Decades Blogathon – The Lost Boys (1987)

Here’s a reblog of Thoughts All Sorts’ review of The Lost Boys to wrap up Day 3 in the 2017 Decades Blogathon. You’ll find this review on my esteemed co-host’s site, Three Rows Back. Thanks everyone!

three rows back

We’re onto Day 3 of the Decades Blogathon – ‘7’ edition – hosted by myself and Tom from the brilliant blog Thomas J.The blogathon focuses on movies that were released in the seventh year of the decade. Tom and I are running a different entry each day (we’ll also reblog the other’s post) and for today we’re tracking back to a movie where the hair was biiiig and there was death by stereo in 1987’s horror comedy The Lost Boys, covered by Catherine from Thoughts All Sorts.

Those ’80s. They were something weren’t they? I had a real good chuckle while watching The Lost Boys (1987) again. Had forgotten about the hairstyles, clothes and general ’80s feel. Remember those big Swatch wall watches?

The Lost Boys Poster

This is one that I probably watch more for nostalgic value than anything else. I clearly remember being allowed to rent two videos…

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Decades Blogathon – Stand By Me (1986)

1986

 

My apologies for a late posting today, folks. But better late than never, right? Joining in the discussion today we have Courtney from On the Screen Reviews. That site is a great one to go to if you’re looking for a variety of film reviews and yearly Top Tens. Check it out if you haven’t already, you won’t be sorry! Thanks again for helping us make this blogathon a great one Courtney, the floor is yours! 


Three Rows Back and Digital Shortbread are hosting the Decades Blogathon, a 10(ish) day event in which film critics take a look at movies from different decades. This month we’re choosing films from any decade with the year ending in ‘6’ (given that it’s now 2016), and there’s no restrictions.

For my contribution, I’ve chosen to cover the coming-of-age classic that made the train dodge a timeless pastime, Stand by Me.

You guys wanna see a dead body . . . ?

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“I was 12 going on 13 the first time I saw a dead human being. It happened in 1959, a long time ago, but only if you measure in term of years.”

With the overhaul of pre-teen movies that force your brain to regress in order to comprehend, it should be unanimously agreed that Stand by Me follows a blueprint of movie making that seems impossible to recreate. Recent movies like Super 8 attempted to capture youthful nostalgia, but didn’t dig deep enough to reach the gritty reality of adolescence. Stand by Me offers no gimmicks, no aliens, no gadgets, but raw human emotion.

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Stand by Me is a movie about four 12-year-old-boys living in a small town in Oregon around 1959 who go on a total boy adventure Labor Day weekend to find an undiscovered dead body. It’s narrated in present-day by a novelist (Richard Dreyfuss) who recalls the weekend that inspired his writing. (That old 80s computer tho! If that doesn’t resonate with you, I don’t know what will!!!)

Their weekend journey is the first taste of real life for the four boys and the last real taste of innocence; I think this is what resonates with viewers like myself the most. It eliminates the awkward introduction of girls into their lifestyle (because they haven’t reached that point in life yet), and focuses on more pertinent philosophical questions of that age like “Do you think Mighty Mouse can beat Superman?” Conversations around the campfire seem endless and pinky swears seem bound in blood.

The movie takes another risk filmmakers refuse to take today — it’s rated R! It’s unpretentious, hilarious and absolutely genuine with its plot and dialogue. Kids at the age of 12 are going to swear as much as this movie suggests, so why bleep it out? Stand by Me keeps it real, most notably with it’s script, which translates to some of the best scenes by young actors in cinematic history.

Here are some of my favorites scenes:

Teddy’s Freakout

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The movie really hones in on small town life and what it’s like to know everybody. In the junk yard scene where the crotchety man calls Teddy’s (Corey Feldman) father “a looney,” Teddy erupts, “I’m going to rip off your head and shit down your neck!” Firstly, what a creative and vulgarly descriptive insult! Teddy’s father allegedly stormed the beach at Normandy, and despite his father being total garbage to Teddy, he has the utmost respect for him. That’s commendable, and it unfolds layers of Teddy’s character that are deeper than one may anticipate. If it isn’t obvious, this movie really shows that boys have emotions too.

