Star Wars on Blu-ray: how many times do I have to buy the same movie?

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 6 September 2011.

If you’re a Star Wars fan, this month has been a long time coming. Wednesday 14 September will see both the original and prequel trilogies released on blu-ray. Finally we’ll be able to see that extra tall (or clumsy) Stormtrooper bang his head on the rising door in A New Hope in stunning high definition.

For around $120, you’ll get nine discs and over thirty hours of bonus features. Thirty hours! That is a lot of commitment, even for a Jedi. Don’t expect to see any nerds around town until the Saturday after its release at the earliest.

I’ve been doing my sums to work out how much money I have spent on purchasing and repurchasing Star Wars movies in my lifetime so far. There was the original VHS copy that I bought way back when owning a VHS (or Beta) player was a luxury and you needed to insert the tapes in the top. Renting a video then set you back $10 a shot, so buying Episode IV outright was easily $100.

Then there was the original trilogy that I purchased with my saved up pocket money from the now defunct HMV store in Parramatta Mall in the late eighties. Box sets didn’t exist then so that’s three movies at $30 each.

In the early nineties, I was working for my local Video Ezy store when Lucasfilm announced that they would be releasing the original films for the very last time so I purchased them again on VHS, this time in widescreen. Of course, television screens were still square shaped then so I got to watch my favourite movies in a small rectangle with dirty black bars above and below. That’s another three movies at $30 each.

What the clever folks at Lucasfilm didn’t mention during that promotion was the reason the original films were available for the “last time” was due to the imminent release of the Special Edition which included revised special effects and a little too much tampering on George Lucas’ behalf, such as changing the cantina scene to have Greedo shoot first in order to make Han Solo seem less ruthless. After duly seeing them on the big screen in 1997, I also bought the Special Edition VHS box set at say, $100. Are you noticing a pattern here?

In 2004, Star Wars Episodes IV – VI finally came out on DVD, this time in a box set complete with an awesome feature length documentary. The Force was strong in that one so I bought it too. Add another $100 at least to the tab.

The original, unaltered films were released again, this time on DVD, in 2006. I felt a little sore about this. Didn’t Lucasfilm say that the original trilogy would no longer be available? I guess they meant no longer available on video. Not a bad Jedi mind trick, but no bingo.

The prequel movies were released on the big screen from 1999 – 2005 and subsequently made their way to DVD. I only bought Episode III, largely due to the fact that the first two are mind numbingly awful. One DVD, $30 spent, fast forward through the Jar Jar scene.

Let’s face it. History shows that I’m going to buy the new Star Wars blu-ray box set. I love high definition films. Blu-ray movies look sharper and clearer to me than looking out the window. How is that possible?

So later this month, my total Star Wars expenditure will be $630. That’s not including buying cinema tickets, action figures, video games, books, magazines, the Princess Leia shampoo that you need to take her head off to get the shampoo out or tickets to see Carrie Fisher live. That’s $630 buying the same product over and over again. Despite his inability to direct actors or write decent dialogue, George Lucas is a marketing genius. Make that a ridiculously rich billionaire marketing genius.

I suppose I can’t complain. Star Wars has been an important part of my life in the past, and if I try to watch all of the new extra features it will probably be my actual life for a couple of days in the near future.

So thank you George Lucas. I hope you remember that 17% of one of the bricks in your solid gold mansion was paid for by me. But remember, fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. Fool me thrice twice plus one, this better be the last time. And I don’t mean a John Farnham “The Last Time” last time.

May the force be with you and your wallet.

Published in: on September 9, 2011 at 08:30  Leave a Comment  
Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

Classic Films in High Def

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 28th June 2011.

The future of home entertainment is looking blu. With the steady uptake of HD screens, blu-ray is fast becoming the new standard. And just as DVDs took a few years to become popular way back in the late nineties, blu-ray disc sales have now reached a point where prices have started to come down. Titles that were initially priced at $35 – $50 a year or two ago are now on sale at the $15 mark. That’s great value for those wanting to replace their DVD collection, but not so good for early adopters.

Of course, just because a film is available in high definition does not mean that it is any good. Those extra pixels will not make Lindsay Lohan’s “acting” in I Know Who Killed Me any more convincing. And from a technical perspective, not all films will receive the same quality of remastering for a high definition release. With smaller distributors also starting to release budget titles in blu-ray, you probably get what you pay for.

Keeping in mind that this week’s latest release at full price will be in next month’s bargain bin, I suggest that your hard earned dollars go towards some of the landmark blu-ray box sets that are on the horizon. With hours of extras, nice packaging and, obviously, a classic film or seven remastered in beautiful high definition, they represent good value and will be a welcome addition to any discerning film buff’s collection.

Tomorrow will see the release of The Lord of the Rings extended edition box set. Featuring 6 blu-ray discs and 9 DVDs, you get the extended versions of all three films plus a whopping 26 hours of extras. Although it could be argued that you’d probably be able to walk to Mount Doom and back yourself in the 683 minute running time of the extended trilogy, this may well be the most comprehensive box set ever released. In fact, if a short hike to the Cracks of Doom floats your boat, the box set even comes complete with a replica ring. Priced at around $120 (that’s $8 a disc), this is great value and I recommend that you get your hairy feet down to the shops this week and buy yourself this “precious” box set.

All geeks should have September 14 marked in their smart phone calendars. This is the day where we all get to reach into our pockets and buy Star Wars for the umpteenth time. That’s right, George Lucas has finally relented to fan requests and made Episodes I – VI available on blu-ray for the first time. I’m sure it won’t do his bank balance any harm either. For about $140, you’ll get all six films and over 30 hours of documentaries and extras on 9 discs. If, like me, you’re Jar Jar intolerant and prefer to pretend the prequel trilogy doesn’t exist, both trilogies will be available separately too.

For the more astute film buff, I’d certainly recommend the Stanley Kubrick: Visionary Filmmaker Collection which features seven iconic films plus extensive documentaries over 8 discs. This set, currently discounted to around $70 at one of the larger DVD retailers, includes Lolita and Barry Lyndon for the first time ever in high definition. Worth the price of the set alone is the bonus feature length documentary, Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures.

The Al Pacino classic Scarface will also get a high definition makeover in September. For around $60, you’ll get a Tony Montana signature money clip, a dollar bill featuring Tony’s face, a replica of his green card and three art cards, all housed in a wooden cigar box. Did I mention you also get the movie on blu-ray? A modern classic, I’ll be saying hello to my new little friend in September.

Lastly, if you love the small of napalm in the morning, you’ll also love the new remastered triple disc Apocalypse Now box set. Complete with transfers supervised by Francis Ford Coppola himself, this new edition will be laden with extras including the brilliant documentary about the making of this classic, Hearts of Darkness, also in high definition for the first time.

So why waste your money on Yogi Bear and The Last Airbender on blu-ray when you can sink your teeth into some classics finally available in high definition? And although I’d always argue that content is more important than packaging, the fancy boxes and goodies inside are pretty cool too.