Rupert Pupkin Speaks

Monday, March 30, 2015

Underrated '85 - Daniel Budnik


Daniel Budnik is the co-author of Bleeding Skull!: A 1980s Trash Horror OdysseyHe is currently at work on another book and a new blog, possibly focused on BJ & The Bear. He believes the world is ready for it.
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I’d like to start this list by disclosing a fact. Although I went to see Back to the Future twice in the theaters at the age of 12, I did not see (and have still not seen) The Goonies. Oh, I know of the film. My brother watched it on Beta about 20 times. I’ve seen many of the scenes. But, I’ve never actually sat down and watched the film all the way through. I now wear that fact as a badge of honor.
Anyway…  the five films I’ve chosen are ones that I believe are underrated from the great and glorious year when prime time soaps gave up their #1 spots to sitcoms and the word “Sussudio” became part of the lexicon. I was tempted to add some obscure films. However, I reasoned: if no one’s really seen the film, how can it be underrated? (Well, there’s one on here that is close to obscure but I had to let one pass.)

Police Academy 2: Their First Assignment (1985; Jerry Paris): As anyone who knows me knows, every year I have a Police Academy week in my home. Across seven nights I throw a party and watch all of the Police Academy movies. Last year, attendance was up. Both my dogs stayed in the room. So, there were three of us. Their First Assignment was released at that interesting moment whenthe whole “police academy” concept might have ended with this movie. History, and my dogs, can confirm that this did not happen. Part 2 is the only sequel that has anything close to character development (Tackleberry’s romance). It introduces Lt. Mouser. It has some of the best pranks played on saidlieutenant. Proctor first appears. And the gags are funny. Also, like most of the sequels, characters are forgotten about for long periods of time. (Hooks and Fackler are barely in it.) The editing leaves something to be desired. Jokes that feel like they should be big laughs kind of fizzle out. (The non-shootout in Sweetchuck’s store is an example.) And, there’s very little structure to anything. But, it is still funny and fun. You got the power of Guttenberg on your side. Roll with it!

Loose Screws (1985; Rafal Zielinksi): In rarefied quarters this is known as Screwballs II. Where I live it is just Awesome. Rafal Zielinski can do no wrong! A bunch of guys try to get laid. They dress up as women. There are naked ladies. The guys are really dumbThere are funny “joke” names. (I could be thinking of another movie for any of those points I’ve just listed. It doesn’t matter.) There is nothing resembling logic or storytelling as one has come to know it on the planet Earth. I enjoy a good T&A comedy. I really do. But, I like them with as little sense as possible. King Frat and Fireballs are my two favorite examples. Loose Screws is right behind them. I don’t know if I’ve actually laughed when I’ve watched this film but I’ve always enjoyed myself. Netflix used to have it on their Instant and I used to loop it…  over and over..  and over…  If you only plan to see, say, four or five1980s sex comedies before you die, please include this.

Shadow Chasers (1985)
The lowest rated TV show of the 1985-1986 television season began with a 2-hour TV movie, co-written and directed by Kenneth Johnson of V, The Incredible Hulk The Bionic Woman. And it’s a very entertaining, bordering on wonderful, time. Sort of a post Ghost Busters, pre-X-Files sort of thing. A stuffy British anthropology professor at Georgetown University is, more or less, blackmailed by his head of department into going on paranormal investigations across the United States. He somehow winds up teamed with a tabloid reporter with a taste for Hawaiian shirts. It’s an odd couple! But, really, they’re great. Jonathan MacKenzie and Edgar Benedek go to a small Californian town to investigate the apparent spontaneous combustion of a man in the attic of his huge creepy house. It’s funny. It’s got some scares and it is so, so 1985. One of the best ways to spot 1985 is the music. This is the period when Hollywood began doing all-synth scores, just like cheap exploitation films had been doing for years. The music for Shadow Chasers is the only tricky part about it. With the worst offender being the excessive use of slap bass whenever something suspenseful or scary is supposed to be happening. I’m trying to remember if that worked in 1985 and I’m unsure. Shadow Chasers has another great distinction: it was one of the first (of many) causalities of the NBS Thursday night sitcom line-up. Anything that went up against The Cosby Show andFamily Ties (later A Different World) was doomed to fail. I remember seeing a list of the ratings for one week and Shadow chasers was, literally, at the bottom. But, don’t let that deter you.Shadow Chasers is a cool TV movie and the regular hour-long episodes are pretty great too. Here’s an odd thing: Shadow Chasers has 13 episodes total. Only the first 9 episodes aired on the network. Not that many people actually saw it. But, if you fish around online, you can find quite a lot of fan fiction written about it. Quite a lot. I know, surprised me too.

