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"At last, your family can be protected from the heartbreak of gorilla invasion."

First, a couple of items for you Henson fans.

At long last, The Muppet Show - Season One is on the way: 8/9. No doubt it will be nice to have them all in season sets instead of the "best of" DVDs that have been available so far. The Muppets material has changed hands not too far back and now the show's video rights seem to lie with Disney, who's releasing this set. The only features known so far include, Henson's original pitch reel, the show's original pilot, as well as some other goodies - including a gag reel. No word on if the Brian Henson intros on the old discs will be present. Also coming soon is The Muppets' Wizard of Oz; it sounds like it wasn't so great, but it'll be on DVD on 8/9 as well.

Warner has Gilmore Girls: The Complete Fourth Season coming on 9/27.

Roger Ebert adds Howards End to his "Great Movies" collection.

And remember yesterday's post where I talked about movies being released on the UMD (Playstation 3) format? Well, you just know if was a matter of time, but there are now two porn publishers who are going to be start releasing their stuff next month on the format. Gee, maybe this format will really take off!

Finally, there's some word about more Star Wars DVDs on the way. If you're just dying to see Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith on DVD, you'll get the chance on 11/1. AND, they'll have a new 3-title box set of the prequel trilogy and a 6-title box set of the complete saga at the same time.

Speaking of the latest film, I never did mention what I thought of the latest installment...so here goes; consider yourself warned (there may be a spoiler or two as well).

I suppose I should begin by saying that my relatively low opinion of the last two films has colored my view of this one. I went in with pretty low expectations, certainly lower than I did for Episode I. I figured that if I counted on bad writing and direction, I could better enjoy the things this film does well: the effects and action sequences. So let's just get this out of the way; the dialogue is as bad as ever and the acting is usually wooden. I attribute this not to the actors themselves, but to Lucas' direction (or lack thereof) and the fact that the bulk of the scenes are done in front a blue screen. I'd guess it would take some skillful direction (some good writing would help too) to extract good performances from people standing around in front of screens with the sets "to be added later." Obviously by now Lucas knows what he likes from movies; there's no one around to tell him otherwise. If the love scenes are giggle-inducing, he's OK with it.

Believe it or not, this isn't what really bothers me the most about this movie. The thing that really doesn't work for me is the character development. Cheesy dialogue is somewhat easy to overlook in an action film, but character development, when it is pivotal to the story has to be there. Truth be told, I never cared why Anakin chose the Dark Side since he came off as an annoying jackass in the last film; Lucas never built up enough complexity in the character for me to give a damn why he "changed." And speaking of that, thinking back to Ep. 2, Anakin was blathering on about democracy being too "messy" and "imposing order" so you tell me: why should the Padme character, who was much more interesting and less clueless in the last film, be at all surprised that he went off and joined the scenery-chewing side of the Force? Speaking of chewing, Ian McD, who plays Palpatine/The Emperor gets one of the two funnest roles in the film. He gets to be all snarky as the scheming politician AND fight with a light sabre, complete with lightning shooting out of his hands. Sure, he's a bit over-the-top, but it doesn't seem out of place here. By the way, was I the only one who thought, after he has the big showdown with Samuel L Jackson, that he looked like some vampire lord from Buffy? The other fun role has got to be Yoda. He gets to deliberate with the clueless Jedi Council (how could they not see this coming???) as well as do some kick-ass fights. My only complaint about Yoda is that every line he has is done in the pseudo-backward speak, which gets old fast. It was much more effective in Empire when it was just every few sentences or so.

So that leaves us with the effects and action. For the most part, the show looked amazing, better than the last one. Sure, the final fight looks a bit like "Showdown at Mt. Doom," but they've outdone themselves this time. I found the film worth seeing on the big screen worth it just to get a good look at the CG set pieces. The things that bothered me about the effects were minor: clutter. It seems as though every interior scene had to have either a huge balcony or windows where you could just stare at the thousands of ships and junk flying in the background. Admittedly, it was nice to have distractions during certain dramatic moments, but it smacked of doing it because they could. And how many times do we have to watch another ship setting down on a landing pad with the struts making those oh-so-minute adjustments? I'm sure the guys who coded that worked hard, but by the end of the film it was silly (maybe I'll keep track next time I see it...drinking game???).

The thing I go back to again and again is the plain fact that Lucas has the power and talents (certainly the people who work on his films) to make great space-action-operas. I'm not looking for high art here; it just seems that it wouldn't take that much to make the last few SW films into decent examples of the genre. Would it kill George to put a small amount of humor in there somewhere? Quoting the old movies, "I've got a bad feeling about this," just seems kinda sad.

And the best part of all? Jar Jar has no lines!