Written by Larry Gelbart
Directed by John G. Avildsen
Animal House and The Blues Brothers are probably the only films John Belushi was in that a large number of people agree were good pictures. Neighbors is a movie that held a consensus as a complete disaster. This was the final film Belushi would star in, dying from a drug overdose, a combination of heroin and cocaine. When you look at the final product and Belushi in it, there’s a lot to like, but so many elements fail hard. Part of the film’s inability to find success in the box office lies in the fact that it’s an art-house picture, not a mainstream comedy. But when your two big names are Belushi and Dan Akroyd, and it’s 1981, you are going to try and sell this as a comedy for the crowds.
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Miracleman Volume 3: Olympus
Reprints Miracleman #11-16, Annual 1
Written by Alan Moore
Art by John Totleben
After the first six issues of Miracleman published in the United States by Eclipse, they got Alan Moore to return to continue the story. This was happening right as Moore was breaking out as the writer on the critically beloved Swamp Thing and Watchmen. Because so much time had passed between the events of the original UK Marvelman short comics and these reprints, the writer decided to use a framing device, jumping a few years ahead. Now Miracleman is reflecting on what happened while flying through a palatial tower. The reader would immediately wonder where he is and what led to this place, creating an evocative narrative hook.
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Second-Hand Hearts (1981)
Written by Charles Eastman
Directed by Hal Ashby
Second-Hand Hearts represents what might be the most baffling decline in a director’s output that I have ever seen. The blame for this disaster of the film is spread out based on online conjecture, ranging from Ashby’s developing cocaine habit to studio interference in the final project to the two lead actors refusing to take any direction. Second-Hand Hearts is a second attempt to capture the quirky love story of Harold & Maude that fails spectacularly and embarrassingly. In fact, the film was so bad it disappeared from circulation, never receiving a home video release and only becoming available in 2013 as produce on-demand DVD from Warner Brothers’ archive program.
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Miracleman: The Red King Syndrome
Reprints Miracleman #5-10
Written by Alan Moore
Art by Alan Davis and Chuck Beckham
In 2012, researchers at the University of Cambridge did a survey of the British people about their beliefs in conspiracy theories. It was found that 60% of Britons believe at least one conspiracy theory. Some of those theories accepted by residents of the U.K. include the government hiding the exact immigration numbers in the country, a plot to make Muslims the political majority in the kingdom, and most telling, that while they are told their country is a democracy, everything is run by a power elite. (The Guardian UK). These theories about the actual workings of the world have percolated in Western cultures for centuries, but it was the 1980s and 90s where they came to full fruition, able to guide the momentum of elections and referendums. In this second volume of Miracleman, Alan Moore fleshes out a conspiracy related to the rulers of the world that speaks to some more significant metaphysical points.
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New Mutants Epic Collection: The Demon Bear Saga
Reprints New Mutants #13-31, Annual #1
Written by Chris Claremont
Art by Sal Buscema, Bob McLeod, & Bill Sienkiewicz
Calling this volume “The Demon Bear Saga” feels a slight bit disingenuous as the conflict with the titular entity takes up about four issues in this collection. A more apt title would reference the stye transition brought to New Mutants by the legendary Bill Sienkiewicz. The switch in issue 18 from Sal Buscema fairly standard art to Sienkiewicz dynamic and kinetic style is jarring in all the best ways. There are quite a few story arcs and subplots running through this collection, so it’s not as much about one singular narrative as it is New Mutants differentiating itself from its sister title at the time The Uncanny X-Men.
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Miracleman Volume 1: A Dream of Flying
Reprints Miracleman #1-4
Written by Alan Moore
Art by Garry Leach and Alan Davis
Your first question may likely be, “Who is Miracleman?” Well, you start with Fawcett Comics and their flagship character Captain Marvel. You know him today as Shazam. Captain Marvel was more popular than Superman at one point in the 1940s. Elvis Presley’s hairstyle is based on Cap’s sidekick, Captain Marvel Jr. In 1951, DC eventually sued Fawcett claiming that Cap was too similar to Superman and thus a copyright violation. The courts ruled in favor of DC and Fawcett ceased publication of Captain Marvel. Years later, DC would buy the now failed Fawcett Comics and fold Cap into their properties.
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Written by Barry Strugatz & Mark R. Burns
Directed by Susan Seidelman
In watching films in this series, my hope is always to come across a maligned picture that’s actually better than people make it out to be. I’d love to be surprised and discover some lost gem that was misunderstood in its time. The movies are chosen based on either the status of the performers or the franchise being adapted. I picked She-Devil because the names on the marquee are Meryl Streep and Roseanne Barr. Barr was particularly huge at the time with a hit tv series, and this film was seen as a stepping stone into big-screen work. What happened was that the film flopped, and Barr stuck with her television gig. But is the movie as bad as audiences and critics believed at the time?
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