Retro Television Review: Quarterback Princess (dir by Noel Black)

Welcome to Retro Television Reviews, a feature where we review some of our favorite and least favorite shows of the past!  On Sundays, I will be reviewing the made-for-television movies that used to be a primetime mainstay.  Today’s film is 1983’s Quarterback Princess.  It  can be viewed on YouTube!

Quarterback Princess begins with Ralph Maida (Don Murray) dropping in on the coach of a high school football team in the small town of Minnvile, Oregon.  Ralph explains that he and his family are going to be relocating to the town from Canada.  His eldest child wants to play football and Ralph is curious as to when the team will be holding the tryouts.  The coach asks what position Ralph’s son plays.  Ralph explains that Tami is his daughter and she plays quarterback.  After an awkward moment of silence, the coach explains that he’ll have to talk to the school board.

Yes, Quarterback Princess is one of those films.  It’s an only girl on the team film, in which an athletic teenager has to convince not only her male teammates but also all of the stodgy old people that she can play just as well as the boys.  On the one hand, films (and shows, as Degrassi had an entire storyline about Jane trying to get on the school’s football team) like this are usually entertaining because it’s fun to watch a girl succeed while all of the men sputter with outrage until the team starts winning.  On the other hand, they’re always a little bit difficult for me to relate to because I would honestly have no interest in doing what Tami’s doing and it’s hard for me to understand why anyone else would either.  I mean, seriously why would anyone want to live in Oregon when Montana’s just a short drive away?

Quarterback Princess is based on a true story.  In real life, Tami Maida was 14 year old when she joined her high school football team as their quarterback.  That season, the team had a record of 7-1 and they won the state championship.  Tami was also elected Homecoming Queen that seem year.  The parts of the movie that seem like the type of thing that only a screenwriter could come up actually happened.  Helen Hunt, who was 20 years old at the time, plays Tami.  When I watched the film, I thought Hunt did a good job in the scenes off field but I thought she was a bit unconvincing when she was actually playing the game and throwing the ball.  Fortunately, I did some research before I actually wrote this review and I discovered that Tami served as Helen Hunt’s stand-in during the film and, in most of the game scenes, that actually is Tami throwing the ball and running around the field.  That shows you how much I know about football.

Quarterback Princes is definitely a made-for-television production.  These are the only high school football players in existence who neither drink nor curse.  For that matter, the coaches are surprisingly nice as well.  That said, it isn’t bad.  The best scenes are the ones that feature Tami and her family adjusting to Tami’s sudden fame.  Daphne Zuniga gives a sympathetic performance as Tami’s sister, who is not particularly happy about how Tami’s sudden fame has changed everyone’s lives.  The always likable John Stockwell plays Tami’s boyfriend and the two of them are a believable couple.  Noel Black, who also directed Pretty Poison, does a good job of keeping the action moving at a steady pace.  Probably the worse thing you can say about this film is that it was a bit predictable but, in this case, all of the predictable stuff actually happened so what can you do?

The Films of 2020: The Night Clerk (dir by Michael Cristofer)

“Tye Sheridan Is …. THE NIGHT CLERK!”

That’s not how The Night Clerk was advertised, though perhaps it should have been.  This is one of those overheated melodramas that’s so sure that it’s making a bigger statement than it actually is that it becomes somewhat fascinating to watch.  Usually, when we say that a film is fascinating to watch, we mean that it’s either fascinatingly good or fascinatingly bad.  The Night Clerk is fascinatingly middle-of-the-road.  It has opportunities to be good, largely due to the performances of Tye Sheridan and Ana de Armas.  And it has opportunities to be bad, largely due to the direction and script of Michael Cristofer.  Try as it might, the film never becomes truly good and yet it’s never truly bad, either.  It’s just kind of there.

The title character is Bart Bromley (Tye Sheridan), a young man who has Asperger’s syndrome and who works as a night desk clerk at a hotel.  He’s hidden cameras all over the hotel, so that he can observe the guests in their rooms.  He even watches the guests when he returns to the home that he shares with his mother, Ethel (Helen Hunt).  That’s undeniably creepy but we’re not supposed to hold that against Bart because he’s only watching the guests so that he can learn how to talk and communicate with other people.

(To be honest, the film is very lucky that Tye Sheridan was available to play Bart.  As written, Bart is not a particularly sympathetic character.  But Sheridan is such a likable actor and has such an appealing screen presence that you’re willing to overlook a lot of narrative inconsistencies where his character is concerned.)

Anyway, Bart ends up taking an interest in a guest named Karen (Jacque Gray) but, when Karen’s murdered, Bart becomes the number one suspect.  Even though Bart knows that Karen was killed by a mysterious man who had a distinctive tattoo, he can’t reveal how he knows that information.  When Bart is assigned to another hotel, he meets Andrea Riviera (Ana de Armas).  Andrea seems to take an interest in Bart but is she sincere or is she somehow involved with the murderer herself?

