For years, die-hard "Star Wars" fans have been grunting like riled Wookies because prophet George Lucas wasn't releasing the original, unaltered, Han-shoots-first version of the original trilogy on DVD.
Today, Lucas is releasing the original 1977 through 1982 versions of "Star Wars," "The Empire Strikes Back" and "Return of the Jedi," along with the special editions in a re-release of the DVDs today. But here are five reasons why you shouldn't buy them:
1. They won't be anamorphically encoded. What?!? In other words, they won't be made to play with full resolution on wide-screen, high-definition television sets, which means the 15.9 million HDTV owners out there won't see the movies in the best way possible. All current DVDs are anamorphically encoded or "enhanced for 16 by 9 TVs." These are not.
2. They are using old laserdisc masters. Lucasfilm is not using new, remastered or restored masters to make these DVDs, claiming it would be too expensive. These are the old masters that were used for the laserdiscs years ago and produce less-than-pristine copies. Since when did Lucas not have enough money for anything?
3. They won't be have Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtracks. These DVDs will have the original two-channel Dolby stereo tracks. But shortly after its premiere in 1977, "Star Wars" was given a fuller Dolby 5.1 surround sound track, which will not be included here for the unaltered version. Lucas should have included both options on the discs.
4. Stick it to Lucas for a change. Lucas, who has become more of a businessman than a filmmaker, has re-released the first "Star Wars" trilogy on video at least a half-dozen times, and he still can't release it the right way. For all the times he's forced us to double and triple dip to buy a new, "latest and greatest" version, maybe we should show him we won't fall for that again.
5. Maybe he will eventually release it the right way. Chances are, in six months to a year, Lucas will re-release the original trilogy yet again, this time with crystal clear, anamorphically-encoded DVDs. Those will be the ones to buy.
'Office' is a well-stocked sitcom
The Office: Season Two
Heart-achingly funny is the only way to describe the goings on in what has to be the most hilarious paper company office in America. The second season of this instant classic NBC comedy carries on with the same bitter laughs and humiliation of the original BBC sitcom but takes on a life of its own with its unique brand of American situations. Hidden in this season are some episode jewels, including a trip on a "booze cruise" as a self-motivation seminar and a riotous Christmas episode that hopefully will be an annual tradition. The cast, including star Steve Carell as the clueless office manager, and John Krasinski and Jenna Fischer, the couple that make up the office romance, are believable and charming. The DVD set includes deleted scenes, a blooper reel and the summer webisodes that premiered on NBC.com. Catch up on broadcast network's most delicious comedy before the third season begins Sept. 21.
- Vince Horiuchi
Also released on DVD
"Las Vegas - Season Three"
"Grey's Anatomy - Season Two"
"Smallville - The Complete Fifth Season"
"Moonlighting - Season Four"
"SpongeBob SquarePants - Season 4,
BOX OFFICE MALAISE: Even an all-star cast that includes Ben Affleck and Diane Lane couldn't rescue "Hollywoodland" from a generally weak weekend at the movie box office. None of the weekend's movie offerings surpassed the $10 million mark.
Set taps rich music roots
Various Artists, "American Music: The Hightone Records Story"
Fans of American roots music already know that Hightone Records is one of the foremost purveyors of that underappreciated genre, and this five-disc set - four CDs and one DVD - is an excellent encapsulation of what mainstream country and rock fans have been missing. The CDs are divvied up by genre: "Blues," "Rock," "Country" and "Singing Songwriters and Other Folk" all get their due. Some artists, like former Blaster Dave Alvin, appear on more than one CD, a good indication of the genre-defying artists that Hightone often caters to. The "Country" and "Blues" discs are arguably the strongest, featuring stellar material from the likes of Buddy Miller, Billy Joe Shaver and Dale Watson on the former, and Robert Cray, Otis Rush and Joe Louis Walker on the latter. The "Rock" disc is more hit-or-miss, but strong work by young acts like Deke Dickerson and Kim Lenz help fill in spots between various Alvin cuts, both solo and with The Blasters. The "Singing Songwriters" disc is an interesting mish-mash of styles. The DVD is worth watching mostly for a laugh; alt-country acts of the '80s didn't have the biggest budgets, so most are either straightforward performance pieces (Gary Stewart, Alvin again) or uncomfortable attempts to make something cool (Joe Ely's "My Baby Thinks She's French"). As a whole, this box set is an excellent primer of America's best singer/songwriters of the past quarter-century.
