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..

FOR YOUR EARS ONLY: Martin Campbell’s GOLDENEYE

Artwork provided by Jeffrey Marshall

Tom and Frank are back with special guest Mac McSharry to discuss Martin Campbell’s GoldenEye, which was Pierce Brosnan’s first outing as 007. Also discussed is the pop culture effect the film had on home video as well as video games along with being a world wide box office smash and how that jump started the franchise. Join us next time as we discuss Brosnan’s follow-up, Tomorrow Never Dies!

Podcast: Lee Marvin 3 for 3.

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Lee Marvin is the topic of discussion for this installment of 3 for 3 with Frank Mengarelli, Tom Zielinski, and Mac McSharry. Marvin was well known for his early collaborations with John Ford, his steely persona in POINT BLANK, THE DIRTY DOZEN, and DELTA FORCE. For all things Lee Marvin, author and film historian Dwayne Epstein’s biography, LEE MARVIN: POINT BLANK is available on Amazon.

Actor’s Spotlight with Joshua Burge, Vol. I

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We’re pleased to bring you the first volume of our chat with the remarkable actor Joshua Burge. Josh dives deep in the first installment of our extensive interview, talking about his beginnings as an actor, to his relationship with filmmaker and friend Joel Potrykus and working on BUZZARD to being cast in THE REVENANT. More to come in our second installment! You can currently see Josh in THE CURRENT OCCUPANT which is now streaming exclusively on Hulu.

For Your Ears Only: John Glen’s LICENCE TO KILL

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Frank Mengarelli and Podcasting Them Softly’s James Bond resident, Tom Zielinski are joined with returning guests film journalist Paul Sparrow-Clarke and novelist and film historian Raymond Benson to discuss John Glen and Timothy Dalton’s final outing in the franchise, Licence to Kill. Tom and Frank will return with their discussion of GOLDENEYE.

Artwork provided by the very talented Jeffrey Marshall.

 

 

Film Review: Abel Ferrara’s TOMMASO

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There is a beautiful sadness within Abel Ferrara’s latest feature, TOMMASO, starring Willem Dafoe in their fifth collaboration. It’s about the isolation of sobriety, as well as maturity; growing old alone while facing a never-ending and losing battle with fighting your own past.

The picture is a softer version of DANGEROUS GAME, wherein Harvey Keitel played the fictionalized version of Ferrara, the film also borrows the light and vulnerable aesthetic of 4:44, along with Ferrara’s newfound fascination with multimedia that is a conduit to offbeat pop culture. This may be Ferrara’s most direct play at his version of Fellini’s 8 1/2 but isn’t as nearly coarse or dark as his first attempt with DANGEROUS GAME. And while the film does feel very personal, and very true – it also feels like a spiritual successor of Ferrara’s apocalypse film 4:44, which also featured Dafoe.

Tommaso' Review: A Sober, but Not Serene, Life - The New York Times

In TOMMASO, Dafoe plays a gentler version of Ferrara, a filmmaker living in Rome (much like Ferrara) who is trying to formulate his next film, while trying to conquer the demons of his past, while navigating the uncharted parental waters with his very young partner and their daughter (both played by Ferrara’s real-life wife and daughter). Dafoe is just terrific, delivering his finest performance that most will not see, he is spellbinding. Dafoe is perhaps the only actor who can sink into a role like that of Tommaso, and then be seen in AQUAMAN, and then a Disney film, and then working with Lars von Trier – he’s an actor that doesn’t have or would make use of any typecast; he’s boundless and a welcome presence whenever he is seen.

It’s striking to see Ferrara bring such a gentle tone to a film that still works within his authorship: redemption with a dash of Catholic guilt. The film continues Ferrara’s new trajectory of his filmography, not just a transition to digital filmmaking, but also the less transgressive and angsty nature of his most seminal films. It’s a hard film to watch at times, but that’s part of what makes it so effortlessly beautiful. The film is quietly angry, where Dafoe’s character is six years sober, and has nowhere to channel all that rage – the angst of sobriety.

Willem Dafoe Talks Tommaso, Kissing His Friend's Wife & Yoga ...

The fabulous boutique label, Kino Lorber, has released this film on their relatively new streaming service, KinoNow, which offers up a lot of their titles to own and/or rent and of course a standard subscription service to their streaming catalog.

