Cobra (1986, directed by George Pan Cosmatos)


“You’re the disease.  I’m the cure.”

When a madman pulls out a gun in the middle of a supermarket, he starts out by firing at the produce department.  He doesn’t shoot at anyone who works in the produce department.  Instead, in slow motion, he blows away cabbages and apples.  Then he shoots a shopping cart.  He finally gets around to shooting one innocent bystander after telling him to walk down an aisle.

Outside the supermarket, a 1950 Mercury Monterey Coupe pulls up.  The personalized license plate reads Awsum 50.  The car’s driver (Sylvester Stallone) steps out of the car.  His name is Lt. Cobretti but everyone calls him Cobra.  Detective Monte (Andy Robinson, who played the killer in Dirty Harry) tells Cobra to stay out of it.  Cobra ignores him and goes into the store.

The guman raves that he’s a part of the “new world.”

“You wasted a kid for nothing,” Cobra says.  “Now, I think it’s time to waste you.”

And then Cobra does just that.

After getting yelled at by his superiors, Cobra drives back to his apartment, throws away his mail, and uses a pair of scissors as an eating utensil.  Just another day in the life of Cobra.

If you hadn’t already guessed, Cobra is the ultimate Sylvester Stallone-in-the-80s Cannon film.  In 1985, Stallone could do any film that he wanted to and, even if he wasn’t the director, the job was usually given to someone who wouldn’t stand in the way of letting Sly achieve his vision.  (That vision usually involved Stallone getting all of the good shots while everyone else dove for cover.)  Stallone is credited as the writer of Cobra and whatever else you can say about the man and his films, Stallone the screenwriter knew exactly what Stallone the actor was good at.  There’s not much meaningful dialogue in Cobra and most of it is made up of either Stallone threatening to shoot people or characters like the Night Slasher (Brian Thompson) bragging about how Cobra can’t touch him because of the constitution.  There is more intentional humor in Cobra than I think most people realize and there are a few scenes that only make sense if you accept that Stallone was poking fun of his own monosyllabic image.  For the most part, though, Cobra is nonstop violence from beginning to end.

Amazingly, Cobra started out as Beverly Hills Cops.  Before Eddie Murphy was cast as Axel Foley, Beverly Hills Cop was briefly meant to be a Sylvester Stalllone film.  Stallone, however, rewrote the script and took out most of the humor.  After the film’s producers reminded Stallone that they were trying to make a comedy, Stallone left the project and most of his ideas ended up in the script for Cobra.  The film features a murderous cult, led by the knife-wielding Night Slasher, that is determined to destroy anyone who they think is standing in the way of the “new world.”  Only Cobra can both stop them and also protect the life of their latest target, a model named Ingrid Knudsen (Brigitte Nielsen).  It’s hard to imagine Eddie Murphy dealing with any of this but it’s perfect for Stallone.

Cobra is a live-action cartoon and Cobra’s battle with the Night Slasher should be taken as seriously as He-Man’s battles with Skeletor.  The Night Slasher has no motivation beyond just being evil, Cobra never runs out of bullets or takes even a piece of shrapnel despite having hundreds of cultists shooting at him, and there’s an extended sequence where Ingrid poses with life-size robots.  Cobra chews on a toothpick and wears dark glasses and that’s all the personality he needs.  After all, crime is the disease and he’s the cure.

 

Back to School Part II #18: Not My Kid (dir by Michael Tuchner)


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Not My Kid, a made-for-television from 1985, opens with 15 year-old Susan Bower (Viveka Davis) in a car with her friends.  They’re drunk.  They’re stoned.  They’re laughing.  And soon, they’re screaming as the driver loses control and the car ends up getting overturned!  (I’ve had that happen before.  It wasn’t fun but I survived with only a few cuts and bruises.)  Susan isn’t seriously hurt but, at the hospital, it’s discovered that she has alcohol and drugs in her bloodstream.

“NOT MY KID!” her father, surgeon Frank Bower (George Segal), declares.

“NOT MY KID!” her mother, Helen Bower (Stockard Channing, totally wasted in a thinly written role), agrees.

“Totally your kid!” her younger sister, Kelly (Christa Denton), says before then revealing where Susan hides her drugs.  This leads to Kelly getting beaten up by Susan and her drug addict boyfriend, Ricky (Tate Fuckin’ Donavon, decades before playing a hostage in Argo.).

Anyway, neither Frank nor Helen want to admit that Susan has a drug problem so instead, they go to see a smug family counselor who tells them that they are both being too hard on their daughter and that they need to just let Susan be Susan.  That sounds like a good (and easy) plan but then Susan runs away and disappears for two days.  After she’s finally found, stoned and hiding out in the family’s boat, her parents finally decide to send her to rehab.

