Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '98 - Three Oranges ""

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Underrated '98 - Three Oranges

Three Oranges is one of those internet people. Movies, music and books fill his time when he's not working for the man. In his mind, he's free.

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Blood, Guts, Bullets and Octane
Directed by Joe Carnahan
Joe Carnahan doesn’t really do subtlety. His movies are loud and brash and of questionable morality, and they seem to flirt with the borders of “try too hard.” (He’s like that on Twitter, too, which is probably why I got ended up getting blocked by him.)

But they’re fun. They’re fun when they have Hollywood-sized budgets and A-list actors, and they’re fun when they’re the director’s first outing, with zero budget, amateur actors and nothing but over-confidence and late-‘90s indie grittiness to get them through.

It’s a crime movie. With car salesmen and faux tough guys in the leads. When things aren’t quite as cool as the film seems to be trying to make them, it works thematically, because the characters aren’t as cool as they think they are, either. It’s like a Tarantino movie cast with douchebags from a local bar, including a rare acting turn from Carnahan himself.
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Holy Man
Directed by Stephen Herek
Everyone hates this movie, including its star, Eddie Murphy. He has described it as “horrendous” on two separate occasions on late night talk shows. But he’s wrong . . . it’s just a little spacey.

Murphy stars as G, a spiritual wanderer who enters the desperate commerce-driven world of home shopping television inhabited by Jeff Goldblum, Kelly Preston and the late, great Robert Loggia. G eventually wanders on camera (with Edie Mclurg!), inadvertently becoming a national home-shopping star.

Things progress largely as you’d expect, with Ricky being a bit of a corporate weasel for a while before learning not to be such a jerk and Loggia’s big boss character blustering and being a scary greedmonster.

The jokes are not giant Eddie Murphy jokes, and it’s odd seeing Goldblum be so darn normal, but the movie is a pleasant meander through familiar territory for anyone beaten down by the daily grind.
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Six-String Samurai
Directed by Lance Mungia
Rock and roll will never die, even if it has to stand alone in a post-apocalyptic wasteland.

Six-String Samurai is quintessential late’90s indie fare, with a very low budget, no-name actors and a quirky weirdness that uses its uncoolness to be cool. Buddy Holly is the perfect protagonist for this retro-futurist, Mad Max-style tale.

Buddy is on a road trip, in search of the fabled Lost Vegas. Along the way be befriends a kid (named The Kid) and battles the kind of freaks one would expect in a 1960’s radioactive hellscape. The creators of the Fallout games were almost certainly influenced by this movie.

Russians are a constant threat, including the real-life band The Red Elvises (who were one tour as recently as last year). Metalheads led by Death and deranged suburbanites in search of ratchets wander the desert.

Buddy has his sword, and his guitar, and rock ‘n’ roll.
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Little Voice
Directed by Mark Herman
It goes without saying that Jane Horrocks is the stand-out performance in this, coming on the heels of her role as a ditzy PA named Bubble in Absolutely Fabulous. She plays LV, a pathologically shy and daddy-obsessed young woman who, under the right circumstances, can sing like Bette Midler, Judy Garland and Barbra Streisand all rolled into one. Even if you’re not a fan of that style of music, her transformation is a wonder.

Little Voice also features Michael Caine as the sleazy, opportunistic agent and promoter, Ray Say. His unwholesome smarm hides a desperate, cutthroat truth, and watching his true nature gradually be wrung out of him is its own kind of sick joy.

Thematically, this could work as a double feature with Holy Man, although this is a much better film, even with the unnecessary (and not included in the original stage version) love story featuring Ewan McGregor.
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Die Hard Dracula
Directed by Peter Horak
Have you always felt that Dracula should look like a drunk middle-aged dude at a Jimmy Buffett concert wearing a dollar-store Halloween costume? Have you always though that he should shoot fireballs and lightning? Then this is your movie.

You’ll find it in the middle of those “500 movies for 50 cents” DVD sets that fill clearance bins, and that’s where it belongs.

But it sure is entertaining, if you imagine being on set with the actors. And it clearly is a set, shoddily constructed, probably by director himself.

There’s a story, for what it’s worth. A guy ‘s wife died, and a bride of Dracula looks like her, and he has to team up with some version of Van Helsing to kill him. Dracula yells a lot and stumbles around, and there’s a ton of really bad video effects along the way. Have a drink or seven and enjoy.
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Billy’s Balloon
Directed by Don Hertzfeldt
Awww . . . Billy has a balloon. What simpler joy could there be than a small child with a balloon on a nice summer day?

Surely nothing could go wrong. Not even as the balloon raises the child into the air, where he experiences the exhilarating freedom and wonder of flight! Surely there won’t be tragedy, or repeated tragedy, or escalating tragedy.

Hertzfeldt’s animations are usually short, always hand-drawn with no computer assistance, and scripted and edited with such perfect comedic timing that they have to be seen to be believed. This six minutes of animation is funnier than full seasons of some of the most popular animated shows, and Hertzfeldt did it all as a mostly one-man show.

His career since has progressed, with longer films that are more artistically complex, and he has really leaned in to the unique sense of bleak, almost apocalyptic, tragicomedy shown here.
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