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Friday, April 20, 2018

Underrated '98 - Sean Wicks

Sean is a movie obsessed, all-around social media lover, he's very active on twitter (, tumblr ( facebook (, and letterboxd (

Ok so how did 1998 come to be 20 years ago? Would someone PLEASE stop time…just for a bit!

When Rupert asked me to contribute to this series, I thought coming up with a healthy list of underrated titles for 1998 would be difficult. Instead I found myself with a long list that I had to shrink down so I pulled off a few titles I know other people will be all over (ZERO EFFECT being the primary one).

1998 also had one of my favorite films from the 1990s, and that would be…..
BULWORTH (Directed by Warren Beatty)
Ok, if you want to see a grown man gush over a movie, here is your opportunity.

BULWORTH had me from the opening few moments. This movie is wildly funny and watching Warren Beatty trying to rap and realizing just how impossible it is for an older (rich) white man to become urban is something to behold. You know what helps? Cinematography by Vittorio Storario and a score by Ennio Morricone not to mention a supporting cast that includes Halle Berry, Oliver Platt (who almost steals the picture), Jack Warden, Sean Astin and Don Cheadle.

Beatty (who directed and co-wrote the film) is Jay Billington Bulworth, a California Senator running for re-election who is suffering from some severe depression thanks mainly to the concessions he has made in his political views to stay in office. He’s so disenfranchised that he sets up a “weekend research project” that is basically hiring someone to assassinate him. Death does not come easy to Senator Bulworth who tries to stay one step ahead of the assassin he hired and begins openly having a nervous breakdown by rapping (badly) at stuffy political events and openly trashing the people who are keeping him in office. He does all this while hanging out with Halle Berry and ending up hiding in South Central Los Angeles.

The biting commentary and the antics of Beatty who hits the message here so squarely on the mark make this picture one that is not to be missed and as mentioned above, a coke-snorting aide played wonderfully by the always solid Oliver Platt threatens to steal the movie from the rapping Beatty. Would LOVE LOVE LOVE for someone to release a decent copy of this on Blu-ray (Twilight Time? Shout Select? Anyone??). Seriously, this picture is brilliant and Beatty is every bit the movie star in it that he always has been, and still taking the risks that have defined his career (like of course BONNIE AND CLYDE).
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THE MASK OF ZORRO (Directed by Martin Campbell)
This action picture solidly grounds itself in the swashbuckling tradition of the title character and comes out a winner on all fronts. The casting of Antonio Banderas who dons the mask from retiring Anthony Hopkins and plans to save California from the tyranny while seeking vengeance for the death of his brother and romancing a very sultry Catherine Zeta-Jones in the process. Everything about this movie is fun, fun, fun and the James Horner score keeps things lively. A highlight is when Zorro uses his sword to expertly disrobe Zeta-Jones, who is every bit as feisty and as tough as he is. A strong female character in what would otherwise be a damsel-in-distress role. Also check out the original teaser which had Zorro walking out and cutting a Z in the screen in the tradition of the James Bond gun barrel opening.
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DEEP IMPACT (Directed by Mimi Leder)
1998 was the year of the Meteor, with not one but two big-budget world-ending pictures released. The one that made the bigger impact may have Michael Bay’s loud ARMAGEDDON, but the one that won me over was DEEP IMPACT which made it into theaters two months before Bay’s movie.

As mentioned, there is a meteor threatening to destroy the earth and while a group of astronauts head into space (led by Robert Duvall) to try and head it off, Earth gets ready for the impending doom but only a select few will survive! Téa Leoni leads an all-star cast that includes Duvall, Elijah Wood, Morgan Freeman, Vanessa Regrave, Maximilian Schell, James Cromwell, Jon Favreau, Blair Underwood and Leelee Sobieski.

