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PopWatch Rewind Strikes Back: Is 'The Phantom Menace' really as bad as we remember? Yes, absolutely, yes.

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Darren Franich: I figured that the years would have been kind to The Phantom Menace. I tend to enjoy bad movies more as they grow older, if only because they start to provide an interesting look at faded cultural norms, like the notion that anyone should have a rat-tail haircut. Also, my memory of the movie has been clouded by years of feeling disappointed and betrayed. But that’s all silly, really. Phantom Menace is not an emotionally-distant parent who never showed up to my baseball games. It’s just a movie — surely, it couldn’t possibly justify the decade of culture-wide scorn that followed.

Keith Staskiewicz: Burning George Lucas in effigy is a yearly tradition at the Staskiewicz household. READ FULL STORY

How 'Star Wars' changed my life: George Lucas taught me to love pop culture. He also taught me to be skeptical.

Today, audiences can head to theaters to see the re-release of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in 3-D. Regardless of how you feel about the much-maligned prequel, there’s no denying the Star Wars franchise made more than an impression on millions of moviegoers who experienced the magic of the first three films in theaters or on their TV screens. This week, EW‘s writers will be celebrating their complicated relationship with George Lucas’ beloved, yet contested, franchise with a series we call “How Star Wars changed my life.” And for those of you headed to the theaters this Friday… may the force be with you.

I can’t talk about Star Wars without admitting my age, because I am a member of that curious geek generation that grew up in the era between the two Star Wars trilogies. Return of the Jedi hit theaters on May 25, 1983. In a Time magazine cover story published that same month, George Lucas expressed a desire to take a long, maybe-permanent break from the franchise. “The book is finished,” he said, sounding exhausted. “I have put it on the shelf.” I was born two years later, and I do not remember a time when I was not constantly watching VHS copies of the Star Wars trilogy. READ FULL STORY

Did 'Phantom Menace' kill 'The Matrix'?

Nobody saw The Matrix coming. Everyone saw The Phantom Menace coming. In 1999, the Wachowski Brothers appeared out of nowhere — their only previous film was the lesbian noir thriller Bound — and created what seemed at the time like the next great cinematic myth. That same year, George Lucas finally released a movie he had been promising, in one way or another, for almost two decades. By the end of the year, it was generally agreed by film fans that The Matrix had officially stolen Phantom Menace‘s thunder. But with the first episode of the Star Wars franchise being rereleased this weekend, I spent this week’s episode of Entertainment Geekly looking back on the legacy of those two films… and the curious ways in which Hollywood has evolved in their wake. Check out the new episode below: READ FULL STORY

How 'The Phantom Menace' influenced blockbuster special effects, despite everyone pretending not to notice

When Star Wars hit theaters in 1977, it was a jaw-dropping spectacle of game-changing visuals, and when it hit my family’s VCR in 1992, it was still exactly that. Some films’ technical achievements endure through the ages and I have a feeling that, even without George Lucas’ digital face-lifts, the original trilogy’s effects would still look impressive today. Other FX milestones, like say the work of Ray Harryhausen, may not be quite so protected against the kitchification of time, but are still awarded their due reverence in the history of the field.

The Phantom Menace, however, is an interesting case. It’s one of the few films whose impressive technical achievements were in service of a story so bland and characters so one-dimensional (forget 3-D) that the annals of cinema history are unable to separate one from the other. This is unfortunate because, by all rights, the prequel not only boasted some of the most impressive digital effects to date, but also ended up influencing, for better or for worse, how Hollywood has made blockbusters ever since. READ FULL STORY

How 'Star Wars' changed my life: George Lucas turned me into a know-it-all who can't believe in movie magic. Oh, and an entertainment journalist.

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Tomorrow, audiences can head to theaters to see the rerelease of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in 3-D. Regardless of how you feel about the much-maligned prequel, there’s no denying the Star Wars franchise made more than an impression on millions of moviegoers who experienced the magic of the first three films in theaters or on their TV screens. This week, EW‘s writers will be celebrating their complicated relationship with George Lucas’ beloved, yet contested, franchise with a series we call “How Star Wars changed my life.” And for those of you headed to the theaters this Friday… may the Force be with you.

