Archive for the ‘Mullets’ Category

Raw Force (1982)


On the Norwegian Wikipedia page for the 1982 exploitation epic RAW FORCE — probably the only time I’ll ever start a sentence that way — we are informed that the movie was banned in Norway in 1984. That’s the most attention any kind of majority, political or otherwise, has paid this movie. RAW FORCE is made for almost no one, because it is apparently made for almost everyone. Nearly every convention or trope of genre movies from the first seventy or so years of the existence of film is expended in this one rickety heap of madness.




As I tried to describe on our latest podcast focusing on RAW FORCEdescribing this movie is like fighting a giant squid. Just when you’ve bested one wavy storytelling strand, another one snaps up and grabs you by the throat.


Here’s the trailer, which is maybe the most dishonest trailer I’ve ever seen:



That trailer literally sells a different movie. The clips are the same, but some of the character names and all of their backstories are totally different. The editors somehow cobbled together a cohesive story from several scenes that have no connection. This is the SHOGUN ASSASSIN of movie trailers. RAW FORCE is plenty of kinds of fun, but one adjective that does not apply is “cohesive.” This is the summary I gave on the podcast:




First, a quote from Anton Chekhov:

“Remove everything that has no relevance to the story. If you say in the first chapter that there is a rifle hanging on the wall, in the second or third chapter it absolutely must go off. If it’s not going to be fired, it shouldn’t be hanging there.”

Okay. So early on in RAW FORCE, when a plane lands on a remote island and a character mentions that the waters surrounding the island are infested with vicious piranha, you can bet you will see those fish by the end of the movie. And if that character is a white-suited human trafficker who looks and talks exactly like Adolf Hitler, you may fairly assume he’ll be the one to meet them.




Otherwise, RAW FORCE, also known as KUNG FU CANNIBALS, completely ignores the principle of Chekhov’s gun. This movie operates under its own rules, and also it doesn’t have any rules. If you somehow managed to drink up all the movies and television shows of the 1970s and then you barfed them back up, the mess on the bathroom floor might look like this.




Saloon fights, graveyard fights, bazooka fights, hippies in warpaint, gratuitously naked ladies, karate-chopping hobbit bartenders, giggling monks who dine on human women, ninja zombies, a BOOGIE NIGHTS style group of protagonists calling themselves the Burbank Karate Club, an ornery sea captain, a kung fu chef, an extended riff on ‘Gilligan’s Island’, and the aforementioned worst person in human history: All this and more in RAW FORCE.


This was a fun episode even though I was delirious and feverish and congested and loopy. As always my co-hosts Joe and Freeman were terrific, engaging, and informative. You can subscribe and download the show on iTunes (please comment with feedback!) or you can



Here are our previous episodes, in case you’d like to catch up. We’re recording a new episode this week! Stay tuned.



Vigilante Force






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It’s The Garden Of Mullets!

Posted: June 25, 2013 in Mullets
This right here is a repository for my collection of street-mullet-sightings. I started posting them over on Facebook and people seem to enjoy it, so maybe the world at large will too.
Now:  You might be saying to yourself, “Hey! Wasn’t it the popular joke to laugh ironically at mullets almost ten years ago? Shouldn’t that joke be way over by now?” And you’d be right, but that’s exactly the point.  Nearly ten years after mullets were loudly and publicly ridiculed, they continue to be worn proudly.  In fact:  In the past year alone, I personally have seen more mullets than I’ve ever seen in my life.  The following gallery salutes these bravely unironic hairdo pioneers.
[NOTE: I have done my best to obscure any identifying facial features, but if you notice your mullet in this gallery and would prefer it to be removed, please contact me and I will oblige. We’re not gathered here to shame our hair-heroes.]
Dressed for success: The jeans-jacket / mullet combo!

Dressed for success: The jeans-jacket / mullet combo!

The "Carl's Jr.®"

The “Carl’s Jr.®”

Truly stupendous mullet, but tough to see in this snapshot -- this critter was a quick one.

Truly stupendous mullet, but tough to see in this snapshot — this critter was a quick one.

Shopping For Appliances While Be-Mulleted.

Shopping For Appliances While Be-Mulleted.

HALL-OF-FAMER: The Jedi Mullet.

HALL-OF-FAMER: The Jedi Mullet.

Mullets In The Mist.

Mullets In The Mist.

Isn't a mullet, but the bright-orange lady hi-top fade deserves its own accolades.

Isn’t a mullet, but the bright-orange lady hi-top fade deserves its own accolades.

