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Thursday, August 16, 2018

Underrated '88 - Michele Eggen

Michele Eggen started writing about horror films in 2010 on her blog, The Girl Who Loves Horror. She now contributes her writing to the sites Wicked Horror and Ghastly Grinning in between trying to cram as many movies into her brain as she can. Twitter: @micheleneggen Letterboxd:

I’m a sucker for buddy-cop action films and Walter Hill. Red Heat delivers on both accounts, and while it’s not my favorite Hill, or his best, this is still a wicked fun movie. Arnold Schwarzenegger is maybe not all that believable as a Soviet but you won’t really care about that while he is delivering deadpan one-liners and trying to deal with Jim Belushi. I’d say the movie is worth it alone for the scene involving a chase with two Greyhound buses, and you’ll still get some of Hill’s trademarks of slick city streets and great action pieces, with a great dose of comedy.
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I’m including this in the list mostly because we all need more Meg Tilly in our lives. Masquerade is one of those fun, twisty thrillers with a great cast playing absolutely horrible characters. Tilly is the only good person in the Hamptons in this story, and this and her massive fortune make her the target of her vile stepfather and his accomplices. There’s sex, murder, deceit, and enough surprising character turns to keep things interesting. Rob Lowe, Kim Cattrall, and Doug Savant round out the cast and all give great performances.
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Pin has honestly one of the weirdest setups I’ve ever seen in a movie. Brother and sister Leon and Ursula are a little too close to both each other and their doctor father’s medical dummy, Pin, who they treat as human. Ursula grows up and gets over it, but Leon doesn’t. Things get all kinds of uncomfortable, weird, and deadly from there. What’s great about Pin is that it’s hard to tell where the story is going. There’s one great scare at the beginning that has amazing payoff at the end, and it keeps you invested because you have to find out how the story gets there. You’re never really sure just what kind of movie you are watching, whether there is something supernatural going on, or if you’re dealing with a character’s mental illness. Terry O’Quinn has a sadly smaller role as the children’s father, but David Hewlett is the true standout as Leon, as he is so committed and wonderful to watch on screen.
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This was a movie that my best friend and I stumbled upon in the 90s and it became an instant favorite of ours. For years I never saw any of the other Sleepaway Camp films, because Unhappy Campers was all I needed. Though it has become embraced by horror fans over the years, and has gotten the coveted Scream Factory blu-ray treatment, I still say it’s a bit underrated. Most people probably love it because it is so campy, fun, and has several memorable kills. But what is so underrated about this film to me is that it is far smarter than it is given credit for. The dialogue, jokes, and even visual sight gags are almost so casually self-aware that you might not notice them at first. It’s a movie that knows what it is and what it’s doing, and completely embraces that.
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For a great double bill of hilarious meta horror-comedy, follow up Sleepaway Camp 2 with Return of the Killer Tomatoes. Anthony Starke, George Clooney, John Astin, and the rest of the cast roll with the crazy punches of the movie extremely well, and make it such a fun ride from start to finish. Return of the Killer Tomatoes really takes “self-aware” as far as it can possibly go. The fourth wall is broken several times by both the actors and the film’s crew when they announce that the production has run out of money and have to resort to product placement. I find this kind of stuff absolutely brilliant and it has never been done better than here. Arrow Video put out an amazing blu-ray release of the film that all fans should own.
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Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Underrated '88 - Stephanie Crawford

Stephanie is a Co-host on Screamcast, minion at Splathouse, and writes and does podcasts for places like F This Movie!

She's also guested on several episodes of Just The Discs - listen to them here:

Also, check out her Underrated '98 list:

