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The Adventures of Ford Fairlane

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane

Today, I’m going to dig into the 1990 Andrew Dice Clay vehicle, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane.

The central plot of The Adventures of Ford Fairlane is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A vulgar private detective is hired to find a missing groupie and is drawn into a mystery involving a series of murders tied to the music industry.

The credited writers for The Adventures of Ford Fairlane were David Arnott (Last Action Hero), Daniel Waters (Demolition Man, Hudson Hawk, Heathers), and James Cappe (Freddy’s Nightmares).

The film’s director was Renny Harlin, a noted action director whose credits include 12 Rounds, The Legend of Hercules, Driven, Deep Blue Sea, A Nightmare On Elm Street 4, and Cliffhanger.

The cast of Ford Fairlane is headlined by comedian Andrew Dice Clay, with supporting roles filled by the likes of Robert Englund (A Nightmare On Elm Street), Gilbert Gottfried (Aladdin), Priscilla Presley (The Naked Gun), and Wayne Newton (Vegas Vacation, License To Kill).

The cinematographer for the film was Oliver Wood, who also shot The Adventures of Pluto Nash, Child 44, Rudy, The Other Guys, The Brothers Grimsby, The Bourne Identity, and Die Hard 2, among others.

The editor on Ford Fairlane was Michael Tronick, whose cutting credits include The Scorpion King, Straight Outta Compton, Remember The Titans, The Green Hornet, Less Than Zero, Hudson Hawk, and True Romance.

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane earned a number of Golden Raspberry Award nominations, which are given out annually to the judged worst performances and films of the year. It wound up co-winning Worst Picture with Ghosts Can’t Do It, and also taking the Worst Screenplay and Worst Actor awards, the latter for Andrew Dice Clay.

The role played by Robert Englund was initially meant for rock star Billy Idol, but he was forced to drop out after a significant motorcycle accident, prompting Renny Harlin to bring in Englund on short notice.

Despite being a significant flop in the United States, Ford Fairlane has a cult following in a handful of foreign markets, like Hungary and Norway, thanks to some popular foreign language dubs.

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane was made on a production budget of $40 million, on which it grossed $21.4 million in its lifetime theatrical run, making it a significant financial failure. Critically, it garnered mostly negative reviews: currently, it holds an IMDb user rating of 6.3/10, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 29% from critics and 68% from audiences.

The first and biggest issue with The Adventures of Ford Fairlane is its star: Andrew Dice Clay. Not only is he immensely irritating, but his crass and misogynistic style of humor taints any positive elements of the film. Apparently, he was a significant problem for the cast and crew on set as well, which doesn’t come as much of a surprise given his persona.

Honestly, I like the concept behind the film: the idea of a comedic, self-aware neo-noir has worked for Shane Black more than once. However, the Andrew Dice Clay stink all over this film makes even the more clever quips and sequences unbearable, which is a disservice to a screenplay that seems like it may have had some potential at one point.

Roger Ebert’s scathing one-star review sums up my general feelings about Ford Fairlane pretty succinctly:

The Adventures of Ford Fairlane is a movie about a hero I didn’t like, chasing villains I didn’t hate, in a plot I didn’t understand. It is also loud, ugly and mean-spirited. That makes it the ideal vehicle for Andrew Dice Clay, a comedian whose humor is based upon hating those not in the room for the entertainment of those present.

Basically, this is a movie to avoid. Andrew Dice Clay deserves to reside in obscure footnotes for a bygone era of comedy. Because this movie is so inexorably connected to him, that’s where it belongs as well.

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Driven

Driven

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Today’s feature is a 2001 Sylvester Stallone vehicle directed by Renny Harlin: Driven.

The screenplay for Driven was written by Sylvester Stallone himself, who many forget is a veteran screenwriter, with writing credits including Rocky, Staying Alive, First Blood, Rhinestone, Over The Top, and many others. Story credit for Driven was given to the duo of Jan Skrentny and Neal Tabachnick, who don’t have any other credits of note.

Driven was directed and produced by Renny Harlin, the action movie director responsible for such films as Cliffhanger, Die Hard 2, The Adventures of Ford Fairlane, The Long Kiss Goodnight, A Nightmare On Elm Street 4, Cutthroat Island, Deep Blue Sea, Mindhunters, and 12 Rounds.

Driven had two primary editors: Stuart Levy, who cut Red Eye, Foxcatcher, and Insurgent, and Steve Gilson, whose work has primarily been on television shows like Pawn Stars and Ice Road Truckers.