American Ninja (1985; Sam Firstenberg): Dudikoff! James! Firstenberg! A silly title turns out to be hiding a well-directed, exciting and, at times, almost whimsical action film. What else do I need to say? Give it a try. Part 2 is even better. Part 3 and 4 get a bit weird, especially 3, but they are still entertaining.

Remo Williams: The Adventure Begins (1985; Guy Hamilton): I went to see this in the theater because of the ads with Remo hanging from the Statue of Liberty (which was covered in scaffolding that year as it was being renovated). I really enjoyed the movie. But it did, in fact, feel like a beginning. More time is spent on Joel Grey’s character training Remo than the actual mission. So, I waited anxiously for the sequel. (Hey, if they made a sequel toScrewballs, why not Remo?)It never happened. And my heart was broken. However, it is still a great action/ adventure film as long as one forgives the overly hopeful structure. And, it contains three fantastic action scenes: the gradually escalating training scene, the bit with the dog who can do anything and, of course, the Statue of Liberty scene. That scene still stands as several minutes of some of the most thrilling stunting since Harold Lloyd got scared off that ledge and wound up hanging from a clock back in 1923.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Scream Factory - INVADERS FROM MARS on Blu-ray

INVADERS FROM MARS (1986; Tobe Hooper)
"We don't carry loose change into combat sir."

Let me just start by saying that I miss Karen Black. I miss the time when she was a bankable Hollywood star and was appearing in a variety of memorable and interesting movies. She made so many great films in the 1970s. From FIVE EASY PIECES, CISCO PIKE and DAY OF THE LOCUST to NASHVILLE, THE OUTFIT and even AIRPORT 1975. She was almost obligatory in the 70s and that was a beautiful thing. Sadly, by 1986 she was working in far less high-profile projects and was relegated to lower budget films and TV work. Just prior to INVADERS FROM MARS her most memorable film was Ruggero Dedato's underseen CUT AND RUN in 1985, so it's a cool thing to see her back in a large scale production like this (though many of her films from the 1970s were smaller budget character pieces). And speaking of large-scale productions, Tobe Hooper was no stranger to them and this one is up there as far as ambitious special-effects heavy features for him. Obviously he made POLTERGEIST and LIFEFORCE before this movie and even though this is something of a slight step down from those movies, it's still one of my favorites of his films. There are just certain directors that can handle themselves really well when it comes to incorporating elaborate special effects into their storytelling and Hooper is one of them. Of course it also helps when you have gents like John Dykstra and Stan Winston helping out as he did on INVADERS. Frankly, a director like Hooper produces some of the most fun and remarkable results when working with craftsmen like Dykstra and Winston. And when you add to the equation that this was a movie he made for Cannon Films (and one of their higher budgeted productions at that) and there was very little creative interference from them, what you end up with is a pretty crazy science-fiction fantasy. It really is a case of some amazingly creative and twisted people letting their imaginations run wild in their filling the gaps in a classic science fiction tale. As much as I like the original William Cameron Menzies film from 1953, I have to say that Hooper's remake is just so outlandishly creepy and gooey and disturbing that it really stands out as the one I enjoy a little more. It's been said to death, but there is just something so captivating about watching movies with many-faceted sets and real creatures that the actors are interacting with in front of the camera and you can feel the difference in the effect it has on you when you watch it (or at least I can). So even if INVADERS FROM MARS' story may be a sort of familiar INVASION OF THE BODY SNATCHERS kind of plot, it stands out because of Hooper's vision and the work his special effects team did on the movie. And it certainly doesn't hurt when you have wonderfully capable character actors like James Karen, Bud Cort and Louise Fletcher backing up your leads. Also having a kid actor at the center that doesn't take you out is essential and Hunter Carson (real-life son of Karen Black) does a nice job as well. INVADERS  FROM MARS has a lot going for it as a sci-fi classic from the 1980s, but it is not as well remembered as it should be. Folks should give it a look via this lovely looking new Blu-ray.

