Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '98 - Kevin Maher ""

Thursday, April 19, 2018

Underrated '98 - Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is a director, filmmaker, and the host of KEVIN GEEKS OUT, a live video variety show in Brooklyn. You should definitely find out more about it here. Or follow him on twitter @KevinGeeksOut.

1998: the year of Monica Lewinsky, the height of The Goo Goo Dolls, the invention of the Mach 3 razor and the death of Frank Sinatra. But let’s talk about the year’s under-appreciated films!

SAFE MEN (John Hamburg)
It’s easy to get drawn into this movie thanks to Hamburg’s fully realized comedic voice. The Rhode Island crime-story features a cast of character actors who wouldn’t know how to phone it in if they tried: Steve Zahn, Michael Lerner, Peter Dinklage, and scene-stealer Paul Giammati as “Veal Chop”. All that and soul-music soundtrack.
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DARK CITY (Alex Proyas)
Here’s an imaginative genre-bender that’s moody and stylish in order to advance the story and its rich themes. It’s easy to picture Tim Burton getting upset that he didn’t achieve this level of post-modern German-noir for Gotham City in BATMAN RETURNS. DARK CITY is also the rare movie that knows how to maximize its use of actor Richard O’Brien.
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BABE: PIG IN THE CITY (George Miller)
This film has found an audience over the years, but let’s include just in case someone hasn’t seen it yet. If **you** haven’t watched BABE: PIG IN THE CITY, get on it! The movie is decidedly weird and surprisingly touching. It takes place in a fictional metropolis that’s a rube’s vision of urban life. It’s hilarious and bizarre, yet still appropriate for the entire family. (Trigger warning: Mickey Rooney as an elderly clown.)
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In between the EVIL DEAD trilogy and his SPIDER-MAN movies, Sam Raimi made a pair of working class thrillers where the real horror is poverty: A SIMPLE PLAN and THE GIFT. I could defend either film, but only one came out in 1998. A SIMPLE PLAN uses a familiar premise (three yokels find a stash of money) but Raimi plays with the predictability to ratchet up the tension, thanks to some excellent performances. (It’s also a caustic study in the alienation that accompanies even the slightest upward mobility.) Watching A SIMPLE PLAN you’ll wish Sam Raimi would go back to these modest pot-boilers, the way John Huston made smaller films like FAT CITY late in his career.
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Coscarelli’s fourth PHANTASM is a return to its roots, following a flashy big-budgeted sequel, and a horror-comedy that was made to give Reggie Bannister some work. The movie is as sincere as it is low-budget. The not-so-secret secret-weapon is fusing un-used scenes from the first film into a new story. These flashbacks span 19 years and bring back the original lead actors. The PHANTASM series is known for baffling fans (because it’s art film, really) and the proposed “final chapter” answers some questions while raising others. OBLIVION is a triumphant sequel and a beautiful ending to the wildly original series.

Full-disclosure: I saw PHANTASM: OBLIVION under ideal circumstances – it was part of PHANTASMANIA, three midnight screenings of all four PHANTAM movies at the Alamo Drafthouse in Austin; accompanied by Q&As with the filmmakers, ice cream served by Reggie Bannister, live musical performances, horror trivia with silver sphere prizes, and a meet and greet with the Tall Man himself, Angus Scrimm. OBLIVION screened at the very end of the festival’s third night. It was daylight savings time and we’d just set the clocks ahead an hour, so the sun was coming up when I left the theater. I walked out of the 3-night screening feeling an incredible bond with the PHANTASM movies that still holds true to this day.
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