Kiefer Sutherland in any scene

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Kiefer Sutherland is a bona fide badass in this movie, and he’s one of the most believable assholes on screen in the 80s! It takes effort now-a-days to convince me that a character is the scum of the Earth, mostly due to poor acting or casting decisions, but Sutherland embodied every aspect of the sociopath Ace. Despite stealing every scene he’s in, the most character defining scene comes at the end where he affirms that he’s willing to kill a kid to get what he wants. Great acting and character embodiment by Sutherland. I would not fuck with him.

Train Dodge

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The train dodge scene is probably the scene most associated with the movie and one of my personal favorites. What I love about the train dodge is the giant metaphor being slammed in your face that the train is your life — it’s coming no matter what, and you damn sure better be ready for it. Not only is it one of the more hilarious, heart-pounding scenes, but it’s an affirmation that some kids can handle it and some can’t.

The Deer

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The deer scene comes as a breath of fresh air in-between dramatic scenes offering a reflection for both the character of Gordie and the audience. It showcases Gordie’s consciousness as a child in that he is in-tune with his creativity as an aspiring writer. There are also subtleties of the scene that I love — his smirk, the comic book he’s reading, the fact that no one else saw the deer and that he keeps the moment to himself . . . until now.

The Closing Scene

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“Chris did get out. He enrolled in the college-courses with me. And although it was hard, he gutted it out like he always did. He went onto college and eventually became a lawyer. Last week he entered a fast food restaurant. Just ahead of him, two men got into an argument. One of them pulled out a knife. Chris, who would always make the best peace tried to break it up. He was stabbed in the throat. He died almost instantly. Although I hadn’t seen him in more than ten years I know I’ll miss him forever.”

I think the last scene of the boys is probably one of the most relevant for the actors. The final shot of Chris Chambers (River Phoenix) walking into the distance slowly fading away is an eerie premonition of his actual fate of an overdose at the age of 23. The final scene really shows how friends grow apart in life, and that’s okay. The boys all have revelations that each is struggling with something whether it’s being bullied over weight or having an abusive parent . . . they all persevere and it shapes their characters. The character of Chris Chambers is one of my favorites, because despite coming from a crappy family situation, he had the ability to make his life better. It may sound cliche, but it shows the power of perseverance without the director making it overly showy.

This is a movie that resonates with me long after viewing and it’s really never left me.

Let me know your favorite scenes from the movie!  GIF 6


Photo credits: http://www.imdb.com 

TBT: Stand By Me (1986)

So since I couldn’t get my act together and decide on a theme for this month’s TBT reviews, we’re going to have another one of those random picks months, and that’s okay I guess because it’s only September. Plenty of time before the year’s out to make good on coming up with a scheduled list of films to watch and review for this feature. Today we have a good one. . . if you like movies about kids walking down railroad tracks, that is. (I do. I like those kinds of movies.) 

Today’s food for thought: Stand By Me.

Stand By Me movie poster

Looking for a dead body since: Friday, August 22, 1986

[Netflix]

Rob Reiner, channeling his strongest nostalgic tendencies, created a wonderful coming-of-age drama with the tale of four boys set out on their own to find the body of a missing local teen. As was the case with his masterpiece The Princess Bride, Stand By Me yearns for a simpler time when kids could just be free to roam, and other than worrying about the dropping of the nuclear bomb, adults had a slightly less pessimistic worldview.

Of course, his adaptation of the Stephen King novel — the most feel-good of all the King adaptations — wasn’t about the grown-ups. In fact, with the exception of the framing device of an older Gordie Lachance (Richard Dreyfuss) reflecting back on his childhood adventures after seeing a newspaper article about the death of one of his friends, a few short clips of Gordie’s parents and an old, crusty junkyard owner the film was essentially driven by child actors. An impressive feat, given how good the acting is; how deep the camaraderie between this ragtag group of boys goes.

We meet all four in a treehouse, where Gordie (Wil Wheaton), his best bud Chris Chambers (River Phoenix), the outspoken Teddy Duchamp (Corey Feldman), and the chubby, nervous and generally irritating Vern Tessio (Jerry O’Connell) are discussing the possibility of going out to find the body of a kid who went missing from their town of Castle Rock some time recently. Vern, having broached the subject, claims he got the idea after overhearing his older brother and his obnoxious friend talking about it. It takes these kids but a few minutes to decide that they want to be the ones who uncover the body. After all, they could become local heroes because of it. Over the next two days, they embark on a journey down a railroad line, an adventure that encompasses their collective past, present and future.