Special Features:
This a neat special edition from Scream Factory with some nice supplements. First off is a good commentary track with director Tobe Hooper himself. It's a 
I was very intrigued to hear Hooper talk about the practical effects and how some of them were accomplished. It's one of those movies that is a mix of makeup and visual effects, animatronics and even some carnival-ride-sized apparatus (which were part of the gigantic sets that were built for the film). Hearing stories of this kind of antiquated filmmaking is always quite thrilling to me. It's not that it's any less difficult to make a movie these days, but the idea that so much of it had to be created in real life for the camera to pick up is just a whole other level of magic than what we see now. Hooper took a lot of care in making this remake and even went so far as to take a lot of time re-creating the iconic hill and fenceline that was seen in the original Menzies film. It's a solid commentary and Hooper is frank and reflective in his thoughts on many aspects of the production and his deal with three-picture Cannon Films at the time. Fans will like this track.

-Also included is a cool new 37 minute retrospective, "The Martians Are Coming - the Making of INVADERS FROM MARS". The piece includes interviews with Tobe Hooper, actor Hunter Carson, composer Christopher Young, as well as a couple of the special creature effects artists (Alec Gillis & Gino Crognale). Director Hooper talks about how his original intentions were to make a children's film, which is what he was really ready to make at the time and how INVADERS was expected to be much more of a horror film. Carson talks about working with his mom and how they treated it as a very professional thing while they were on set. He also reminisces about working  with the other actors like James Karen and Louise Fletcher. He really has a lot of memories from making the film and recalls them in far greater detail than I would have expected. As far as Hooper's interview, there is some overlap with what he discusses in the commentary track, but overall the retrospective is good in its ability to give you the sense of what it was like to have been on set during the making of this movie. The effects guys give a little more detail with regards to how some of the sequences were done too which is nice.

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Underrated '85 - Cinemonster

Fancy Film Fella and Booze Aficionado, Cinemonster can be stalked on Twitter @ElCinemonster or at Letterboxd. Website being built with Lego as we speak. 
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Turk 182! (1985; Bob Clark)
You have to be proud of something you put an exclamation point after, don't you? So plot heavy and engorged with chaos that it almost collapses, this David v Goliath story pits Timothy Hutton's graffiti vigilante against Robert Culp's Mayor of NYC who denied disability benefits to Hutton's brother. His brother, a fire fighter, was was injured while saving some kids from a fire while drunk and off duty. Turk gives a fantastic and detailed picture of a New York that is now solidly in the rear view, and highlights what was a fantastic graffiti culture from the late 70's into the mid 80's. Another solid film from the unsung Bob Clark and reminder of how beautiful Kim Cattrall was. 

Mafia vs. Ninja (1985; Robert Tai)
Must be seen to be believed. Preposterous kung-fu film centers around two sewer workers who get pulled into an Asian gang war after they are hired to protect a mafia honcho who is subsequently killed. They, of course, seek revenge and what follows is high grade action, fun fight choreography and performances and effects that will almost cause you to wet yourself. Oh, someone may or may not defend himself with a tree. I suggest you wear Pull-ups. :)

Moving Violations (1985; Neal Israel)
Siblings of more famous actors populate this Neal Israel directed 'Police Academy Light' comedy set in driving school. One of many 'piggyback' comedies of the 80's, it is more enjoyable than most as the cast is charming enough and the laughs are stupid fun. It is probably more notable presently for being some of actor Don Cheadle and DP Robert Elswit's earliest work. 

Insignificance (1985; Ken Russell)
An off-beat examination of fame, guilt and despair wonderfully crafted by Nicolas Roeg, and featuring great performances highlighted by Teresa Russell's turn as The Actress. Clearly a filmed play, but a fascinating piece of cinema never-the-less. You don't see cubism in too many narrative films.
The play, written by Terry Johnson, was inspired by a news piece that he had read that listed an autographed picture of Albert Einstein among the late Marilyn Monroe's possessions.

