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The Playlist

5 Things You Might Not Know About Ridley Scott's 'Alien'

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • May 25, 2012 10:03 AM
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  • 5 Comments
The success of "Star Wars" changed everything. While "2001" had been a giant hit a decade ago, most put it down to a fluke, but George Lucas' film suddenly proved that science fiction wasn't just for B-movies, but could be a licence to print money. Every studio in town were chasing the genre, but 20th Century Fox, who had distributed "Star Wars" had a head-start: they already had another space-set script in development, "Alien," by Dan O'Bannon, Ronald Shusett, Walter Hill and David Giler. They swiftly attached new helmer Ridley Scott to the project, and production got underway in the summer of 1978.

5 Things You Might Not Know About 'The Empire Strikes Back'

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • May 21, 2012 11:00 AM
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  • 6 Comments
After thirty years, three terrible prequels and acres of spin-off material, the "Star Wars" brand has been somewhat tarnished. The fans are still legion, but it's become harder and harder to get excited about the series, and the highlights drift further and further from memory. That being said, we'll always have a place for the original trilogy in our hearts, and much of that comes down to the second (or fifth) installment, 1980's "The Empire Strikes Back" Despite the success of the original, creator George Lucas seemed to have taken some of the criticism to heart and took a back seat for the follow-up, handing over the directorial reins to his old film school professor Irvin Kershner ("The Eyes of Laura Mars," "The Flim-Flam Man") and hiring veteran screenwriter Leigh Brackett and bright young thing Lawrence Kasdan, who'd come to fame thanks to his as-yet-unmade scripts for "The Bodyguard" and "Continental Divide."

5 Things You Might Not Know About David Lean's 'Lawrence Of Arabia'

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • May 18, 2012 3:12 PM
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  • 12 Comments
Is there a greater film than "Lawrence of Arabia?" Perhaps. There are certainly few longer ones, or few that are more epic and sweeping in their scope (thanks to the timeless Panavision 70 photography by Freddie Young). But even if the film isn't your absolute favorite, it is the number one of many, including Steven Spielberg, who credits the picture with making him want to be a filmmaker.

The 10 Best Dennis Hopper Performances

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • May 17, 2012 1:45 PM
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  • 9 Comments
It's almost two years since the passing of one of cinema's true wild men, Dennis Hopper. The actor, writer and director was a maverick titan of cinema, a man who starred in some of the most pictures of American cinema, from "Rebel Without A Cause" to "Blue Velvet," while also writing and directing a film that arguably changed the movies forever, "Easy Rider," while maintaining a personal life that was decidedly colorful (for full details, read Peter Biskind's modern classic "Easy Riders, Raging Bulls."

5 Things You Might Not Know About John Milius' 'Conan The Barbarian'

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • May 14, 2012 11:20 AM
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  • 4 Comments
These days, after "Lord of the Rings" and "Game Of Thrones," fantasy isn't just big business, but it can also be an critically acclaimed awards favorite, picking up Oscars and Emmys by the handful. As such, it's easy to forget that prior to the 1980s, the genre barely existed on screen, with animated takes on Tolkein's works the only really significant pictures in the genre. But in 1977, "Star Wars," a film that owed as much to high fantasy as to science-fiction, became the biggest hit in history, and that opened the door to all kinds of new fantasy worlds.

5 Unmade Movies From Spaghetti Western Maestro Sergio Leone

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • April 30, 2012 12:58 PM
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  • 7 Comments
For someone who's considered one of the greatest filmmakers in history, Sergio Leone was not especially prolific. While he was a prolific assistant director (with credits including "Bicycle Thieves," "Quo Vadis" and "Ben Hur"), he was only credited on seven films across his thirty-year career (with uncredited direction work on three others -- "The Last Days Of Pompeii," "My Name Is Nobody" and "A Genius, Two Partners and A Dupe").

5 Things You May Not Know About Akira Kurosawa's 'Seven Samurai'

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • April 26, 2012 9:58 AM
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  • 7 Comments
Picking your favorite Akira Kurosawa film is a tricky choice for any movie fan. From "Rashomon" to "Ran," the great Japanese filmmaker, one of the most beloved and influential directors of all time, knocked out a string of classics in a career that lasted well over 40 years. But more often than not, at the top of the list for Kurosawa fans is "Seven Samurai," the 1954 samurai epic that redefined the action movie for generations.

10 Of Saul Bass' Greatest Title Sequences

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • April 25, 2012 12:22 PM
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  • 5 Comments
The art of movie titles is becoming an increasingly lost one: aside from a few films (the Bond movies) and directors (Steven Spielberg, David Fincher and Jason Reitman always take particular care over their credit sequences), it feels like relatively little care is taken over such things, with many movies dumping them altogether. And it's hard not to put that down to the fact that we don't have Saul Bass around anymore.

5 Things You May Not Know About 'The Third Man'

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • April 25, 2012 10:03 AM
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  • 3 Comments
Thirty-six years ago today, on April 25th, 1976, filmmaker Carol Reed passed away. One of the greatest directors ever to come out of the U.K, Reed started out as an actor, but gained fame as a writer-director in the late 1930s and 1940s, thanks to films like "Night Train To Munich," and the outstanding "Odd Man Out" and "The Fallen Idol." Later, he'd also find success with films like "Trapeze," "Our Man In Havana," "The Agony and the Ecstasy" and "Oliver!," for which he won the Academy Award for Best Director, beating out Stanley Kubrick for "2001" and Gillo Pontecorvo for "The Battle of Algiers."

Jack Nicholson: 5 Of His Most Underrated Performances

  • By Oliver Lyttelton
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  • April 23, 2012 10:56 AM
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  • 13 Comments
There can be little doubt that Jack Nicholson is one of the greatest movie stars in the history of the medium. He's had more Oscar nominations and wins than any other actor -- twelve, having won three -- and has been an A-list star for over forty years now, remaining a legitimate box office draw in films like "Something's Gotta Give" and "The Departed" even in his seventh decade. He's worked with everyone from Antonioni to Scorsese, and given some of the most iconic screen performances ever, from "Easy Rider" to "The Shining."

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