like the Imperial forces surrounded by Ewoks on the forest moon of Endor, the lawyers were eventually overpowered, and it’s become pretty easy to find a copy of the special online.

Trust me, though, you don’t want to see it, because you can’t unsee it. If the prequels didn’t destroy your “Star Wars” childhood memories, this might do the trick.

I found a copy online a few years ago, and it’s unwatchable. I mean, the quality of the video is decent, but it’s impossible to sit through, even if you download the commentary from RiffTrax (by the people who did “Mystery Science Theater 3000“)

The special is about Han Solo trying to evade the Imperial fleet in order to get Chewbacca home for Life Day. It turns out that Chewie has a family back on the Wookiee planet whom he never sees. Harrison Ford, Mark Hamill and Carrie Fisher make appearances, but, mostly, the story centers on Chewbacca’s family as they sit at home and worry because Dad’s late (again).

Chewie’s family speaks Wookiee, without subtitles. Art Carney plays a trader who befriends the family. Bea Arthur runs the cantina. Harvey Korman plays several roles, including a TV chef.

Somehow, the producers shoe-horn in songs by 1970s variety show mainstay Diahann Carroll and Jefferson Starship (because it’s a “Star Wars” special and the band’s name is Jefferson Starship). Chewbacca’s son, Lumpy, watches a cartoon about his father, Han and Luke that features the first appearance ever of the bounty hunter Boba Fett, which is really meta, if you think about it.

SPOILER ALERT: Chewbacca and Han arrive just in time, and Luke and Leia swing by, and there’s a staggeringly low-budget Life Day ceremony and, then, Princess Leia sings. I don’t mean sings in the way a character might sing if everyone around them is singing as part of a sing-along, like it’s an organic part of teh story. I mean she sings the way a character would in a 1970s variety show.

Worst of all, if you’re a true “Star Wars” fan, the “Star Wars Holiday Special” is canon within the “Star Wars” universe. That means, within the reality of the series, shortly after Luke blows up the Death Star, everyone gathers on the Wookiee planet for a cheesy ceremony, and Princess Leia sings.

If only we could live in a more civilized age.

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5 more pointless changes to the ‘Star Wars’ movies … and 5 reasons I don’t care

In case you missed it, George Lucas has gone in and made still more changes to the “Star Wars” movies, so they’ll be extra special when he releases them on Blu-Ray in a few weeks.

(George Lucas is also converting all 6 “Star Wars” movies into 3D, beginning with Episode I: The Phantom Menace. No word on whether he’ll do anything to make the 3D versions extra  special, too.)

Here’s a quick rundown of some of the ways George Lucas is making the Blu-Ray edition extra special:

He’s replacing the puppet Yoda with a computer-drawn cartoon of Yoda in Episode I.

He’s replacing the scary howl Obi-Wan uses to frighten the Sandpeople.

He’s using computer animation to make the door of Jabba’s palace look bigger.

He’s using computer animation to allow the Ewoks to blink and look around.

He’s making it clear that Vader feels bad by having him scream “NOOOO!” when the Emperor zaps Luke with lightning bolts.

Some people on the Internet are upset by this – Simon Pegg tweeted that having Vader scream “NOOOO!” was “another … clueless revision” and “a fucking shame” —  but I’m OK with it, and I’ll tell you why:

  1. I loved the “Star Wars” movies when I was a kid, but I had an epiphany a few years ago, around the first time Lucas went in and messed with them. I thought, if George Lucas doesn’t care about these movies, why should I?
  2. There’s really nothing anyone can do to screw up the prequels or “Return of the Jedi,” because they’re pretty bad to begin with. (You could improve the prequels, though, by deleting most of Jar Jar’s scenes, which someone did.)
  3. George Lucas owns the negatives, so he can do whatever he wants with them, and there’s the fanboys can do about it, except stop giving him their cash, which they probably won’t do.
  4. I bought the original trilogy on VHS, and I bought them on DVD, and I refuse to buy them again, so I don’t care what’s on the discs.
  5. I kind of feel sorry for George Lucas. Seriously.

George Lucas has been talking for years about taking his profits from the “Star Wars” franchise and making personal, smaller-scale films, but he hasn’t, maybe because he doesn’t want to, or maybe because he’s forgotten how to make small, personal films since he made “American Graffiti.”

What he has done is produce the Indiana Jones movies and “Willow” and “Howard the Duck” and “Tucker” and make more “Star Wars” movies and cartoons. He’s also working on a live-action “Star Wars” TV series.

“You get sidetracked easily,” Lucas told The New York Times a few years ago.

George Lucas does have a non-”Star Wars”-related moving coming out soon, a movie about the Tuskegee Airmen, called “Red Tails.”

The Tuskegee Airmen were the first African-American aviators in the U.S. armed forces. The military was segregated, but they fought to prove themselves worthy of fighting for their country in World War II.

It’s a terrific story about courage and fighting for what’s right, but George Lucas, who’s been working on this movie for over 20 years, told the LA Times in 1990, “I see the movie less as a race picture than as an aerial action adventure.”

This is like saying, “I see ‘The Hangover’ less as a broad comedy and more as a look at how alcohol and drugs can destroy lives.”  It sort of misses the point.

So, while there are some stirring speeches in the “Red Tails” trailer, what you remember most are the computer-animated dogfights that wouldn’t be out of place in a “Star Wars” movie.

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