While Bay’s ARMEGEDDON focuses on the action and the Bayhem, and really goes off the rails nuts in the second act, DEEP IMPACT takes a more emotional route, focusing on people as they prepare to face their impending death. One sequence involving Leoni and Maximilian Schell (as her father) stands out as making the deepest emotional impact, putting more meaning into the title than just the big rock headed for Earth.
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BELOVED (Directed by Jonathan Demme)
Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) tackled this powerful, spiritual drama that has a family of former slaves (Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover) take in a strange woman named Beloved (Thandie Newton) who brings some strange happenings along with her.

I brought up this movie with someone a couple of weeks ago, and they couldn’t remember it at all which is a shame. I remember walking out of this picture completely moved by it. Worth noting is the haunting score by Rachel Portman which still gets a lot of playtime in my house.
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THE HORSE WHISPERER (Directed by Robert Redford)
Luscious star-driven romantic drama based on a best-selling novel by Nicholas Evans has Redford stepping into the lives of two women (mother Kristin Scott Thomas and daughter Scarlett Johansson). While riding her horse, Johansson is hit by a truck and both are seriously injured both physically and mentally while the friend riding along with her is killed. Scott Thomas enlists gentle yet Rugged Montana Rancher and “Horse Whisperer” Redford to help heal the horse – but it is the horse or the women who he is helping more?

Beautifully shot (by Robert Richardson) movie that has a tender and emotionally powerful tone to it (aided by a Thomas Newman score) it may be all about the romance, but the movie never really goes overboard into schmaltz – unlike some of the other pictures made from Evans’ work. Redford and Scott Thomas make a lovely screen couple.
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BRIDE OF CHUCKY (Directed by Ronny Yu)
From a tender romantic drama to…well…. Chucky, this list has everything!

Killer doll Chucky is re-assembled through a satanic ritual carried out by Tiffany (a gorgeous Jennifer Tilly) who he then murders and turns her into a killer-doll mate. This is a true match made in hell, and pure sadistic fun for everyone involved. Tilly plays up her role to the hilt which really makes this picture a fun ride. It stands as my favorite of the CHILD’S PLAY franchise (next to the original of course).
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ENEMY OF THE STATE (Directed by Tony Scott)
Big brother is watching, and he is after hapless Will Smith who has stumbled on key evidence to a politically motivated crime. He enlists the aid of Gene Hackman, in a sort of follow-up performance to his role in Francis Ford Coppola’s masterful THE CONVERSATION (1974). Not near as good as THE CONVERSATION, but crazy fun in that out-of-control Tony Scott manner. With dialogue exchanges such as:
“What the hell is happening?”

“I blew up the building.”


“Because you made a phone call!”

…how can you go wrong!
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And last but DEFINITELY not least…
RONIN (Directed by John Frankenheimer)
I’m sure someone else will also mention this picture, but I just had to include it.

Exciting heist film starring Robert De Niro featuring one of the best car chases ever put on film. ‘Nuff said!
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Thursday, April 19, 2018

Underrated '98 - Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is a director, filmmaker, and the host of KEVIN GEEKS OUT, a live video variety show in Brooklyn. You should definitely find out more about it here. Or follow him on twitter @KevinGeeksOut.

1998: the year of Monica Lewinsky, the height of The Goo Goo Dolls, the invention of the Mach 3 razor and the death of Frank Sinatra. But let’s talk about the year’s under-appreciated films!

