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I'm sure it is painfully obvious how much of a movie nerd I am. The biggest influence on that was my dad who was also a big fan of watching movies when I was growing up in the pre-home-video era. Whatever wasn't being shown on the three commercial TV networks, you had to see in the theater (or drive-in). However our family was fairly poor, so seeing a movie in a theater was a special occasion, probably why I value the experience so much to this day. In 1981, my family saw Raiders of the Lost Ark in our small-town theater (the same theater I had seen Star Wars in). Three years later, my dad picked-up my brother and I on the last day of school in early June of 1984, and we created our own double-header: Romancing the Stone in the downtown theater, then we drove south of town to the drive-in to watch Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, with the "charm" of listening to the film's audio through a crappy mono speaker on the car window (this was even before they broadcast it on your car radio). Those were my only viewings of those two Indy films (until much later on home video). Over the summer of 1989, I was in high school with a part-time job, and I saw Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade several times with friends... And then a couple years ago on my birthday, my best friend and wife suprised me by renting a theater auditorium for many friends and family to watch Raiders again, which was the best birthday present ever, but slightly less than perfect because my friend only had the full screen DVD to provide for the projection (However I was so thankful for the awesome surprise theatrical birthday party that I was polite enough to not ever mention that slightly dissappointing fact). To promote the classic Indiana Jones films being released in high-definition for the first time (Tuesday 9/18), Raiders had a limited one-week only IMAX re-release, only in AMC theaters (9/7-13). IMAX was hardly even a consideration, but I took advantage of the opportunity to see it again, mainly since my second theatrical viewing of Raiders in the theater was in full screen, and the source (commercial DVD) was not specifically designed for digital theatrical presentation. As far as I could tell in the theater, the remaster was impressive, just like you've come to expect from the technogically innovative Lucasfilm. CG melting Nazis? Nah, I just made that up to get the Lucas-bashers all riled up. You'll all be relieved to know there are absolutely no additions of CG characters or objects anywhere in the film. No outright changes have been made to the movie. Besides the general definition upgrade, I only even noticed a few improvements to special effects. In the first and last close-up with the cobra in the Well of the Souls, the cobra's reflection in the glass has finally been removed. Yey! But inexplicably, the middle cobra shot still has the reflection! It's Luke's inconsistently-corrected lightsaber-color on the Falcon all over again! At the climactic scene of the film, the seraphim as they first fly out of the Ark, and the divine energy bolts shooting through all of the Nazis were noticeably crisper. But the seraph transformation into her demonic appearence is still extremely blurry as always (in fact it seemed even more blurry in relation to the rest of the crisper-looking film). And the melting villains are still the same ol' melting-wax effects they've always been. Also to promote the blu-ray release, a single Indiana Jones theatrical marathon was held at select AMC theaters yesterday only (9/15) for one ticket price, where all four movies were shown in order of original release with a 15-minute intermission in between each film. Now for me, more than two movies is just too much for one day (especially back-to-back), even a special day like this with some of my favorite movies back in the theater. I had now seen Raiders twice and Kingdom of the Crystal Skull a few times in the theater in recent years, so I didn't bother with them. The main film I wanted to see was Temple of Doom since I had never seen that in a theater, but I thought it would be cool to watch Last Crusade in the theater for the first time since 1989. (So yes, I paid a bulk price for four movies in one day but only watched two of them.) Just like Raiders, the second and third IJ films look better but there are no CG additions or changes made to the films. And I wasn't the only one wearing a fedora at the marathon. It was a totally awesome experience to be in a theater full of die hard Indiana Jones fans all laughing, clapping and cheering to the Temple of Doom. I just don't understand the criticisms I've heard of that film. You are a big fan of all three classic IJ films and just love Raiders and/or Crusade more than Temple? OK. You like Nazis more than evil cult members as villains? OK, sure. You just have a personal preference of the other two movies over Temple? I can wrap my head around all that. But Raiders and Crusade are both awesome while Temple sucks? I just don't get that. Temple of Doom is action-packed and chock full of high-quality pulp goodness. The mine cart chase sequence is pure and utter cinematic genius, a literal roller coaster ride on film. Like the other classic IJ movies, Temple is a masterpiece adventure film. The community experience