The "Not-Quite."

The “Not-Quite.”
The "Stumpy."

The “Stumpy.”

The "Honky Predator."

The “Honky Predator.”

Is it... Could it be... [*reverent tones*] Kenny Powers...?

Is it… Could it be… [*reverent tones*] Kenny Powers…?

Some days you wear the mullet, some days the mullet wears you.

Some days you wear the mullet, some days the mullet wears you.

The "Connected." (Risked life & limb to bring you this picture.)

The “Connected.” (Risked life & limb to bring you this picture.)

The Great Mullet Chase! (Bugger wouldn't stay still.)

The Great Mullet Chase! (Bugger wouldn’t stay still.)
The "Drinks-Alone." (This photograph was taken at 12 noon on a cloudless summer afternoon.)

The “Drinks-Alone.” (This photograph was taken at 12 noon on a cloudless summer afternoon.)

The "Drive-By."

The “Drive-By.”

This is a half-motorcycle/half-car/all-lawnmower, with a mulleted driver. It will be a difficult sight for this world to top.

This is a half-motorcycle/half-car/all-lawnmower, with a mulleted driver. It will be a difficult sight for this world to top.

For a change: Here's a hi-top-fade-mohawk combo platter.

For a change: Here’s a hi-top-fade-mohawk combo platter.

The ever-elusive Mohawk mullet.

The ever-elusive Mohawk mullet.

The "Magnetic North."

The “Magnetic North.”



Quick sketch of a long flowing mullet seen last night at the gas station. It was too dark for photography, but it deserved a tribute.

Quick sketch of a long flowing mullet seen last night at the gas station. It was too dark for photography, but it deserved a tribute.

Got a bad angle on this one.

Got a bad angle on this one.

Going to Hell for this one.

Going to Hell for this one.

The "Billy Curtis."

The “Billy Curtis.”

The "OMG."

The “OMG.”

The "Ron Swanson."



Likes:  Train rides,  mullets,  Tiny Solitaire.  Dislikes:  Dorks peering over shoulder in order to photograph said mullet.

Train rides,
Tiny Solitaire.
Dorks peering over shoulder in order to photograph said mullet.

The "Hasidic Jason Statham."

The “Hasidic Jason Statham.”

I've worked with better.

I’ve worked with better.

For example, this one.

For example, this one.



HALL-OF-FAMER: Larry Mullet Jr.

HALL-OF-FAMER: Larry Mullet Jr.

HALL-OF-FAMER: Los Tigres Del Norte. (Second from left.)

HALL-OF-FAMER: Los Tigres Del Norte. (Second from left.)

The "Ticket Stub."

The “Ticket Stub.”

If I chased girls with the determination that I chased this mullet, I'd be on my third marriage by now. (Note that it's not even that great a mullet.)

If I chased girls with the determination that I chased this mullet, I’d be on my third marriage by now. (Note that it’s not even that great a mullet.)

The "Tragedy."

The “Tragedy.”

The "One Who Finally Caught Me."

The “One Who Finally Caught Me.”

The "Skylight."

The “Skylight.”

The "Trying To Hide Behind A Redhead."

The “Trying To Hide Behind A Redhead.”

The "Charles-In-Charge-era Scott Baio."

The “Charles-In-Charge-era Scott Baio.”

HALL-OF-FAMER: Charles-In-Charge-era Scott Baio.

HALL-OF-FAMER: Charles-In-Charge-era Scott Baio.

HALL-OF-FAMER: Charles-In-Charge-era Willie Aames.

HALL-OF-FAMER: Charles-In-Charge-era Willie Aames.

The "Nightwing Action Figure."

The “Nightwing Action Figure.”

READER SUBMISSION!: From Paris, with love.

READER SUBMISSION!: From Paris, with love.

Reggie from Archie Comics.

Reggie from Archie Comics.

Literally gasped when this mullet reared up in the wild. This was the only photo I could safely get. Squint for it.

Literally gasped when this mullet reared up in the wild. This was the only photo I could safely get. Squint for it.

Looks like tied shoelaces.

Looks like tied shoelaces.

Not who you might think it is. Still a problem.

Not who you might think it is. Still a problem.

Looks like a nice guy. Not meaning to make fun. But that's just the way the cookie crumbles, just the way the bread is buttered, just the way the mullet's combed.

Looks like a nice guy. Not meaning to make fun. But that’s just the way the cookie crumbles, just the way the bread is buttered, just the way the mullet’s combed.

Oh shit...

