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Today in Movie History: November 21

Hollywood loves its monsters and we’ve seen our share of great ones over the years. At the end of the day, however, they all fall in line behind one indisputable champion. The one and only Frankenstein opened today in 1931. I doubt the Hunger Games will expand beyond the three books and four films that have already been made. The …

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Today in Movie History: November 19

We top the pole position with one of the greatest movies of all time: Akira Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai hit U.S. theaters today in 1956. The unparalleled Eastern-Western mash-up — entailing an impoverished village menaced by bandits who hire seven wandering ronin to save them — influenced everything from The Magnificent Seven to Star Wars to A Bug’s Life, and includes …

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Today in Movie History: November 12

We’re starting today with Jane Campion’s The Piano, which gave Holly Hunter the role of a lifetime and launched the career of a very young Anna Paquin. All three women won Oscars for their work here… and it goes without saying that we need more filmmakers like Jane out there! The Piano opened 25 years ago today in 1993. And in keeping with …

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Today in Movie History: November 9

I note with some irony that the movie everyone was talking about 34 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 …

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Today in Movie History: November 5

We’re starting today with a pair of very different superhero movies. The obvious candidate for the pole position is The Incredibles, Brad Bird’s marvelous riff on the Fantastic Four that posits a super-powered family trying to blend into suburban life after costumed heroes are declared illegal. It’s typically brilliant work from Bird and helped Pixar set the standard for animation …

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Today in Movie History: November 2

Oscar bait tends to do a lot of hand-wringing about social causes, but in the case of Roland Joffe’s The Killing Fields, it’s more than just the musings of limousine liberals. It depicts the fall of Cambodia to the Khmer Rouge and the horror show that followed, bringing the human cost of nationwide slaughter into sharp relief through the intimate relationships …

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Today in Movie History: November 1

Paul Newman is cool. Really, really cool. How cool? Cool enough to have a movie with the word “cool” in the title… a movie that’s been the go-to choice for anyone looking for movies with “cool” in the title for almost 50 years. The film was Cool Hand Luke, of course, and Newman’s portrayal of a workhouse inmate determined to stick …