of watching this in the theater for the first time (with others who appreciate the film as much as I do) literally brought lumps to my throat and tears to my eyes. And the Temple of Doom is actually the most unique of the four IJ films. It was written to incorporate sequences unused in Raiders, and intentionally further designed to be a different film than Raiders. As great as the Last Crusade is as a film in its own right, Lucas and Spielberg freely admit that it is a thinly-disguised remake of Raiders. And I'm not going to bother speaking any specific praises for Crystal Skull here (I just say I like the movie though not as much as the classic IJ films). But just like the previous sequel, Crystal Skull is yet another re-working of Raiders. Raiders technically still wins the award for the most original of the four films just because it came first, but Temple is explicitely not a remake of Raiders and definitely the most unique. Perhaps that's a possible explaination for some of the intense dislike I hear about for Temple. Perhaps some people just unconsciously compare Temple to Raiders, and their love of Raiders and Crusade drives their dislike of Temple just because it is different. Perhaps my being fully conscious of the Raiders sequels really being remakes drives my view of the franchise to have a very loose continuity, better allowing me to fully enjoy each IJ movie completely independantly of each other. Anyway, 1 theater ticket for Raiders in IMAX (including a small version of the new movie poster) - $12. 1 theater ticket for the IJ marathon (including a large poster of the blu-ray set cover art plus $5 towards concessions) - $25. Watching the Temple of Doom in the theater with other huge fans of the film - Priceless So now I've seen all four Indiana Jones films in the theater in the past few years, and I'm defintely buying the blu-ray set on Tuesday. Crystal Skull was previously available on blu-ray, but I'm happy that I never bought it because I just knew that when they finally released the classic ones on blu-ray it would be a set with all four films (Lucasfilm is somewhat predictible). I like Crystal Skull but didn't want to buy it twice. For those into special features, I've read that the blu-ray set will have (collected on a fifth disc) every feature from the standard 2003 classic DVD set and the 2008 classic film DVDs, along with two new Raiders features and some of the previous Crystal Skull features. Best Buy and Amazon.com both have the Indiana Jones blu-ray set's initial price at $64.99 (suggested retail price $99.98).
Classic Trilogy ~ Version Release History (last 4 versions) 1. Special Editions (VHS & laserdisc 1997) 2. DVD Versions (2004, often erroneously referred to as “Special Editions”) 3. Original Theatrical Versions (adapted to DVD 2006) 4. Blu-Ray Versions (2011) REVIEW INTRODUCTION I’m a first-generation Star Wars fan since 1977, having seen the original versions of the original three films in the theater one time each as a child, then falling in love with them all over again on VHS in 1987. And I’ve been a huge fan ever since. The Star Wars Saga is the ultimate epic space opera and film series. This isn’t actually a review of the movies most of you reading this will have seen one or more versions of dozens of times (well, at least the classic trilogy), although this review will discuss some of the changes made (and not made) to all the films. This is meant to be an overview of the 9-disc 2011 blu-ray product entitled “Star Wars: The Complete Saga” with personal observations and select commentary thrown in. PHYSICAL QUALITIES Disc & Packaging Structure The discs themselves are heavy-duty, yet smooth and well-coated with scratch resistance - the best available in retail products I’ve seen. The packaging is also of superior physical construction, taking the form of a hardback book with 9 sturdy pages (think baby/toddler cardboard book stiffness), and the book has an outer box it slides in and out of. The disc-book is about a centimeter shorter than a standard DVD case and slightly wider. Each right-side page is half-circle open in the middle, forming a sleeve with a super-smoothly-coated insides for the optimum protection for both storing and removing/returning the discs. The inside back cover has a more traditional sleeve for the set’s single information booklet called “Guide to the Galaxy” which mostly details the special features on the bonus discs. For those of you with “green” consciousness, there is not a single sliver of hard plastic anywhere in the box/book - the only plastic in the entire product is in the discs themselves and I suspect the very thin, soft coating of the inner disc sleeves. I couldn’t really have even imagined higher-quality discs and a better-constructed storage for my Star Wars blu-ray set. I’m very pleased with this aspect of it. Disc & Packaging Appearance Of lesser concern for me is the appearance of the product’s physical components, but for sake of completeness, I’ll mention it. The discs themselves do not have any images - they are light grey with blue trimmings. The movie discs (1-6) have the previously used logos of STAR WARS with the episode subtitle underneath, both on top of the episode number in the form of a large Roman numeral. The outer box and disc-book do not have a single photo - it is entirely original artwork. The info