Tag Archives: sylvester 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.

Advertisements

Over The Top

Over The Top

overthetop1

Today’s feature is a 1987 Sylvester Stallone vehicle with an immensely appropriate title: Over The Top.

The screenplay for Over The Top was penned by lead actor Sylvester Stallone and Stirling Silliphant (Village of the Damned, The Towering Inferno, The Poseidon Adventure), with story credit going to Gary Conway (American Ninja 3, American Ninja 2) and David Engelbach (America 3000, Death Wish II).

Over The Top was directed and produced by Menahem Golan of The Cannon Group, who worked extensively with his co-producer cousin, Yoram Globus, to bring the world such movies as Enter The Ninja, Revenge of the Ninja, Ninja III: The Domination, Breakin’, Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo, The Delta Force, The Apple, Bolero, and American Ninja, among many others.

The cinematographer on Over the Top was David Gurfinkel, who also shot the movies American Samurai, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles III, America 3000, The Delta Force, Enter The Ninja, and The Apple.

Over the Top featured two primary editors: Don Zimmerman (Marmaduke, Galaxy Quest, Cobra, Rocky IV, Staying Alive) and James Symons (Tank Girl, Fortress 2, Rambo III, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles).

Outside of the dynamic duo of Golan and Globus, the other producers on Over The Top were Tony Munafo (Judge Dredd, Tango & Cash, Cobra, Demolition Man) and James D. Brubaker (The Nutty Professor, The Nutty Professor II, Rhinestone, The Right Stuff, Bruce Almighty).

The musical score for Over The Top was provided by Giorgio Moroder, who also composed music for movies like Scarface, Flashdance, American Gigolo, Midnight Express, and the 1984 remake of Cat People.

The effects team for Over The Top included Bob Mills (Jackie Brown, Batman Returns, Nine Months), Christina Smith (Slipstream (2007), Small Soldiers, Congo, Jurassic Park), Rocky Gehr (Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, Real Genius, The Monster Squad, Speed, Waterworld), Dennis Petersen (Wild Wild West, Breaking Bad, Lethal Weapon 4, Jingle All The Way), and Richard Hill (Jonah Hex, Hollow Man, Jaws 3-D, Demolition Man, Short Circuit).

The cast of Over the Top is made up of Sylvester Stallone (Judge Dredd, Rocky IV, Rhinestone, Tango & Cash, Demolition Man, The Expendables, Death Race 2000), Robert Loggia (Big, Scarface, Holy Man), Susan Blakely (Concorde: Airport ’79, The Towering Inferno), and Rick Zumwalt (Batman Returns).

MSDOVTH EC007The plot of Over The Top is summarized on IMDb as follows:

Lincoln Hawk (Stallone) is a struggling trucker who arm wrestles on the side to make extra cash while trying to rebuild his life. After the death of his wife, he tries to make amends with his son who he left behind 10 years earlier. Upon their first meeting, his son does not think too highly of him until he enters the World Arm Wrestling Championships in Las Vegas. His hope is to receive the grand prize of $100,000 and an expensive current custom semi-truck and thus start his own trucking company.

Sylvester Stallone has reportedly claimed that he agreed to do the movie based on the pay alone, and is generally unhappy with the way that the film ultimately panned out.

overthetop2Over the Top was made on a production budget of $25 million, on which it grossed only $16 million in its domestic theatrical release, making it a significant financial failure.  The film didn’t fare any better with critics or audiences: it currently holds an IMDb rating of 5.6, alongside Rotten Tomatoes aggregate scores of 36% from critics and 49% from audiences.

As you would expect of just about any Cannon release from the era, Over The Top is a completely ridiculous movie, and a whole lot of fun at the same time. To say the least, it lives up to its name: the arm wrestling sequences in particular can only be described as “over the top,” in just about any way you can imagine: they are a chorus of lights, grunts, music, facial expressions, and large, angry truckers.

Typically, I am not a big fan of prominent child acting in movies. When it comes down to it, most child actors aren’t well-suited for significant roles. That said, David Mendenhall is shockingly watchable in Over The Top. I’m sure this is sort of helped by the fact that his character is written in a peculiar way that generally doesn’t leave him to his own devices to be aimlessly precocious, like many directors seem to do with child actors. He still definitely has bad moments, but his performance was far less painful than a movie like this would typically turn out.

The music in Over The Top is terrifically iconic for the late 1980s, integrating synth, rock, country, and blues into a fantastic backdrop for this odd psuedo-action movie, sounding like what I assume a dingy truck stop in the 1980s would have.

Part of the central plot of Over The Top is a “slobs vs. snobs” scenario that is fought out internally in the mind of Mendenhall’s character, Mike Hawk (heh). Throughout the movie, he is caught in the crossfire between the high-class influence of his wealthy grandfather and the blue-collar style of his long-absentee father (Stallone), and visibly transitions between the two throughout the story. While the “slobs vs. snobs” conflict is hardly unique, it plays out interestingly to have the battle waged inside the psyche of a kid.

Overall, Over The Top is a delightfully cheesy movie that delivers everything you could really want from it. There’s a sports movie component with the arm wrestling, an overly sentimental family bonding plot, some vehicular stunts, and Stallone doing his usual Stallone shtick. Personally, I see this as a must-watch for bad movie fans, up there with Stallone cheese classics like Rocky IV and Tango & Cash.

For more thoughts on Sylvester Stallone’s dip into cinematic arm-wrestling, I recommend checking out Janet Maslin’s review in The New York Times and Paul Attanasio’s brief coverage in The Washington Post. Also, the good folks at BMFcast covered it in a double feature with Hulk Hogan’s No Holds Barred, which I’ll be getting around to as well one of these days.