Oh shit…


Lead singer of "Imagine Dragons" which is a hugely popular music group right now despite me having absolutely no idea of that fact until this moment. Are they big enough to bring the mullet back, is all I care about.

Lead singer of “Imagine Dragons” which is a hugely popular music group right now despite me having absolutely no idea of that fact until this moment. Are they big enough to bring the mullet back, is all I care about.

The adventure continues!  Send your own contributions to me here or on Twitter:


Your Highness (2011)


YOUR HIGHNESS is one of the most strangely-reviled movies of the past couple years.  Why?  2011 was a year that inflicted upon us BATTLE: LOS ANGELES, HALL PASS, SUCKER PUNCH, COWBOYS & ALIENS, SOUL SURFER, a remake of THE THING, another BIG MOMMA movie, another TRANSFORMERS movie, a Justin Timberlake action movie, a Justin Timberlake romantic comedy, an Ashton Kutcher romantic comedy, a Russell Brand movie, a Kevin James movie, two Adam Sandler movies, and like three Tyler Perry movies.  Which, by the way, were totally redundant after the BIG MOMMA movie.  There’s plenty of horseshit to revile before getting all worked up over a harmlessly crude medieval weed-comedy.  You’re really going to tell me, after that Fassbender-length list of SHAME, that YOUR HIGHNESS is the one that turns your tummies?




Yes, internet, I loved this movie.  Sorry!  Was I not supposed to enjoy a silly-stupid sword-and-sorcery movie starring Danny McBride and James  Franco?  Because it kind of feels like they made it with me in mind.  It could be a fair ways better than it is, sure, but it’s still pretty fun.  Danny McBride, his co-writer Ben Best, and director David Gordon Green deserve our lifetime allegiance for EASTBOUND & DOWN, and James Franco (you know, from SPIDER-MAN 2 and MILK and 127 HOURS and many other admirable ventures) has done plenty to earn the benefit of the doubt in his own right.


Film Title: Your Highness


Franco plays the heroic warrior on a quest to save his true love (Zooey Deschanel), who has been stolen away by a powerful and disgusting wizard.  McBride is his boorish, self-centered younger brother, forced to accompany him on his quest by their father (Charles Dance, who is now on GAME OF THRONES but is best known to me from THE GOLDEN CHILD).  Franco can be an anarchic presence himself, but here he gamely and perfectly plays the over-earnest straight man to McBride’s loud-mouthed lout.  To me, Franco and McBride’s not-even-trying British period accents and sometimes-camaraderie/ sometimes-enmity are a total gas.  I also deeply, deeply love that the guys each get BEASTMASTER-style animal sidekicks.


Your Highness


The problem with this movie, I think, is that the villains are just too gross and not at all menacing.  In this kind of effects-based comedy, the bad guys ultimately need to be a little bit scary – they can’t be competing for punchlines, the way the bad guys are here.  Think of Gozer The Gozerian in GHOSTBUSTERS, think of David Lo Pan in BIG TROUBLE IN LITTLE CHINA, think of Victor Maitland in BEVERLY HILLS COP.  Those are solid villains because they are played as if not entirely aware they’re in a comedy.  You really believe that they want to destroy the heroes.   If Justin Theroux and, in particular, Damian Lewis had been allowed to play it straight, I think YOUR HIGHNESS would have worked a lot better.


Charles Dance


It’s probably also true that the movie is a bit remedial when it comes to the matter of women.  Zooey Deschanel is game for whatever she’s asked to do in the movie, but ultimately this is a guys’ showcase.  The attempt to include Natalie Portman as a Xena-style warrior princess who helps the brothers out is a good impulse, but as it plays, she’s just another foil for McBride, a pong-paddle to his bouncing pink ball, or balls.




As it is, YOUR HIGHNESS is juvenile and a bit of a mess, but it still cracks me up.  If only for the fact that it has both a minotaur and a dragon, if only for the fact that I can’t be unsure that these guys didn’t come up with most of the ideas for the movie while watching WILLOW, if only for the scene with the Wise Wizard, which I still can  hardly wrap my mind around on account of how insanely funny it is to me, this movie entirely justifies its existence.




Maybe it’s just me and my weird sense of humor.  Maybe the idea of a $50 million studio movie where two movie stars talk to a really crappy puppet is only targeted to my hyper-specific sense of humor.


the great wize wizard


Or maybe a lot of people need to lighten the fuck up.  Could be either one. Just to be safe, smile!


P.S.  If you like YOUR HIGHNESS, check out my review of 1982’s CONQUEST.  That’s a similar movie that is nearly as funny, but not even remotely on purpose.

