Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '97 - Scott Drebit ""

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Underrated '97 - Scott Drebit

Scott Drebit is Senior Columnist at Daily Dead (, with Drive-In Dust Offs covering films, and It Came from the Tube tackling TV. He is also a co-host of the weekly Corpse Club podcast, and can be found on Twitter @phantasm2 desperately trying to start a William Girdler fan club.

Year of the Horse (Jim Jarmusch)
I’m a big Neil Young fan; there’s something about his scrappy poetic ramblings and skyscraping soundscapes that permeates my bones and crushes my soul. Jarmusch (Gimme Danger) followed around Young and his messy, long time compadres Crazy Horse on their 1996 tour, and the result is loud and messy, telling, and gloriously rough. Shot on Super 8, mixing live footage and candid interviews with the band, Year of the Horse is a great and frazzled snapshot of a band that prevails no matter the trends.
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The Relic (Peter Hyams)
When a film really leans into its influences and tropes, and doesn’t apologize for them, it can make for a very enjoyable time; there’s no contempt for the material or condescension. Such is the case with The Relic, director Peter Hyams’ (Capricorn One) nod to good old fashioned monster mayhem with killer creature work from Stan Winston. This one has it all: the kindly professor (James Whitmore) who explains everything there is to know about the ancient creature that sucks out your pituitary gland, the grizzled detective (Tom Sizemore), the smart, plucky heroine (Penelope Ann Miller), and a museum full of unsuspecting victims. It’s big, unassuming fun with typically muscular direction from Hyams, who should do more horror. Or just more, period.
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RocketMan (Stuart Gillard)
I grew up watching old Jerry Lewis movies at the Saturday matinee, Don Knotts too; bumbling fools plunged into impossible situations who save the day with usually nothing more than a lot of heart. This is the story with RocketMan, Stuart Gillard’s (A Man Called Sarge) affectionate tribute to the sweet jesters of yore. And the story is exactly the same: a goofball engineer (Harland Williams) ends up on a manned mission to Mars along with an all-star astronaut (William Sadler). Silly stuff ensues, roll credits. This is what Disney wanted and this is what they got; it’s unapologetic in its cheeriness and compulsion to please, and that all falls on the shoulders (and jug ears) of Williams, who gives no quarter in his determination to entertain. Hollywood done him wrong; I would have lined up for a dozen matinees with his name above the marquee.
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Cube (Vincenzo Natali)
I love puzzle solving. I’m also terrible at it. Lucky for the viewers of Cube, the debut feature from director Natali (Splice), our cast is too; six strangers wake up in – you guessed it – a futuristic cube that offers clues to other cubes in the hopes of freedom with nasty surprises for everyone. This precursor to Saw offers a good old dose of that Canadian nihilism, shot through with enough style for ten “trap” films. Don’t confuse lack of funds for lack of ambition, because Cube has a way of trapping the viewer before they know what hit them – or impaled them. Or burned them.
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MouseHunt (Gore Verbinski)
Back to the Saturday matinee we go for more comedy, and this time we’re looking at a duo in the style of Martin & Lewis or Laurel & Hardy; and while (Nathan) Lane & (Lee) Evans’ partnership was a one and done, they make a solid team in the tradition of the greats, if not the material. Verbinski started out as a punk musician himself before directing videos for them; and cool anarchy (and sadistic irony) is the tune of the day in his feature debut as he steamrolls and swoops through this dark slapstick romp. Our hapless pair are trying to rid their inherited house of a pesky mouse, with catastrophic results. While MouseHunt shoots for Buster Keaton levels of insanity and (sometimes) misses, it is nevertheless a treat to see widescreen mayhem that at the very least, entertains. And the way the world sits 20 years later, its pleasures are very welcome, indeed.
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