The rehab is run by Dr. Royce.  Dr. Royce is played by Andrew Robinson and it took me a while to recognize him as being the same actor who played the Scorpio Killer in Dirty Harry.  Perhaps that explains why Dr. Royce came across as being such a creepy character.  As I watched this movie, I kept waiting for the big reveal where Dr. Royce would turn out to be a murderer or something.  That never happened, of course.  In the world of Not My Kid, the harsh and confrontational Dr. Royce is the only thing keeping the entire teenage population for shooting up heroin.

The majority of the film takes place at the rehab and it gets annoying pretty quickly.  This is one of those places where everything is done as a group activity.  Whenever someone says something, everyone in the group replies with, “We love you, so-and-so.”  When Susan doesn’t act properly ashamed of herself, the group gangs up on her.  “You’re a phony!” someone says.  “You’re full of crap!” another person adds.  “We love you, Susan,” the group chants.

AGCK!  Seriously, the rehab scenes totally freaked me out because it came across less like therapy and more like brainwashing.  I spent the entire movie waiting for Susan to escape and when she did, I was happy for her.  She may have been a self-destructive drug addict but at least wasn’t a mindless zombie like everyone else in the movie!  But then she ended up getting caught by her father and taken back to the rehab.

Meanwhile, her parents are going through therapy as well.  Again, it’s all group therapy.  When Frank tries to talk about how Susan’s behavior makes him feel, someone says, “You’re a phony!’  Another person adds, “You’re full of crap!”  And the group chants, “We love you, Frank.”  Okay, to be honest, I’m taking some dramatic license with the dialogue here but hopefully, you get the general idea.

I mean, seriously — I understand that I was supposed to be like, “Yay rehab!” while watching the movie but the rehab came across more like some sort of creepy cult.  It reminded me of both a Canadian film called, Ticket To Heaven and a Texas film called Split Image.  As I watched Not My Kid, I kept waiting for James Woods to show up as a cult deprogrammer.

Anyway, don’t worry.  Everything turns out well in the end.  This was a made-for-TV movie, after all.  Not My Kid is way too heavy-handed for its own good and it lacks a certain self-awareness.  On a more positive note, George Segal does a good job in the role of Frank.

You can watch Not My Kid below!

Film Review: Trancers III (1993, dir. C. Courtney Joyner)


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This was a little sad to watch. At least it didn’t make me feel even more depressed than I did after the scene in the transploitation “documentary” Let Me Die A Woman (1977) where a trans woman cuts off her own penis. Thanks, Ms. 45 (1981)! It probably didn’t help that I also watched Crackdown Mission (1988) where Godfrey Ho spliced a Pierre Kirby buddy cop movie into a Taiwanese remake of Ms. 45 either.

The last time we left Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson), he and Lena (Helen Hunt) had dealt with Trancers in early 1990’s Los Angeles. This movie picks up in 1992. And yes, Helen Hunt is in this. If memory serves, she did this as a favor to the filmmakers considering she was on Mad About You at this point. It opens with the usual voiceover from Jack and then we see a really sad commercial for the Jack Deth detective agency.

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Yep, just like the first film, this one also has a part of it that takes place during the Christmas season. Then we see what happens when a guy who seems to barely speak English tries to rob a convenience store run by another guy who also seems to barely speak English.

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It causes this guy to show up in a time machine. He’s there for Jack. Cut to Jack talking on the phone to Lena. Turns out they’re getting a divorce! Can’t really blame her. It’s either a guy who has futuristic zombies coming after him like this.

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Or a guy who wants to hang a giant poster of Attack of the 50 Foot Woman in their apartment.

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As Helen puts it.

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I think she made the right choice.

After finding Jack, him and the reject from the third season of Star Trek: Enterprise travel into the future of 2352. There he finds that they were also able to get back Telma Hopkins as Cmdr. Rains…

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and Megan Ward as Alice Stillwell.

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This was three years before she would get her own show on NBC as well called Dark Skies. Unfortunately, that show didn’t succeed like the two other shows I remember them packaging with it: The Pretender and Profiler.

The gist here is that something happened in the past that led to a huge Trancer army overrunning the humans. You know what that means? Jack has to go back to the future to stop it. That means he has to go back to 2005. And by 2005, I mean we cut to a strip club.

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Hey, I know that name! Thanks, Mötley Crüe!

I’ve got the screenshots, but there’s no menage a trois here, nor breaking any of Frenchies laws. However, this guy seems to like what he sees.

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This scene introduces us to R.J. played by Melanie Smith.

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She’s joined a special corps of people who are being enhanced to be able to Trance at will through the use of drugs. The guy I posted before decides to beat some people up before being shot to death. This scene only exists to introduce us to her and the whole drug thing. Well, that and since it has…

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Travis McKenna as the bartender, it gives me an excuse to post one of my favorite scenes from Road House (1989).