And this has been an expanded version of a bit I did for my pal at Rupert Pupkin Speaks.  Check his site out!

Your Highness (2011) Your Highness (2011) your_highness_ver2

Your Highness (2011)

Today we celebrate a great American.  Oh totally, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., but also: John Carpenter, one of my very favorite filmmakers of all time.  Here’s something I wrote on February 11th, 2009: 

I recently received in the mail the limited edition 2-disc score album for John Carpenter’s Big Trouble In Little China.  It’s a limited pressing:  There are only 3000 of them.  That means that, if you want one of your own, you had better get on it, and come back to read the rest of this essay afterwards.

Now to the remaining readers:  What does my revelation that I now own this artifact mean?

Well, it means that I am a person who cares to own the soundtrack to Big Trouble In Little China, which will tell you either of two things:  that I am a super-hip underground electronic music artist (to whom Carpenter’s scores are hugely, weirdly influential), or that I am just a person who loves the movie Big Trouble In Little China THAT much.

I won’t leave you hanging.  It’s because I love the movie a lot.  I get the sense that I’m not alone in the realm of the internet.  I could qualify that love; I could add a postscript that I like to write to movie scores and instrumental music, or go on and on about the importance of John Carpenter’s work on the landscape of popular culture, but look, none of that is going to get me laid in time for Valentine’s Day Weekend.  It’s what it is, and so shall it ever be.

John Carpenter’s most acknowledged classics are Halloween and The Thing, and possibly Escape From New York.  Beyond that, the idea of where the rest of Carpenter’s movies fit within the realm of canon seems to be debated.  Not by me, mind you – I firmly believe that the man’s filmmaking mojo was untouchable from at least the release of Assault On Precinct 13 (1976) to that of They Live (1988).  That’s one hell of a run!

It hardly seems arguable to me that, as long as there is an auteur theory, John Carpenter should get his rightful due from the highbrow film establishment as one of the luminaries of the last thirty years.  The reasons why he doesn’t get revered in the way that contemporaries like Spielberg and Scorsese do is because, like Michael Mann, Carpenter’s best-known work came a little later than theirs, and, unlike all of them, all of Carpenter’s work is in the less reputable genres of horror, action, and science fiction.  Of course, the auteur theory is generally a flawed one:  Carpenter’s films wouldn’t be what they are without the contributions of many writers, co-writers, actors, cinematographers, even other composers.  All the same, here’s the test:  Pick up on any sequence – even a single shot – from a John Carpenter film at random, and odds are it wouldn’t take long to identify it as a John Carpenter film.  His films are united by a look, a sound, a vibe, that other movies could never have.

Of course, this perspective didn’t spring on me immediately.  I was to formulate that grandiose opinion much later on in my movie-watching development.  To follow a director that closely, you have to start with one movie, and for me, at first, there was Big Trouble In Little China.  It started out as a “big brother” movie – you know, the ones you’re not supposed to watch as a kid, but finally get to anyway, when the right influence relents.  My friend Jay Roberts and I slipped into the basement den where his older brother and his buddies were watching it, and we hid behind his chair, until he noticed us there, and actually let us watch the rest.  I was ten.  That was huge.

Carpenter has called the movie “an action-adventure-comedy Kung Fu ghost story monster movie,” which is not only accurate, but everything a ten-year-old boy with a big imagination wants from a movie.  Also, its main character is a trucker, which is what I wanted to grow up to be.  (Weird, true fact.)  It’s the definition of a cult film – no one will ever classify or study Big Trouble In Little China as an important movie (yours truly excepted), but when pressed, many would admit that this is the kind of joint they’d much rather be watching on a Friday night.

Okay, so real quick for the few who haven’t yet had the pleasure:

Jack Burton (played by Kurt Russell, the DeNiro to Carpenter’s Scorsese, this time out doing a hit-and-miss John Wayne impersonation) is a trucker who is owed some gambling money by his old friend, San Francisco Chinatown restaurateur Wang Chi (played by Dennis Dun, very likable).  Before paying up, Wang asks Jack if he will accompany him to the airport, where he is picking up his fiancée.  At the airport, the girl is kidnapped by street thugs, since she is the rare Chinese girl who has green eyes.  To rescue the girl, Jack and Wang have to venture into the Chinatownunderworld, and to face its overlord, David Lo Pan, played by the busy character actor James Hong in a seriously immortal performance.  I’m not kidding, it’s unforgettable.  If for no other reason, watch the movie for this guy.


