Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '87 - Sean Wicks ""

Monday, March 6, 2017

Underrated '87 - Sean Wicks

Sean is a good friend of mine and he runs the Cinema-Scope blog (http://cinemascope-blog.blogspot.com/) which is very much a sister blog to my own (we often do series in conjunction with each other). An all-around social media lover, he's very active on twitter (https://twitter.com/wixpix), tumblr (http://seanwicks.tumblr.com/) facebook (https://www.facebook.com/WicksFlicks), and letterboxd (http://letterboxd.com/wixpix/).

See his Underrated '86 list here:
http://www.rupertpupkinspeaks.com/2016/05/underrated-sean-wicks.html

It’s always easy to compose lists of 1980s movies. My cinematic passion awakening came during that decade as these were my teen years.

I was in the 8th grade going into 1987, and ended it as a high school freshman. I saw a lot that year as I also believe it was the year I made a very important purchase – my first VCR – and also officially began movie collecting (I had all of 6 titles at the time).

In a year that I saw a lot of films, composing a list of underrated favorites was a simple task. I always find there are titles I add that I fight with myself as to whether they are underrated or not. It’s not easy given that over time, many of these films build audiences and an appreciation they may not have had back in the year of release.
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INNERSPACE (Directed by Joe Dante)
When going through the list of 1987 movie releases, INNERSPACE stood out for me instantly. I remember loving it when it first came out, and at the video store that I began working at in 1988, they used to play it constantly on the in-store monitors.

INNERSPACE is an action-comedy take on the Science Fiction classic FANTASTIC VOYAGE, that see Dennis Quaid shrunk down and injected into hypochondriac shlubb Martin Short. With help from Quaid’s estranged girlfriend (Meg Ryan) they try to get Quaid out of Short before it’s too late.

There are so many great things about INNERSPACE that I don’t know where to begin. What I want to focus on here though are the character of “The Cowboy” (played by frequent Dante collaborator and future STAR TREK: VOYAGER hologram doctor Robert Picardo) and Jerry Goldsmith’s score. The movie takes such a wild twist when Picardo’s character shows up (and is later played as if inhabited by Martin Short) and is one of the reasons I find this movie so great. It never plays to what you expect, and there are some great moments that grow out of the premise, and make this picture feel fresh and original even though it’s a rehash of another film. It is a movie that I try to re-watch annually.

As mentioned, the second element is Jerry Goldsmith’s score, which I think is one of his underrated best. It is no surprise that when La La Land Records released it, it sold out quickly, and is difficult to obtain (without paying a lot of money) on the net. Perhaps they would think about re-releasing it? (hint, hint!)
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HOPE AND GLORY (Directed by John Boorman)
There were two movies about young boy’s experiences during World War II released in 1987. Both had the air of being “awards” bait and were in fact both nominated for multiple Oscars that year. The bigger picture was Steven Spielberg’s EMPIRE OF THE SUNwhich made a bigger splash than HOPE AND GLORY, which in my opinion is a much better film.

HOPE AND GLORY is about a 9-year-old boy growing up in London during the blitz. This is a true boy’s adventure, where bombs are going off all around him, and when his school gets blown up, well, for a 9-year-old, his prayers are answered.

While it has the element of a past filled with golden memories, there is a definite edge to HOPE AND GLORY that is unmistakable. It is deserving of a re-evaluation.
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BABY BOOM (Directed by Charles Shyer)
During my days in script development, BABY BOOM was a title that was always being talked about as a potential remake. I believe it still is. It also has been announced as part of this year’s Twilight Time Blu-ray releases. BABY BOOM has somehow stuck around.

In the same year that bachelors Selleck, Danson and Guttenberg were saddled with an infant in 3 MEN AND A BABY, corporate business woman, and cutthroat ladder-climber Diane Keaton was as well. How will she juggle her plush 80s life with diapers, not to mention handle her career that demands 110% of her time? The question of 80s career woman vs. maternal requirements is treated in a comedic fashion that takes a definite swipe at the yuppie lifestyle. It’s a picture that proves that you can be a mother and have your apple sauce too.

THE PRINCIPAL (Directed by Christopher Cain)
Movies about Inner city high schools. The drugs, graffiti, the violence, the teacher who makes a difference. Well most of those elements are here, but Belushi is no forward-thinking teacher who can inspire students. He’s banished to this job after getting drunk and smashing up his wife’s lawyer’s car, and befriended by the janitor (Louis Gossett, Jr.) rules the hallways with a big stick (literally, a baseball bat).

