October 23, 2012

COBRA: How Not To Eat Pizza

Starring Sylvester Stallone, Brigitte Nielsen, Reni Santoni, Andrew Robinson, Brian Thompson, Art LaFluer. Directed by George P. Cosmatos. (1986, 87 min).

This movie tortures me. It's either the one of the cleverest movies of all time or one of the dumbest.

I’ve watched Cobra several times over the years since it came out in '86. I’ll probably watch the damn thing several more times just trying to figure it out, because I’m convinced Mr. Stallone is trying to mess with my head.

Marion Corbretti (Stallone) is the baddest member of the Zombie Squad, L.A. cops who handle the jobs no one else wants (I didn’t know cops were allowed to pick their cases). We first meet Cobretti (aka ‘Cobra’) when he’s called in to deal with a shotgun-toting psycho who's blowing away customers at a supermarket. Cobra roars up in a nitro-feuled, Titanic-sized hot rod. Decked-out in a skin-tight black T-shirt, even tighter jeans, boots, sculpted hair, mirrored shades, leather gloves and a toothpick in his jaw, Cobra makes Duke Nukem look like Justin Long. He strolls into the darkened store, finds his quarry, pops open a beer, takes a drink, tosses out a casual one-liner (“You're the disease...I'm the cure”) and blows the guy away. At no time does he remove his sunglasses.

It's at this point I'm wondering if this is supposed to be a comedy, because the whole scene is pretty damned funny, which actually makes sense when you consider Cobra began life as Sylvester Stallone’s rewrite of Beverly Hills Cop back when he was originally offered the role. Anyway, even though he saves the day, Cobra is berated by a dumbass reporter for killing the man, never mind that the perp already slaughtered several innocent people.

After another productive day of blowing folks away, Cobra retreats to his Malibu apartment. This is where the movie really gets weird. First, he turns on the TV so it can inform us of the movie's plot...a string of random axe-killings. While he's watching TV and cleaning his gun, Cobra takes a slice of leftover pizza from his freezer and uses a pair of scissors to cut off a little triangle for himself...still wearing his gloves. Then he eats it frozen.

I've occasionally seen folks use a knife and fork to eat pizza, which is somewhat anal-retentive to begin with...but scissors? Raise your hand if you've ever thought a slice of pizza was so unmanageable you felt the need to cut it into smaller pieces. And even if you are OCD, would scissors ever come-to-mind as the perfect tool for the job?

Surely, Cobra must be a comedy, because this is the most random, off the wall and downright weird scene I've ever witnessed in an action movie. And, yes, it's funny as hell.

Then the killings start. People are stalked and slaughtered by a group of axe-wielding lunatics, apparently doing this to create their own New World. They are led by a perpetually-sweaty guy called the Night Slasher (Brian Thompson), whose nostrils flare so huge you could park your car in them, and whose eyes threaten to pop out of his skull like an overly-excited Pomeranian. We're also treated to several backlit scenes of this cult ceremoniously raising their axes over their heads and clanking them together.

Okay...maybe Cobra is still a comedy...just a black comedy.

Then this cult makes a mistake. They leave a living witness to one of their killings, a fashion model named Ingrid, played by Brigitte Nielsen (who was Stallone's girlfriend at the time). We know she's a model by the hilarious photo shoot where she poses seductively among robots which look like there were constructed from shit kids find in the garage. Speaking of Ms. Nielsen, even though I always thought she looked like a man in drag (especially in recent years), I gotta admit Cobra is one movie where she doesn't look half bad (though he thespian skills are still all bad).

"Dude...how's my hair?"

Fearing the Night Slasher will come after her, Cobra and his thankless partner, Tony (Reni Santoni), are assigned to protect her. The two also fight over her hospital food in yet-another WTF scene (there are actually a lot of strange scenes related to food). Tony reassures Ingrid that no one is better than Cobra at catching psychos, yet the audience never actually gets to witness this supposed talent. In fact, Cobra does no real detective work throughout the entire movie. Most of the time, he's running away from these psychos with Ingrid & Tony in-tow, occasionally riddling them with bullets when they get too close.

Speaking of which, the Night Slasher's cult army must consist of the biggest dumbasses to ever walk the Earth, as exemplified during a scene in which they are chasing Cobra & Ingrid on motorcycles. Cobra's in the bed of a pick-up, spraying machine gun fire at his pursuers, who drop like flies as they are gunned down. Do the others make any attempt to avoid dying? No. They keep coming (not even swerving out of the way), only to be gunned down themselves. It's like my annual battle with ants in my kitchen. It doesn't matter how many ants I dispatch with spray, traps or the good-old-fashioned fist, the other ants don't get the message and keep on coming.

Surely this must be a comedy...right?