Lindsay Lo Pan


In a shocking dual role, Lo Pan is a wizened old husk of a man, but also a hundreds-year-old ghost warlord demon who is cursed and who can only become flesh-and-blood again by marrying the girl with green eyes.  In addition to a small army of fake cops, cheesy gang members, and kung fu warriors, Lo Pan has three supernatural enforcers, The Three Storms (Thunder, Rain, and Lightning), who will look familiar to anyone lucky enough to have seen Shogun Assassin.  And he has a couple monsters too – The Guardian, which is a floating blob covered with eyeballs, and The Wild Man, which is basically a werewolf, only Asian (and therefore probably my favorite character in the entire movie).  Wang brings in some allies too, best of all being the excellently named local wizard Egg Shen — played by Victor Wong, in the film’s other legendary performance.  A post-Porky’s, pre-Sex In The City Kim Cattrall is in the movie too, but mostly just to run rapid neo-Hawks dialogue with Kurt Russell in a gratifyingly anti-romantic subplot.  No kid wants to see Jack Burton ride off at the end with some lady riding shotgun in the Porkchop Express.

It’s a kitchen sink kind of a movie, obviously – or more accurately, a Chinese buffet of a movie.  Which is some of the most fun you can have.  Twenty-some years later, I can surely see where the corniness lives, most obviously in the unfortunate sculpting of most of the haircuts present.  But overall, it still works for me, almost as much as it did when I was ten.  I’m still struck by the energy of the thing.  If I wanted to be halfway pretentious about it, I might make the assertion that Big Trouble In Little China was the first action movie of the video-game era (either that or its studiomate from 1986, the much better-received Aliens).  It’s even structured like a video game, with the way the characters descend through several levels to meet their objective, squaring off with increasingly more dangerous enemies as they go.  And there’s even a “reset” or a “do-over” – when they don’t rescue the girl on the initial try, they go back with more allies and bigger guns.

This is also an example of what could be called the cinema of escalation:  A fantastical story that leads an audience towards buying into its most fantastical elements by starting out in the “real world”, and methodically ramping up the crazy situations and characters while never losing track, always healthily maintaining the suspension of disbelief.  In that way, the closest cousin to Big Trouble In Little China that I can think of at the moment is probably Ghostbusters, which is never a bad comparison to be drawn.  Hey, after all, Big Trouble In Little China has ghosts too.  (Also it shares a visual effects supervisor, Richard Edlund.)

Now about that soundtrack, composed by John Carpenter “in association with” Alan Howarth.

The score is of a piece with the movie, which is to say that it’s incredibly entertaining, sometimes corny, extremely insane, and most importantly – propulsive.  The score matches the editing, and it MOVES.  It’s functional, which is frankly an unsung virtue of a good score.  It also smartly delineates character, with its darkly regal Lo Pan orchestrations, its varying strains recurring during the appearances of the Storms, its eerie themes suggesting the ancient pseudo-mythology of the movie and even the driving rhythms under several of the action scenes which resemble nothing so much as an 18-wheeler idling, apropos for Jack Burton’s profession.

Like most of the scores from Carpenter’s movies, the music is almost entirely done on synthesizers.  In the liner notes, Carpenter and Howarth discuss how much fidelity they paid to authentic Chinese music, which is to say, none.  They went after sounds and themes that sounded Chinese to them, rather than working arduously to replicate realism.  I actually respect this approach.  I’m not sure it would’ve helped the movie to have that much attention to detail.  Big Trouble In Little China is a tribute to the kung fu B-epics of the 1970s – it’s very Shaw Brothers.  Reality is not this film’s ultimate aim.  Some might say that such musical guesswork is the methodology of the Ugly American, but personally I’m more irritated by cultural imitations.  Carpenter and Howarth are owning up to their lack of authoritative expertise in all things Chinese, and giving it a shot anyway, and in its own way, that’s charming.  Besides, Dennis Dun’s character is more the traditional hero of Big Trouble In Little China.  He’s the young, clean-cut lead out to rescue his lady love.  Conversely, Kurt Russell’s character is the ultimate Ugly American (John Wayne bluster and all) – therefore, these cultural concerns are actually structured into the film.  It’s all just a little bit subversive, though of course, not at all Important with the capital vowel bolded.  It’s difficult to call racism or even exploitation (though some apparently tried, during the initial theatrical run) when the film in question is so silly, or more to the point, when the two most charismatic performances in the entire movie are from two elderly Chinese men.  What other big-studio American action picture has given us that?