SAFE MEN (John Hamburg)
It’s easy to get drawn into this movie thanks to Hamburg’s fully realized comedic voice. The Rhode Island crime-story features a cast of character actors who wouldn’t know how to phone it in if they tried: Steve Zahn, Michael Lerner, Peter Dinklage, and scene-stealer Paul Giammati as “Veal Chop”. All that and soul-music soundtrack.
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DARK CITY (Alex Proyas)
Here’s an imaginative genre-bender that’s moody and stylish in order to advance the story and its rich themes. It’s easy to picture Tim Burton getting upset that he didn’t achieve this level of post-modern German-noir for Gotham City in BATMAN RETURNS. DARK CITY is also the rare movie that knows how to maximize its use of actor Richard O’Brien.
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BABE: PIG IN THE CITY (George Miller)
This film has found an audience over the years, but let’s include just in case someone hasn’t seen it yet. If **you** haven’t watched BABE: PIG IN THE CITY, get on it! The movie is decidedly weird and surprisingly touching. It takes place in a fictional metropolis that’s a rube’s vision of urban life. It’s hilarious and bizarre, yet still appropriate for the entire family. (Trigger warning: Mickey Rooney as an elderly clown.)
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In between the EVIL DEAD trilogy and his SPIDER-MAN movies, Sam Raimi made a pair of working class thrillers where the real horror is poverty: A SIMPLE PLAN and THE GIFT. I could defend either film, but only one came out in 1998. A SIMPLE PLAN uses a familiar premise (three yokels find a stash of money) but Raimi plays with the predictability to ratchet up the tension, thanks to some excellent performances. (It’s also a caustic study in the alienation that accompanies even the slightest upward mobility.) Watching A SIMPLE PLAN you’ll wish Sam Raimi would go back to these modest pot-boilers, the way John Huston made smaller films like FAT CITY late in his career.
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Coscarelli’s fourth PHANTASM is a return to its roots, following a flashy big-budgeted sequel, and a horror-comedy that was made to give Reggie Bannister some work. The movie is as sincere as it is low-budget. The not-so-secret secret-weapon is fusing un-used scenes from the first film into a new story. These flashbacks span 19 years and bring back the original lead actors. The PHANTASM series is known for baffling fans (because it’s art film, really) and the proposed “final chapter” answers some questions while raising others. OBLIVION is a triumphant sequel and a beautiful ending to the wildly original series.

Full-disclosure: I saw PHANTASM: OBLIVION under ideal circumstances – it was part of PHANTASMANIA, three midnight screenings of all four PHANTAM movies at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin; accompanied by Q&As with the filmmakers, ice cream served by Reggie Bannister, live musical performances, horror trivia with silver sphere prizes, and a meet and greet with the Tall Man himself, Angus Scrimm. OBLIVION screened at the very end of the festival’s third night. It was daylight savings time and we’d just set the clocks ahead an hour, so the sun was coming up when I left the theater. I walked out of the 3-night screening feeling an incredible bond with the PHANTASM movies that still holds true to this day.
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Wednesday, April 18, 2018

Underrated '98 - Gems from Twenty Years Ago!

The 1990s is an interesting time in film for me. I've mentioned before that I was working in video stores around this period, but it was basically my heyday with them truth be told. I got my first job of this type when I was about a junior in high school and then basically worked in this capacity in one way or another for nearly the next ten years. That being said, my familiarity with 90s cinema is a bit heightened because I was surrounded by these movies every day. I was renting them out to people and re-shelving them constantly. As such, there were definitely some of them that stood out and stayed with me for the next couple decades and here are a few of them....