Beer (1985; Patrick Kelly)
An advertising firm, desperate to keep a brewery client, utilizes and lionizes three schmucks who were sort-of involved with thwarting a robbery at a bar to 'relaunch' the brand. One ridiculous (and successful) ad campaign after another change everyone involved in different ways. Great early performance from David Alan Grier stands out but the cast, highlighted by Rip Torn and Sally Kellerman, are fun as hell. Beer is funnier than it has any right to be and, as with most comedies, goes well with beer.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Underrated '85 - Ira Brooker

Ira Brooker is a writer and editor living in Saint Paul, Minnesota. He barely remembers what it's like to watch a well-regarded movie anymore. He writes all over the place, and especially at atalentforidleness.blogspot.com, irabrooker.com and @irabrooker.
(P.S. - check out his Underrated Action/Adventure list:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2014/08/underrated-actionadventure-ira-brooker.html)
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Tenement (1985; Roberta Findlay)
In a just world, Roberta Findlay would be a highly sought-after guest at business seminars. Maybe more so than any modern filmmaker, she perfected the art of hitting all the right notes to bring in a paying audience while telling a reasonably coherent story and avoiding the frills and flourishes that would bulk up expense reports. That she happened to employ these skills in the service of exploitation cinema seems to have been a matter serendipity. Regardless of genre, Findlay knows more about how to make a movie than just about anyone in the game.

Tenement might be her masterpiece, a nasty, sweaty wallow in violence and nihilism that takes a chillingly neutral view to its own depravity. A gang of flamboyantly attired junkies gets rousted from its squat pad in a New York City apartment building, then comes back that night to exact vicious, vaguely motivated vengeance on the tenants. That’s about all there is by way of plot. From there on out it’s all sweat and tension and torture and impalement and improvised execution devices. Gang members and civilians die horribly and indiscriminately and Findlay never tries to inject a message or a moral into any of it, unless “You sickos like blood and guts and naked ladies, right? Give the ticket take five bucks and that’s what I’ll show you” counts. I have to say I’ve heard far worse messages than that.

Hard Rock Zombies (1985; Krishna Shah)
Hard Rock Zombies is a tough film to categorize. It’s technically a horror comedy, but the horror is by no means scary and the comedy is more rooted in weirdness and surreality than actual gags. It’s infused with a Troma-esque vibe of self-aware, zero-budget, gross-out anarchy but keeps a straighter face than Kauffman and company generally attempt. And it features one of the most delightfully left-field character reveals I’ve ever seen. (I’m itching to tell you what it is, but you really ought to experience it for yourself.)

A quite bad but era-appropriate hair metal band rolls into a rock-hating small town called Grand Guignol intent on playing a show for people who don’t want to hear it. In short order the band members get thrown in jail, craft a creepy love ballad for an underage fan, fall in with the local chapter of undead monsters, and get themselves turned into zombies. And from there it gets weird. Not all of it works and the proceedings sometimes lurch too far over the top, but it’s a ton of fun. (The townspeople’s attempt to protect their heads from zombie attacks is one of my all-time favorite bits of zombie comedy.) If you can dig on genre-juggling, throw-it-at-the-wall-and-see-what-sticks weirdness like Alabama’s Ghost or early Troma, this oughta be right in your ballpark.

Heaven Help Us (1985; Michael Dinner)
I have very little patience for post-American Graffiti nostalgia jaunts and even less for John Hughes-ian teenage coming-of-age movies, which makes for some pretty rocky stretches on my ‘80s movie viewing landscape. Yet somehow this Catholic school throwback does it for me. For one thing, it’s not overly romantic about its period - a lot of things about 1965 look pretty crummy from this angle, not least of which is rampant corporal punishment in our nation’s private schools. 

Andrew McCarthy and Kevin Dillon are solid as the respective sensitive hero and gold-hearted bully, but it’s the supporting players who really sell it. How am I not gonna like a movie with John Heard as a hipster monk, Yeardley Smith as a baby-faced nerd, future porn star Stephen Geoffreys as a hypersexual schoolboy and Larry “Bud” Melman as a deranged bridge attendant? Sure, Donald Sutherland is barely conscious as the head of school, but his apathy is canceled out by Wallace Shawn’s brief but unforgettable fire-and-brimstone lecture on the dangers of carnality. Maybe the sum of Heaven Help Us isn’t quite as great as its assorted parts, but those parts are choice enough to make it one of the few ‘80s teen movies for which I’ll go to bat.

Sloane (1985; Dan Rosenthal)
Now, don’t get me wrong - Sloane is not a good movie. Sloane is in fact quite a bad action movie of the ilk that could have only come out of the 1980s. But Sloane is nonetheless an immensely watchable movie for one reason only: Robert Resnick’s performance as Phillip Sloane, possibly the most intensely unlikable action hero ever to anchor a movie. 

