All posts by Frank Mengarelli

Everybody relax, Frank's here. After going to film school at Columbia College Chicago, Frank decided to underachieve with his vast knowledge of film into a career in civil service. Frank had a brief stint as a film blogger, and then he met the heterosexual love of his life, Nick Clement. The two instantly bonded over their love from everything to Terence Malick to THE EXPENDABLES films. Some of Frank's favorite filmmakers are Terence Malick, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Sylvester Stallone, Oliver Stone and Spike Lee. Some of his favorite films are THE TREE OF LIFE, STAR WARS (all of them), BAD LIEUTENANT, THE THING and ALL THAT JAZZ. Frank spends his free time with his dog Roger, collecting any Star Wars collectible he can find and trying to finish his pretentious, first person narrative novel(la), LARGE MEN IN SMALL CARS..

Patty Jenkins’ WONDER WOMAN

WONDER WOMAN is a rather terrific film. Yes, it follows the template of an origin story, and it is somewhat uninspired at times following that formula (first reel death, sacrificial death at the end of the film, “surprise” villain), but regardless of the generic template used, the film and its star propel forward creating a very engaging, entertaining, and invigorating film.

The constant comparisons to CAPTAIN AMERICA: FIRST AVENGER does have some slight merit, but it is a rather lazy comparison. Sure, both films revolve around a set piece pertaining to each World War, and sure it’s a ragtag crew of soldiers that support the hero in their take-down to essentially end the war; yet there is so much that separates the two.

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The craftsmanship of WONDER WOMAN stands superior.

The cast of this film may be one of the best ensembles constructed for a comic book movie. Supporting Gal Gadot is Chris Pine (in probably his best performance to date), Connie Nielsen, Danny Huston, Ewan Bremner, Said Taghmaoui, David Thewlis, and a scene-stealing Robin Wright. All of these characters, regardless of screen time and/or limited development are giving a substantial amount to do and say, and casting each specific actor to their respective role immediately creates authenticity for that character.

Hans Zimmer’s theme for Wonder Woman, which made its debut in BvS, is perhaps the best piece of music that he has ever composed. When it cues itself up to Gadot kicking German ass in the film, it creates even more excitement for the viewer. The action pieces in this film are incredible.

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Everyone deserves full credit for this picture. Gal Gadot completely owns the role while simultaneously propelling herself to a bonafide movie star. Director Patty Jenkins has become a rising star within Warner Brothers, and Zack Snyder deserves his due credit for discovering Gadot and creating the aesthetic that WW cultivates.

WONDER WOMAN didn’t save the DCEU, it was doing just fine before this film, but it certainly stopped a lot of the negative press. Though those who constantly fill their social media feeds with unapologetic bias and echo chamber nonsense will remain undisturbed. This film may not completely warrant the abundance of overwhelming and over the top accolades, it is a very fine picture, and don’t be surprised if this film has legs going into awards season.

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Episode 48: ROGER MOORE

ROGER MOORE

Join Frank and James Bond aficionado Tom Zielinski as they discuss Roger Moore’s tenure as James Bond and the beloved franchise in general.

Nobody did it better. Rest in Peace, Mr. Moore.

 

James Gunn’s GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY VOL. 2

James Gunn doesn’t quite surpass the first Guardians film with his followup, but there is more than enough to love from a sequel that stands monumentally taller than any other Marvel film (save for the first).

Gunn is such a remarkable auteur; his use of seminal popular music, blended with his not only perfect casting of genre actors but knowing how to use them, is what keeps this Guardians film from being a rehash of the first.

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The story, while at times has too many plot points running at once, stands on its own, and is not reliant upon any other arc within the Marvel Cinematic Universe. That is incredibly refreshing. The film is about Star-Lord and his father Ego, played by Kurt Russell who turns in yet another fantastic performance.

Guardians 2 does use a few conventional gimmicks: the token Stan Lee cameo that has worn out its effectiveness sixteen movies ago, and an opening scene with a CGI de-age character which actually works well. Aside from that, and a second act that drags its feet slightly, the film is a lot of fun and you’ll be smiling and laughing through the entire film. Heck, you may even tear up during a few moments.

What’s very disappointing about this film, is the incredible missed opportunity of reuniting onscreen Kurt Russell and Sylvester Stallone. Call me shallow, but that’s a moment a lot of us were hoping for going into this film, knowing the kind of genre respect and sensibilities that Gunn has as a filmmaker, it is kind of a shock that this didn’t happen.

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Speaking of Stallone, seeing him in a film like this is an absolute joy. He doesn’t have a whole lot to do in the film, he’s mainly being setup for an expanded role in future Marvel films, but you can tell he’s having a lot of fun. Towards the beginning of the film, he shares a scene with Michael Rooker, and anyone who loves CLIFFHANGER will stand up and fist pump in the theatre.

Perhaps the best, and most effective part of the film isn’t the special effects (which are brilliant), or the genre actor cameos (which is even more brilliant), but a scene between Star-Lord and his Ego, as they discuss The Looking Glass’ hit song, BRANDY. It’s a very sweet and emotional moment between a father and son and showcases the star power that Russell brings to the role.

There are a plethora of scene stealing moments. The opening scene, the opening credits, the musical numbers, Baby Groot, Awesome Mix Tape Vol. 2, Michael Rooker – like I said, this film may not be as good as the first, but it’s an awesome experience and do yourself a favor and run the theatre to go see it.

