The Specialist Preview

“Welcome to Hell,” Santa says as his sleigh settles down in front of Rich and Poe. His well oiled muscles are fresh from destroying another horrific monster in this fantasy realm. Bathed in blood he nods cheerfully at Kilgorn, recognizing a kindred spirit. “Ho ho ho,” Santa laughs, his abs jiggling like a bowlful of rock hard jelly, “and what would you boys like for Christmas?” Just as Rich is about to tell Santa about their quest, Poe jumps in eagerly to ask for the latest Jim Nasium Jones action figure that has all the special add-ons, like the rocket pack and complete frolf set. “It’s really cool beans,” Poe gushes. Santa winks and out of thin air appears that most exclusive action figure. “Woah,” Poe says and honestly Rich can’t blame him, even if it did totally bone their quest to save Nic. Jim Nasium Jones is rad. Just as Santa is about to fly away, another satisfied customer in his wake, Rich calls out for him to wait. Santa turns a menacing eye on Rich, “Really? Another wish?” The rat-bat squeaks in fear and flies away. “You know the price. You must fulfill a wish of mine as well… if you dare. Ho ho ho.” His tone is menacing. “Yes,” Rich affirms, his voice cracking, “take us to Nic Cage.” Santa smirks and pops his knuckles. “Gladly, my boys,” Santa says in a suspicious, jolly tone, “But on one condition.” Rich and Poe lick their lips waiting for the other shoe to drop. “Just get me close enough to tell him something,” Rich and Poe look at each other. Just to say something to him? Seems harmless enough. They nod in agreement. “One very, very special thing,” Santa completes and begins to scream in maniacal laughter. That’s right! We are finishing 2020 with an extra special Stallonian Calendar Leap Week! Some very special years are blessed with 53 thursdays. In those years we get an extra week outside the cycles and BMT Lives to do what we wish and boy howdy do we wish upon a star for a new Sly Stallone movie. This year we gather under the traditional Stallone Day hanging slab of meat to watch The Specialist. Let’s go!   

The Specialist (1994) – BMeTric: 45.9; Notability: 42 

(Actually a lot lower Notability than I would have thought. It is a Sly Stallone film from 1994 involving, presumably, a lot of stunts and pyrotechnics. I wonder if given Sly’s undoubtedly absurd salary at the time they had to skimp on some of the crew to meet the production’s budget … could be. The rating is getting mighty close to a genuine cult classic. It it ever hits 6.0 on IMDb it would have to be one of the highest rated sub-10% Rotten Tomatoes films ever.)

RogerEbert.com – 2.0 stars – Rod Steiger, as the mob patriarch, employs an accent that requires him to say “chew” when he means “you.” Roberts, as his son, is real slick with chicks (“What I want, I take” is his opener with Stone). And the movie includes a dandy example of the Aquarium Rule, which teaches that whenever a large aquarium is introduced into a crime movie, we will eventually see a character’s head sleeping with the fishes.

(He actually seemed to like the film more than a lot of critics at the time. This is right around the time that I think Ebert started softening on “good for what they are” action in particular, and I think the very forgiving 2 star review is evidence of that.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mqTrjDsEg4g/

(I mean, yeah. I’m down. Mid-90s Stallone flicks are at least entertaining if not always good. They do a nice tease of how much Woods chews at the scenery as well.)

Directors – Luis Llosa – (Future BMT: Sniper; BMT: Anaconda; The Specialist; Razzie Notes: Nominee for Worst Director for Anaconda in 1998; Notes: Born in Peru, he made multiple films set in the Amazon jungle culminating in Anaconda. Since 1996 he’s mostly been a producer on Peruvian soap operas.)

Writers – John Shirley (Specialist novels) (suggestion) – (Known For: The Crow; BMT: The Specialist; Notes: The series was a pulpy book series about the assassin Jack Sullivan. It was published under the pseudonym John Cutter, and Shirley, after becoming a famous novelist, disowned the series as garbage written for quick cash. Also wrote multiple full albums for Blue Öyster Cult and was a writer on the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles cartoon which won an Emmy.)

