Sunday, April 29, 2012

Think Your Life Sucks? Then Please Watch...

It never rains, but it pours, right bad movie lovers?

I mean, the economy still hasn't perked up enough. Iran and Israel are about to bomb each other back to the stone age over nuclear programs that they either A) deny having or B) insist are for peaceful purposes only. The Secret Service, The Secret Service! is mixed up in a hooker and alcohol scandal. Mitt Romney is the GOP nominee for President and the GOP is in tears over the prospect. Rush Limbaugh and Sean Hannity don't want insurance plans to cover birth control because they insist life begins the minute a man has a woman's bra unhooked. Greece is about to sink like Atlantis under the weight of its debt. Spain may soon be joining her. Rupert Murdoch insists he's been hurt even more than all those famous people whose cell phones were hacked by his tabloid employees. The King of Spain, who heads his nation's World Wild Life charity, was caught shooting elephants. And Newsweek magazine proclaims on its latest cover that modern, empowered women just want to be...spanked?

Yes, life can suck at times, can't it? But please remember: while your life might be in the toilet right now, someone, somewhere has it even worse. Don't believe me? Then by all means, please take full advantage of this blog's regular self-help feature "If You Think Your Life Sucks, Please Watch...

The Specialist."
This 1994 doozie features Sly Stallone as (how appropriate!) a bomb expert and Sharon Stone as the mysterious, panties-shunning gal who wants him to bump off the mobsters who tortured and killed her parents many years ago.

Of course, Sly isn't your typical, run-of-the-mill bomb expert. No way! He's an ex-CIA bomb expert. He's also very picky: he only takes the jobs he wants. Furthermore, he's very reclusive. In fact, even if he agrees to take your job, he will not meet you face to face and will only contact you through the Internet. Finally, Sly is the type of bomb expert that can shape or plant an explosive device so perfectly that only the intended targets are killed, not any innocent bystanders.

In short, he's a humane bomb expert-slash-hired killer. Good to know, in case you're in the market for that kind of thing and you don't want to rely solely on

Anyway, May Munro (Stone) was just a little girl when her parents were horribly tortured and killed by all purpose meanie Tomas Leon (portrayed by Eric Roberts) and two other goons from the notorious Leon Cuban-American mafia family. The notorious Leon mafia family is headed up by all purpose meanie Rod Steiger, who appears to be possessed by the spirit of Ricky Riccardo. Rounding things out is all purpose meanie James Woods, who plays the head of the Leon mafia family's security detail. You know Woods a real monster because he barks at a hapless car attendant, "Who gave you permission to smile! Shut up!" Later he will even push an old couple out of an elevator and insult the old pepper's choice of shirt.

Oh, and did I forget to mention that Woods and Stallone were once buddies and in the CIA together and had a falling out over a bombing that went badly and Woods has it in for Stallone and wants to kill him?

Stone has contacted Stallone (who's character's name is Ray Quick) and wants to do business. At first, Ray tries to talk her out of her plans, but when she vows to snuff the baddies out herself, he signs on. I'm sure Ray only wants to help poor May have some closure and isn't influenced one bit by those surveillance tapes that reveal her to be quite a looker who must spend hours in the gym in order to wear those hot mama outfits she has lining her closet. Or their periodic phone chats that feature May purring, "I heard that you control your explosions, that you shape your charges." How May supports herself, why the Leon mafia family killed her parents, how she escaped their detection, who raised her, or if she even went to college is never explained. I guess as long as his customers' checks clear or they pay up front in cash in unmarked bills Ray (and the filmmakers) are more than happy to let the rest slide.

And soon the game is afoot.While Ray dickers with his smart bombs,  May gets busy cozying up to Tomas who, naturally, never suspects that his new cuddlemate might have a grudge against him--or that, depending on May's age at the time of her parents' murder, Tomas might be too old for such frisky doings. Never the less, you know May really hates this charade because after Tomas brings her home, she staggers around her apartment and tosses her panties in the trash. The look on Stone's face can thus be interpreted two ways: as her character saying to herself, "God, I hate my job" while the actress no doubt is saying to herself, "I am so firing my agent for talking me into this movie."