The cinematographer for Driven was Mauro Fiore, an Academy Award winner with credits including Avatar, Southpaw, Smokin’ Aces, Training Day, and The Equalizer.

Outside of Renny Harlin and Sylvester Stallone, the team of producers on Driven included Don Carmody (Goon, Silent Hill, Weekend at Bernie’s II, Lucky Number Slevin), Mike Drake (The Number 23, The Whole Nine Yards), Raul Guterres (Turistas), Tom Karnowski (Captain America, Alien From L.A., Double Dragon), Jefferson Richard (Maniac Cop, 3000 Miles To Graceland), Elie Samaha (Battlefield Earth, The Boondock Saints), Rebecca Spikings (Deep Blue Sea, Mindhunters), and Tracee Stanley (Battlefield Earth, The Whole Nine Yards).

driven2The makeup effects on Driven were provided by Brian McManus (Cop And A Half, Striptease), Suzi Ostos (Source Code, High Fidelity), Christopher Pizzarelli (Jason X, The Love Guru), Sean Sansom (In The Mouth of Madness, Dracula 2000), and Tricia Sawyer (Casino, Sphere).

The Driven special effects work was done in part by Sam Barkan (Home Alone, 8 Mile), Colin Chilvers (Superman III, Tommy), Kaz Kobielski (Blues Brothers 2000), Don Riozz McNichols (Primal Fear), Troy Rundle (Jason X), Yvon Charbonneau (300, The Aviator), and Denis Lavigne (The Fountain).

The visual effects team on Driven included Jeremy Burns (Argo, Van Helsing), Marc Cote (300, Timeline, Battlefield Earth), Mark S. Driscoll (Monkeybone, Boat Trip), Henrik Fett (Gone Baby Gone, Black Swan), John Follmer (Children of the Corn II, Mortal Kombat, McHale’s Navy, Red Planet, League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Mark Freund (Torque, Van Helsing, Be Cool), Benoit Girard (Epic Movie, Cellular, Torque), Anthony Ivins (Volcano, The Spirit), Phillip Palousek (Donnie Darko, Swordfish), Brian Jennings (Lawnmower Man 2, The Faculty), and Matt Hullum of Rooster Teeth.

The stunts on Driven were coordinated by Steve Lucescu (In The Mouth of Madness, Johnny Mnemonic, Darkman II, Darkman III, Mimic, Jason X, Battlefield Earth), Steve Kelso (The Abyss, Maniac Cop 2, Mississippi Burning, Moonwalker, On Deadly Ground, Breakfast of Champions, State of Play), and Andy Gill (Cannonball Run II, Never Too Young To Die, Maniac Cop, Dead Heat, The Ambulance, Highlander II, Maniac Cop 2, Congo, Double Team).

Kit-7 (L to r) SYLVESTER STALLONE and BURT REYNOLDS in Franchise PicturesÕ high-tech drama, ÒDriven,Ó distributed by Warner Bros. Pictures.The musical score for Driven was composed by electronica artist Brain Transeau (BT), who also provided music for such movies as Go, Stealth, and The Fast and The Furious.

The cast for the movie includes writer/producer Sylvester Stallone (Over The Top, Rocky IV, Rhinestone, Tango & Cash, The Expendables, Cobra, Judge Dredd), Burt Reynolds (Cop And A Half, Boogie Nights, Smoky & The Bandit, Shark, Deliverance, Fuzz), Kip Pardue (Remember The Titans), Stacy Edwards (Superbad), Til Schweiger (Far Cry, Inglorious Basterds), Gina Gershon (Face/Off), Estella Warren (The Cooler, Kangaroo Jack), Brent Briscoe (The Green Mile), and Robert Sean Leonard (Dead Poet’s Society, House, M.D.).

The plot of Driven is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A young hot shot driver is in the middle of a championship season and is coming apart at the seams. A former CART champion is called in to give him guidance.

Driven was made on an astoundingly high $94 million production budget, on which it only managed to gross just under $55 million in its worldwide theatrical release, making it a huge financial failure. Critically, the movie bombed almost as hard: it currently holds a 4.5 rating on IMDb, alongside Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 14% from critics and 33% from audiences.

The first thing that I noticed when watching Driven is that the music absolutely does not work in the movie: it doesn’t seem to sync up with what is going on in the story, and seems like it is more there to fill in space than serve a purpose. It is kind of like if the rhythm section in a rock band is trying to drown out the lead guitar: it just doesn’t work, and throws the whole situation off balance.