Alexandra Seros (written by) – (Known For: Point of No Return; BMT: The Specialist; Notes: While only credited on these two films she seems to maybe be involved with the UCLA film school and is still (maybe) listed as a screenwriter on LinkedIn, so it is possible she has been doing mostly behind the scenes writing for the last 20 years.)

Actors – Sylvester Stallone – (Known For: Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2; Rocky; Cliffhanger; Creed II; The Expendables; First Blood; Creed; Rocky III; Escape Plan; The Expendables 2; Rocky Balboa; Rocky II; Spy Kids 3: Game Over; Antz; Cop Land; Escape to Victory; Death Race 2000; Bullet to the Head; Animal Crackers; Future BMT: Escape Plan II; Escape Plan 3; Staying Alive; Rocky V; D-Tox; An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn; Backtrace; Avenging Angelo; Ratchet & Clank; Collection; Assassins; Oscar; Rocky IV; BMT: Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot; Driven; Zookeeper; Rhinestone; Get Carter; Judge Dredd; The Specialist; Rambo III; Cobra; Over the Top; Daylight; The Expendables 3; Rambo: Last Blood; Tango & Cash; Grudge Match; Lock Up; Rambo: First Blood Part II; Demolition Man; Rambo; Razzie Notes: Winner for Worst Director, and Worst Actor for Rocky IV in 1986; Winner for Worst Screenplay, and Worst Actor for Rambo: First Blood Part II in 1986; Winner for Worst Actor in 1985 for Rhinestone; in 1989 for Rambo III; and in 1993 for Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot; Winner for Worst Supporting Actor for Spy Kids 3: Game Over in 2004; Winner for Worst Screen Couple in 1995 for Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, and The Specialist; Winner for Worst Actor of the Decade in 1990 for Cobra, Cobra, Lock Up, Lock Up, Over the Top, Over the Top, Rambo III, Rambo III, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rambo: First Blood Part II, Rhinestone, Rocky IV, and Tango & Cash; Nominee for Worst Director for The Expendables in 2011; Nominee for Worst Screenplay in 1985 for Rhinestone; in 1986 for Rocky IV; in 1987 for Cobra; in 1989 for Rambo III; in 1991 for Rocky V; in 1994 for Cliffhanger; in 2002 for Driven; and in 2020 for Rambo: Last Blood; Nominee for Worst Actor in 1987 for Cobra; in 1988 for Over the Top; in 1990 for Lock Up, and Tango & Cash; in 1991 for Rocky V; in 1992 for Oscar; in 1995 for The Specialist; in 1996 for Assassins, and Judge Dredd; in 1997 for Daylight; in 2001 for Get Carter; in 2014 for Bullet to the Head, Escape Plan, and Grudge Match; and in 2020 for Rambo: Last Blood; Nominee for Worst Supporting Actor, and Worst Screen Couple for Driven in 2002; Nominee for Worst Supporting Actor for An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn in 1999; and Nominee for Worst Screen Combo for Rambo: Last Blood in 2020; Notes: Y’all know Sylvester. Most of the recent news for him is about how he just bought a $35 million house in Florida. Good for him I guess.)

