Sunday, November 4, 2012

Oh, 80s movies, how I love you.

Three and I regularly watch cheesy action movies from the 80s as a way to unwind, and let's face it: the 80s were teeming with the cheese. The fact that films like "Robocop" were considered good (and I'm not even talking about the facts) makes me question the movie-going audiences of that time period. I consider myself a 90s kid, since my first solid memories from the 80s were in, like, 1989, and they're shady at best.* So a lot of these movies that I'm watching now were out when I was a wee bairn, but I don't remember them and probably wasn't allowed to see them. I mean, the first scary movie I ever saw (to me, at least) was "Jurassic Park," and I spent the majority of the time, particularly when the kids were in the kitchen being hunted by velociraptors, hiding in my father's armpit, asking him if it was over. I was a giant pansy.

Oh, who am I kidding? I still am.

Anyway, on the other hand, Three is seven years older than me, so he has pretty firm recollections of these. I constantly side-eye him as we're snuggled in bed with the TV on because we went into the experience with his promises that they're really good. I guess I should have learned my lesson when he told me that "Falling Down" was a happy movie (hint: it's not), but I am also the type of person that has to experience something firsthand in order to determine an opinion. As of late, he's been a little more honest with me as to the quality of the movies that he's having me watch, and he has told me on several occasions that he kept me in the dark so my incredibly sarcastic comments would be more genuine. To be fair, my commentary trends in the acerbic, anyway, but really reaches its peak when I'm angry; and really, really poorly developed movies get me a little Hulk-Smashy. Or at least slightly perturbed.

This weekend, we watched "Conan the Destroyer," mainly because "Conan the Barbarian" wasn't on Netflix. I'd never seen either and was kind of intrigued when I read that Grace Jones, that walking piece of art that she is, was in it.
THIS is what "fierce" is, Tyra. Not "smiling with your eyes."
It started out promising: music that sounded like it was yoinked directly from "The A-Team," a wise-cracking thief sidekick, outfits that made me wonder if they just straight-up stole costumes from old Star Trek episodes, Grace Jones (see above), AND Arnold punched a camel who spit on him within the first 30 minutes of the movie. It was a little weird seeing Olivia D'Abo playing a character so different from Nicole Wallace from Law & Order: Criminal Intent, but she played the genre-required Pouty Pouty Princess to a T without making me wish for her death. Win for her, I guess.

Now, the plot is ridiculous. Which, duh. It's a fucking Conan movie. That's like watching "Die Hard" and expecting John McClain to have an emotional breakthrough as to why he can't resolve terrorist actions with love and understanding, quit the police force, and become a Buddhist monk. Basically, Conan is recruited after enduring a pretty brutal evaluation of his skills where he has to fight a bunch of guys on horses to the death while at a shrine, and the lady (who when I first saw her exclaimed, "IT'S A ROMULAN!!") who had orchestrated Extreme Interview asks him to lead her niece, Jehnna, aka Pouty Pouty Princess, aka PPP, on some sort of journey to get a jewel and a horn to ... resurrect a god? They're not really that specific, although she does promise that she'll help Conan resurrect Valeria, his love interest from the first movie, which I have not seen. So Conan agrees to help; we meet Wilt Chamberlain as Bombaata and Jehnna, who immediately wants Conan (she is a virgin and is sadly inept at anything sexual - a perfect example of why Abstinence Only education is stupid). Bombaata is secretly supposed to kill Conan after Jehnna gets the jewel and the horn and blah blah blah. I couldn't really focus too much on what was happening because of two things: 1) Arnold's giant pecks and 2) Wilt's sheer height.
They could be characters separate from Conan.
No comment needed.
Anyway, then you get to my favorite part: Grace Jones as Zula makes her first appearance. I kept calling her Grace Jones, though, since she can never be anything else to me. She is kicking the ass of a bunch of people, even if she is tied up to a stake (she was part of a raiding party of which she is the only survivor), and Conan kind of helps her by cutting the rope on her leg.

Then they rescue Akiro, also from the first movie, from cannibals, who are wanting to eat his magical flesh because they want his magic ... or something. I'm going to discuss Akiro more in depth below, but he at this time is kind of useless. He can somehow find underwater doors and figure out how PPP was kidnapped by a weird guy in a glass-talc-silver castle in the middle of a lake (it was a pterodactyl made of smoke, because why the hell not?). Thanks to Akiro, they get inside this castle thing, where we're introduced finally to this wizard dude that's apparently important but hasn't really been explained. And things go like this: Conan gets trapped in a mirror room where he's attacked by a gorilla-creature-from-the-black-lagoon-uruk-hai-wannabe who for some reason is wearing a red hooded cape and then smashes mirrors and then throws his sword into one of the mirrors and kills the wizard and ... it gets a little fuzzy from there.

