Film Review: Stallone, Frank That Is (dir by Derek Wayne Johnson)


Frank Stallone is a great musician and a talented guy and you should really spend some money to see him perform.

That would seem to be the main message of the new documentary, Stallone: Frank That Is. This documentary, which profiles the brother of Sylvester Stallone, was produced by Frank himself so we perhaps shouldn’t be surprised that it’s full of people attesting to what a great entertainer Frank is. Billy Zane, Billy Dee Williams, Christopher McDonald, Joe Mantegna, Duff McKagen, Richie Sambora, and Frankie Avalon all pop up and assure the viewers that Frank is a talented musician. Arnold Schwarzenegger tells us that Frank deserves to be known as more than just Sylvester Stallone’s younger brother. Sylvester Stallone himself shows up, to tell stories about how he and Frank once lived in a condemned apartment building and how they smashed a hole in the wall so that their two apartments could become one big loft.

What’s interesting is that, despite the fact that the film often seems like it was largely made to provide Frank Stallone with some encouragement and an ego boost, it also convinces us that Frank does deserve to be known for being something more than Sylvester Stallone’s brother. There’s enough performance footage to show that Frank Stallone actually is a pretty decent singer. Though the film is honest about the quality of most of Frank’s filmwork, there’s still enough footage from the 1987 film Barfly to convince us that, when cast in the right role, Frank Stallone is capable of giving a memorable performance. When he’s interviewed on camera, Frank Stallone comes across as being likeable and a good raconteur. He’s someone who you might want to have dinner with, just so you can listen to his stories about being a struggling musician in New Jersey in the late 60s. (Be sure to ask him about the time that he and his band opened for Bruce Springsteen.) Frank is also honest about how much of his career his owes to his brother, even if he never comes across as if he’s really made peace with that fact.

In fact, Frank Stallone is actually pretty forthright when it comes to admitting that being permanently overshadowed by his older brother totally sucks. After spending several years struggling to make it as a musician, Frank wrote a song for Rocky. Sylvester admits that the main reason Frank was asked was because the budget was too tight to hire anyone who wasn’t a relative. Frank and his band appeared in Rocky, as well as the film’s sequels. He went on to record songs for several of Sylvester’s films, most famously for Staying Alive. And while working on Sylvester’s films made Frank known and even helped him achieve a brief stardom when one of his Saying Alive songs reached the top of the charts, Frank also knew that everyone assumed that he only got hired because he was Sylvester’s brother. When Frank would perform at clubs, he would be credited as being “Rocky’s brother, Frank Stallone.” Understandably, Frank was not happy about that. (Sylvester at one point says that Frank was bitter and that “Frank’s still bitter and that’s one reason why I love him, he’s consistent.”) The only people less happy about the situation than Frank were Frank’s bandmates who found themselves overshadowed by the guy who was best known for being overshadowed by his brother. Frank admits that he often struggled to deal with his odd claim to fame and, as a result, his alienated a lot of people around him.

For all of the celebrity testimonials and funny stories, there’s also wistful sadness that runs through this documentary. As positive and upbeat as Frank Stallone tries to present himself, there’s always a feeling that there’s a lot of regret right underneath the surface. Being Sylvester Stallone’s brother comes across as being both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it opened doors for Frank that probably would never have been opened, On the other hand, it also ensured that Frank is always going to struggle to get people to take him seriously as anything other than a famous sibling. (Even in this documentary, some of the most memorable moments come from Frank imitating Sylvester’s trademark deep voice.) Stallone: Frank, That Is does a good job of suggesting that Frank deserves to be known for more than just his family while also admitting that it probably won’t ever happen.

“The Future Is An Open Mouth” — Or Should That Be An Open Question?


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

The best thing about this gig is that I get exposed to a lot of really personal, unusual, idiosyncratic work — comics and ‘zines that play by no rules other than those laid down by their creators, and even those can be arbitrarily broken if said creators feel like it. I’m talking about stuff that eschews codification, classification, sometimes even rationalization. But absolutely nothing I’ve encountered before could have prepared me for what was waiting in an oversized envelope that arrived in the mail from Denver-based cartoonist Dustin Holland the other day.

