Ultimate 90’s Blogathon: Pump Up The Volume (1990) by OC Movie Reviews

Ultimate 90's blogathon

Our first participant of Ultimate 90’s Blogathon is Mark over at OC Movie Reviews. If you don’t know him, OC stands for Operation Condor and over on his site, you can find tons of fantastic movie reviews. He starts us with a movie that just steps in the very beginning of the decade, Pump Up The Volume! If you don’t follow OC Movie Reviews, you should head over there and give him a follow.

Let’s hand it over to Mark!

pump up the volume

Pump Up The Volume Review – Talk Hard. So Be It.

“Do you ever get the feeling that everything in America is completely f*cked up? You know that feeling? The whole country is like one inch away from saying ‘that’s it, forget it!’. Think about it, everything’s polluted: the environment, the government, the schools – you name it.”

That is Happy Harry Hard-On’s opening line from the 1990 sleeper hit Pump Up The Volume. As opening lines go it’s pretty cool, it’s also quite apt for now or pretty much any decade you choose. You could even change America for your own country.

Hard Harry is played by Christian Slater, who had already enjoyed some success with Heathers in 1988 and would go on to star in Young Guns II, Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, True Romance a host of other film and TV series and most recently Mr. Robot.

Slater plays Mark Hunter, a new student at Hubert H. Humphrey High School – hence the name of his alter-ego – in Phoenix, Arizona. Having moved with his parents from ‘out-East’ he is now a loner, struggling to make friends. His parents buy him a short-wave radio to talk to his friends back home (before the days of the internet) but he can’t reach them and so, instead, he begins broadcasting his teenage angst on the pirate airways.

What he doesn’t realise at first, is just how many people this angst is resonating with and more and more teens begin tuning in and hanging off his every word. He almost brings things to a halt when one student kills himself after speaking with Hard Harry on-air. Instead, he tells his listeners that suicide is not the answer and to rebel instead. Rebel they do, spraying graffiti over the school, microwaving possessions and more.

As the trouble reaches a crescendo the FCC are brought in to pin-point the radio broadcast and put an end to it. At the same time, it’s revealed that the school’s principal, played by Annie Ross (Superman III, Throw Momma From The Train) has been expelling problem kids but keeping their names on the books to get money from the government and make the school look better.

Despite not doing that well at the box office in the US, it has gone on to be a cult classic. Perhaps because its message that, if things aren’t ok, change them, speaks to people young and old. It’s also a message that doesn’t age, unlike some of the outfits and hairstyles in the movie!

Slater is brilliant in the DJ chair. He seems genuinely excited to be talking to whoever is listening and makes you believe in what he’s saying. The juxtaposition between that and this nerdy, awkward teenager in school, is a wonderful transformation (although physically it’s a bit Superman – just wear glasses) and another reason why it resonates so well; a lot of us can related to being different people at different times, whether that’s home and work or home and school.

Being a pirate DJ you’d expect the music of the film to be good. As an opening song, Hard Harry uses Everybody Knows by Leonard Cohen but other than it’s more talking than music. Having said that we do get glimpses of cassettes (remember them?) of: The Jesus and Mary Chain, Primal Scream, Soundgarden and many more.

Although supposed to be teenagers Slater was actually 21 when he filmed the movie whilst his female accomplice who discovers his true identity was actress Samantha Mathis (Buried, Broken Arrow, The Strain, Under The Dome) and she was 20.

Quite a few people in the film went on to have careers within the Hollywood machine. The guidance councillor who takes quite a bit of stick from Hard Harry is played Robert Schenkkan, you’ll probably know him as the writer of Hacksaw Ridge and The Quiet American. Ellen Greene plays English teacher Jan Emerson. Green is probably best known for her role as Audrey in Little Shop of Horrors and was also in Naked Gun 33 1/3, Leon, The Cooler, Pushing Daisies, Heroes and many more.

A ‘blink and you’ll miss her’ role is also had for Holly Sampson who, well, she, erm, that is, well she went into the adult entertainment industry, where she has certainly been busy, according to IMDB. Star Trek fans can catch sight of Alexander Enberg, best known for Ensign Vorik in Voyager, Gregg Daniel from True Blood and Nigel Gibbs whose been in everything from Breaking Bad, House, Veep, The Shield and practically any other cop-based TV show you can think of, also show up.

Perhaps the best ‘look who it is’ moment is saved for Seth Green. You’ll know Seth Green from his voice work these days on Family Guy, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Robot Chicken to name but three. Prior to this he did used to show his face and was in Austin Powers: The Spy Who Sh*gged me and Buffy The Vampire Slayer amongst others. In Pump Up The Volume he sports the most magnificent red haired mullet you will ever see, truly glorious!

Writer and director Allan Moyle went on to direct Empire Records and Man in the Mirror: The Michael Jackson Story. Perhaps all his angst was used up on Pump Up The Volume? Who knows.

