Tag Archives: stallone

Rhinestone

Rhinestone

Today, I am going to take a look at the ill-conceived musical comedy flick, Rhinestone.

The plot of Rhinestone is summed up on IMDb as follows:

A country music star must turn an obnoxious New York cabbie into a singer in order to win a bet.

The screenplay for Rhinestone was co-written by star Sylvester Stallone (Rocky, First Blood) and Phil Alden Robinson (Sneakers, Field of Dreams). However, Robinson apparently took issue with Stallone’s many changes to his screenplay, and distanced himself from the film as a result.

Rhinestone‘s director was Bob Clark, whose list of directorial credits includes such varied films as Black Christmas, Porky’s, A Christmas Story, Baby Geniuses, and Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2.

The primary cast of Rhinestone is made up of Sylvester Stallone (Cobra, Tango & Cash, Demolition Man, Over The Top, Judge Dredd, Death Race 2000, Driven), country music star Dolly Parton (Steel Magnolias, The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas), Richard Farnsworth (Misery, The Two Jakes, The Natural), Ron Leibman (Auto Focus, Slaughterhouse-Five, Garden State), and Tim Thomerson (Trancers, Near Dark).

Rhinestone had two credited editors: John Wheeler (SpaceCamp, Rocky IV, Ladybugs) and Stan Cole (Prom Night IV, Black Christmas, Baby Geniuses, Superbabies: Baby Geniuses 2). The cinematographer for the film was Timothy Galfas, who is best known for his work on Ralph Bakshi’s animated take on The Lord Of The Rings, but has done very little else of note on screen.

The musical score for Rhinestone was composed by star Dolly Parton, whose reputation as a writer and performer of country music is unparalleled. Her wikipedia page lists the following accomplishments:

25 RIAA certified Gold, Platinum, and Multi-Platinum awards, she has had 25 songs reach No. 1 on the Billboard country music charts, a record for a female artist (tied with Reba McEntire). She has 41 career top 10 country albums, a record for any artist, and she has 110 career charted singles over the past 40 years. All-inclusive sales of singles, albums, hits collections, and digital downloads during her career have topped 100 million worldwide. She has garnered nine Grammy Awards, two Academy Award nominations, ten Country Music Association Awards, seven Academy of Country Music Awards, three American Music Awards, and is one of only seven female artists to win the Country Music Association’s Entertainer of the Year Award. Parton has received 47 Grammy nominations.

Dolly Parton’s soundtrack for the movie produced two Top 10 country music hits: “Tennessee Homesick Blues” and “God Won’t Get You”.

Rhinestone is a unique twist on George Bernard Shaw’s Pygmalion, a 1913 play in which a phonetics professor bets that he can train a low-born cockney woman to pass as a duchess at an official function. The story has been portrayed on both the stage and screen countless times since its debut, but Rhinestone‘s Americanization and country music twist on the tale make it stand out from the other more direct adaptations out there, like 1964’s My Fair Lady.

Rhinestone wound up with nine Golden Raspberry Award nominations, which are given out annually to the worst movies and performances of the year. Stallone managed to take home the distinction of Worst Actor, and “Drinkenstein” took Worst Original Song. The film was additionally nominated for such awards as Worst Picture, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Director.

Rhinestone was made on a production budget of $28 million, on which it took in a lifetime theatrical box office gross of $21.5 million, making it a notable financial failure. The reception to Rhinestone, if anything, was worse: it currently holds a dramatically low 3.7/10 IMDb user rating, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 15% from critics and 35% from audiences.

The biggest thing to note about Rhinestone is that everything good about the film boils down to Dolly Parton, and everything bad about it can be traced to Sylvester Stallone. It is like a yin-yang in form of a musical comedy movie. The musical score is absolutely solid, and is almost enough to float the film on its own. Likewise, Parton’s performance is honestly charming and likable, and she makes easy work of her banter. On the flip side, however, Stallone is especially wooden and unlikable in this movie, which is odd, since he rewrote the screenplay himself. Particularly during any key moments of banter, he just can’t make anything work. I think the guy just lacks comedic rhythm, which is absolutely necessary for this kind of role. Throughout the movie, he stumbles his way over words like he is knocking over barstools, and robs the story and comedy of any potential momentum.

All of those issues don’t even get into the most notorious issue with this film: the singing. Stallone is debatably a better comedic actor than he is a singer, and that is saying a lot for the man who brought the world Stop Of My Mom Will Shoot. His singing and performing is laughably terrible, which is interesting for a movie like this. Basically, he is supposed to be awful for most of the movie, and he does that task serviceably. However, when the story mandates that his skills improve, he isn’t quite up to that challenge, which challenges the internal logic and reality of the movie.

