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Video > Couch Trip

Couch Trip

George Lucas fans are nuts! Plus, a centerfold chick grindhouse and a musical worth renting

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Published 5/13/2009

A Galaxy Far Far Away: 10th Anniversary Collector's Edition

If there's anything that we should've learned from Star Wars Episode I: The Phantom Menace, it's that some things are best left un-revisited. Ironic, then, that this film — which chronicles the unusual species of fans who lined up to see George Lucas reintroduce his mythology — is being dredged up in an anniversary edition. (By the way, the 10th anniversary, which this edition commemorates, is not that of Galaxy — which came out in 2001 — but of the release of The Phantom Menace.) Why on earth anyone would want to remind the world that, once upon a time, we were actually excited by the thought of a Star Wars prequel is certainly a good question, but despite that bit of embarrassing nostalgia, this new edition also serves as a reminder of how mediocre A Galaxy Far Far Away was the first time around. It's more than easy to poke fun at the sort of people who'll line up for a month and a half simply for the real-world equivalent of an Internet comment "FIRST!" and Galaxy takes more than its fair share of obvious swipes that the kooky Star Wars fans did just that. There's plenty of hyperbole flung by said fans, which, even if Phantom Menace would've been good, would've been hilarious. But the gut-punch in Galaxy is still — especially with a decade of hindsight — just how dejected and disappointed they all are when exiting from actually having seen the film they'd waited so long to view. Unfortunately, director Tariq Jalil doesn't do nearly enough with the emotional heft of those moments, instead preferring to focus on the quirks and oddities of the line-standers. Despite additional commentary (which can be accessed in a Mystery Science Theater-style silhouette on this edition) and a few minutes of deleted scenes, there's nothing on this new DVD version to warrant a reconsideration of the original film's mediocrity. —Jason Ferguson

The Centerfold Girls
Dark Sky Films

Reproduced here in all its gruesome grindhouse grime, 1974's The Centerfold Girls is a triptych of stories involving pinup models and the psychopath who hunts them. The three tales of terror involve a nurse, a stewardess and a model, all of whom appear in the smut calendar of Clement Dunne (Andrew Prine). Like some mild-mannered Nosferatu with a barber's razor, Prine makes for a mildly chilling killer, dressing in all black (the actor's own artistic contribution, or so he says in the making-of featurette) and shot with high angles to accentuate his towering height. What's most interesting is Prine's physical resemblance — along with his character's similar motivations and dialogue — to Anthony Perkins' insane evangelist in Crimes of Passion some 10 years later. John Peyser, director of many a middling TV show, knows the genre's sleazy territory well: All the women are naive, gullible and frequently topless, and all the men (save the clueless cops) are skuzzy, lecherous rapists. There's a lot of splattering red paint but no scares, and the dated electronic score is more painful than the slayings. —John Thomason

Opera Jawa
First Run Features

You like musicals, don't you? A little Chicago, maybe, or perhaps a furtive peek at Mamma Mia with your grandma? Even some exotic Bollywood stuff every once in a while? Well, Opera Jawa is definitely musical, with its plot propelled along by singing and dancing and all sorts of choreographed beauty. But it's not "a musical," because, as we all know, the joy to be found on Broadway or in Bollywood is the relative simplicity of the whole affair — boy meets girl, problems arise, true love conquers in the end — is muted by the spectacle of showmanship, the humming of melodies and the tap-tap-tapping of feet. Opera Jawa is anything but simple. Based on the story contained within the 24,000 verses of the Ramayana, the plot of this Indonesian film (yes, Jawa is a reference to Java, not the tiny, robed residents of Tatooine) is complex and far-reaching. Though there's a love story at its core, the violence and desperation of so many of its characters makes Opera Jawa a dense tangle of subplots and interwoven lives that would be difficult to unravel even if the exposition were done in a forthright fashion. As it is, Opera Jawa forces the viewer to process its story through visually intoxicating set pieces, musical numbers and subtitled Indonesian dialogue. And while this makes the first time through this two-hour film something of a challenge, repeated viewings continue to reveal perspectives and insight, without any dilution of the impact of the sights and sounds that can be so dizzying at first. —Jason Ferguson

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