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Flick Clique: September 23-29

Hackers (1995). About a year ago, I started putting all these ’90s cyber-thrillers on my Netflix queue just to finally see what they were like with the benefit of more hindsight. Do they hold up at all, or are they all dated cheese fests? Hackers was the last one I checked out, after The Net, Sneakers and Strange Days. It is definitely the most dated of the bunch (although the hateful, unpleasant Strange Days comes awfully close), and probably the least informed about real internet/cyber culture. Hackers stars Johnny Lee Miller as a computer genius and former felon who, along with his “alternative” hacker friends, uncovers a diabolical plot to perform terrorist acts on oil tankers. He and his buddies (including pre-stardom Angelina Jolie, looking vaguely alien in close-cropped ‘do and Crayola makeup) attempt to foil the virus planted by crazy corporate dude Fisher Stevens before the U.S. Secret Service close in on them. While certainly watchable in an odd way, the movie’s totally obnoxious characters, garish graphics, and heavy-handed, rave-ish fashions give it the noxious feel of something decided upon by focus groups assembled by smug studio execs trying to decide what’s “hip” in 1995. Back then, of course, the internet mostly meant waiting several minutes for the dial-up modem to reach AOL. Not exactly the most scintillating premise for a movie, eh? Instead, we got this:

Funkytown (2011). It’s fitting that we saw this period disco drama around the same time we caught the season-concluding episodes of the CW’s terrific The L.A. Complex. Both are guilty-pleasure Canadian productions about the disillusioning aspects of showbiz, told in an episodic, implausibly performed but highly addictive fashion. Funkytown doesn’t quite hit the dramatic highs of L.A., but I found it surprisingly enjoyable. This one is set in the orbit of Montreal’s hottest disco, The Starlight, during the headiest days of boogiedom of 1976-1980. Performed in English and French (sometimes within the same sentence), the film follows the ups and downs (mostly downs) of a diverse group of people in a way that approximates a milder Boogie Nights. I was expecting cheese, and there is some to be had, but mostly it’s a straightforward, nicely performed Altman-esque patchwork. This was a DVD Talk screener; I will have a more detailed review posted there in the next week.

DVD Talk reviews:
Warehouse 13: Season Three (2011) – Recommended

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