Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '88 - Kevin Maher ""

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Underrated '88 - Kevin Maher

Kevin Maher is a director, comedian and video essayist.
His latest videos tackle subjects like Sharksploitation and Wig Reveals. Watch his award-winning work here. He’s also the host of KEVIN GEEKS OUT, a live video variety show at the Alamo Drafthouse and Nitehawk Cinema in Brooklyn. You should definitely follow him on twitter @KevinGeeksOut

1988: The Kinder, Gentler nation produced films that were big, dumb, explosive and overrated. But now, let’s look at 5 films that don’t get enough love. * * * 

THE CHOCOLATE WAR (Keith Gordon) 
First-time filmmaker Keith Gordon (star of CHRISTINE and JAWS 2) adapted the controversial YA novel by Robert Cormier. Gordon delivers a nuanced story of cruelty and rebellion in an all-boys Catholic high school. There’s a stunning performance by John Glover as a power-hungry teacher, a haunting synthpop soundtrack, and a wonderful appearance by Jenny Wright as a mean-girl metal-punk with the hero’s best interests at heart. This one is not only underrated, it’s underseen.  
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OLLIE HOPNOODEL’S HAVEN OF BLISS (Dick Bartlett) 
Raconteur Jean Shepherd is best remembered for the movie of A CHRISTMAS STORY. But there are 5 other filmed adaptations of the Parker Family’s exploits, including this entry with Jerry O’Connell as Ralphie and James B. Sikking as the Old Man. It’s a bizarre and imaginative but ultimately relatable story about a family vacation and a summer job. The production values constantly remind you that it was made for PBS, but it’s narrated by the great Jean Shepherd and deserves to be re-run each July the way TBS re-runs A CHRISTMAS STORY every December. 

THE COUCH TRIP (Michael Ritchie) 
This is Dan Aykroyd’s dream role: a pathological misfit with delusions of grandeur and a self-destructive need to defy authority. It’s hardly ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO’S NEST, rather this late ‘80s imposter-comedy falls somewhere between BEING THERE and TAKING CARE OF BUSINESS. (The film actually brings together two actors from those films, David Clennon and Charles Grodin, respectively.) This is not Michael Ritchie’s sharpest satire, but the breezy comedy plays with a few of his recurring themes: a behind-the-scenes look at a hypocritical institution (in this case, Pop Psychology Show Biz) a character set-up to fail (Dr. Baird was not supposed to succeed as Dr. Maitlind’s replacement) and a con man on the move (Aykroyd pretending to be a psycho-therapist.) I’d love to see THE COUCH TRIP re-made as an HBO series. 
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TALK RADIO (Oliver Stone) 
Eric Bogosian’s caustic stage play is given the ham-handed Oliver Stone treatment, but even that can’t take away from the unsettling elements of this grotesque American tragedy. The film received all kinds of accolades when it was released, but it seems to have dropped off the collective radar. TALK RADIO is a character study of a complicated, self-loathing gadfly on the brink of “going national”, while also being about the callers who parade their ugly worldviews on his show. Viewers in 2018 will get a lot out of this film today. Amazon Button (via NiftyButtons.com) 

POLTERGEIST III (Gary Sherman) 
I’m a sucker for mirror gags and dummy deaths, this trashy sequel delivers on both! Remember in the second POLTERGEIST when they clumsily drew parallels between Carol Anne and Lewis Carroll’s Alice (in Wonderland)? The third installment goes “through the looking glass” and what the film lacks in original cast members, it makes up for in goofy practical effects. And it also holds the record for most times the words “Carol Anne” are said in a POLTERGIEST film (or any film, for that matter.) Better than its awful reputation. And bonus points for all the great GIFs.
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HONORABLE MENTIONS: 
What can I say about MIRACLE MILE that hasn’t already been said? Well, for one thing this was supposed to be “The Twilight Zone Movie” but was scrapped in favor of the anthology film that was made in 1983. Second, it’s directed by the man who co-wrote STRANGE BREW (!) 
I’ll join the chorus of TAPEHEADS-Heads (as the fans should be known) by insisting that you spend 93 minutes watching this offbeat musical comedy that John Cusack and Tim Robbins’ agents did NOT want them to make. It features two noteworthy pseudonyms: the delightful soundtrack includes a song by Bob Roberts (Tim Robbins) and there’s a cameo by Bobcat Goldthwait (credited as Jack Cheese.)

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