Leiadeathstar

Today in Movie History: May 25

Once upon a time, 20th Century Fox had what they thought was a stinker of a science-fiction film on their hands.  They opened it in a tiny handful of theaters today in 1977, in hopes that it would vanish without causing too much embarassment. The movie was called Star Wars, and I’m pretty sure you can guess what happened next. The game-changing nature of George …

Last Crusade

Today in Movie History: May 24

It’s blockbuster season, so I’ll start with the biggest. Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade — widely regarded as the best of the series after the original — benefited from the genius pairing of Harrison Ford’s redoubtable archaeologist with Sean Connery as his fussy, disapproving father. It opened today in 1989. Slightly further down the sequel list, we find Back to …

Shining

Today in Movie History: May 23

Given its status as one of the most beloved horror movies of all time, it’s hard to believe that critics were none too fond of The Shining when it was originally released. Indeed, Stephen King himself always expressed dissatisfaction with it — adapted from one of his most personal works — and even responded with a newer made-for-television version that was much more faithful to …

600px-Rambo2_2011

Today in Movie History: May 22

The summer season traditionally kicked off on Memorial Day weekend, with the pre-planned 600-lb. gorilla du jour grabbing the pole position every year. Unfortunately, that meant a lot of high-end sequels of dubious quality landing in late May: notable more  for failing to meet expectations than advancing whatever the franchise in question was. Yet all of them remain interesting… as cinematic …

Taxi Driver

Today in Movie History: February 8

A big day for movies starts with the one of the most problematic. D.W. Griffith’s Birth of a Nation opened today in 1915, marking a seismic advance in motion pictures as a technical art form while simultaneously pushing a narrative so grotesque it causes one to despair for humanity. Film students are obligated to watch it. Once. Everyone else can …

crouchingVhRGc

Today in Movie History: December 8

We’re going to start with Ang Lee, the only non-white to win more than one Best Director Oscar and whose vision continues to expand with every film he makes. Among his very best is Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, a love letter to the wuxia films of his youth that manages to elevate the genre to masterpiece status. A sumptuous adventure, a tragic …

hard-days-night

Today in Movie History: August 11

It’s kind of amazing watching A Hard Day’s Night with the benefit of hindsight. It was originally intended to catch a rapidly fleeting pop culture phenomenon: raking in a few bucks on the backs of those four lads from Liverpool before the bubble burst and they vanished into obscurity. It was the From Justin to Kelly of its time: a …

Damon_motorcycle

Today in Movie History: August 3

Jason Bourne has been through his ups and downs at the moves. Yet it’s important to note just how improbably successful this series has been overall: turning a turgid series of bestselling airport paperbacks into the most muscular and credible spy franchise since James Bond. Director Paul Greengrass and star Matt Damon deserve the lion’s share of the credit for that. …

barbara_bach_2006_06_27

Today in Movie History: July 13

Today marks the 40th anniversary of The Spy Who Loved Me, one of the high points of the Roger Moore James Bond era that found him flashing his playboy spy routine to increasingly ridiculous ends. The villain’s a bit of a snoozer, and while Barbara Bach looks great in a slinky dress, she’s still too passive to make the strong impression required …