Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '88 - Justin LaLiberty ""

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Underrated '88 - Justin LaLiberty

Justin LaLiberty holds degrees in Critical Film Studies and Film Preservation in Archiving. He is currently responsible for programming at Alamo Drafthouse in Yonkers, NY and is an itinerant projectionist, ready to run reels if you've got 'em. He is a regular contributor to Paracinema and can usually be found in whichever NYC art-house is showing the most sordid content on a given day.

Agnes Varda released two complimentary films in ‘88, only a week apart in France, starting with the playful Jane Birkin portrait JANE B. PAR AGNES V. - a loosely structured blend of non-fiction and something that resembles fantasy including Birkin riding a horse while in a suit of armor and something that may have been an orgy.

The very quick follow up KUNG-FU MASTER! is more narrative focused though equally indescribable. A sort of pop-culture obsessed amalgam of video game culture films (think THE LAST STARFIGHTER) and the type of playful relationship dramas seen at the height of the French New Wave, while also dealing with the real world crisis of AIDS and a possible romantic relationship between an adult and an adolescent. Both star Birkin and feature Agnes at the top of her game.
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King of RED SHOE DIARIES fame turned in this super sticky southern fried erotic drama complete with a surreal carnival setting and Sherilyn Fenn acting opposite some primo beefcake. I love everything about this, including the apparent non-existence of t-shirts in its universe, the need for rampant showering and a gender-swapped variation of the famous PORKY’S shower scene.
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If nothing else, this has the best poster art of 1988. One of Sidaris’ most ridiculous efforts (which is saying something) with plenty of explosions (including an exploding boomerang and a remote control car rigged with explosives in the same year that the same thing happens in THE DEAD POOL), a boat chase that could fit into MIAMI VICE and a lot of shower scenes (maybe even more than TWO MOON JUNCTION). Better than any James Bond movie of the decade.
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SHAKEDOWN (Jim Glickenhaus)
Some of the best on location footage of NYC committed to film is in this movie. Want to see a dynamic shoot out and chase through Times Square? It has that. How about some death defying stunt footage on The Cyclone? It has that too. And, of course, the Statue of Liberty gets involved. My pick for Glickenhaus’ best with Sam Elliot and Peter Weller amply handling all of the insanity they get into and the excess of 80s NYC on vivid display.
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CASUAL SEX? (Genevieve Robert)
The sole directorial effort of Ivan Reitman’s wife, Genevieve Robert, is a progressive sex comedy where women worry about AIDS, discuss orgasms, lament men and are confused by Andrew Dice Clay. Co-written by two women and featuring two female leads, this is the perfect time for this to get re-discovered.
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HELLBENT (Richard Casey)
Richard Casey was responsible for only three feature films with this one the best of the bunch. A very of its time and place (mid 80s Los Angeles) Faustian tale that feels like Nick Zedd aping Tony Scott in the universe of REPO MAN. There’s not really much else out there like it and you’re either fully in or want nothing to do with it.
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SHOOT TO KILL (Roger Spottiswoode)
Sidney Poitier and Tom Berenger team up (!!!) in a wilderness set buddy movie that feels like it had to be pitched as “LETHAL WEAPON meets FIRST BLOOD” only it also has a hostage situation going on too. A kitchen sink action movie if there ever was one, Spottiswoode and his cast are clearly having fun and, if nothing else, it’s a much better buddie film than his other efforts: AIR AMERICA and STOP! OR MY MOM WILL SHOOT
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CALL ME (Sollace Mitchell)
One of the three 1988 phone based thrillers (the other two being PARTY LINE and DIAL: HELP), this is the sleaziest of the bunch and is one of two films with CALL ME in the title to deal with fruit sexually (this one utilizing oranges instead of peaches). Outside of phones and sex fruit, this also features a young Steve Buscemi as a character named Switchblade who, well, likes to use a switchblade.
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BULLETPROOF (Steve Carver)
The hugely underrated Steve Carver (LONE WOLF MCQUADE, BIG BAD MAMA) turned in this absolutely ridiculous Gary Busey vehicle with a script from the one and only Fred Olen Ray. Also starring a villainous Henry Silva who has a tank fetish and gets called “butthorn” by Busey a few times. I really love this trend of stupid action movies where leads play the saxaphone, see also: THE REVENGER and CATCHFIRE.
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David Decoteau will likely never be accused of being a great filmmaker but NIGHTMARE SISTERS is great fun. Starring Linnea Quigley as a sorority sister with an overbite, who gets into a succubus mess thanks to a crystal ball. Shot in four days and full of demon blowjobs and classy songs like Sorority Sister Succubus, which is as David DeCoteau as you’re going to get. I love this stupid movie.
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THE UNDERTAKER (Franco Steffanino)
Few things are as immediately unnerving as the unholy trifecta of New Jersey, Joe Spinell and necrophelia. And THE UNDERTAKER has all of those things. The movie itself feels as sweaty and unkempt as Spinell looks on screen and having this now cleaned up and available in HD is as welcome as it is wrong. Makes for a (perhaps too much) grimy double bill with MANIAC.
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FEDS (Daniel Goldberg)
Just a few years before Jodie Foster would infiltrate the FBI, Rebecca De Mornay and Mary Gross beat her to it. Solid buddy comedy featuring our two leads making dimwitted men look dimwitted and the tagline “Sleep tight America, these women carry guns) is, well, something.
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Next to nothing to do with the first film but Yuen brings Cynthia Rothrock to the table and turns in a 104 minute blast of action in Cambodia, with tons of explosions, people being fed to alligators and old fashioned martial arts. This is the RAMBO: FIRST BLOOD PART 2 of this series.
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The only feature film directed by Anita Rosenberg (who also wrote MODERN GIRLS) is this feminist crime comedy that plays out like an Andy Sidaris version of THELMA & LOUISE. And it’s produced by David De Coteau, of all people. “Oh no! A bimbo with a gun!”
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SILENT ASSASSINS (Lee Doo Yong, Scott Thomas)
Linda Blair and Flash Gordon take on a bunch of ninja hitmen/mercenaries in a movie that also manages to feature wonton dismemberment, hot dogs, baby dolls, wasabi mistaken for guacamole, simulated couch sex, simulated couch sex while inside a moving van, complete disregard for chain of command, extended blurred vision shooting, bio-chemical weapons, a super creepy rendition of "Twinkle Twinkle Little Star", a computer that explodes when you flip its keyboard over, a sword that can cut through a body with one blow, dual wielded assault rifles, a public restroom fight involving a shovel and a rocket launcher with infinite ammunition. It's the movie equivalent of playing a video game with all of the cheats on.

Also starring Ninja Turf's pair of Phillip Rhee and Jun Chong with an appearance by the one and only Mako - because of course.
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