Some Thoughts on the Star Wars Blu-ray Extras

I’ve been sick the past two days, so it was a good opportunity to stay in bed and on the couch and watch several hours of Star Wars Blu-ray collection bonus materials.

I have not watched the latest changes Mr. Lucas has made to the movies. I’m not sure I could handle them in my weakened condition!

Happy Surprises

  • The complete missing scene of Luke viewing the space battle over Tatooine and telling his friends about it at Tosche Station. This scene with Luke’s friend Biggs was in the comics and story book version when I was a kid and I’ve only seen brief clips of it in documentaries and other extras over the years.
  • The animated segment from the Star Wars Holiday Special is included as part of Boba Fett’s costume prototype in the Episode V Collection. The animation is low budget and has some odd character designs but shouldn’t be missed.
  • Inclusion of some classic fan films in the Spoofs video including Star Wars Gangsta Rap SE and Troops.
  • Several appearances of Star Wars in 70s and early 80s TV shows, including a song and dance number from the Donny & Marie show with Donny and Marie as Luke and Leia (strangely prophetic!), and Mark Hamill on The Muppet Show.
  • I really enjoyed all of Dennis Muren‘s special effects commentary in the Interviews sections.
  • There are some original episode documentaries that I’m sure were broadcast on television soon after the movies came out. I don’t quite remember seeing them but I got a warm fuzzy feeling while watching them. They’re an interesting contrast to many “making of” segments these days which often is more about selling you on seeing the movie than how the movie was really created.

Onto critiques and other observations…
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This week’s episode of The Talk Show included a review of Moonraker. The Talk Show is a weekly webacast where Dan Benjamin and John Gruber talk about Apple, Mac, iPhone and related topics. They’ve also been reviewing the James Bond movies starting with Dr. No for the past couple of months. These are honest and accurate reviews, citing the good and the bad of each film. Their review and analysis of Moonraker was par for the course, noting that the second half jumps off the logic train never to return (my summarized interpretation, not their words).

However, Moonraker holds a special place for me. I was a bit young and afraid of Darth Vader when Star Wars first came out so I missed it’s initial run in the theaters. Instead, I got to see all of the pretenders to the throne that came afterwards: Battlestar Galactica, Black Hole, Buck Rogers, Flash Gordon, Battle Beyond the Stars and of course Moonraker. Don’t get me wrong. I love all these films and think they range from ok to modern classics but I’m pretty sure none would’ve made it to the theater without the success of Star Wars.

Moonraker was my introduction to James Bond. While The Talk Show pulls apart the lapses in logic compared to earlier Bond movies, to me as a child it was insane fun. Sure, as an adult I can wonder why would a mock funeral be staged just to kill James Bond and why his gondola becomes a hover craft, but as a kid it was just one insane techno-action sequence after another. A boat with mines and a hang glider for escapes? Yes! Fighting on a runaway cable car? Yes! Escaping death by rocket exhaust? Yes! Marines fighting in space with lasers? Yes! Exploding bolas? I had never seen regular bolas let alone ones that wrap around and explode. Yes!

Now, on reflecting on the movie, maybe it was all too much, but for a 6 year old at the time, it was pretty damn cool. The combination of gadgets, action and sci-fi was great. Does a kid care that elaborate assassination attempts during a funeral procession, while skeet shooting or getting pushed out of an airplane made no sense? Not really. I just took it for granted that was how things work in the James Bond universe. I didn’t see For Your Eyes Only and Octopussy had no impact on me (I think I blocked it out it was so unmemorable) when I saw it during summer camp several years later. Moonraker had cemented itself as my archetype of Bond for years to come and gave me inspiration of what to do with my many space shuttle plastic models beside launch them into space and deploy satellites. But that’s another story.

Go Ape!

What does Battlestar Galactica have to do with Planet of the Apes and what does Planet of the Apes have to do with The Incredible Hulk?

If you’ve not yet seen the Battlestar Galactica mid-season cliffhanger “Revelations”, you’re missing out. While not the most emotionally moving episode nor the most action packed, it does reveal a lot to the show’s characters as the clandestine final four of five cylons are brought out to the open. The results range from shocking to devastating to the Galactica crew. More importantly, its final minutes hit hard with an unexpected final revelation.

Spoilers after the jump…
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The Favorite Hero I Never Collected

Iron Man Now PlayingFirst, I’ve got to say that the Iron Man movie is fantastic! It’s been a while since I’ve been compelled to see a movie a second time and IronMan has certainly given me motivation to do so. In some ways, it’s a pretty standard superhero story: hero is transformed from who they were, hero experiments to determine his capabilities, hero has some early trials, hero has a showdown with a Big Bad. It’s intelligently written, there’s a lot of smaller dialog that just flows (maybe improvised?), and the action is not the over-the-top hyperkinetic style that has plagued a lot of actioners these days. Plus, the suit of armor is nicely detailed and at least movie-plausible in how it’s functioning. Watching Robert Downey Jr. spring into action as Tony Stark in the armor sent a thrill like I was seven years old again.

As a kid, I loved the idea of Iron Man. He was like a pocket version of the giant Japanese robot toys I collected. While it would be great to have a giant robot and fight against giant monsters, it just seemed more practical to have a briefcase with power suit easily on hand. I mean, I could never hope to have a Mazinger or a Combattra in my closet… but IronMan armor could work! Yes, it would fit right next to my t-shirts and Luke Skywalker Dagobah fatigues. I would pour over the Marvel Universe entries for IronMan and all the other powered armor heroes and villians: Crimson Dynamo, Titanium Man, Guardsmen and so on. My quest for fictional stats would even spill over to ever loosely associated tech like the Avenger’s Quinjet, Ultron and Alpha Flight’s Guardian. When I wasn’t reading about Iron Man, my Mego and Secret Wars series figures got a lot of use, right up there with Spidey.
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WonderCon 2008 Show Floor The California convention season got started for me this weekend with WonderCon. WonderCon is produced by the same group that handles Comic-Con and the Alternative Press Expo (APE). After existing in Oakland for a number of years, it migrated over to San Francisco’s bigger venues. Unfortunately, it’s coincided with the Game Developers Conference the past two years and has been squeezed into Moscone Convention Center‘s South Hall after a turn in the newer and visually impressive West Hall. The South Hall fits well but the layout makes the overall show feel cramped and the location for some of the smaller panel rooms is not ideal for good foot traffic.

WonderCon has become mostly a TV and movie panel show for me while I concentrate on shopping and autographs at Comic-Con. Compared with the insane lines at Comic-Con, it’s relatively easy to get a good seat and see actors, writers and directors of current and upcoming genre shows. This year had well known television shows and movies like Get Smart, X-Files 2 and Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles represented. Actors and creators like Steve Carell, David Duchovny, Gillian Anderson, Chris Carter and Anne Hathaway took the time to show up and answer audience questions. It was a nice, relaxing weekend.

Pictures from the panels and the exhibit hall are available for your enjoyment.