Picks of the Week:
Howard The Duck (Universal)
A tale of two flops: In 1980 Universal released Xanadu starring Olivia Newton-John and a late-career Gene Kelly. A sort-of disco musical fantasy (with roller skating!), it flopped at the box office, but gradually picked up a cult following tuned in to its campy delights, even inspiring a Broadway musical adaptation in 2007. “So-bad-it’s-good” is a slippery label to lay on a movie. Xanadu knows exactly what it is: A fundamentally silly movie with a game cast and a bunch of great songs from ELO. It’s not trying to not go over the top. It just took a while for others to catch on to how charming its brand of over-the-top could be.
Exhibit B: There’s much less affection for Howard the Duck, a 1986 adaptation of one of Marvel’s more bizarre characters produced by George Lucas and co-written by Lucas’ old American Graffiti pals Gloria Katz and Willard Huyck, and directed by Huyck. By contrast, it has no idea what it wants to be, substituting the finest mid-’80s special effects money could buy for the satirical attitude that made Steve Gerber’s original run on the comic so compelling. It’s not so bad it’s good. But it’s so bad it’s kind of fascinating. Both, in spite of their initial receptions, have lingered in the public consciousness, even if Howard‘s lasted mostly as a cautionary tale. And both make their way to Blu-ray this week.