Irvin Kershner: 1923 - 2010

Sad news: Irvin Kershner, most famous to us as the director of The Empire Strikes Back and RoboCop 2, has passed away at the age of 87. He was also an instructor at the USC film school, and none other than George Lucas was amongst his students. May the Force be with you, Mr. Kershner.

(Photo found by way of BrickTuts.)


Welcome To The 24th Century

Holy crap! Holy crap! Did you know about this? I didn't until yesterday! Holy crap!! If I'd known about this earlier, I wouldn't have bought the last dozen or so CDs I did buy (well, not necessarily the last consecutive dozen, but a dozen) and would have saved up for this instead! But I still bought it anyway, 'cause I just gotta have it. Seriously, I honestly don't know how I would be able to go on living without having this in my possession as soon as humanly possible. Want to know what it is? Maybe you'd better sit down, 'cause I myself had a geek-out on a transphasic level when I found out about this.

It's a limited-edition box set of not four, not six ... no, not even eight ... no, keep going ... would you believe a whopping 14 -- yes -- FOURTEEN CDs jam-packed with never-before-released music from dozens of episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation! Devoted solely to the work of Ron Jones, who traded off scoring duties with Dennis McCarthy through the first four seasons of TNG, "Star Trek: The Next Generation -- The Ron Jones Project" includes nearly every note written and recorded for 42 of the series' first 94 episodes (the score for "The Best of Both Worlds" two-parter is already available on the GNP Crescendo label, so just some bonus tracks from it are included here) plus numerous outtakes, as well as a disc devoted to his work for a pair of Trek video games released later.

The panicked evacuation of the Enterprise in "11001001" ... the tearful farewell of Tasha Yar in "Skin of Evil" ... the appearance of the Romulans in "The Neutral Zone" ... Riker's escape from the Mintakans in "Who Watches The Watchers" ... the terrorist attack on the ship in "The High Ground" ... Lal's tragic demise in "The Offspring" ... the perilous journey across the arid wasteland in "Final Mission" ... they're all cues that I've been waiting 20 years to hear unobscured by dialogue and sound effects, and now's my chance! With this doozy of a package being limited to a production run of just 5,000, I couldn't waste any time in seizing the opportunity to add it to my collection, since the price is certain to only start going up on the aftermarket.

Widely regarded as the best composer that Star Trek: The Next Generation ever had, Ron Jones was known for delivering sweeping, attention-grabbing, feature-film-worthy scores for countless episodes. The problem was that TNG's producers didn't want attention-grabbing music; they wanted the episodes' scores to lay quietly in the background. So after almost four full years of flying in the face of the producers' demands, Jones was fired and replaced by Jay Chattaway (quite a dandy composer in his own right, to give credit where it's due). But I always thought the Trek producers were not only making their episodes just a bit less memorable by taming down the music, but they were also forsaking a perfectly good merchandising outlet. Fans have been clamoring for Ron Jones' scores to be commercially available for years, and I have to wonder how many CD sales they missed out on by missing that opportunity and never licensing retail releases until all these years later.

If you can't live without it, like I couldn't, this incomparably amazing Trek-a-thon of music will set you back a healthy $150 (plus shipping), but at 14 CDs that ends up coming out to less than $11 per disc, which is a great price, especially for something that's a limited-edition collectible like this. It's available for purchase now at SAE and at Intrada, and further information is available from the Film Score Monthly website (and thanks to them for the links to the audio clips!). A friend of mine has all but challenged me to bundle it up in giftwrap when it arrives and not open it until Christmas morning ... but that's gonna be a really tough test of my will.


Your Friend In Time...

It's hard to believe that it's been a quarter-century since Marty McFly hit 88 miles per hour and flux-capacitored his way into movie history with Back To The Future. I can remember when I was a teenager -- much more of a geek than I am now, come to think of it -- and my family and I took a seven-week vacation to Europe. What was one of the few things I can remember taking along with me to keep me company? It was a Walkman cassette player and (along with other tapes, at least I hope) two cassettes onto which I had recorded the audio portion of the entire Back To The Future movie. I must have listened to those a half-dozen times over the course of that vacation, I was so bored otherwise.

Needless to say, I couldn't go without picking up the brand new 25th-Anniversary edition of the Back To The Future trilogy on DVD. I can't wait to see all the deleted scenes and new bonus features they've packed into this set, not the least of which is, finally, long-rumored actual footage of Eric Stoltz in the role of Marty. And of course there's the neatest extra of all -- here's my geekiness shining through again -- digital copies of all three movies, which I can load onto my iPod if I want to! It's full circle in a way ... I have to wonder what my younger self, armed with mere cassettes of only the movie's sound, would think if he could have in the palm of his hand full-color video and stereo sound of not just the first movie, but of many others, not to mention hundreds of albums of music!?!

Anyway, back to the topic at hand. This was a groundbreaking movie series in a number of ways, one of which being that it was the first one for which more than one sequel was filmed back-to-back (The Matrix is the most noteworthy other example), and it was also one of the first -- and certainly the first with such broad appeal -- to successfully integrate science-fiction with comedy to such an extent that the movie can fit neatly into either genre; Ghostbusters, Innerspace, and Men In Black picked up on the idea and ran with it. Part II definitely laid on the sci-fi a bit more strongly, what with its frequent and potentially confusing references to paradoxes and hopscotching between time periods, and Part III was an almost completely different movie altogether, with a decidedly Western feel and an almost fully self-contained story (not to mention a supporting role by the always enjoyable Mary Steenburgen).

But then, I'm probably not telling you anything you don't already know about the best time-travel movie ever made. Suffice to say I love each and every chapter of the adventures of Marty and Doc, I'll probably sit down and watch the first of the three tonight ... and I'm very soon going to secure my digital copies, too!