ZERO EFFECT (1998; Jake Kasdan)
Easily one of my most beloved films of this decade and one that came up as one of my picks on the "90s Cult Movies" episode of Pure Cinema. It is one of the most assured directorial debuts in the past thirty years and shows a pretty amazing talent for storytelling from writer and director Jake Kasdan (son of Lawrence Kasdan). It is very much a modern day Sherlock Holmes type thing with a stellar turn from Bill Pullman as the titular Daryl Zero. The catch is that Zero is socially awkward and inept when he is not working on a case and thus he needs a sharp assistant like Steve Arlo (Ben Stiller) to help him get and maintain work as well as maintain his odd lifestyle. It's a funny movie with a good mystery at the center and Pullman and Stiller are a wonderful dysfunctional duo.
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THE IMPOSTORS (1998; Stanley Tucci)
From the incredible, escalating, silent film comedy opening straight on through the rehash and analysis of said sequence by the out of work actor characters (Stanley Tucci and Oliver Platt) - THE IMPOSTORS is purely magical to me. The chemistry and comradeship between Tucci & Platt is absolutely glorious and the film consistently makes me laugh with every viewing. The throwback to Laurel and Hardy and the Marx Brothers kind of vibe is so perfectly in my wheelhouse that i can't help but get swept up in the tribute every time I come back to it. The supporting cast ain't to bad either (Lily Taylor, Campbell Scott, Alfred Molina, Tony Shaloub, Steve Buscemi, Richard Jenkins, Hope Davis, Allison Janney and more). It probably has my favorite opening of the decade and, interestingly it may also have my favorite closings of the decade as well (including the use of one of my very favorite songs - "Skokiaan"). All of this is to say that Stanley Tucci needs to direct more (and I totally need to see FINAL PORTRAIT, his most recent effort).
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SAFE MEN (1998; John Hamburg)
I always call this one BOTTLE ROCKET-lite and I think it still fits. A case of mistaken identity leads a Jewish mobster (Michael Lerner) to believe that two low-rent lounge singer for hire (Sam Rockwell and Steve Zahn) are actually two heavy-duty safe crackers (Mark Ruffalo and John Pais). When the singers are recruited by the mobsters right hand man, "Veal Chop" (played perfectly by Paul Giamatti), little do they know that they are getting themselves in to deep as they'll soon be asked to crack a safe for him and they have no clue how. John Hamburg is great at this kind of "nerd comedy" which has characters arguing with each other about trivial things like shrimp cocktails, sundry goods and older pop culture. That style of character and writing combined with this cast makes for a real gem of a caper farce.
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This little trio of neo-noirs represents some of the better entries in the genre for this decade. With TWILIGHT, veteran writer/director Robert Benton (BONNIE AND CLYDE, KRAMER VS. KRAMER) returns to familiar territory in this story of an aging detective (Paul Newman) who is initially hired to find the runaway daughter (Reese Witherspoon) of two old movie stars (Susan Sarandon and Gene Hackman), but of course the story takes some nice twists and turns along the way. I was just reminded of the film's passing similarities to NIGHT MOVES (which of course stars Hackman as well) in that it deals with the same beginning scenario. Might make an interesting double. As for CROUPIER, it was my first exposure to Clive Owen and another return to a gritty story from the director of the original GET CARTER (Mike Hodges). Owen plays a writer working in a casino who gets entangled with some less than above-board dealings. Lastly, PALMETTO - which may be the most forgotten of the three. This one features a somewhat ahead of it's time performance from Woody Harrelson, who had been relegated mostly to comedies around this time (though he obviously spread his wings a bit in THE PEOPLE VS. LARRY FLYNT a few years prior). Harrelson plays an ex-con who finds himself caught up in a kidnapping plot that involves an incredibly sexy Elisabeth Shue. I was actually a little surprised at just how sexy Shue is in this one as the femme fatale. Having had a full movie crush on her since way back in THE KARATE KID - I've always found her quite adorable but never alluring on the level she pulls off with this role. Anyway, this is a unique film in that it is a rare noir for both the leads (Gina Gershon is here too, but she's done a little noir work in her day) and it was directed by Volker Scholndorff - the director of the late 70s foreign arthouse classic, THE TIN DRUM.
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BLACK DOG (1998; Kevin Hooks)
Remarkably underrated little Patrick Swayze actioner that feels like WHITE LINE FEVER meets THE FAST AND THE FURIOUS. Swayze is joined on the drive he is forced into making by singer Randy Travis who does a decent job as blue collar trucker type. Archie Han and Meat Loaf make good villains and Charles S. Dutton and Stephen Tobolowsky entertain as FBI & ATF Agents. Tobolowsky gets maybe his only “take a dude out” with gunfire moment in a movie too, which is kinda fun. The movie also has a decent amount of truck and driving stunts that make it a blast to watch.
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FIRESTORM (1998; Dean Selmer)
Part of that 90s resurgence of disaster movies that brought us the likes of VOLCANO, DANTE’S PEAK and DAYLIGHT among others (all of which I enjoy). This one sports an all-star cast that is even better in retrospect: Scott Glenn, William Forsyth’s, Suzy Amis, Barry Pepper and of course - Howie Long. Pretty cheesy, but dang it if I don’t still have a blast watching it. There’s just something about the disaster genre being updated 20 years after its heyday - the films are a bit more sentimental (especially this one) but still fun. Howie is umm, well let’s say acting ain’t totally his bag. Thankfully acting is William Forsythe’s bag and he went on a nice run of playing villains around this time. Also - outside of CAT PEOPLE and INGLORIOUS BASTERDS, this is yet another movie that used David Bowie’s song “Putting Out the Fire” (which I totally forgot). Makes for a groovy double feature with HARD RAIN (also 1998).
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MEET THE DEEDLES (1998; Steve Boyum)
Based on a small amount of research, it would seem that this one is not at all well-liked by those that even remember it. I get that. I mean, I can see how it might rub some folks the wrong way - but that said, I still find myself quite entertained by it. It stars a youthful Paul Walker (who was still not all that well known at the time I guess) and another fella named Steve Van Wormer (who had a short moment in the 90s, but nothing huge) as two wealthy surf-bum brothers who are sent to a military camp and end up being mistaken for some new recruit forest rangers at Yellowstone National Park. It's quite a goofy film and the brother's chemistry is reminiscent of Bill & Ted or maybe Ashton Kutcher and Seann William Scott in DUDE WHERE'S MY CAR?
The story of the director must be an interesting one as he is one Steve Boyum - a stunt man and stunt coordinator for Disney films (THE MIGHTY DUCKS 2 and 3, HEAVY WEIGHTS) but who also worked with Tony Scott and was a part of such classics as APOCALYPSE NOW, PREDATOR, 1941 and MEGAFORCE.
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Tuesday, April 17, 2018

