Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '88 - Three Oranges ""

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Underrated '88 - Three Oranges

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The Red Monks
Directed by Gianni Martucci
When you’ve exhausted all of the great works by the big Italian directors of the ‘70s, you end up with filler like this. But when you’re starved for giallo-esque fare, you take what you can get.

This one feels part Bava and maybe even part Hammer, as produced by Lucio Fulci and directed by a journeyman director. The cult imagery is of the classic sort, with striking designs and vivid, garish colors. There’s a lot of wandering through hallways and creepy guys wearing bizarre attire, milling around during sexually charged rituals with women in various states of disrobe.

Storywise, you’ll find some Gothic intrigue afoot involving a groom who may not be what he seems and a bride whose own past is a bit hazy. The gore is a bit on the light side, especially considering Fulci’s involvement, but the costumes are so red that blood would just be redundant.
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Directed by Juan Piquer Simón
In this film’s IMDB entry, under “Incorrectly Regarded as Goofs,” you will see: “Normal slugs don't have teeth, but these are mutant slugs.” That is really all you need to know about this movie.

From the director of Pieces, this film delivers on its high concept (i.e., slugs attack and kill people) with all the coherence and subtlety one would expect from a filmmaker whose other big credit has the tagline “It’s Exactly What You Think!”

The acting, from a mix of Spanish and American actors (leading to all the dub synch issues that comes with that), is fine. The story is also fine. The locations take us into splorchy underground sewers and all around a nice little town, and there’s fire and explosions and gore and ick. It trucks along at a reasonable pace and gets just nutty enough to kick you in the pants every now and then.
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Directed by Ken Kwapis
This movie seems to have gained some renewed popularity, probably because of the Golden Age of Goldblum in which we currently live, and it deserves it. It’s one of those rare adventure comedies that gets the balance between its rather serious story and humorous characters just right.

Jeff Goldblum and Cyndi Lauper play psychics with different supernatural (as well as intellectual and social) skillsets, drawn together by a slightly shady man (Peter Falk) who says he is looking for his missing son. Other psychics and psychic-adjacent people, including one played by Googy Gress, which is just a good name and I had to mention it here, have a competing agenda.

There is some good psychic action and exotic locales, but the dialogue and the character moments are really what make this movie. Falk is effortlessly hilarious, and the weird chemistry between Goldblum and Lauper is a feature, not a bug.
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Switching Channels
Directed by Ted Kotcheff
The Front Page is one of the most remade movies of all time, and this quintessentially ‘80s version is a great entry into the legacy. With Burt Reynolds, Kathleen Turner and Christopher Reeve sporting a blonde dye job, the cast alone makes this film a microcosm of the decade.

It’s also really funny. A broad range of comedic character actors turn in energetic and pitch-perfect performances, including the great Joe Silver, who has one of most distinctive mugs in film history. This is a movie that understands the rhythms of comedy, and at times if feels more like a stage play than a film.

In the era of #FakeNews, this version of the story feels almost topical, with corrupt politicians manipulating lapdog media, using a sympathetic murderer played by Henry Gibson as a pawn in a cynical game of law-and-order one-upmanship. And nobody does petty, ridiculous villainy like Ned Beatty.
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Dominick and Eugene
Directed by Robert M. Young
One of Hollywood’s great mysteries is why we got so little from Tom Hulce. Sure, this movie could be seen as Oscar bait, but he and Ray Liotta kill it in this movie as twin brothers, the latter tough as nails and the former with a learning disability due to a childhood event.

Don’t dismiss this one as an exercise in exploitative bathos. With its urban setting and some dark turns of story, this one is different in tone and theme than any tearjerker schlock. For a film to work as an empathy generator, it has to avoid pitying its characters or pandering to its audience, and this movie succeeds.

The balance between tough and sensitive here is masterfully achieved. These are real characters, with a real story. It’s about violence and masculinity, and it’s about costs and consequences, with nothing as simple as “love one another” as a moral.
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The Appointments of Dennis Jennings
Directed by Dean Parisot
OK, so this one won an Academy Award for Live Action Short Film, so it wasn’t underrated at the time, but like many short films, it may be fading into history.

From the director of Galaxy Quest and co-written and starring avant garde standup Steven Wright, this movie is equal parts bleak, melancholy, surreal and hilarious. Laurie Metcalfe and Rowan Atkinson fill out the main cast, giving the kind of non-winking but not-really-deadpan performances that lead to best sort of ineffable comedy.

There are jokes, visual and verbal, intermixed with the auditory and visual tone poem of existential alienation that makes up the movie. It requires close listening, and punishes it with a relentless pace of unsettling humor. The audience is the straight man in this case, and as with all straight men, confusion and being off balance drives the laugh. And with this one, you’ll never find your footing.
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