Bluray versions of the six Star Wars films will be released in the fall of 2011, it was officially announced today. And no — not the original versions of Episode #4, #5 and #6 but the digitally tweaked-and-upgraded versions, per the order of George Lucas.
Is there anyone who expected anything else? The man is an animal.
“Perhaps bracing for the reactions of fans who decried some of the changes made to the special-edition films — like, say, an exchange of gunfire between Han Solo and a certain green-skinned bounty hunter — Mr. Lucas said that to release the original versions of these films on Blu-ray was ‘kind of an oxymoron because the quality of the original is not very good,” a N.Y. Times story reports.
“You have to go through and do a whole restoration on it, and you have to do that digitally,” he added. “It’s a very, very expensive process to do it. So when we did the transfer to digital, we only transferred really the upgraded version.”
In short, Lucas could do the right thing but he doesn’t like the price. With all his toy licensing money?
I’ll buy Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back and let it go at that. Which will mean waiting until Signore Lucassimo decided to sell them individually, which will probably be sometime in 2012 or ’13.
I don’t like, believe or want to see several cops noisily and brutally busting into a family’s home in order to arrest the wife for murder. That’s how they arrest wives in movies (and only in movies). There’s simply no reason to do it aggressively; they’d almost certainly do it in a rote, perfunctory manner — no histrionics.
The film, which I have no beef with other than this one minor point, is Paul Haggis‘s The Next Three Days (Lionsgate, 11.19). Russell Crowe, Elizabeth Banks, Liam Neeson, et. al.
It’s a remake of Fred Cavaye‘s Pour Elle (’08), which tells pretty much the same story. Wife arrested, she didn’t do it, break her out of jail. Haggis based his screenplay on the original by Cavaye and Guillaume Lemans.
Two days ago L.A. Times columnist Geoff Boucher quoted former Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz as claiming that George Lucas rewrote Return Of The Jedi to ensure merchandise sales were not hurt.
“Instead of bittersweet and poignant [Lucas] wanted a euphoric ending with everybody happy,” Kurtz recalls. “The original idea was that they would recover [the kidnapped] Han Solo in the early part of the story and that he would then die in the middle part of the film in a raid on an Imperial base. George then decided he didn’t want any of the principals killed. By that time there were really big toy sales and that was a reason.”
“I could see where things were headed,” Kurtz continues. “The toy business began to drive the [Lucasfilm] empire. It’s a shame. They make three times as much on toys as they do on films. It’s natural to make decisions that protect the toy business, but that’s not the best thing for making quality films.”
The ending of Jedi that Kurtz preferred “would have shown the rebel forces in tatters, Leia grappling with her new duties as queen and Luke walking off alone ‘like Clint Eastwood in the spaghetti westerns.’
But after helping to create the first two Star Wars films, Kurtz “became disillusioned with Lucas just before Return Of The Jedi, when he noticed that Lucas’ priorities had shifted away from story and character toward selling toys.
“Eventually the two decided they couldn’t work with each other anymore, especially after finding themselves unable to come to an agreement over what form Jedi should take — particularly given Lucas’ idea of framing it around a second Death Star, which Kurtz felt was ‘too derivative.’
“Things apparently came to a head over the ending, which Lucas completely rewrote — all because, as Kurtz avers, it might have affected the merchandising — and which he outlines here to give you a glimpse of what might have been, had Lucas not been guided by the all-powerful Force known as Kenner.
“The emphasis on the toys, it’s like the cart driving the horse,” Kurtz says. “If it wasn’t for that the films would be done for their own merits. The creative team wouldn’t be looking over their shoulder all the time.”
This dovetails into my oft-repeated feelings about Lucas, which are basically that he’s the devil, which is to say a very real metaphor for total corruption of the spirit. He began as Luke Skywalker, having been described by biographer Dale Pollock as a kind of a brave and beautiful warrior when he was under the gun and struggling to make it in the ’60s and into the early ’70s. But once he got fat and successful he slowly began to morph into an amiable, goiter-necked, corporate-minded Darth Vader figure. I’ve been saying this since the late ’90s.
It’s Saturday morning and shafts of light are piercing through the clouds in the wake of a surprising notion (for me anyway) that Scott Pilgrim is getting hated on big-time by Joe Popcorn and his brood. One box-office specialist has predicted a “sizable Saturday drop” for Edgar Wright‘s film, another claims Pilgrim is “downtrending” and that Inception might just nudge it out of the fourth and into a fifth-place slot, and LexG wrote last night Pilgrim is “the single most obnoxious, deadly unfunny, embarrassing, repulsive gay-camp spectacle…absolute fucking MISERY to sit through.”