Overall, I think if you look up clips of the key songs in Rhinestone, like “Drinkenstein,” then you have hit the highlights of this movie. Between the songs, it really bogs down thanks to Stallone’s un-entertaining buffoonery and his loose grasp of the English language, and nobody deserves to sit through that. If curiosity has deeply gripped you, or you are just a fan of Parton’s music, then it might be worth digging this flick up. However, don’t expect too much.

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Cobra

Cobra

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Today’s feature is the Sylvester Stallone vehicle, Cobra.

The plot of Cobra is summarized on IMDb as follows:

A tough-on-crime street cop must protect the only surviving witness to a strange murderous cult with far reaching plans.

The screenplay for Cobra was penned by the Academy Award winning screenwriter and Academy Award nominated actor Sylvester Stallone, who also starred in film. His career as both an actor and screenwriter has had a fair share of ups and downs: flops like Judge Dredd, Rhinestone, and Driven, cult classics like Demolition Man, Rocky IV, Cliffhanger, and Over The Top, the label-defying homo-erotic buddy cop masterpiece Tango & Cash, and genre-defining flicks like First Blood and Rocky. In many ways, he is a genre unto himself.

The credited director for Cobra was George Cosmatos, who also directed the films Leviathan and Rambo: First Blood Part II, and was questionably credited with directing Tombstone after the initial director was dismissed. However, much like with Tombstone, there is some question as to whether his credit on Cobra is legitimate.

Beyond Stallone, the cast of Cobra includes Brigitte Nielsen (Red Sonja, Beverly Hills Cop II), Reni Santoni (Dirty Harry, Rain Man), and Brian Thompson (Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, Doctor Mordrid, Lionheart).

The film has two credited editors: Don Zimmerman (Galaxy Quest, Half Baked, Over The Top, Rocky IV) and James Symons (Tank Girl, Fortress 2, Rambo III, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III).

The cinematographer for Cobra was Ric Waite, who also shot On Deadly Ground, Red Dawn, and Footloose, among others.

cobra2The music for Cobra was provided by Sylvester Levay, who also composed scores for Hot Shots! and Mannequin, and worked in the music departments for Howard the Duck and Scarface.

Cobra was produced in part by the legendary Cannon Group duo of Yoram Globus and Menahem Globus, who produced such films as Enter The Ninja, Over The Top, Masters of the Universe, Superman IV, Breakin’, American Ninja, The Apple, and Lifeforce, among many others.

The screenplay for Cobra is very loosely based on the novel Fair Game by Paula Gosling. Part of why it barely resembles the alleged source material is because Stallone added in numerous elements that he had come up with for his rewrite of Beverly Hills Cop, before he was ultimately dismissed from the project in favor of Eddie Murphy.

cobra4The initial cut of Cobra clocked in at over two hours, and reportedly featured much more violence and a far more fleshed-out plot than what ultimately made it to theaters. First, the decision was made to trim the film in order an extra theatrical screening each day in the theaters, in the hopes that the profits would be inflated. Even after these cuts, however, the MPAA gave the film an X rating. After that, lots of the violence was further toned down or removed to make it more palatable for distribution. The final theatrical release of the film clocked in at 87 minutes, meaning that over half an hour of plot and violence was omitted since the initial director’s cut. While this version has never received an official release, a work print does exist, and has been distributed underground.

Sylvester Stallone’s character in Cobra, Marion Cobretti, is named after John Wayne, whose real first name was Marion.

The iconic knife featured in Cobra was custom-made for the production by Herman Schneider, an acclaimed artisan knife-maker, and was intended to be distinct enough to stand out.

cobra5It is widely rumored that Cobra was actually directed by Sylvester Stallone, and that credited director George Cosmatos essentially performed the duty of a producer. At this point, this is generally accepted as true, given the number of crew who have claimed as such over the years.

Cobra was ultimately nominated for six Golden Raspberry awards, which are annually given out to the judged worst films and performances of the year. These included citations for Worst Director, Worst Actor, Worst Actress, Worst Supporting Actor, Worst New Star, Worst Screenplay, and Worst Picture.

The car that features prominently in Cobra is a customized 1950 Mercury that was actually owned by Sylvester Stallone. Replicas were made for the various stunt scenes throughout the movie that were indistinguishable from the outside to the casual viewer.

cobra3The poster for the film Another WolfCop is a parody of the iconic poster art for Cobra, and features the distinctive elements of a red background, reflective sunglasses, dark clothing, and a laser-sighted handgun aimed casually upwards.