To call his self-published, magazine format comic The Future Is An Open Mouth “one of a kind” is to sell it short, because in truth it’s several things at once, none of them exactly new, but all of them coalescing into a singular visual and literary experience that propels the reader into frames of mind previously unknown and…

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Finally! We have a trailer for Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel!


We’ve been waiting for a while.

Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel has been a project that has had several projected release dates. It was originally expected to be a 2020 Oscar contender but, like many highly anticipated films, it kept getting moved back due to the Coronavirus pandemic. That was unfortunately, though I am ultimately glad that the film waited for the theaters as opposed to going the streaming route. One thing that all Ridley Scott films, good or bad, have in common is that they’re best viewed on a big screen.

This October, we should finally get to see The Last Duel. The film tells a a true story and features such Oscar-friendly actors as Matt Damon, Ben Affleck, and Adam Driver. Though Gladiator may have won best picture, Ridley Scott is still in the hunt for his first directing win. This year, he not only has The Last Duel in the hunt but he’s also going to have House of Gucci, featuring Lady Gaga, Al Pacino, Jeremy Irons, and, once again, Adam Driver.

The trailer for The Last Duel was released today. From what I saw on social media, the reaction was a bit mixed, with many pointing out that the visuals had a bit of a washed-out look to them. Indeed, watching the trailer, one wonders if it ever stopped snowing in 14th century France. Personally, though, I’m a little bit more concerned with Ben Affleck’s hair. Adam Driver and Matt Damon are usually well-cast in period films but, in the past, Ben Affleck has always come across like he can’t wait to catch the next train back to Boston. That said, there was a lot about the trailer that I did like. The sets look impressive and it really does seem like the type of story that usually brings out the best in Ridley Scott as a director.

Plus, I have to say that I really like the film’s poster, which has something of a Ken Russell feel to it. If anything, the poster actually has me more excited about seeing the film than the trailer does.

With all of that said and in mind, here’s the trailer for Ridley Scott’s The Last Duel!

Music Video of the Day: Wrecked by Imagine Dragons (2021, dir by Matt Eastin)


Today’s music video of the day is the latest from Imagine Dragons. He’s wrecked because his relationship didn’t work out. At least he’s got a nice beach to think about it on. I can’t imagine anything worse than being depressed some place that isn’t photogenic.

This video was at least partially filmed at Caesar’s Palace. They even got a special thank you.

Enjoy!

Rainbow Bridge To The Hyperverse : William Cardini’s “Reluctant Oracle” #1


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

Coming headfirst and headstrong at readers in full, blazing, at times even explosive color, WIlliam Cardini’s latest self-published foray into the extra-dimensional ideascape that is his Hyperverse, Reluctant Oracle #1, not only appears to be the opening salvo in what could very well be a “proper” series, it may also portend the next developmental stage of the concept itself — one where, for lack of a better term, the ‘verse and its denizens might just be on the verge of growing up.

Which is a weird thing to say when we’re talking about a realm populated by ancient wizards, immortal monsters, and giant robots — the latter of which is our protagonist in this latest adventure — but nevertheless, it’s true. When a person thinks of Cardini’s work, phrases like “mind-blowing,” “highly imaginative,” and “far fucking out” come to mind, of course, but “emotionally resonant” and “thematically complex,” maybe…

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The TSL’s Grindhouse: The Vindicator (dir by Jean-Claude Lord)


The 1986 film, The Vindicator, is one of those Canadian exploitation films that doesn’t make much sense but is still memorable just because of how dedicated it is to being utterly incoherent.

