Category Archives: Movies

How Much Would Darth Vader’s Suit Really Cost?

When it comes to villains in modern times, there is no character more iconic, more evil than Darth Vader — with his menacing dark helmet, creepy mechanical breathing apparatus hidden behind imposing body armor, flowing black cape that cuts through the air like a knife. And then there is the foreboding Darth Vader theme that follows him wherever he goes (composed by the legendary John Williams): “BOM-bom! Bom bom bom BOM-bom! Bom bom bom BOM bom! Bom bom bom bom…” You get the picture. When you see Darth Vader, you don’t have to be a total Star Wars geek to wonder, what would Darth Vader’s super evil suit cost if you built it in real life? And we’re not talking about those very high-end, detailed costumes that you can buy for Halloween (that can cost as much as $,1000; a movie-quality replica — the Anovos Premier Line Darth Vader costume — can cost as much as $6,000). Thanks to the inquisitive and clever folks at, wonder no more. The cost of Darth Vader’s suit would cost a cool $18.3 million. That’s quite a bit more than an original Darth Vader costume from “The Empire Strikes Back” that was valued at about $250,000 by Christie’s auction house back in November, 2010.

Here’s the a breakdown of Vader’s black suit of evil:

Helmet: $600,00
Similar to the mounted display of the F-35 helmet, it features augmented reality functionality (night vision, navigational capability, and advanced targeting)

Base suit: $12 million
Similar to a pressurized NASA space suit

Prosthetic legs and left arm: $180,000
Spoiler alert: in one of the films, Darth Vader loses some limbs in a battle with Obi Wan Kenobi

Lifetime maintenance for prosthetic limbs: $5.4 million
Prothetic limbs require yearly maintenance

Breathing apparatus: $45,000
In order to breathe, Vader must utilize a heart and lung machine

Voice: $1,000
Vader’s voice is modified by a high-end voice synthesizer

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For further reading:

What is a Flip-Flop Film?

atkins-bookshelf-moviesIn her highly entertaining and information-packed book, Infographic Guide to the Movies, Karen Krizanovich introduces the term “flip flop film,”defined as a movie that was not a big hit at the box office, but over time has been recognized as a cinematic masterpiece, and  consequently, thanks to its release in various evolving formats (VHS, laserdisc, and DVD) has become extremely lucrative. For example, the highly acclaimed film Casablanca earned $3.7 million when it was released in 1943, but has earned more than $4.4 million in rentals alone in the U.S. Here are six famous flip-flop films (name of movie, year of release, first release earnings, followed by lifetime earnings):

Fight Club (1999): $43 million, $100 million

The Big Lebowski (1998): $15 million, $46 million

Blade Runner (1982): $23.4 million, $33 million

It’s A Wonderful Life (1946): $3.3 million, $20 million

The Wizard of Oz (1939): $3 million, $20 million

Casablanca (1943): $3.7 million, $10.4 million

Citizen Kane (1941): $540,000; $2.5 million

What other famous flip-flop movies should be on this list?

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For further reading: Infographic Guide to the Movies by Karen Krizanovich (2013)

How Realistic are Romantic Comedies?

atkins-bookshelf-moviesOne of the most popular romantic comedies of all time is When Harry Met Sally… (1989) written by Nora Ephron and directed by Rob Reiner. In 2008, The American Film Institute ranked it as the 6th best romantic comedy of all time. The film, inspired by Reiner’s return to single life after his divorce, revolves around the critical question that Harry Burns (Billy Crystal) asks Sally Albright (Meg Ryan) during a cab ride early in the film: can men and women ever just be friends — platonically, without the benefits? Harry and Sally passionately disagree (Harry doesn’t think so; Sally does). Over the span of many years, the two bump into each other and a friendship gradually grows into a romantic relationship. Outside of the deli scene (with Rob Reiner’s real mother delivering the famous line: “I’ll have what she’s having.”), one of the film’s most memorable scenes is when Harry professes his love to Sally on New Year’s Eve: “I love that you get cold when it’s 71 degrees out. I love that it takes you an hour and a half to order a sandwich. I love that you get a little crinkle above your nose when you’re looking at me like I’m nuts. I love that after I spend the day with you, I can still smell your perfume on my clothes. And I love that you are the last person I want to talk to before I go to sleep at night. And it’s not because I’m lonely, and it’s not because it’s New Year’s Eve. I came here tonight because when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible.” Hand me the box of tissues…

Romantic comedies like this also beg the larger question: how realistic are romantic comedies? How do they compare with real world relationships? Do people really have Harry-Sally relationships  — transitioning from the dreaded “friend zone” to a romantic relationship? The folks at Daily Infographic reviewed surveys and laughed and cried their way through the top 150 romantic comedies to come up with a snap shot of romance, titled: “Hollywood vs. Real Life.” Interestingly, out of all those movies, only one dealt with online dating (You’ve Got Mail, released in 1998; also written by Nora Ephron and starring Meg Ryan ). Here is a look at romance by the numbers — and how unrealistic romantic comedies truly are:

Experienced “love at first sight”:
Hollywood: 10%
Real life: 45%

Experienced unrequited love (loving someone who doesn’t love them back):
Hollywood: 6%
Real life: 78%

