Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '99 - Justin LaLiberty ""

Friday, May 10, 2019

Underrated '99 - 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.

THE LIMEY (dir. Steven Soderbergh)
I have a hard time considering any Soderbergh film “underrated” because, well, it’s Soderbergh! I can’t think of a more consistently daring American filmmaker that is still working and his commitment to both art-house experimentation and old fashioned Hollywood escapism is admirable. And then there’s his more under the radar genre work like THE LIMEY; a sly indictment of Hollywood culture (ala his less successful FULL FRONTAL) crossed with Boorman’s POINT BLANK, featuring Terence Stamp in a delicious performance and the city of Los Angeles as his co-star. It’s a great ride.
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THE RAGE: CARRIE 2 (dir. Katt Shea)
It’s a real bummer that people kind of turned on this when it came out 20 years ago; maybe it was too bloody post-Columbine or audiences and critics just had it with teen targeted horror from the decade, but this is likely the smartest (and definitely most feminist) of the genre post-SCREAM. A sequel primarily in title only, we get to see the Y2K era Carrie take on misogyny with the aid of spear guns and sharp CDs. So, it’s pretty much perfect for our current climate and came out two decades too soon.
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PAYBACK (dir. Brian Helgeland)
I’ve always been a big fan of the Parker movies, with POINT BLANK being tops but PAYBACK is a close second and usually gets ignored in the pantheon of 90s crime films. Maybe it’s the ultra-bleak tone or a gruff Mel Gibson in the lead role souring people, but Helgeland’s film is pitch-perfect neo-noir with a very mean bent and some great casting choices (Bill Duke and William Devane!), it’s also one of the few cases where the alternate version - this time annoyingly titled Strait Up - is a big improvement on the theatrical cut.
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COMING SOON (dir. Colette Burson)
A nearly unheard of, female directed sex comedy that got very overshadowed by the male heavy AMERICAN PIE released the same year. The MPAA rather absurdly handed this one an NC-17 for being too sexually explicit despite nearly nothing graphic being shown on screen outside of, gasp, women enjoying sex. There’s an unrated DVD that presents it in all of its ribald, taboo shattering glory and it’s a super fun comedy that deserves much more of an audience than it has earned over the past twenty years.
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Not going to lie, this one scared the absolute shit out of me when I saw it in 1999 at the ripe age of 13. And I’m happy to report that it’s still effective (and I don’t think that’s nostalgia talking). An impressively gory and dark remake that sincerely pays homage to its source while also embracing the trends of the time. And it has a wonderful performance by Geoffrey Rush who is doing either the greatest Vincent Price or John Waters impersonation and I can’t place which it is but that it could work as either is cause for celebration.
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IN TOO DEEP (dir. Michael Rymer)
Australian director Michael Rymer - who would go on to direct QUEEN OF THE DAMNED and a lot of episodes of BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA in the 2000s - gave us this surprisingly tight undercover cop film featuring Omar Epps trying to take down a villainous LL Cool J as a drug dealer named God who likes thrusting pool sticks up dude’s asses while he tortures them. It’s a mean slice of crime cinema from the late 90s courtesy of Miramax and unfortunately got lost in a sea of genre movies in August 1999, releasing the same week as THE 13TH WARRIOR and THE ASTRONAUT’S WIFE (all of which would be no match for THE SIXTH SENSE in its fourth week).
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Yeah, nobody wanted this in 1999. It made a whopping 10 mil on a 45 mil budget and it’s safe to say that critics didn’t exactly back it up either. Twenty years later, it’s actually kind of fun though! JCVD is clearly going through the motions but he does get a killer fight scene with Michael Jai White and his acting is absolutely aces when compared to Bill Goldberg. Plus, the soundtrack is the perfect encapsulation of loud music of that era featuring Static-X, Fear Factory, Ministry and Megadeth. I’m also a total sucker for an action scene that uses jetskis.
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THE CORRUPTOR (dir. James Foley)
James Foley, one of the great crime directors of the 80s (AT CLOSE RANGE, RECKLESS) turned in this relatively generic but rough NYC set buddy cop film featuring the unlikely pairing of Mark Wahlberg and Chow Yun-Fat. It has plenty of style (and casual racism) to spare but it’s also refreshingly grim, jarringly violent and inexplicably features Third Eye Blind on the soundtrack.
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THE GODS OF TIMES SQUARE (dir. Richard Sandler)
I’m a sucker for any sort of time capsule into Old NYC and Sandler’s doc is just that, featuring a whole lot of religious zealots taking over Times Square in the 90s. It definitely raises questions as to how we gentrify cities and if we’d rather have costumed characters like Elmo populating our sidewalks over the mentally unstable, sex workers and homeless that called that particular neighborhood home twenty years ago.
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1 comment:

Tommy Ross said...

Some outstanding picks there, never heard of The Limey and Times Square, going after both of them, thanks!!