A New Hope

Blu-ray REVIEW: Star Wars – The Complete Saga (2011 9 disc set)

I will be going LIVE at 12:30 AM (ET) Saturday morning with Robert Daniels on VISIONS IN SOUND. Tune in on your dial to 98.5 or internet to CKWR!  You folks in the UK can tune in as you enjoy some morning coffee or tea!

Rob says:  “May is Star Wars month on Visions In Sound and we will be celebrating the 40th Anniversary with a slew of special shows. Joining me this week will be special guests Jason Drury, Michael Ladano & Erik Woods to help with the celebration. Featured music will be from the Star Wars prequel trilogy (John Williams). Join Us THIS Saturday 12:30-2:30am (ET)”

 

STAR WARS: The Complete Saga (2011 Lucasfilm 9 Blu-ray set)

Includes:  Star Wars: The Phantom Menace, Attack of the Clones, Revenge of the Sith, A New Hope, The Empire Strikes Back, Return of the Jedi, and three bonus discs.

Star Wars on blu-ray…it took a lot less time than it did for Star Wars to arrive on DVD!  In special features and deleted scenes alone, it was well worth the wait. You can’t do a box set like this without the bonus of unseen footage. The good news is, The Complete Saga is loaded with unseen special features and deleted scenes. In fact, the Tosche Station scene (deleted from A New Hope) is worth the purchase alone for the true fan. It’s that great.

Will this be the last time we buy the first two Star Wars trilogies? Heck, no! When 3D comes out, everybody will be having the same discussion all over again!  And when the sequel trilogy is complete, we’ll be doing it again.  Will Greedo still shoot first? Well, in my mind I have long accepted that Han shot first. Only in some weird Lucasverse is there a way that Greedo could shoot and miss at that range. That close, I’m sorry, Han is toasted smuggler stew.  Disney says there is no way to re-release the original trilogy without its Special Edition enhancements, as the original film materials are too far gone.

However about 10 years ago or so, Lucas did an official DVD reissue of the ORIGINAL original trilogy, which I went out and bought on day one. It was satisfying, it looked better than my old VHS copy, but it wasn’t cleaned up nice like the special editions were. Which, in my opinion, is fine. It looks good and it’s as close to your childhood memories as you’ll ever get. After all, we didn’t have 1080p TV tubes.

Accepting that a Blu-ray version of the “ORIGINAL” original trilogy will never happen, I am very satisfied with my Blu-ray of the Complete Saga.

The sound is awesome, very deep, and annoying to the neighbors.

The video is perfect; I realize there are probably some colour changes here and there but I’m not about to do an A/B test and find them. I don’t care, it’s sharp and bright and clear and even Phantom Menace looks good!

Content wise, you know what? Hell, I’m actually enjoying Phantom Menace. I’m lost in that moment in 1999 or whatever it was, when we sat there watching it the first time, trying to figure out who the new baddies were and checking out all the cool designs, which all stand up today. Except Jar Jar. Take him out and the movie’s not half bad at all, flawed as it may be.

Bonus featues: I wanted to watch the deleted scenes and there is good news and bad news. The bad news is, I hate how the deleted scenes are organized. You have to click the movie you want, click the planet you want, and then pick deleted scenes from the features. You can’t just go to a menu called “Deleted Scenes”. Anyways, these were mostly great although some action scenes were just animatics. And, I don’t think these deleted scenes overlap at all with the scenes provided on previous DVD editions. For example there was no Greedo scene in the Episode I deleted scenes, but there certainly was on the original DVD release for Episode I. That goes for the special features in general…I don’t think there are many that overlap at all with the ones you already have.  That could be good or bad; for most fans that’s good.  You’re buying new stuff, not the same stuff you have already.

Highlights: As mentioned the Tosche Station scene, which has all the soul of old Star Wars along with finally tying up the Biggs storyline. Also welcome was the attack on the droid control ship from Episode II — previously only available to subscribers to Lucasfilm’s ill-fated Hyperspace service.

There’s also an hour and a half (!) of spoofs from all over the place, including The Simpsons, Family Guy, Robot Chicken, Saturday Night Live (including that hilarious Kevin-Spacey-as-Christopher-Walken-as-Han-Solo one), Colbert, That 70’s Show, and many more. Most of these, I have never seen.

