Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '97 - World B Tweet ""

Friday, December 29, 2017

Underrated '97 - World B Tweet

World B Tweet – worked in movie theatres and video stores almost non-stop since 1987. My first night in a movie theatre was opening night of the first “Lethal Weapon.” I’m a child of the 80’s drive-in scene, the long lost son of Sam Firstenberg, and I can be found talking movies on Twitter (@WorldBTweet) or at

(The film is technically from 1996, but didn't receive its' theatrical run until '97, so I'mma gonna count it. Call my lawyer if that's a problem.)

Take an ordinary car, and then pile Hope Davis, Anne Meara, Liev Schreiber and Parker Posey into it. Oh, then make the three women mother and daughters, make Schreiber the one daughter's boyfriend, heading into Manhattan to find Stanley Tucci. Stop right there... I'm sold. Leave my ticket at the box office, and I'll get there as fast as I can.

Davis (in her first starring role, and she's fantastic in it) finds a romantic letter in her house and quickly assumes that her husband (Tucci) is having an affair. Not sure whether to believe it or not, Davis, her parents, her sister, and her sister's boyfriend, decide to take a road trip to New York to confront the husband. Most of the runtime is spent with the passengers of the car, and as with most of the 90's indies resurgence, there is a LOT of talking. The key to the success of THE DAYTRIPPERS is that quite a bit of this dialogue is legitimately funny. This is the feature debut (both for screenplay and direction) of Greg Mottola, who would later go on to SUPERBAD, ADVENTURELAND and PAUL. The comic timing and great lines you know from his later films are here as well; although not always to the boisterous, more raunchy tones of his more well-known movies. This film could be rightfully unbearable if it was a dramatic navel-gazer. Making this a comedy makes all the difference in the world.

Hope Davis is a revelation in her debut lead role, and this properly sent her off to a long and productive career, both as a lead and later as a solid part of many, many films and shows. Posey, Schreiber and Tucci all were already mainstays in the indie film world, and turn in great work here. And it is always a delight to see Anne Meara in anything. And hey... without ruining anything... I'm pretty certain that this film doesn't end how you expect it to end. It's been a few years since I've seen it, but I definitely didn't predict back in '97.
Amazon Button (via

Sidney Lumet is my favorite director of all-time. I love Spielberg, Fincher, Eastwood, Coppola, etc, but Lumet always felt like he was making movies for me and only me. Gritty, fact-based (or fact-adjacent) films about morally challenged people trying so hard to do right but having to fight oh so many obstacles to get there.

Lumet films in the 80's and 90's run hot and cold. There are stone cold gems of perfection in the mix (THE VERDICT, PRINCE OF THE CITY), great films that never got the attention they deserved (Q&A, RUNNING ON EMPTY) and more than the occasional stinker (STRANGER AMONG US). In 1997, we were lucky enough to get not one but TWO Lumet films (CRITICAL CARE is the second one and ALMOST made this list) that touched on themes of which he has always been fond, yet done in a way that still felt fresh and new.

NIGHT FALLS ON MANHATTAN is another look at police corruption (which Lumet had already taken on several times through the years), but this time he focuses the majority of the attention on the lawyer/court side of matters. Andy Garcia plays a rising star prosecutor who is trying to make his career on a corruption case. Only problem is, among those implicated are his cop father (Ian Holm) and his partner (James Gandolfini).

It's not PRINCE OF THE CITY, but I still love it. The cast is golden. Along with the above mentioned, you also get Lena Olin, Richard Dreyfuss, and, most important to me, Ron Leibman, who plays his District Attorney character straight to the back of the theatre, through the theatre walls and out into the street. Leibman's performance is both overacting to the Nth degree AND brilliant. I've watched this film about eight times now, and I'd say four of those watches are just to rewatch him.
Amazon Button (via

I was a huge fan of IN LIVING COLOR on television in the early 90's and, as many of you are, I was also obsessed with Keenan Ivory Wayans' amazing blaxploitation parody I'M GONNA GIT YOU SUCKA in 1988. I would have loved to have seen what Wayans had done through the 90's as a filmmaker of comedies. However, after his television show started winding up, Wayans instead decided to take a swing at being an action star instead.

