Here are at Deadshirt, we watch a lot of movies. In The Deadshirt Screening Room, we talk about new stuff in theaters, flicks that just dropped on Blu-ray, or just whatever we’re nodding off to on Netflix right now.
Mike Pfeiffer is watching…
The Lost Boys
Directed by Joel Schumacher
Starring Corey Feldman, Jami Gertz, and Kiefer Sutherland
It’s absolutely not hard to pin down what’s so amazing about The Lost Boys. It’s The Craft of the ’80s, a supernatural frenemy tale so heavily embedded into the aesthetic of its era that it transcends looking dated and becomes timeless. Michael (Jason Patric) is a bit bland beyond his good looks, but his slip into the wrong bloodsucking crowd is the Charlie Brown Christmas tree upon which hang the rest of the abundance of exciting ornaments. Scene-stealing Corey Haim as his MTV-Brat brother Sam, Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander as aspiring Vans-Helsing Edgar & Alan Frog, the massive presence of Kiefer Sutherland as vampire ringleader David, all impeccably styled and pouting to the music of INXS and Echo & the Bunnymen. For all intents and purposes, Sutherland’s character from Stand By Me walked down the wrong alley and after some quick fluid exchange he became David, an undead outsider doomed to be nineteen and fashionable forever, leading a gang of hair metal wannabes on endless dirtbike chases and late night Chinese food binges. Poor Thing.
The binding agent of The Lost Boys that makes it a buoyant goth confection instead of a footnote endured by horror buffs is actually the hand of Joel Schumacher. I’ve gone to “Bat” for Schumacher as a director of surprising subtlety before, but here especially it becomes clear that every piece of the set and costume is pruned and cultivated like a bonsai tree, painting every character and location in such bold and unique color that the broad strokes can be forgiven. He’s aided by the inventive cinematography of Michael Chapman (who did Raging Bull and Taxi Driver, for chrissakes!), who finds a way to use Schumacher’s neon-and-leather funhouse flair to visually reinforce and prefigure the actions of the players. It is a movie that is actually forever a teen, brimming with energy and making bold choices just to see your reaction. I watch The Lost Boys at least twice a year, and while I keep getting older, it just stays the same age.
Jake Arant is watching…
Lethal Weapon 4
Directed by Richard Donner
Starring Mel Gibson, Danny Glover, and Jet Li
By the time this movie came out, Mel Gibson’s Riggs and Danny Glover’s Murtaugh had been partners for almost ten years, and everything they touched still either caught fire or exploded. Maybe the formula was a little played out, but the strong casting continuity and the ridiculous charisma between Gibson and Glover carries it pretty well, whether it’s the quiet sequences in which the characters ruminate on the nature of getting old, or the scenes where Riggs is getting his dick kicked around by Jet-Li while trying to save Chinese refugees from smugglers. There’s also a scene in which Joe Pesci loudly calls Chris Rock a fuckface, which is a huge points boost. It’s certainly a competent action film for its age, sporting a lighthearted tone in comparison to its predecessors, and moments that are over the top enough to almost push the movie into self-parody territory, which makes it a fun way to kill an afternoon.
What’s very interesting is that Lethal Weapon as a series is bookended by the endings of two different decades, the first coming at the end of of the Eighties, and this final installment capping off the Nineties. The tonal differences between 1 and 4 are very evident, with 4‘s lightheartedness serving as both a great example of the shift in tone in action movies in general at the turn of the century and a sign of character progression. Riggs and Murtaugh are a hell of a lot more relaxed than they were at the beginning, and part of that is the mellowness of age. No longer the gritty, brooding cops we met in 1987, the relaxed demeanor they sport in the final chapter of the series fits them very well with their contemporaries, movies like Rush Hour and Shanghai Noon. Though your enjoyment may vary, it does make for an emotionally satisfying way to conclude the series, and the snapshots of cast and crew that play over the credits only heighten the sense of fun and love that went into making the movies.
Dylan Roth is watching…
Game of Death (US version)
Directed by Robert Clouse and Bruce Lee
Starring Bruce Lee, Colleen Camp, and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
I’m pretty clueless when it comes to martial arts films in general, and Bruce Lee in particular, but even so, it’s pretty inexcusable how little I knew about this film until days after watching it. I was unaware, for example, that this was the film Bruce Lee was working on when he died of a cerebral adema at the age of 32. I didn’t know that this film was patched together from a handful of movies. I somehow didn’t put together that the reason we so often see the heroic Billy Lo in wide shots, or in disguise, or just the back of his head, is that for most of the film he’s not even played by Bruce Lee, but by lookalike Kim Tai-chung. I chalked up the film’s production quirks to a low budget. I feel…pretty stupid.
I will say this for Game of Death—even now, after feeling a bit conned by the film, I have to say I had a good time watching it. The story is ridiculous, but charming: actor and martial artist Billy Lo (Lee, Kim) is targeted by a criminal syndicate who “owns” the entertainment business and everyone in it. After an attempt on his life, Billy fakes his death (footage from Bruce Lee’s actual funeral is used here) and goes on a roaring rampage of revenge to take down the syndicate and rescue his lady love (Colleen Camp). For all its cinematic trickery (I feel really dumb; I can’t stress this enough), it’s entertaining from top to bottom and wisely ends with ten mostly uninterrupted minutes of genuine Bruce Lee awesomeness.
There’s no overstating Bruce Lee’s screen presence. During the final fight sequence, Lee takes down a gauntlet of opponents (including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) with unparalleled swagger. He doesn’t say a word, but he oozes character. There’s a reason he remains the most celebrated movie martial artist of all time, why the yellow tracksuit his character wears during the film’s climax has become so iconic. As much as Game of Death is designed to prove otherwise, there is only one Bruce Lee.
That’s what we’re watching right now, how about you?