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Howard the Duck (1986)

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Among the most legendary films there are those that achieved their fame in a different way.  Those movies go by names like Heaven's Gate , Ishtar , Battlefield Earth and, rather famously because it was produced by George Lucas and featured a fringe Marvel Comics property, Howard the Duck .  Sure, there are plenty of terrible (or so bad they're good) films, but many of those were made on a budget that was barely above that of a school play.  To truly fail in a legendary way takes a lot of money. George Lucas was rolling in cash by the middle of the 1980s, so much that he built his own place to make movies, edit and do post production called Skywalker Ranch.  The endeavor, located in a remote area of Marin County in California, cost $50 million.  In today's dollars this would be just shy of $120 million and, keep in mind, this was one guy who was an independent film maker who, among other things, had founded his own special effects company (Industrial Light and Magic) and had

10 to Midnight (1983)

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Charles Bronson was one of cinema's consummate tough guys long before he made Death Wish in 1974.  He starred in a number of westerns, including some of the best from Sergio Leone, as well as a number of war, crime and action films.  By the 1980s, although it had been eight years and a number of movies later, he was largely known for Death Wish , and the low-budget film studio Cannon was able to channel America's fear of rising urban crime into producing a hit sequel in 1982.  Though hated by critics, the movie was a hit with audiences, who were more than happy to see Bronson blow a bunch of criminals away. Also with Cannon was director J. Lee Thompson, famous for making hit films in the 1960s like The Guns of Navarone and Cape Fear.   By the time he and Bronson started working together he had been making a string of b-movies, including famous slasher film Happy Birthday to Me .  10 to Midnight happened to be the first movie the two would work on together, and both Bronson and

Knives Out (2019)

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Where does one go after doing a Star Wars movie ?  I will admit that, unless it's George Lucas or J. J. Abrams, the Star Wars series is a bit of a curse.  Even Lucas removed himself from officially directing anything for over two decades after the first Star Wars film, while Irving Kirshner only managed two more feature films and Richard Marquand only a handful before his death.  Gareth Edwards, the director of Rogue One: A Star Wars Story , has not done anything since, and Ron Howard, like Kirshner before him, is near the tail end of his career.   That brings us to Rian Johnson.  I was excited about The Last Jedi  because of Johnson's previous film Looper , which dealt realistically with aspects of time travel - especially when used by organized crime.  He had a couple of other well-regarded films before that one, but he couldn't really be considered a household name.  One problem with a lot of the big, cinematic universe films has been that studios have taken independent

48 Hrs. (1982)

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In 1982 Eddie Murphy was riding high on success from his time on Saturday Night Live and released a hit comedy album.  He was appearing on stage, had a novelty hit with "Boogie in Your Butt" and was the most popular young African-American comedian in the country.  The world was more than ready to see what he could do on screen when he was cast in 48 Hrs. , a Walter Hill film of a script that had been floating around since the late 1970s and suddenly got the go-ahead. Despite his success the producers of the movie still didn't know who he was.  Afterwards that would all change.  Eddie Murphy had his ups and downs, even in the 1980s, but by the time Another 48 Hrs. came out in 1990 he was top billed instead of Nick Nolte.  And this is where it started: a low-budget, violent crime drama in which Murphy injected his charisma and his comic timing to not only make him a star but also to start an entire '80s genre of cop movies. Jack Cates (Nolte) is a disheveled, alcoholic

Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith (2005)

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After Star Wars: Episode I - The Phantom Menace we were constantly promised that the series would get betterif we just stuck with it; trust in the Lucas, so to speak.  There was enough good will left over from the original trilogy that we did, and we were rewarded by Attack of the Clones .  By rewarded what I mean is a reduced role for Jar Jar Binks.  Otherwise, we got emotionless monologues about sand from a sad, emo version of Anakin Skywalker and Natalie Portman bringing the sort of enthusiasm one does to a dental appointment.  Everything forced into the movie to give us a tragic romantic story for Anakin and Padmé just took away from parts that were good, many of them involving Obi-Wan Kenobi uncovering a series of plots that lead to the beginning of the Clone Wars.  Now that we had the beginning of the Clone Wars out of the way, it was time that we got the rest of it - but, in all honesty, that is not what we got for the final film.  That all happened off screen, and Revenge of t

Uncut Gems (2019)

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Adam Sandler is not a name that makes me look forward to a new movie.  I don't think it's that strange to say that I did like a lot of his comedies when he first started his film career - Billy Madison , Happy Gilmore , even Little Nicky  - but he became tiresome rather quickly.  The problem is that he relies on stupid voices and gives us characters that we had no reason to root for.  It sometimes works, and it sometimes doesn't, but usually when it does he is playing a role that requires him to be an actual person.   The Wedding Singer is a good example.  In 2002 there was a strange movie called Punch-Drunk Love.  Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson, it featured Sandler in what was still marginally a comedic role as a man with psychological and anger issues dealing with a both a sudden interruption in his life combined with romantic entanglements.  Like all of Anderson's films it was strange, but Sandler suddenly proved there was more to him than just a guy grabbing the f

Black Eye (1974)

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The blaxploitation genre did what it could to incorporate as many different classic movie styles as possible, from westerns to horror.  I'm quite sure that this was not originally intended to be, as Sweet Sweetback's Badasssss Song was more of an art film, while Shaft and Superfly were typical cop and gangster films, respectively, but produced to where they were more relevant to the African-American community.  Once things got going, and the demand for these pictures from both black and white audiences increased, it became like any other genre where getting new product out, no matter what the quality, was what mattered.  Also what mattered in most cases is getting a star, and Fred Williamson was one of the biggest, thanks to the Larry Cohen films Black Caesar and Hell Up in Harlem .  Being a former football player he had the physicality to be a convincing tough guy, but he also had the look of any normal guy one might meet on the street.  This everyday quality, especially when