Archive for the ‘Star Wars’ Category

DVD review: ‘Spaceballs: The Animated Series’

January 5, 2010

Having just witnessed the President of the United States and other dignitaries honor Mel Brooks at the Kennedy Center (a December event recently delayed-telecast in part on CBS), it’s only fitting that we now return to regularly scheduled programming. In Brooks’ case, that means returning to the impishly tasteless humor which has marked his movies for so many years — only this time, it’s for a short-lived TV show, the G4 Network’s Spaceballs: The Animated Series.

Four of that series’ 13 episodes are new on DVD, reminding us why we love Brooks so much: He’s shameless. The man himself returns to voice President Skroob and Yogurt, with two other original voice actors from the 1987 film also back: Daphne Zuniga as Princess Vespa and Joan Rivers as the C-3PO-ish Dot Matrix.

Brooks’ Star Wars spoof in the late ’80s was ‘way past that saga’s prime for satiric stabs, seeming dated just six years after Return of the Jedi wound down the original trilogy. Here, it’s no longer a dated nature that deters, but the extremely limited animation. Star Wars was in great part about razzle dazzle. This has no razzle or dazzle, just meager animation with often simple, plain backgrounds.

But the story and the events are right up Brooks’ tacky alley, with loads of sexual humor and other adult elements which make this decidedly not for the kiddos. Teen boys, maybe, but that’s it.

Think of it as Heavy Metal meets Star Wars with the pedal to the medal for uncouth mirth. Bottom line: It’s funny, and with Brooks, that’s all we ask.

Review: With ‘Star Wars: The Clone Wars’ it’s time to surrender

November 14, 2008

Star Wars was born as a special baby. The first film, 1977’s Star Wars: Episode IV — A New Hope, was a thrilling rediscovery of old-fashioned heroics in a sci-fi setting with then state-of-the-art special effects. It had lively, likable characters, a coherent, engrossing plot and an exciting, rousing finale. It was the first and is still the best Star Wars movie ever made.

But as with many great TV series whose very success ensures endless repetition and eventual stale decline, Star Wars has become less with more. That was never more true than with the plot-challenged prequels and their slavish devotion to computer generated animation. And now it’s true yet again with another chapter to the saga, Star Wars: The Clone Wars.

Set between the second and third prequels, The Clone Wars is another case of childish infatuation for splashy visual dazzle melded to the thinnest of storylines and the lamest of characterizations. The character animation is surprisingly primitive for a George Lucas production, and the 98-minute running time feels bloated.

What’s to like? Well, that same visual dazzle can be a mind-bending and eye-candy-gorging treat. I’m never clear who’s zapping whom and why, but the manic intensity of it all works well from a pure action standpoint. And the new music by Kevin Kiner is refreshingly different for Star Wars, with an often eerie vibe to accentuate the tale’s otherworldliness.

Beyond that, you can appreciate this film’s fleeting nostalgic evocations of previous and better Star Wars movies, from seeing a stout little R2 to beholding vivid lightsaber battles. But that very nostalgia may make you yearn more mightily for the good old days, when a promising start evolved into a strong trilogy, after which a magnificent franchise began to settle for a wildly lucrative but creatively soulless morass of spinoffs, merchandising and prequelitis.

I wish I could say otherwise, because I love this saga’s original incarnation and all that it stood for. But Lucas now seems as insulated by yes-men and immune from questioning minds as a certain soon-to-be-former president. He was once a revolutionary and a fanboy’s dream. Now he’s just a marketing machine. And to whatever degree the original and true spirit of Star Wars still lives, it lives only in its first and finest films, A New Hope and The Empire Strikes Back. At least we have those, and for that we should be grateful.