Basically, an evil corporate guy named Alex Whyte (played by Richard Cox) wants to design a space suit that will turn people into rage-filled assassins. Or something like that. To be honest, I had a hard time following just what exactly Alex was trying to do. When one of his scientists, Carl Lehman (David Mcllwraith), figures out that Alex is up to something sinister, Alex blows him up. Alex then puts Carl’s charred body into the suit and Carl is transformed into a cyborg who flies into a murderous rage whenever anyone gets too close to him. That’s not exactly what Carl was hoping to spend the rest of his life doing so Carl breaks free from the lab and seeks revenge while also trying to protect his wife (Terri Austin) and his daughter (Catherine Disher). Unfortunately, because of the whole rage thing, Carl can’t allow himself to get close to them but somehow, he figures out how to speak to them through the synthesizer that’s sitting in the living room.

Now that Carl is wandering around Canada and killing all of his former co-workers, Alex decides that he needs to do something to take Carl out of commission so he hires an assassin known as Hunter. Hunter is played by Pam Grier. Yes, that’s right — the Pam Grier! Soon, Hunter and her team are pursuing Carl across Canada and, in the process, they end up killing almost as many people as Carl. And those people who aren’t killed by Carl or Hunter fall victim to the types of accidents that could only happy in a Canadian exploitation film. For instance, in one scene, a truck drives over a guard rail and immediately explodes.

Meanwhile, Carl’s friend, Bert (played by Maury Chaykin because this is a Canadian film), is falling in love with Carl’s wife and plotting to try to take her away from her cyborg husband. At first, Bert appears to be a sympathetic character and then, about an hour into the movie, Bert is suddenly not sympathetic at all. The same can actually be said for just about everyone in the film, which will lead most viewers to wonder just why exactly we should care about whether or not Carl is ever stopped.

It’s a messy film. For a relatively short and presumably low-budget film, there’s a lot of characters in The Vindicator and it’s not always clear how everyone is related. Since Carl kills most of them, I can only assume that they’re all bad but still, you can’t help but wonder if maybe Carl is being a bit too quick to assume that everyone was okay with him getting blown up. Carl is one judgmental cyborg.

Supposedly, special effects maestro Stan Winston was involved with the production of The Vindicator and, to give credit where credit is due, Carl does look like what I guess most people would expect a cyborg to look like. In fact, when I watched the movie, I originally assumed that it was a Robocop rip-off but then I discovered that The Vindicator actually came out a year before Robocop. That’s not to say, of course, that The Vindicator was, in any way, an influence on Robocop. Beyond the cyborg-theme, the two films really have nothing in common. Robocop is a satirical commentary on fascism. The Vindicator is …. well, I’m not really sure what it’s supposed to be.

The Vindicator is a mess. It’s one of those films where no one’s motivations make any sense and it is often next to impossible to actually keep track of who is who. (The actors playing Alex and Carl looked so much alike that it took me a few minutes to figure out that Carl was the one who got blown up.) And yet, like many Canadian exploitation films from the 80s, The Vindicator is also compulsively watchable. The actions move quickly. The entire plot has a make-it-up-as-you-go-along feel to it that’s kind of entertaining. Plus, Pam Grier’s in the film, openly rolling her eyes at just how silly it all is. The Vindicator isn’t exactly good but it did hold my interest. All things considered, maybe that’s vindication enough.

The Elwich Horror : Jay Stephens’ “Dwellings”


Ryan C.'s Four Color Apocalypse

At first glance, there’s something inherently “been there, done that” about Jay Stephens’ new ongoing series Dwellings — after all, we’re talking about what would appear to be a send-up/pastiche of old-school Harvey Comics printed on pre-yellowed newsprint complete with fake ads and the like — but no one in their right mind would argue that something having been done before necessarily precludes it from being done well and Stephens, to my knowledge, has never half-assed a project. I go back to the early ’90s with both this cartoonist and his publisher, Black Eye Books, so it’s certainly no stretch to say that there’s a bit of “rooting for the home team” happening here on my part, but even still — two issues into this entirely unexpected return for both, all I can say is that, initial impressions aside, this comic is so far surpassing not just my expectations for…

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