The way that Driven is shot and edited could best be described as “frenetic”: it is filled with rapid cutting, changes in angles, and handheld shots that never seem to let the frame stay still, even during non-action scenes dedicated to exposition or character building. It comes off as uneasy and off-balance, which is good in some situations, but not in this sort of movie.

Burt Reynolds is one of those guys who is hard not to like whenever he chooses to show up in a movie, and I usually get a kick out of seeing him in things. However, he really truck me as phoning it in in Driven, which is kind of a bummer. It doesn’t help that his character isn’t really a Burt Reynolds type: he isn’t a charmer or a smooth talker or a joker, he is more like a big business antagonist for the plot in a lot of ways, which just doesn’t suit him.

Then again, the poor performance from Reynolds in this movie is hardly unique: Stallone is undeniably wooden as well, and the younger actors visibly struggle with the respective burdens of their various roles. The only solid performance in the whole thing in my opinion was Robert Sean Leonard, who also plays against type as a sleazy agent/manager, which is a fairly small part in the grand scheme of the movie.

The plot of the movie is also a bit of a problem for me: it kicks off with the young racer already having won a number of races on his own, and hitting a backslide over the course of an opening montage. Stallone is brought in to reinvigorate him to make a final push in the season. The combination of a green rookie and a washed-up veteran is a good combination, but the fact that the kid is already an established winner when the story begins takes away from some of their potential dynamic. The kid already knows how to win: he isn’t totally wet behind the ears and in need of mentorship, he’s a professional in a slump who needs someone to pump his tires. This just isn’t as compelling of a scenario to work with. For instance, a movie where Stallone discovers a young racer while enjoying his retirement would be far more interesting, because there would be a deeper dynamic between them and a clearer end goal for the story.

Overall, Driven is a platonic ideal of a poorly conceived box office bomb. The actors are a mix of past-their-prime veterans and unbankable rookies, the story is based on a sport that isn’t particularly popular in the United States, and the production budget ballooned out of control in a way that almost doomed it out of the gate. Driven just about destroyed Stallone’s career, which was only salvaged in the end by the reboots Rocky Balboa and Rambo a number of years later, which paved his return to action with The Expendables franchise.

For fans of Sylvester Stallone’s filmography, Driven is an essential low point that is sort of an essential to catch. It isn’t a good movie by any means, but it was such a public failure and had such a negative impact on his career that it isn’t exactly avoidable for a completest or an aficionado. Likewise, bad movie fans should give this one a shot, even though it isn’t the most entertaining movie out there. The presence of both Reynolds and Stallone, even if they aren’t on point, is good enough to justify giving this one a glance.

For more thoughts on Driven, I recommend checking out Film Brain’s Bad Movie Beatdown video on the flick, as well as Roger Ebert’s surprising 2 1/2 star review of the film.

Water Foul: “Deep Blue Sea”

Deep Blue Sea

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Today, I’m going to be concluding this week’s spotlight on awful marine monster movies with a personal favorite: 1999’s “Deep Blue Sea.”

The three writers for “Deep Blue Sea” were the duo of Donna and Wayne Powers (“The Italian Job”) and Duncan Kennedy, an Australian who was inspired to write the initial screenplay by an experience he had as a child, where he witnessed the aftermath of a fatal shark attack. The event was apparently highly traumatic, and led to him having recurring nightmares throughout his childhood.

The director of “Deep Blue Sea” was Renny Harlin, who is best known for such action flicks as “Cliffhanger,” “12 Rounds,” and “Mindhunters.”

The cinematography for “Deep Blue Sea” was provided by Stephen F. Windon, who has done photography for “Furious Seven,” “The Patriot,” “The Postman,” and “Crocodile Dundee II” over his career.

The makeup effects team for “Deep Blues Sea” included Clinton Wayne (“Daredevil,” “The Perfect Storm”), Allan Apone (“Evilspeak,” “Going Overboard”), Chad Atkinson (“The Cell,” “Bubba Ho-Tep”), Jeff Dawn (“Total Recall,” “Last Action Hero,” “Terminator 2”), Jim Kail (“Anaconda,” “Ghosts of Mars”), Steve LaPorte (“Van Helsing,” “Caddyshack II,” “The Judas Project”), Michael Shawn McCracken (“Congo,” “The Midnight Meat Train”), and Matthew Mungle (“Daredevil,” “The Midnight Meat Train,” “Congo,” “Class of 1999,” “Roar”).