booklet has the single photo of the entire product (the Falcon flying through Death Star II), and more artwork. In my opinion, the artwork almost totally sucks. It’s awful! The spine, front and back covers of the disc-book exactly match the box, which is also used for the cover of the info-booklet. The disc-book has 10 two-page images (minus half-a-disc-sized portion for the disc on the right-page of the 9 pages). The only tolerable movie disc image is for Episode II, but that is because the characters are more distant and the image has the most photo-realism to it. The only art I really like in the entire product is a small picture of Luke on a Taun Taun in the info booklet, and the disc book picture for Bonus Disc 1 (certainly by a different, better artist), although it depicts something that does not occur in the films or even deleted scenes: Boba Fett is riding a lizard mount like Obi-Wan rode on Utapau in Episode III. I think that picture may be a nod to the animated sequence of the old Star Wars Holiday Special in which Boba Fett rides a creature of some kind, IIRC. I am somewhat disappointed that they didn’t just use photographic imagery throughout this entire product like some of the other releases because that would have been more attractive. Or they could have at least just gotten a better artist for the art throughout the entire product! But like I said, more important than the product’s appearance to me is the structural qualities of the discs and packaging, and of course the digital disc content. THE BONUS DISCS The films are much more important than anything else, but for completeness I’ll touch on the special features discs. Bonus Discs 1 & 2 Bonus Disc 1 is devoted to the prequels while Disc 2 is for the classic trilogy. Bonus Discs 1 & 2 have archive cast & crew interviews, 360Â° turnaround galleries for props and costumes, art galleries, and a total of 45 deleted/extended scenes exclusive to this release. I’ve watched all the deleted/extended scenes for all 6 films, and the most interesting ones to me were for Return of the Jedi, especially the Battle of Endor stuff. But there was nothing that I thought really shouldn’t have been cut from the films. I’ve read some complaints about the menu organization of these first two bonus discs. First you choose the movie you want to access the features for, and then within each episode choice the features are divided up by planets/settings (Naboo, Tatooine and Coruscant for Episode I; Tatooine, Aboard the Death Star, and The Battle of Yavin for Episode IV; etc.). So when I went through to watch all deleted/extended scenes, I had to keep going up and down an extra menu level to get to the scenes for the next setting, and then up and down two level menu levels to move on to the next film. It is a little wacky but really just a minor inconvenience if you want to only view one specific type of feature for 1 or all 3 films on each disc. If you want to watch everything in one setting of one film at a time, then the menu tree is set up specifically for maximum convenience in that case. And I just remembered that I read somewhere that Bonus Disc 2 has the animated sequence of the Star Wars Holiday Special. It is not listed as a special feature on the info booklet, but if you navigate through a certain menu you’ll supposedly find it. Bonus Disc 3 Bonus Disc 3 has documentaries not available on the Star Wars DVDs. As a whole they cover the entire saga, but the main focus is on the classic trilogy. They are not nearly as important to me as they are to a lot of fans I know, but I can speak on a few of them. I’m sure I was totally enthralled by The Making of Star Wars (1977) on TV when I was a kid, and someday when I’m feeling nostalgic for my childhood I’ll probably watch that again. I used to have Classic Creatures (1983 - hosted by Carrie Fisher and Billy Dee Williams) on VHS, and it is interesting if you want a behind-the-scenes look at the aliens from Return of the Jedi, including the operation of the 6-man Jabba muppet. I had taped the excellent Star Wars Tech (2007) onto a blank VHS, so it’s cool that I now have it in a digital format, but it’s disappointing that this disc didn’t include History Channel’s also excellent Star Wars: The Legacy Revealed (so I‘ll have to keep that tape). The only documentary that I’ve watched on this blu-ray so far is the new Star Wars Spoofs (2011), a 97-minute compilation of Star Wars spoofs and parodies from 1977 to the present. There are entire short skits (like the classic 1977 SNL Star Wars Lounge Singer Bill Murray, and the hilarious Natalie Portman SNL monologue). There are a multitude of clips from various TV episodes and movies (The Simpsons, Family Guy, That 70’s Show, Robot Chicken, Fanboys, etc.). They even had Weird All Yankovic’s “The Saga Begins” music video. There is some great stuff and not-so-great stuff. There is so much there but a few things missing that should be there. The down side of this feature is, there isn’t a chapter division for each individual clip so if you want to skip the one your on or repeat one, you’ll jump father away or have to scan ahead or back - a minor inconvenience. It’s a long feature that I watched at night and I started getting sleepy by the end, so you may not want to watch it all in one setting like I did. (Being a blu-ray, you can bookmark it anywhere though).