- Dan Nailen
Beyoncé shines again
Beyoncé Knowles' journey toward world domination continues on her second solo album and first set since Destiny's Child broke up. Thankfully, Knowles is more than a top-notch pop songwriter and producer (she had a hand in both those roles on all 10 songs here); she's also a risk-taker when most pop acts are focus-grouped to death and strong-armed by label execs into playing it safe. "B-Day" includes songs with wailing siren samples a la Public Enemy ("Ring the Alarm"); buzzing, heavy-bass thump ("Freakum Dress"); and two worthy contributions from boyfriend and "retired" rapper Jay-Z ("Deja Vu" and "Upgrade U"). Even with high-profile guests and ace co-producing by the likes of Swizz Beatz and The Neptunes, among others, Knowles is clearly the boss, showcasing her considerable pipes on ballads like "Irreplaceable" and "Resentment," and her love of sultry '70s soul on party-starters like "Suga Mama" and "Green Light." With a Christmas-release movie, "Dreamgirls," getting some Oscar buzz and a new album packed with potential singles, Knowles' will only get brighter. Resistance is futile, and unwarranted when she produces ear candy like "B-Day."
- Dan Nailen
BILLBOARD 200 TOP 10 ALBUMS
From a national sales sample compiled by SoundScan.
No. Album Artist
1. ''Modern Times" Bob Dylan
2. ''Danity Kane" Danity Kane
3. ''The Best Thang Smokin'" Young Dro
4. ''Back to Basics" Christina Aguilera
5. ''A Public Affair" Jessica Simpson
6. ''The Cheetah Girls 2'' various artists
7. 'Idlewild'' various artists
8. ''4:21...The Day After" Method Man
9. ''Game Theory" The Roots
10. ''All the Right Reasons'' Nickelback
BILLBOARD HOT 100 TOP 10 SONGS
Compiled from radio lists monitored by Broadcast Data Systems and sales compiled by SoundScan.
No. Song Artist Featuring
1. ''SexyBack" Justin Timberlake
2. ''London Briddge" Fergie
3. ''Crazy" Gnarls Barkley
4. ''Buttons" Pussycat Dolls Snoop Dogg
5. ''(When You Gonna) Give ..." Sean Paul Keyshia Cole
6. ''Promiscuous'' Nelly Furtado Timbaland
7. ''Chasing Cars'' Snow Patrol
8. ''Sexy Love" Ne-Yo
9. ''Far Away" Nickelback
10. 'Me & You'' Cassie
TOP CD RELEASES
Compiled from metacritic.com
"Barenaked Ladies Are Me" Barenaked Ladies
"Crazy Itch Radio" Basement Jaxx
"Magic Potion" The Black Keys
"Meadow" Richard Buckner
"These Four Walls" Shawn Colvin
"The Outsider" DJ Shadow
"The Town And The City" Los Lobos
"Fading Trails" Magnolia Electric Co.
"Amputechture" The Mars Volta
"Blood Mountain" Mastodon
"Continuum" John Mayer
"Dark Light Daybreak" Now It's Overhead
"Pieces Of The People We Love" The Rapture
"Face The Promise" Bob Seger
"FutureSex/LoveSounds" Justin Timberlake
"Return To Cookie Mountain" TV On The Radio
"The Air Force" Xiu Xiu
"I Am Not Afraid Of You . . . Yo La Tengo
NIELSEN TOP 10
A.C. Nielsen Ratings for Aug. 28-Sept. 3:
No. Name of show Network Rating Viewers
1. ''CSI: Miami" CBS 7.3 10.8
2. ''Law & Order: SVU" NBC 7.0 9.9
3.(tie) ''Two and One-half Men" CBS 6.3 9.8
3.(tie) "Without a Trace" CBS 6.3 9.0
5.(tie) ''60 Minutes" CBS 6.2 9.2
5.(tie) ''CSI: NY" CBS 6.2 8.9
7.(tie) "Criminal Minds" CBS 6.1 9.0
7.(tie) "CSO'' CBS 6.1 9.1
9.(tie) ''Justice" Fox 5.8 8.9
9.(tie) ''Two and One-half Men"-8pm CBS 5.8 9.2
Top grossing movies
WEEKEND TOP 10 MOVIES
FRIDAY, SATURDAY AND SUNDAY
No. Name of Movie Earnings*
1. ''The Covenant" $9.0
2. ''Hollywoodland" $6.0
3. ''Invincible" $5.8
4. ''The Protector" $5.0
5. ''Crank" $4.8
6. ''The Illusionist" $4.6
7. ''Little Miss Sunshine" $4.4
8. ''The Wicker Man" $4.1
9. ''Talladega Nights: The Ballad of ..." $3.0
10. ''Barnyard: Original Party Animals" $2.6
* Estimated earnings in millions.