Delirious / Raw

Delirious / 1983
70 minutes
dir: Bruce Gowers

Raw / 1987
93 minutes
dir: Robert Townsend

In the final moments of Delirious, Eddie Murphy mentions Marian Anderson, the African-American singer who in 1939 was denied from performing in Washington, D.C.’s Constitution Hall, where Delirious was filmed in August 1983. “Here we are not even fifty years later – a 22-year-old black man onstage gettin’ paid to hold his dick. God bless America.” He drops the mic and leaves the stage, followed by the camera and an attentive entourage through the hall’s tunnels to a feast in his dressing room.

From 1981 to 1990, ages 19 to 29 Eddie Murphy was the biggest celebrity in the country, maybe the world. He started on Saturday Night Live at 19, and would soon begin starring in some of the most iconic comedy and action movies of the decade. Beverly Hills Cop, Trading Places, 48 Hrs., Coming to America (and don’t forget The Golden Child!) – each holding strong as all-time greats. (Maybe not The Golden Child…)

But what really put Murphy on a separate plane were his two stand-up specials, Delirious and Raw. You weren’t about to see any other young comedians doing crossover action movies in 1983; no other action star would be caught dead doing ten minutes of stand up, let alone over an hour. Onstage, Eddie was immature, brash, and ridiculously crude; the candid style, rapid-fire pace, and loose structure reminded the audiences of just How Fucking Cool he was, and they ate it up. Twenty-five and thirty years later, though, the vulgarity and the bluntness and the outfits leave Murphy looking unhinged, deep into some ego (cocaine) fueled tirades that have become increasingly less resonant with anyone that isn’t Eddie Murphy.

These specials – 1987’s Raw was actually a theatrically released concert film directed by Robert Townsend that grossed over fifty million dollars – document the divide between Eddie Murphy: Mega Star and Eddie Murphy: Human Being. Obviously, those halves had to meet somewhere. The necessity of red and purple leather suits, however, is less apparent.

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A Moment of Insight: Spice World

Even thought it’s just a ninety-minute ad/”Hard Day’s Night” rip-off, Spice World is brilliant. People know that right? People are aware that it’s a postmodern masterpiece, a delicate balance of absurdity, “acting”, hit singles, and famous guest stars? Meat Loaf! Alan Cumming! Fry and Laurie! George Wendt! If you’re feeling bad about yourself, put on Spice World and remember that nothing matters.

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A Moment of Insight: Independence Day


Must go faster…but why?

The end of Independence Day is incredible and triumphant, a testament to mankind’s will, ingenuity, and perseverance, but does anyone else feel intense anxiety at the thought of the massive (literal and metaphorical) cleanup that lies ahead of these characters? Humongous downed spaceships, flaming wreckage streaking across the sky, wide swaths of major cities demolished, charred bodies in the streets and millions without homes. The course of human history has been altered completely. It’ll take decades to rebuild all that was destroyed, generations to mentally process the tragedy. And for the most part, it happened for no reason; the aliens were there to harvest resources or something, which I guess after they were going to get around to after they killed everyone and destroyed all those American landmarks that they knew about, obviously. The characters should take a moment to bask in their victory. But it can’t be long before reality sets in, right? The remainder of every survivor’s life is going to be very difficult. It seems unlikely that stability will be restored until well into adulthood for the President’s daughter and Hiller’s son. They may be left wondering, “Was it worth it?”

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Commando / 1985
90 minutes
dir: Mark L. Lester
screenplay: Stephen E. de Souza, Jeph Loeb
starring: Arnold Schwarzeneggar, Rae Dawn Chong, Alyssa Milano, Dan Hedaya, Vernon Wells

Is Commando too easy a choice? Probably. Yes. Absolutely. This and Quiet Cool were sort of what this site was made for. Unfortunately, there comes a point where there’s not much more you can say about insane freakshow action movies; there are clichés and motifs that I’ll always be amused by, but sometimes just aren’t really worth thinking about.

Fortunately, that point definitely cannot be reached without first talking about Commando, one of the most blowingupingest films I’ve ever seen. The unreasonable death toll it racks up over its hour-and-a-half running time is distinctly aided by the fact that someone is killed by knife, gun, explosion, or the mere force of Arnold Schwarzeneggar’s rippling brow in nearly every scene. And perhaps even more unreasonable is this shot of Arnold feeding a baby deer with a pre-teen Alyssa Milano from the opening credits.

Most unreasonable.

Preceding the credits, though, is a sequence in which three guys bite it by the hand of Cooke (played by Bill Duke, a recognizable character actor, Arnold’s co-star in Predator and director of Sister Act 2: Back in the Habit), but the first two murders don’t matter at all and we soon learn that the third was a sham. That the leathery, mustachioéd, and erotically chainmailéd Bennett is not only still alive but involved in the kidnapping of Alyssa Milano in order to coerce Arnold’s character John Matrix to do EVIL DEEDS provides no particular shock to the viewer. What does it matter that Bennett is still alive? Why does he look like a living cartoon? Is he really supposed to be the villain? That’s insane!

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Cool Dog

Cool Dog / 2010
88 minutes
dir: Danny Lerner
screenplay: Danny Lerner, Les Weldon
starring: Michael Paré, Jackson Pace, Christa Campbell

Cool Dog is a children’s movie, but not the good kind, like you want, with clever bits that will make parents nod approvingly while the kids giggle. It’s the sort of children’s movie that ruins the day of any adults in earshot and assumes that their children are heinously, criminally stupid. It’s like the proverbial car wreck you can’t look away from, but if that car wreck was really irritating and you didn’t mind looking away to nap for a bit, which I can only imagine is a necessary step for viewing Cool Dog to completion.

