Rupert Pupkin Speaks: September 2018 ""

Thursday, September 20, 2018

Underrated '88 - Nate Fancher

Nate Fancher - "Nate Lugosi" on Facebook - is a forensically trained clinical mental health professional. Movies are the lens through which he views the world, and he enjoys unearthing new film experiences whenever possible.

Beach Balls (Joe Ritter)

“Whatever you do, don’t touch your fingers to your mouth.”

This is one of those films that ran in steady rotation on USA “Up All Night” back in the ‘80s and ‘90s. I remember having that show on for background noise when I was a high school youth, and every so often I could almost convince myself that – maybe – this was the night that a censor was asleep at the wheel and they’d let slip a stray nipple shot. Granted, I had the scrambled connection to Cinemax After Dark for that, in a pinch.

Never an accidental exposure of bare boobs, sometimes I’d end up fairly engrossed in the story. And actually, for these kinds of movies – I’ve taken to labelling the late ‘80s teen sex comedies, “titty ha-ha’s” – this one isn’t too bad. There is less “beach” than a title of this nature would have you believe, but it leans more into the rock-n-roll-party-while-the-parents-are-away tropes, enough to keep you entertained. It was funny, when I got older and managed to get my hands on a copy of the film on DVD, I felt like I was doing something wrong, and, the more I watched it, the more I risked one of my parents walking in and wondering what the hell was going on.
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Decline of Western Civilization II: The Metal Years (Penelope Spheeris)

“If your parents don’t like it, it’s good.”

I seem to recall discovering this on MTV or VH1 one night. It was weird to see these heavy metal musicians talking about their craft so openly. Heavy metal musicianship was almost like professional wrestling, in a sense, that the theatrics seemed to take precedence over the actual dynamics of the work. Until I recently watched the Shout Factory release, all I’d really remembered of this film was a brief sequence where Ozzy Osbourne – still mostly in his prime – talked about all his drug use while making breakfast. While he haphazardly pours orange juice more on the table and occasionally in the glass, you can see the shell of a human Ozzy would become by the time his reality show came around.
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Fright Night Part 2 (Tommy Lee Wallace)

“Vampires aren’t real.”

There’s a HUGE difference between this, and “Fright Night II” (2013). Do not get your brands confused!

Seems 1988 was a hotbed for horror sequels. Just on my movie shelf alone, I’m looking at “Critters 2”, “Ghoulies 2”, “Halloween 4”, “Hellraiser II”, “Nightmare on Elm Street 4”, “Phantasm II”, “Return of the Killer Tomatoes”, “Return of the Living Dead II”, and “Zombi 3”. Then there’s this film, where William Ragsdale and Roddy McDowall reprise their roles from the first “Fright Night”. The chemistry between the two is as fantastic in this film as it was in the first, as they take on the sister of Jerry Dandridge, played by Julie Carmen. The threats from the first film are amplified for the second, as this time Charlie and Vincent have to also contend with vampire minions, a werewolf, and a hulking entomophagist (which, side note about yours truly, is a word that I didn’t learn just for this review but one I’ve known because of my work in the field of mental health).

Something I found odd (but I was delighted when I discovered it): This is Jonathan Gries first of two turns he has done as a werewolf, the second being Desperate Man in “Monster Squad.”
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Lady Terminator (H. Tjut Djalil)

“If it bleeds, it can die.”

Good lord, this film! This film is kitchen sink cinema at its best.

To be absolutely honest, there is nothing that I could add to my thoughts of this film that wouldn’t seem like I was cribbing from Zack Romero and his “B-Roll” show from the Roku channel B-Movie TV. Hindu goddesses, cyborg women, cooter snakes, and a guy who gets his crotch annihilated via machine gun … This is what cinema is about.
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Robo Vampire (Godfrey Ho)

“How dare you take my lover’s corpse and turn it into a vampire beast!”

Another great kitchen sink film. Take one part Robocop, one part Chinese vampire mythos, and stir in a smidgen of “Monster and the Girl.”

God, I love hopping vampires. I love gorilla vampires. But you know what I wanted to see? Robot vampires. But I’ll take what I can get.
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Waxwork (Anthony Hickox)

“They’ll make a movie about anything, nowadays.”