Elvira Mistress of the Dark – Directed by James Signorelli
What do you get when you get some legendary members on The Groundlings together to make a horror comedy? Well, in this case, you get Elvira: Mistress of the Dark. Cassandra Peterson's Elvira character is such a beloved cultural icon that it's hard to believe how poorly received this movie originally was: The distributor went bankrupt the day of its release, cutting its screens down to about 300. Not only did this make it hard for most people to see, but the general perception was that it wasn't released wide due to being bad. Nope. No cheap cash grab this, I will always proudly defend this film as being one of the finest 80's comedies, let alone comedy horrors. Every type of joke is stuffed in here, and with a classic "enchanted book" plot with a perfect cast, what we're left with is a fun ride that's just stacked with surprises. STACKED!
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My Stepmother Is An Alien – Directed by Richard Benjamin
When I was a kid, my parents bought a used copy of this on VHS. If we owned a movie that I was allowed to watch, it meant that the movie was going to get memorized. Revisiting it last year helped me realize that this was another genre-skirter that didn't deserve the hate piled onto it. Kim Basinger goes all in with a screwball comedy delivery as a sexy alien, and anyone who makes consuming battery juice look as appealing as she did deserve an Oscar far earlier than she actually got one. Dan Akroyd strangely plays the straight man to Basinger here, which is pretty interesting if you're a comedy nerd (hi.) Add in little Alyson Hannigan and Seth Green on a date before they'd meet again on Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and you have a great example of 88's audacity to mix genres and call it just a comedy.
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The New Adventures of Pippi Longstocking – Directed by Ken Annakin
Another fave from my childhood, this gem is a fun adventure yarn that's a mix of Robert Altman's Popeye and Annie if that little orphan was a bit of a punk rock pirate showing the square kids how to live life. (Cat in the Hat meets Wendy's if you will. Mary Poppins meets Carrot Top?) I was the perfect age for the sugary sweet earworm theme tune, and scenes like the iconic "spinning around quickly to get dry" were reenacted on many a playground. I miss the days of live action adventure movies for kids, and ones that starred a plucky young girl have always been rare. While the lessons are well worn, there's a real sincerity here in both the characters and how beautiful the film looks that I still appreciate it. It also has a fantastic monkey.
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Big Business – Directed by Jim Abrahams
A few years ago I saw Bette Midler live, and while the show was absolutely fantastic, I'm still a bit disappointed that she didn't have some kind of floorshow where she did a Big Business-themed song with a bunch of mirrors. The movie itself is a classic charmer: Both Midler and Lily Tomlin play their more innocent vs. their more ruthless sides equally well, and Fred Ward as the hopelessly in love podunk is adorable. While it may be easy to write off this frothy concoction, it's pretty much a cartoon for adults, and every goofy beat is done flawlessly to live up to that unbelievably perfect poster. It doesn't satirize anything. Look at those suits. It's pure.
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Dead Heat – Directed by Mark Goldblatt
I was talking to my fellow people on the street, and I can report that the tide does seem to finally be turning on Dead Heat. This was derided to hell and back when it came out, with Fangoria featuring its effects then turning around and damning it for essentially not taking horror seriously. Written by Terry Black (Shane's brother, but dammit he deserves his own spotlight too), this could not be a more precisely sliced genre pizza pie. Really, you have equal parts buddy comedy, buddy cop drama, straight action flick and a zombie plot that features Vincent Price, and you taste them very distinctly from each other, but boy, do they taste great together. This is the kind of movie that tends to stumble on release then find cult status later. It's hard to define, market and write about and suggest to friends when it comes out, but over time, that quirky bravery of throwing absolutely everything at the screen is finally appreciated. Also, who knew that Treat Williams and Joe Piscopo would have such amazing chemistry together? The stunts are great, the action is tight, the effects are way nastier than they have any right to be, and the jokes are actually funny. I hope to one day deserve this movie.
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Young Einstein – Directed by Yahoo Serious
It's strange for me to consider this underrated, as it was as popular to me as a kid as it was in its native Austraila. Still, it tanked in the US, and it's really too bad. While the "hip, fun not-quite-science" niche would be perfectly honored the following year thanks to Bill and Ted, I still think there was still room for a movie about a humble beer maker becoming the most famous physicist of all time. Lil' Einstein is kind of a short-term Zelig as he invents rock 'n roll and romances Marie Curie, and this is one of those high concept comedies that's basically a series of impressive set pieces rather than anything terribly cohesive. It's fun, deeply charming and features a daring rescue of live kittens from a giant pie. While silly, it has two hearts where its heart should be, and I love a clumsy overachiever.
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Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Just The Discs - Episode 68 - A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH MEMOIRS...

On this episode, Brian is joined by guest Bill Ackerman (of the Supporting Characters and From the Neighborhood Podcasts) to talk about Powell and Pressburger's A MATTER OF LIFE AND DEATH (Criterion) and John Carpenter's MEMOIRS OF AN INVISIBLE MAN (Scream Factory).

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The Discs discussed on this episode:

Special Features:
-New 4K digital restoration, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack
-Interview from 2008 with filmmaker Martin Scorsese
-Audio commentary from 2009 featuring film scholar Ian Christie
-New interview with editor Thelma Schoonmaker, director Michael Powell’s widow
-New short documentary on the film’s special effects featuring film historian Craig Barron and visual-effects artist Harrison Ellenshaw
-The Colour Merchant, a 1998 short film featuring cinematographer Jack Cardiff
-The South Bank Show: “Michael Powell,” a 1986 television program featuring Powell
-Restoration demonstration
-PLUS: An essay by critic Stephanie Zacharek
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Special Features:
-NEW 2K Scan Of The Original Film Elements
-How To Become Invisible: The Dawn Of Digital F/X
-Vintage Interviews With Director John Carpenter And Actors Chevy Chase And Daryl Hannah
-Behind The Scenes Footage
-Theatrical Trailer
-TV Spots
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Monday, August 13, 2018

New Release Roundup for the week of August 14th, 2018

RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD PART II on Blu-ray (Scream Factory)
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HOME FROM THE HILL on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)
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SMASHING TIME on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
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THE INKWELL on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
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TIDELAND on Blu-ray (Arrow)
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THE UNBORN on Blu-ray (Scream Factory)
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BORN YESTERDAY on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
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MERRILY WE LIVE on Blu-ray (ClassicFlix)
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