Whilst Pump Up The Volume isn’t perfect, and is often overlooked in 90’s films, for me, and anyone I know who’s seen it, it remains a true great. Whilst the technology may have changed, the angst felt by those young and old hasn’t: we want to be heard, we want to talk hard. But if Pump Up The Volume remains a great film under the radar, so be it.

Thanks to Mark for putting together this fantastic review on Pump Up The Volume! 🙂
Remember to head over to Drew’s Movie Reviews tomorrow for the next Ultimate 90’s Blogathon review!

Netflix A-Z: Nymphomaniac Vol 1 & 2 (2013)

This week’s Netflix A-Z is not exactly a double feature but then it might be since the choice is Nymphomaniac and it was released in Vol. 1 & 2. However, I saw them all as one feature on Netflix back to back. It was a long time to sit down for a movie but I felt it was the right way to do it instead of cutting it into two parts.

Let’s check it out! 🙂

Nymphomaniac (2013)

nymphomaniac

Director (and writer): Lars Von Trier

Cast: Charlotte Gainsbourg, Stellan Skarsgard, Stacy Martin, Shia LeBeouf, Christian Slater, Uma Thurman, Sophie Kennedy Clark, Willem Dafoe, Jamie Bell, Mia Goth,

Vol. 1: A self-diagnosed nymphomaniac recounts her erotic experiences to the man who saved her after a beating.-IMDB
Vol.2: The continuation of Joe’s sexually dictated life delves into the darker aspects of her adulthood, obsessions and what led to her being in Seligman’s care. – IMDB

Nymphomaniac is a 4 hour movie split into pretty much 2 hour volumes for the audience.  However, it doesn’t make sense to watch this in two sittings because this is a woman, Joe (Charlotte Gainsbourg), recounting her story as to how and why she ended up beaten and picked up from an alleyway by this stranger called Seligman (Stellan Skarsgard).  The first half, aka Volume 1, was much more fun to watch than the second half.  I can tell you that for certain.  But, the point in the second part really is in the ending when Joe discovers a lot more about herself and we actually start seeing what I think the point of this movie is.  Everyone gets something different from every  movie but the things Joe comments about the society and how woman and men differ and just how nymphomaniac comes to light comes in a somewhat gender inequality/double standards sort of thing. I could be crazy and its not saying that but it feels like Joe’s story and the things she reflects on highlights the imperfect society.

Nymphomaniac

 The cast here is actually quite huge.  Charlotte Gainsbourg is pretty great as Joe however, the star here and who makes Volume 1 even better than Volume 2 is Stacy Martin as young Joe. The true character development was in Vol.1 as we watched young Joe grow up and embrace the different phases of her youth up till falling in love. Her life crosses path with Jerome (Shia Lebeouf) in the most oddest times.  The best part is how her talk with Seligman brings up these comparisons with fly-fishing and all sorts of topics that you wouldn’t quite think about contrasting with when a lady is recounting her sex experiences and how they affected her in different stages of her life. Its what made this part quirky and weird but rather enjoyable to watch.

Nymphomaniac

Nymphomaniac isn’t for everyone.  It has a lot of sex scenes and spans across a lot of touchy subjects related to Joe’s life choices.  The second half (aka Volume 2) of the movie goes into a more brutal and violent downfall of her character.  Here Charlotte Gainsbourg takes the reins.  It becomes more convoluted and goes down the path of Joe and her adulthood, riding on family, the importance of sex and the sacrifices she made and how she ended up sitting where she is now.  The best part of the second part is really the ending and Charlotte Gainsbourg’s performance that keeps the story interesting enough to watch.

Nymphomaniac

Its hard to talk about Nymphomaniac.  In many ways, its an experience that only watching this movie can embody.  However, its also a movie that definitely won’t appeal to everybody.  I don’t mind talk about sex and actually those touchy subjects, questioning society and human behavior and human nature intrigues me quite a bit.  4 hours is a long time and its not easy to hold anyone’s attention without taking a break. Some scenes were a little tough to watch and there’s only so many private parts I can take in one sitting without thinking about how much this is like artistic high quality porn. But it isn’t porn, that would be unfair to say, Nymphomaniac is just very explicit in demonstrating its story plus, its hard to talk about a girl who is a nymphomaniac and not have her getting in some steamy situations.

Overall, Nymphomaniac is an artistic movie.  Its long and Volume 1 is a lot more enjoyable than Volume 2. It has some great performances and so many that I don’t even know what more to say than applauding Stacy Martin and Charlotte Gainsbourg.  There are some good bits like Mrs. H played by Uma Thurman and Mr. H situation that kind of made me laugh a little. Then, her relationship with Shia Lebeouf from how they met to how it all ended was a huge chunk of it.  Mostly her journey through life meeting the different sex partners with single alphabet names, all different in their own  way makes up for a lot of entertainment and just how her desires change whether in lust or love or desire. Its a movie experience thats worth seeing but I don’t guarantee your enjoyment.  This one is extremely subjective and particular to viewer preferences.

Have you seen Nymphomaniac? What did you think of it? Do you prefer Vol. 1 or 2 more?