That’s the basic conclusion I’m drawing here, by talking about the score in specific and the movie overall – Big Trouble In Little China is an anomaly, a curiosity, and a legitimate original.  This is why a cult has grown around this movie, and the cult is not giving signs of going away.  Almost makes me wonder what else I was right about at ten years old.  Cheers!

Get at me on Twitter:  @jonnyabomb

The Lost Boys is one finely-aged wedge of 1980s cheese. I don’t know what experience a first-time viewer would have with it, but for those of us of a certain age, there’s a fondness. For those of us who were high school comic book geeks, it was one of the first times we were represented on screen (by  Corey Haim and Corey Feldman, still a few years away from traumatizing us by, among other confused acts, double-teaming Nicole Eggert from Charles In Charge), and for everyone else, it’s a camp classic – and not just 1980s camp.  Hall-of-fame camp. There’s no other classification that is able to house a movie with dialogue such as  “How are those maggots, Michael?”, “You killed Marco!”, “Death by stereo!” and of course, “Christ!” (Corey Feldman’s single greatest acting achievement.)

The Lost Boys has dual protagonists: young Sam (Corey Haim) and his older brother Michael (Jason Patric, interestingly enough, the son of Exorcist star Jason Miller).  Sam and Michael and their mother (Oscar-winner Dianne Wiest) move in with their eccentric grandfather (Barnard Hughes) in the coastal west-coast town of Santa Clara.  All three newcomers quickly fall in with their own social groups:  Mom meets and starts dating a friendly video store owner (Edward Herrmann).  Michael meets a beautiful, unfortunately-named girl named Star (Jami Gertz), who hangs with a creepy but charismatic dude named David (Kiefer Sutherland), who rolls with a gang of troublemakers.  And Sam meets a pair of comic book store employees named Edgar and Alan Frog (Corey Feldman and Jamison Newlander), who are convinced that both Mom and Michael’s new friends are hideous bloodsucking vampires.  And they happen to be right.

David and his boys are definitely vampires, trying to recruit Michael to their brood.  Can Sam save his brother?  Does Michael want to be saved?  In a three-way collision of tone, the scenes between Michael and Star are eerily romantic, the scenes with David and co. inducting Michael towards the dark side are pure horror movie, and the scenes with Sam and his buddies, as they try desperately to prove the existence of vampires to Sam’s oblivious mom, are goofily comedic.  I have to admit, I still think it all somehow comes together.  It’s a movie so anxious to please, bursting forward with a little something for everyone, that it can’t help but continue to endear.  I’ll still stop to watch this movie if I happen to see it running on TV.

Time Out New York once called The Lost Boys “the Twilight of its day” but they’re wrong; Despite the tenous Peter Pan connection and the disturbingly dated fashions (Corey Haim dresses exactly like Kristy Swanson did) and the operatically cheesy soundtrack, The Lost Boys at least tries to scare you. This isn’t “vampire romance” — these vampires might have then-stylish mullets and ear jewelry, but they’re nasty S.O.B.’s, and not easily killed.  There are a couple surprisingly lengthy and intense stake-slayings, and the way that the movie withholds the image of the vampires in flight actually kind of succeeds. No doubt it was a practical and budgetary decision, but it helps to force you to imagine a much scarier image. The way-better-than-average cinematography goes a long way in that direction; the film was shot by Michael Chapman, who shot Taxi Driver and Raging Bull. I also think that my man Kiefer is always at his best as a villain, and he certainly goes a long way towards stacking the odds against the heroes in this movie – against an angry fanged Kiefer, what shot can the Coreys possibly have?

And now here’s some credence towards my argument that you can almost never entirely write off anyone: Joel Schumacher directed this movie. The film-geek community probably doesn’t like much light to be shone upon this fact, and I can’t blame them, after what Schumacher forced us to endure with his 1997 Batman & Robin.  But he keeps The Lost Boys moving at a brisk pace and he keeps the humor in its right places and he stays out of Chapman’s way when a visually atmospheric moment is working.  The only real Schumacher-ism that comes immediately to mind is the greased-up shirtless saxophone player attacking a microphone like it was a bachelorette party. And that’s pretty damn funny, so who can complain?

I can’t call it a personal favorite, but I like The Lost Boys enough to have eye-tested the first direct-to-DVD sequel, The Lost Boys 2: The Tribe. Skip that one. It’s not that it’s bad – it’s maybe worse than bad, since it’s not bad, just serviceable. I don’t remember any character except the lead vampire, who was played by Kiefer’s younger half-brother – I thought he was good, understated and charismatic, but the sad fact remains that there’s already an alpha-vampire in the family. Besides, the sad emo cover version of “Cry Little Sister” just pales.  A third sequel came out last year, but I can’t do it.  It’s too sad.