Less a man than a sentient bundle of smug, Sloane plunges into the Manila underworld to rescue an embezzler’s kidnapped wife, armed only with his wits, his utter lack of charisma and his snide condescension toward every soul who crosses his path. Oh, and also some automatic weapons which he employs frequently and lustily against dozens of Filipinos, regardless of provocation. Take all of this, stir in a healthy dose of misogyny and one of the most inexplicable late-movie plot twists ever filmed and you’ve got Sloane, a movie that demands to be seen if only because we all have some manner of penance to pay.

Interface (1985; Andy Anderson)
This might be the most 1985 movie of 1985, a priceless relic of the brief era when personal computers were sliding from a nerds-only obsession to an in-home tool and family plaything. The action centers on a small-college computer club that runs an illicit hacking-for-hire business to fund its elaborate LARP-style paintball games (the club members dress up in voice-distorting cyberpunk masks and take commands from an all-knowing computer program). When a chance encounter with drug dealers turns the hackers into accidental vigilantes, they lean into the role and soon find themselves executing evildoers and letting their innocent computer professor take the rap.

Shot on location on a Texas campus for what couldn’t have been more than the meagerest budget, Interface might have been a real gem if it had stuck with its hacker vengeance storyline. Unfortunately, much of its middle third is squandered on the falsely accused professor trying to crack the case while engaging in tedious screwball antics with a victim’s widow. Even so, this is well worth watching as an amiable, ambitious time-capsule from a starry-eyed era when we were willing to believe computers could do just about anything if you just knew which buttons to press, up to and including electrocuting your enemies over the telephone.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Underrated '85 - Stephen Scarlata

Mr. Scarlata is a personal friend of mine and he and I are were very much raised on a lot of the same 80s junk/goodness. One of his favorite movies is THE PIT. He's a cool fella. He was also one of the producers on JODOROWSKY'S DUNE which is currently available on Blu-ray:
http://www.amazon.com/Jodorowskys-Dune-Blu-ray-Alejandro-Jodorowsky/dp/B00J5LXMTG
You should follow him on twitter here:
https://twitter.com/xNECKx
and letterboxd here:
http://letterboxd.com/neck/


Also, check out his recent Underrated Action/Adventure list because it is awesome:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2014/07/underrated-actionadventure-stephen.html
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STATIC (1985; Mark Romanek)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0090069/?ref_=nv_sr_3
Strange and quirky film that reeks of the mid 1980’s. Mark Romanek’s film debut was considered unreleasable until it stuck a cord and became a success in England. Keith Gordon gets fired from his job at a crucifix factory in order to work on an invention that will enable him to see into heaven.

INVASION USA (1985; Joseph Zito)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089348/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Joseph Zito’s slasher-in reverse starring Chuck Norris as a Jason Vorhees like ex-CIA agent hunting down terrorist in south Florida. If you’re a fan of the 80’s, Friday the 13th and action films this one won’t disappoint. This could be Chuck Norris best film.


CUT AND RUN (1985; Ruggero Deodato)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089338/?ref_=fn_al_tt_1
Ruggero Deodato’s big budget sweaty jungle epic. Drug smuggling with babies, Michael Berryman in full-on psycho mode with a machete, brutal jungle booby traps and Willie Aames from Charles in Charge. Please try to track down the uncut version.


DETECTIVE (1985; Jean-Luc Godard)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0089066/?ref_=fn_al_tt_2
Godard’s Detective is a film that solely takes place in a hotel. We follow a detective obsessing over a murder of a prince two years prior. What I find interesting is the 1980’s video surveillance aesthetic and also as the film moves on the hotel itself starts to transform into a character.


USA NINJA (1985; Kuo-Ren Wu)
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0400905/
1985 was the year of the ninja. Fallen between the cracks of Sho Kosugi and Micheal Dudikoff was Ninja in the USA. This film relies more on martial arts and has some impressive fight scenes and outrageous villains.