The titular “cool dog” is named Rainy, and you learn quickly just how cool he is as he delivers some mail, rings the old town bell to tell people who are already awake that they’re probably late for something important, is fawned over by black people, and winks at the camera two times in the first three minutes. He also saves a little girl’s life, but it doesn’t really matter. Cool Dog is essentially just a series of events held together by the premise that Rainy is the greatest dog EVER, and that his human overlords are fucking morons. The thin plot runs like so: little Jimmy’s dad gets a vague promotion from the insurance company he works for, the family has to move from silly little Eagle Rock, Louisiana to FUCKIN’ NEW YORK CITY!, but they can’t take Rainy because “the apartment the company’s paying for doesn’t allow pets,” so they leave Rainy at “the fairgrounds,” then Rainy escapes and finds the family in New York, where there is trouble because of the whole thing from before about pets, but then Rainy uncovers an illegal exotic animal smuggling ring run by the building’s landlords.

Cool dog will now say grace.

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Striking Distance

Striking Distance / 1993
102 minutes
dir: Rowdy Herrington
screenplay: Rowdy Herrington, Marty Kaplan
starring: Bruce Willis, Sarah Jessica Parker, Tom Sizemore, Dennis Farina

In the way that Quiet Cool and Cobra are representative of everything that is great about cheesy, insane action movies, 1993’s Striking Distance is a symbol of everything not great. First off, it’s too long at OVER 100 MINUTES. It’s boring, and it’s really, really dumb in a totally boring way. There are a few good chases, but most of them happen on boats, so they’re not even that good, because boats obviously suck.

I watched this movie maybe nine months ago, but I’m not sure if it’s become hazier in my memory since then, or if I’ve just come to really understand everything I didn’t like about it. Either way, here’s how it all gets started: Bruce Willis plays Pittsburgh detective Tom Hardy and it’s just about time for the policeman’s ball when suddenly there’s a serial strangler on the loose, so that shit gets postponed so every officer in the city can chase the guy around for a few hours, but then he kills Bruce Willis’ dad and gets away, but then a guy is arrested who definitely doesn’t look like a serial strangler and (duh) Bruce Willis doesn’t believe they caught the real serial strangler, but Bruce Willis hardly has any time to even think about that because his mildly retarded police officer cousin Jimmy is about to jump off a bridge because he doesn’t want to go to prison for being a bad cop that beat the shit out of a suspect. Relevant to this scene and the character: Tom Hardy testified against Cousin Jimmy in court, because he’s serious about being a cop, and no mortal man is above that, goddammit.

So then Cousin Jimmy jumps and the skies TEAR OPEN to let down some totally dramatic and real-looking rain, and the whole situation really gets to Bruce Willis and makes him cry pretty hard.

Fast forward two years into the future and Bruce Willis has been demoted to the ever-so-lowly rank of BOAT COP because he went on the news after Cousin Jimmy’s death to say he thought the real strangler was a cop, which is definitely frowned upon in the cop community, even though they’re otherwise pretty forgiving and open-minded. Anyway, turns out Bruce Willis is actually a pretty shitty BOAT COP with a mess of self-esteem, authority, and hygiene issues.

An hour and a half later, it turns out Cousin Jimmy didn’t die, and he was the real strangler, and Bruce Willis tasers him in the mouth. Whatever.

Sorry nerds, BOAT COPS on patrol.

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Command Performance

Command Performance / 2009
93 minutes – but at least five minutes of that is exploding credit sequences
dir: Dolph Lundgren
screenplay: Dolph Lundgren, Steve Latshaw
starring: Dolph Lundgren

This movie drove me insane. When I think about it now, weeks since seeing it, I still don’t feel quite right. There is alternately so much and so little going on any given moment that trying to wrap your head around the things you’ve seen is damn near impossible. Command Performance is an empty, horrid void, a disaster, a hopeless, lifeless shell of a thing, and so much of it left me so stunned and confused that I may have stopped breathing for a while.

I’m sure a good chunk of why all of that is can be attributed to the mighty Dolph Lundgren. [I should expect that I’ll be talking about quite a few of his greatest works on here, and I feel that starting now, in the present, and working backwards – back to his glory days – is definitely the way to go.] As you, observant reader, may have already noticed, Sir Dolph not only stars in this direct-to-video picture, but he was also the director, as well as co-writer, along with the brilliant Steve Latshaw, director of the smash hit Vampire Trailer Park (1991) and writer of U.S. SEALS 3 – Frogmen: Operation Stormbringer (2000).

So much about Command Performance is so wrong that pondering how it came to be would surely only drive one deeper into the throes of madness. I neither know nor care where Dolph’s ideas for the movie originated. I watched the majority of it completely slackjawed. Somewhere between the headache-inducing sequences of the first twenty minutes to the mind-melting inanity of the conclusion, I lost faith in humanity. But perhaps that was to be expected as I sat down to watch the most recent of Dolph Lundgren’s direct-to-video feature-length action movies. I just didn’t know it would be as confusing and bizarre as it turned out to be.

So here’s how this whole mess goes down. The film opens in 1991, in some fancy Russian chamber. The dissolving of the Soviet Union has just been made official. Someone murders someone else and then commits suicide. Jump to present day! Dolph Lundgren is riding a motorcycle. A kick-ass rock band is rehearsing in an empty arena. Dolph Lundgren is shirtless and playing drums, and it looks weird. Wait. What about that murder-suicide? What the fuck just happened? Don’t worry about it. Really, just put it out of your mind. Instead, observe this aged action legend lay a real pounding on the skins.

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