Sunday, March 1, 2015

Cobra (George P. Cosmatos, 1986)

How long do you think the members of so-called "New Order" knock their axes together? I'm no expert when it comes to ritualistic axe knocking, but I'd say no longer than five minutes. Sure, the Night Slasher, their non-charismatic leader, can knock axes till the cows come home (he has the upper body strength to handle a full day's worth of axe knocking). But what about those of us who can't hack it? (get it, hack it). We've got axes to knock, too. Or, I should say, we've got axes to grind, too (man, I'm on fire today). Is there no place for weaklings in the New Order? Even though only me and probably around five other people thought this, I still think the axe knocking sequence that opens Cobra, a glorified commercial for Pepsi and Coors, was what inspired the music video for "New Mind," the opening track from Swans' Children of God album. Granted, no axes are knocked together, but there's plenty of axe swinging. Anyway, as any child of the 1980s will tell you, the poster for this movie was everywhere during the spring of 1986. And even though Sylvester Stallone is the epitome of lame, the shot of him on the poster wearing his signature aviator sunglasses holding a Jatimatic SMG below a tagline that reads: "Crime is a disease. Meet the cure," is the stuff of one-sheet legend.

This leads to the question: Does Cobra live up to its poster? Yes, I realize this question should have been answered years ago, but now is a good a time as any. Nonetheless, you could say the poster and the movie are exactly the same. Both are flat and square. Zing!

Seriously, did you see that photo of Ronald Reagan on the wall of Lieutenant Cobretti's office? Ugh! I have no problem with people admiring Ronald Reagan nowadays (time has a habit of distorting history). But admiring him during 1980s?!? That's just plain wrong.

Moving on, since Sylvester Stallone and Brigitte Nielsen both possess a minimal grasp of the English language, it's up to Lee Garlington to carry the brunt of the film's linguistic burden. Oh, wait, that's right, she only has a handful of lines. That being said, the way she says the word, "Yes," in response to the query: Are you drunk?" was the best line delivery of the entire film.

(Um, the line is actually: "Have you been drinking or something?") Either way, her delivery of the word "yes" was spot-on. Okay, now that we cleared that up, let's circle back and try to sort through this humongous turd in a calm and rational manner.

I'll give the filmmakers some credit, the opening credits are pretty cool. Sure, they begin with  Marion 'Cobra' Cobretti (Sylvester Stallone) reciting crime statistics in an overly serious manner, but I liked the way the shot of a man riding a motorcycle was edited together with footage of the New Order knocking their axes together.

It turns out that the guy on the motorcycle (Marco Rodríguez) is a member of the New Order and he's heading to a nearby supermarket to cause a little trouble.

Pulling out a shotgun, the so-called "Supermarket Killer" blows away the produce section. At first I thought he had a grudge against veggies, but it's clear that his agenda has got nothing to do with the evils of asparagus. Holding a group of shoppers hostage, the Supermarket Killer demands that he get access to the media. While the cops (lead by Detective Andrew Robinson and Captain Art LaFleur) have the store surrounded, they're at a loss. Realizing that he's probably going to regret saying it, Art LaFleur suggests they call Cobra.

Now, I don't know what it is about Cobra that makes him so special (as far as I know he has no superpowers). Nevertheless,  Lieutenant Cobra saunters into the store without a care in the world. How do I know he was carefree? Let's just say people who walk around in public with a unlit matchsticks in their mouths are the definition of carefree; they're also the definition of pompous jackasses, but let's try to focus on one thing at a time.

Personally, I think he's perfect for this particular job because he doesn't seem to care about the rules. Yeah, I think that's it. Oh, and, by the way, the reason Cobra doesn't care about the rules is because he plays by his own rules.

Case in point: When the Supermarket Killer threatens to blow up the store with a bomb, Cobra replies: "Go ahead... I don't shop here." See what I mean?

When he's done taking care of the shotgun-wielding psycho at the supermarket,  Lieutenant Cobra heads home to eat cold pizza and clean his gun. He would have gotten home sooner had it not been for the unruly Hispanic gang members who decide to harass the hard-boiled cop outside his apartment. Wait a minute, I think I got it the other way around. Call me crazy, but I think Cobra was the instigator. Think about it, the Hispanic gang members were simply minding their own business when this colossal douche comes along and starts causing shit.

As you might expect, it's tough to root for the film's hero when he's so thoroughly unpleasant. That being said, the film's villain, the Night Slasher (Brian Thompson), isn't that appealing either. I know, he's not supposed to be "appealing." But other than the axe knocking thing and that freaky-looking knife he carries, there isn't really much to this guy.

