Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '99 - Three Oranges ""

Friday, June 14, 2019

Underrated '99 - Three Oranges

Three Oranges is one of those internet people. Movies, music and books fill his time when he's not working for the man. In his mind, he's free.

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Play It to the Bone
Directed by Ron Shelton
Writer/director Ron Shelton has a knack for portraying meathead, goofily toxic characters without his films embodying those traits themselves. His oeuvre includes Bull Durham, White Men Can’t Jump, Tin Cup and other overtly masculine movies in which the protagonists trip over their own testosterone with tragicomic results.

In Play It to the Bone, Shelton reunites with Woody Harrelson, pairing him with Antonio Banderas as a duo of down-on-their-luck boxers with a complicated long-term friendship. Also in the mix is Lolita Davidovitch as their manager and sometimes girlfriend. It all gets a little polyamorous.

The trio embark on a road trip to Las Vegas, as the boxing bros get a late-career shot at professional redemption by fighting each other, although only one of them can win. It’s a funny, sexy and kind of dopey anti-Rocky, with a lot of heart and more than a little to say about acceptance and, yes, love.
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Directed by Richard Shephard
This is probably Adrien Brody’s break out role, despite being consigned to cable obscurity. They played it a lot back in the day, and it’s a solid entry into the “buried alive” genre.

Brody is the burier. The buried is a rich man’s wife, and the crime itself if a straightforward ransom situation. The investigation and the hostage negotiations, however, and crooked and twisted.

Moira Kelly, fresh off NewsRadio and not yet established as a serious dramatic actress in ER, takes a dark turn as a deeply troubled cop with masochistic tendencies and an unhealthy relationship with her husband. Brody’s sexy sadism is an irresistible lure, and their games of verbal cat and mouse are as erotically charged as they are logically complex.

There’s an element of straightforward cop procedural, and the movie feels a bit Lifetime network, but as an artifact of late-‘90’s thirst cinema, it’s worth a watch.
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Revolutionary Girl Utena: The Adolescence of Utena
Directed by Kunihiko Ikuhara
This movie is everything that people love or hate about anime. The movie follows a 39-episode anime series, based on the manga series by Chiho Saito. The series itself had a climax, which was wildly abstract and also wholly satisfying from a thematic and character standpoint. But why not do it again, amped up to 11? With gratuitous racecars?

A plot synopsis in this case would be irrelevant, and also very difficult. As is often the case with anime films, this is a loose retelling of the series, compressed into a comparatively short running time, with all the unnecessary things like exposition eliminated.

The movie is about teenage angst, and all of the related issues of status and power and love and identity that go with it. The designs are gorgeous, the animation is spectacular, and the story is secondary to symbolism, even more than it was in the series.
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Fatty Drives the Bus
Directed by Mick Napier
The Troma-produced movies all have a bit of sameness to them, and the gag can get old after a while. The Troma distributed movies, however, are wonderful grab bag of depressing garbage and mind-blowing delights.

As in Fatty Drives the Bus. Spoilers: Fatty is the Devil. He needs souls. Load ‘em up and take them on a tour to hell!

Mick Napier was a writer and director for the semi-legendary sketch show Exit 57, and this movie could have been an extended episode. There’s no story to speak of, but there is a lot of good dialogue and some surprisingly good acting, both of which are rare in the Troma world.

The film is a hodgepodge of hilarious doomed characters, trapped together as they drive headlong to the darkest existential outcome. It’s like Jean-Paul Sartre’s No Exit remixed into a campy showcase by your local alternative theater sketch comedy troupe.
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Directed by Takashi Miike
Mexican cinema probably has the richest history of wrestling movies, thanks to their legendary luchadores, but Japan also has some strong entries in the genre. More of than not, they are sexier and more lurid, which is fun.

Silver is the story of Jun Shirogane (Atsuko Sakuraba), whose family has been murdered by yakuza, and so she must go undercover as a wrestler in order to avenge them. There are distractions, however, with gangsters and petty criminals getting in her way, and they have to be dealt with. Through wrestling.

This is not Miike at his most stylistic and unhinged, but then Miike is not the most consistent of directors. For every Ichi the Killer or Gozu, he’ll put out a half dozen straightforward gangster stories or other unremarkable entertainments. With fun fight scenes, soft-focus Skinemax-style sex and an unwinking approach to its silliness, Silver sits somewhere in between.
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Directed by Ted Demme
People hate this movie. Maybe they weren’t ready for a kinder, gentler Eddie Murphy. Maybe they weren’t ready for a movie about the racial inequities in the American justice system. Or maybe they just like being wrong, because Life is a funny and heartfelt ode to the victims of it.

The story follows the lives of Depression-era everymen Raymond Gibson (Murphy) and Claude Banks (Martin Lawrence) after they are imprisoned for a crime they didn’t commit. They are then put through the prison ringer … for life. It’s a bit like Shawshank Redemption, minus the redemption.

And yet, the movie refuses despair. For a modern audience, this might seem like a betrayal of the racial issues at hand (and there are a few other aspects that will rankle modern sensibilities). But then, we’ve seen modern directors (i.e., Jordan Peele) make a similar choice for humor and hope in the end.
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