Okay, Zach Galligan is probably better remembered by fans for his role in “Gremlins”, and I’ll concede that point. But for my money, his best role is as Mark in “Waxwork.”

Tons of great stuff to love in this movie: It’s a monster mash film, of a sort; the conceit of the wax figures not only coming alive but the dioramas being portals to alternate worlds is really well done; in a film with mummies, vampires, and zombies, it’s the Marquis de Sade that plays the boss villain; and, inspired turns by David Warner, Patrick Macnee, and John Rhys-Davies as a werewolf!

I love this film. It’s a perennial go-to for home horror movie marathons, Halloween viewing, and general cinema “comfort food.” The sequel, while carrying much of the same spirit as this one, lacks a little something with its increased attention to time- and dimension-hopping conceits, but reduced focus on anything resembling waxworks, which – as it says on the tin – are the lifeblood of this franchise.
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Wednesday, September 19, 2018

Underrated '88 - Marcus Pinn

Marcus Pinn is the head writer for the film site PINNLAND EMPIRE.
In addition to maintaining his own site, he co-hosts the Zebras In America podcast with film score composer Scott Thorough and is a regular contributor for The Pink Smoke & Wrong Reel.
Mira Nair has become one of those filmmakers where I anticipate an in-depth interview with her rather than an actual movie release. I guess it’s pretty shitty to start things off with a borderline insult/backhanded compliment, but it is what it is. Nair’s films have become quite safe and a little bland for my taste. But that’s just me. I recognize there is an audience for her recent movies. I’m just not part of that audience anymore. I will always appreciate her on-going effort to make stories about and inclusive of Brown people in a non-contrived way. Mira Nair is Brown. Indian to be specific. So of course she’s going to make films from her perspective in an organic way. That seems to be all the rage now (representation in film). But Mira Nair was in the trenches doing this decades ago yet no one outside of movie nerds seems to acknowledge this. It should also be noted that her Indian roots have connections to the continent of Africa which have been explored in films like Mississippi Masala & Queen Of Katwe. That’s part of the reason why I decided to group the two movies of discussion together. Salaam Bombay & Chocolat are both coming of age feature film debuts from then-up & coming female filmmakers (both films also played/premiered at Cannes in 1988).

A case could be made for modern female filmmakers and their ability to make exceptional coming of age stories. From Lynne Ramsay (Ratcatcher) & Celine Sciamma (Water Lilies & Tomboy) to Eliza Hitman (It Felt Like Love & Beach Rats) & Dee Rees (Pariah), there’s a lengthy essay (or even a book) on the subject waiting to be written down the road…

Anyway back to Mira Nair…

Not only was she clearing a path and laying groundwork for the next generation of female filmmakers to follow after her, but she also planted the seeds for popular films like Slumdog Millionaire thanks to her early work like Salaam Bombay (Danny Boyle consulted with Nair during the production of Slumdog). Much like Slumdog Millionaire, Salaam Bombay is set in an impoverished Indian neighborhood. Both films focus on young male protagonists forced in to a life of hustling (both films also have subplots centered around the relationship between brothers). The difference between the two movies is that Salaam Bombay feels slightly more authentic (Mira Nair used mostly non-professional actors which, when done right, can add to the film’s experience).

With the exception of Monsoon Wedding (2001), I wish Mira Nair stayed in that Salaam Bombay/Mississippi Masala-era of the late 80’s/early 90’s and made more films like that (sorry to sound so pretentious). But who am I to demand that a filmmaker stay in the same lane. Not many artists like to be pinned down and labeled. Mira Nair is an artist that likes to venture outside of her comfort zone (while always representing her people in some major or minor fashion). I just happen to be one of those fans that thinks her comfort zone works best for her. Now that we’re in the era of rediscovery & re-assesment (thanks mostly in part to “film twitter” and other forms of social media), Salaam Bombay deserves a rediscovery from those unfamiliar with Mira Nair or her early work.