But it's not all mayhem. Halfway through, there's the get-to-know-you scene where Cobra comments on the amount of ketchup Ingrid put on her fries (yet another random food scene), followed by a romantic interlude where Ingrid has the hots for Cobra. When she tries to get close, he warns her, “Not a lot of people like the way I live.” I don't know if this statement is supposed to signify his dedication to his job, his 'rebellious loner' status or his penchant for using office supplies to cut his food. I guess it doesn't matter, because Cobra and Ingrid end up doing doing the nasty anyway.

Anyway, by the end, after all the violent heroics, bloodshed, corny dialogue and the concluding scene where Cobra & Ingrid ride off into the sunset on a Harley to yet-another synthesized 80's tune, I'm still left with this quandary: Is this supposed to be a an ironic black comedy, or the most cynical vanity project in Sylvester Stallone's entire filmography? This very question might make Cobra one of his most watchable movies.

Even after all these years, long after I finally understood the final scene in 2001: A Space Odyssey, I'm still tortured by why Marion Cobretti feels the need to use scissors to cut his pizza.

October 14, 2012

Highly-Debatable Lists: Top 25 Magic Movie Numbers

Of course, anyone who grew up in the 70s knows that 3 is the magic number. But in Hollywood, there are many more. This is FKMG's highly-debatable list of the most important, commonly-recurring and/or trivial numbers everyone needs to know about the movies.

Click here for FKMG's Top 25 Magic Movie Numbers

October 11, 2012

6 DISNEY Classics Featuring Lines From Other Movies

“Now here’s two words for you…shut the fuck up.”

“Ever seen a grown man naked?”

“If I were the man I was five years ago, I’d take a flamethrower to this place!”

“I’ma get medieval on yo ass!”

“I knew it…I’m surrounded by assholes.”

“When there’s no more room in Hell…the dead will WALK THE EARTH!”

October 10, 2012

CD Review: 'BEST OF BOND...JAMES BOND: 50 Years, 50 Tracks'

For me, the sign of a good CD is based on how long it stays in my stereo whenever I'm in my car. A good CD plays non-stop for about a week; a great one serves as a soundtrack for my drive and almost never gets old. And really, doesn't having James Bond music cranking from the speakers of your SUV make perfect sense?

Besides, anyone who loves movies has gotta give some love to the music of James Bond films, particularly the traditional title tracks. In a way, these songs have marked the time in the ongoing Bond saga, as well as reflecting popular musical tastes of their time. For many of us, the older tunes bring back a flood of nostalgia, and the second disc in this collection, consisting of a lot of incidental music and lesser-known songs, will have those same folks going, "Hey, I remember that scene!" This latest updated collection in the Best of Bond CD series is arguably one of the coolest pop culture time capsules you can own.

Disc one contains every title song from Dr. No (the original Bond theme) through Quantum of Solace. Sure, some have aged better than others, though it's almost impossible to hear Shirley Bassey belt out "Goldfingaaah!" without a shit-eating grin on your face. Of the other 60's era tunes, "You Only Live Twice" is arguably Nancy Sinatra's second-finest moment as a recording artist.

What's really surprising about this collection, considering the typical Bond purist's tendency to only show affection for the old stuff, is how good some of the latter-day title tunes really are. Sure, there's some clunkers, like Madonna's techno, autotuned crap (ironic, since she can actually sing), but the songs by Sheryl Crow, Duran Duran, Garbage and Chris Cornell are terrific modern tunes, yet they still retain that classic, exotic 'Bondness.'

Most of disc two consists of selections from the film scores themselves. You won't know them by their titles, but will be able to instantly identify them within seconds after they begin. It's a virtual treasure trove of music for anyone obsessed with the Bond series. It's kinda cool seeing how the scores evolved over the years, depending on the composer, yet still seem part of a cohesive whole. This disc also features an amusing techno-adaptation by Moby of the original James Bond theme, complete with well-placed audio samples.

On the other hand, this second disc is somewhat marred by the inclusion of songs by lesser-known artists which don't equal the quality of the title tracks on disc one (including two by The Pretenders, neither of which will be remembered as their finest moments). I would think most Bond fans would prefer more tracks culled from the various scores.

All-in-all though, this two-disc set is definitely worth picking up by any Bond fan. As for me, whenever I get into the car, I like to have just the right music to serve as the soundtrack for my drive, whether it's to the grocery store or our monthly trek to my mother-in-law's house. This one serves both purposes quite nicely, and won't leave my car for a long time.

October 8, 2012

FINAL DESTINATION Series: Quality Father-Daughter Time

Starring Devon Sawa, Ali Larter, Seann William Scott, A.J. Cook, Michael Landes, Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Bobby Campo, Nicholas D'Agosto, Molly Harper, Miles Fisher & Tony Todd. Various Directors. (2000-2011).

