George Lucas had a dream of becoming a professional race car driver, but thankfully for the millions of Star Wars fans, he didn't perish in a horrific car accident after his high school graduation. Looking for a new passion, Lucas attended the film school at USC, won a scholarship to observe the making Francis Ford Coppola's Finian's Rainbow, and the pair eventually formed their own studio, American Zoetrope. Their first film was a feature-length version of Lucas's student film THX 1138, but Lucas eventually formed his own studio, Lucasfilm Ltd., and made American Graffiti, which went on to win one Golden Globe and garner five Oscar nominations.
Shortly thereafter, he began working on his next project that turned the small independent filmmaker from Northern California into a Hollywood legend. By luck (or fate) Lucas traded his guaranteed director's salary for a 40% share of the box office and all the merchandising rights (t-shirts, toys, etc.) in order to get Star Wars produced. The rest, as they say, is history.
Philip K. Dick struggled to make a living as a science fiction writer through the majority of his life. It wasn’t until shortly before his death that Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep? was adapted to the screen and became the classic Blade Runner. After his death in 1982, nine additional Dick stories have turned into feature films, including box-office successes Total Recall and Minority Report. His latest adaptation is from his short story The Adjustment Team, in which humanoid creatures can influence people’s lives without them knowing in order to ensure that they comply with a mysterious Plan orchestrated by the Chairman.
Matt Damon stars as David Norris, a popular New York congressman who’s a shoo-in to win a U.S. Senate seat in 2006 until a political scandal derails his campaign. Before he gives his concession speech, he ventures into a hotel bathroom and is interrupted when Elise (Emily Blunt) emerges from a stall and encourages him to be more honest.
Her advice inspires David to drop the political speech and instead ad-lib from the heart. Thanks to this honesty, he becomes the front runner for the 2010 election. According to the Plan, David and Elise
are never to meet again, but when a worker at the Adjustment Bureau screws up, the two run into each other on a city bus, and the Bureau will do whatever it takes to ensure that the Plan gets back on track.
Yoda takes a group of Jedi younglings on a field trip to the Galactic Senate chambers when he suddenly feels a disturbance in the force and must leave the children. C-3PO and R2-D2 take over and find themselves in over their heads with the rambunctious force-sensitive group. As the Sith prepare to wreak havoc, it's up to Yoda and a young stowaway to save the day before the children are torn to bricks.
LEGO and Lucasfilm have collaborated on multiple projects including other mini-films, over 200 LEGO models, 275 minifigures, and Saga-inspired video games (which are extremely well done). Featuring situations, characters, and locations from throughout the entire Star Wars Saga, writer Michael Price captures the spirit of the franchise with a story is filled humor, adventure, and a surprise guest or two.
Banished from Asgard by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins), Thor (Chris Hemsworth) lands on Earth without his all-powerful hammer and must learn humility, compassion, and patience before he's allowed to return home. In his absence, his evil younger brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) ascends to the throne when their father falls into a coma, and he hatches a plan to permanently stay on top. On Earth, Thor must enlist the help of a beautiful scientist (Natalie Portman) and her team to survive as a mere mortal until he finds a way to return home and stop the nefarious plot.
Of the Marvel adaptations I've seen thus far, Iron Man is the best due to Robert Downey Jr.'s portrayal of the superhero. Hemsworth definitely looks the part with his chiseled physique and rugged good looks, but his acting abilities don't come close to Downey's. Despite his shortcomings, the story has enough action and comedy to keep things interesting, and while it's only average, I did find it enjoyable.
Price: $2,500 At A Glance: Incredible build quality • Anchor Bay video processing • Slow disc access and load times • No streaming services or 3D support
Denon started out way back in 1910 as part of what was then Nippon Chikuonki Shokai (Japan Recorders Corporation), a maker of records and gramophones. Over the last 100 years, the company has seen a lot of changes, but in modern times, it’s recognized for making high-quality A/V receivers, Blu-ray players, tuners, and turntables.
A rogue CIA agent (Eric Bana) lives in a desolate area of Finland training his 16-year-old daughter (Saoirse Ronan) to become the perfect assassin. Every moment of the girl's upbringing has been spent building up her strength, stamina, and survival instincts she needs to prepare for the day when she becomes the target of a revenge seeking intelligence operative (Cate Blanchett).