Sharon Stone – (Known For: Basic Instinct; Total Recall; Casino; The Disaster Artist; The Laundromat; The Quick and the Dead; Alpha Dog; Lovelace; Antz; Broken Flowers; Above the Law; Bobby; The Mighty; Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold; Stardust Memories; Irreconcilable Differences; Fading Gigolo; The Muse; Les uns et les autres; Beautiful Joe; Future BMT: Police Academy 4: Citizens on Patrol; Sliver; Cold Creek Manor; King Solomon’s Mines; Diabolique; Simpatico; Action Jackson; Intersection; Gloria; Life on the Line; Sphere; Mothers and Daughters; He Said, She Said; Deadly Blessing; Last Dance; Last Action Hero; Year of the Gun; Jiminy Glick in Lalawood; A Warrior’s Tail; A Little Something for Your Birthday; BMT: Catwoman; Basic Instinct 2; The Specialist; Razzie Notes: Winner for Worst Actress in 1995 for Intersection, and The Specialist; and in 2007 for Basic Instinct 2; Winner for Worst Screen Couple in 1995 for Interview with the Vampire: The Vampire Chronicles, and The Specialist; Nominee for Worst Actress in 1988 for Allan Quatermain and the Lost City of Gold; in 1994 for Sliver; and in 2000 for Gloria; Nominee for Worst Supporting Actress, and Worst Screen Couple for Catwoman in 2005; and Nominee for Worst New Star in 1997 for Diabolique, and Last Dance; Notes: Nominated for an Oscar for Casino. She appeared nude in Playboy in 1990 which is somewhat credited for getting her the role in Basic Instinct which would propel her to stardom. Still works a ton, just more sporadically on both television and film.)

James Woods – (Known For: Once Upon a Time in America; Casino; Hercules; Contact; The Virgin Suicides; White House Down; Any Given Sunday; Chaplin; Videodrome; Against All Odds; John Carpenter’s Vampires; The Way We Were; Surf’s Up; Final Fantasy: The Spirits Within; Straw Dogs; Stuart Little 2; Riding in Cars with Boys; Nixon; True Crime; Salvador; Future BMT: Big Fat Important Movie; Scary Movie 2; Play It to the Bone; The Getaway; The General’s Daughter; Kicked in the Head; Jamesy Boy; Pretty Persuasion; Bling; John Q; BMT: The Specialist; Be Cool; Jobs; Notes: Notably went to MIT and dropped out in his sophomore year to pursue acting. Nominated for Oscars for Ghosts of Mississippi and Salvador. Also notably a Hollywood conservative.)

Budget/Gross – $45,000,000 / Domestic: $57,362,582 (Worldwide: $170,362,582)

(That seems like a modest success to me. This probably didn’t end up leading to a sequel because of how poorly it was received critically.)

Rotten Tomatoes – 7% (2/29)

(Wowza! That is absurdly low! Let’s make a consensus: A dmb story involving dumb people saying dumb things. That about sums that up. Reviewer Highlight: Llosa relies on stock action shots and tedious exposition to get from scene to scene. You keep waiting for something — anything — neat to happen, but nothing does. – Marc Savlov, Austin Chronicle)

Poster – The Sklogalist

(I should have been keeping track of the posters we’ve seen where the star(s) appear multiple times. It tickles me that there is double stallone on this. So much is wrong with this but daaaannnngg, that’s some unique font… I believe they are going for a digital look based on The Specialist’s brand of time bombs. Or maybe not. I honestly can’t tell, but I very much appreciate the effort. C-.)

Tagline(s) – The government taught him to kill. Now he’s using his skills to help a woman seek revenge against the Miami underworld. (F)

(No. Stop. I didn’t even read it. Who would read this enormous tagline? Fine, I’ll read it… did a child write this? That might be the worst tagline in history.)

Keyword – time bomb

Top 10: Tenet (2020), Die Hard (1988), Inception (2010), The Dark Knight (2008), Justice League (2017), Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995), Guardians of the Galaxy: Vol. 2 (2017), Spectre (2015), The Dark Knight Rises (2012), The Fifth Element (1997)

Future BMT: 88.2 Street Fighter (1994), 63.9 Underdog (2007), 62.5 Big Fat Important Movie (2008), 56.9 Suburban Commando (1991), 54.8 Resident Evil: Retribution (2012), 50.3 Son of the Pink Panther (1993), 47.7 Under Siege 2: Dark Territory (1995), 46.6 Solo (1996), 46.3 Machete Kills (2013), 44.4 Delta Force 2: The Colombian Connection (1990);

