Rupert Pupkin Speaks: 2017 ""

Sunday, December 31, 2017

Underrated '97 - James Curtiss

James Curtiss is one half of the team behind the podcast “At The Cheap Seats,” where he and his cohort Matt [REDACTED]review the movies you don't want to pay full price for. If you’re tired of paying $14 to sit in a theater with nitwits too busy to stop talking and texting long enough just to watch yet anothersequel to the prequel of the remake of the comic book, they can tell you if it’s worth waiting a month for the same marginally enjoyable experience for just $2 at your local “Dollar House.” James also ran the now defunct IHEARTSEQUELS blog, wherehe spent far too much time a) soapboxing for the much maligned entries in already over-maligned franchises; b) trying to persuade people that a lot of sequels are better than their predecessors, and c) daydreaming about sequels that were never to be. In the end, he is an optimist to a fault, always trying to find something worthwhile in what far too many others have already deemed worthless.
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GRIDLOCK’D – In a fair world, this motherfucker of a debut should have made actor-writer-director Vondie Curtis-Hall one of the go-to directors of the new millennium. People tend to focus on the amazing performances by our main trio (Tupac, Tim Roth, and Thandie Newton) while glossing over the deft handling of both kinetics and intimacy in Curtis-Hall’s script and direction. It is one of the most assured debuts of the 90s, but it sadly led to Curtis-Hall overseeing one of the biggest flops of the 21st century, Mariah Carey’s failed attempt at movie stardom, GLITTER. Director Jail has rarely been so destructive to a still-burgeoning career.
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SUBURBIA – Richard Linklater has made so many films, it isn’t surprising that he has racked up an impressive roster of unfortunately forgotten features. It’s also not surprising that Linklater’s straight-forward cinematic staging of Eric Bogosian’s play about angst-y and aimless twenty-somethings would slip through the fingers of the director’s fans whose tastes tend towards something a little less bleak. Whatever. As usual, the Texas auteur assembles a note-perfect cast to help shape his spot-on adaptation of Bogosian’s work.
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KISSED – Cinematic treatments of necrophilia usually bring to mind the more salacious and graphic visions of directors like Jorg Buttgereit and Joe D’Amato. While artists in their own right, their sensationalism and natural proclivity towards the male gaze stands in stark contrast to the more achingly intimate atmosphere of Lynne Stopkewich’s debut feature. One of the director’s major coups was in the casting of lead Molly Parker, a fearless actress who gives her all to the part of a young woman whose fascination with death leads her to engage in sexual acts with the bodies at her mortuary job. (Parker is also absolutely fearless in Wayne Wang’s long-forgotten indie THE CENTER OF THE WORLD.)
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NOWHERE – I’ve spent the better part of two decades defending the work of Gregg Araki. Like many iconoclastic filmmakers, Araki’s work “isn’t for everyone,” and the penultimate entry in his Teen Apocalypse Trilogy is no exception. Playing like the 90s lovechild of John Waters, Tom Graeff, Alex Cox, and Aaron Spelling (have fun imagining that menage a quatre), NOWHERE is a sprawling day in the life of over a dozen SoCal teens (including Araki’s long-time avatar James Duval) whose desire for good times and basic human connection lead to sex, drugs, suicide, eating disorders, etc. The background for all this casual decadence is stuffed to the gills with useless parents, gum-snapping Valley girls, televangelist tormentors, and a small-scale alien invasion. Sadly, issues with the soundtrack has made it so this film hasn’t even received a US DVD release.
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4 LITTLE GIRLS – Much like Herzog, Spike Lee has found greater success as a documentarian in the latter part of his career. While they will both occasionally turn out a worthwhile feature, their documentaries always wind up being some of the most essential films of their given year. For Lee, that all starts here with the story of the titular youths who died in the church bombing in Birmingham in 1963. The film was recently designated for inclusion in the National Film Registry. That seems counter to my argument of its status as Underrated, but it is so easy for films like this to slip through the cracks, especially in this day and age where the glut of frivolous documentaries threatens to overwhelm the catalog of every “content provider” everywhere.
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GOING ALL THE WAY – Back in the salad days of 1997, in the thick of the post-Sundance indie boom, no one would suspect that Batfleck was in their futures, or that Jeremy Davies would age not so gracefully from playing shy introverts into one of Hollywood’s go-to scary weirdos. We certainly didn’t know what Harvey Weinstein was trying to do to Rose McGowan at that year’s Sundance festival. GOING ALL THE WAY, with its portrayal of two young men using each other to try and uncover who they think they really are, is a perfect relic of the time. The feature debut by then music video maestro Mark Pellington (whose genre work in ARLINGTON ROAD and THE MOTHMAN PROPHECIES has it fans, though I’m certainly not one of them) features incredible performances from Affleck and Davies as two recent Korean War vets whose pursuit of dream girls (including breath-taking beauty McGowan) and loftier ambitions bond them in ways even they didn’t expect. There is a wonderful honesty to how frightened and unexceptional these two men are, even if, or maybe because of, how they view women is so ignorant and toxic.
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THE ASSIGNMENT – To say this is the better of the two “Carlos the Jackal” movies that were released in 1997 is a massive understatement. While Christian Duguay’s clever, stylized thriller is one of my favorite action films of the ‘90s, the bloated Bruce Willis/Richard Gere-starring actioner stands as one of the worst films to receive a wide release that year. If Duguay’s movie had the marketing dollars THE JACKAL had, people would still be talking about it. Plus, maybe, Duguay would have been afforded better material to sink his teeth into. As it stands, his pre- and post-THE ASSIGNMENT work pegs him as a more vibrant, though low-rent Renny Harlin. This movie, featuring some incredible performances from Donald Sutherland, Ben Kingsley, and a career-best Aidan Quinn, will stand as Duguay’s best for years to come, even if it has yet to find the massive following it so rightfully deserves.
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Saturday, December 30, 2017

