Friday, February 15, 2013

Valentine's Week! Day Five

Here at Erik At The Gates, we think that Valentine's Day is more than just a means for chocolatiers and greeting card companies to rake in extra money, and it isn't, as Jon Stewart once put it, "A manufactured day that doesn't actually mean anything."  So read on as Erik tries to continue to keep the spirit of Valentine's Day burning, even the day after it's over and chocolate is half-off at any convenience store.

Because what says love like discount nougat?

Because today is the last day of the work week, I wanted to go out on something big.  I wanted to take a classic love story and turn my reviewing eye to it.  I was going to deconstruct, reconstruct, analyze, and critique the film down to its smallest scenes until I was able to extract what made the movie work, not just as a masterpiece, but as a superb love story.

So my first step was to settle on which love story is the best.  Now, I could go somewhat modern and break down Pretty Woman, When Harry Met Sally, or even Titanic.  I was tempted to go with a movie that isn't as familiar to modern audiences, like The Apartment or Top Hat or even something insane like Bringing Up Baby, where most of the madcap romance swirls around a hunt for Katherine Hepburn's jaguar (the cat, not the car).

But no.  If I'm going to do this right, I'm going to have to go with the most timeless love story of all time.

I'm going to have to go with the film that the American Film Institute said was the #1 romance ever made.

I'm going to have to sit down and turn my critical eye to one of my favorite movies....Casablanca.

Now, I'll admit I should've gone out sooner to make sure I could get a copy.  Unfortunately, my local video store was sold out.

So now I'm in a fix.

Okay, don't panic.  It's a classic tale of love and separation, of a person embittered by a broken heart but learning to live again, not just by the discovery of their loved one showing up on their doorstep, but of the friends they've built around them.  It has the ever-present threat of a far-reaching evil sitting at its doorstep, waiting for the slightest weakness to be able to completely overpower it.

So with the help of one of the employees, I was able to settle on a movie that follows a similar story, but has created its own unique identity as a movie.  As I was getting frustrated, the employee put the following into my hands: what I'm saying is I need someone to help me make sure that employee's body is never found and help me clean my car this weekend.

...well, no use putting it off, let's take a look at Barb Wire.

The movie begins by setting our location, time period, and plot.  We're in Steel Harbor in the year 2017 in the midst of the second American Civil War.  The old government was overthrown by the "Congressional Directorate," every city in the US is now under martial Steel Harbor, the last "free city" and you'll never find a more wretched hive of scum and villai- ...sorry, my brain was trying to transport me to a good movie.

I'd also like to point out that this information that's being spoken to us in both verbal and written form is happening over what appears to be the landscape of Mars, so right off the bat I have no idea where this movie is actually going to take place.

Man, why did the idea of this movie excite sixteen year old me?

Oh, right.

So the casting credits roll as we watch the star of our movie, Pamela Anderson (and I'm so happy that there aren't very many opportunities to say that sentence) getting sprayed with water while she dances around in dress that covers her legs but leaves her chest open to the viewing public.  Oh, and because there's no more erotic song written, the whole thing is done to Gun's harder rock version of the song Word Up.  The crowd hoots and hollers, and I have the sneaking suspicion that the target audience in the theater would've been doing the same.

Now, I'm not a strip club owner, and my experience in such clubs is essentially non-existant, but I somehow doubt it's good business, when one of the guys you're dancing in front of calls you "babe," to attempt to murder him with your shoe.

Now, it turns out that Barb Wire (that's actually her name) was only performing at this club in order to rescue a young woman dressed like a schoolgirl who apparently was being sold as a sex slave.  Now, I've also only watched maybe two episodes of Baywatch, and I somehow missed VIP, but I really must say that I'm surprised at the depth and nuance to Pamela Anderson's acting here.  It is so rare to find a talent that's able to speak with such heartfelt emotion, whatever scene is presented on screen, that it makes Shaquille O'Neal look like Ben Kingsley.