TOMMASO is a great film by a great filmmaker. It isn’t just a vanity piece. Ferrara is showcasing that he still is a flagship mainstay of not just independent cinema, but cinema in general. He’s a brilliant filmmaker that operates on the edges of the film; he may forgo power drills, dirty cops, and crack pipes as he enters a new decade, but he hasn’t lost his punch. The film is funny, sad, romantic, and sexy. It’s tender and angry, all the things that are life.

Film Review: Derek Wayne Johnson’s 40 Years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic

40 YEARS OF ROCKY: THE BIRTH OF A CLASSIC — Epic Documentary ...

Filmmaker Derek Wayne Johnson delivers a beautiful tribute to cinema’s most beloved underdog movie.

What more can be said about Sylvester Stallone’s most seminal film and character, Rocky? Well – a lot. Filmmaker Derek Wayne Johnson, the man behind John G. Avildsen King of the Underdogs and Stallone: Frank, That Is has crafted a beautiful showboat of a film that solidifies Rocky’s place alongside Star Wars, Indiana Jones, and James Bond as being not just an important part of modern cinema, but more-so showcasing how Rocky has become a significant part of American culture, conveying how an underdog was able to make the greatest underdog story of all time.

The film, with its very lean runtime of just 30 minutes, is patched together with home movies, behind the scenes footage and rehearsal footage shot by John G. Avildsen, as well as on-set footage that was found in the basement of Troma Entertainment by Rocky’s production manager Lloyd Kaufman almost 40 years after it was shot. Most of this footage has been seen on DVD and Blu-Ray special features, but Johnson’s new documentary includes some snippets of never before seen home movies from Avildsen’s personal collection. Along with Stallone’s steadfast narration, the viewer is able to take a closer look behind the making of one of the greatest films of all time. It is a thrilling experience, watching unseen footage, along with hearing a very intimate recount from Stallone, who is unseen, just heard as the 8mm film flickers across the screen.

Johnson, who didn’t just direct but also produced, assembles a very poignant and remarkably touching tribute to the film, allowing the audience a glimmer inside the intimate home movies of Avildsen, who was able to capture the vulnerabilities of Stallone and company through fantastic behind the scenes footage. Greg Sims, Johnson’s musical partner, was able to produce a remarkable score that finds its own voice to guide the audience through the picture, without retreading Bill Conti or any of the popular music featured in the franchise.

Rocky is just one of those films that has grown a legacy onto itself – everyone knows who Rocky is, yet not many know the pain and triumph it took to get the film made, or how the film had revolutionized filmmaking by the invention of the Steadicam by Garrett Brown that has since become a mainstay in filmmaking.  Derek Wayne Johnson outdoes himself with this film and has become an artist who, with each new film, grows as a filmmaker, creating an objective view of whatever subject undercard matter he chooses to tackle, yet allows the audience a very intimate look into the world of film, and in particular those who sacrificed everything to tell their stories the way they needed to tell them. If 40 Years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic tells us anything, it is that Rocky isn’t just a film or a character Sylvester Stallone wrote and played, Rocky has become a part of American culture – world culture; and that we all have a Rocky inside of us, and between Stallone’s words and Avildsen’s footage, what Derek Wayne Johnson is telling us is to embrace that part of ourselves, and champion our own underdog.

40 Years of Rocky: The Birth of a Classic is available for preorder on Amazon and iTunes.

Robert Altman’s BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS, OR SITTING BULL’S HISTORY LESSON

 

Robert Altman was such a champion of unorthodox filmmaking, in particular when it came to telling a narrative. His films are smart, almost too smart; BUFFALO BILL AND THE INDIANS, OR SITTING BULL’S HISTORY LESSON is not different – it highlights Altman as an unconventional alternative filmmaker from the 70s. It has been said a million times, but cannot be understated, most of the counterculture and “fuck the man” films of that decade (as well as the late 60s), are just as prevalent with their themes now as when they were made during the cultural civil war of the 60s and in particular the 70s.

