Rupert Pupkin Speaks: Underrated '89 - Gems from Thirty Years Ago! ""

Friday, August 9, 2019

Underrated '89 - Gems from Thirty Years Ago!

BREAKING IN (1989; Bill Forsyth)
One of the sublime collaborations of the late 1980s, this film features not only a script by the great John Sayles and directing duties handled by Bill Forsyth (LOCAL HERO, COMFORT AND JOY) but it also allows for one of the best Burt Reynolds performances of his career. Burt plays an old thief in this one and he ends up running into a younger small-time nothing of a law-breaker (Casey Siemaszko) when they both break into the same house. Burt is there to rob the safe, Casey is there to steal food from the fridge, watch TV and short sheet the bed. The old thief takes the young one under his wing and does his best to show how things are done for the career criminal lifestyle. It's a low-key little film but one that plays both funny and dramatic and of course has well drawn and interesting characters (Sayles does not disappoint). Needs a Blu-ray!

SKIN DEEP (1989; Blake Edwards)
Maybe the latter career gem from Blake Edwards as far as I'm concerned. The always wonderful John Ritter plays a heavy-drinking novelist named Zach Hutton who has run into a serious writer's block wall. The film follows his self destructive exploits as he rolls from one casual sexual relationship to another as he struggles to get his writing groove back. Both comedic and melancholy, this one relies heavily on an interesting turn from Ritter - who is so affable that we are able to stick with him when he does some pretty rough stuff. There's lots of comedy though too, including a very STAR WARS glow-in-the-dark condom battle between Ritter and another dude at one point. Also needs a Blu-ray and I'm hoping that Warner Archive having put out another Blake Edwards favorite of mine (WILD ROVERS) may indicate that they may be up to the task.

HOW I GOT INTO COLLEGE (1989; Savage Steve Holland)
Savage Steve Holland has one of the more unique comic voices of the 1980s. His film BETTER OFF DEAD has gone from VHS Cult Film to a straight classic of the decade - and rightfully so. It is filled with surreal and odd comedy and just a very specific world outlook that I absolutely adore. His follow-up, ONE CRAZY SUMMER, while not quite the masterpiece that BETTER OFF DEAD was, is still a lot of fun and carries off another round of that same silly universe and outlook that we all loved. The third part of Savage Steve's "trilogy" is sadly less remembered and talked about than the other two, but it can certainly hold its own with the other films and deserves a bigger spotlight. The story this time centers basically around two high school seniors (Corey Parker and Lara Flynn Boyle) as they navigate the very complicated and exhausting process of applying for colleges. It's a touching film with a good hearted message about expressing yourself and showing your inner "you" while still offering up lots of hilarious, goofy and surreal funny moments that are right in line with the stuff we saw in BETTER OFF DEAD and ONE CRAZY SUMMER. Would this film have been more successful if John Cusack was in it? Sure it would have. That said, I think the cast as it stands its quite good and they pull off a film that I think still sends a relevant message about academics and college choice that kids today could benefit from. Another one that NEEDS a Blu-ray.

THE BIG PICTURE (1989; Christopher Guest)
While this film is by no means completely forgotten, it is definitely left in the dust by the movies that Christopher Guest made after. He obviously has become known for the SPINAL TAP-like mockumentary stuff that he made his own with WAITING FOR GUFFMAN in 1996. I believe he's not actually a fan of that term as a descriptor for his films, but you know what I mean. The thing I find interesting is that THE BIG PICTURE gets left out of the Chris Guest conversation most of the time and this is perhaps because, despite it being a biting satirical look at Hollywood, it is not like the films he would make later and thus seems less significant I suppose. Not so though as this movie has a lot of very funny characters and scenes revolving around filmmaking and "the business" and still plays well today as some things never change. Kevin Bacon plays a student filmmaker who has just finished his final short and has been selected to have it presented at the big student awards show. The scene with the different films being played as part of the ceremony is still pretty funny even thought the films seem to have a much more professional polish than you might expect for student work. And there's a showstopper scene with Martin Short as a nutty Hollywood agent who requests a meeting with Bacon's character and proceeds to show off his craziness. It's a fantastic scene and a character that Short clearly based on real people he must have encountered over the years.
This one has a Blu-ray but needs a better Blu-ray sadly as the current disc doesn't even port over the deleted scenes and the Guest/Bacon commentary from the DVD.

BLIND FURY (1989; Phillip Noyce)
Rutger Hauer is a modern Zatoichi the Blind Swordsman in this straight forward but very enjoyable action/revenger from the director of DEAD CALM and RABBIT-PROOF FENCE and the writer of GYMKATA. I love the narrative device of setting up a character that we (and the villains in the film) are supposed to see as weak and or a total underdog in the war against the baddies as they are presented in the movie's universe. So in this case, Hauer is a Vietnam veteran who happens to have lost his vision to a mortar explosion when he was serving his tour. After the explosion he was taken in but some kind villagers who helped him regain his health and also helped train him as a master of his other senses AND as a master swordsman. Years later, Nick Parker (Hauer) is back in the states and goes to visit his old army buddy (Terry O'Quinn). When he arrives, he finds his friend is not there and he steps right into a hornet's nest of bad dudes who want to mess with his friends. What's a blind master swordsman to do in such a situation? Can you guess? Of course he's gotta cut some people up. A lot of people. It's a blast and one of my favorite Rutger Hauer action movies.

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