Do I really need to answer that question for you?

And again, the film is lucky that Ana de Arams was available to play Andrea because Andrea is another character who wouldn’t be particularly sympathetic if she had been played by a less appealing performer.  The film can never seem to make up its mind whether she’s a calculating femme fatale or a naive victim and it’s somewhat amazing that de Amas is able to give a good performance considering how badly Andrea is written.

The Night Clerk is one of those films that holds your interest while you watch it but it tends to fade from the memory as soon as it ends.  Sheridan and de Armas are appealing actors but the film’s central mystery isn’t a particularly interesting one.  When the mystery is finally solved, I was so underwhelmed that I kept waiting for another twist to suddenly pop up.  Surely, I kept saying, it can’t be that simple.  But yes, it is.  Though the hotels are impressively trashy, the film itself has a rather flat, uninteresting look and director Michael Cristofer never really brings the story together.  It’s a mess of a film but it does work as a testament to the talents of Tye Sheridan and Ana de Armas.

A Movie A Day #25: Next of Kin (1989, directed by John Irvin)

next-of-kinTruman Gates (Patrick Swayze) may have been raised in Appalachia but, now that he lives in Chicago, he’s left the old ways behind.  He has a job working as a cop and his wife (Helen Hunt) is pregnant with their first child.  When Truman’s younger brother, Gerald (Bill Paxton), shows up in town and asks for Truman’s help, Truman gets him a job as a truck driver.  But, on his first night on the job, Gerald’s truck is hijacked by a Sicilian mobster named Joey Rosellini (Adam Baldwin) and Gerald is killed.  Truman’s older brother, Briar (Liam Neeson), soon comes to Chicago and declares a blood feud on the mob.

Of the many action films that Patrick Swayze made between Dirty Dancing and Ghost, Roadhouse may be the best known but Next of Kin is the best.  Next of Kin spends as much examining the family dynamics of Rosellini’s family as it does with Truman’s, suggesting that there is not much of a difference between the two groups.  There’s even a scene where Joey’s uncle (played by Andreas Katsulas) tells Joey that the Sicily was the Appalachia of Italty.  Next of Kin also has a better supporting cast than most of the films that Swayze made during this period.  Along with Paxton and Neeson, the hillbillies are represented by actors like Ted Levine and Michael J. Pollard while Ben Stiller has an early role as Joey’s cousin.  Patrick Swayze gives one of his better performances as Truman but the entire movie is stolen by Liam Neeson, who is a surprisingly believable hillbilly.

Back to School Part II #19: Girls Just Want To Have Fun (dir by Alan Metter)


For our next film in this series of Back to School reviews, we take a look at 1985’s Girls Just Want To Have Fun!

And you know what?

It’s true — we do just want to have fun!

The fun in Girls Just Want To Have Fun is pretty much defined by dancing, which is okay with me because I love to dance.  However, Girls Just Want To Have Fun had the misfortune to be made in the mid-80s.  I have lost track of many 80s films that I’ve watched but I’m still always shocked at how undanceable most 80s music truly was.  This film, of course, does contain a cover version of the famous song by Cyndi Lauper and that’s actually a pretty good 80s song.  However, the rest of the music (and, by that, I mean the music that everyone in the movie is actually dancing to) is incredibly bland in the way that only music from the decade of We Built This City could be.

As for the film itself, it takes place in Chicago.  Janey Glenn (Sarah Jessica Parker) is the newest student at the local Catholic girls school.  Janey’s overprotective father (Ed Lauter) is in the army and Janey has lived all over the world.  Despite that, Janey is not at all worldly.  In fact, when she tries to introduce herself to her classmates, all she can get out is that she’s a gymnast and she loves to dance. (When we actually see Janey dancing or doing any sort of gymnastics, Sarah Jessica Parker’s hair always seems to fall in her face, which is certainly one way to hide a stunt double.)

Janey makes one friend at the school.  Lynn (Helen Hunt, looking like a teenager but already sounding like a hung over 40 year-old) is about as wild as a girl can be in 1980s PG-rated film.  That’s to say, she wears a leather skirt when she’s not in school and, when she babysits, she orders pizza and then allows the baby to sit on it.  (Ewwwwwww!  There’s a reason why babies wear diapers….)  Lynne and Janey are automatically BFFs because they both love Dance TV!

That’s right — it’s DTV!  I wonder what that’s supposed to be based on…

It turns out that DTV is having a contest to pick two new dancers!  Disobeying her strict father, Janey sneaks out of the house and joins Lynn in auditioning!  Lynn’s partner turns out to be so spastic that Lynn doesn’t make the semi-finals.  Later, Lynn discovers that her partner was bribed by rich bitch Natalie Sands (Holly Gagnier).  I’m not sure why Natalie felt the need to do that since Lynn wasn’t that impressive to begin with.  She’s about as good a dancer as you would expect Helen Hunt to be.