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What’s almost hard to understand is how Marvel allows Gunn to make non-templated films that are a part of the MCU, yet really have nothing to do with any of these silly “phases”. The two Guardians films are different, they don’t fit inside of Marvel’s box of conventionality. They take place within a world where Gunn has the absolute freedom to do whatever he wants, and that in itself is a feat that is a cause for celebration, and very much leaves you looking forward to the next Guardians film.

Hulu Originals BECOMING BOND

 

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BECOMING BOND [Credit: Hulu]

George Lazenby’s story of taking over Sean Connery’s duties as James Bond in MGM’s ‘On Her Majesty’s Secret Service’ is one of the most infamous and fascinating stories in film history. Upon the release of OHMSS, Lazenby was offered a six picture deal and a one million dollar signing bonus yet he turned it down.

‘Becoming Bond’ is a rather intimate and candid look at who Lazenby is, and who he was before he conned his way into a film role of a lifetime. He recounts his childhood, adulthood, and life in England as a male model. Lazenby isn’t an actor, he is for lack of a better description an individual. He does exactly what he wants, and whether or not his decision turns into a catastrophic mistake, he doesn’t regret the life he has lived.

 

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George Lazenby [Credit: Hulu]

The documentary was written and directed by Josh Greenbaum is set up with flashbacks recreated with actors. Notably, Josh Lawson plays the younger version of Lazenby, Jane Seymour is in the film as an inadvertent mentor of a young Lazenby, and Dana Carvey shows up briefly playing Johnny Carson.

While the doc has a fun and refreshing approach to a story that he been told second hand for decades, what makes the film remarkable is how candid brutally refreshing Lazenby is as he recounts his love life, his time as Bond, and his anti-establishment persona upon the release and promotion of the film.

 

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George Lazenby and Michael Caine [Credit: Hulu]
‘Becoming Bond’ is a must-watch for anyone who loves James Bond, and it comes highly recommended for anyone else. The film is currently streaming on Hulu.

 

Netflix Original Content: GET ME ROGER STONE

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Netflix’s newest arrival, GET ME ROGER STONE, is the best and most important political documentary since THE WAR ROOM. The film showcases the flamboyant and unapologetic architect of not only the Trump presidency but also the transformation of the Republican Party post Richard Nixon’s resignation.

Stone is proudly candid as he recounts and fully embraces his insane political power. He cut his teeth at nineteen when he got caught up in the Watergate scandal, from that point forward he became a champion in the dark shadow world of lobbying. It was during the 1980 presidential campaign that Stone met his future mentor, Roy Cohn.

What you see is what you get with Stone. He doesn’t really care about policy, the truth, or America. He wants to yield unmatched power and accrue as much money as he possibly can. He was behind the 2000 Florida recount debacle, the plethora of sexual misconduct allegations of Bill Clinton in the 90’s. He brought down former New York Governor Elliot Spitzer, and he is the man responsible for not only Trump’s brand but building his political base and capital.

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While most of the things Stone has said and done are pretty much awful, you can’t help but be amazed by his awesome power. He doesn’t care what anyone thinks of him. He wants power and money and more power and more money. And he’ll be the first to tell you that.

Much like Trump, Stone is a showman and absolutely revels in the attention he gets. Good or bad, he doesn’t care. As Stone proudly proclaims, “it’s better to be infamous than not to be talked about at all.” Regardless of your political affiliation, or your personal feelings regarding Stone, you cannot deny that the guy is an absolute genius.

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GET ME ROGER STONE is currently streaming on Netflix.

Ridley Scott’s ALIEN: COVENANT

Regardless as to how one felt about PROMETHEUS, they would be lying if they told you the film didn’t have anything to say. The idea behind that film is so grand, it removes the viewer from the world of the xenomorphs because that picture is much larger in scope. Fast forward all these years later to ALIEN COVENANT to where not much is at stake, we’re given one-dimensional characters, and there isn’t much, if any, there there.

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This time around our crew is built around a mopey Kathrine Waterston (a poor woman’s Ripley) who is in constant grief over the death of her husband played by James Franco in perhaps one of the most unnecessary cameos ever. An always solid Billy Crudup, Danny McBride in an admirable dramatic turn, and the saving grace of the picture is Michael Fassbender in dual roles as androids Walter and David.

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Regrettably, the film doesn’t have much to say. Sure, there is some closure to the epic ending of PROMETHEUS, but even that arc of the film feels forced. It seems rather obvious that Scott abandoned any focus he had for a straight sequel to PROMETHEUS and did a swift pivot back to a clear cut Alien story. The problem is that the story is neither good or interesting. You know that most of the cast is going to die the same way they always do in these films and that the xenomorph will live on to continue to kill people.

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What’s more, there’s no terror or suspense or horror built into the film. The overly CGI’d alien rips through people, viciously biting them and ripping them apart. Nothing is left off screen, the film is overly bloody and graphic in the most desensitized way. You can’t continuously beat the drum that movies use too much CGI and then embrace a film like ALIEN COVENANT. The film isn’t terrible, but it’s not good either. Upon the release of PROMETHEUS, Scott was asked about the future of the Alien franchise and his response was, “the beast is dead.” That may not be the case, but what’s for certain is that the franchise surely is on life support.