Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '86 - Peter J. Fabian ""

Thursday, May 26, 2016

Underrated '86 - Peter J. Fabian

Peter and I were video store comrades back when I was in college. He's been a movie lover for a quite a while and I am always interested to hear what he thinks of films, both new and old, good and bad.

Follow him on twitter @kiwified77.
Armor of God (Dir: Jackie Chan)
Befuddlingly re-released in the USA in 1998 during Jackie's American Renaissance as a "sequel" to OPERATION CONDOR (which was originally the sequel to this), ARMOR OF GOD is quintessential Jackie: fun, frantic, and full of action set pieces unlike anything that could be found in the states at the time. Jackie's climactic monastery fight is a career highlight. It also features one of Jackie's most catastrophic accidents, a fall from a broken tree branch onto a rock that resulted in a quarter-sized patch in his skull.

A Better Tomorrow (Dir: John Woo)
Before teaming up in the action classics THE KILLER and HARD-BOILED, John Woo and Chow Yun-Fat made this "brothers on both sides of the law" action drama in which Chow Yun-Fat plays a secondary character but completely steals the show. At times dipping too deeply into melodrama, A BETTER TOMORROW clearly demonstrates the action artistry of John Woo that would become known as "bullet ballet" filmmaking. Also not to be missed is the 1987 sequel that, while at times shamelessly plunging headfirst into melodrama, contains one of the best climactic shootouts of Woo's entire filmography.

The Name of the Rose (Dir: Jean-Jacques Annaud)
Based on the late great Umberto Eco's debut novel, THE NAME OF THE ROSE is a visually and narratively captivating rumination on censorship... or post-modernism... or the fleeting nature of beauty and happiness... or maybe all of these, I'm not really sure. That contemplation incites rewatches and discussion made all the more inviting by the dark beauty of the film and the engaging performance by Sean Connery as the Holmesian friar William of Baskerville. So much more than a period mystery, there's both a self-aware intelligence and a black sense of humor to the film, giving it a unique flavor an earning it a place on this list.

Running Scared (Dir: Peter Hyams)
A dancer and a comedian in a Chicago buddy cop film? It probably shouldn't work... oh, but it does. Almost too likeable to be cops, Gregory Hines and Billy Crystal as Ray and Danny instill an unexpected charm into what would otherwise have been a beaten-down formulaic actioner. Too funny to be gritty, too fallible to be supercops, Ray and Danny examine the conventions of the buddy cop film only to turn and scramble desperately out of the way (all the way to Key West). Fortunately, they are overcome by convention and are sucked back in by their captain (the legendary and legendarily hirsute Dan Hedaya) for one last job, and the resulting climactic shootout is so beloved by me that I cannot visit downtown Chicago without a visit to its filming location. 

Sweet Liberty (Dir: Alan Alda) 
As he did in some of the best episodes of MASH, Alda writes, directs, and stars in this sweet and simple comedy about a professor whose scholarly book about the Revolutionary War gets a Hollywood-style bludgeoning and his attempts to sabotage it. Like any good comedy, its strength is in its supporting cast, in this case Michael Caine, Michelle Pfeiffer, Bob Hoskins, and Saul Rubinek (it's also one of the final films of screen legend Lillian Gish).  SWEET LIBERTY is less a scathing examination of Hollywood distortions than an examination of one man's love of truth in the face of rebellion, violence, and nudity... but it still makes for a perfect Saturday matinee.

Transformers: The Movie (Dir: Nelson Shin)
Throughout my film school years I avoided TRANSFORMERS:THE MOVIE -despite my childhood adoration for it- for fear of how it might crumble under close analysis. What I discovered upon rewatch is a film so brilliantly textbook in its Campbellian Hero's Journey that it could be -and should be- used in mythology classrooms everywhere. And it pulls no punches to tell that story, and not for a moment (with the possible exception of one rhyme-scheme obsessed robot) does it ever talk down to its young market. Tragedy abounds throughout the film. Childhood heroes fall. Many of them. Death, injustice, sacrifice, and hope in the shadow of overwhelming odds are recurrent themes. Ultimately it is a lesson in faith that can light the darkest hour, and its emotionally complex and unapologetic approach to that moral in a market inundated with singing princesses and marketable animal sidekicks make it a film that is truly so much more than meets the eye.

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