When it hit theaters in 1980, “The Empire Strikes Back” changed everything. Yes, “Star Wars” was huge when it arrived three years earlier, but there had been blockbusters before. Movies like “Jaws,” “The Godfather” and “The Exorcist” drew record audiences and wowed the filmgoing world. But the reality we live in now, the one where every movie has a sequel pre-sold and any movie that goes into the black instantly becomes the foundation for a multi-film franchise? That’s the reality that “The Empire Strikes Back” spawned
If “The Wizard of Oz” weren’t a beloved family film based on a series of best-selling children’s books, it would be pretty damned weird. It still is, as a matter of fact. Think about it: You’ve got a teenage girl who’s whisked via tornado away from her dull (and sepia-toned) Kansas home into a magical (and colorful) world. Her house lands on a witch, she learns the witch’s sister wants her dead, and only after teaming up with a scarecrow, a tin man and a lion can she find the wizard who can take he back to Kansas. Or maybe, just maybe, it was all a dream…
Out of Theaters shifts gears this week and reviews a movie that’s in theaters now. You may have read reviews of The Force Awakens by Will Pfeifer and me. Or you may think reading is for chumps. If that’s the case then here’s the review that requires absolutely no reading.
It’s considered a Christmas classic, but 1946’s “It’s a Wonderful Life” also has the reputation of being sentimental schlock, derided as “Capra-corn” (in honor of its director, Frank Capra) and dismissed as a movie whose ending reaches new depth of sappiness and tear-jerking desperation. None of that, thankfully, is true.
Before the Force could awaken this week, it had to be created. And that conversation between Luke Skywalker and Old Ben Kenobi is the first time the Force was ever mentioned in “Star Wars,” a movie released way back in 1977 and the one responsible for everything — good and bad, inspirational and embarrassing — that’s come since.
Can a monster movie that relies on the same special effects used to create the Abominable Snowman in 1964’s Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer be suspenseful and entertaining? Yes. Yes. A thousand times, yes! Unless you ask Billy Kulpa. Today we review the original King Kong (1933). The effects may seem cheap by today’s standards, but nothing like King Kong existed back in 1933. The classic picture also manages to do something the 2005 Peter Jackson version could never do: end in less than three hours.