What this film needs is a montage. One that features Sylvester Stallone shaking down lowlifes and Brigitte Nielsen posing for pictures set to "Angel of the City" by Robert Tepper. Yeah, this is what it needs and this is what it delivers.

The best thing about this montage is the fact that "Angel of the City" drowns out Sylvester Stallone's dialogue. Screw that noise. The best thing about this montage is the sight of Brigitte Nielsen posing up a storm for a robot-themed, wig-tastic photo shoot. Work it, girl!

After Brigitte Nielsen's Ingrid witnesses the New Order murder a woman at the side of the road, she finds herself in their cross-hairs for the rest of the movie. Anyone care to guess who's put in charge of protecting Ingrid? That's right, Lieutenant Marion 'Cobra' Cobretti. And, yep, his real name is "Marion."

Since staying in the city is not a viable option (both Ingrid and Cobra are nearly killed by the New Order), they decide to relocate to the country. And it's during this relocation period that Brigitte Nielsen says to Sylvester Stallone: "Can ask you something?" When I heard her say this, I was like, Noooooo! Why would you want to ask Sylvester Stallone ask something? Nothing good can come from this. And just like I predicted, nothing good does come from this. If I had to sum up this movie using only one word, it would be: Asinine.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Passion of Darkly Noon (Philip Ridley, 1995)

When I saw a blonde Ashley Judd slowly emerge from the ceaseless forest wearing a pair of blue jeans at the beginning of The Passion of Darkly Noon, I thought to myself: Does she really think she's going to arouse the unseasoned genitals attached to Brendan Fraser's hulking man-structure while wearing a pair of blue jeans? I don't think so. Forget about Brendan's genitals, what about yours? What about mine? The writer-director of this film, Philip Ridley (The Reflecting Skin), seems like an intelligent guy, but if he expects us to believe that Ashley Judd can enkindle the junk of others with just her winning smile, he's in for a nasty surprise. Of course, anyone who's vaguely familiar with this deeply weird, yet highly rewarding  motion picture knows, I'm being a tad facetious. To be honest, though, I was somewhat alarmed when I saw what Ashley Judd was wearing in her first scene. That being said, I think it's safe to say that Ashley Judd and trousers aren't exactly on speaking terms in this film.

Seriously, I don't think I've ever seen a performance that was this, uh, how you say? Pantless. Oh, sure, the great Gisele Lindley in Richard Elfman's Forbidden Zone and the even greater Lois Ayres in Gregory Dark's The Devil in Miss Jones 3 and 4, are technically pantless for a much longer period. But those films are outlandish and farcical. This film is...

Actually, now that I think about it, The Passion of Darkly Noon and the two three films I just cited are not that different. And I'm not just talking about their affinity for pantless female characters. No, there's definitely something off about this film. And I don't mean off as in, rotten or bad, there's just something askew about it. You could say, off-center.

The first thing that clued me in regarding this film's off-ness was the fact that all the action takes place within a single location. Granted, this location, like I said earlier, is next to a ceaseless forest. But still, I prefer movies that have small casts, yet contain big ideas. (Oooh, I like that.) And you can't get any bigger than the erection Ashley Judd's sweaty gams cause Brendan Fraser to sport in this movie.

While, to the uninitiated, what I just said might come across as vulgar and crass, it's 100% true.

As in Blast from the Past, Encino Man and, to a lesser extent, Gods and Monsters, Brendan Fraser plays a character who is thrust into a world/set of circumstances that he does not fully understand. And just like in those films, Brendan Fraser's Darkly Noon experiences feelings of love and lust for very first time. The only difference being, he doesn't wear a barbed-wire undershirt, cover his body in red paint and hang out with Grace Zabriskie in her backwoods trailer in any of those other films.

Oh, and, yes, his name is "Darkly Noon." Thankfully, though, Ashley Judd's Callie decides to call him Lee. Even though Darkly's explanation in regard to his unique moniker makes sense, I don't think I, or anyone else, want to hear Ashley Judd yelling "Darkly" every five minutes.

Surprisingly, the first thing to grab my attention wasn't the sight of Ashley Judd prancing about in skimpy flower dresses. No, it was the amazing score by Nick Bicât and John de Borman's lush cinematography. However, since the entire film can't be made up entirely of John de Borman's photography set to the music of Nick Bicât, a confused and bewildered Brendan Fraser is thrown into the mix.

Staggering through the woods, Brendan eventually collapses in the middle of a dirt road. After nearly being run over by Jude (Loren Dean), he is put in the back of his truck and taken to Callie's house. And so begins, the passion of Darkly Noon.