Now…unlike Salaam Bombay, the next film in this exploration is told partially from an outsider’s perspective. A friendly outsider, but an outsider nonetheless…
Stories about a predominantly Brown country from the perspective of a white person can be a touchy subject (especially when it comes to white filmmakers and the backdrop of Africa). You have an entire continent full of Black people, yet the majority of mainstream films over the years that come from that continent are either written and/or directed by white people (Tstotsi & District 9), or the main characters in those films are white (Donald Sutherland, Susan Sarandon & Marlon Brando in A Dry White Season, Kevin Kline in Cry Freedom, Klaus Kinski in Cobra Verde, Stephen Dorf in The Power Of One, etc). And the biggest kick in the ass is that most of those movies are either “meh” or not very good. How is that possible?

Chocolat is an exception to that unofficial rule as Claire Denis spent time around Black people in her youth, yet doesn't feel the need to brag about it like it’s some kind of cool accomplishment or Rachel Dolezal-esque badge of honor (Denis spent a lot of her youth in various African countries which makes Chocolat semi-autobiographical).

I try to limit my conversations regarding race with white people like that because at some point they love to drop the infamous line; "look, I grew up around Black people. Trust me - I know Black people", as if we're some kind of cool artifact or something. But Claire Denis never gives off that vibe. She knows her place.

I was raised in Africa. But of course France is my country – Claire Denis

Almost 75% of Denis’ filmography focuses on Black characters and various Black cultures (African, Caribbean & Afro-European) without having to remind the audience every five minutes. Denis’ films are natural & uncontrived.

Chocolat may not be one of my favorite Denis films, but so many of the commonly explored elements & themes found in her later work can be traced right back to ground zero. So as a Claire Denis fan – Chocolat is required viewing.

Denis’ feature film debut centers around a young girl ("France") living with her parents and servant/”friend” (“Protee”) in a colonized section of Cameroon. The majority of Chocolat is a flashback told from the perspective of "France" as an adult in the present day. There's a lot of obvious unspoken racial tension throughout the film mostly dealing with racial tension between the white French people living in colonized Cameroon and the native Africans (there’s also some additional sexual tension between France's white mother and Protee).

In the same fashion as other coming of age films like Cria Cuervos and The Spirit Of The Beehive, each character in Chocolat is more than just a person. They essentially represent an entire group of people or an ideal. "France" represents the new/younger generation of French people. France's parents represents the "old way" of French society, and Protee (the servant) clearly represents the oppressed/colonized people of Africa as whole.

The children of people who worked in Africa before independence—and sometimes even after—share a common secret and a common experience of childhood – Claire Denis

Like I said earlier, Chocolat isn't Claire Denis’ best film, but its required viewing if you're a fan of her work and want a better understanding of how she developed as a filmmaker over the years.

Tuesday, September 18, 2018

Just The Discs - Episode 72 - GUN CRAZY WILD AT HEART (aka On the Run and On the Gun!)

Stephanie Crawford is back once more to talk about the film noir gem GUN GRAZY (Warner Archive) as well as geeking out with Brian over their mutual affection for Mr. David Lynch and his film WILD AT HEART (Shout Factory).

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The Discs discussed on this episode:

GUN CRAZY (Warner Archive)
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WILD AT HEART (Shout Factory)
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Monday, September 17, 2018

New Release Roundup for the Week of September 18th, 2018

MY MAN GODFREY on Blu-ray (Criterion)
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CABIN BOY on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
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THE HIRED HAND on Blu-ray (Arrow Academy)
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SCREAM FOR HELP on Blu-ray (Scream Factory)
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LOOKER on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)
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THE EVIL on Blu-ray (Scream Factory)
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THE BRAVADOS on Blu-ray (Twilight Time)
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THE OTHER SIDE OF MIDNIGHT on Blu-ray (Twilight Time)
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THE LAST HURRAH on Blu-ray (Twilight Time)
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IN MY COUNTRY on Blu-ray (Twilight Time)
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RETROACTIVE on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
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IMPULSE on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
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THE PYJAMA GIRL CASE on Blu-ray (Arrow Video)
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GOLD on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
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BAT 21 on Blu-ray (Kino Lorber)
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PAPILLON on Blu-ray (Warner Archive)
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