Planet of the Vampires (1965)

Mario Bava was a pioneer in many genres, but largely in horror and giallo.  It is understandable why he usually worked, with some exceptions, within those genres.  Even if you were Federico Fellini, your budget was still largely what you could scrape together and heavily dependent on the success of your other films.  It may seem like Italy has churned out a massive amount of movies since their industry recovered after World War II, but the truth is many of them depended on ambition and ingenuity much more than cash. 

Science fiction, typically, is something that you need a little bit of the filthy lucre sitting around to do successfully.  While some of the best moments in horror films can be achieved by what you decide not to show (or what you have to do to hide a dodgy effect), science fiction by its very nature involves showing.  That's why we end up with a range of success over the years.  For every stop-motion saucer animated by Ray Harryhausen, you end up with a flying turke…

Logan (2017)

In recent years we have been inundated with the origin stories of superheroes, over and over.  Often, in the cases of Batman and Spiderman, we have endured the same story numerous times as the series seems to get rebooted about every couple years or so.  Unless you are Thor or Deadpool, though, your superpowers do not ultimately make you immortal.  So, what happens when it's time for the hero to meet their end?

Wolverine, for all intents and purposes, was thought to be immortal, as he was given an adamantium endoskeleton and superior healing abilities.  Unlike the other mutants of the X-Men, he was manufactured, largely to be the first in a line of supersoldiers.  Still, immortality is a very difficult thing to achieve, and even Logan himself must succumb to the side-effects of what was done to him.

In 2029, Logan (Hugh Jackman) is slowly dying from being poisoned from the very substance that made him the unstoppable weapon he originally was.  He drives a limousine, earning just …

Guardians of the Galaxy, Vol. 2 (2017)

Another year, another clutch of special effects extravaganzas from Marvel and Disney.  And, typically, movie after movie introducing new characters and following the time-warn origin formula.  Such is assembly-line film making and, although a number of Marvel movies stand out, the method in which they are made is starting to wear thin on the audience.

In fact, it was wearing thin back when the first Guardians of the Galaxy movie came out in 2014.  That's what suddenly made that movie so special: it didn't take itself seriously, waste its time on complicated backstory to give it an edge or overwhelm the film with unneeded cameos.  It was a rollicking sci-fi fantasy adventure comedy with great music and a cast that worked well together, even if two of them were CGI characters. 

Of course it is ridiculous to expect the same thing to happen twice.  Either the sequel was going to feel a little like it was trying too hard to be the first movie or it was going to try to build on it.…

Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)

It has now been two years since Star Wars: The Force Awakenswas released.  True to current fandom, about a month or so was spent praising it for bringing back the feel of the Star Wars franchise after the lackluster prequels.  The rest of the time?  Complaining that it was a rehash of the original movie, while speculating on Rey's parents and who this Snoke guy was.  While some explanations fit in with the new canon, much of what could explain the rise of the First Order was wiped out when years of world building was relegated to "Legends" status.

I will give some credit where it is due.  While expanding the Star Wars universe and adding some interesting new characters, while dispatching an old favorite, The Force Awakens felt like it had to in some ways incorporate elements of Star Wars in order to put things back on track.  What was truly unexpected would be that Rogue One: A Star Wars Story, the first entry in the standalone series of movies, would go a completely di…

Scrooged (1988)

It is almost a guarantee that come Christmas there will be some new adaptation, or parody, of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol.  Now that It's a Wonderful Life is back under copyright, the other typical go-to is a little harder, but the story of old man Scrooge and his visitation by three ghosts is fair game.  The 1951 version starring Alastair Sim is probably the most popular straight reading, while for comedic versions I have always enjoyed the Blackadder Christmas special.

For many, though, Scrooged has become required holiday viewing.  I saw it originally a couple years after it came out, and wasn't all that impressed.  I didn't hate it as much as some of the critics did at the time, but I felt so much potential was wasted.  I appreciate a late '80s effects movie revisiting the old theme once again, but I remembered very little over the years other than the movie is practically yelling at the audience throughout.  From what I have read, Bill Murray himself …

Die Hard (1988)

And then... along came Bruce.

No, not Bruce Lee.  Unfortunately he had been gone for 15 years by the time this came out.  It would have been interesting seeing him kick the butts of a bunch of bad guys taking over the fictional Nakatomi Plaza.  Maybe in some alternative dimension.  Still, I don't think even that particular Bruce would have made Die Hard as iconic and memorable as Bruce Willis.

At the time Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Chuck Norris were the big three, with Jean-Claude Van Damme and and Steven Seagal interesting newcomers.  Bruce Willis, on the other hand, was the start of a television detective/romance drama called Moonlighting, which was still in production at the same time Die Hard was filming.  Some of the big names were considered for the part of John McLane, but Willis had a certain everyman quality the others lacked.

Thus, we suddenly had another big action star on our hands, along with a major franchise and, surprisingly, a beloved Christmas…

The Evil Dead (1981)

Sam Raimi has been one of my favorite directors ever since I first saw Evil Dead IINot only was he able to do quite a lot on a small budget, but his direction was unique.  I later came to find out that was what I like about many horror directors.  You occasionally had your mainstream auteurs like Alfred Hitchcock or Orson Welles, but many independent horror directors were able to develop their own style simply because to do what they wanted to do, and do it cheaply, required a bit of extra thought.

The Evil Dead was Raimi's first feature-length film, famously financed by Raimi, producer Rob Tapert and lead actor Bruce Campbell going to extreme lengths to make sure the movie got made and found an audience.  Despite freezing temperatures, dangerous filming conditions and a number of injuries, it did, and it became one of the most important horror films of the 1980s.

Friends Scotty (Richard DeManincor) and Ash (Campbell) head to a remote cabin for a weekend of relaxation.  Along w…