I guess you could say that other guy was “too stupid to have a good time.” Now we are introduced to the villain of this movie and…

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I guess this movie was an audition for Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Melanie Smith would have a recurring role on the show, and that’s Andrew Robinson who would play Garak, the Cardassian tailor who was also a semi-retired dangerous spy and assassin. He really is the only good thing about this movie. Even through this stupid half assed sequel, he manages to show us exactly why he got hired to play that role. Funny that the previous Trancers movie had Jeffrey Combs in it who would also go on to play one of the most memorable characters from that show: Weyoun.

Anyways, after Jack goes back in time and shows us what being asked to make Trancers III was like…

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by falling into a pile of trash, we get some pointless scenes till Jack shows up at Lena’s 2005 apartment.

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And by 2005, I mean as seen from 1993. Making that girl wear that hat is cruel and unusual punishment. Turns out R.J. went to Lena because Lena has been writing about this Trancer core. It’s actually just an excuse to get her with Jack and let Tim and Helen say their goodbyes.

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From this point till the final scenes of the movie can be summed as stalling for time by having pointless scenes with the villain, pointless fighting between his soldiers, and pointless conversations between Jack and R.J. The only thing worth mentioning here is that it’s not a good idea to pit a piete girl and against decent sized guy in a fight when they certainly don’t come across as martial artists. I say that because one of the scenes is like watching an ant try to beat up a beetle.

Well, eventually Jack and R.J. are captured. R.J. breaks Jack out, but starts to Trance because of the drugs, so she asks Jack to kill her, which he does. Then what must have been a joke happens. The fish head guy from earlier shows up out of nowhere to help Jack, but the second they turn to go through the door to fight the bad guys, this happens.

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The guy freezes up leaving Jack to deal with them. And deal with them he does by gun, fist, and sword. I bet that was supposed to be a hint or inspiration for the next Trancers movie. Afterwards, it turns out fish head’s circuit board had malfunctioned, but came back to life as soon as the battle was done. Jack returns to the future future and goes before the council.

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They give Jack a fancy new title, which Jack correctly knows is just an excuse so they can send him anywhere in time they please along with his new buddy. And that’s it! There’s no reason to see this. I remember stumbling across this at a video store when I was young. No wonder I basically forgot about it’s existence. Since it worked so well at the end of the Trancers II review. Here’s another shot of Thomerson giving a help me I’m stuck making Trancers movies face.

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Embracing the Melodrama Part II #53: Someone I Touched (dir by Lou Antonio)


someoneitouch_225In the 1975 made-for-TV venereal disease epic Someone I Touched, there’s a scene of children’s author Cloris Leachman at work.  She’s sitting in her office, typing away on a manual typewriter.  Directly behind her is a crude drawing of a clown.  And to the right of her, there’s a statue of the same creepy clown.  Eventually, her husband (played by James Olson) comes into the office and, after a very long argument, finally forces himself to confess that, as the result of a one-night stand with a grocery store cashier (Glynnis O’Connor), he has syphilis.  And it’s possible that Cloris now has syphilis herself.  And, since Cloris is pregnant, it’s also possible that their baby may be born with syphilis.

And it’s all very serious and very dramatic and certainly, it’s nothing to laugh at.

But, I have to admit, that I could not stop thinking about that creepy clown.  And I have to admit that as Cloris was stumbling back in shock, I started to giggle because I just couldn’t stop thinking about what it must be like to work in an office surrounded by creepy clowns.  It made me think about The Sims and how, if your sims ended up getting depressed, the tragic clown would arrive and just makes things worse.

That’s the thing with Someone I Touched.  It’s a very serious film and yet it’s almost impossible to take that seriously.  Whenever a helpful health worker (Andy Robinson, the Scorpio Killer from Dirty Harry) shows up to dispense statistics or the cashier attempts to track down everyone that she’s ever had sex with or Cloris and Olson start to argue about the sad state of their marriage, you’re very aware that the film is dealing with some serious subject matter.  And yet, you can’t take it seriously because of all the little details.  You find yourself fixated on how ugly 70s interior design truly was.  You watch this tiny vein in Olson’s forehead and you worry if it’s going to explode during some of his more dramatic scenes.  You listen to dialogue like, “It (syphilis) can be a real drag if you don’t take care of it” and “Tramps get Syphilis!”  You realize that Leachman is supposed to be playing someone in her mid-30s, even though she was 49 when the film was made.  You listen as Olson explains his recent one night stand by saying, “I was looking down the barrel of my 40th birthday,” despite the fact that Olson looks like he’s in his mid-50s.  And let’s not forget those creepy clowns…

And you just can’t take the movie seriously.  You know that you should but you just can’t.  How could one well-intentioned film produce so many involuntary giggles?

Now, I know you’re probably thinking to yourself, “I would never watch a movie like that!”  But, if you change your mind, Someone I Touched is currently available on Netflix streaming.