Not too long ago, my youngest daughter, Lucy, celebrated her ninth birthday. She invited some friends over to the house. Accompanied by their parents, the kids engaged in the usual party activities: games, prizes, all the cake, ice cream and candy they could ingest before running around crazily from the sugar rush. And of course, there were presents.

Lucy got lots of Barbies, coloring books & Polly Pockets from her friends, gifts probably picked out by parents at the last minute before coming to the party (like we always do whenever our kids are invited to one). Lucy was gracious and made sure to thank each of her friends. She hadn't yet opened the gifts from the family. We were planning on doing that when the party was over and everyone left, but after she gave us the Puss-in-Boots face, we relented and allowed her to open just one.

She selected the single gift I chose, a little last-minute surprise I picked up on the way home from work the day before...a box of all five Final Destination movies.

You should have seen the looks I got from the moms who chose to stay for the party, especially since most of them knew I was a teacher. I knew what they were thinking...

That's no gift for an impressionable nine-year-old...So much for my kid ever coming here for a sleepover...What's in the other packages, a water bong and a bag of weed?

For those of you thinking the same thing, don't worry, I'm saving the bong & weed for her twelfth birthday.

Despite the confused faces of her friends expecting Strawberry Shortcake videos, and a few parent scowls of disapproval, Lucy was ecstatic. She's been my horror buddy on weekends for a couple of years, and we'd already watched the Parts 1-3 in the Final Destination series together, as well as Part 5. She'd been hounding me to see the fourth one (simply titled The Final Destination), which I did not own because it's really shitty. I tried to tell her this, but she still wanted to see it for herself. Unfortunately, the only place I found it was in a boxed set with all the other ones. So I snatched it up, confident she'd be amused.

And she was, because she loves these movies, and they all have the exact same plot. Each one opens with a spectacular disaster that would make Irwin Allen proud, but a few characters manage to cheat death because our hero has a premonition beforehand. Death doesn't like this, so he invisibly stalks them one by one, arranging elaborate, chain-event 'accidents' for these poor saps. Someone dies about every ten minutes or so until there's no one left to kill. End of movie.

Lucy & I watch them late at night after Mom's asleep, and our typical conversion goes something like this whenever someone's about to die:

Lucy: Ooh, Daddy...what's gonna happen? (She occasionally covers her eyes, but not often)
Dad: I'm not gonna tell you. Just watch, honey.
Lucy (curling up and clutching her blanket): Is he gonna get away?
Dad: You'll see.
(Nasty-ass death ensues)
Lucy: That's gross. How'd they do that?

Though they are plenty-bloody, the last thing the Final Destination movies are is scary (they're really kinda funny in a twisted way). They're more like gory Road Runner cartoons than horror films. Like the hapless Wile E. Coyote, we know nearly every single character is doomed. The only real suspense is wondering how they die, and if you've ever seen one of these movies, you know the deaths are elaborate, ridiculous and extreme, like psychotic Rube Goldberg concoctions.

Can you match each picture with the Final Destination movie it appears in? Maybe you should ask yourself if it even matters.

More importantly, these movies may not be art, but they are fun (well, me & Lucy think they are...my wife thinks we're sick), with simple plots even an eight-year-old can appreciate without suffering a sleepless night in fear of a similar fate. Sure, the movies are gross, but most kids love gross shit, even the gory gross shit, especially if presented as cartoonishly as in Final Destination. Those mothers at Lucy's party, eyeballing me in disapproval, are living in denial if they think otherwise about their own kids.

You know what really scares kids? When they see horrors which happen to characters close to their own age...the flying monkeys attacking Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz, the child-eating tree in Poltergeist, the kid on an inflatable raft who's gobbled by a shark in Jaws, the mother's death in Bambi.

The shit that happens in the Final Destination movies is outside their own scope of reality, because the victims are all bland teenagers & twenty-somethings. Kids don't have any connection to characters like this, just like they have no idea what's its like to be a gangly coyote whose efforts to secure a meal results in failure every time. Plus, while the villain is a supernatural one, it isn't the devil or a vengeful spirit (which some kids are brought up to believe are real); nor is it a real-life monster getting off on torturing innocent people. I think most kids are plenty smart enough to know that Death, as an conscious entity, doesn't exist. Well, my kids are, anyway.

As far as Lucy is concerned, she knows the Final Destination movies are just that...movies meant to make you squirm in your seat in suspense, or go "eeeew" at an elaborately-staged demise. None of them have ever given her nightmares, though she did leave the room during the laser-eye-surgery fuck-up in Part 5 (but, hey...whose isn't squeamish about eye trauma?).

Anyway, long after the birthday party was over and Mom went to bed, Lucy, ever the night-owl, pestered me into watching FD4. Even though I hated the fourth one, I agreed, only covering her eyes during a sleazy, sweaty sex scene (something not present in any of the others). I'm sorry, no matter how old my daughters get, I'll never be comfortable watching that kinda shit with them.