Lied to someone to get them to like them:
Hollywood: 21%
Real life: 53%

Experienced an “opposites attract” relationship:
Hollywood: 29%
Real life: 66%

Experienced a Harry-Sally relationship (growing from a friendship into a romantic relationship):
Hollywood: 7%
Real life: 72%

Have experienced online dating:
Hollywood: 1%
Real life: 48%

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For further reading:

The Most Visually Stunning Movies

atkins-bookshelf-moviesEach year, according to the Motion Picture Association of America, the average number of movies released in the United States is about 600. Of those, only a tiny portion enter the pantheon of the most visually stunning movies — movies that feature a masterful blend of cinematography, art direction, and composition that you could turn the volume off and be mesmerized for its entire running time. One director known for his brilliant, captivating visual style is Tarsem Singh, who seems to paint his films; he has established himself with unforgettable films like The Cell (2000) and The Fall (2006).

The editors of Screen Rant developed this list of 12 movies so visually stunning that you could watch them on mute:
What Dreams May Come (1998)
Skyfall (2012)
The Revenant (2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
Life of Pi (2012)
Interstellar (2014)
Gravity (2013)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
The Fall (2006)
Ex Machina (2015)
Avatar (2009)
Amelie (2001)

Not to be outdone, the editors over at Taste of Cinema created a list of the most visually stunning films of the past five years:
Her (2013)
Laurence Anyways (2012)
Melancholia (2011)
The Great Beauty (2013)
Frances Ha (2012)
Blue Is the Warmest Color (2013)
The Tree of Life (2011)
Gravity (2013)
Weekend (2011)
The Grandmaster (2013)
The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)
Nebraska (2013)
Life of Pi (2012)
Elena (2011)
Only God Forgives (2013)
Spring Breakers (2012)
Stoker (2013)
Post Tenebras Lux (2012)
Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)
The Master (2012)
Ida (2013)
Oh Boy/A Coffee in Berlin (2012)
Upstream Color (2013)
Pina (2011)
Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

Read related posts: The Most Expensive Movie Props
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For further reading:

The Importance of Great Teachers

atkins bookshelf quotationsA great teacher has little external history to record. His life goes over into other lives. These men are pillars in the intimate structure of our schools. They are more essential than its stones or beams, and they will continue to be a kindling force and a revealing power in our lives.

The tribute on an engraved plaque given to William Hundert, a beloved classics teacher, by his grateful students who are now adults. The scene appears in the film, The Emperor’s Club (2002) written by Neil Tolkin (based on short story The Palace Thief  by Ethan Canin) and directed by Michael Hoffman.

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Deke’s Poem from 11.22.63: We Did Not Ask for This Room or This Music

atkins bookshelf quotationsThe scene: the dimly-lit interior of a high school gym decorated for a formal dinner to honor the former librarian of Jodie High School, Sadie Dunhill (now 80 years old), who is being honored as “Texas Woman of the Year.” The room is packed with former students and colleagues. 

Former student: “Ms. Sadie, I’d just like to say that all of us here in this room… we’re all here because you have touched our lives in some special way, and, for all of us, I would just like to say thank you.”

Sadie Dunhill: “Well, we never know which lives we influence or when or why, but I am so very grateful to be part of yours. You older Jodie [High School] grads who are here tonight, you might remember [beloved principal] Deke Simmons. And some of you may recall that little poem that he loved, that he kept copies on his desk so that he could hand them out to troublesome students or students that were troubled. Well, this was the poem:

We did not ask for this room or this music; we were invited in. 
Therefore, because the dark surrounds us,
Let us turn our faces toward the light. 
Let us endure hardship to be grateful for plenty. 
We have been given pain to be astounded by joy. 
We have been given life to deny death. 
We did not ask for this room or this music. 
But because we are here, let us dance.”

The scene and poem appears in the last episode (of an 8-part mini-series) of 11.22.63, Hulu’s adaptation of Stephen King’s novel about an English teacher who travels back in time to the 1960s to prevent Lee Harvey Oswald from assassinating John F. Kennedy. The screenplay was written by Bridget Carpenter, one of the show’s developers (King and J.J. Abrams were the executive producers), and her team of writers. The poem did not originally appear in the novel, but Carpenter felt that the poem, that echoed the themes of the novel was a, ahem… poetic way to wrap up the series. When King reviewed the final script, he made minor edits to the poem.

Find Your Passion

atkins-bookshelf-movies“If you really want something you gotta work for it. Greed doesn’t take you anywhere good…

Do you love [what you are doing now]? Be honest with yourself. [If not, ask youself] what do you love so much that you would do it for free?”

Spoken by Edward Collins, an avuncular short-order cook in the film Waffle Street (2015). The film, based on the memoir Waffle Street (2010) by James Adams, chronicles the life of a successful hedge fund manager who is fired for doing exactly what his bosses wanted him to do: maximize profits. Adams feels guilty for selling junk bonds to a client; the client would lose millions of dollars, but the firm would reap millions. Although the transaction was legal, deep down he knew that it was unethical. Adams looks for redemption by doing honest work, working as a server at a busy 24-hour diner. It is humbling, hard work but at the end of the day, he respects himself. Collins, played by Danny Glover, is an affable ex-con who loves to grill waffles; over time he becomes a mentor and friend, helping Adams to find his true passion.

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