Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - John Ary ""

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - John Ary

John is the head honcho of PhotonCityNews.com, a site that features video reviews of films both new and old.  He also works in conjunction with Austin's Vulcan Video for a retrospective series that chronicles forgotten gems and rarely seen classics.  He also served as the "video guy" over at Ain't It Cool News for a couple of years.  You can follow him on Twitter  @john_ary.
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Traxx (1988)
In the 80's, Shadoe Stevens oozed charisma.  It seeped from the follicles of his golden locks like the delicious sap from a Canadian red maple tree.  I like to think that the script for Traxx worked as a metaphorical pancake to Steven's charismatic sticky-sweet maple syrup.  The two perfectly paired together to create an action-comedy that feels 10 years ahead of its time.  Stevens plays a mercenary who hangs up his rifle to start his own cookie baking business.  Unfortunately, he sucks at baking.  To make ends meet, he hires himself to cleanup a crime-infested Texas town, lead by the perfectly evil Robert Davi.  This film has more quotable lines than just about any movie of the decade.  I would even put Stevens' performance on par with either of Eddie Murphy's first two Beverly Hills Cop movies.  He's just that darn good.  Maybe audiences simply didn't understand the film's self aware tone or pick up on the action movie references Traxx attempts to parody?  Whatever the case, this comedy deserves a second shot with a new DVD or Blu-ray.

Too Many Ways to be No. 1 (1997)
If I try to explain this film's central plot point, it spoils a wonderfully odd change-up that takes place midway through, that at first puzzles the viewer, before hammering home the main theme.  The story follows a small-time crook who wants to make a name for himself.  Along with a band of inept crooks, he attempts to go for a big payday.  By the end of the film, the audience learns the value of good decision making and we see the consequences of his choices played out to the end.  Director Ka- Fai Wai's camera work is electric, having as big of a role as any actor in the film. Some may find his storytelling techniques here a bit jarring, but I like the way he attacks the story with simplicity and outlandish camera setups.

Fear City (1984)
Director Abel Ferrara loves the dirty, grimy underbelly of New York City.  The main characters of Fear City played by Jack Scalia and Tom Berenger love it as well.  They make a living by supplying the city seediest bars and strip joints with girls.  When a crazed martial artist goes on a stripper killing spree, the guys have to find the psycho before their mob-boss clients go out of business.  You have to love the film's casting with a young Melanie Griffith as Berenger's drug-addicted old flame, Billy Dee Williams as burned-out detective hot on the heals of the anti-heroes, Rae Dawn Chong as a stripper in the wrong place at the wrong time and Michael V. Gazzo doing his best "nervous mob guy with a problem" routine.  It all ends with an epic life or death fight between the serial murderer and Berenger, who also happens to be a washed out boxer who constantly has flashbacks to the night he killed a guy in his last bout.  Whose fighting style will prevail?  

Kenny and Company (1976)
Before Don Coscarelli gave flight to those little silver balls in Phantasm or took us on a hero's journey with The Beastmaster, he gave us this sweet and sometimes sour coming of age film.  This intimate look at the many routine adventures of a white middle-class 12-year-old boy, perfectly encapsulates the simple pleasures and pains of being a tween in the 70's.  We hop around from story to story.  We might spend ten minutes with Kenny and his best friend Doug testing out a homemade downhill racing cart.  Then the annoying next door neighbor kid might come over to show us a dirty magazine he stole from his dad.  Later we watch the kids witness a deadly car accident.  Much like real life, you never know what to expect as we live through these life experiences with Kenny.  These vignettes resemble the style of one of those documentary segments from The Electric Company, ranging from the mundane to the surreal.  They all combine together to form a wonderfully satisfying portrait of what it means to be a kid in the suburbs. 

Possession (1981)
The Europeans certainly know how to spice up your standard "relationship" movie.  Sam Neill plays a secret agent that comes home after a long espionage mission to his young son and a wife who seems aloof.  Using his powers of deduction, he attempts to track down the lovers she had taken while he was away.  One of those lovers just happens to be an alien life form with a hidden agenda.  Director Andrzej Zulawski melds many genres into this flick.  Whether you want to classify it as horror, a mystery or a drama about our secret desires, his bizarre storytelling style makes for a one-of-a-kind viewing experience.

The Three Fantastic Supermen (1967)
Italian superheroes don't have to worry about silly things like ethics or "serving the public." Most of these guys like Argoman or Diabolik had their own interests to worry about.  If they happen to take down another super-criminal while in the pursuit of ill-gotten gains, so be it.  Following in that tradition you have The Three Fantastic Supermen.  Wearing bulletproof suits, these acrobatic thieves have to evade the police while attempting to thwart a mad scientist and find time to make love to beautiful women.  Think of it as the perfect cross pollination of a Mexican Lucha Libre movie, a classic episode ofBatman and an early James Bond film.  The stunt work thrills as our heroes bounce from scene to scene.  So much fun!

Modern Romance (1981)
Albert Brooks portrays a self-indulgent film editor who struggles to find happiness in his relationship with his beautiful long-time girlfriend.  That plot line perfectly sets up a gaggle of sort-of related scenes, each hilarious in their own right.  Study Brook's setup and delivery. These character-driven bits of comedy have a half-life that still make me chuckle every time I think about them.  Just look up the scene where he buys shoes from Bob Einstein or the sound mixing scene using the Hulk's footsteps or the scene where he takes quaaludes and can't go to sleep.  He's a genius with a style that few other filmmakers will ever be able to emulate or top.

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