Then stuff just kind of happens. There are a ton of plot holes throughout the rest of the movie, which actually inspired this conversation:

Me: Wait, how did they get out of the cave? They closed the opening by removing the horn from the thing, which is guarded by the bad guys, anyway, and Barbaata -
Three: Bombaata.
Me: Whatever. Bombaata collapsed the other cave exit. So how did they get out?
Three: It's in the script.
Me: Oh. Okay.

Now, like I said above, I didn't really get too upset when it got ludicrous because it's a fucking Conan movie. The comically bloody fight scenes were appropriately ridiculous. Conan's refusal of sex with PPP was a little out of character, in my opinion, but she was a little too pure for his liking, I guess. Based on my knowledge (aka reading Wikipedia) of the previous film, Valeria was a pirate queen who was probably well-versed in The Sexytimes, while PPP couldn't really understand what Grace Jones meant by, "Go and grab him." The ending kind of reminded me of "The Phantom Menace," where the story just kind of stops, nobody learns anything, and there are hints of a sequel. Oh, and there's also no sex at all, despite the lack of clothing on the majority of the women**.

All in all, it was pretty gloriously terrible, as was expected, but I am a little disappointed that I couldn't even add it to my Awesomely Bad Movies list***. The racism was just a little too much for me. I mean, they kinda made strides with the African-American characters (Grace Jones' character's name, Zula, notwithstanding), but they completely undid that - for me, at least - with their treatment of Akiro, the token Asian. First, the character was designed with Chinese costumes and facial hair but was given a Japanese name because ... well, honestly, Hollywood thinks all Asians are interchangeable. Second, the director has the actor, Mako, who is Japanese-American and doesn't really have an accent in real life, speak in the special way that hahaha obviously all Asians speak: slow with stunted pronunciation. And of course, Akiro is a wizard who just kinda goes around, rubs his hands together, and makes grunting noises. He's basically a very, very boring Dragonball Z episode. Now, I'm not Asian, but this portrayal is still offensive to me. I know, I know, I shouldn't get so upset about something that is nearly thirty years old. But this movie was a big fucking hit when it came out in 1984, which means that attitude was shown to large numbers of people. Whether or not they picked up on it at the time doesn't really matter. The racism toward Asians, particularly toward Vietnamese due to the then very recent Vietnam War, was just so pervasive that it was almost expected in film.

Not every Cheesy 80s Movie Night brings out Deep Thoughts with Juju. Most of the time, Three and I just giggle at the insanity. A few weeks ago, we watched "The Karate Kid" and walked away with a bunch of "Sweep the leg, Juju" moments prepared, and Three showed me how the crane kick was probably the dumbest move you could do and can totally be defended against; but that's about it. "Terminator 2" had us drafting up fake propaganda for a "Kill John Connor as a Teenager" campaign and also trying to figure out what Linda Hamilton did to get so buff. The main reason that Three and I watch these movies is because we want mindless entertainment; Three wants it because he has to engage his brain at work all week in ways that just tire him, and I am constantly exercising the creative parts of mine. And honestly, we love critiquing the shit out of those movies. It's what we call fun.

I think next week we shall watch "Predator." I'm kinda in an Arnie mood lately, so it's either that or "Total Recall." Any other suggestions??

* One of my earliest memories is from when I was pretty young; we're talking two and a half or so. And it's a flash of a memory: I remember thinking, "Wow, my parents can lie? That's so not fair," when my mom was trying to pass off her schnauzer, Booshka, as a baby, wrapped in a blanket, because she didn't want to leave her in the car while we slept in a hotel room. I don't have any context, though, but there you have it.
** Grace Jones bares her ass the entire time. Well, save for a single tail that covers her butt crack most of the time. Never let it be said that Grace Jones was ever or will ever be subtle.
*** This includes "Showgirls," "Earth Girls Are Easy," "The Expendables," anything with Nicholas Cage, "Demolition Man," "Hard Target," "Surf Ninjas," "Drop Dead Gorgeous," "Xanadu," and "Waterworld." This is not an exhaustive list, just the ones I could think of off the top of my head.
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