However, Janey does make it to the semi-finals, where she’s partnered with Jeff.  Jeff is tough and blue-collar and, at first, it doesn’t seem like he and Janey will get along.  So, of course, they end up falling in love and, of course, Natalie’s father tries to force Jeff out of the contest by threatening to put his father out of work.  Jeff, incidentally, is played by Lee Montgomery.  Years before appearing in Girls Just Want To Have Fun, Montgomery played the little kid who gets crushed by a chimney at the end of Burnt Offerings.  Burnt Offerings is a really crappy film but I watch it every time that it comes on TCM just so I can see that chimney crush Lee Montgomery.  That said, Montgomery actually does a pretty good job of Jeff.  You never quite buy him as a rebel without a cause but he still seems like an authentic and likable teenager.  Jeff and Janey are a cute couple and that’s all that really matters.

Just as Janey has a best friend, Jeff also has a best friend.  Drew Boreman (Jonathan Silverman) talks too much, tries to sell t-shirts from the trunk of his car, and there’s also a scene were he grabs a random girl’s breasts and makes a comment about using her nipples to tune a radio.  Drew is annoying and, once you get over the fact that she’s being played by a young Helen Hunt, so is Lynn.  Watching the movie, you kind of want to tell both of them to just calm down for a few minutes.

But you know who is not annoying?  Jeff’s younger sister, Maggie, who is played by none other than a very young Shannen Doherty.  Maggie was my favorite character because she alone seemed to understand how stupid everyone else in the film was.  And she was willing to call them out on it.

ANYWAY — Girls Just Want To Have Fun is one of those movies where next to nothing actually happens.  There is an extended sequence where our heroes destroy Natalie’s snooty party with the help of a bunch of punks and female body builders but otherwise, it’s remarkable how little actually happens.  That said, some of the dancing is good (even if most of the music is totally bland in the way that only 80s music can be) and it’s interesting to see Sarah Jessica Parker and Helen Hunt when they were young.  Sarah Jessica Parker actually gives a surprisingly likable performance here, even if it is often way too obvious that a body double is doing the majority of her dancing.  That said, you really can’t get any further away from Carrie Bradshaw than Janey Glenn.

Girls Just Want To Have Fun is a time capsule of the decade in which it was made and that is definitely the main reason to watch it.  Until time machines are a reality and we can experience the past firsthand, we’ll just have to keep getting our information from movies like this one.

Sci-Fi Review: Trancers: City of Lost Angels (2013, dir. Charles Band)


It took me since September 5th of 2015 to finally reach the very last film in this retrospective of the Trancers series, but I’m finally here. This is the lost sequel that was made…why am I explaining this? There is a title card right at the beginning that does it for me.


Yes, I do have The Evil Clergyman. I will get to it eventually. Pulse Pounders also has a sequel to The Dungeonmaster (1984) in it, but that doesn’t appear to have been released yet.

The movie begins with good old McNulty (Art LaFleur).


He is on his way to be briefed about a prisoner in jail who apparently does not like Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) who is still in the past. He is being briefed by The Warden of the jail…


played by actress Grace Zabriskie. Ah, the good old days when I could still play dumb. You of course know Grace from Norma Rae (1979), Galaxy of Terror (1981), An Officer and a Gentleman (1982), Leonard Part 6 (1987), Wild at Heart (1990), My Own Private Idaho (1991), Fried Green Tomatoes (1991), Seinfeld, Big Love, and that little short-lived show called Twin Peaks. Oh how I wish I could have claimed I thought that was some late night cable series from the 90s like the TV Show Red Oaks having a character think The 400 Blows (1959) was porn. I still have the right to make a couple American Sniper rubber baby jokes in future posts. You can’t take that away from me! If you are thinking I’m padding out this review because the movie is really short, then you’d be right.

She takes him to every futuristic hallway from the 80’s to meet the vicious murderer named Edlin Shock (Velvet Rhodes). She only says two words in her time there: Jack Deth. He is the one who brought her in.


You can sort of see through the lousy VHS rip this DVD provides that she is being transferred because the movie has to have an excuse for the criminal to escape and they went with this one.

McNulty walks through a door that can conveniently close on him when needed, and she breaks free.


She has the cuffs off now that were holding her hands straight up for some reason. Just thought I’d tell you that, cause the movie never explains how that happened. Nor does it explain this.


That’s right! She somehow punctured and got through the ceiling. Even Zar in Rock’s Winning Workout Without Weights couldn’t do that!

The best he could do was bonk his head on the ceiling.

