Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '98 - Sean Wicks ""

Friday, April 20, 2018

Underrated '98 - Sean Wicks

Sean is a movie obsessed, all-around social media lover, he's very active on twitter (, tumblr ( facebook (, and letterboxd (

Ok so how did 1998 come to be 20 years ago? Would someone PLEASE stop time…just for a bit!

When Rupert asked me to contribute to this series, I thought coming up with a healthy list of underrated titles for 1998 would be difficult. Instead I found myself with a long list that I had to shrink down so I pulled off a few titles I know other people will be all over (ZERO EFFECT being the primary one).

1998 also had one of my favorite films from the 1990s, and that would be…..
BULWORTH (Directed by Warren Beatty)
Ok, if you want to see a grown man gush over a movie, here is your opportunity.

BULWORTH had me from the opening few moments. This movie is wildly funny and watching Warren Beatty trying to rap and realizing just how impossible it is for an older (rich) white man to become urban is something to behold. You know what helps? Cinematography by Vittorio Storario and a score by Ennio Morricone not to mention a supporting cast that includes Halle Berry, Oliver Platt (who almost steals the picture), Jack Warden, Sean Astin and Don Cheadle.

Beatty (who directed and co-wrote the film) is Jay Billington Bulworth, a California Senator running for re-election who is suffering from some severe depression thanks mainly to the concessions he has made in his political views to stay in office. He’s so disenfranchised that he sets up a “weekend research project” that is basically hiring someone to assassinate him. Death does not come easy to Senator Bulworth who tries to stay one step ahead of the assassin he hired and begins openly having a nervous breakdown by rapping (badly) at stuffy political events and openly trashing the people who are keeping him in office. He does all this while hanging out with Halle Berry and ending up hiding in South Central Los Angeles.

The biting commentary and the antics of Beatty who hits the message here so squarely on the mark make this picture one that is not to be missed and as mentioned above, a coke-snorting aide played wonderfully by the always solid Oliver Platt threatens to steal the movie from the rapping Beatty. Would LOVE LOVE LOVE for someone to release a decent copy of this on Blu-ray (Twilight Time? Shout Select? Anyone??). Seriously, this picture is brilliant and Beatty is every bit the movie star in it that he always has been, and still taking the risks that have defined his career (like of course BONNIE AND CLYDE).
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THE MASK OF ZORRO (Directed by Martin Campbell)
This action picture solidly grounds itself in the swashbuckling tradition of the title character and comes out a winner on all fronts. The casting of Antonio Banderas who dons the mask from retiring Anthony Hopkins and plans to save California from the tyranny while seeking vengeance for the death of his brother and romancing a very sultry Catherine Zeta-Jones in the process. Everything about this movie is fun, fun, fun and the James Horner score keeps things lively. A highlight is when Zorro uses his sword to expertly disrobe Zeta-Jones, who is every bit as feisty and as tough as he is. A strong female character in what would otherwise be a damsel-in-distress role. Also check out the original teaser which had Zorro walking out and cutting a Z in the screen in the tradition of the James Bond gun barrel opening.
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DEEP IMPACT (Directed by Mimi Leder)
1998 was the year of the Meteor, with not one but two big-budget world-ending pictures released. The one that made the bigger impact may have Michael Bay’s loud ARMAGEDDON, but the one that won me over was DEEP IMPACT which made it into theaters two months before Bay’s movie.

As mentioned, there is a meteor threatening to destroy the earth and while a group of astronauts head into space (led by Robert Duvall) to try and head it off, Earth gets ready for the impending doom but only a select few will survive! Téa Leoni leads an all-star cast that includes Duvall, Elijah Wood, Morgan Freeman, Vanessa Regrave, Maximilian Schell, James Cromwell, Jon Favreau, Blair Underwood and Leelee Sobieski.

While Bay’s ARMEGEDDON focuses on the action and the Bayhem, and really goes off the rails nuts in the second act, DEEP IMPACT takes a more emotional route, focusing on people as they prepare to face their impending death. One sequence involving Leoni and Maximilian Schell (as her father) stands out as making the deepest emotional impact, putting more meaning into the title than just the big rock headed for Earth.
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BELOVED (Directed by Jonathan Demme)
Academy Award winner Jonathan Demme (SILENCE OF THE LAMBS) tackled this powerful, spiritual drama that has a family of former slaves (Oprah Winfrey and Danny Glover) take in a strange woman named Beloved (Thandie Newton) who brings some strange happenings along with her.

I brought up this movie with someone a couple of weeks ago, and they couldn’t remember it at all which is a shame. I remember walking out of this picture completely moved by it. Worth noting is the haunting score by Rachel Portman which still gets a lot of playtime in my house.
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THE HORSE WHISPERER (Directed by Robert Redford)
Luscious star-driven romantic drama based on a best-selling novel by Nicholas Evans has Redford stepping into the lives of two women (mother Kristin Scott Thomas and daughter Scarlett Johansson). While riding her horse, Johansson is hit by a truck and both are seriously injured both physically and mentally while the friend riding along with her is killed. Scott Thomas enlists gentle yet Rugged Montana Rancher and “Horse Whisperer” Redford to help heal the horse – but it is the horse or the women who he is helping more?

Beautifully shot (by Robert Richardson) movie that has a tender and emotionally powerful tone to it (aided by a Thomas Newman score) it may be all about the romance, but the movie never really goes overboard into schmaltz – unlike some of the other pictures made from Evans’ work. Redford and Scott Thomas make a lovely screen couple.
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BRIDE OF CHUCKY (Directed by Ronny Yu)
From a tender romantic drama to…well…. Chucky, this list has everything!

Killer doll Chucky is re-assembled through a satanic ritual carried out by Tiffany (a gorgeous Jennifer Tilly) who he then murders and turns her into a killer-doll mate. This is a true match made in hell, and pure sadistic fun for everyone involved. Tilly plays up her role to the hilt which really makes this picture a fun ride. It stands as my favorite of the CHILD’S PLAY franchise (next to the original of course).
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ENEMY OF THE STATE (Directed by Tony Scott)
Big brother is watching, and he is after hapless Will Smith who has stumbled on key evidence to a politically motivated crime. He enlists the aid of Gene Hackman, in a sort of follow-up performance to his role in Francis Ford Coppola’s masterful THE CONVERSATION (1974). Not near as good as THE CONVERSATION, but crazy fun in that out-of-control Tony Scott manner. With dialogue exchanges such as:
“What the hell is happening?”

“I blew up the building.”


“Because you made a phone call!”

…how can you go wrong!
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And last but DEFINITELY not least…
RONIN (Directed by John Frankenheimer)
I’m sure someone else will also mention this picture, but I just had to include it.

Exciting heist film starring Robert De Niro featuring one of the best car chases ever put on film. ‘Nuff said!
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