Operation: Desert Stormy
Joanne Cachapero: What do you get when you spend $250,000 on an adult title? Well, these days, the big-budget whoppers seem to be trending toward CGI effects that have super-sexy pirates sailing across the ocean blue or nubile starlets besieged by dinosaurs, space aliens and spooky ghosts sporting huge erections.
Gram Ponante: Pardon me? Boo! Let me take off this sheet.
JC: I mean, compared to a mainstream Hollywood budget; for instance $175 million-plus for a movie like the Kevin Costner debacle "Waterworld' in 1995 might have done much better at the box office if they'd just spent another $2,000 on hot, naked chicks.
GP: Yes, Jo Jo, but you jumped the gun on my thesis. Most porn movies are made for around $30K. For a movie with the same number of sex scenes as the $30K (or $15K) kind of porn, "Operation: Desert Stormy" had better justify the remaining $200,000-plus.
JC: "ODS" (for short) hasn't got a whole lot of green screen-simulated cyber environments with male performers blowing loads into the weightless atmosphere of Mars, but it is an action-packed three hours that has everything a couples-oriented, big-budget spy spoof should have — plus a camel, choreographed fight scenes, sky-diving and Ron Jeremy.
GP: Yes. I found myself saying, "They got a camel. How expensive was the camel? Now Marcus London is riding on the camel. They also have a dog. Oh! They also have a plane, and Nicole Sheridan is jumping out of it like she did in 'Airgazmic,' which is the other porn movie with a plane in it. I wonder how much that cost?"
JC: The best investment of all, in my opinion, is a standout comedy performance by Steven St. Croix. I'd never really been a fan, but this is the second time this year that I've been impressed with St. Croix's comic range. The first time was in Justin Kane's "Spunk'd" where St. Croix plays a ho-downin' hillbilly daddy. In "ODS," he plays George, the goofball husband of Rachel (Stormy Daniels) — two junior secret CIA agents with marital problems that get involved in an improbable scheme to save the world from Middle Eastern terrorists and their weapons of mass masturbation. St. Croix reminded me a lot of "Saturday Night Live" alum Will Ferrell, only funnier, better-looking and, I'm guessing, with a much bigger dick.
GP: Jesus Christ, Joanne. You have such a gutter mouth. Can't you respect the fact that Stormy Daniels and Wicked are endeavoring to make a mainstream motion picture with sex in it, and you go and throw down a cheap porn chatroom slam on innocent Will Ferrell? You'll be talking about revshares next.
JC: Just as long as people know what the fuck I'm talking about, dear — especially when I'm talking about big dicks. But, getting back to the movie: The parody (written and directed by Daniels) borrows from several mainstream movies. There's a little bit of "Austin Powers" in there, with Rachel running around the desert in her marabou-trimmed pink negligee, looking very femmebot-like. And there's more than a hint of "Mr. and Mrs. Smith" (a mainstream movie that would have been 150 percent better if Brangelina would have cut out the retarded dialogue and just fucked, or at least given each other some oral).
GP: There was some "Rocky III" with AVN bandleader Mark Stone's theme song, and the titles were lifted entirely from James Bond.
JC: Ultimately, Daniels' script came together like one of those goofy, fun comedies from the late '60s or '70s, with a big ensemble cast of adult's good character actors.
GP: And Daniels has picked up some things from her associations with the mainstream world. She writes her scripts in Final Draft, she follows established Hollywood screenplay guidelines of narrative beats (sort of), and the movie has "ambitious" written all over it. Not only that, Stormy breaks from Wicked's odd habit of filming sex scenes in low light. People screw in the daylight in Stormy's movie.
JC: Well, I agree with you, Grammie; with this size of budget, the lighting better be pretty damn good and not make the actors look like leftover chicken illuminated by the light of the refrigerator as you rummage for a snack at midnight. Combined with expensive locations, a well-timed musical score that actually creates atmosphere for the scenes, action sequences and physical humor (delivered by St. Croix), "ODS" is the kind of title that mainstream couples can watch without feeling that it's too porny — probably the same couples who have logged hundreds of late-night hours watching Wicked leading man Randy Spears on cable. Randy makes an appearance as Stormy's boss, Agent X; the movie opens with them doing a sexy tango, standing up and then horizontal. Then there is a hilarious sequence where Spears ends up at a GLBT luau, and gives sexy Kailani Lei his giant Tiki.
GP: That is the third sex scene in a movie that is unsure about its pacing. The pitfall of large budgets is that sometimes they cause productions to be uncertain of whether or not they are porn movies. I found myself anxious for people to get naked because there was all sorts of "business" and light comedy going on. Spears' scene with Lei, while a perfectly good scene (as were they all), seemed less organic to the movie. And that's where the trouble comes from in movies like this — they make people say words like "organic."
JC: Oh, only you would use a word like "organic." Even if the scene seems like a stretch, it's probably not the easiest thing to come up with a comic excuse for sex in the middle of a barbecue. In his "bonus extras" interview, St. Croix brings up a good point; when asked if hot sex enhances a plot-driven movie, he said he feels like the sex detracts. It takes skill and energy to get into character for most actors and, St. Croix said, when he has to do a sex scene, he's fucking as himself — and that's distracting for the audience that may actually be getting into the story. All this frivolous "movie" stuff is going to sound like bullshit to the chronic wank artist who just wants to sit and watch a wall-to-wall, but there's always the Internet for that. Even if it's absurd and wacky, and though I'm not always a big fan of adult movies that try too hard, I DO enjoy being entertained and a lot of the gags in this movie are really clever (not those kind of gags, Gram).
GP: Stormy has done her homework. She credits the audience with being able to figure out quick gags and occasionally will throw in dialogue off camera, the way "real people" talk to each other in different rooms. But there's danger there, too, because everyone is not Stormy, Spears and St. Croix; some of the acting is Porn 101, and that can be jarring.
JC: Overall the sex is pretty hot, really. There's a scene with Voodoo and a harem girl that is really fucking sexy. Ron Jeremy, who plays Grand Pooba Hussein, presides over a pretty hot girl/girl. And when Rachel and George finally decide to make up, you're invested enough in the characters to want to see the scene.
GP: Yeah. It was a crowd pleaser.
JC: All the talent is top-notch, of course, with Stormy and Nicole Sheridan the only blonde bombshells in a bunch of smokin' hot brunettes. And all the guys are awesome studs; Tommy Gunn, Marcus London, Tony DeSergio and Derrick Pierce provide some tasty eye candy.
GP: I have to reiterate what I think is a truism in porn: People say porn acting is bad — and it often is — but what's worse is when there are not enough good actors to go around. It's not bad porn acting that ruins a movie, it's the lack of consistency in performances. This did not happen in "ODS," but I was aware at all times that Stormy was the overachiever.
JC: And one more, thing — I understand why people don't like condoms in their adult movies, but I have to say — Wicked is the only straight adult company that's stayed with a condom-only policy, and you know what? It didn't really bother me much at all to see condoms used in every scene. They appeared on penises out of nowhere and then disappeared for the pop shots. I just decided not to pay much attention to them and I ended up getting turned on anyway. Go figure. Sometimes a good laugh is the best aphrodisiac.
GP: Well, I didn't get this far on my looks, Joanne.