BMT: Armageddon (1998), Sucker Punch (2011), Batman Forever (1995), The Expendables 3 (2014), Mechanic: Resurrection (2016), Point Break (2015), Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014), Movie 43 (2013), Godzilla (1998), Tango & Cash (1989), The Specialist (1994), Rambo III (1988), Killers (2010), Abduction (2011), Soldier (1998), Hudson Hawk (1991), Speed 2: Cruise Control (1997), The Lawnmower Man (1992), Spice World (1997), Torque (2004), I Spy (2002), RoboCop 3 (1993), Fair Game (1995), On Deadly Ground (1994), Double Team (1997), Alone in the Dark (2005), Bad Company (2002), Universal Soldier: The Return (1999), Extreme Ops (2002)

(If you squint you might be able to get the impression that time bombs were a purely 90s thing. Like dumb 90s films love time bombs and that love just grew and grew. And now? Not so much. We are over time bombs now … I could actually believe that. As far as films with time bombs I hope to watch soon, look no further than Under Siege 2.)

Welcome to Earf (HoE Number 10) – The shortest path through The Movie Database cast lists using only BMT films is: Sylvester Stallone is No. 1 billed in The Specialist and No. 1 billed in Expendables 3, which also stars Jason Statham (No. 2 billed) who is in In the Name of the King: A Dungeon Seige Tale (No. 1 billed), which also stars Leelee Sobieski (No. 4 billed) who is in Here on Earth (No. 1 billed) => 1 + 1 + 2 + 1 + 4 + 1 = 10. If we were to watch The Glass House we can get the HoE Number down to 8.

Notes – Sylvester Stallone had this to say on filming the shower scene with Sharon Stone:”OK. Let it be known, I didn’t want to do this scene because Sharon was not cooperating. We get to the set and she decides not to take her robe off. The director asks only a few of the crew to remain, and she still won’t take it off. I promised her I wouldn’t take any liberties, so what’s the problem? She said, ‘I’m just sick of nudity.’ I asked her if she could get sick of it on someone else’s film. She was having none of it, so I went down to my trailer, brought back a bottle of Black Death vodka that was given to me by Michael Douglas and after half-a-dozen shots we were wet and wild.” (Oh, that sounds awful Sly)

Sharon Stone was 36 when this movie was filmed, although her character was supposed to be in her early twenties.

Eric Roberts is only two years older than Sharon Stone. In the film his character was supposed to have killed her parents when she was a child. (haha)

Sylvester Stallone demanded for some of James Woods’s scenes to be cut out of the movie and for some of his scenes to be re-shot in order for Stallone to have more screen time. The reason for that was because Stallone was worried that Woods would “steal” the movie away. Stallone allegedly also cut out some Rutger Hauer’s scenes from Nighthawks (1981) for same reasons.

David Fincher was set to direct this at one stage. Sylvester Stallone liked Fincher but he was overruled by the producers, because Fincher’s career was still in deep freeze after the failure of Alien³ (1992) and wasn’t revived until the massive success of Seven (1995).

Ray Quick’s cat was named “Timer”. The cat who portrayed Timer (a Maine Coon) is also seen in Assassins as Pearl.

The producers got Sylvester Stallone to do the movie by threatening to replace him with Warren Beatty if he didn’t commit himself to the project within a fifteen-minute deadline.

In January, 1993 the Los Angeles Times listed The Specialist as the best unproduced thriller script in Hollywood, based on a poll of forty agents, producers and studio executives. (Interesting, an early blacklist thing)

“Turn the Beat Around”, covered by Gloria Estefan for this film, remains one of her highest selling singles.

Mario Van Peebles was attached to direct the movie in 1991, but left.

The music for this movie was written by John Barry who is more known for doing the music for the James Bond movies that starred Sean Connery, Roger Moore and Timothy Dalton.