Stand By Me is aggressively enjoyable. From astute performances from such young actors to the simplistic yet creative setting, Reiner found a perfect mixture of tone and tempo in his lamenting over the fact that childhood is a bubble that pops far too easily. The film had to rely heavily on the camaraderie of our explorers in order to overcome the monotony of sticking to a never-ending railroad track while also depending on precise editing and a variety of scene changes so that the whole enterprise didn’t feel experimental. It’s pretty successful on all fronts.

Reiner’s use of the railroad linking the boys to a destiny marked by danger and loss of innocence was a stroke of genius. Rather than manifesting as an obligatory check list of items that needed to be ticked because of preconceived notions of what a coming-of-age drama is (or was), the events that come to define Stand By Me occur naturally and as close to extemporaneously as the most polished version of a script could possibly allow. The scrapyard break-in, the bridge crossing debacle, the leech-infested swamp — none of these eye-opening moments would have been possible if the story were told after-the-fact in that treehouse, or from any quaint locale in Castle Rock for that matter.

The film isn’t free of cliches of course. Personal fears of a mostly familial nature run the gamut from being unable to escape the past — the Chambers being widely known for their alcoholism and criminal activity — to being inadequate in a family (Gordie considers the loss of his older brother Denny to be the last time he felt any kind of attention from his parents) and to being psychologically and emotionally traumatized in an abusive household, as was the case for Teddy whose father was a war vet suffering from PTSD. It’s all stuff we’ve encountered before in these movies but familiar ground does not contribute to an overly familiar expedition.

Ultimately the film has the advantage of being even more interesting if we put ourselves in these kids’ shoes. If given the opportunity as a child to see a dead body, would we? At what age does the sanctity of a human life strike someone, and is it the same for everyone? What would a weekend trip like this do to us? If we were in their shoes, would we be tempted to kick Kiefer Sutherland’s ass? Stand By Me may have offered Sutherland one of his most ridiculous roles as a punk teenager on the hunt for the same kind of infamy as these boys, though it is far more memorable because of its investment in the preciousness of childhood, and being able to pinpoint the precise moment at which boys are no longer boys.

Recommendation: Stand By Me is a classic coming-of-ager, told through Rob Reiner’s sensitivity and deft humor. It’s also highly nostalgic for the years where not much seemed to matter apart from getting into trouble with your friends in the summer. Oh yeah, I guess this was set in the 50’s so you always had to keep an eye out for that dreaded nuclear bomb. I guess there was that. 

Rated: R

Running Time: 89 mins.

Quoted: “At the beginning of the school year, Vern had buried a quart jar of pennies underneath his house. He drew a treasure map so he could find them again. A week later, his mom cleaned out his room and threw away the map. Vern had been trying to find those pennies for nine months. Nine months, man. You didn’t know whether to laugh or cry.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.pinterest.com; http://www.imdb.com 

Pompeii

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Release: Friday, February 21, 2014

[Theater]

No warning. No escape. No plot. No problem. . .

. . .at least, to an extent. The thing about disaster films is that not a great deal is expected out of them, so it’s a little difficult to believe anyone who says they left the theater having seen one and felt nothing but disappointment. Were these people expecting some profound statement on the human condition whilst entire populations descended into chaos, or that certain and total annihilation metaphorically signaled “the beginning of something new” for all those involved?

Expectation levels for the genre are (or should be) uniformly pretty low: as long as big shit explodes in spectacular fashion, and a cute guy has a chance to meet (and maybe even finally kiss) a cute gal, everyone should go home happy. The forced romance that appears in virtually every story involving a natural catastrophe proves these sorts of things aren’t the entertainment one seeks out for a cerebral exercise. By that token its also proof that disaster films are orgies in which the eyeball gets to participate.

But for Pompeii, I’m going to play devil’s advocate and risk undermining everything I just have argued for above. This film had real potential to rise above the smoldering ashes of typical special effects-laden action films. Is this the one that can buck the trend?

