CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF THE THIRD KIND, Cary Guffey, 1977

Today in Movie History: November 16

Ask anyone what their favorite Steven Spielberg movie is, and few will say Close Encounters of the Third Kind. But ask them what their top five Spielberg films are, and most people would likely find room for it. It’s as strong a film as he’s ever made — an early sign that he could do far more than just scare people …

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Today in Movie History: November 15

The original silent version of The Phantom of the Opera is actually quite a flawed film in many ways. Poor scene direction, shoddy camera placement and the like put a damper on what should have been something incredible. Luckily, that’s not the purpose of the exercise and all those flaws fade to insignificance the moment Lon Cheney’s haunted, terrifying Phantom …

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Movies for the Resistance: Hard Candy

(Welcome to Movies for the Resistance, a weekly column intended to showcase films with particular pertinence for 2017. One of the fundamental purposes of art in general, and movies in particular, is to serve as a spiritual armory: bringing hope, timely lessons and shared experiences when times are dark. They can move us to positive political action, lend insight to the inexplicable, …

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Today in Movie History: November 14

We’ll start today with Raging Bull, a movie which not only marks the high point of Martin Scorsese’s longtime collaboration with Robert De Niro, but pretty much fits with the national mood right now. De Niro won his second Oscar for his portrayal of the indomitable and psychologically damaged Jake La Motta, and when you say an actor of his stature …

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Today in Movie History: November 13

It was a busy day for movie openings.  Claude Rains terrorized the English countryside in The Invisible Man (1933); Robert Mitchum faced down Kirk Douglas in the noir classic Out of the Past (1947); Steven Spielberg launched his career with Duel (1971); Arnold Schwarzenegger demonstrated how to completely butcher a Stephen King novel in The Running Man; Martin Scorsese delivered …

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Today in Movie History: November 9

I note with some irony that the movie everyone was talking about 33 years ago was a truly awful slasher film called Silent Night, Deadly Night: a greasy little piece of exploitation trash that used the gimmick of a killer in a Santa suit to cover up for its lack of anything worthwhile. But while the cinematic world was up in …

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Today in Movie History: November 8

It’s a big day in more ways than one, so let’s get to it. For 45 years, Shakespeare’s Henry V belonged firmly to Laurence Olivier, whose 1944 version was considered definitive. Intended to rally the British nation during World War II, it offered a fairy-tale atmosphere of inevitable victory and proved so potent that no one dared make another version of …

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Today in Movie History: November 7

Small confession: I was not fond of Jon Favreau’s Elf when it was first released, and while time has warmed me to its charms, my feelings remain mixed. But I’m definitely in the minority on this one, and in the last decade it has become a reliable holiday classic that makes lots of folks happy during the Christmas season. It opened today …

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Today in Movie History: November 6

Terry Gilliam is a singular filmmaker, and like many singular filmmakers, some of his films are better than others. But not even the harshest critics would deny Time Bandits a spot on his Greatest Hits list. The story concerns a lonely young boy (Craig Warnock) who follows a six-pack of dwarves through a hole in space-time, sending them careening through the ages …

Sissy Specek as Carrie

Today in Movie History: November 3

Stephen King understands bullies as few others before him, which is one of the reasons why his terror tales hold so much power. His first novel, Carrie — inspired by experiences in high school — taps into the fear, alienation and rage of being the constant target of abuse, and in the hands of director Brian De Palma, it became one of …