This is exactly what anybody who had reasonable expectations wanted.

5/5 stars

 

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#454.5: Tune in tonight for some Star Wars radio!

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ANNOUNCEMENT!

Tonight at midnight, you can catch me LIVE on Robert Daniels’ radio program VISIONS IN SOUND.   Tune in locally on your FM dial to CKWR 98.5, or even easier, just click “listen live” via their website!  The show runs from midnight to 2 am (ET).  Needless to say I’ll be fueling myself up on coffee.

The subject:  STAR WARS!  The soundtracks specifically.  Last week, Rob covered the music from the prequel trilogy composed by John Williams.  Tonight is the original classic trilogy, also composed by Williams, so you don’t want to miss this.  And if you do, it should be available online for streaming later on.   Rob and I have been excitedly discussing the upcoming film The Force Awakens (only a week away!) and I can’t think of a better way to get ready.

I hope you’re able to tune in and catch some incredible music.  I’ve reviewed all the classic trilogy soundtracks already, and you know you’ll be in for a treat.

Check in tonight!

 

 

 

 

REVIEW: Star Wars: A New Hope (Special Edition original motion picture soundtrack)

STAR WARS: A New Hope – Special Edition original motion picture soundtrack (1997 RCA limited edition with holographic discs, original soundtrack released 1977)

Composed and conducted by John Williams

Everyone over a certain age remembers the feeling of seeing Star Wars for the first time.  Star Wars — not “A New Hope“, a subtitle used starting with the 1981 theatrical re-release.  It was hard not to be blown away by it.  Star Wars was groundbreaking in many ways, but let’s not forget about the music!  Before Star Wars, space movies didn’t have much in the way of original soundtracks.  The best space movie of all time, 2001: A Space Odyssey, used entirely pre-existing music by composers as diverse as Strauss and Ligeti.  Lucas himself wanted to do the same thing.  He had selected pieces such as The Planets by Holst, before having a change of heart.  [Thanks to Rob Daniels from the Visions in Sound show for this info.]

Movie veteran John Williams came recommended by Steven Speilberg, who struck gold with the composer on Jaws.  Incredibly, Williams turned in a score for Star Wars even more memorable than that of Jaws.  Utilizing the London Symphony, a soundtrack of incredible emotional depth and themes was forged.

This 1997 issue of the soundtrack was released to coincide with the Special Editions, but don’t let that frighten you away.  When the original was released on vinyl, the complete score could not fit onto two LPs.  The special editions enabled the engineers to go back and do new digital transfers from the original master tapes.  A full chronological soundtrack was then assembled including previously unreleased music, as well as bonus alternate takes.

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The discs are housed in a nice CD wallet that is prone to scratching the discs if you are not careful.  The discs themselves are etched with a hologram of the dreaded Death Star.  The other two soundtracks in this series of reissues had their own holograms, but only for the initial run of discs.  When they sold out, they were replaced by un-etched discs in simple jewel cases.  The first run are collectibles, at least when the CD wallet is in good shape and still has the embossed outer cardboard shell.  Unfortunately over my years at the Record Store, I saw many of these in absolutely mangled condition.

The wonderful thing about listening to a soundtrack like this, in order, is enjoying the images that come with it.  You could be cleaning the house or working on your taxes, but subliminally, your mind is re-playing the scene when Obi-Wan gives Luke his father’s lightsaber.  You know the score by heart: when old Ben says, “A young Jedi named Darth Vader, who was a pubil of mine before he turned to evil, you hear that mournful theme swoon.  When we were kids my sister and I used to play Star Wars to the music of The Empire Strikes Back soundtrack, and it made the scene we re-created with our Kenner toys that much more awesome.

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Put on the track “The Battle of Yavin” and try not making laser blast sounds, and a big ol’ explosion when the Death Star blows up.  It’s more fun just to go ahead and make the sounds anyway.

Disc one contains the bonus track, an alternate take “Binary Sunset”.  You know the scene, when Luke is looking longingly as the twin suns set.  Hidden within the track, but unlisted, are alternate takes of the opening scene music, complete with voice cues.