At first I was like, the "passion" in the film's title refers to a strong sexual desire. But then I realized that it also refers to the suffering and death of Jesus. While I prefer to think the title refers to the former, you can't ignore the latter, because Brendan Fraser's character is a tad on the churchy side. Hell, his name, Darkly Noon, was taken from the Bible: (1 Corinthians 13), "Now we see through a glass, darkly..." But don't worry, I'll try to shun that aspect of the film for the rest of this review, as I would I really like to focus my attention on, yep, you guessed it, Ashley Judd's organic structure and how it's responsible for unfurling a plethora of crotch-based anomalies.

Just for the record, I'm going to go ahead and assume that Brendan Fraser's character was a member of some kind of Branch Davidian-style sect; one that just suffered a Waco-style raid.

A dazed Darkly Noon stumbles downstairs to find Callie napping on her porch swing. And, after some getting to know each other chit chat, Callie shows Darkly where he'll be sleeping; in the attic of a nearby barn.

At the beginning of the "Third Day," Darkly wakes up to the sight of Callie fixing her roof. Now, given the angle in which he was standing and the upskirt-friendly manner that Callie was hammering, it's obvious that Darkly will never be the same again. What I think I'm trying to say is: Dang! Talk about your crotch-based anomalies.

Just as I about to declare Ashley Judd's character as too nice, she grabs a rifle and starts firing wildly into the ceaseless forest. Of course, the reason she does this is Grace Zabriske-based. But then again, we don't know this yet. However, the moment I heard gunfire, I had a strong feeling Grace Zabriske was the one responsible.

While Ashley Judd's Callie exposes Darkly to vice (smoking, drinking, unorthodox pea preparation, love and legginess), Grace Zabriske's Roxie manages to convince him that his "guardian angel" is in fact a witch.

To make matters worse, the arrival of Clay (Viggo Mortensen), Callie's mute boyfriend (a carpenter who makes coffins for the local undertaker), does nothing but exacerbate things, as Darkly's dream of wooing the slinky seductress is pretty much dead. A perceptive Jude notices this (his lovesick glaring is hard to miss) and tries to set Darkly straight.

Unfortunately, it would seem that Jude's talk had little effect on him, as Roxie's influence on Darkly grows stronger as the film progresses.

As I sort of stated earlier, Brendan Fraser is perfect for this type of role; the dunderheaded fish-out-of-water. Ashley Judd is radiant and leggy as all get out. And I think I can safely declare this to be Grace Zabriske's finest performance outside of the David Lynch universe. Boasting mild surrealist touches here and there (giant floating silver shoe, anyone?), The Passion of Darkly Noon is a rare gem of a movie: mid-90s weirdness featuring an all-star cast. It's like Lake Consequence on crack... or is it?!?

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Turkish Mad Max (Çetin Inanç, 1983)

Are they cops? I doubt it. Are they secret agents? In a past life maybe. Are they badasses? Most definitely. Oh, hi, don't mind me, I'm just trying to determine the profession of the three lead characters in Turkish Mad Max (a.k.a. Ölüme Son Adim or Last Step To Death), come for the excessive coin tossing, stay for the crazy amount of upskirts, or, I should say, stay for the crazy amount of Turkish upskirts. (What's the difference between a Turkish upskirt and a non-Turkish upskirt?) I don't know, what's the difference? (Um, no. I was, uh, hoping you might tell me.) I know, I'm just fucking with you. While I would love to explain to you (in unnecessarily intricate detail) the difference between a Turkish upskirt and a non-Turkish upskirt, I don't think it would be fair to those who haven't experienced the mind-blowing spectacle that is this motion picture. Let me put this way, once you witness a Turkish upskirt, all other upskirts will seem yawn-worthy by comparison.

Believe it or not, there's more to Turkish Mad Max than Turkish upskirts... (You mean Turkish continuity errors?) Very funny. I was actually referring Turkish bikini babes, Turkish leggy floozies, Turkish drinking contests and Turkish kung-fu (which I like to call "Turk-fu," because the participants are Turks, you know, as opposed to non-Turkish Chinese dudes).

(Well played, my friend. Or, I should say, my Turkish friend. Clearly annoyed by my attempt to mock your habit of putting the word "Turkish" before almost everything that takes place in this film, you managed to turn my veiled attack on your unique brand of idiocy and transform it into something that is on the cusp of being clever. Kudos.)

Thanks, it's what I do.

Now, where was I? Oh, yeah, Turkish Mad Max. I think I was extolling the soft, yet surprisingly sturdy virtues of Emel Tümer's Turkish thighs. What's that? You're saying I have made no mention of Emel Tümer's Turkish thighs up until this point?!? That can't be right. Let me double check.