When Sylvester Stallone enters his computer to activate the massive explosion of his home near end of film, the password he uses is “Top of the world, Ma.” This is a slight paraphrase of Jimmy Cagney’s last line in White Heat (1949), just before Cagney shoots into the large gas storage unit he’s standing on, causing massive explosions. (“Made it, Ma. Top of the world!”)

Awards – Winner for the Razzie Award for Worst Actress (Sharon Stone, 1995)

Winner for the Razzie Award for Worst Screen Couple (Sylvester Stallone, Sharon Stone, 1995)

Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Picture (Jerry Weintraub, 1995)

Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Actor (Sylvester Stallone, 1995)

Nominee for the Razzie Award for Worst Supporting Actor (Rod Steiger, 1995)

Lock Up Preview

To celebrate the inception of the new calendar we will be ending the year with a Stallone Day! So, Happy Stallone Day! There won’t be a Stallone day for several years so relish it. As usual we would like for the film to not only star Sylvester Stallone, but to also lead nicely into the first cycle of the 2016 calendar. We have discussed and debated it and decided that the first cycle will be called Aaaiiiirrrrbbbbbaaallllll! and will be movies that feature (or hopefully star) former or active professional athletes. Without further ado, the first Stallone Day in history will be the 1989 classic Lock Up which features Sly Stallone as Frank Leone and Frank McRae in the role of Eclipse. McRae appeared in 6 games for the Chicago Bears in 1967. Let’s go!

Lock Up (1989) – BMeTric: 15.4

LockUp_BMeT.png

(Not bad for a 1989 film. Still not super high. I believe this has a bit of cult popularity associated with it playing on cable through the 1990’s. So I wouldn’t be surprised if the score was slightly deflated. Patrick’s Note: It most certainly is. The rating in 2004 was 5.4, it is now 6.3 on IMDB. It has clearly dropped significantly recently.)

Leonard Maltin – 1.5 stars – With six months to go on his sentence, convict Stallone gets abducted from his country-club cell and transported to a hellhole run by old Hun-like adversary Sutherland. Missing are Linda Blair, John Vernon, a lesbian guard, and 15 gratuitous showers; you do get a body-shop montage backed by Ides of March’s ”Vehicle.” Bottom of the world, ma.

(Hun-like? What a weird thing to say. Guess Leonard really wanted to figure out the most tasteful way of saying that Sutherland is like a Nazi in the film. Then the whole review goes off the rails. I had to look up what the second sentence means. I guess he’s making a reference to the exploitation film Chained Heat. Finally, I have no idea why he makes a White Heat reference at the end. Maybe the end of the film is similar to the end of that film? Bar none the weirdest Maltin review I’ve ever read.)

Trailer – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1mRBoP0HBaE

(Uh… yes please. That looks amazing. It’s like a full movie of just the prison escape scenes from Tango & Cash.)

Director(s) – John Flynn – (Known For: Rolling Thunder; Best Seller; BMT: Lock Up; Out for Justice; Brainscan; Notes: Died in 2007, and was in the Coast Guard. Studied journalism at UCLA under the tutelage of Alex Haley, the author of Roots.)

Writer(s) – Richard Smith (written by) – (BMT: Lock Up; Notes: Recently passed away. He apparently did some work on a couple of the James Bond films and wrote a novel published in 2010)

Henry Rosenbaum (written by) – (Known For: ; BMT: Lock Up; The Dunwich Horror; Hanky Panky; Notes: Nothing of interest about him. Weird.)

Jeb Stuart (written by) – (Known For: Die Hard; The Fugitive; Next of Kin; Vital Signs; Blood Done Sign My Name; Hart’s War; BMT: Another 48 Hrs.; Lock Up; Just Cause; Fire Down Below; Leviathan; Switchback; Notes: Wrote an early draft of Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull.)

