HomeVideodrome: 'Star Wars,' 'Citizen Kane,' and a Podcast!

Before we get into it, please take a moment to go check out the brand spankin’ new HomeVideodrome podcast, an audio companion I’ve done for this column with Jim Dirkes of The Film Thugs Movie Show. Be warned that there is some rough language contained within, so it would be wise not to blare it at work. We had a lot of fun making it, and we hope it’ll become a weekly thing for you to enjoy. Be sure to leave some feedback after you listen, and thanks for taking the time to do so.

This is a big week for Blu-ray releases, probably the biggest this year, as on Friday, the Star Wars films finally hits the platform. Being a lifelong fan of Star Wars, this should be an exciting occasion. Unfortunately it isn’t. I won’t be buying these, and if you hate what George Lucas has been doing to Star Wars over the past decade and a half, neither should you.

Bitching about Star Wars is an old hat, so I apologize, but it wouldn’t be a something worth addressing if fans didn’t keep encouraging the destruction of these movies with their wallets. There’s nothing wrong with George Lucas tinkering with his movies over and over again. Sure, it’s creatively bankrupt, but it’s his choice, because they’re his movies, and for some reason, people keep buying it. What’s annoying is his decision to suppress the versions of these movies that his paying audience fell in love with in the first place.

Lucas has gotten fat off of Star Wars because so many people love those movies and paid to see them over and over again, yet he insists on endlessly updating it to wring a few more bucks out of it, all while denying his fans what they want: remastered releases of the original trilogy. Lucas apologists like to point out that we got the original cuts as bonus features on the re-release of the trilogy on DVD, however the version given were cheap Laser Disc rips, not even up to the standards of the DVD format. It’s as though Lucas was tired of complaints, and decided to wad it up in throw it in the faces of his fans, something to be taken as an insult, rather than giving loyal, paying customers what they’re asking for. But then again, when said loyal paying customers keep purchasing his revisions again and again, who can blame him?

If you were planning to buy these, note that even more changes have been made to the original trilogy that no one asked for. For example, observe this scene from Return of the Jedi as it appears on the new Blu-ray:

[youtube 27RVJJfny4I]

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I know, it’s so much better than the way it was before, right?

This may sound like heresy, but Return of the Jedi is not a good movie. When I was a kid, I loved it to death, but looking at it now, it squanders the promise of the incredible first two movies by adopting a commercial mindset, as opposed to putting the story first the way its predecessors did. However, this scene is one of the few powerful moments in that film, and adding a very Revenge of the Sith “NOOOO!” to the dialogue instead makes it unintentionally funny. It’s the latest in a series of bad moments that poison the movies as a whole, such as Greedo shooting first at the Mos Eisley cantina, which undermines the character of Han Solo, or the scene giving us an affable Jabba the Hutt added in the first film, which undermines Jabba’s sinister mystique throughout the original trilogy.

These Blu-rays are being packaged in a manner in which you can get either the original trilogy, the unfortunate new trilogy (which contains some changes as well), or the entire series in one big box. Please, purchase none of them. I’ve heard geeks everywhere say they hate this changes, but desire the treasure trove of extras found within. Trust me, fanboys, you can live without it. If you buy this, you have no right to bitch about the changes made, because you’re only encouraging George Lucas’ creative bankruptcy fueled by greed and complacency. If you love Star Wars, you won’t vote for him to keep doing this with your dollars.

Give it up for fellow Parcbencher, Big Hollywood contributer, and classic movie expert Chris Yogerst, who weighs in on the Citizen Kane Blu-ray below – Hunter

Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane (1941) is one of those films that always find itself near the top of many “best of all time” lists. Citizen Kane is directed by Orson Welles, who caught Hollywood’s eye after gaining prominence of a 1938 radio broadcast. On October 30th, 1938 Welles voiced a radio performance of H.G. Welles’ War of the Worlds. People who tuned in late didn’t hear the disclaimer in the beginning of the film telling audiences that this is a performance. Late arriving audiences heard Welles’ broadcast about an alien invasion and many of them (after rumors spread) started to believe it was true. The panic and media attention surrounding the performance put the spotlight on Welles; it wasn’t long until Hollywood called.