Some movies are too much of their era to ever be replicated.  The Lost Boys is so much a piece of the 1980s that to separate it from its time is to destroy its appeal.  If you truly love the vampire, you must leave the vampire to its cave, or else it collapses in a pile of dust.


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Your god can't save you, but I can.

MacGruber is out on DVD today.  I was one of the few and the proud who saw it around the time of its theatrical release.  It was kind of an awkward screening, actually — me, Will Forte’s parents, Earl “DMX” Simmons, and Val Kilmer.  I’m not sure what DMX was doing there, but he seemed to like the movie and so did I.  Can’t say I recommend the movie for everyone, but I do recommend that everyone read what I wrote about MacGruber, because it’s goddamned crazy.

Okay, so obviously it was a bad idea.  Don’t get me wrong – after giving it a chance, I’m glad they gave it a whirl.  But a bomb is a bomb is a bomb, and that’s not a MacGruber in-joke either.  People just plain didn’t want to see a movie based on a SNL sketch based on a corny ‘80s TV show.  There are some reasons for that, which I’ll get to, but personally, once I found out that MacGruber the movie had less to do with MacGyver the TV show and more to do with the action-movie also-rans of the 1980s, I got way interested in checking it out.


MacGruberis pitched to a very specific kind of movie nut.  It’s a movie for guys (and trust me – all of us are guys, and I can’t imagine that there is a single lady among us) who recognize and appreciate names such as Robert Z’Dar, Brion James, Al Leung, and Sonny Landham.  Great, you’ve seen all five Rocky movies, but have you seen Cobra?  Or better yet, Lock-Up?  Or better still, have you gone past the movies starring Rocky Balboa and headed for the ones starring Apollo Creed?  Ever seen Action Jackson


Some guys think they know about guy’s-guy movies because they’ve seen Pulp Fiction or The Matrix a few times – but can you hold your own in a conversation about the work of Walter Hill?  Fuck that even – can you hold it down when the phrase Golan-Globus comes up?  How big is your action-movie dick? (Pardon my American.)  How far have you gone in the name of action cinema?  I’m talking about true dudes, the ones who go to the outer edges of action movies to find an explosion we haven’t seen before.  I’m talking about the ones who take it to the limit.  We are the people who are darker than blue.  We’re not just Tarantino fans – we’re Quentin’s people.  We get the references.  We’re talking about a brand of movie wherein Tango & Cash is a high water mark in terms of quality.  (Sarcasm translator translates:  Tango & Cash is no Die Hard.)


That’s the kind of guy who MacGruber is made for.  That’s a big reason why MacGruber ended up with the lowest opening of any SNL film ever – because its target audience is watching movies at a time of day when the rest of the world is asleep.  There’s no movie theater in the country that’s open for business when these guys come looking, and that’s probably a good thing for all those families who came out for Shrek McHappy Meals this past weekend.


The other reason is that, as MacGruber proves, it’s kind of redundant to spoof the kind of movies that MacGruber is meant to spoof, the movies that I cited above and the many more like them.  The action movies of the 1980s, even the best of them, were drenched in excess and frequently bordered comedy somewhere out there at the city limits.  No one who loves these movies should need parody to highlight their most ridiculous moments.  Some of them, such as Commando, don’t seem to know how funny they are, while others incorporate humor much more cannily.  Die Hard is almost halfway a comedy, for how funny it is.  But whether the comedy is intended or stumbled upon, I think my point is still revealing.  I love the first Predator movie like a brother – it’s quick and brutal and efficient and entertaining as all hell – but even I laugh at the early scene where Dillon and Dutch clench fists in an adversarial handshake and director John McTiernan cuts to a close-up of their flexed biceps (twenty bucks says the Governor made him do it).  The laugh is there already, intentional or not – to recreate it in a comedy is to repeat a joke you’ve already heard.  It goes without saying that the Predator handshake is referenced in MacGruber, and it not only didn’t work with me for the aforementioned reason, but it didn’t work with my crowd because they didn’t get the reference.  (Then again, the “Now I have a machine gun” moment from Die Hard is also referenced in one of MacGruber’s best jokes, so I always allow that I could be wrong.)