So Barb and the girl manage to get to a window on an upper story, and after using what appears to be an extremely complex grapple and harness system (along with the line "Ever see Batman?" which makes me wonder just how many times the franchise has been rebooted by 2017), Barb manages to deliver three moments of cursing with all the intensity of Brian Posehn reading road signs.

We learn Barb was hired by the girl's parents to get her back, but it turns out there's a problem.  They were only able to get half the money for her fee, to which Barb replies, through clenched teeth, "Half the money?  Fine, I'll take half your daughter."  ...I really have no idea how that's supposed to work, but Barb's the one here with the obvious master's degree in economics, so I won't ask any questions.

Barb manages to take the family's car and cash as payment, and we get a few shots of the environment as Barb starts narrating the movie herself, telling us...everything we already learned before the opening credits.  ...I'm only ten minutes into this movie and I need a drink.

Okay, I'm back!  So, apparently I missed some talk between a bad guy and a woman he's interrogating done up to look like a prostitute had sex with a car engine, and it's taking place in a capitol building that fell out of Fallout 3.

The bad guys have a machine that reads thoughts, though why it has to be attached to this girl's breasts, I have no idea.  Oh, wait, it turns out this device not only reads thoughts, it also electrocutes the wearer, showing that in the future they stopped the uncivilized technique of water boarding its citizens.

Colonel Pryzer, our villain, kills the girl after learning that a doctor (scientist or medical, I don't know) and her freedom fighter boyfriend are going to Steel Harbor to acquire some special contact lenses that will allow her to sneak into Canada, and she's also had plastic surgery so nobody will recognize her.  He then gets debriefed by a guy who looks disturbingly like Michael Shanks,  We learn through the joy of exposition that the doctor's DNA contains the "antidote to their greatest biochemical weapon" as well as knowing a whole bunch of secrets.

Remember in Casablanca when the person being hunted by the Nazis was just a charismatic resistance leader?  And when Rick wasn't murdering people in strip clubs to rescue underage girls from sex traffickers?  Good times.  Good ti- sorry, my brain's doing it again.  Back to the story!

We cut back to Steel Harbor, where we get an extremely pointless scene showing the doctor and freedom fighter getting a ride with two guys and climbing into a car.  We cut to a bar named "Hammer Head" filled with strippers, dancers, a late 90s goth band, and clientele that are an eclectic blend of bikers and guys wearing suits who wandered onto the set after trying out for LA Confidential.  This is Barb's bar, where people make offers to have her rescue/kill other people, and her blind brother Charlie says the worst pick-up lines ever uttered in film ("I thought, this must be a woman of superior breeding.  Then I wondered if maybe she'd like to do some.  Breeding, that is.")

Oh, and the guy running the floor is a bald German named Curly and the "Sam" character is now a black DJ named "no name given yet."

Meanwhile, back in the car, our hunted twosome get into a scrape when their car gets surrounded by "customs police" which flat-out murder the two guys that picked them up and then open up on the car to kill the rest of the inhabitants.  So despite the fact that none of the officers who have surrounded the car see a car door open, we're expected to believe that the two managed to sneak out of the car right before the guns shot it up.  Our twosome is lose in the city, taking us back to where they were before they got into the car, meaning the whole thing was absolutely pointless.

Curly confronts Barb about the fact they're low on funds, Barb decides to "go out" for a while (packing some firearms as she does so), Barb sneaks out the back, Curly expresses concern for her, Barb expresses concern for the sense that his getting drunk and lying under tables is embarrassing...and oh hey, look, my drink's empty!

So, what'd I miss?  Oh, it appears the cops are on the hunt for the resistance fighter nobody knows anything about and the woman who's unrecognizable after plastic surgery, meaning this is the worst manhunt ever, and we watch the resistance fighter beat the crap out of a female cop and then straight-up murder her partner by snapping his neck.  Our heroes, everybody!

Well, at least we can hope Barb's doing something heroi- oh look, she's whoring herself.  Literally.