After rejecting a couple of film offers, RKO accepted Welles’ offer to do Citizen Kane where he co-wrote, produced, directed and played the lead role. At the time it was unheard of to have so much power over a production. Along with Alfred Hitchcock, Welles really paved the way for more filmmakers to have things such as final cut privileges.

Citizen Kane became a benchmark of which all other great films are compared to. It is the great story that sparked a good deal of controversy over its production. The main character, Charles Foster Kane, was a thinly veiled version of then prominent yellow journalist William Randolph Hearst. When Hearst saw the film he tried to have every copy of it destroyed so it would be forever erased from history.

Citizen Kane is one of those films that manage to age like wine. It gets better with each viewing and is also a film that is great for getting young audiences interested in film history. This week, the film will be released on the much anticipated Blu-ray format with the option of getting a 70th anniversary box set. The set comes complete with the Citizen Kane Blu-ray, DVD of RKO 281 (a docudrama about the making of the film), a documentary called American Experience: The Battle Over Citizen Kane, as well as photographs, call sheets, interviews, and more. There is an Amazon exclusive set that also comes with a DVD of Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons. In other words, plenty to let the film buff inside of you go nuts. - Chris Yogerst

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Other Noteworthy Releases

Thor: One of the most entertaining movies of the summer. Certainly not without its flaws, but it was delicious fun. I never thought I would see a big comic book movie blockbuster directed by Kenneth Branagh.

Available on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray, and DVD

Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop: The documentary chronicling Conan O’Brien’s sold-out live tour across the country in the wake of his ousting from The Tonight Show.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Meek’s Cutoff: This indie western has gained considerable positive buzz. Starring Michelle Williams, Bruce Greenwood, Will Patton, and Paul Dano.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

Hesher: The heavy metal maniac in me is dying to see this one. Just check out this trailer. It makes me want to listen to Master of Puppets and start a mosh pit in my apartment.

Available on Blu-ray and DVD

3 Women: Criterion updates this Robert Altman film for Blu-ray.

Available on Blu-ray

My Life as a Dog: Another Criterion Blu-ray re-release, this one being Lasse Hallström’s acclaimed film about a boy experiencing personal tragedy who finds comfort in a small town.

Available on Blu-ray

O Brother, Where Art Thou?: Yet another beloved Coen Bros. movie comes to Blu-ray, gotta love Homer’s The Odyssey in the south during the Great Depression.

Available on Blu-ray

Trainspotting: The Blu-ray release of Danny Boyle’s heartwarming tale of Scottish heroin junkies.

Available on Blu-ray

The Frighteners: Peter Jackson’s last foray into horror wasn’t as inventive or fun as stuff like Bad Taste or Dead Alive, but it had its moments. This here is the movie that brought us the WETA studio, which would go on to show their skills in Jackson’s Lord of the Rings films. CGI effects weren’t quite what they are now when this movie was made, though.

Available on Blu-ray

Halloween II: I’m an enormous fan of John Carpenter’s original, but not so much the sequels. Halloween fans will find this 30th anniversary Blu-ray release interesting though, as it includes an alternate ending that was not previously available.

Available on Blu-ray

Manhunter: Michael Mann’s adaptation of Thomas Harris’s Red Dragon beats the Brett Ratner remake, even without Anthony Hopkins as Hannibal Lecter.

Available on Blu-ray

Golden Swallow: Chang Cheh’s follow-up to King Hu’s Shaw Bros. classic, Come Drink With Me, starring Cheng Pei-Pei. Cheh is the John Ford of Hong Kong, making no-bullshit, manly genre movies unique to his country.

Available on DVD

Mystery Science Theater 3000 – Manos: The Hands of Fate Special Edition: MST3K updates their stand-alone DVD of this classic episode. Manos is one of those classic so-bad-it’s-good movies, but frankly it borders on painful without the help of the commentary of Joel, Tom Servo, and Crow.

Available on DVD

This column originally appeared over at Parcbench

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