Given that this one is based on real events and that its first half concerns itself with the lives of slaves who are converted into bloodthirsty gladiators, there was hope. However, a certain level of dissatisfaction comes from the fact that the solitary goal of the film then becomes showing how destructive Mother Nature can be by building up a romance and destroying it just as quickly. If we can’t appreciate that an entire city is about to be scorched into the ground (literally) perhaps there’s a chance we feel empathy towards a young love about to go down in flames. . . . (Sorry for the pun. I was actually really hoping to keep this one free of those, but. . . guess not.)

Milo (Kit Harington) bore witness to his entire family and townspeople’s butchering as a wee lad, at the hands of the terrible Senator Corvus (Kiefer Sutherland) and Proculus (Sasha Roiz). Subsequently sold into slavery as an orphan, Milo would know no other life than misery. That’s until a horse changes everything. That’s right, a horse. No, not the Trojan thing that tricked a bunch of stupid people into lowering their guard, but the kind that falls over when the carriage it’s pulling hits a convenient pothole in the dirt road. Milo requests that he be let off the chain to help the horse and get the high-ranking officials, including the token girl Cassia (Emily Browning), on their way to the festival that’s ongoing in the beautiful bay area of Pompeii, a town tucked into the foothills of an ominous-looking volcano — Mt. Vesuvius.

Milo’s single act of kindness scores him some brownie points with the beautiful daughter of Pompeii’s ruler Severus (Jared Harris) and wife, Aurelia (Carrie-Anne Moss), a development intended to create the romantic heartbeat of this ill-fated story. However, this is a woefully underdeveloped relationship that distracts from an otherwise action-packed affair. It’s so poorly realized in fact, that in one fell swoop my theory is confirmed that the only two things needed in the disaster film are dramatic explosions that cause bystanders to go flying into things that you really don’t want to go flying into, and the compulsory romance element. But this is a romance without romance at all. It doesn’t help that neither the acting nor the script are very sturdy.

What’s more to the point here, though, is that director Paul W.S. Anderson chooses to introduce historical weight to the proceedings and then bails on the idea at the last second. Gladiator battles may extend into the ending moments, but they exist at this point just as an excuse to show the badassery set against an even more badass backdrop. Watching Milo (a.k.a. ‘The Celt’) duke it out with his sworn enemies in Corvus and Proculus while fireballs are falling like bombs around them is entertaining to a certain degree. But the fighting is academic knowing that this mountain has just blown its top.

Other options Anderson might have explored include the politics of Roman Emperor Titus (who never makes an appearance in the film) and how the town of Pompeii is directly impacted by them; or how about the devastation and its impact on the Roman empire? Even the nature of Milo and Cassie’s so-called love affair and how it goes against the grain of relationships in this hostile society could have been intriguing if we were shown specifically why it was a forbidden love and not just told that it was so. For all of the attention the director gives Harrington and Browning, he doesn’t know how to make them matter in the slightest. Hence the disappointingly quiet conclusion.

With that said, it’s a simple-minded outing and because it is, there shouldn’t be much of a surprise that Pompeii is nothing more than middling. The marketing for the film blasted any hopes of this being an accurate rendering of a terrifying time in Italy’s colorful history. When the promotional poster features a couple kissing before an erupting giant like Mt. Vesuvius, we knew we were being duped before the duping officially began. All the same, the film upholds at least part of the bargain: the action sequences are intense. When the volcano decides to rain all over everyone’s parade (or Senator Corvus’ rigged gladiator battle, if you rather) the action is relentless until the end.  As well, the sparring and fighting earns its keep, even despite the glaring lack of blood and gore that should accompany any gladiator fight.

So the disaster film that is Pompeii is ultimately predictable and frustratingly lackluster in equal doses but it finds a way to maintain interest in the action/adrenaline department. As well, the eruption effects are impressive. This is no Dante’s Peak, Volcano or other volcanic activity-related films whose CGI now look embarrassing by comparison.

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2-5Recommendation: Genre fans will find the last half of the film quite entertaining, but even these folks are sure to find the many cracks in the story disappointing, maybe even irritating. Given the set-up in the first hour, the climax is less than it should be, considering we know what exactly awaits this town when the mountain/gods eventually lose its/their temper. This is a pretty easy one to avoid, at least until it becomes available for streaming.

Rated: PG-13

Running Time: 98 mins.

Quoted: “The slave that lives earns their freedom.”

All content originally published and the reproduction elsewhere without the expressed written consent of the blog owner is prohibited.

Photo credits: http://www.impawards.com; http://www.imdb.com