Probably the best year in all of existence: 1990 (or the year I was born in) marked a major turning point in pop-culture. Gone were the vibrant 80’s and in came the grungey, dad-jeans-wearing, middle-class-mullet-having, mainstream-gangsta-rap-laden, kids-show-golden-age 90’s. We’ve already discussed a few video games and cartoons from this long gone decade (feel old yet?), so let’s start diving into some films!
Over the next several weeks, I’ll be delving into several underrated films for each year through the 90s. There are so many that have easily fallen through the cracks, even if they have notable actors in them. They either didn’t do well in the box-office or never saw a wide release. It’s a shame, but it’s why we’re here now! Hop into your time machine of choice and let’s get to it!
8. Reversal of Fortune (Dir. Barbet Schroeder) Starring: Jeremy Irons, Glenn Close
Jeremy Irons (the guy who did the voice of Scar in The Lion King, except he doesn’t have a lovely bunch of coconuts this time) is Claus, the husband of the wealthy Sunny von Bülow (Glenn Close). Claus isn’t trusted by Sunny’s family, so when she’s found mysteriously dead, guess who’s to blame? Hint: it’s not the butler.
I wanted to include Reversal of Fortune for its cast, because that’s the only thing that really saves it from corny dialogue and rigid scenes. The trailer doesn’t do it any favors either. We all remember loving the guy with the deep voice who did all the trailer voice-overs back in the day, but I, for one, am very glad that isn’t a thing anymore. Now, the go-to trailer trope is the BWAHHHHH sound (thanks, Inception) and creepy covers of well known songs behind uber-dramatic scenes. Take your pick.
7. My Blue Heaven (Dir. Herbert Ross) Starring: Steve Martin, Rick Moranis
This isn’t one of Steve Martin’s notable movies for good reason. Having one of the greatest comedians who ever lived as its star, My Blue Heaven really just missed the mark. With that being said, it doesn’t mean that it isn’t worth watching. In the years before buddy cop movies completely over-saturated the comedy genre, this one still has a bit of charm once you get past the awful dialogue.
Rick Moranis, as always, is a goofy, geeky side-character — this time an FBI agent — who’s working to help Steve Martin’s NYC gangster-turned-informant, Vinny, start a new life in the witness protection program. Cue the “title-of-the-movie-forced-into-a-song” rock-n-roll track and let the hi-jinks commence. All I’ll say is, thank God for Rush Hour coming out soon after this…
6. Flatliners (Dir. Joel Schumacher) Starring: Kiefer Sutherland, Kevin Bacon, Julia Roberts)
At this point, I’m surprised Kevin Bacon hasn’t generated renewable energy with the wind-turbines he calls his nostrils. Along with Kiefer “I-like-to-yell-a-lot” Sutherland and Julia Roberts, a group of med students decide to toy with death by forcing near-death experiences and bringing each other back to life with defibrillators. Soon after, some supernatural shit goes down, a lot of yelling happens, and they have to face their sins personified as literal, tangible beings.
This is actually a really well-done sci-fi thriller. It’s just too bad Sutherland couldn’t channel his quiet mystery — a la The Lost Boys — in his subsequent films. He just…yells…so…much… Could you imagine needing this much of a thrill, though? Having someone stop your heart only to bring you back seconds later? Is it worth the risk? That’s a big NOPE.
For some reason, this movie is getting a remake next year. Ol’ Kiefer is coming back to star alongside Ellen Page and Diego Luna. It has a tentative release date for September, ’17. Do we need this remake? No. Will we watch it? Probably. 90% of viewers most likely won’t even realize it’s a remake.
5. Darkman (Dir. Sam Raimi) Starring: Liam Neeson, Frances McDormand
What is it with Liam Neeson and needing to exact revenge with his specific skills? Wherever he is, he has something — ahem — taken from him to where he needs to find people. And kill people. Darkman is no different.
This time, he was a brilliant scientist caught in a deadly explosion after he discovered a way to produce synthetic skin. Plot twist — he survived the explosion and uses his invention to disguise himself as whoever he wants in order to exact his revenge!!
Sam Raimi — who went from cutting off Bruce Campbell’s hand to making Peter Parker ugly-cry — is true to form here with his signature ridiculous, campy film-making. Before he tried to bring Spidey to the screen, this worked really well for him. Hopefully, Spider-Man will finally be getting the films he deserves. If Homecoming is anything like his short role in Captain America: Civil War, Spidey’s gonna be in good hands.