Driven

Driven

driven1

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.

Tango & Cash

Tango & Cash

tangocash2

Today’s feature if one of the most notorious buddy-cop showcases of all time: Tango & Cash.

Tango & Cash was written by Randy Feldman, who also penned screenplays for the films Nowhere to Run, Metro, and Hell Night.

The final credited director for Tango & Cash was Andrei Konchalovsky (Runaway Train, Homer and Eddie, The Inner Circle), but he was actually replaced before filming was completed. Albert Magnoli (Purple Rain) took over the production, but doesn’t have an official credit on the movie. The circumstances of the director change apparently had to do with significant conflicts between Konchalovsky and producer Jon Peters over the tone of the movie, which eventually boiled over.

The initial cinematographer on Tango & Cash was Barry Sonnenfeld, who later directed movies like Wild Wild West, Get Shorty, and Men in Black. His shooting credits at the time included significant movies like Big, Throw Momma From The Train, Raising Arizona, and Blood Simple, but he was dismissed after only a brief stint on Tango & Cash because, reportedly, Stallone wanted his gone. His replacement was Donald E. Thorin, whose career credits include shooting Collision Course, The Golden Child, Purple Rain, Scent of a Woman, Undercover Blues, and Dudley Do-Right.

The film had two credited primary editors: Robert A Ferretti (Stuck, On Deadly Ground, Gymkata) and Hubert de La Bouillerie (Highlander II: The Quickening, Police Academy 5, Police Academy 6).  The film was re-edited on the orders of Warner Brothers by Stuart Baird (Superman, The Omen, Tommy), taking away control from the production team. This ultimate, studio-mandated edit by Baird and de La Bouillerie was only given partial credit, but is more responsible for the final product of the film that the scrapped Ferretti edit.

The team of producers for Tango & Cash included the infamous duo of Peter Guber and John Peters (Batman, Caddyshack II), Larry J. Franco (The Thing, Christine), Peter MacDonald (X-Men Origins: Wolverine), and Tony Munafo (Judge Dredd, Stop! Or My Mom Will Shoot).

The music for Tango & Cash was provided by Harold Faltermeyer, who is most famous for his iconic theme for Beverly Hills Cop. His other credits include Fletch, Top Gun, The Running Man, and Cop Out. He has also worked extensively beyond motion pictures, and has two Grammy awards for his work.

The effects work on Tango & Cash was done by a team that included Dennis Liddiard (Speed 2), Gary Liddiard (Exorcist II, TRON), Peter Anderson (Ishtar, COSMOS), Michael L. Fink (RoboCop 2, WarGames), Peter Kuran (Piranha, Q: The Winged Serpent, RoboCop 3, Lake Placid, The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen), Jon Belyeu (Halloween III), Tom Del Genio (Jaws 3-D, Friday the 13th: A New Beginning), Larry L. Fuentes (Time After Time), and Jim Schwalm (Falling Down, Cobra).

The cast of Tango & Cash is made up of Kurt Russell (The Thing, Escape From New York, Big Trouble In Little China), Sylvester Stallone (Cobra, Rhinestone, Judge Dredd, Over The Top, Demolition Man), Robert Z’dar (Samurai Cop, Maniac Cop, Maniac Cop 2, Maniac Cop 3, Soultaker), Clint Howard (Evilspeak, House of the Dead, The Dentist 2, Blubberella, Carnosaur, Night Shift), Jack Palance (Batman), Teri Hatcher (Desperate Housewives), James Hong (Blade Runner), Brion James (The Fifth Element), Eddie Bunker (Reservoir Dogs), Lewis Arquette (Scream 2), Michael J. Pollard (Bonnie & Clyde, Scrooged), and Marc Alaimo (Total Recall).

The plot of Tango & Cash is summarized on wikipedia as follows:

The film describes the struggle of Raymond Tango and Gabriel Cash, two rival LAPD narcotics detectives, who are forced to work together after the criminal mastermind Yves Perret frames both of them for murder.

tangocash1Patrick Swayze was initially cast in the role of Gabriel Cash, but dropped out to star in his own cult classic, over-the-top action flick: Road House. Kurt Russell then took over the role, and the rest is history.

The glasses worn by Sylvester Stallone throughout the movie were his own prescribed spectacles. Typically, he wears contacts for his movie roles, but he decided to wear glasses as Ray Tango to make him seem more intelligent and distinguished.

The budget for Tango & Cash was estimated to have gotten as high as $55 million by the end of the production. It managed to make the money back on a gross total of $63.4 million, but the inflated budget and low profits led most people to regard it as a bust. Critics and audiences certainly didn’t receive it warmly at the time: the movie currently holds Rotten Tomatoes aggregated scores of 34% from critics and 52% from general audiences, but the more contemporaneous IMDb rating is notably higher at a 6.3. Particularly in the past few years, the movie has been hailed as a cult classic by many, epitomizing a certain style of action movie.

Tango & Cash is arguably the peak of fun, cheesy action movies. Kurt Russell is absolutely fantastic, as he always seems to be when he is in his action element. Seeing Stallone play against type as an intellectual adds a surreal element to the film, and the surprisingly deep cast of character actors makes it one hell of an entertaining showcase for movie buffs. The plot and action are both ludicrous enough that any bad movie lover should give it a chance, but I would even go so far as to recommend it to general movie-goers nowadays. This movie encapsulates an entire genre and time period that has recently started to be ‘cool’ again, and this hilarious over the top flick deserves another round of eyes on it.

For more thoughts on the dynamic duo of Tango & Cash, I recommend checking out the dedicated episode of The Flophouse Podcast on the flick, last year’s spotlight on Flavorwire, and the retrospective review from The Dissolve.