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Apparently, Stallone was a complete nightmare to work with during the filming of Cobra. In many ways, he was at the height of his powers, and was on a permanent ego trip. He refused to speak to most of the cast and crew, and spent most of his time flirting with his co-star and eventual wife Brigitte Nielsen instead of performing his duties. His antics regularly delayed scenes, and generally created a negative working atmosphere.

Apparently, Cobra had a slight influence on the cult hit Drive. Both the director, Nicolas Winding Refn, and the star, Ryan Gosling, are big fans of the movie, and Gosling modeled some of his character’s mannerisms after Cobretti, including his chewing habit (though the match is replaced with a toothpick).

The production budget for Cobra has been estimated at $25 million, on which it grossed $160 million worldwide over its theatrical run. This made it significantly profitable, though people tend to look back on it as a failure. This is probably because Cobra got a mostly negative reception from both critics and audiences. It currently holds an IMDb user rating of 5.7/10, along with Rotten Tomatoes scores of 13% from critics and 42% from audiences.

Cobra might the most “Sylvester Stallone” of the horde of 1980s Sylvester Stallone movies: it is stylistic to a point, cool, fun, shallow, and almost entirely mindless. It is just about everything you could possibly want from this era of Stallone.

That said, the bizarre plot has some interesting potential to it. The antagonistic cult is way more interesting than Cobretti, but doesn’t get a whole lot of focus. Apparently, this was something that was lost in the initial studio cut of the movie, prior to the second MPAA necessitated cut. I’m kind of curious to see the work print because of this: the extra violence might make it a more fun watch, but I’m curious how much the further focus on the cult might help the film’s story.

As far as action movies go, this is one of the coolest ones from a visual standpoint that you’ll come across. What it lacks in cerebral content and sensibility it almost makes up for with a fascinating mastery of color, a litany of violent deaths, and some pretty damn cool stunts. In general, I think it is a solid recommend for action movie fans. Even the shitty acting and bad line reads sort of suit the tone and style of the movie. If you need to let your brain check out for a bit, this is one way to do it. Just don’t listen too much or look too hard, and there is something to appreciate here.

Judge Dredd

Judge Dredd

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Today’s feature is 1995’s Judge Dredd, starring Sylvester Stallone.

Judge Dredd is an adaptation from a comic series created by John Wagner and Carlos Ezquerra, and is based on a specific plot line conceived of by Michael De Luca (In The Mouth of Madness, Freddy’s Dead: The Final Nightmare) and co-screenwriter William Wisher (Terminator 2, The Terminator, The 13th Warrior).

The screenplay was, as mentioned, co-written by William Wisher in cooperation with Steven de Souza, who is best known for such films as Street Fighter, Die Hard, Hudson Hawk, The Running Man, and Commando.

Judge Dredd was directed by one Danny Cannon, who was also behind the films I Still Know What You Did Last Summer and Phoenix, as well as some extensive on television shows like CSI, Gotham, and Nikita.

The cinematographer for the film was Adrian Biddle, who also shot such movies as Event Horizon, Willow, Aliens, The Princess Bride, and Reign of Fire.

Judge Dredd had two primary editors: Harry Keramidas, best known for cutting Children of the Corn and Back To The Future, and Alex Mackie (The Substitute).

The team of producers for Judge Dredd included Edward R. Pressman (Masters of the Universe, Street Fighter, The Island of Dr. Moreau), Andrew G. Vajna (DeepStar Six, Red Heat, Total Recall), Tony Munafo (Demolition Man, Cobra, Over The Top), and Beau Marks (Son of the Mask, Anaconda, Die Hard).

The musical score for Judge Dredd was composed by Alan Silvestri, who also provided the music for such films as Mac and Me, Predator 2, Stop Or My Mom Will Shoot, Super Mario Bros., Cop & 1/2, Van Helsing, and Back To The Future.

The special effects team for Judge Dredd included, among others, Clive Beard (Event Horizon, The Fifth Element), Paul Clancy (Batman Begins, Skyfall), Steve Cullane (Slipstream, Hudson Hawk), Michael Dawson (Mortal Kombat), Michael Durkan (Event Horizon, Gladiator), Frank Guiney (Hudson Hawk, Lost in Space), Alexander Gunn (Band of Brothers, Stardust), David Hunter (Black Hawk Down, The Mummy Returns), Shaun Rutter (GoldenEye, Hugo), and Brian Warner (Supergirl, Superman III, Die Another Day).

The makeup effects crew for the movie included Paul Catling (Hellraiser), Chris Cunningham (Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection), Nick Dudman (Batman, Legend, Supergirl, Krull), Neill Gorton (Doctor Who, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), and Jeni Walker (DeepStar Six, Leonard Part 6, Children of Men).