Actors – Sylvester Stallone – (Known For: Rocky; The Expendables; The Expendables 2; Escape Plan; First Blood; Rocky Balboa; Rocky II; Rocky IV; Antz; Demolition Man; Rocky III; Cliffhanger; Cop Land; Bullet to the Head; Nighthawks; Creed; Death Race 2000; Spy Kids 3-D – Game Over; Shade; Victory; F.I.S.T. BMT: The Expendables 3; Rambo: First Blood Part II; Rambo III; Judge Dredd; Rocky V; Tango & Cash; Assassins; Daylight; The Specialist; Cobra; Grudge Match; Over the Top; Driven; Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot; Lock Up; Get Carter; Oscar; Rhinestone; Zookeeper; Rambo; D-Tox. Notes: Won for Worst Actor, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot (1992); Rambo III (1988); Cobra (1986); Rambo: First Blood Part II (1985), Rocky IV (1985); Rhinestone (1984). Nominated for Worst Actor, Bullet to the Head (2012), Escape Plan (2013), Grudge Match (2013); Get Carter (2000); Daylight(1996); Assassins (1995), Judge Dredd (1995); The Specialist (1994); Get Carter (2000); Oscar (1991); Rocky V (1990); Lock Up (1989), Tango & Cash (1989); Over the Top (1987); Cobra (1986). Won for Worst Supporting Actor, Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003). Nominated for Worst Supporting Actor, Driven (2001); An Alan Smithee Film: Burn Hollywood Burn (1997). Won for Worst Actor of the Century. Won for Worst Actor of the Decade (1980’s). Geez Louise. And that’s just for acting.)

Budget/Gross: $24 million / $22,099,847

(A definitive bomb for Stallone. This was smack in the middle of a disastrous run of films for him so he might have just started to wear out his welcome. After First Blood in 1982 he followed with Staying Alive, Rhinestone, Rambo II, Rocky IV, Cobra, Over the Top, Rambo III, Lock Up, Tango & Cash, Rocky V, Oscar, and Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot. Oof.)

Rotten Tomatoes: 16% (2/12), No consensus yet.

(Never trust the RT on a movie this old (like Weekend at Bernie’s is a downright mediocre film according to RT). It’s nice that it’s low, but the Razzie recognition, Leonard Maltin review, and BMeTric are more important in this case.)

Poster – Black and White

LockUpPoster.jpg

(Looks pretty cheap but I guess the artistic take is nice. I’ve seen this same poster with red coloring on the letters and/or sky, which I like a bit more. But this seems official.)

Tagline(s) – How much can a man take…before he gives back? (D+)

How many times can a man be pushed to the wall…before he goes over it? (C-)

Stallone…behind bars? Not for long. (Hah)

He is only six months away from freedom. But a warden obsessed with revenge wants to take his future away. (D)

(I usually just grade the tagline that is found on the poster (which I consider official), but there isn’t one on the main poster and these are too good not to grade. They are all either too long or bonkers insane. The first and second use super weird phrasing to make their point. The third is hilarious… I can hear Stallone saying those words. The fourth is classic 70’s/80’s tagline.)

Notes – The cast includes real inmates of Rahway State Prison which is also known as East Jersey State Prison as it is located in Rahway, New Jersey, USA. A number of the prisoners appear as extras and background artists in the movie. (This is the prison I taught at in New Jersey. It’s got a very distinctive look. I wonder if I’ll recognize some of the places they show.)

The movie was nominated for three Golden Raspberry Awards at the 10th annual ceremony including Worst Picture, Worst Actor – Sylvester Stallone and Worst Supporting Actor – Donald Sutherland, but the film failed to take home a Razzie in any category.

First starring role of actor Tom Sizemore.

Actor Frank McRae, who participates in the football game sequence, had actually played gridiron as an NFL (National Football League) defensive tackle during the 1967 season playing six games for the Chicago Bears. (There it is).

Danny Trejo: As a gang member of Chink’s gang. (Keep a lookout)