I’m a firm believer that the Star Wars soundtracks are basically the heavy metal of the classical world.  Listen to those trumpets and horns blasting those battle themes.  Put that on an Iron Maiden album played by the duo of Smith and Murray, and you have primo heavy metal.  That’s one reason why I recommend John Williams and the Star Wars soundtracks to fans of heavy metal who want to expand their horizons.

5/5 stars

Part 209: The Phantom Menace

 

RECORD STORE TALES Part 209:  The Phanton Menace

Some at the record store made fun of me for being such a serious Star Wars fan.  I’m not a hard core fanboy; I don’t go to conventions or follow the books and TV shows, but I am pretty dedicated to the films.  I booked May 19, 1999 off work well in advance to see The Phantom Menace on opening day.

I’m not going to turn this story into a review for Phantom Menace.  That movie’s been reviewed by thousands of people and I’m not interested in contributing to the background noise.  The only thing you need to really agree with me on is that there was a tremendous excitement for Phantom Menace back in 1999.  I had been dreaming of what might happen before and after the Holy Trilogy since I was 5 years old.  My sister was only a baby when the first Star Wars came out, but she did get to see Empire in the theaters.  She is a slightly bigger fan than I am, but she doesn’t follow the expanded universe or any of that stuff.

We both booked the day off work and planned to go together.  Our strategy was this:  Since we knew that the theaters would be absolutely packed for the midnight opening, we picked an out of the way (but still THX) theater that had a noon showing. So, all we had to do was wait an extra 12 hours (at home), and we’d get in no problem!

We showed up at the theater and were, like, seventh in line.  No sweat.  Soon we had our seats in a sparsely seated theater.  Then the trailers (something called Titan AE, which inspired a heckle of “What the hell was that?” from the audience).  Then the Fox fanfare, the Lucasfilm logo and finally…”A long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away….”

136 minutes later (we stayed for the credits of course) we were pretty satisfied with the movie.  Keep in mind that fast shit had been whizzing in front of our faces for over two hours.  There were things that didn’t make sense, there were things we didn’t like much (the kid, Jar Jar) but we kept telling ourselves the same thing.

“Yeah, but it’s the first chapter.  The next one will be where it really starts.”

As we were talking about it, I said, “Wanna see it again?  It went so fast there was a ton of stuff I’m sure I missed.”

“Sure!” she answered.  “Yeah!”

We went back out to the ticket counter.  There were a few people in line, but not many.  “Two for Star Wars, please,” I said as I approached the counter.

“Didn’t you just come out of Star Wars?” she said with that snooty tone.

“Yep.  We liked it,” I answered.

“And you want to see it again?”  We did.

We went back in.  The second time lacked a bit of the awe.  This time, I paid more attention to the details.  Questions came to my mind.  “If Yoda is the Jedi Master that instructed Obi-Wan, then why is Liam Neeson training him?”  Stuff like that.

I still remember that on the way home, we stopped at the HMV store, and I bought Ed Hunter by Iron Maiden.  When we got home, we were still excited about the movie, telling Mom and Dad all the details.  My dad was skeptical.

“Does it have the emotion of the first one?  Does it have the feeling?” he inquired.

“Well…no not exactly,” I rationalized.  “This is just the first chapter.  The next one will be where it really starts.”

My dad was onto something.

The hilarious Red Letter Media review

I also distinctly remember watching Phantom Menace again with Tom and a franchise owner, on VHS, shortly after it came out.

In 2005 I first met the girl who would later become my wife, but she had never seen Star Wars.  I was really excited to be the guy that got to watch Star Wars with her for the first time.  For some stupid reason that to this day I will never understand, I decided to start her off with Episode I:  The Phantom Menace.  Bad idea.

“That stupid fucking dino-guy” is what she named Jar-Jar Binks.  She hated it.  (She liked Episode III though.)  Then, her dad (rest his soul) decided that he wanted to see the Star Wars prequels too.  One Saturday night I went over there with my DVD copy of Phanton Menace in hand.  And so it was that Jen had to see Phantom Menace not once, but twice.

We’ll be married five years this August, more awesomer than ever, so “that stupid fucking dino-guy” couldn’t have been all that  bad, right?

NEXT TIME ON RECORD STORE TALES…

LeBrain on the radio!