Underrated '97 - Dave Wain

Dave Wain is one half of the creative team behind www.theschlockpit.com - an online feast of genre film analysis and leftfield retrospectives. Along with his scribing life-partner, Matty Budrewicz, he’s part of the writing team on the acclaimed tome, It Came from the Video Aisle: Inside Charles Band’s Full Moon Entertainment Studio, which is available now at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and all good bookstores. Paired with Matty you can regularly find him on Blu-ray releases from 88 Films, with their latest work including lengthy interviews with Tommy McLoughlin for One Dark Night and Nick von Sternberg for Slaughterhouse Rock. Dave can be found on Twitter @thedavewain.


TROJAN WAR (1997; George Huang)
I usually have a self-imposed RPS rule with most #underrated lists, whereby if I spot anyone duplicating one of my selections I’ll knock it off the list before I send it in to Brian. However, even though Brian himself has championed this film on his own list, I still feel it demands another shout out as it’s one of my favourite nineties comedies, and criminally neglected. Perhaps best remembered for its $309 gross from a $15m budget, this Scott Myers (K-9 (1989)) scripted flick serenades you straight off the bat with the opening bars of goth icon Peter Murphy’s solo hit (in Greece anyway), I’ll Fall With Your Knife. With Brian nailing it with his After Hours (1985) comparison, I’d factor in a little Some Kind of Wonderful (1987) too, as director George Huang makes a very simple premise – boy needs condom – stretch for an eighty minute orgy of trippy mayhem. Unavailable in my neck of the woods since the days of VHS, I’m relying on my old Warner Archive import. This really needs some love!
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TWENTYFOURSEVEN (1997; Shane Meadows)
Poverty, drugs and life amidst the deprivation of broken Britain. Not exactly a recipe for clicking your heels and settling down for some rib-tickling entertainment, but Shane Meadows’ film is an essential portrayal of the never-ending cycle of despair that permeates so many of the former Industrial landscapes across the UK. Bob Hoskins has rarely been better as the good-natured Alan Darcy, who strives to give the local community a little purpose by setting up a boxing club. Shot in black and white, and injected (thankfully) with moments of treacle dark humour, it’s a life-lesson that succeeds in emotionally ripping you apart. It also marks the acting debut of a startlingly young James Corden as Tonka – “Tonka’s his nickname. ‘Cos he’s fat.”
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LIVING IN PERIL (1997; Jack Ersgard)
Nineties-era Rob Lowe is choc-full of interesting projects that I find myself dusting off from time to time, most notably forgotten thrillers like Jean Pellerin’s For Hire (1998) or Jonathan Heap’s Hostile Intent (1997). Living in Peril (or just Peril for us UK folks) falls into this bracket perfectly. Directed by Full Moon alumni Jack Ersgard in the wake of his double-header Mandroid (1993) and Invisible: The Chronicles of Benjamin Knight (1993), Lowe plays Walter, an architect, whose temporary secondment in L.A is hijacked by someone out to get him. But who could it be? With exceedingly able support from Dean Stockwell as his kooky landlord, Jim Belushi as a brash client, and Alex Meneses as the sultry neighbour Catherine, it’s a crazy caper with a surprise around every corner.
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MEET WALLY SPARKS (1997; Peter Baldwin)
Rodney Dangerfield will always have his knockers [insert punchline], and while there’s no doubt that Meet Wally Sparks comes nowhere near to the genius of Easy Money (1983) or Back to School (1986), it still makes for a ninety minute gag-fest, albeit one that works better in the twilight hours with an ice cold beer in hand. Dangerfield plays a Springer-esque tabloid TV host who winds up at the Governor’s mansion and unwittingly uncovers a sex scandal. “I’m here to spread Joy… if I can find her” he announces on his arrival. While some jokes fall spectacularly flat, it remains a gleeful exercise in bad taste, the pinnacle of which being a severed stone penis gag which they were obviously determined to wring every laugh possible out of! The list of cameos include Tony Danza, Michael Bolton and Ron Jeremy, while Michael Weatherly (NCIS) makes his feature film debut, and Burt Reynolds attaches a toupe that demands your attention.
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ABERRATION (1997; Tim Boxell)
Mutant lizards. Yeah, you’ve made your mind up already on this one haven’t you? Stay with me though, because when Tim Boxell’s movie opens amid the mountainous wilderness of New Zealand, you know that it’s not your standard creature feature. Amy (Pamela Gidley) is heading home, with her VW Beetle bursting with all her belongings, not to mention her pet fish and best friend Frankie the Cat. There’s something sinister lurking in her lodge though, a threat that’s further amplified by doom-mongering yokel Mr. Peterson who delivers the predictable “Get out of Langdon, while you still can!” There’s a cool ecological twist to this movie with the introduction of Marshall (Simon Bossell), a Field Researcher, while these murderous lizards are proud purveyors of some gore-tastic practical effects. There’s a slight stumble in the final reel with a plot development that doesn’t need to be there, but on the whole this is a slice of claustrophobic cabin-based chaos that needs unearthing.


