by Adam Riske
Vision Quest (1985) – I caught up with this movie a few years ago prior to our 1985 F This Movie Fest and it was the pleasant surprise of my new-to-me discoveries for that year. Vision Quest is a solid high school sports movie, a sweet romance, and a fine acting showcase for Matthew Modine (who, like my waist, has grown on me over time) and Linda Fiorentino (giving her patented zero fucks and I dig her for it). I love the soundtrack, too, with jams like Journey’s “Only the Young” and Madonna’s terrific “Crazy for You,” which is my favorite song of hers. It’s what drew me to the movie in the first place and I’m glad it did. Also, Vision Quest was directed by Harold Becker, a director I’ve become a super fan for recently. He made this, Malice, Sea of Love (PACINO!), the very funny Domestic Disturbance and other good movie junk food like Mercury Rising (which needs a 20 Years Later). I still need to see Taps and City Hall (PACINO!). In other words, I have homework to do and so do you – you need to watch Vision Quest!
Blast from the Past (1999) – Oh, 1999! Oh, New Line Cinema! Here’s another movie I had no interest in seeing initially, but then caught on video and fell in love with. Brendan Fraser (’99 was good to him on film) is doing his thing, which can be funny, Dave Foley is on hand to provide comedic stylings, which can be a benefit, and Alicia Silverstone is finally in a movie again that knows what to do with her being an angel. I really want to re-watch Blast from the Past now. I haven’t seen it in a very long time, so my memory is hazy. I know it rented well at Blockbuster (that’s how I saw it, did you?). Oh, and watch the trailer at the part where they run through the cast near the end. Is the moment where they say “and Sissy Spacek” not the funniest thing you’ve ever seen in your life? I’d skate around this movie’s block.
October Sky (1999) – OMG. Laura Dern is so pretty in this. No wonder why this kid feels like he can reach for the stars. October Sky checks a lot of boxes for me of things I enjoy in movies: a) coming-of-age story, b) about outer space (in this case the space race), c) set in the ‘50s, d) ‘90s Joe Johnston movie and e) Jake Gyllenhaal, so I’m not surprised it makes me well up with inspiration/sad tears every time (I’ve seen it once) I see it. It also features a great Chris Cooper performance as Gyllenhaal’s father. I like that there seems to be a “see the film that has audiences cheering” movie like this every late winter/early spring. It’s a good time of year for that kind of thing with the bad weather depression and New Year’s resolutions and such. If you’re like me and avoided October Sky because it looked like homework, give it a try. I’m glad that I did.
Goodfellas mentality. Plus, Scott Caan! I like to pretend this is a prequel to The Fast and the Furious and explains that Dom is Diesel’s Chris in Boiler Room but in hiding and funding his garage out of the big rips he got at JT Marlin. P.S. The director is Ben Younger, who also made a movie called Prime that is really good and stars Uma Thurman. You should watch it because we should all be supporting Uma Thurman right now.
Wonder Boys (2000) – A great little comedy-drama from late director Curtis Hanson, who was on a real roll during the period he made this film. I saw it at the Fine Arts building in college as part of an independent film series called The Ryder, where they showed art house movies in classrooms for students and people in the community. I’ll always remember how, when a reel ended, there was a five-minute intermission until the guy/girl running the projector could put the next reel on. Sometimes we audience members would mini-review the act we just saw as we waited. I treasure those memories because I saw a lot of great 2000-2004 independent and foreign movies that way and had the pleasure of taking long walks on campus back home from the screenings. Wonder Boys takes me back to that era (era). The film itself is a great commentary on writing and writers and college in general. Michael Douglas is wonderful in this (he had a great 2000, between this and Traffic) and he’s surrounded by a terrific supporting cast, including Frances McDormand, pre-Molly Bloom Tobey Maguire, post-U.S. Marshals Robert Downey Jr., and Katie Holmes. I need to give this one another look soon.
Eurotrip (2004) – Not much more to say other than it’s just a damn funny comedy and praise should be paid when that happens because it’s rare. The ensemble is terrific (this is where my Michelle Trachtenberg crush developed everlasting), the bits are inspired, and it has a spirit to it that I find infectious. This is a movie I avoided for a while because it played at a party my ex-girlfriend went to where she cheated on me, but when I finally got around to seeing it, the strength of Eurotrip superseded that trauma. I felt like Scotty (Scott Mechlowicz, aka Dollar Tree Josh Hartnett) because, for a while, I didn’t know. How did this movie not gross a billion dollars?
Miracle (2004) – Like everyone else, I love Kurt Russell. Miracle might be his best acting he’s ever done. I’m not saying it’s his best (or even my favorite) performance of his, but what he does in this movie, based on the story of the Miracle on Ice, is extraordinary because he’s compelling without relying on what we love about him as an actor. He disappears playing USA Hockey coach Herb Brooks. I love how he is a total dick but he does that so the young men on the team band together to rally against him and to give these nice guys an angry edge they’ll need to defeat the Soviet Union. It’s a great movie about coaching philosophy on top of a strong re-telling of an inspiring event. Sports movies don’t get much better than this one.
Part Two, with more recommendations from 2005 to now, comes later this month…
Am I missing any underrated February movies you love circa 1985 to 2004? Leave a comment below!