Rock's Winning Workout Without Weights (1990)

Rock’s Winning Workout Without Weights (1990)

If you’re thinking they might show her taking someone’s gun that could be used to make that hole, then…um…nope! The best we get is that as she kicked one of the soldiers, he appears to have shot upward once. Blink, and you’ll miss it.

Anyways, The Warden instantly knows she has reached the room where she can go back in time. So of course they go there and find Raines (Thelma Hopkins).


She tells him that Edlin forced her to send her down the line. McNulty orders Jack’s body brought out of the vault, and gets Raines to send him down the line. By that I mean Alyson Croft is back to play McNulty as a girl. She’s as good as ever in this. In fact, the majority of the film is made up of Tim Thomerson and Alyson Croft reminding us that they really did give the best performances in any of the Trancers movies.

We now cut to the past of 1986 Los Angeles so that Helen Hunt can make what is basically a cameo appearance as Lena Deth. We first see her throwing dishes.


She’s not too happy with the last three years of their time together. Jack tells her they have a great detective agency. However, they have zero clients despite a great newspaper ad that says, “Put your trust in Deth.” Sounds fine to me! A plumbing agency ran that kind of an ad in my city’s local newspaper back in the 50s.

IMG_5501 copy

Then again, this is the same paper that ran a story talking about dogs pissing on the paper while it sat on newsstands. They also wrote an apology for making a typo in a classified ad by making another typo in the apology. Maybe she’s right. By the way, I’m not kidding about the pissing thing. It’s a four paragraph story about how “canines criticize” the paper.

Meanwhile, back in the movie, she chews him out, he uses the long second to give a speech, but after kissing her, she storms off anyways. Now Jack sits down to watch…

vlcsnap-2016-04-11-18h08m00s659 (1)

what I assume is Peter Gunn? They did make a joke about that show in the first Trancers movie. I’m not knowledgable enough about 50s television. That’s when Alyson Croft, as McNulty’s ancestor, shows up to deliver the message that the crazy killer from the beginning is after him.


Along with that, she brings up the fact that it’s a lot easier to protect Jack if he comes back to the future. This is probably the best part of the movie cause they actually bother to bring this next part up. Jack says that if he left now, then Phillip Deth, his ancestor whose body he is in, could be picked off and thus erase his own existence. McNulty says that the bad lady likes to look the person she is going to kill in the eye. That means she’ll follow him back to the future if necessary. However, since they already built this nice apartment set, Jack stays and stops McNulty from shooting him with the back to the future dart. McNulty likes to do that suddenly to Jack. He did it in the first film thus interrupting Jack just before he was going to have sex.

Now a guy fixing the roof shows up because we are only working without about 24 minutes of footage here.


Of course Jack lets him go. Now a red herring shows up. Okay, I kid. She’s not a bird, but she is dressed in red!


If this is actress Velvet Rhodes, then they sure don’t tell you anywhere in the non-existent credits or on IMDb. If she was, then you’d think he would recognize her, but he doesn’t, and neither does McNulty. I don’t think it is. Although, he certainly is skeptical. It really doesn’t matter what happens here. You are watching this just to see Tim Thomerson and Alyson Croft do their thing. They really are good together.

Oh, and the way you know for sure it’s either red jacket lady or roof guy is that they make sure to tell you that McNulty is lucky he has a genetically aligned ancestor to go back into before sending him down the line. That way you know for sure it’s not the killer posing as McNulty.

After a little bit of drinking, a little bit of interrogating, and red herring changing her clothes, this happens.


Yep, roof guy was the one she took over.

A scuffle now ensues, and between Jack and McNulty,…



she and Jack are sent back to the future.

Now the fight continues in the future.


The fight goes to the roof, and she gets knocked off bringing the reason for this plot to exist to an end.


Jack and Raines talk a bit. Jack decides to go back to the past, but with one condition. Could she send him back three hours earlier? You know, that way this movie never actually happened. Of course she can so…


they can attempt to kiss,…


tell McNulty to piss off,…


and actually kiss.

Then this happens.


Thomerson runs across the screen holding some stuff while Helen Hunt dances. Classy, Full Moon Features.

Now you may be asking yourself a question right now. Where were the Trancers in this Trancers movie? You didn’t miss anything. They aren’t here. This is the one and only Trancers movie without any Trancers in it. No mind controlled zombie Trancers from the first one. No drug-induced/mind controlled ones from the second film. No super solider ones from the third one. No vampire ones from four and five. No meteor rock tied into a ray gun that zaps you in the eyes from Trancers 6 either. No Trancers whatsoever. Honestly, I’m glad. I needed a change.

What’s nice about this film is that it really doesn’t break the continuity with the actual Trancers II. If anything, it gives us an early glimpse into how Jack was trying to settle into living in the past. Also, how his and Lena’s relationship was already on the rocks. In the end though, I would only recommend this for real fans of the series.