Just The Discs - Episode 50 - THE 'BURBS from Shout Factory!

On this episode, John Cribbs (of The returns to talk more Joe Dante with THE BURBS - in a lovely new collector's edition from Shout Factory Select!

Please rate and subscribe if you like the show!

The show is also available on Stitcher:

Or you can listen to the episode right here:

Buy THE BURBS here:
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Bonus Features
-NEW 2017 2K Scan Of The Interpositive
-NEW Interviews With Director Joe Dante, Editor Marshall Harvey, And Director Of Photography (Additional Scenes) John Hora
-Audio Commentary With Writer Dana Olsen, Moderated By Author Calum Waddell
-There Goes The Neighborhood: The Making Of The ‘Burbs – Includes Interviews With Director Joe Dante, Actors Corey Feldman, Courtney Gaines, And Wendy Schaal, Director Of Photography Robert M. Stevens, And Production Designer James H. Spencer
-Alternate Ending
-Original Workprint From Joe Dante’s Archive (Includes Deleted And Extended Scenes)
-Behind-The-Scenes Still Gallery
-Stills And Posters Gallery
-Theatrical Trailer

Monday, April 16, 2018

New Release Roundup for The Week of April 17th, 2018

THE AWFUL TRUTH on Blu-ray (Criterion)
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RUBY GENTRY on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
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ALOHA, BOBBY AND ROSE on Blu-ray (Scorpion)
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LES GIRLS on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)
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AUTO FOCUS on Blu-ray (Twilight Time)

NO DOWN PAYMENT on Blu-ray (Twilight Time)

MODEL SHOP on Blu-ray (Twilight Time)

BLUE DENIM on Blu-ray (Twilight Time)

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SLEEPING DOGS on Blu-ray (Arrow)
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THE COLOR OF POMEGRANATES on Blu-ray (Criterion)
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CAMP NOWHERE on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
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STRAIGHT TALK on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
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THE THRILL OF IT ALL on Blu-ray (Universal)
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CARAVAN TO VACCARES on Blu-ray (Scorpion)
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TRIGGER, JR. on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
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SINGING GUNS on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber Studio Classics)
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THE POST on Blu-ray (Fox)
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MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000: SEASON 11 on Blu-ray (Shout Factory)
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HUMOR ME on Blu-ray (Shout Factory)
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