Because nothing in "The Specialist" is what it appears to be, we soon learn May is in cahoots with meanie James Woods (who's character is named Ned). See, Ned wants Ray dead and he's using May to draw his ex-buddy out into the open. How did Ned and May meet? Is he blackmailing her? Does he know or care that May wants to kill his employers? Does he realize May is using a fake name (Adrian)? All of these queries soon pile up like unopened mail, but "The Specialist" doesn't bother much with them. Why care if your movie  makes sense or not, when all you have to do is have Sly set off one of his smart bombs? Presumably the audience will be so impressed with the explosions that they will more than compensate for the preposterous pot holes in the plot.

Well, for some viewers that may be a fair trade, but for anyone with an IQ that's an irritating ploy that grates more and more as the movie stumbles along.

Of course, the penultimate explosion in "The Specialist" is the much anticipated meeting of Stallone and Stone. Unfortunately, this close encounter fizzles out like those cheap fireworks your kid brother insists on purchasing at roadside stands during the 4th of July. As Sly and Shar eye each other up and down and slowly circle in for the kill, you can almost hear the two actors engaging in a telepathic "I'm hotter than you" competition:

HE: "I'm hotter than you."

SHE: "No, I'm hotter than you."

HE: "Oh, yeah? Check out my hinder! I can crack walnuts with my butt cheeks!"

SHE: "Oh, yeah? Check out my abs! I can flip a quarter off my gut!"

HE: "I don't need a jockstrap!"

SHE: "I don't wear panties!"

HE: "I once appeared in a porno movie!"

SHE: "I once flashed my beaver!"

After Stallone and Stone have finished their romantic interlude, we still have the rest of the film to endure.

Thinking that May had perished in one of Ray's earlier explosions, imagine Ned's surprise when he stumbles upon her in a hotel lobby. Like the meanie he is, Woods hustles Stone into a waiting car...for something. Then May announces she has to go potty, which gives her plenty of time to warn Ray via cell phone that trouble is brewing. When our trio finally meet in a heavily armed and booby-trapped bunker/warehouse/hideout, Woods has gone completely mental. He also steps on a bomb and is blown into itty bitty pieces. Ray and May escape without a scratch or attracting the attention of the cops, naturally.

Later, mafia don Rod Steiger opens up a parcel that contains a locket with pictures of May's murdered parents inside. Naturally, it explodes. Gotcha! From a distance, Ray and May smile contentedly and drive off into the sunset planning, no doubt, a lovely bomb free life together.

Now you are probably thinking, " But Auntie Beth, my life sucks! How could this turgid movie possibly help me feel better?"

Well, I'll tell you.

"The Specialist" was made during the height of Sharon Stone's "Basic Instinct" glory days. Before that, she spent about 10 years in B-Movie/Straight -to-Video Hell, appearing in such tripe as "Action Jackson", "Scissors" (as a virgin!), the remake of "King Solomon's Mines" (which Richard Chamberlain!) and TV movies like "The Calendar Girl Murders". When "Basic Instinct" became a hit, Sharon was catapulted into the big time. This, you would have thought, would have inspired Sharon to use her newly minted star power to find quality scripts for herself and star in some classy films that showed off her acting skills, not just her body.

But no. Instead, it can be argued that the films Sharon has chosen to make since her big break through ARE EVEN WORSE than the stuff she endured as a starlet nobody. "Intersection", "The Last Dance", "Gloria", "Sliver", "Sphere", "Cat Woman" and "Basic Instinct 2" are horrible, horrible movies. Sure, Sharon earned an Oscar nomination for "Casino", but that was a VERY SMALL blip on her other wise bad movie radar. In fact, "The Specialist" was such a stinker (and she was so stinky in it) that it earned Sharon a coveted Golden Raspberry Award as Worst Actress at 1994's Golden Raspberry Awards (beating out such worthy competition as Joan Chen in "On Deadly Ground" and Jane March in "The Color of Night"). "The Specialist" probably would have remained Sharon's worst film to date if she hadn't made "Basic Instinct 2" a few years later--yet another bad career move on her part.

The unbearable badness of Stone's cinematic cannon makes you wonder about her much lauded career instincts and killer IQ. If she's suppose to be so smart, wouldn't she of all people steer clear of cow pies like "The Specialist" just out of principal?

So, if you, too, are struggling under the weight of a dead end job or a career that just doesn't want to take off and are beating yourself up for still not having your student loans paid off, just watch "The Specialist" and see how sucky things are going for Sharon Stone--and have been for quite a while. You'll feel better, trust me.

Until next time, cheer up and save the movies!

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