The Judge Dredd visual effects were provided by the company Mass Illusions, which has worked on films like The Matrix, Event Horizon, Starship Troopers, and What Dreams May Come, among many others.

The cast of Judge Dredd is made up of Sylvester Stallone (Rhinestone, Tango & Cash, Cliffhanger, Cobra, Death Race 2000), Armand Assante (Fatal Instinct, Hoffa), Rob Schneider (The Hot Chick, Deuce Bigalow: Male Gigolo, The Animal), Jürgen Prochnow (The Keep, Dune, The Seventh Sign), Max von Sydow (The Exorcist, Minority Report, Dune), and Diane Lane (Trumbo, Hollywoodland, The Cotton Club).

In 2012, another film adaptation of the Judge Dredd character was made, titled simply Dredd. The film has become a bit of a cult classic, with a dedicated and loyal following.

Apparently, Stallone demanded a number of changes to the Judge Dredd screenplay, mostly to increase the comedy. Cannon, on the other hand, wanted a darker tone for the film more in line with the source material, leading to significant friction on the set. Afterwards, Danny Cannon swore never to work with another Hollywood star. Adding to the friction was the fact that Cannon was a fan of the source material, whereas Stallone wasn’t familiar with the character at all until he was cast, and didn’t give the source any sense of reverence.

One notable change between the film iteration and original comic character of Judge Dredd is the helmet: while the design is faithful, the character in the comics never removes the iconic helmet, whereas Stallone spends most of the film with his face exposed.

dredd5Given the production history of Judge Dredd, there are a lot of alternate casting rumors that have arisen over the years. Reportedly, Joe Pesci was the first choice for Schneider’s role, and Christopher Walken turned down the part of Dredd’s antagonist, Rico. Less surprising in the fact that Arnold Schwarzenegger was considered for the title role of Judge Dredd before Stallone was attached to the project.

Before Danny Cannon was decided upon to helm the picture, the other directors that were approached reportedly included Richard Donner (Lethal Weapon, Superman, Scrooged, The Goonies), Renny Harlin (Cliffhanger, Deep Blue Sea), Richard Stanley (The Island of Doctor Moreau, Hardware, Dust Devil), Peter Hewitt (Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey), and even the Coen brothers.

Judge Dredd proved to be a significant financial failure: on a budget reported to be as high as $70 million, it only managed to gross $35 million in its total theatrical run. Unfortunately, it was equally as reviled by critics, earning a 18% on the review aggregator Rotten Tomatoes. Audiences weren’t thrilled either, earning it a 30% audience score on Rotten Tomatoes and an IMDb rating of 5.4.

The first and most glaring issue with Judge Dredd is the constant presence of Rob Schneider. Not only is his acting generally bad and the writing for his character not funny, but he doesn’t fit into this film in the slightest. Outside of his presence, the movie has a very serious and violent tone, which he mostly serves to undermine and confuse. According to what I’ve read, Stallone was primarily responsible for Schneider’s role being dramatically expanded, which hits on another big issue with the movie: it was made with two very different visions in mind.

I’m not familiar with the source material that Judge Dredd is pulled from, so I’m not 100% sure what in the movie comes from there and what was written specifically for the movie. Throughout the film, Judge Dredd uses the catchphrase “I knew you’d say that,” which, regardless of whether it came from the comics or not, comes off as clunky and forced on screen (at least in the way that it is delivered).

dredd3Much has been said about Armand Assante’s excessive performance as Rico in this movie. While his character is certainly played with more than a little too much enthusiasm, his scenes are by far the most enjoyable parts of the film. If it weren’t for Assante, this would be a much harder movie to sit through.

dredd4The set design and effects in Judge Dredd actually look pretty good if you ask me. There’s definitely some influence from things like Blade Runner and Brazil, but it still manages to look unique in a way that works pretty well for the movie. Likewise, the costuming on the judges looks sharp.

Judge Dredd isn’t nearly as bad a movie as I had heard, but it has more than a few serious problems. If someone did a cut of the movie with Rob Schneider cut out, I have a feeling that it would be almost half-decent, as the tone issues and writing surrounding his character make up most of the problems with this movie. Stallone, for all of his issues, has the appearance of Dredd nailed down, so it is hard to say that he was bad casting for the film. Likewise, Assante adds massive entertainment value to the picture, so I have trouble picturing a more reserved performance in that role making the movie any better.

Personally, I think this is a movie worth watching for the experience of it. It isn’t super entertaining or fun, but Assante makes it intermittently entertaining, and the movie has managed to seep into the public consciousness enough to justify being familiar with it. Also, it might help people to appreciate the wonder that is 2012’s Dredd all the more.

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