The impressive special effects team for “Deep Blue Sea” included Craig Barnett (“Speed 2,” “Congo”), Darrell Burgess (“Anaconda,” “Batman & Robin”), Walt Conti (“Free Willy”), William Dawson (“Waterworld,” “Drive Angry,” “Blade”), Michael Duenas (“Thor,” “Iron Man”), Eugene Hubbard (“Face/Off,” “Demolition Man”), Michael Clarke (“Interstellar,” “The Avengers”), Mario Vanillo (“The Last Airbender,” “The Prestige”), Jim McPherson (“Leviathan,” “State of Play,” “Escape From LA,” “Men In Black”), Rick Thompson (“The Aviator,” “Die Hard”), John Richardson (“Straw Dogs,” “Aliens,” “Superman”), Wes Mattox (“Daredevil,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Maniac Cop 3”), and Barry McQueary (“Ant-Man,” “Argo”), among many, many others.

deepbluesea6The astonishingly large visual effects team for “Deep Blue Sea” honestly has too many key people for me to list, but it includes common personnel with such diverse films as “Sphere,” “Van Helsing,” “Avengers: Age of Ultron,” “Paul Blart: Mall Cop,” “The Abyss,” “The Omega Code,” “Red Planet,” “RoboCop 3,” “Small Soldiers,” “Space Jam,” “Iron Man,” “Pacific Rim,” “Judge Dredd,” “Guardians of the Galaxy,” “Kazaam,” “Avatar,” “The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen,” “Kangaroo Jack,” and “The Matrix.”

The dedicated animation department for “Deep Blue Sea” was composed of Steve Nichols (“Van Helsing,” “Guardians Of The Galaxy”) and Rick O’Connor (“Jurassic Park III,” “Signs,” “Battleship”).

The score for “Deep Blue Sea” was written by Trevor Rabin, who has contributed music to a number of other memorable films such as “12 Rounds,” “Torque,” and “Con Air.”

“Deep Blue Sea” featured three editors: Derek Brechen (“Stargate,” “The Patriot,” “Iron Man”), Frank Urioste (“RoboCop,” “The Hitcher,” “Road House,” “Total Recall”), and Dallas Puett (“Red Planet,” “Kull The Conqueror,” “2 Fast 2 Furious”).

deepbluesea2The cast for “Deep Blue Sea” includes Samuel L. Jackson (“Kingsman,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Jackie Brown”), Thomas Jane (“The Punisher”), Saffron Burrows (“Troy”), LL Cool J (“Rollerball,” “S.W.A.T.”), Michael Rapaport (“The 6th Day,” “True Romance”), Stellan Skarsgard (“Thor”), Aida Turturro (“The Sopranos”), and Jacqueline McKenzie (“The Water Diviner”).

deepbluesea3The story of “Deep Blue Sea” takes place on an experimental marine facility, where scientists are studying sharks for a potential cure for Alzheimer’s. However, when the project goes over-budget and ethical concerns begin arising, their primary benefactor comes to investigate the situation himself. From there, things rapidly go awry.

The role of the chef, which ultimately went to LL Cool J, was initially offered to Samuel L. Jackson, who turned it down due to it being too small of a role. Ironically, due to script changes, the chef role wound up being arguably larger than the character Jackson wound up playing in the picture.

“Deep Blue Sea” is likely best known for a dramatic twist, in which Samuel L. Jackson’s character is surprisingly (and brutally) killed in the middle of the film. This move was apparently inspired by Tom Skerritt’s role in “Alien,” according to Renny Harlin. In theory, because he was the most recognizable face, audiences naturally latch to him as a point of reference. Of course, when the character dies, it has the effect of pulling a rug out from under the viewers. Harlin used this same technique again in “Mindhunters,” in which two different recognizable (and assumed lead) characters are shockingly killed off early in the film.

deepbluesea4The plot of “Deep Blue Sea” is loosely based on the amount of real life medical research that has been done on sharks over the past few decades, but it also perpetuates some significant falsehoods about the creatures. For instance, the belief that sharks can’t get cancer has been recently debunked. Also, the popular myth that sharks have to continue movies to survive isn’t true across the board: some species are capable of pumping water across their gills without moving.