So, yeah, it turns out Barb was simply seducing one specific guy so he'd take her to his room, because her target happens to be in the room right next door (god, this movie makes my head hurt) we get a scene that I'm going to have to drink out of my memory involving a very fat man in a tight bondage costume taunting Barb that he didn't wash his hands because "he was bad."

Barb blows up a hole in a wall and fights two dudes before she flips out when one of them calls her "babe" (see, that's her whole personality gimmick, she's a buxom blond who hates being called "babe"), and drags off a bail jumper...who, surprise, surprise, was the same guy that the doctor and freedom fighter were supposed to meet for the contact lenses!  WHAT A COINCIDENCE!

Barb drops off Krebs with some guy, man, I don't know who he is, and gets paid her money and goes back to her bar, and...and we actually get a rather sweet scene where Barb dances with a soldier about to go out to the front line.  It's a rather interesting twist that this hardened character who seems to care nothing for anybody but her employees and brother (sort of) might feel for a young man who's probably off to die and is miles away from home, and it- oh, whoops, it's ruined by the arrival of the bad guys.  Or, rather, the cops.

We meet Willis, Steel Harbor's chief of police in another narration by Barb (god I wish this movie would be consistent), and we get a long, boring scene of him making like he cares that some of his offers are dead (initially I thought it was the two guys Barb killed, then I thought it was the ones the fighter killed, then I realized I really didn't care), and there's a throwaway line about Barb having previously been known as Barbara Kowpetski or Kelly Kapowski or whatever, I don't care and based on her acting performance neither does Pamela Anderson.  Let's skip ahead to something that matters.

Okay, a scene of a drunk guy causing problems at the bar and getting bit in the crotch by a dog, Colonel Pryzer shows up doing his best M. Bison impression...

 ...yeah, there's a talk between Pryzer, Willis, and Barb where Barb also points out it's difficult to do a manhunt for someone who surgically altered their appearance, the two fugitives show up, I doze off for a moment, we learn that the freedom fighter used to fight with Barb and Charlie, he and Barb have a spat, Charlie helps the two contact the resistance, the bad guys shoot some people...

Oh, here we go.  We get the big flashback scene like in Casablanca.  Remember how the movie detailed the love affair between Ilsa and Rick, about how they were determined to go off together, how they spent every moment together...just to have Ilsa suddenly not show up?

Yeah, condense that scene into about thirty seconds showing Pamela Anderson in army fatigues and you get a high school production of a war drama.  It's actually kind of hilarious.

So the guy who hired Barb to get Krebs shows up trying to sell her the contact lenses saying he needs her to buy the one thing that lets you get past any security checkpoint to leave the return for helping him flee the country.  No, I don't get the logic, it makes no damn sense, let's just get through this.  He stashes the contact lenses in Barb's kitchen (?),

We learn that the mind reading device the bad guys have works on dead people (?!), they see when Barb sold them Krebs, and ...oh, right, the other reason I was interested in this movie at age sixteen.  Pamela Anderson climbing out of a bubble bath.

...sorry, I zoned out for a moment.  The freedom fighter (that's it, I'm looking up the character's name in IMDB because I wasn't paying attention earlier...Axel.  Got it) Axel shows up, he and Barb snipe at each other then start making out in her private elevator...which of course takes them right to Axel's new girlfriend, the doctor whose name I can't be bothered to look up.

Now, if you're someone on the run and when an elevator door arrives and the first thing you see is your guy making out with a naked-but-for-a-towel Pamela Anderson, is your reaction...

a) "Okay, he knows how desperate we are, and she's obviously a total slut, so he's just using a strategy of looking for contact lenses by sticking his tongue down his throat."

b) "WHAT THE HELL.  You meet up with your old flame for five minutes and she's already naked?  Priorities, man, priorities!"

c) "That is NOT how you make out with Pamela Anderson.  Step aside, I'll show you how it's done."

d) " know what, screw it, time for a murder/murder/suicide."

e) "Someone remind me to call my agent.  They're fired."

If you answered "c" or "d," then I like the way you think.  Sadly, it's not either of those choices.  It's also not really "a" or "b" either.  ...I can't make any promises about "e."  Instead she just acts like she caught them discussing their characters in Dungeons and Dragons and gives them the world's most "I'm bored" expression.