Well, I did mention Turkish leggy floozies. But, as most people know, there's a big difference between Turkish leggy floozies and Turkish thighs that are soft yet sturdy. More importantly, Emel Tümer is no Turkish leggy floozy. She's a Turkish goddess. I'd even go as far as to say that Emel Tümer is one of the most attractive women I've ever seen. I mean, hell, even her Turkish machine gun face is sexy.

(I know I'm going to regret asking this, but what exactly is a "Turkish machine gun face"?)

It's simple, really. Unable to produce muzzle flashes for their prop machine guns, writer-director Çetin Inanç and his crew would instruct the cast to shake their heads during close-ups in order to mimic the movements one might experience while firing an automatic weapon.

In some cases, they were able to add muzzle flashes during post-production. But for the most part, the cast,  Emel Tümer in particular, were told to employ their Turkish machine gun face. And since Emel Tümer  is so freakin' hot in this movie, her innate sex appeal could not be dampened by the spastic rigors of fake machine gun usage. Anyway, I hope that answers your question.

It's obvious right from the get-go that Kagan (Cüneyt Arkin) is one agile mother-scratcher. Infiltrating the hideout of a notorious drug kingpin with a quiet brand of efficiency, Kagen suddenly changes  tactics when he unleashes a thunderous cacophony of kicks and punches in the general direction of the hapless henchmen that have been haphazardly put in his way.

Eventually cornering the lead drug dealer in his office, Kagan forces him to eat a bag of heroin while a babe in a yellow bikini watches in horror.

Patiently awaiting the arrival of the fedora-wearing henchmen that have no doubt been sent to "take care" of him in response to his recent drug den busting shenanigans, Kagan calmly plays cards on his bed. I know, you're thinking to yourself, how is Kagan going to prevent these thugs from doing him grave bodily harm? After all, they're packing some serious heat. It's simple, really, he stabs them. (All of them?) It's no secret, Kagan rarely ever leaves the house without at least ten knives.

Impressed by Kagan's ability to overcome adversity, another gangster decides to seek out his services. Feeding him a load of nonsense about rescuing some professor (one who has apparently developed a revolutionary leukemia medicine) from a gang of militants, the gangster (a real twitchy bastard) manages to convince Kagan to take the job.

It would seem that one of the perks of being a low-life in this film's universe is that every room comes equipped with either a leggy floozy or a bikini babe. In the case of Saban (Yildirim Gencer), a tactical expert and frequent coin toss loser, his room has been furnished with a bikini babe.

Making out with a bikini babe in a periwinkle bikini while Turkish disco pop blasts on the soundtrack, Saban is living the life. Not only is his bikini babe shapely in all the places, she's... uh... I seemed to have lost my train of thought.

After some playful leg pulling, Kagan asks Saban to accompany him on his mission to rescue the professor.

While it's a tough assignment, Kagan and Saban manage to rescue the professor. The End.

(Wait a minute, what about Emel Tümer and her many Turkish upskirts?) Oh yeah, I'm sorry about that. They must have slipped my mind. Just kidding. If anything, Turkish upskirts are always on my mind.

When Kagan and Saban approach Emel Tümer's character, oh, let's call her, Yağmur, she's doing what most Turkish women do in their spare time: Participate in beer drinking contests.

Wearing a teal and black-ish polka dot dress, tan pantyhose, white panties and cyan new wave space boots, Yağmur is currently drinking this shirtless lout under the table.

(If Yağmur, like you say, is wearing a dress, how do you know her panties are white?)

Two words: Turkish upskirt.

Clearly annoyed that the guy they put their money on lost the beer drinking contest, the soused rabble become belligerent and start pawing at Yağmur in an aggressive manner. In order to placate the mob's grabby advances, Yağmur employs a combination of punches and kicks. And since the act of kicking involves the raising of one's leg in an upward fashion, Yağmur's pantyhose and pantie-ensnared crotch area would briefly see the light of day during the implementation of each kick.

And since the bar is packed with unruly drunks, that means Yağmur is going to have to be doing a lot of kicking. And more kicking means more Turkish upskirts. What a country!

In later scenes, Yağmur can be seen wearing short shorts. Now, you would think, given the non-skirt temperament that short shorts repeatedly put out there, that there would be a major shortage of Turkish upskirts in Turkish Mad Max from this point on. You don't think the director is going to let a tiny swath of denim prevent him from giving us the Turkish upskirts we crave? Think again.

In a weird twist, Yağmur is wearing denim short shorts when she begins her descent down a cliffside, but she is clearly wearing a denim skirt when she finishes her descent. Did she change outfits mid-descent? Who's to say? All I know is, if you're thinking about getting into Turkish cinema, only an idiot wouldn't start their journey off with Turkish Mad Max. If you can't find it, try Head-On, that one's good, too.