Wednesday, March 25, 2015

Underrated '85 - Neil Wilson

Neil Wilson (@dirmgr) is a professional computer programmer and amateur movie enthusiast in Austin, Texas.  Last year, to honor the 30th anniversary of one of the greatest years in film history, he watched 365 movies released in 1984.  This year, he's continuing on into 1985 and hopes to uncover some more mid-80s gems.
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Stone Pillow (1985; George Schaefer)

US Release: November 1985
Lucille Ball had been in over 40 movies before her first television appearance, but it's TV that really made her a star. So it's fitting that her final movie role would be this made-for-TV drama in which she plays Flora, a jaded, feisty, no-nonsense homeless woman who knows all the tricks needed to survive the New York City streets. Daphne Zuniga is Carrie, a naive, fresh-out-of-college girl struggling in her job at a homeless shelter. While out on a fact-finding mission to try to better understand the homeless, Carrie encounters Flora just in time for both of them to get mugged. Mistaking her for a runaway, Flora grudgingly takes Carrie under her wing to gives her a first-hand look at what it's like to live on the streets.

Stone Pillow is a far cry from the comedy roles that made her famous, and her trademark red is completely gray, but you can't help but recognize Ball's voice as she completely owns this movie. It's a captivating drama that manages to be an effective social commentary without feeling awkward or heavy-handed. Zuniga does a fine job in her supporting role that thankfully takes a back seat to Lucy's lead, and I was pleasantly surprised to find an uncredited appearance from Mike Starr.


Poison Ivy (1985; Larry Elikann)

US Release: February 1985
Summer camp movies are one of mankind's greatest inventions, right up there with electricity and the wheel. And Poison Ivy has to be one of the best summer camp movies ever made. It's not that there's anything all that unusual or innovative about it, but it's just done really well. There are the usual camper stereotypes, like the athlete, the fat kid, the nerd, the fast-talking con artist, and the runaway, but there's more depth to their characters than you might find in one of the lesser movies. Michael J. Fox (probably mostly known for Family Ties at this point, since Back to the Future and Teen Wolf wouldn't hit theaters for another few months) is the big star, as noted by his appearing no fewer than four times on the VHS cover art, but Nancy McKeon (The Facts of Life) has the more nuanced role as the assistant nurse who is attractive and draws the attention of many of males of varying ages but is much more than a sex symbol. On the other hand, Adam Baldwin's "head counselor with a stick up his ass" role does seem pretty one-dimensional, and Robert Klein's camp director gives a few enthusiastic speeches but is otherwise pretty insignificant. Despite a fairly prominent credit on the VHS cover, Jason Bateman is nowhere to be found in the movie.

At times, Poison Ivy feels a lot like a younger and tamer version of Revenge of the Nerds. Many of the campers are misfits but they mesh well together, and the camp's big "color wars" competition a lot in common with the Greek Games. It also reminds me of the 1990 "who's who of network television" movie Camp Cucamonga, which makes sense because Bennett Tramer wrote them both (along with a fair amount of Saved by the Bell). Poison Ivy is probably familiar because it doesn't do much that hadn't been done before, but it does it well and with a great dose of nostalgia to boot.


Heavenly Bodies (1985; Lawrence Dane)

US Release: February 1985
Jane Fonda's early 1980s workout videos made aerobics popular in the home, but it didn't get much big-screen attention until Heavenly Bodies. It features Cynthia Dale as Samantha, who manages to escape her boring day job and join up with friends KC and Patty to turn a dilapidated warehouse into an aerobics studio. Sam's upbeat attitude and nonstop energy help to quickly grow the membership, and she even signs a deal with the local pro football team to whip their players into shape (and gets a love interest in the process). Things really take off when Samantha lands a gig hosting an early-morning workout show on TV, but that doesn't sit well with Debbie, the girlfriend of a rival gym owner who thought she had the show locked up. When Debbie convinces an investor to buy the Heavenly Bodies building and terminate their lease, Samantha does a little Network-style rant on her show and challenges the other gym to a marathon aerobics competition for the building.

In defiance of all known laws of mathematics, this movie is approximately 150% montage. There are three separate montages (Samantha at her old job, fixing up the building, and doing aerobics with ever-increasing class sizes) before we encounter a scene with any substantial dialogue. You won't find any needless exposition here, and it's practically a master class in "show don't tell" filmmaking. It's cheesy at times, motivations aren't always clear, and it's unlikely to inspire anyone to get off their butt and start exercising, but it is a movie that's fun to watch and even stands up well under repeat viewings.