So the doctor waits about five seconds after watching them make out to point out she's nearby, Axel introduces Barb to his wife (...) before saying, "Look, I know this is awkward for all of us."

This movie makes me hurt.  Time to top off my glass.

Okay, so, Axel and the scientist try to appeal to Barb by saying that the reason why she's being hunted is she was the head researcher on a project called "Red Ribbon" which was a weaponization of the HIV virus that kills in twelve hours a-



...wouldya look at that, my drink's empty.  Excuse me a moment, I need to take out some anger on the body of a store clerk.

Okay, maybe I'm understating it a little.

...okay, so apparently I missed the bad guys suddenly showing up, Barb flashes her breast at the other good guys as if to say "you can trust me, would these breasts lie?"  The bad guys round everybody up, Barb plays off the good guys as her choice for a menage (I'll just point out that it really is pointless to do a manhunt when you have the person you're looking for right in front of you and you still don't know).  They try to retina scan the doctor, only Charlie (the blind guy) knows directly where to point a tiny device that makes the scanner malfunction, and rather than hold two possible suspects when you KNOW BARB IS HELPING THE RESISTANCE, the Colonel lets them go because obviously it's a waste of his time.

...god this movie hurts.

The bad guys trash Barb's bar searching for the contact lenses, including hitting tables with sledgehammers, shooting down glass hanging displays, and generally being giant d-, jerks.  I mean, I get you're trying to make a point, but shooting the entire alcohol supply up with a machine gun just seems...excessive.

Curly is watching from the elevator, with an expression that I can't tell is distraught that he's just lost his job, or if he's really enjoying muscular men in uniform breaking things with bats and shooting powerful guns.

So Barb explains to her blind brother that the military were looking for contact lenses, and lo and behold, Charlie holds up a glass tube whose contents he cannot see and asks if she means "those."  Screw you and your logic, movie.  Charlie points out they could hand them to Axel, but Barb says "pfft!  We're going to Europe!"

...and then another Barb monologues more stuff we already knew before she heads off to a junkyard and I get to hear a conversation that I swear made my brain spasm.

Thug: "What's the code?"

Barb: "He's expecting me."

Other Thug: "Let her through!"


Okay, almost done.  Barb meets up with "Big Fatso," a man so big he needs an actual bulldozer to move him around.

So Barb starts to broker a deal, Charlie tries to meet up with the resistance just to get caught by the bad guys...and I have to admit, I laughed at a scene I shouldn't have here.  The bad guys have killed the leader of the resistance and hung her from a noose.  When Charlie demands to see her, they say "coming right down" and slowly lower their body towards him.  They lower a dead person's body in a dramatic a blind guy standing there with sunglasses and a cane.  I guess they went to so much effort to arrange it, it would just be wasteful not to do it.

Charlie gets captured, Barb arranges the deal, and Charlie's tortured to death to find out where the lenses are.  I did also laugh at one scene here where Charlie really poorly bluffs the bad guys that the person holding the lenses is Santa Claus.  It's so stupid, but in this movie I don't expect much for intelligence.

Barb finds Charlie's body, the other good guys show up, and Barb seems determined to make the bad guys pay...which I guess means Barb Wire's now dead and Barbara Kowpetski is going to kick some ass!  

Barbara Kowpetski takes the good guys to meet Big Fatso...and I swear to god, I'm not making this up, Big Fatso tries to pay Barbara with a gold debit card carried in a suitcase.  This movie is stupidity to new levels.  So the good guys figure out that Barbara's selling the lenses they need, and Big Fatso reveals that he sold out Barbara and the others to the bad guys.  Big Fatso even says the line, "Don't you just love it when a plan comes together," before he chomps down on a cigar, making me realize that the movie is also ragging on the A-Team.

Fortunately, this is when Willis decides it's better to die an idiot than be a lackey to a villain, and slips Barb a grenade behind her back while "cuffing" her with two guards standing directly behind her.