There have been a few other movies called “Deep Blue Sea” over the years, including 2011’s “The Deep Blue Sea” starring Tom Hiddleston, and a 1955 romantic drama of the same name starring Vivien Leigh. Neither of those movies involved CGI sharks, however.

The modified sharks featured in “Deep Blue Sea” are shortfin mako sharks, which are known particularly for their speed, and are the fastest among all sharks. In line with the movie’s plot, they are also one of the smartest species of shark, and have an impressive brain to body ratio. However, they are also particular ill-suited for captivity, which pokes a significant hole in the underlying concept of the film.

“Deep Blue Sea” was filmed primarily at the Baja Studios near Tijuana, Mexico, which were built specifically for the filming of “Titanic.” Unfortunately, it hasn’t been used for filming in a number of years, and the town where it is located has apparently been deteriorating over the past few years.

At the beginning of “Deep Blue Sea,” a bull shark is shown with a license plate stuck in its mouth. The license plate number and state match the same one that was featured in “Jaws,” which was a nice, subtle homage.

The submarine the appears in the background of the well room also appeared in “Sphere,” an earlier film that also starred Samuel L. Jackson, alongside Dustin Hoffman.

According to Harlin, it took 20 takes to film his very brief cameo towards the beginning of the movie, and he apparently hasn’t taken any on-screen roles since.

“Deep Blue Sea” had a particularly notable tie-in single and music video, performed by LL Cool J, one of the co-stars of the film. It is one of the most baffling and catchy themes I have ever heard for a film, and essentially retells the entire plot of the film from the sharks’ perspectives.

“Deep Blue Sea” featured a number of impromptu screenplay changes along the way, including combing two characters into what became LL Cool J’s chef character and expanding the role (allowing him to survive), ultimately killing off Saffron Burrows’ character, and changing how some of the sharks were killed.

deepbluesea5The estimated budget for “Deep Blue Sea” was $60 million, and it ultimately grossed around $164 million in its total theatrical run, making it a significant hit. The reception wasn’t quite as positive as those numbers suggest, though the film certainly has a cult following. It currently hold an IMDb rating of 5.8, alongside Rotten Tomatoes scores of 56% (critics) and 38% (audience).

The biggest issue with “Deep Blue Sea” is definitely the poorly-aging CGI effects, but it is worth noting that the practical sharks look pretty good. As you might expect, there are some big drawbacks to mechanical sharks in regards to movement limitations and costs, and they are also notoriously fickle (I recommend reading about “Bruce” from “Jaws”). There are also some brief moments of CGI water in the background that, without fail, always looks awful.

There are undoubtedly some big problems with the plot of “Deep Blue Sea,” specifically regarding the impossible intelligence of the sharks. For instance, it is claimed that the sharks planned the flooding of the research facility in order to escape, which would require knowledge of the schematics of the building, the makeup of the fences, and the weather conditions. It is even possibly implied that one of the sharks operates a convection oven in order to flush out LL Cool J (a point of some contention). It is one thing for the sharks to be exceptionally smart, it is another thing for them to manifest knowledge they would have no way of knowing, unless the experiments made them psychic. Which, honestly, would be a hilarious twist.

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“IT’S AFRAID!”

Much like “Piranha” and “Humanoids From The Deep,” “Deep Blue Sea” taps into popular fears about genetic modification and the potential for science to go awry (there are definitely some “Frankenstein” nods as well). There is also a popular fear of sharks in the public consciousness since the cultural phenomenon of “Jaws,” which definitely adds to the atmosphere of “Deep Blue Sea.” It is fair to say that the film wouldn’t be the same with intelligent, giant rabbits, even if they were vicious and vindictive.

Something I particularly like about “Deep Blue Sea” is the concept and design of Aquatica, the floating research fortress. The aesthetic is always something I though was cool, and it doesn’t have the same overused “grates and pipes” look from “Alien,” “Leviathan,” etc. It is generally pretty sleek and polished, which makes it look more like a sparkling, new research facility.

Overall, “Deep Blue Sea” has plenty of problems, but the sheer “fun” factor is off the charts. The performances are great, the plot is cheesy, the atmosphere is fantastic, and if you can swallow the bad CGI, there is no way not to have a good time while watching this flick. Honestly, the CGI here still looks better than the “Sharknado” movies, well over a decade later, so it isn’t impossible to stomach. For people looking for a Hollywood cheese fest, a bit of nostalgia, or a top-flight shark thriller, “Deep Blue Sea” should fit your bill.