In the spirit of ‘80s actioners, MacGruber doesn’t have much in the way of plot.  It starts out with a curiously laugh-free sequence where the film’s bad guys hijack a shipment carrying a gigantic warhead, which they ultimately intend to use to blow up Washington DC.  That sequence is a pretty good approximation of a straight action movie, but it’s a curious way to set the tone for what’s meant to be a comedy.  Anyway, from there MacGruber becomes a Rambo-esque “Back In Action” kind of story, wherein MacGruber, played by SNL’s Will Forte, is brought out of retirement (and presumed death) by his prospective new partner, played by the much-better-than-you-probably-think-he’d-be Ryan Phillippe, and his old mentor, played by the always-reliable Powers Boothe.  (What do you think Christmas is like at the Boothe household?  Does he have nieces and nephews who call him “Uncle Powers?”  I don’t know why that idea seems so funny to me.)  Anyway, both these guys are terrific straight-men, really.  The question mark remains the film’s star.


I’m not totally sold on Will Forte yet – he’s like a sibilant Jim Carrey without the crazy eyes.  Actually, with the mullet he looks a lot more like Uncle Joey from Full House, but let’s go with the first thing I said.  Although Forte is willing to go all the way in on a joke (as evidenced by the scene where he strips down and sticks a stalk of celery up his ass – long story), he also doesn’t stack up yet to the level of the great SNL madmen of legend.  My SNL Mount Rushmore goes like so:  Murray, Aykroyd, Belushi, Murphy.  In the early days, there was a danger to those guys that the new breed doesn’t have just yet.  The current SNL cast is thoroughly likable, but they all seem nicer than my nicest friend.  There’s not enough insanity there.  But the MacGruber movie is a step in the right direction.  Thanks to the R rating, Will Forte gets to go to a well of darkness nearly an hour into the movie that made me come alive with laughter – it’s the scene where MacGruber explains why his arch-enemy hates him so much – but it took quite a while to get there.  Once the movie went there, though, I have to say that I started to dig it.  The first fifty or so minutes don’t have nearly as much of a spark, but that last half-hour of MacGruber is pretty golden – it’s a great start, Will Forte.  Keep it up!


What really makes MacGruber worth an eventual late-night spin is the work by its romantic lead and main villain.  SNL’s Kristen Wiig plays the former and insanity’s Val Kilmer plays the latter, although it would be funny if they had switched roles before production.  I’m already on record as being a big Kristen Wiig fan and I’m hardly unique on that score – she’s been the best thing about SNL for quite some time, and so far we’ve only seen a flicker of what she’s capable of bringing to film comedy.  Here she plays a pretty standard Kristen Wiig character – shy and tentative with vast reserves of weirdness just under the surface.  It might have been funnier to see her stretch a little and to play a character even half as loud and abrasive as MacGruber is, but even standard Kristen Wiig is pretty damn good.  Her best moment is probably when she’s called upon to impersonate MacGruber, and then when she’s called upon immediately afterwards to impersonate one of the evil henchmen in the movie.  Also, the songs she sings are pretty worthwhile.


Meanwhile, can we talk about Val Kilmer?  What the hell happened here?  This guy is a phenomenally talented actor who for a while there had amassed one of the coolest filmographies of the last couple decades and who became as huge as a star can get (hell, he played Batman once!) before plummeting to a place in the hierarchy where he now regularly trolls the obscure end of the made-for-DVD spectrum.  In the space of a decade, this guy went from co-starring with DeNiro and Pacino, to co-starring with 50 Cent.  (Of course, DeNiro and Pacino went to starring with 50 Cent too, but please don’t remind me about that one.)  Where did Val Kilmer go wrong?  When does he get to go right again?  Where’s his Mickey Rourke comeback?  Where’s Val Kilmer’s role in an Iron Man movie?  Can he really be that much of an asshole in real life?  Anyway, Val Kilmer does a good job in MacGruber.  He gets a couple funny lines in, although not as many as you’d hope, and he wears a pretty great Alex Godunov/ Chris Shiherlis ponytail through the whole thing.  My favorite part was when [SPOILER ALERT] he shows up scarred at the end and his deformities make him look even more like a lion than usual.  Maybe a big-screen Beauty And The Beast update might yet be the redemption of Val Kilmer.  Kristen Wiig can take the Linda Hamilton role.  You hear that, Kilmer?  Ideas are percolating.


So yeah, MacGruber the movie:  bad idea for the people who spent the money, but it had a bunch of good laughs, and at least it gave me the opportunity to give mention to the eternal awesomeness of Carl Weathers, and to make more Tango & Cash references than usual.  So for me, overall, it was worth it.