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Blazing Saddles (1974)

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1974 was a great year for Mel Brooks.  Young Frankenstein   was a major hit and was a parody of the Universal horror films, and the Frankenstein series in particular.  However, it kept the atmosphere of those films and, despite being a comedy, finally wrapped up the series and achieved the goal that Dr. Frankenstein had wanted from the beginning, which was to animate a perfectly normal human being.  The same year Brooks also made Blazing Saddles which, while famously a satire of racism, also managed to be one of the last great westerns as well. When black railroad worker Bart (Cleavon Little) gets fed up with the racial attitudes of his boss Taggart (Slim Pickens) he is sentenced to be hung by the state's attorney general, Hedley Lamarr (Harvey Korman).  Because of an unforeseen problem the railroad is forced to make a detour through the town of Rock Ridge, and Lamarr realizes the value of the land is about to increase.  In an effort to scare off the residents of Rock Ridge Taggart

Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965)

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From the time Toho decided to bring back their most famous movie monster with King Kong vs. Godzilla  - in fact, even before that with Mothra - the kaiju kingdom was ruled by director IshirĂ´ Honda, special effects supervisor Eiji Tsuburaya and screenwriter Shin'ichi Sekizawa.  They, and often a rotating team of many of the same actors from the first Godzilla forward, brought us ever-evolving special effects and made Toho's menagerie of creatures one of the most famous in cinematic history. All good things, as usual, must come to an end.  Invasion of Astro-Monster  saw Honda's contract reach its end with Toho, which allowed him to do other things than monster films.  Tsuburaya was a big enough name that he could open his own special effects workshop, ultimately helping to create the Ultraman television shows.  Sekizawa ended up still working on a lot of the scripts for these types of films even though after this one the enjoyment began to run out - not because this was a ba

Clash of the Titans (1981)

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As a child I loved reading all the major Greek mythological stories.  Hercules and Jason were great but, when it came down to it, the story of Perseus was always my favorite.  It helped that I was also interested in astronomy, which is what led me to be interested in the myths in the first place.  Unfortunately the Phoenix area has expanded, light pollution is worse, and I can no longer sit on a lawn chair and look up and see the brightest stars that make up Pegasus, Andromeda, Cepheus and Cassiopeia.  Perseus was always tricky because, except for Algol, the eye of the head of Medusa, it was always a bit fainter, as was Cetus.  Still, I loved looking up and remembering the tale.  Clash of the Titans came out at the time when I was still most interested in the stories.  I knew nothing about Ray Harryhausen at the time.  I remember the few toys Mattell made in connection with the movie in the stores and remember seeing the story books that were released along with it.   I so much wanted

Jason and the Argonauts (1963)

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I sometimes wonder how it would have been to be sitting in a theater in 1963, watching on the big screen where one might have seen giant bugs or guys in monster suits tromping around, and suddenly see something spectacularly new.  I can especially imagine being a kid sitting in the front row as Triton rises from the sea to provide safe passage for Jason and his crew.  For me it has always been one of the most memorable scenes from Jason and the Argonauts , which says a lot since this has some of Ray Harryhausen's best effects work, including the living bronze statue Talos, the Hydra and the skeleton army that arises from its teeth. This was a time when Hercules and Jason films were popular in Italy, and mostly churned out as cheaply as possible.  Predictably, Hercules is in this, played by Nigel Green as producer Charles Schneer didn't want him looking like a body builder, but the movie largely deals with Jason's journey to find the Golden Fleece.  It's been a story I l

Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (2008)

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Discussions and rumors had been tossed around about a fourth Indiana Jones movies since the early 1990s.  Harrison Ford is known to be a bit mercurial, Sean Connery eventually retired and, unfortunately, River Phoenix died in 1993, and Denholm Elliott around the same time.  George Lucas went on to produce  The Young Indiana Jones Chronicles  with a completely different cast, although Ford made a cameo on the one of the episodes.  While discussions were always being had it was clear that, as popular as  Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade   was, the only character that would be returning at all would be Indy himself.   Also as the years went by the realities of time set in.  Harrison Ford wasn't getting any younger, and neither was Lucas or Steven Spielberg.  After awhile things just kind of came together and, with a script that was originally titled  Indiana Jones and the Saucer Men from Mars , word eventually came that a new movie was in the works.  It eventually became  Indiana Jo

The Tomorrow War (2021)

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I think with The Tomorrow War the major movie studios may have figured out what to do with their major event films.  Even before the pandemic most of them were losing money, at least in the United States as many Hollywood studios decided that their home country didn't matter as much as China.  But, even with China's audiences seeming to enjoy things that go boom with a lot of pretty lights and, often, the Rock, it wasn't like that market was helping to save the summer blockbuster season either.  Throughout 2020 studios tried to figure out what to do with the films they had made or had almost finished.  Many have been delayed for theatrical release, while a number of others either got streamed on the various platforms the parent companies of the studios own or, in the case of Disney, occasionally gambling that someone will pay $30.00 for something they can see as part of the package they already pay for if they're just patient.  It hasn't helped that most of those mo

The African Queen (1951)

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Only John Huston could have convinced a major movie studio to let him film on location in Africa in 1951, despite all the logistical problems.  Having Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn as the leads pretty much guaranteed a hefty return for the investment, provided that everyone came back okay.  Lots of apocryphal stories have come about - some the usual colonial myths about cannibalism, which peers said Huston made up out of whole cloth - but one thing that was true is that almost everyone got sick, largely from contaminated water.   Huston had originally planned on filming in Uganda, but decided instead to film along the Belgian Congo.  Bogart hated the humidity, bugs and pretty much everything, while Hepburn loved it until the inevitable dysentery set in.  While filming in some countries in Africa still presents a challenge, at the time many places were still under colonial rule or had just, often violently, shaken it off. Despite European powers saying they were bringing civiliz