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Predator (1987)

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I am starting to realize what an effect 1987 had on me.  First, since I was 15, my parents really weren't caring if I watched R-rated films anymore as long as they weren't loaded with sex.  That was fine, since I liked horror and sci-fi anyway, and if an actress happened to show off what she had, that was a bonus.  Still, at the time, R-rated films still meant something, and that something was that directors went all out to entertain audiences that were starved for these outrageous action films.

Thing is, even though PG-13 existed by this time due to parents freaking about about Gremlins in a microwave, a facial peel in Poltergeistand impromptu heart surgery in Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, R-rated films were still largely aimed at the audience that PG-13 is aimed at now.  It was pretty much accepted that, even though you were supposed to be 17, most likely the audience was going to be 12 on up to 50, and they better have something in there that entertains everyone.

I…

RoboCop (1987)

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At the time that RoboCop came out in 1987, Peter Weller was largely known for the cult movie The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension.  Honestly, Arnold Schwarzenegger, who already a hit playing a similar cyborg (albeit evil) role in The Terminator, was among the actors first considered for the role of resurrected Detroit police officer Alex Murphy.  Like most casting choices after the fact, I have hard time imagining any other actor playing RoboCop other than Weller.

There are many pieces that come together to make this a classic film: Paul Verhoeven's frenetic directing, the over-the-top violence and the underlying satirical edge.  However, both in this and the first sequel, it is Weller that keeps things together, expressing a humanity that can't be submerged by either programming or corporate malfeasance. 

RoboCop is also the kind of movie that could have come out of the time it did, which makes any attempt at a neutered remake laughable.

Officer Alex P. …

Arrival (2016)

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These days with Hollywood largely churning out superhero films (with the Marvel ones usually being halfway decent at least), giving every character of every franchise their own film and, way too much, churning out empty big-budget nonsense that is no longer even really meant for an American audience, those of us who enjoy "The Cinema" grasp at whatever we can.  I've never been as pretentious and single-minded as some critics, liking as I do quite a few films that usually end up being good despite the people and the circumstances that made them - many of which the majority of the film going public (and critics) consider utter trash. 

Every once in awhile a director shows up that starts to buck current trends, and Denis Villeneuve is one of them.  He is in no way a new director.  A number of his original Canadian films are highly regarded, and he already established a reputation in the U.S. with Sicario prior to Arrival.  Originally when I heard about Arrival, though, I a…

Backtrack (1990)

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Dennis Hopper was one of the most recognizable actors.  His idiosyncrasies seemed to translate to his characters regardless of the role he was asked to play.  He played a number of different roles from his debut in Rebel Without a Cause to famous villains in everything from Speed to Super Mario Brothers.  

What many people who grew up with him as a character actor in the 1980s and 1990s forget is that Hopper, after doing his time on television in the 1960s, decided that what he really wanted to do was direct.  And direct he did - Easy Rider quickly became one of the most famous American road movies, as well as a statement about the life and death of the '60s counterculture. The problem was twofold: Hopper, outside and inside of filmmaking, was an artist first, and it seemed that his other goal in life was to do all the drugs that Keith Richards managed to let slip by.

Easy Rider was hours of footage, made largely under the influence, which was edited down to the form we know.  His…

The Boondock Saints (1999)

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Troy Duffy is among those directors who have managed to push out a classic (albeit cult) film despite his tendencies to self-sabotage.  Unlike Richard Kelly (Donnie Darko), Duffy hasn't been given much of a chance to prove himself beyond this film, his only other movie being the 2009 sequel which, although not as good as this, was at least not a pretentious muddle.

That said, Duffy, if the documentary about the making of this film is to be believed, is his own worst enemy behind the scenes.  Miramax wanted the screenplay and was willing to sink a good amount of money into it, but Duffy began acting like a Coppola before he had even filmed anything and lost that deal.  The deal he made with Franchise left him, and his cast, without the home video earnings, which is where The Boondock Saints eventually made a profit.  The film had the bad luck to come out soon after the Columbine High School shootings, and thus debuted in only a handful of theaters. 

Duffy also seems to have had a …

The Exorcist (1973)

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Sometimes circumstances just come together to make a classic movie.  Director William Friedkin's previous film had been The French Connection, which had one of the most famous car chase scenes up to that point (and inspired many more throughout the 1970s) as well as a great performance by Gene Hackman.  It also had a rather unique pseudo-documentary style that set Friedkin's movie apart from similar crime and action films.

William Peter Blatty had a bestseller on his hands with The Exorcist, seemingly a horror novel about demonic possession but heavy on themes of faith and family.  Through numerous circumstances the two Williams became friends, with Blatty adapting his novel into a screenplay and Friedkin directing.  It became one of the biggest movies of 1973, as well as a horror classic that is revered to this day despite four attempts to destroy its legacy through sequels that run the gamut from painful to just dull, one of them by Blatty himself. 

It is also a movie that …

Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)

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Ever since the Harry Potter series ended, fans have been clamoring for more.  Thing is, the fans have grown up since following the team at Hogwarts.  J. K. Rowling perfectly timed her series of seven books so that fans who started reading at the age that started at the beginning of Harry's adventures aged with him.  The books got darker and more adult as they went along.

Because of frequent press releases from Rowling, we know largely what happened to Harry, Ron and Hermione over the years, and a recent play has even kept us up to date.  This is despite Rowling originally intending to abandon the Potter universe for more traditional fiction.  It didn't work out as well as she intended, and I am sure the money to do another series was irresistible. Therefore, we have the beginning of a five-part series based on one of Hogwarts's textbooks, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, by Newt Scamander. 

We already have seen what problems both Hagrid and Charles Weasley have ca…