 My guess is these are the same two guys who stood behind a car and couldn't see the doors opening so two people could escape a closed off alley.

Barbara pulls the pin and throws, winding up killing Big Fatso, and we get a lengthy car chase scene, then Barbara prepares for the final face off against Pryzer...and he tries to kill her with a forklift while laughing like Mark Hamill playing the Joker.  

Axel fights a guy on top of a crane, having abandoned his wife to go back for Barbara (great guy, that Axel)...and this is gonna take a while.  I just need to top off this drink.

...okay, sorry, that took a few minutes and...the fights are still happening?  Seriously?  Okay, um, I guess nothing changed, Axel knocks his guy off the top of the crane, and then uses it to pick up the forklift and swing it around because sure, why not.  Barbara climbs up to the rope after a struggle, and he comments that it's just like his favorite song, I Got You, Babe.

...okay, four things.  One, that song is no body's favorite song.  Two, how does a midair battle against a bar owner/prostitute/stripper on a forklift remind you of that song that played every morning in Groundhog Day?  Three, why didn't I watch Groundhog Day instead?  That movie's awesome!, killing her brother didn't really make her mad, trying to arrest her didn't make her mad, punching her in the face a few times in a midair battle didn't make her mad...but referencing a song makes her so mad she says "Don't call me "babe."" and pulls the hook release?  

You know what, movie, I don't care anymore.  Go ahead and finish.  The bad guy dies in a fiery explosion (because that's what forklifts do, right?), we get our airport scene where Barbara reveals she was wearing the contact lenses the whole time, the lenses change the doc's eye color to blue and somehow a retinal scanner accepts that cause it doesn't care and I don't care, but at least we'll get our ending speech.  I mean, even this movie would at least try to have something that would rate up there with that "hill of beans" speech.

Axel: "So I thought Barb Wire doesn't take sides."

Barbara: "Keep it to yourself."

..................................................... AUGH.

Doc and Axel get on the plane, we get a stupid comment in place of the "beautiful friendship" line, and then...apparently someone on the set went nuts because they just now realized how stupid this was and shot everybody up because it ends with rapid gunshots before going black.

The Good:

Well, I found stuff I wasn't supposed to find funny funny...and if you're between the ages of thirteen and sixteen you know precisely why you're watching it and it isn't for Pamela Anderson's acting talent.  

Curly was also good.  He was the only person who seemed to realize just how much acting effort his role required and made sure to have actual fun with it.  Big Fatso was...offensive, but his goofy expressions made me smile because it was about the time he showed up that the movie went absolutely insane and stopped making any sense whatsoever.  I laughed a lot in the last half of the movie, but I'm pretty sure I wasn't supposed to.  I kept alternating from pure rage to helpless guffaws.

The Bad:


I'm not kidding when I say this is probably the worst movie I've ever seen, and I've watched movies done by Mystery Science Theater without the MST part.  The storyline makes no sense, there are HUGE shifts in tone (I swear, it goes from something like Blade Runner to a Looney Tunes cartoon right after the bar gets smashed), there are huge, gaping plot holes all over the place (if they think the contact lenses are destroyed, why do they go to the airport?), and I couldn't even enjoy the nudity because Pamela Anderson was trying to act while in various states of undress!  Pamela Anderson's acting made me feel dirtier than seeing her strut around naked!

And it's trying to be Casablanca!  It's trying to be one of the best movies ever made!  How do you take a classic story about escaping Nazis and rediscovering your desire to help people and replace it with electric torture, forklift duels, and Pamela Anderson rolling johns on city streets to "supplement her income?"  Who thought any of this was a good idea?  You weaponized HIV, people!  THINK!


It hurt less when I rewatched Judge Dredd with Stallone, because at least they knew you weren't supposed to take that movie seriously.  I watched this movie for 100 minutes, and I feel like I just lost a weekend.

Screw this movie, and screw Valentine's Day!  I'm done! if you'll excuse me, I need to get a shovel and get rid of this body. 

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