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Today in Movie History: December 18

Let’s cut to the chase: The Two Towers hit theaters fifteen years ago today in 2002. Among its copious assets is a sterling performance from Andy Serkis as Gollum, which ushered in an entirely new way of portraying fantasy figures onscreen. It also constituted an impressive piece of filmmaking in and of itself, and while it really is simply the middle …

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Today in Movie History: November 17

We’re starting with something from the “everything old is new again” file. The Marx Brothers had their share of comedy classics, but many consider their greatest work to be Duck Soup. It highlights the absurdity of authoritarian governments, with the boys’ rollicking chaos presented as a counterpoint to the methodical, planned chaos created by despotic regimes. Can’t imagine why that might …

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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: July 14

I’m going to start with the X-Men, less because of what their debut onscreen adventure achieves in and of itself than what it heralded for the future of movies. Marvel Comics adaptations had been mired in direct-to-video mediocrity for decades, and while Wesley Snipes’ Blade was the first of their heroes to achieve mainstream movie success, he was more of an …

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Today in Movie History: June 10

Though heralded as a game-changer at the time, Jan de Bont’s Speed has since been hobbled by the director’s overall lack of quality output and overtaken by superhero movies as the action flavor of choice. It remains breakneck popcorn entertainment, however, and though hardly the most plausible scenario, it holds up to multiple screenings remarkably well. It also made Sandra …

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Today in Movie History: May 27

These days, with every potential blockbuster hoping to suck up all the air in the room, you never open big films right on top of each other. But it used to happen all the time. And in this case, it was a grand fluke, since nobody expected Star Wars to do anything when it debuted on May 25, 1977. But …

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Today in Movie History: December 17

12 years ago today, Peter Jackson’s Return of the King arrived in theaters: eventually winning 11 Oscars, cementing our current franchise-heavy cinematic culture and finally validating fantasy movies as an undeniable art form. It’s actually an auspicious date for fantasy movies: Jim Henson’s The Dark Crystal came out on the same day in 1982, moving the celebrated puppeteer beyond the …