Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Noah Lee ""

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2013 - Noah Lee

Noah Lee is a part time contributor to Film Threat (http://www.filmthreat.com) focusing mostly on coverage for SXSW and Fantastic Fest and also one of the HorrorsNotDead team (http://www.horrorsnotdead.com). He also watches hundreds a movies a year and keeps track of them with the Tallyteers, a group of fanatical movie watchers. Check him out at Twitter at @noahphex, his personal website (http://www.noahphex.com) or at his movie logging website (http://movielogr.com/members/noahphex).  
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Just like the rest of you film nerds, I spent my year going back and forth between major releases, old classics, film festival darlings and movie obscurities. I had a great year of movie watching and luckily for me, I stumbled upon a batch of gems. Some of these have been referenced in other lists on this site here, but that only means Brian is doing the work of gods! So I now present my list of favorite film discoveries of 2013

Mariachi Gringo (2013) - Dir. Tom Gustafson
Yes, I’m putting a release from this year on my discoveries list. I have to because apparently I’m the only person I know who saw this gem. It stars Shawn Ashmore, a guy I find to be an incredibly strong actor and one who’s been in a bunch of other movies I love. He plays a kid just cruising along in life in a midwest town when he stumbles into a Mexican restaurant where an old man is jamming out old Mariachi tunes. This inspires him to pick up guitar again, after he had previously abandoned it, and start learning the music of Mexico. He eventually heads down to Mexico itself to really learn how to become a Mariachi. Ashmore learned to play the music for this, which is telling about how dedicated he was to this role. I love the heart of this movie, the music (I’m from west Texas where we hear it a lot) and I really think this is a totally overlooked, fantastic movie.

Silent Trigger (1996) - Dir. Russell Mulcahy
Dolph Lundgren stars alongside Gina Bellman, who you’d recognize from the UK comedy hit Coupling, as an assassin working for a government agency who ends up betrayed and hunted down by the people he worked for. Obviously this isn’t wholly original territory but what makes this shine are the action pieces, the character work between Lundgren and Bellman and all the explosions. Lots of them. There’s also some great moments where a building security guard turns up the freaky to 110 and tries to make sexy time with Bellman before getting smushed by Lundgren. This is the type of dark action he excels at and if you’re a fan of his in films likeCommand Performance or the Universal Soldier series, you’ll get a kick out of Silent Trigger.

Top of the Food Chain (1999) - Dir. John Paizs
If you haven’t seen Paizs’ Crime Wave (not the Raimi pile of junk) seek it out and do it now and become a better person. Once you’re done, go ahead and throw this wacky piece of science fiction on and get ready for more of Paizs exploration of weirdness. Also known as Invasion! this distinctly Canadian take on alien invasion movies of the 50s stars great character actor Campbell Scott  and Tom Everett Scott (That Thing You Do). While this is a fantastic comedy, it works by being sure footed and playing off the original style of 50s sci-fi camp while being respectful of its roots. Sharp writing, great delivery, creepy Body Snatcher vibes and one hilarious scene after another.

Voyage of the Rock Aliens (1984) - Dir. James Fargo
This musical science fiction film pits a town of hoodlum rockabillies against 80s styled synth pop aliens. The opening musical number with Pia Zadora is mind bendingly fantastic fun and I had to admit the rest of the movie never quite lives up to it, but this is still a much better ride than the other cult 80s singalong The Apple. Zadora plays Dee Dee, the girlfriend of the lead singer of the most popular band in town, The Pack, who becomes the object of affection for ABCD, the leader of the aliens sent to Earth to find the source of Rock and Roll. There’s also a subplot about 2 escaped mental patients, one being Michael Berryman, a lake monster and the alien’s fire hydrant disguised robot that is meshed in with some truly inspiring musical numbers. This is the perfect movie to throw on with a group of friends and bounce along. It’s far less serious than Phantom of the Paradise and way lesser known than Rocky Horror but an 80s musical that deserves more respect.

Furious (1984) - Dir. Tim Everitt
Holy shit! This is actually by far my favorite movie discovery of the year. Maybe of the century. This almost nearly lost movie was discovered and written about better than I ever could by Zack Carlson over on Bleeding Skull when I first heard about it. To talk about it sounds like a Stefon sketch on SNL, but really, it has everything: kung-fu action filmed in Southern California, chickens, wizards, skulls, chickens, magic tricks, chickens, sword play, and then once you’re so completely sure you have no idea what in fuck is going on a pig explains the plot. Oh yeah, and there’s chickens. Why so many chickens? Because director Tim Everitt had them around and they’re interesting on screen. So yeah, why not?! Once you see Furious, you’ll never be the same. You’ll be better. You’ll be stronger. You’ll have seen one of the greatest movies ever put to film. Once you watch this be sure to also hunt down the podcast from Scarecrow Video with the interview with Everitt and learn all you can ever want to know about this film.

Special Forces (2003) - Dir.  Isaac Florentine
By now any fan of action movies worth his salt as seen Florentine’s Undisputed II and III or maybe his Ninja films. He is unquestionably one of the finest action movie directors working in the shadows of direct to video these days. He’s also the guy who has brought Scott Adkins up as an action star. Special Forces feels like a genesis of this relationship. I can’t vouch that it is, but while the movie focuses on a group of US Special Forces who are sent to rescue a journalist from a sadistic Bosnia General, the highlights of this movie are those scenes with Adkins. He plays a British SAS soldier working in the same area who ends up helping them out by rushing in and kicking the living crap out of the evil fuckers. There’s actually a very tight action storyline at work here and the movie is entertaining throughout, but stick around for the 10 minute fight at the end between Adkins and the Bosnian soldier and have your jaw kicked in.

2 comments:

joestemme said...

Not usually a big fan of 50s sci-fi parodies (I loathe the oevre of LOST SKELETON OF CADAVRA's Larry Blamire), but TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN aka INVASION is one that really works. I was lucky enough to see it at one of it's rare theatrical showings before it hit home video.

The key difference from the Blamire, NAKED MONSTER, ALIEN TRESSPASS kind of stuff is that TOP OF THE FOOD CHAIN actually has a plot and story that works independantly of the amiable spoof elements. The others just think imitation is sufficient to get some cheap chuckles.

InkieCat said...

I started off 2013 with VOYAGE OF THE ROCK ALIENS!