I THINK I DO (1997; Brian Sloan)
As I’ve already stated, I’m such a sap for a cool opening track and I Think I Do sucked me right in thanks to the dulcet tones of Matthew Sweet serenading me with Sick of Myself. Aside from being just a cool, life-affirming, coming-of-age movie, Brian Sloan’s film serves to remind us just what a great actor Alexis Arquette was. Here he plays college kid Bob, who while out and proud himself, feels that his roommate Brendan (Christian Maelen) is harbouring his inner gay. With a pent up crush that fails to develop into anything of note, even despite the homoeroticism of their wedgy-orientated wrestling matches, the film fast-forwards five years later to a reunion of sorts at their friend Carol’s wedding. Here all the pent-up lust and affection rears its head once more, albeit in the most awkward scenarios imaginable.
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ONE NIGHT STAND (1997; Mike Figgis)
I was a little obsessed with Mike Figgis in the wake of Leaving Las Vegas (1995), and the expectation for his next movie was huge, both from fans and critics alike. So with crushingly awful reviews (“Three of the most obnoxious people ever born, all in one movie” wrote Scott Weinberg), and a meagre box office (a $2.6m return on a $24m budget), to call it a flop would be an understatement. It demands reappraisal though, not least for the fact that New Line paid Joe Eszterhas FOUR million dollars for his script, only for it to be ripped up and re-written by Figgis. Starring Wesley Snipes and Nastassja Kinski who wind up engaging in the titular scenario despite being married, it’s a fascinating tale of morality that has a peak-addiction Robert Downey Jr stealing the show as a mutual friend dying of AIDS. It’ll still divide opinion twenty years later, but I’m willing to wager that it may surprise you.
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BAD DAY ON THE BLOCK (1997; Craig R. Baxley)
I guested on a podcast recently where the post-Stone Cold (1991) directing career of Craig R. Baxley was met with a bewildered silence. The stunt coordinator extraordinaire lensed a handful of iconic action pictures from ‘88 – ‘91, but his TV movie career (aside from Stephen King adaptations) is often unfairly ignored. If you feel like dipping your toe into this sea of made-for-television quickies, then I’d suggest beginning with Bad Day on the Block. Charlie Sheen is Lyle Wilder, a decorated fireman, who in the wake of a messy divorce is teetering on the brink of a complete mental breakdown. When the kids next door accidentally fly a model plane through his bedroom window, it sets off a sinister chain of events that finally push him over the edge. Sheen is excellent here and manages to do crazy with unerring accuracy, while able support comes from Mare Winningham and John Ratzenberger. Tense, unsettling and ever-so-gripping, it’s a tough one to track down but it’s a real popcorn-chewing slice of TVM heaven.
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Friday, December 29, 2017

Pure Cinema Podcast - Movie Recap - Ten Films Because 2017

As a sort of an end of the year wrap-up show, Elric and Brian each put together lists of "10 films Because" that are some favorite first time watches from 2017 - so not a traditional top ten, but a mix of new and old films that they enjoyed seeing over the past year.

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BRIAN'S TEN FILMS BECAUSE LIST
10. NEED FOR SPEED (2014)
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9. SHADOW OF THE HAWK (1976)
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8. BRIGSBY BEAR (2017)
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7. FREE FIRE (2017)
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6. THE WRONG GUY (1997)
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5. PATERSON (2016)
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4. PLUNDER OF THE SUN (1953)
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3. INSIDE MOVES (1980)
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2. HARVARD BEATS YALE 29-29 (2008)
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1. DEAD AND BURIED (1981)
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ELRIC'S TEN FILMS BECAUSE LIST
10. BRAWL IN CELL BLOCK 99 (2017)
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9. DARK OF THE SUN (1968)
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8. DE PALMA (2016)
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7. NIGHT OF 1000 CATS (1972)
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6. GOOD TIME (2017)
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5. SUPER DARK TIMES (2017)
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4. THE LANDLORD (1970)
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3. THE KILLING OF A SACRED DEER (2017)
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2. HARD TIMES (1975)
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1. CHILLY SCENES OF WINTER (1979)
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