The making of Star Wars

The documentary below was made in 1977 at the same time as the blockbuster hit was being filmed and takes us behind the scenes, with C-3PO and R2-D2 as our tour guides. It shows how the various special effects were produced at a time when CGI was not available. Interestingly, they do not reveal the actors behind Chewbacca, C-3PO and R2-D2. The last was played by Kenny Baker who died last week at the age of 81.
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Film review: Zootopia (2016)

This is an excellent animated film from the Walt Disney studios that tells the story of the town of Zootopia where all animals, even those who used to be predators and prey in the distant past, have learned to live together in harmony. The story focuses on a rabbit Judy Hopps who realizes her dream of becoming the first rabbit to become a member of the police force that has been dominated by large mammals. She graduates top of her police academy class but faces all manner of discouragement, from her parents who fear the dangers of the job to her precinct boss who thinks that rabbits have no business being police officers and assigns her to parking meter duties in an effort to get her to become frustrated and quit.
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The fuss over the Ghostbusters reboot

I saw the 1984 film Ghostbusters a few years ago because I kept hearing references to it that made it seem like it was a great comedy. I was frankly underwhelmed. It seemed just so-so to me and I do not remember anything from it. In general, I avoid seeing remakes of films in which I thought the originals were good, but will see a remake of a bad film if I hear that it was done much better.
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Book and film review of Peyton Place (1957)

A few weeks ago I watched the 1957 film Peyton Place because I had read the book by Grace Metalious a long time ago and thought it pretty good, though not great. The film was pretty bad, though. I was surprised to learn that it had been nominated for nine Oscars but not surprised that it failed to win any. What prompts me to review it is that the way that the book was transformed into film reveals something interesting about the standards that were imposed unevenly on the two forms of art.
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Film review: Boom Bust Boom (2015)

The housing related financial crisis caused devastation on a major scale and sent many people into homelessness and ruin. As a result, it has spawned a number of excellent films, both documentary (Requiem for the American Dream (2015), Inside Job (2010)) and feature (The Big Short (2015), Margin Call (2011)) that have sought to understand the causes and pin the blame.
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When revealing a film’s ending is a public service

Michael Heaton is a columnist and occasional film critic for the Plain Dealer, my local newspaper. In yesterday’s paper he does what film critics are never supposed to do and that is reveal the ending of the film he had just seen. The film is called Wiener-Dog by writer-director Todd Solondz and the review, that begins with the ending, is as brutal as anything that I have read. Here is a small sample.
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Foley artists and sound effects in films

I am fascinated by the way that films are made. There is so much going on behind the scenes to produce what seems so smooth and natural. I have posted many times about CGI and other visual effects but via David Pescovitz, I came across this short documentary about the production of sound effects in films. I had no idea that so much of the sound is added on later, and is not captured in real time by microphones that are hidden from the camera. In addition to getting the sound right, the timing is crucial.
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Film review: Requiem for the American Dream (2015)

Thanks to reader Norm, I was made aware of this short (73-minute) documentary that consists essentially of Noam Chomsky giving a tutorial explaining the roots of the rapidly growing inequality in the US and the world, with a backdrop of newsreel footage and animation illustrating his points as he goes along. The way I describe it sounds boring but in reality it is intensely absorbing since Chomsky is as lucid as ever.
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