Due to stuff related to home, I have been going through my admittedly expansive DVD collection. It left me with the idea that there are a lot of fun films both in my collection and not that came out in the 90s and are ignored or undervalued. These aren’t parts of large franchises, or huge blockbusters, but are films I both have enjoyed and feel deserve a bit of recognition for being a lot of fun.
Lets start with an obscure one – Cold-blooded
This was a bit of a dark comedy from 1995. Directed by Wallace Wolodarsky and had Jason Priestly, Kimberley Williams-Paisley, Peter Riegert and Robert Loggia. It’s about bookie working for the mob who is promoted to apprentice hitman, given his calm and dispassionate nature, he’s very good at it. He’s also trying to have a relationship with a yoga teacher and work out what it is he should be doing. It’s a charming film that I don’t know if anyone else has seen.
Written and directed by Alex Proyas and featuring acting talent of Rufus Sewell, Kiefer Sutherland, Jennifer Connelly, William Hurt and the always fun Richard O’Brien. This is a story that plays with concepts of memory, free will and perception as beings known as Strangers meddle with the memory of the denizens of some unnamed city where it’s always night, as they try to find something and when they find it, things get even more strange.
After the critical smash of Clerks, Writer/Director Kevin Smith was given a budget, access to a set in daylight and a larger cast of actors to make his second film. This second film did not do well at the box office. Comic obsessed slacker Brodieman Bruce and his best friend TS visit their local mall to win back their ex-girlfriends through a series of escapades with a variety of bizarre characters in their New Jersey town. Starring a cast of Jason Lee, Ben Affleck, Joey Lauren Adams, Michael Rooker, Ethan Suplee, Claire Forlani and the legend that is the late Stan Lee, this is a fun and foul mouthed romp that while sank like a stone at the time, found it’s audience on DVD and late night TV. I watched this before seeing the movie Clerks and honestly as a result it has more of a place in my heart. It also gave the world a number of quotable moments, one of my favourite exchanges being “…screw her in an uncomfortable place.”
“What? Like the back of a Volkswagen?” 27 years on, still makes me giggle.
This was a small almost Outer Limits style story, written and directed by Andrew Niccol that was given a budget and a tremendous cast including Ethan Hawke, Jude Law, Uma Thurman, Jayne Brook, Elias Koteas, Tony Shaloub and Alan Arkin. It’s a sepia tinged future were designer babies are the norm, their paid for genes being all they need to have to succeed and anyone born less than perfect, or even born naturally are considered in-valid, creating a two tier system. This genetics based aparthied allegory is the story of Vincent, an in-valid who borrows a crippled man’s superior genes and identity to become an astronaut, but as his launch day nears, his lies begin to unravel as a murder opens his workplace to the police. This is sci-fi with thought and tension and keeps your interest in the story throughout.
The Fifth Element
Luc Besson brought us this neon-flavoured chunk of space opera in 1997. We get a story about an ancient evil, the hero/saviour trying to save us from it and the more of less regular guy caught up in the whole thing. I know, so far, so Star Wars. But two things up it from such a limited idea. The first is humour. This is a funny film with several comedy moments and ludicrous ideas being thrown out. Even Chris Tucker and Lee Evans, two ‘comedians’ I struggle to stand doing their mugging to the camera and manufactured zaniness work in this world adding fun to a usually po-faced type of story. The other thing that this has is production design. This film looks like nothing you have ever seen before. It is neon and bright and yet somehow relatable. It gives us a grimy future, but still one with promise. The cast is amazing, a still fun Bruce Willis, Gary Oldman being bizarre and in fact the whole cast is amazing. The story is fairly basic and there’s the odd problematic thing here and there, but it’s a fun slice of sci-fi action that looks nothing like anything else that was out there at the time.
So there, 5 underappreciated films of the 1990s, since starting this, 3 or 4 more have to come to mind and I’m guessing that there may be a sequel in here somewhere, but with so much going on, both personally, nationally and globally, I suppose I wanted a bit of comfort food for the soul and a good hidden gem is exactly what was needed.
I will be back internet people, I don’t know what to say yet, but I didn’t when I started writing this post either.