At the end of this entire look back at the series, the only ones worth seeing are the first one, this one, and the actual second movie. Definitely skip the rest.

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


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.


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.


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.


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


As Helen puts it.


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…


and Megan Ward as Alice Stillwell.


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.


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.


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


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…


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…


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…


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


Film Review: Trancers II (1991, dir. Charles Band)


Well, it sure took them a long time to get back to this series. Actually, they did shoot a sequel before this, but I’ll get to that one after I finish the main releases. This one picks up six years after the events of the first one. In that one we left Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) and Lena Deth (Helen Hunt) in the past of Los Angeles. We also got a short sequel bait at the end in the form of McNulty in his female ancestor’s little girl body. For this installment they appear to have gotten back just about every single person of consequence.


Jack and Lena Deth


Art LaFleur as McNulty in future


Biff Manard as Hap Ashby

Even Telma Hopkins returns as Raines and she was barely in the movie.

Even Telma Hopkins returns as Raines and she was barely in the movie.

The setup here is that Hap Ashby got clean and made a bunch of money in commodity speculation. He needs it since he has taken up the hobby of collecting firetrucks. Jack and Lena live with Ashby on his estate. Whistler’s brother is in the past so that means more Trancers are on their way. McNulty is going to go back in time again into his ancestor along with a time machine. The idea is to bring Jack back to the future with Whistler’s brother in tow. Jack’s body in the future is unsuitable to come back to so he needs to return in his new body. There you go, sequel!

Before I continue, take a look at those screenshots. They do those close portrait shots of the actors a lot in this movie. My guess is not that they couldn’t get the actors in the same place all the time, but that they thought that might happen. As a result, they used that consistently throughout just in case the situation arose. Enter the Trancers!




That’s when one more actor makes a return. Not sure how, but seven years or so after the production of the original Trancers, they got Alyson Croft to reprise her role as McNulty’s ancestor. I think I enjoyed her performance in this movie the most. I love her entrance into the film. She shows up having some trouble riding a bike before falling over.


However, while McNulty may have trouble riding a bike, he apparently has no issues putting on makeup.


This is when one more little important piece of information is dropped on us. In the first film we found out that Jack’s wife was killed by a Trancer. However, in this one we find out that someone was sent back to shortly before she died. They sent her consciousness back in time so that this movie can have some funny scenes between Jack and his two wives.


This is Alice Stillwell played by Megan Ward. You see, while Jack got sent back into the body of Philip Deth shortly after having sex and McNulty ended up in a pretty and funny young girl, Jack’s wife ended up in the body of a mental patient. And not just a mental patient anywhere either.


That’s Whistler’s brother who goes by the name Dr. Wardo played by the late Richard Lynch. And he has a sidekick.


Honestly, if the credits hadn’t told me that was Jeffrey Combs, then I could have easily missed that fact. I really have no idea what Lynch and Combs are up to in this movie. It doesn’t matter. Jack needs to rescue his wife and kill Lynch. It’s that simple.

The long second makes a return! Jack makes good use of it to singe some Trancers. He then comforts three ladies who saw the Trancers disappear by telling them it’s okay because they’re biodegradable. The lines in this just aren’t as good as the first one. Alice also uses the long second to hide the time machine after she finds it. It’s not important why it’s near her. It’s for the same reasons why she is even in this movie. It’s convenient for the plot.


Meanwhile, Alyson Croft continues to be the funniest person in this movie, which is humorous considering Helen Hunt would go on to do Mad About You and Tim Thomerson was once a standup comedian.


Jack shows up and rescues Alice while they are moving her. There’s a short exchange where she says he’s the only man she’s slept with, she passes out, and he’s says it wasn’t that bad. Kinda funny, but nothing in this movie is as memorable as lines like “Beef? You mean like from a cow?” or “I’m from another time, another world. I don’t even know what you people eat for lunch.”, which were in the first film.

There’s some screwball stuff here between Jack, Lena, and Alice, but who really cares. Trancers show up, Ashby starts drinking again, and Alyson Croft continues to be funny.


Now our four Musketeers set out to take down Lynch and Combs. But first we get a cameo appearance by one of director Charles Band’s other movies.


I’ll probably review that eventually. The only really important plot point left here is that Jack is going to have to send Alice back in the time machine since otherwise she’ll die shortly after returning to her body. I say it’s time for highlights.





The good guys win in a final showdown with Lynch, Combs, and their henchmen. Jack sends Alice back to the future in the time machine after a parting kiss. McNulty returns to his body to inform Raines that Jack has a new home in the past. Then Jack and Lena kiss just like at the end of the first movie.