I love a good action move as much as the next guy and am willing to suspend a certain amount of belief, but director Joe Wright takes things a little too far. For starters, Ronan maybe weighs 105 pounds soaking wet yet has the strength to take down a plethora of Special Forces personnel and latch onto the bottom of a vehicle moving at over 30 mph. Furthermore, despite all of her training, she's like a fish out of water when she encounters electricity in the modern world.
Tony Montana (Al Pacino), a young Cuban immigrant, lands in Miami in search of the American dream. There he meets Frank Lopez (Robert Loggia), who mentors the young man on how to succeed in a life of crime, and Montana eventually becomes one of Miami's most feared drug kingpins. Staying at the top isn't easy, especially if you're mentally unstable, and when Montana neglects the two most important pieces of advice from Lopez, his empire begins to unravel and all that's left is his "little friend."
Written by Oliver Stone and directed by Brian De Palma, Scarface is a gritty tale filled with violence, foul language, and a fantastic performance by Pacino. That being said, this isn't one of my favorite gangster films. While I enjoy the mesmerizing cinematography, I find the screenplay to be a tad shallow, and at 170 minutes, it's much too long.
Bored with his perennial role as Halloween Town's frightening Pumpkin King, Jack Skellington discovers the cheerful village of Christmas Town. Determined to shake things up in Halloween Town, he schemes to kidnap Santa Clause and takes over the job of delivering gifts to the children himself. When his plan goes awry, Jack attempts to restore Santa to his rightful place, but he must first rescue him from the evil clutches of Oogie Boogie.
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas is an unusual film that improves with multiple viewings. Burton cleverly mixes Halloween and Christmas with fabulous set designs and stop-motion photography, creating a whimsical world in which to tell his story. The film was rereleased to theaters in 2008 with a 3D conversion utilizing the talents of Don Hahn and ILM (Industrial Light and Magic). As explained on Mouseclubhouse.com, they used the original film for the left eye and they projected it onto a featureless piece of geometry that looks like a coffee cup. Then the camera was moved to the right three inches and re-photographed. Any gaps are then filled in via Photoshop and the resulting image is outstanding. I loved the original 2D release of the film for its fine visuals and enveloping soundtrack, but this 3D version takes it to a whole new level.
Born in Chicago, Illinois, in 1949, John Belushi was the offspring of Albanian immigrants. Both he and his younger brother Jim would find success in Hollywood, but on March 5, 1982, John was found dead in his hotel room in West Hollywood from a drug overdose.
Although his career was short-lived, he had a great foundation to become a comedic force in Hollywood. At the age of 22, Belushi hooked up with the Second City comedy troupe in Chicago and eventually found his way to New York as a cast member in the off-Broadway production of National Lampoon’s Lemmings. The show was originally slated to run six weeks, but it entertained packed houses for almost ten months. From there, the comedian worked as a writer for two years for The National Lampoon Radio Hour. His big break came in 1975 when he joined the original cast of Saturday Night Live, where he showcased the humor he’d honed while he was with Second City.
Price: $350 At A Glance: Fast loading of Blu-ray Discs • 802.11n Wi-Fi • Vudu HDX streaming • Spiffy new Netflix interface
History has a way of repeating itself, and we’re beginning to see similarities between Blu-ray and DVD. While Blu-ray’s penetration rate will probably never equal DVD’s, the prices of hardware and software are now dropping to levels that don’t turn off the average consumer. But is this necessarily a good thing? With DVD, you bought the player, and it pretty much worked until it dropped. With a Blu-ray player, you need to update the firmware the moment you unbox it, and this event repeats itself quarterly to accommodate quirky BD+ copy protection on new disc releases. Then there are the firmware updates gone awry—the occasional “fix” that introduces more problems than it solves. When that happens, a company’s ability to respond to trouble becomes critical. But if the manufacturers don’t make enough money selling players, they can’t easily justify the timely updates and prompt service their customers deserve. While I love a great bargain as much as the next guy, it’s also important to consider the manufacturer’s record of after-purchase support.