To what extent, if any, is a Scott Pilgrim backlash manifesting out there? Certain online geek prognosticators had been suggesting that Pilgrim might be the real comer in the pack, but now, it appears, reality has broken through and chunks of plaster and asbestos are strewn all over the rug. What is happening? Or am I just making something out of nothing? Are geeky-looking guys getting shoved around by angry Average Joes in theatre lobbies after Pilgrim showings? Or is this just a lot of hot air and most (or many) viewers are more or less okay with it? I’m asking.
One box-office-assessment says that The Expendables, terrible as it is, made $13.5 million yesterday with a projected $33 to $35 million weekend haul, depending on the word-of-mouth Saturday drop. (Which ought to be sizable.) The second-place Eat Pray Love earned a little over $9 million yesterday, and is looking at $26 or $27 million for the weekend. It’s not a great film but it’s not going to take a significant Saturday hit — if anything it might bump up a notch.
The Other Guys will come in third, having made $5.7 million yesterday (down 56%!) with an expected $17 to $17.5 million weekend tally and close to a 70 million cume.
Oh, and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World? A moderately suck-ass #4 position with an estimated $4.5 to $5 million yesterday but with a possible sizable drop today, which will probably result in $11 million for the weekend. Edgar Wright and Michael Cera can wait outside in the lobby and read a magazine. I don’t feel even a trace of those suicide issues from two days ago.
Inception came in fifth, having earned 3.4 million yesterday (a drop of 38%) for an $11 to $12 million tally and an overall $248.6 million cume. Step Up is sixth — $2.3 milion yesterday (down 65%…hah!) for $6.5 milllion and a $29.5 million cume. Despicable Me is seventh with $2.3 million yesterday, a projected Sunday night tally of $7.8 million and a grand total of $223 million. Dinner for Schmucks did $2 million yesterday, will do $6.5 million for the weekend. Salt is looking at the same $6.5 million and will be passing 100 million today.
Yesterday’s reaction to the Love and Other Drugs trailer, and particularly my conviction that Anne Hathaway is not only a locked Best Actress nominee but perhaps (gaseous and idiotic as this sounds) the lead contender at this point, was only partly based on those trailer hors d’oeuvres. I was also getting an intuitive sense that a guy I spoke to months ago about this film may have been right.
I’m referring to a guy I know from (a) a couple of extended phone conversations and (b) having checked him out to some extent online, and whom I’ve heard from every now and then about this or that research screening. (He opined that Benicio del Toro ‘s The Wolfman was a total piece of shit a long time before it opened.) Anyway, he saw a LAOD rough cut last February in Pasadena and passed along some passionate hosannahs. I took them and posted a piece, which I called “Hathaway’s Big Score?,” on 2.27.10.
I would urge the haters who weighed in here yesterday to read (or re-read) the piece, but here are some portions:
(1) “To hear it from a trusted research-screening informant, Anne Hathaway‘s performance as Jake Gyllenhaal‘s Parkinson’s-afflicted love interest in Ed Zwick‘s Love and Other Drugs is ‘wonderful, really wonderful…she knocks it out of the park.’ Plus their love affair, he says, is portrayed in strongly compelling terms. Resulting, he reports, in significant deep-down feeling plus some heavy love scenes with ample nudity.”
(2) “My concern here is with Zwick, a problem director who’s always emotionally overplayed this or that aspect of his films. But my informant, who saw the film last week at Pasadena’s Pacific Paseo, is, in my judgment, a sharp and reliable observer with taste. And — hello? — everyone knows the meaning of a recently Oscar-nominated actress (as Hathaway is/was for Rachel Getting Married) returning with another powerhouse performance that involves coping with a delibilitating disease.”
(3) “Gyllenhaal and Hathaway’s love affair is the main thing. Hathaway’s Maggie is coping with stage one of Parkinson’s. [And she’s] a very intense and interesting character, well versed in her sickness.
(4) “Hathaway is so great she’s almost in a different movie. Her character, Maggie, is a hard case, in a sense. She doesn’t want a real love affair with anyone because she knows it’s not going to last because she’s fucked. The symptoms of stage one Parkinson’s are intermittent jitters and losing physical ability, hands shaking…she’s in that stage, and taking drugs to control that. But you’re feeling all through it that this is a must-happen relationship.
(5) “The core of the romance is Jake’s overcoming his shallow relationship history, and Anne overcoming her emotionally aloof thing. And she’s really wonderful, absolutely wonderful.”