DANGEROUS MINDS this is not. A very 80s action-oriented picture that has Belushi facing off with the dangerous elements (a drug dealer) within the school, not with words but with deeds. It’s a gritty, down-and-dirty movie that pulls few punches.
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GARDENS OF STONE (Directed by Francis Ford Coppola)
When you think of Francis Ford Coppola’s filmography, GARDENS OF STONE is not a picture that is often remembered. A drama that has a solid cast (James Caan, Anjelica Huston, James Earl Jones, Dean Stockwell, Laurence Fisburne, etc.), it’s the “other” Vietnam War picture made by the director of APOCALYPSE NOW that couldn’t be more different.

Quiet, contemplative and introspective it’s nothing you would expect from a director who once declared APOCALYPSE NOW not about Vietnam, but “was Vietnam”. The fact that his son, Gian-Carlo, died in 1986 probably ha d a lot to do with the tone of the picture.

It’s hard to get a hold of this film, but is another one that should be re-evaluated.
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NUTS (Directed by Martin Ritt)
Another film that is hard to get these days thanks to an out-of-print DVD (but is available from some digital outlets), NUTS features Barbra Streisand as a distrusting call-girl fighting a mental incompetence ruling in a court case that sees her up for murder. Claiming self-defense, she has a rocky relationship with lawyer Richard Dreyfus and doctor Eli Wallach who thinks she is insane. So, if those actors aren’t talented enough for you there is also Maureen Stapleton and Karl Malden as Babs’ parents, as well as Leslie Nielsen. It’s directed by Martin Ritt whose films HUD and PARIS BLUES are top notch pictures.

I’ve always wondered why NUTS hasn’t gotten more exposure over time. It’s a strong film with an original premise (especially for a court-room drama) that has been seriously overlooked.

Here’s hoping that perhaps the fine staff at the Warner Archive sees fit to re-issue this at some point.
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OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE (Directed by Arthur Hiller)
“Nine years of ballet, asshole!”

Some time ago, a group of us were discussing Shelley Long’s film career in bizarre detail. While the conversation was focused mainly on TROOP BEVERLY HILLS (which has somehow reached cult status) and HELLO AGAIN, I walked away and decided that my weekend would consist of Long-fest, a binge of most of Miss Long’s work.

OUTRAGEOUS FORTUNE is by no means a great movie, and in fact when it was first released, I disliked it. That opinion has since changed (obviously).

Shelley Long and Bette Midler are at opposite ends of the social spectrum who end up in the same acting class, and hate each other immensely. They both are dating Peter Coyote, and when he disappears, team up to find him to prove that which of them he truly loves. Coyote has some shady origins and the ladies end up in some trouble, which of course they sort out by the end of the picture.

This movie plays to both women’s strengths so well that even if it’s not so great, it’s worth checking based on their performances alone. Long is an intellectual socialite, a role she played to perfection as Diane Chambers in CHEERS, and Midler is a street-smart New Yorker who can trash talk anybody under the table. It’s Long though who truly sells this movie. The line noted above is delivered so winningly with that perfect blend of coming down from her perch but still containing that level of haughtiness that only Shelley Long can do so well (especially given that it comes at a truly ridiculous moment in the picture).
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And WTF honorable mention goes to…

JAWS: THE REVENGE (Directed by Joseph Sargent)
When I first saw the trailer for JAWS: THE REVENGE, I was seated in a theater about to see another 1987 WTF, SUPERMAN IV: THE QUEST FOR PEACE. At the time, it did not occur to me that this movie was going to be anything but great. Another JAWS movie. Fantastic!

So, let’s call it great in a spectacularly bad way. Right from the opening on Christmas Eve where Brody’s son is killed by a shark, one that could be hunting down the Brody clan. Oh wait, it is!

Everything about this film is laughable. But then, there he is, Michael Caine, fresh from an Academy Award win for HANNAH AND HER SISTERS (Best Supporting Actor, the first of 2 in his career so far). What’s he doing here? I am not one to really get harsh with actors for taking bad movies like this. These are strictly paycheck movies and is there anything wrong with an actor wanting to earn a living in between the serious career films? Caine states he has never seen the film, and that it paid for one of his houses. Caine raises the stakes of JAWS: THE REVENGE. He makes it almost impossible not to watch this film. His attachment (especially at the time) makes you think, “hey this could be something” and indeed it is. This is one of the worst excuses for a sequel ever in the history of cinema, and it sits proudly on my shelf thanks to a new Blu-ray disc release last year.
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