But unlike the end of the first movie, there’s no hint at a sequel here. However, they must have changed their minds because there are five more films in this franchise. This one was definitely a step down from the first. Honestly, I really only recommend it if you are a big fan of the first like I am. We’ll see what’s next for Jack Deth in Trancers III (1992).


Film Review: Trancers (1984, dir. Charles Band)


Back in the 1990’s there was a show on TNT that would play cult films. I don’t remember the name of it, but it was like what TCM Underground is today. I’m pretty sure that’s where I first saw The Warriors (1979), and it introduced me to Trancers. I fell in love with it. I loved the music so much that even though there was no chance I could find it, I had my parents take me to all sorts of places trying to find the soundtrack. That never panned out. Although, the music is still so burned in my mind that when I watched the horrible Savage Island (1985) this year, I recognized the music. And sure enough, Mark Ryder and Phil Davies composed the music for that movie too. They ripped themselves off. But enough of my personal backstory.


In typical film noir fashion, we are introduced to Jack Deth (Tim Thomerson) and the setup of the film in voiceover narration as he enters a diner at night. Deth is a cop in the future who just finished “singeing” Martin Whistler (Michael Stefani). Whistler uses psychic powers to enslave people and turn them into what are known as Trancers. Hence the title. There are two people in the diner. A man sitting at the counter and an old lady behind it. After ordering some coffee, he checks the guy using a special bracelet to see if he’s a Trancer. Nope, but watch out cause here comes the old lady.


After taking a knife to the leg, Deth defeats her and her body disappears in a burning red light. That’s how all the Trancers die. Then Deth’s superior McNulty (Art LaFleur) shows up. He tries to give Deth some lip about Trancer hunting being out of bounds for him. Deth does what Bogart would have done. He gets in his car, tosses his badge out the window, and drives off. McNulty tells us that Deth was a good cop till his wife was killed by a Trancer.


Cut to a shot of what was Los Angeles, but now called Lost Angeles because it’s underwater. Deth likes going diving out there. McNulty and some other cops show up to tell him that the council needs him. Deth says “fuck them”, but there’s one more bit of information. Whistler is still alive. That gets his attention and he goes to meet with the council.


The council was once made up of three people, but one of them and his children have disappeared. Here’s the deal. In the future, they have the ability to send you back in time, but you do it by possessing the body of one of your ancestors while your own body remains in the present. Whistler has “gone down the line” and killed off one of the ancestors of a council member. The remaining two council members ask Deth to go back in time to protect their ancestors and bring Whistler back to the present to stand trial. They have his body and are holding it for trial. Well, that is until they show Deth the body.



Interesting side note. The two council members are played by Anne Seymour and Richard Herd. Anne Seymour goes all the way back to All The King’s Men (1949). Richard Herd is famous for several things, but probably best known for being some sort of long lost brother to Karl Malden. They really look similar.


Deth is given a picture of Herd’s ancestor, a baseball card of Seymour’s ancestor, and two vials to be used to bring Deth and Whistler back to the future. Then Deth is injected and finds himself in the body of his ancestor Phillip Deth. Oh, they also sent him back with a special watch that gives him a “long second”. That’s what the film says stretches one second to ten, but in movie terms, it’s much much longer than ten seconds. What follows isn’t much plot wise. This movie is just a little over an hour long. But it’s the delivery that makes it fun. The funny lines. The references. The self aware B-Movie filmmaking. And of course, the boom mic popping in from the top of the screen here and there. So what’s first?


Deth kills Santa Claus. When Deth first arrived he was in an apartment with Lena (Helen Hunt). She works at the mall with Santa. When Santa gets that look on his face, then it means only one thing in this movie: he’s a Trancer. After singeing him, he explains to Lena who he is and why he’s there. This is when we find out that trancing only works on “squids”. Earlier we also learned that dry hair is for squids. That’s why Deth put some stuff in his hair to slick it back. We also get one of my favorite lines ever.



Now it’s on to the tanning salon where Herd’s ancestor works. This is where the movie references The Lady In The Lake (1947).



This is also one of a couple of reference the film makes to itself. In the future, it’s July. In the present of the film, it’s Christmas, but it looks like they shot it in July. Well, anyways, too bad for Herd because his ancestor is already a Trancer. He tries to kill Deth by putting him in a tanning booth to burn him to death. Luckily, Lena comes to his rescue, but Whistler is waiting in the parking lot. You see while Deth’s ancestor is just some guy, Whistler’s ancestor is a cop and apparently his men are now Trancers.


Thank goodness for that long second. But enough of what little action there is in this movie because it’s time for a long sequence of jokes. I can’t post them all, but this is probably my favorite.




Now Deth is taken by Lena to a punk rock concert where the band is playing the worst version of Jingle Bells I’ve ever heard. But Deth does get to deck some guy who tries to harass Lena. And then three guys show up to fight Deth unsuccessfully.


