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The Last King of Scotland (2006)

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Dictators.  If anything should scare aliens looking down and studying us to see if they should make contact, if there is one thing that should scare them is our penchant throwing one of these guys the reigns of power every now and then.  There have been mad kings, barons and khans throughout the ages, but in the last two centuries technology and communication have been an unprecedented enabling force.

It's not like we've been taught this less over and over again.  For every Thomas Sankara that actually tries to do something good for his country, there is a Kim Jong Il, Adolf Hitler or Pol Pot to make it quite clear that about the only thing they are good for is lining their pockets before leaving in exile, leaving a burning heap of a country behind.  Even those that have in some ways left their countries improved, like Francisco Franco or Augusto Pinochet, still ended their time with a severe reduction in their population, particularly those that had some differing opinions.

Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

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When I originally saw that this movie was coming out I was rather confused.  I was wondering if things had got to the point where Marvel was just trying to throw anything against a wall and see if it stuck.  Apparently I wasn't the only one because I distinctly remember that the announcement of this movie was not exactly met with a wave of enthusiasm.

As soon as it did come out, though, everything changed.  Marvel movies have a problem with humor, and that problem is that it often seems like it is forced.  Rarely do I find the jokes in most of the movies to be funny, but rather ham-handed attempts at character building or getting the heroes to bond.  That is what I feared when I saw trailers for this.  Yes, it included Blue Swede's "Hooked on a Feeling", but it is one of those songs like "Walking on Sunshine" that appears in trailers every now and then.  It seemed that a science fiction movie with a talking raccoon had been thrown together just to be quirk…

A View to a Kill (1985)

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Roger Moore had been considering quitting the James Bond franchise since Moonrakercompleted.  For all intents and purposes, he wanted to make For Your Eyes Onlyhis last go, and was largely brought back in Octopussydue to Sean Connery starring as Bond the same year in Never Say Never Again.  There was some question about whether he would return for A View to a Kill, as producer Albert Broccoli already had his eye on Timothy Dalton and Pierce Brosnan as possible replacements.

Alas, Moore decided to make one last Bond film, although he was quite aware that he was too old to play the part.  Unfortunately Hollywood, as well as a number of film industries around the world, still have the habit of paring a male lead with a female romantic partner young enough to be their grandchild.  In this case, he was older than his costar's mother, which drove the point home to him.  Broccoli himself was finally getting the idea as he had no intention of doing another Bond film with Moore after this…

Underworld (2003)

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Recently I have been binge watching shows I missed when they first came out.  The first was Supernatural, where I went through the first 13 seasons (14 hadn't come out yet at that point).  Recently, it's been Fringe.  Both of those shows came out not too far apart form each other: Supernatural in 2005, Fringe in 2007.  Both extended into the decade we just left behind.

One thing that is interesting in watching a show that straddled a number of years is how things change.  Both shows have their share of product placement (Nissan was really trying to push their cars in Fringe) and, as a result, show off much of what was cutting edge technology at the time.  You get to see both what was largely accessible to those with a ton of money and, for most of our protagonists, the normal consumer electronics targeted at the public. 

When I watch an older film, even up into the first half of the '90s, there is such an abyss between what we have now and what we used then that I rarely …

The Irishman (2019)

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Shortly before the release of The Irishman director Martin Scorsese made headlines with his comments showing disdain for the current state of cinema, largely aimed at Marvel and DC films.  While all of his points were valid (and many have been voiced by myself and others), the way it came across was as a rant from an angry old man.  It was one of the biggest "Okay, Boomer" moments of 2019.

I think the reason some directors suddenly got their hackles up is, despite Grandpa Simpson way his concerns were presented, they contain more than an element of truth.  Movies, from the start, have always been a way to make money.  However, as with any visual medium, there are those who can do it better than others and turn out works of art that, coincidentally, end up making the investors happy as well.  Martin Scorsese has been one of those directors, and his influence on just about any director from the early 1970s forward is unquestionable.  Even if there is not necessarily an imitat…

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)

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Besides bringing us the collective works of Coleman Francis, Mystery Science Theater 3000 is responsible for bringing a number of movies to public awareness that would have been forgotten or lost.  Often those that made or starred in them might have preferred that had happened, but some, like Manos: The Hands of Fate, have become underground classics.

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians was already pretty much known as a bad Christmas/science fiction mashup long before MST3K, largely due to the books published by Michael Medved going over the worst movies ever made.  Although in public domain, it took the interest of the Misties (much like another maligned Christmas movie, Santa Claus) to bring it back to the awareness of the general public.  Among all the Christmas specials that used to play in December I can definitely say that this was not among them.

It is a bit surprising, since by all accounts the movie didn't do that bad on initial release, especially considering that it was …

Iron Man 3 (2013)

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I have no idea if, when Iron Maninitially came out, that Marvel was thinking in phases.  Whatever the situation, Iron Man 3 marked the start of phase two of the series, as well as the last movie made by Paramount.  Disney and producer Kevin Feige, in fact, were largely in control of the direction by this period, so the whole "phase" thing may have come about since, in a roundabout way, the preceding movies had finally led up to The Avengers

It is fitting, then, that we begin once again where the entire series started.  There were no threats from space and no union of superheroes, just a man coming to terms with the error of his ways and fighting to maintain control of his family legacy.  It may not have been chock full of shiny effects, but it was solid story telling, as was the direct sequel.  It also didn't try to shoehorn any unnecessary characters just to have cameos (Colonel Rhodes, aka War Machine, was always part of the story).  Both movies had bad guys with no…