There are those who are content to be merely delighted and dazzled by an entertaining magic trick, and there are those who become obsessed with needing to know how they were so persuasively, thrillingly fooled.  When it comes to the sort of magic that we routinely see on movie screens, I have long been the second kind of fan, and the film that got me hooked on such enchantment – and put the “How did they do that?!” bug into me – was Star Wars. Like a lot of people my age, George Lucas’ hyperkinetic space opera was a cultural event that seized my imagination and seeded a desire for transporting escapism that has never left me; in some ways, I think my interest in the movies is all about chasing after the same ecstatic WOW! that I felt when I first saw Star Wars at the grand (and now demolished) UA 150 in downtown Seattle in the summer of ’77, and then over and over and over again when it reached the more modest (and still in business) neighborhood movie palace, the Admiral Twin. It wasn’t enough to have the memory of that far-out yarn running on a constant loop in my mind, or to reenact the story each night with my brother for our parents, or to recall and recite (sometimes with peculiar competitive intensity) favorite scenes and memorable lines with my Star Wars-loving friends during recess. And during class. And during the dawdling walk home… READ FULL STORY

How 'Star Wars' changed my life: It helped me channel my inner gay geek

In just two days, audiences can head to theaters to see the re-release of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in 3-D. Regardless of how you feel about the much-maligned prequel, there’s no denying the Star Wars franchise made more than an impression on millions of moviegoers who experienced the magic of the first three films in theaters or on their TV screens. This week, EW‘s writers will be celebrating their complicated relationship with George Lucas’ beloved, yet contested, franchise with a series we call “How Star Wars changed my life.” And for those of you headed to the theaters this Friday… may the force be with you.

My first year of high school, my school’s homecoming theme was movies. When the freshman class voted to do Star Wars, I was in ecstasy. I immediately signed up for the float and cheer committees. (I was that kid.) I served as the Star Wars consultant as the float committee re-created Luke and R2-D2’s crash landing in the Dagobah system from The Empire Strikes Back. Even though our float was incredible — a chicken wire and papier-maché R2, dry ice for the fog, lots and lots of dirt, and even frozen fish sticks for Yoda’s dinner — the judges were biased toward the apathetic seniors and their lame Indiana Jones boulder made out of garbage and rubber bands. We did, however, win the cheer contest because its brilliance was undeniable: “Yoda, WHAT? Yoda, WHAT? Yo da losin’ team! We’re gonna get the Jabba done and take you to extremes!” READ FULL STORY

Today is John Williams’ 80th birthday. What’s your favorite iconic film score of his?

Yesterday we celebrated the 200th anniversary of Charles Dickens’ birthday, but today we celebrate a legend who is actually still alive. John Williams, the Academy Award-winning conductor and composer of some of the most famous film scores in cinema history, celebrates his 80th birthday today. READ FULL STORY

How 'Star Wars' changed my life: I picked a fight with Yoda -- and became ruler of the galaxy

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In just three days, audiences can head to theaters to see the re-release of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in 3-D. Regardless of how you feel about the much-maligned prequel, there’s no denying the Star Wars franchise made more than an impression on millions of moviegoers who experienced the magic of the first three films in theaters or on their TV screens. This week, EW‘s writers will be celebrating their complicated relationship with George Lucas’ beloved, yet contested, franchise with a series we call “How Star Wars changed my life.” And for those of you headed to the theaters this Friday… may the force be with you.

I’m just going to say up front: Yoda started it. READ FULL STORY

How 'Star Wars' changed my life: Luke and Darth Vader taught me what's good and what's evil

In just four days, audiences can head to theaters to see the re-release of Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace in 3-D. Regardless of how you feel about the much-maligned prequel, there’s no denying the Star Wars franchise made more than an impression on millions of moviegoers who experienced the magic of the first three films in theaters or on their TV screens. This week, EW‘s writers will be celebrating their complicated relationship with George Lucas’ beloved, yet contested, franchise with a series we call “How Star Wars changed my life.” And for those of you headed to the theaters this Friday… may the Force be with you.

One way or another, every kid has to learn the difference between right and wrong, light and dark, good and evil — and my lesson came from Star Wars IV: A New Hope. Prior to my first viewing of the film, my understanding of what was right and what was wrong was grossly over-reliant on Goofus and Gallant of Highlights magazine, who, despite their best efforts, never managed to teach me more than that I should invite everyone in class to my birthday party. I knew there was polite and impolite, admirable and reprehensible, but I didn’t realize the extent of how bad badness could be. READ FULL STORY

Volkswagen unveils 2012 Super Bowl commercial 'The Dog Strikes Back'

It’s been 12 days since Volkswagen unleashed “The Bark Side” and started building up anticipation for the sequel to last year’s beloved “The Force” commercial. With four days to spare until Super Bowl XLVI, the car company has released an extended version of “The Dog Strikes Back.” It’s one of three 30-second VW ads that will air on game day and features not only an adorably chubby pooch but also a final-act twist worthy of “I am your father!” Watch below. READ FULL STORY

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