Afterwards, she agreed that FD4 was stupid, then asked if it was too late to watch Part 2 again (our personal favorite).

October 5, 2012

THE HOBBIT: Here's Hoping It Flops

When The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring movie came out in 2001, we knew we weren't going to see the entire story, and we were cool with that. The Lord of the Rings was three books to begin with. Hence, three movies. Not a problem. Of course, it also helped that these movies didn't suck.

And I didn't really have a problem when Quentin Tarantino decided to split Kill Bill into two movies. They're kinda different in tone, anyway, and considering Tarantino's reputation, most of us appreciated it more as an artistic decision rather than a financial one. When you think about it, this was actually pretty risky, because while Tarantino's movies are mostly successful, they aren't really blockbusters.

And it didn't really bother me when Warner Brothers decided to break up the seventh and last Harry Potter novel into two separate movies, even though it was obvious to everyone but fantards that the studio was simply milking the franchise for all it was worth. Same with Summit Entertainment and Breaking Dawn. First, I never gave a shit about either franchise anyway, and second, those movies are aimed primarily at the audience with the most discretionary income (teenagers). Unlike cutting Kill Bill in two, there was no real risk here, because both studios knew damn well enough obsessive fans would gladly pay twice to see the conclusion of their beloved sagas.

Which they did...because they are suckers.

Right now, some of those very suckers reading this may be zealously arguing that the final novels in either series couldn't possibly be told in a single film because they are too big, too epic.

That's horseshit.

Once upon a time, there was a 1,000 page novel called Gone with the Wind, one of the biggest selling books of all time. Funny...Hollywood didn't have any problem adapting that one as a single film.

But now, the practice of splitting novels is being abused, and what truly pisses me off is that it's such an obvious studio ploy to bilk as much money from moviegoers as possible.

We were all excited at the news The Hunger Games trilogy would be adapted for the big screen, and like The Lord of the Rings trilogy, we accepted that it would be three movies. But then the first Hunger Games film wasn't just a hit, but a worldwide blockbuster. It wasn't long before Lionsgate announced that the last novel in the series, Mockingjay, would be two films released a year apart. This was even before the second movie, Catching Fire, even started filming.

I'm sorry, but what the fuck?

If my Gone with the Wind example wasn't enough, a two-part Mockingjay movie shoots the whole 'too big for a single movie' argument right out of the water, because each book in the series is only around 300 pages long. Lionsgate is simply doing it to rake in twice the cash from folks they know will pay twice to see a conclusion.

Recently, we've learned Peter Jackson, who did such a stellar job adapting the three-part Lord of the Rings trilogy, would be adapting The Hobbit as a two-part film. Hey, I've read The Hobbit, and although I think Jackson's a great director, I can't think of a single reason why a 300 page novel needs to be a two-part film. Even if you're totally enamored with Middle Earth, is there really enough story there to justify two movies?

But it gets worse...

Even more recently, Jackson announced that his adaptation of The Hobbit would now be three movies, all released a year apart from each other, just like The Lord of the Rings. I'm sorry, but unless he's planning on including every scene where Bilbo Baggins sleeps, eats and takes a dump, the whole Hobbit thing just reeks of money-grubbing. I dare you - no, I double dog dare you - to convince anyone this isn't just a cash grab.

All you Tolkien fans, do some math....

You love The Hobbit? Fine. You're happy to see that this classic has been placed in the capable hands of Peter Jackson, the same guy who gave you Lord of the Rings hard-ons? Fine.

Now consider this: In order to get your Middle Earth fix, you will be required to pay an average of ten bucks to see each movie in theaters (assuming admission prices won't increase, which isn't likely). That's thirty bucks. Throw in ten bucks-worth of popcorn and sodas each time (which we all do)...there's another thirty bucks. That means you're paying $60 to watch one movie, spread-out over three years. And if you bring a date, double that.

Has there ever been any movie in history worth paying sixty bucks for? Well, that's what Peter Jackson and the producers of The Hobbit are expecting you to do. At this point, I don't care if the first installment is good or not. I refuse to pay admission to watch a third of a movie.

As much as I like Peter Jackson, I hope The Hobbit totally tanks at the box office. I hope it has the worst opening weekend of any movie in history, because this trend has to end. And all of you suckers happily shelling-out your hard-earned cash to watch the second half of a movie you already paid once for need to stop. Stop now.

The film, Gone with the Wind, was nearly four hours long, but nobody complained, because it was a good movie and you got a complete story for your money. Who cared how long it was? There's an old saying...no good book is too long, and no bad book is too short. The same thing applies to movies. I can easily sit through a four hour movie if it's any good. And even if you are a die-hard Twilight junkie, wouldn't you have been happier watching Breaking Dawn as a four hour epic than waiting a year to see the conclusion? Is the conclusion of any saga really worth paying twice the price for?