Friday, May 25, 2018

10 Reasons 'Return of the Jedi' Doesn't Suck

Sorry, Richard Marquand. Sorry, Bib Fortuna. But when it comes to assessing the original Star Wars trilogy, your episode tends to come out on bottom. There are multiple reasons why Return of the Jedi is a lesser movie than Star Wars and The Empire Strikes Back. It lacks the freshness of the first movie, even resorting to duplicating a lot of Star Wars’ beats (most blatantly in flying the heroes back to Tattooine and rebuilding the Death Star). It lacks the relative depth of Empire largely because George Lucas was adamant about not overtaxing his fans brains, which he apparently assumed were fairly puny. Lucas was mainly concerned with drawing in a new audience of toddlers, whom he assumed would bully their parents into buying everything on the Ewok shelf at the local Toys R Us.

Despite the issues with Return of the Jedi, it would take sixteen years for there to be a Star Wars movie that genuinely sucked. Here are ten reasons why it may not be fair to say that about Return of the Jedi.

1. The Ultimate Monster Menagerie

Although Star Wars is likely the most popular movie ever made, it has a sloppy legacy because George Lucas is notoriously dissatisfied with it (hence those terrible Special Editions). One of the biggest bugs up his butt is the fact that the assortment of Bug Eyed Monsters populating the Mos Eisley Cantina weren’t up to his standards. This zany sequence still managed to become one of the film’s most beloved, but one has to admit that there is a slapdash quality to some of the rubber-masked aliens. And if this is not apparent upon viewing Star Wars for the first time, it will become apparent after seeing Return of the Jedi because that sequel’s menagerie of monsters is so markedly superior. In crafting the Jabba’s palace sequence, a creature design team that included Joe Johnston, Phil Tippett, and Chris Walas redecorated our fantasies and nightmares with aliens bizarre (Squid Head, Ree-Yees), comical (Salacious Crumb, Sy Snootles), genuinely frightening (Bib Fortuna), or a combination of all those qualities (the Gamorrean Guards). And one creation was so stunning that he warrants an entry on this list all to himself…

2. Jabba the Hutt

Monday, May 14, 2018

Review: 'The Beach Boys with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra'

What does a record company issue when a valuable property’s back catalogue has already been remastered, remixed, repackaged, rereleased, and rejiggered more times than anyone could count? Something like The Beach Boys with The Royal Philharmonic Orchestra, I guess.

Superimposing Muzak strings onto a simple rocker like “Fun, Fun, Fun” or “Kokomo”, a song that no one but Mike Love remembers fondly, is a terrible idea. Productions such as those on Pet Sounds are already sufficiently orchestral. Yet there are possibilities. Some of The Beach Boys’ more unfinished-sounding tracks—say “Cool, Cool Water”, much of Smiley Smile, or oddities such as “Can’t Wait Too Long” –might have been interesting if finished off with arrangements more in the experimental spirit of such pieces. The fairly complementary and relatively dissonant orchestrations on “Heroes and Villains” (the only track exclusively recorded for Smiley Smile in the bunch) support this. The one other track that survives the orchestral treatment is “Darlin’”, which receives an understated bed of sweeping strings in the Philly Soul vein. However, by mostly playing it safe and only tampering with The Beach Boys’ most familiar tunes instead of seeking out oddities that might actually benefit from this concept, conductors/composers Steve Sidwell and Sally Herbert smear a layer of pap over some of the most perfect productions in pop.
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