Best of the Bombs: Finding treasure among Hollywood’s trash

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This month marks the 30th anniversary of “Howard the Duck” hitting theaters in 1986. That film was a large commercial and critical failure, offering up bad puns and a convoluted plot that audiences simply weren’t interested in seeing. However, sometimes the box office doesn’t tell the whole story, and those films deemed as flops are actually worth taking a second look at to discover an enjoyable, if weird, movie. Here are 15 films, in chronological order, that deserve to be rediscovered despite their terrible performance with ticket buyers.

“Pennies from Heaven” (1981)

Audiences weren’t ready for Steve Martin in anything but wacky comedies in the ’80s and probably weren’t exactly primed for a subversive musical drama that is caked in cynical darkness, either. But Herbert Ross’ Pennies from Heaven” (based on the UK miniseries of the same name by Dennis Potter) is an astounding achievement that juxtaposes the lively musical numbers of the day with the bleak existence many faced in the 1920s. It has incredible performances from Martin, Bernadette Peters and Christopher Walken, features some impressive song and dance sequences, and really hits the emotional core of broken dreams.

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Blu Tuesday: Arrow, The Jungle Book and More

Every Tuesday, I review the newest Blu-ray releases and let you know whether they’re worth buying, renting or skipping, along with a breakdown of the included extras. If you see something you like, click on the cover art to purchase the Blu-ray from Amazon, and be sure to share each week’s column on social media with your friends.

“Arrow: The Complete Fourth Season”

WHAT: After defeating Ra’s al Ghul in battle, Oliver Queen (Stephen Amell) leaves behind his vigilante persona and moves to the suburbs with Felicity (Emily Bett Rickards) to live a normal life. But when Star City is threatened by a terrorist organization called H.I.V.E., Oliver returns as the newly dubbed Green Arrow to stop the group’s leader Damien Darhk (Neal McDonough) – a man with mysterious magical abilities – from destroying what he’s worked so hard to protect.

WHY: The fourth season of “Arrow” is a real low point in the show’s history; it’s as clunky and poorly conceived as Diggle’s awful new helmet. Though past seasons have certainly had their share of criticisms, it’s never been quite this bad. The flashbacks are more pointless than ever, persisting with a plot device that’s no longer necessary, while the Oliver/Felicity romance is horribly mishandled. Even Damien Darhk’s involvement doesn’t seem very well-thought-out. Not only is he too powerful for Oliver and his team, but he only appears when it’s convenient for the plot, going through the same motions over and over until his lame defeat in the finale. However, the biggest problem with “Arrow” (and to a lesser degree, “The Flash”) is that there isn’t enough story to warrant 23 hours of television, resulting in a lot of unnecessary filler. That’s never been more true than in Season Four, and with any luck, it’ll lead to the show receiving a much-needed reset, or at the very least, a return to its grittier, humbler roots.

EXTRAS: In addition to the 2015 Comic-Con panel, there’s a trio of profiles on Damien Darhk, Vandal Savage and Hawkman and Hawkgirl, deleted scenes and a gag reel.

FINAL VERDICT: RENT

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5 things you should never say to someone who knows their cars

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There are a lot of things you can say to someone who knows their cars. “Nice car!” for example, or “Wow, the time and effort you have put into maintaining and enhancing this beautiful automobile was totally worth it!” But equally, there are some things that a car lover never wants to hear. Things like…

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Smoking and Drinking with People Who Don’t Smoke or Drink

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At various times of the year, you’re likely to visit people who you’re not around very often. You might be going to see family, old friends or people you knew earlier in life. If you enjoy smoking or drinking, it can be difficult to know how to behave around these people. Do you smoke openly and freely? Do you have a couple of drinks with dinner or a glass of wine by the pool? This can be a concern if you happen to know for sure that these folks don’t use either substance. Fortunately, there are easy ways to figure out how to your friends/family feel about the subject and to be able to be yourself all the same.

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Martin Ray Vineyards & Winery highlights two California regions

Martin Ray Winery’s history dates back to the 1940s in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Their second life started in 1990 when Courtney Benham bought the winery and moved it to the Russian River Valley. While they’re now deeply ensconced in Sonoma County, Martin Ray Winery continues to produce wines from the Santa Cruz Mountains too. Both of these areas are well suited for a variety of grapes to thrive. Chardonnay and Pinot Noir are among those that do the best. I recently tasted a number of selections from them. Here are four that I really enjoyed and highly recommend.

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Martin Ray 2014 Mill Station Chardonnay ($35)

This is entirely Chardonnay from a single vineyard located on Dutton Ranch in The Russian River Valley. Aging took place over 12 months in 40% new French oak. After aging, select barrels are chosen for the final blend. The spice-driven nose also features a bevy of other attractive aromas such as subtle toast, crème fraiche and yellow apple. Lemon curd, Anjou pear and more are on display throughout the layered and complex palate. Continued spices, hints of lemon merengue pie crust and more emerge on the long luscious finish.

Martin Ray 2014 Bald Mountain Vineyard Chardonnay ($35)

All of the fruit for this wine (entirely Chardonnay) was sourced at the namesake vineyard in the Santa Cruz Mountains. Barrel aging took place over a year in 40% New French oak. Pineapple and spice aromas dominate the lovely nose. Asian pear, citrus zest and hints of stone fruit are all apparent on the engaging palate. Wet limestone and gentle hints of brown sugar appear on the above average finish.

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