The guy in the middle puts Kid N’ Play to shame. After doing some hilarious dancing to the bad music, Deth almost gets laid. Well, I should be more specific. Jack Deth almost gets laid. Phillip Deth does get laid. McNulty shows up in the body of a little girl who happens to be his ancestor and brings Deth back to the present because obviously Herd is gone from the future. Deth convinces Seymour’s character that he can save her so she sends him back just in time to miss the sex.


When Deth can’t find an episode of Peter Gunn on TV, he sees Whistler on the news saying he is going to institute some sort of program to “keep track of the homeless and protect the innocent.” Deth knows this means the ancestor he’s looking for is on “skid row”. This guy is named Hap Ashby (Biff Manard) and he used to be a pitcher. Now he’s a drunk. After consulting the three wise men, I mean the three homeless guys who call themselves the three kings, they then know where to look for Ashby.

The remainder of the film is quite short. They find Ashby. There’s a motorcycle chase. They harass Ashby about taking a shower and cleaning up. Then they set a trap for Whistler so we can have our climax.


Whistler tries to throw her over the side of the building. Deth uses the long second and catches her after getting to the ground before she does. I love that during the slow motion sequence of the long second, the movie cuts not once, but twice to Ashby drinking.


I also love that Ashby puts his pitching to good use to knock Whistler off the roof. By that I mean Whistler is hit by something, climbs out onto the ledge to dangle, then is hit again so he can fall. Seriously, you can basically see him climb out there on his own. It’s pretty funny.

With one of his vials to send people back to the future broken, he uses the remaining one to send Whistler back to nothingness and Deth remains in the past. He decides to stay with Lena since them being together is how he came into existence in the first place. The End.


Well, not really because we get one final shot of McNulty as a little girl and there happens to be six more films in the Trancers franchise. It’s fair to say that I’m not very familiar with them so they’re going to be new to me too.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #99: Pay It Forward (dir by Mimi Leder)

Pay_it_forward_ver1Speaking of crappy films…

Listen, I’m not going to say too much about the 2000 film Pay It Forward because it’s such a terrible movie that I feel like writing too much about it would be like the equivalent of having sex in It Follows.  Seriously, you talk too much about Pay It Forward and you’ll end up with some sort of shape-shifting demon following you around, doing you favors and demanding that you do three more favors for three other people and then those people have to do three more favors and pretty soon, everyone in the world is doing favors for everyone and…


Okay, okay — I know that probably doesn’t sound too bad to some people.  “People being nice to each other!?  What could be wrong about that?”  Well, watch the damn film and find out.

In Pay it Forward, Haley Joel Osment plays a creepy little kid who basically “saves” the world.  At the end of the film, he’s violently murdered and the entire population of Las Vegas gathers outside of his house with candles.  His mother Helen Hunt is truly touched that everyone was so moved by Haley’s mission.  That said, if Haley had never decided that everyone should pay it forward, he probably wouldn’t be dead.  I mean, let’s just be honest here.

Before he died, Haley was challenged by his social studies teacher, Kevin Spacey.  Mr. Spacey challenged an entire class of 7th graders to come up with an idea that will change the world.  (Honestly, don’t 7th graders already have enough to deal with?)  Haley’s idea is that he’ll do a favor for three random people and then those three people will do three nice things for three people and then…

BLEH!  God, I hate this movie!

Anyway, Haley gives money to a homeless man and then that homeless man keeps a woman from committing suicide and then that woman does something nice for Angie Dickinson and then somehow, this all eventually leads to some rich guy giving Jay Mohr a car and telling him to “pay it foward.”

And Jay’s a reporter!

So, naturally, he starts to work his way backwards on the chain of good deeds.  Along the way, he meets a prison inmate who has been converted to Pay It Forwardism.  “This is going to change the world!” he tells Jay.  “I’m even getting the brothers in here in on it!”

By the way, there’s exactly one person of color in Pay It Forward and he’s a prison inmate who thinks that other inmates will want to do random favors for each other.

Oh, but Haley has to do two other favors!  So, he sets Helen Hunt up with Kevin Spacey and when he catches his teacher coming out his mom’s bedroom, Haley gets really, really excited and … well, it’s pretty creepy.

At first, Helen thinks that Kevin thinks that she’s not smart enough to date him.  When Helen asks him point blank if he thinks that she’s dumb, he responds by giving a really long monologue about the time that his father set him on fire.  Kevin does not mention what his father was attempting to pay forward…

And then Jay shows up in town and interviews Haley and oh my God, Haley’s going to change the world!  Yay!  But then Haley spends his third favor trying to protect a kid (played by Degrassi‘s Marc Donato) from some bullies and ends up getting stabbed to death.

But fear not!  Along with that candlelight vigil, we also hear an anchorwoman breathlessly reporting that there have been reports of “Pay it Forwardism” across the country.