The Party Animal (1985; David Beaird)

US Release: January 1985
More than a decade before VH-1 ran its Where Are They Now? series, The Party Animal somehow managed to spoof it. It's a documentary-style look back at the college career of Pondo Sinatra, a guy with only sex on the brain but thus far a complete lack of experience. His experienced roommate Studly agrees to help him, but his efforts (like a wardrobe makeover and an utterly ridiculous Cyrano de Bergerac sequence) just don't seem to pan out. Even Studly's mentor Elbow can't seem to get him over the hump. It's only when a professor makes a reference to an aphrodisiac in a lecture that Pondo's luck begins to change.

There is nothing subtle about this movie. It's more about quantity than quality, and while some of the gags miss the mark badly (like an uncomfortably racist scene, or a drug sequence that goes on too long without much payoff), a lot of them work. It's not as classy as your higher-brow sex comedies like Porky's or The Last American Virgin, but it's also willing to venture into territory that other movies wouldn't dream of touching (e.g., a scene in a sex shop where Pondo browses while a couple of employees have a conversation on arms reduction in the voice of Marlon Brando). The premise may have been done to death, but there's stuff in The Party Animal you won't find anywhere else.


The Perils of Gwendoline in the Land of the Yik Yak (1985; Just Jaeckin)

US Release: January 1985
In one of the most ridiculous of the Indiana Jones clones, Tawny Kitaen plays the titular Gwendoline. She's looking for her father, who never came back from a mission to find a rare butterfly. For some reason, she latches onto a guy named Willard (who has about as much charm and machismo as you'd expect from someone with that name) and finagles him into being her guide on a mission to find out what happened. And despite learning almost immediately that her father is dead, they set off into dangerous territory to try to figure out exactly what happened and to find that elusive butterfly.

This is really just a boob delivery mechanism masquerading as an action-adventure film, and it accomplishes that quite effectively if not brilliantly. A jungle storm necessitates disrobing to fashion a means of capturing the rainwater. A cold night spent tied up by superstitious natives requires what basically amounts to phone sex in order to keep warm. And the final act takes place in a no-boys-allowed hidden city that is kind of a sexy Coliseum of topless chariot racing and hand-to-hand combat. This isn't the place to look for classy, edge-of-your-seat excitement, but few movies deliver trashy over-the-top absurdity as well as this one.

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

Underrated '85 - Justine Johnson

Justine Johnson is an obsessive former video-store employee and current midnight movie curator at The Black Box in Providence, Rhode Island. You can reach her via the internet on Twitter @moviessexa.
Check out her previous lists - Underrated Action/Adventure and Underrated Detective/Mysteries:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2014/08/underrated-actionadventure-justine.html
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2014/06/underrated-detectivemysteries-justine.html------

The Coca Cola Kid (1985)
Directed by Dusan Makavejev.
"Money is gods muscle. Listen to him. Dont get angry. Don't get scared either." A romantic comedy from the director of Sweet Movie starring Eric Roberts. 

Alice in Wonderland (1985)
Directed by Harry Harris.
This musical adaptation of Alice in Wonderland haunted my nightmares forever as a child. Carol Channing is terrifying. Shelley Winters plays a dodo bird...Imogen Coca is truly scary and yelling about pepper. John Stamos sings a song about the Lion and the Unicorn....Just great stuff.
Just Carol Channing being totally not scary at all

Lost in America (1985)
Directed by Albert Brooks.
Julie Hagarty and Albert Brooks play a yuppie couple that decides take their nest egg and travel across the country and live like "in Easy Rider". Obviously things dont go as planned. I am not always a fan of Albert and can find him grating sometimes but Julie Hagarty is so perfect that this one works for me.

Seven Minutes in Heaven (1985)
Directed by Linda Feferman.
A teen movie starring actual teenagers. Jennifer Connelly has never been dreamier to me than in this one. AND he grossly underused Maddie Corman plays her best friend who is involved with an older professional baseball player named Zoo Knudson. Which is probably my favorite fake name ever uttered. 

Blackout (1985)
Directed by Douglas Hickox.
Worth the strangely graphic opening sequence alone but is actually a totally rad, weirdo made-for-tv thriller complete with bondage mask and Keith Carradine.
Feel the Motion (Der Formel Eins Film) (1985)
Directed by Wolfgang Buld.
Um, please find and watch this one. Starring that guy from Kajagoogoo! With Pia Zadora kind of! and Meatloaf!
https://youtu.be/fQf8pdc99B0



It isn't so much underseen as underloved but it is worth saying that
After Hours is my favorite film of 1985. Forever and ever. It is just completely wonderful and weird.
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