Joe created and manages the wildly-popular Twitter account “Amazon Movie Reviews” (@AmznMovieRevws) where he collects comical consumer reviews of movies he finds on Amazon. Joe is also the host of the podcast “Facing the Critics” where he has conversations with filmmakers about the consumer reviews of their films. The podcast has featured such guests as John August, Sean Baker, Zak Penn, and Alex Ross Perry.https://itunes.apple.com/us/podcast/facing-the-critics/id1025330358
1996 was an important year in my development of my appreciation for film. I would’ve been eleven years old and it was the dawn of me starting to see R-rated films. The first time I saw a sex scene in a film was in Maximum Risk. My friend Keith and I rented the film from Blockbuster with his dad and were made to leave the room during the sex scene featured towards the end of the film. The next day, we rewound the tape while his dad was at work and sat and watched the scene. I’ve never been the same.
Here is my list of underrated films from 1996. Maximum Risk is on my list, but not for the reason listed above.
I’m going to do my best to avoid hyperbole while describing this film, but I’m also going to do whatever it takes to get you to watch it. Fudoh is one of Takashi Miike’s first films, perhaps his second film of note after Shinjuku Triad Society. When you talk to people about Takashi Miike you generally hear the same four films mentioned: Audition, Ichi the Killer, Gozu, and 13 Assassins. Sometimes you hear about Visitor Q and Dead or Alive. There are a few other exceptions, depending on who you talk to. The general perception is that the rest of Miike’s filmography is subpar in comparison to those films – there certainly are some turds. As many of you know, Miike has directed over 70 films in his 25-year career. Of those 70+ films there are about 25 films that I feel are fantastic. For my money, Fudoh: The Next Generation is one of his best.
The criticism of Miike’s work is often that the films are unfocused or overlong – Fudoh suffers from neither of these issues. The film is based on a manga and you can see some of that insanity sprinkled throughout. Miike was amazingly already fully-formed at this point in his career. The film is fast-paced, has a coherent plot and is batshit insane. There are at least five scenes that I want to summarize for you that would GUARANTEE you watch the film, but I have to be aware of current or future employers Googling me and seeing my praise of this utter debauchery. Okay, I’ll mention one of them – there is a character that kills people by shooting darts out of her nether regions. Does that sell you on the film?
RINGO LAM! JEAN-CLAUDE VAN DAMME! This film is of note to me for the simple fact you never hear anything about it. I feel this is one of Van Damme’s most complete films. It has a fun plot, high-quality production value, a notable co-star in Natasha Henstridge and the most obvious benefit, the direction of Ringo Lam. Lam is certainly one of the most unsung action directors and he brings an energy to his films that you will not often see in films of this nature. He worked with Van Damme a few times and I feel this is their best effort. Van Damme was rarely paired with a director of Lam’s caliber and the film is notable for that reason alone – it’s nice to see Van Damme in a quality production.
Hard Core Logo is a Canadian mockumentary commonly referred to as “the punk rock Spinal Tap”. Obviously no “rockumentary” will ever achieve the greatness of Spinal Tap but Hard Core Logo is definitely worth your consideration. The film documents a has-been punk rock band and effectively blends comedic and dramatic elements while going to some very dark places you may not anticipate. The performance by Hugh Dillon is exceptional.
As many of you know, Tarantino purchased the U.S. distribution rights to the film and released it under his Rolling Thunder label – probably the only reason I watched the film in the first place. If it’s good enough for Tarantino, it’s good enough for me.
This film is probably my most obvious choice for this piece; I can’t talk about films from 1996 and not mention Pusher. Pusher is the feature-film directorial debut by Nicolas Winding Refn, one of our greatest working directors. It is also the feature-film debut for Mads Mikkelsen. For those reasons alone, the film is required viewing. But those reasons aside, this is a 10/10 masterpiece in my book. From the opening credits where the characters are introduced one-by-one with shadowy profiles in pitch-black rooms, I was hooked. This is the type of film you feel fortunate that you are a viewer and not having to encounter the characters you see on-screen. All the major characters in this film are filthy and terrifying. Refn takes us to a gritty, nasty world with the intensity of a thriller fifty times its budget. An astonishing film debut.
Another obvious choice but one I can’t resist talking about. I am aware this film was originally released as Police Story 3 in Hong Kong in 1992 but I’m not Chinese, okay? Everyone knows Jackie Chan’s filmography, but I don’t think many people consider this one of his more notable films. To me, Supercop (Police Story 3), Armour of God (Operation Condor 2), and Armour of God 2: Operation Condor are by far his three most entertaining and complete films. All three films are hilarious and feature amazing action from start to finish. Supercop is super. *GROANS*