Now, there’s a lot of negative things that I could say about Pay It Forward but … well, I kinda already did.  Pay It Forward pops up on TV a lot and there’s a lot of idiots who always get excited about it.

Here’s my fear concerning the whole Pay It Forward idea.  It seems like anybody can just do anything and then go, “Pay it forward,” and suddenly, you are obligated to go do three favors.  You may be running late.  You may have other things you need to do.  But no, you’ve been told to pay it forward and now, you have to!  Because of one creepy little kid who wanted his social studies teacher to have sex with his mom, you have now been inconvenienced.

There doesn’t seem to be any rule about how big of a favor anyone actually has to do before they can smugly order you to “Pay it forward.”  Think about this.  You’re trying to get a Coke from a vending machine but all of your dollars are all crumbled up and the machine won’t accept them.  You’re about to give up and go home when suddenly, a stranger walks up and deposits three quarters in the machine and punches a button.

He tosses you a grape drink.  You wanted a Coke but, because you’re nice and you think he was selflessly trying to help you out, you smile and say, “Thank you.”

“Pay it forward,” he replies before walking away.

Well, now, you’re screwed, aren’t you?

Now, suddenly, you have to go find three people who need a favor.  You didn’t want grape.  You wanted a Coke and, even if you had never gotten that Coke, it would not have been the end of the world.  But, because you were polite and said thank you, you are now obligated.

As you look for people to help, it occurs to you that stranger really didn’t care about whether you wanted a Coke.  What he cared about was completing his third favor so he could actually get on with his life.  So, no, he wasn’t trying to help you or trying to make the world a better place.  Instead, he was just trying to free himself of a nagging obligation.

So, after a long search, you’ve finally found your three strangers and you’ve done your three favors and you’re finally free of your obligation.  And then suddenly, another stranger runs up and tosses you the keys to one of those stupid looking Smart cars and yells, “Pay it forward!”


Don’t tell me about paying it forward.

Just leave me alone and let me drink my damn Coke.

Embracing the Melodrama Part II #66: Desperate Lives (dir by Robert Michael Lewis)

DL-cov2YouTube, my old friend, you have failed me.

For the longest time, the 1982 anti-drug melodrama Desperate Lives has been available for viewing on YouTube.  I first watched it two years ago, after I read an online article about a scene in which a teenage Helen Hunt takes PCP and jumps through a window.  And, when I watched it, I was stunned.  I knew that the film was going to be over-the-top and silly, largely because it’s hard to imagine how a film featuring a teenage Helen Hunt taking PCP could be anything other than that.  But, even with my experience of watching over the top message movies, nothing could have quite prepared me for Desperate Lives.

So, I figured, for this review, that I’d say a few snarky words about Desperate Lives and then I’d just add something like, “And you can watch it below!”  And then I would embed the entire movie and all of y’all could just click on play and watch a movie on the Lens.

Unfortunately, Desperate Lives has been taken off of YouTube.  I assume the upload violated some sort of copyright thing.  And really, it’s kinda stupid because seriously, Desperate Lives is one of those films that really deserves to be seen for free on YouTube.

Oh well.  You can still watch a video of Helen Hunt jumping through that window.  The video below also features some additional elements from Desperate Lives.

For instance, you get to see Diana Scarwid playing the angriest high school guidance counselor in the world.  Scarwid knows that students like Helen Hunt are using drugs and that her fellow faculty members are turning a blind eye to everything’s that’s happening.  From the minute she first appears on screen, Scarwid is shouting at someone and she doesn’t stop screaming until the film ends.

And you also get to see Doug McKeon, playing Helen Hunt’s brother.  McKeon goes for a drive with his girlfriend, who has just taken PCP herself.  As their car goes flying off a mountain, she says, “Wheeee!”

In the video below, you also get to see that the only reason Helen Hunt used drugs was because her boyfriend begged her to.  That’s a scenario that seems to show up in a lot of high school drug films and it’s strange because it’s something that I’ve never actually seen happen or heard about happening in real life.  In fact, in real life, most users of hard drugs are actually very happy to not share their supply.

Unfortunately, the video below does not feature any scenes of Sam Bottoms as the world’s most charming drug dealer and that’s a shame because he gives the only good performance in the entire film (sorry, Helen!).

Even worse, the video doesn’t include any scenes from the film’s memorably insane conclusion, in which Scarwid searches every single locker in the school and then interrupts a pep rally so she can set everyone’s stash on fire in the middle of the gym.  Making it even better is that all the students are so moved by Scarwid’s final speech that they start tossing all of the drugs that they have on them into the fire.

Which means that the film essentially ends with the entire school getting high off of a huge marijuana bonfire.

No, that scene cannot be found in the video below.  But you can find Helen Hunt jumping through a window so enjoy.