MOST WANTED is his third time as an action lead in three years, and although it might not be the most successful of the three (I still have a fond spot for the looser A LOW DOWN DIRTY SHAME), it's a more than competent action programmer. It's a blend of the lone unstoppable hero film of the 80's and the paranoid government thriller of the 70's. Wayans is a Marine on death row who gets framed for murder after being released to work on a top secret mission (Oops-- someone killed the first lady!).

For the most part, Wayans drops all pretense of being funny in this film, as this is definitely his "I'm gonna be the next action star" moment. The action scenes are well-staged and the film is pretty fast paced. Also, we have a fun supporting cast with Jon Voight, Jill Hennessy, Robert Culp, Eric Roberts and Paul Sorvino. It's not Filet Mignon, but it's at least a serviceable Philly cheesesteak.

As for Wayans' future as an action lead? This is his last starring role in a film to date. Maybe MOST WANTED 2 is on tap for 2027.
Amazon Button (via

When we sadly lost Bill Paxton earlier this year, every podcast and film writer was quick to drop their list of favorite Paxton films, and none of them added a film that I would disagree with personally. Not a single time, however, did I hear a mention of this quirky, well-made '97 film about a family of Irish con-men plying their grifter trade through North Carolina. Paxton (who also executive produced) plays the leader of this band of con men, and Mark Wahlberg takes on the role of his protege.

I simply go nuts over any films about con men and grifters, whether it be a bigger lighter film like THE STING or darker, smaller efforts like HOUSE OF GAMES or THE GRIFTERS. TRAVELLER doesn't hit any of those heights, but for a film that has basically vanished, it holds a lot of good cards. The cons are interesting to watch take place, the story is intriguing enough to keep your attention, and the cast (which also includes Julianna Marguilles and James Gammon) is first rate.

Finally, let's put it this way --- Would Bill Paxton ever steer ya wrong?
Amazon Button (via

Tupac Shakur only appeared in a handful of films, but he had two interesting films that got released in 1997, the year after his death. The corrupt cop thriller GANG RELATED has its moments, and a nice comeback role for Dennis Quaid, but to me, GRIDLOCK'D is the one that had the right stuff.

Shakur and Tim Roth co-star as drug users who, after their friend overdoses, decide it's finally time to get clean. The only problem is that the hoops they will have to jump through to enroll and stay in a government run rehab program are actually more strenuous and dangerous (as their dealer is also on the lookout for them) than getting high in the first place.

Writer-director Vondie Curtis-Hall (known mostly as an actor; sadly, the great notices he got filming this one were used to get him his next gig.... as the helmer of Mariah Carey's GLITTER.) knows he has a serious and downbeat topic on his hand, so he finds ways to inject it with some great satirical and dry wit throughout. The film has more than a few legitimately and intentionally funny moments.

The cast is also first-rate. Both leads are fantastic (Tim Roth is Tim Roth, and Tupac definitely had a career as an actor if he hadn't been taken so young), and the supporting crew includes Thandie Newton, Charles Fleischer, Howard Hesseman, and even writer John Sayles!

Ever wonder why a lot of today's films feel bland compared to the films of years gone by? Look at the supporting casts. Films were filled to the gills with recognizable actors then... it seems to be the first place budget cuts are made today. Character actors matter, people!
Amazon Button (via

Most genre folk circle around 1996's JACK FROST as their "goofy fictional character turned serial killer" champion of the decade. Me? I always like to make the case for UNCLE SAM, which came out a year later, and has a much better pedigree. It's still cheap and tacky, but it has some meaty bits to chew on that the snowman film does not.

A trigger-happy soldier is killed by friendly fire in Desert Storm and shipped back home three years after he had went MIA. He comes back to life and "Uncle Sam" (his name is Sam Harper and he is, indeed, the uncle of our film's child lead) decides he is going to take his anger and frustration out on those people to whom he finds Un-American. Flag burners, peace-lovers, ex-wives, and, hell.... anyone he disagrees with is bound to die during the 90 minute runtime.

Still not convinced?

Well, our director is William "MANIAC" Lustig.

Not yet? How about a script by Larry Freakin' Cohen?

Still need more? I'll raise you Bo Hopkins, William Smith, P.J. Soles, Robert Forster, Timothy Bottoms and Isaac Hayes. ISAAC HAYES, gang!

I won't spoil the kills if you haven't already seen it. And if you haven't already seen it (I've seen it 4 times, I believe), then you best be looking for it now. I demand to hear back from all of you that you've seen it.... or I'm sending the Uncle after ya.
Amazon Button (via

No comments: