Icons Unearthed: Star Wars

BLU-RAY REVIEW:

Mill Creek;
Documentary;
$29.99 Blu-ray;
Not rated.
Featuring
Michael Pennington, Marcia Lucas, Anthony Daniels, Billy Dee Williams.

The history of the making of the “Star Wars” films has been dissected by so many sources at this point that any new approach to the material would have to find some way to distinguish itself to stand out.

Fortunately, this six-part documentary from 2022 manages to do so, mixing a healthy dose of common knowledge with some new revelations and fantastic retrospective interviews to make it worthy of any “Star Wars” fans’ time.

This latest look-back was the first installment of the “Icons Unearthed” series of documentaries exploring touchstones of popular culture. Subsequent installments included “The Simpsons,” the “Fast & Furious” movies, the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the James Bond films, Batman and “The Lord of the Rings.” With Brian Volk-Weiss serving as one of the producers and the director for many episodes, the subject matter tends to get a “Toys That Made Us” style approach that includes an acerbic overview of the material and generous recollections of the people involved.

“Icons Unearthed: Star Wars” covers the George Lucas era of the franchise — the making of the original trilogy and the prequel films before he sold his company to Disney. The series takes a step back and views the evolution of the franchise as a function of Lucas’ control over it — more vibrant and creative when more collaborators are involved in the earlier films, as opposed to the emotional blandness of the prequels overseen more directly by Lucas himself.

The heart of that collaboration, it would seem, was Marcia Lucas, the Oscar-winning editor and George’s first wife whose influence over the original trilogy is made readily apparent here. And yet the struggles to complete the films also run parallel to the dissolution of their marriage. Absent her guiding influence, the show maintains, George would be more prone to following unwise impulses. Without her, he altered the original films into the “special editions,” leading to an overindulgence in CGI when making the prequels. “I don’t know why he does those things, but he does,” she remarks. “I’m not there.”

A bonus disc has more than six hours of additional footage from some of the interviews in their raw form: more than three hours from Marcia Lucas, nearly three hours from Anthony Daniels, and just over a half-hour from Billy Dee Williams.

Disney+ Bowing Series Exploring Disney Parks Attractions

The Disney+ streaming service July 21 will premiere “Behind the Attraction,” a 10-part original series that gives viewers a peek behind the curtain of some of the most popular attractions at Disney Parks and Resorts around the world.

The series is timed to coincide with the release of Disney’s Jungle Cruise movie based on the classic ride that debuted with the opening of Disneyland in 1955. As such, a look at the Jungle Cruise ride is among the first batch of “Behind the Attraction” episodes.

Other episodes bowing July 21 include “Haunted Mansion,” “Star Tours,” “The Twilight Zone Tower of Terror” and “Space Mountain.”

Five additional episodes — “The Castles,” “Disneyland Hotel,” “it’s a small world,” “Trains, Trams, and Monorails” and “Hall of Presidents” — will bow later this year.

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“Behind the Attraction” explores the history of the Disney parks with archival and never-before-seen footage and photographs to unveil how the attractions came to be and how they’ve been refined over the years as new ideas surface and technology evolves. Including rare interviews with Walt Disney, each episode also features exclusive interviews with Disney Legends and dozens of past and present Imagineers, including Bob Weis, Jeanette Lomboy, Kim Irvine, Scott Trowbridge, Tom Fitzgerald, Scot Drake, Carmen Smith, Joe Rohde and others who divulge insider secrets of the parks and how iconic Disney attractions were brought to life.

Topics of discussion include the unique story behind how each Disney park castle was designed and built; details about the creation of Star Wars: Galaxy’s Edge; the intricacies of the transportation systems at each park; how the Disneyland Hotel came to be; how the Haunted Mansion was filled with 999 happy haunts; how the Twilight Zone Tower of Terror transformed into Guardians of the Galaxy – Mission: BREAKOUT!; and why Space Mountain took so long to launch.

All 10 episodes of the series, which is narrated by Paget Brewster, will be available at once, rather than week-to-week as with most Disney+ shows.

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“Behind the Attraction” is executive produced by Dwayne Johnson, Dany Garcia, Hiram Garcia, Brian Gewirtz and Kevin Hill from Seven Bucks Productions, and Brian Volk-Weiss, Robin Henry, and Cisco Henson from The Nacelle Company. Volk-Weiss (“The Toys That Made Us”) directs the series.

The Jungle Cruise movie, starring Johnson, bows July 30 in theaters and as a $29.99 Disney+ Premier Access add-on.

Updated 7/13/21 to reflect newly announced premiere date and splitting of the season into two halves.

German AVOD Provider to Carry Comedy Dynamics Stand-Up Shows

German AVOD provider rlaxx TV on Feb. 11 announced it is bringing the award-winning comedy catalog from Comedy Dynamics to the popular streaming service.

Through its advertisement-based business model, rlaxx TV can offer its services free of charge to viewers. Comedy Dynamics’ catalog of stand-up comedy is accessible on smart TVs, Amazon Fire TV devices and Android TV. Content by Comedy Dynamics is available on the rlaxx TV app and is powered by Cinedigm’s proprietary Matchpoint Blueprint, a highly-scalable app development platform for OTT services. 

The partnership will make premium content from Comedy Dynamics available to rlaxx TV’s international audience. Additionally, the presentation of contents in curated special-interest channels enables an extremely precise addressing of the respective target group.  rlaxx TV is currently available on smart TVs from the following manufacturers: Panasonic, Blaupunkt, Hisense, Hitachi, JVC, Medion, Metz, Sharp, Telefunken, Toshiba and Vestel, as well as Amazon Fire devices and Android TV.

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The service currently is available on about 50% of all smart TVs in Germany, Switzerland, Austria and the United Kingdom, representing approx. By mid-2021, rlaxx TV plans to be available on all OTT devices such as smart TVs (LGE, Panasonic, Philips, Samsung, Sony), media streamers (Google Chromecast, Roku), smartphones (Android, iOS), game consoles (X-Box, Playstation) and all standard internet browsers. Additionally, expansions into other international markets are planned. 

“We’re excited to have our catalog on rlaxx TV, because it moves us closer to our goal of offering top-tier stand-up comedy anytime, anywhere,” said Brian Volk-Weiss, founder and CEO of Comedy Dynamics.