4. Cry-Baby (Dir. John Waters) Starring: Johnny Depp, Ricki Lake, Iggy Pop
We all know John Waters for his famous Baltimore musical, Hairspray. Until just now, I never realized he also directed Johnny Depp as the rockabilly heart-throb, Cry-Baby Walker. Full of hair grease, leather jackets and disapproving parents, Cry-Baby is almost like if The Outsiders was mashed with Grease, and is just as good as either of those movies.
Thanks to the wonderful adaptation of Sweeney Todd (Tim Burton’s last good film), we know Depp is an incredibly capable singer. But alas, his singing voice was dubbed in this. He also hated dancing, but Waters convinced him to for the film. I wouldn’t mind seeing and hearing him in more musicals, if I’m being honest.
A true rarity in the film world, here we have a sequel that’s every bit as good as its predecessor. The original Rescuers is one of my all-time favorite Disney films. I often find myself humming, “R-E-S-C-U-E, Rescue Aid Societyyy,” wishing more people would get the references I make to it. Down Under might not have quite as much charm as the original, but it makes up for it with a better tale of adventure.
As with many American films featuring Australian characters, stereotypes run amok. Plenty of “crikey’s” and “g’day mate’s” are cried throughout as Bianca and Bernard travel to the outback to save Cody and his golden eagle from the evil poacher, McLeach. This villain is more related to Professor Screweyes from We’re Back than to Madame Medusa in the first film, which makes him much more scary, especially being without a screwy, comic-relief bringing sidekick. My only wish is that, somehow, Evenrude, the dragonfly, would’ve come back in this film. If wishes were horses, beggars would ride…
2. Back to The Future: Part III (Dir. Robert Zemeckis) Starring: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd
We’ve all seen the first Back to The Future film and hopefully the second. They’re iconic. I actually made someone so mad that they unfriended me after telling them that their “this is the day Marty came to the future post” was photoshopped to show the wrong date (and people say that those getting upset over racism are the ones overreacting). The third movie in this trilogy, though, deserves just as many watches as those that came before it.
At the end of Part II, Marty watches Doc Brown disappear after being struck by lightning while in mid-air in the iconic Delorean time machine. Immediately afterwards, he’s delivered a letter from the wild-eyed scientist explaining that he’s alive and well and was transported to the old west. After some timey-wimey slides around the plot of the first movie, Marty gets himself to the gunslingin’ early days of Hill Valley.
In the end of the movie, they have to push the Delorean on rails to get it up to 88 MPH so Marty can get back home. This final installment has just as many fun moments with Marty and Biff’s ancestors, and intense adventure swells as the first two, yet, for some reason, it doesn’t get anywhere near as much credit. For shame.
1. Total Recall (Dir. Paul Verhoeven) Starring: Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sharon Stone, Michael Ironside
In my honest opinion, this is the ultimate Schwarzenegger film. Just the right amount of awesome one liners (“See you at the party, Richter”) and AUAUUUGUHUHUHUHUAUAUAAUA mixed with awesomely campy practical effects, ridiculous fight scenes, and lots and lots and lots of bullets.
Based on the short story, “We Can Remember It For You Wholesale,” written by the enigmatic Phillip K. Dick, Total Recall revolves around Doug Quaid, a construction worker who can’t stop dreaming about living on Mars. He soon finds out that he was once a secret agent who worked for Cohaagen, the head-honcho on the Mars colony, and had his memory erased after stumbling upon a centuries-old, alien reactor under the surface that would give the red planet a breathable atmosphere, thus putting Cohaagen out of business.
One of the most famous scenes in the movie — aside from them suffocating in the vacuum of Mars’ surface — is when the sex worker at the bar reveals three boobs beneath her top. Fun fact, the actress who played her, Lycia Naff, was also Ensign Gomez who Geordi had a crush on in a few episodes of Star Trek: The Next Generation.
This also had a recent remake in 2012 with a killer cast (Colin Farrell, Kate Beckinsale, Bryan Cranston). Although its story was closer to the original source material, it was nowhere near as good of a movie as its original. JUST LEAVE THE MOVIES BE!!
We’re in for a rough road ahead with all these gritty reboots and remakes, my friends. Let’s continue to celebrate these original classics while also seeking out original fiction, too. Make sure to check out the next installment of this column next week!