Buffalo Bill and the Indians Paul Newman and Harvey Keitel

Paul Newman, in all his glory, plays Buffalo Bill Cody, the legendary gunslinger whose mythos is built upon tall tales and folklore. He was a superior gunslinger due to his marksmanship or was he that champion buffalo hunter, perhaps he was that fierce Indian hunter who kept the townspeople safe. In actuality he’s an over the hill drunk who runs a circus with Harvey Keitel as his buffoonish nephew, Kevin McCarthy as a Buffalo Bill wannabe, Geraldine Chaplin as Annie Oakley, Robert DoQui as the makeshift Indian and stage hand, Will Sampson as Sitting Bull’s counsel, Altman mainstay Shelley Duvall, Burt Lancaster as the maker of Buffalo Bill’s legend, and Joel Grey in a magnificent reiteration of his Master of Ceremony’s character from Bob Fosse’s CABARET.

This film exposes something that has become so very American; sensationalism of celebrity, false idols, and how history is more or less a tall tale of bullshit told by those who either win or know how to manipulate and control a narrative. What is a truly remarkable aspect of the film, is that Newman might not even be the actual Buffalo Bill, or better yet, Buffalo Bill never existed; Newman just dons the legendary mantle.

Buffalo Bill and the Indians Paul Newman

It follows in suit with Altman, being a fast-moving a very talkie film, yet the film feels like it could slide into a triple bill with John Ford’s THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE and Alex Cox’s WALKER – though the latter film is much more on the nose with its self-awareness. The film feels very contemporary, there is a sense of urgency about the picture, yet it takes place in the old west, where fables became gospel and legends never die.

Arthur Penn’s NIGHT MOVES

 

70s cinema was at its absolute best when it birthed softly nihilistic, introspective films where the protagonist lived within moral ambiguity and hard shades of grey – wherein this picture, Gene Hackman gives his finest, most low-key performance as a former football player turned private investigator who takes on a case of a missing girl that lands him in Florida from LA, and uncovers a well-layered and richly defined plot of smuggling, lies, and deception all the while discovering who he really is, as well as the world around him.

With a taut script from Alan Sharp, a groovy score by Michael Small, director Arthur Penn crafts a remarkably quiet film; which plays more like a documentary where the camera just follows Hackman through his journey, all scenes from the film are of Hackman’s point of view, and there are not any overt, showy set-pieces or flash edits, popular music; the film just lives.

Night Moves 1975

Sharp’s screenplay, coupled with Penn’s vision and the actors performing his written words, is perfect. There are so many memorable lines of dialogue that have staying power, so much of the characters are revealed through the brief, yet potent, exchanges. This truly is a masterclass in writing.

A lot can be said for Hackman, being one of the longstanding true craftsmen of his profession; being one of the finest actors to ever grace the screen. In this picture, he is noticeably muted and brings a striking weariness to the role, he is not the self-righteous and volatile Hackman, he is just here to observe, and internalize his emotions. He gives a remarkably raw performance that is more about self-discovery than anything.

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Harris Yulin, Jennifer Warren, Edwards Binns, Kenneth Mars, Janet Ward, John Crawford, Susan Clark, James Woods, and Melanie Griffith round up the supporting cast, and Hackman plays off of each one magnificently. The characters in the film are very real, as are their homes, places of work and so on. There is a deep-seated reality to the film, where it doesn’t take place in the movie world, it takes place in reality.

The film’s narrative is remarkable, not only with the overall detective storyline, but also with how defined Hackman’s character and life is; and how his two worlds begin to blend together; where he is just not solving the case, but also solving who he is as well.

Night Moves Gene Hackman

NIGHT MOVES is a film that came out at the right time, the mid-70s, while everything was in flux, and people were just trying to understand how to be in the world. In actuality, the film is timeless with its themes, making an excellent time capsule of a picture that came from an era of film, that is so universally well regarded. 70s cinema might just be the best decade of American cinema, and NIGHT MOVES is one of the best films to come from that time and place.

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Peter Medak’s ROMEO IS BLEEDING

Romeo is Bleeding

 

There was a time in the early 90s when a series of nihilistic neo-noirs were made, in which they examined the pitfalls of masculinity, the male ego, and what it is to be an alpha male. RED ROCK WEST, AFTER DARK, MY SWEET, GLENGARRY GLEN ROSS, and Peter Medak’s ROMEO IS BLEEDING belong in the upper echelon of that sub-genre from that time and place.

Romeo is Bleeding Gary Oldman

The film is a conventional rogue cop film, made in a rather unconventional way. The film sticks to the guide, with the dirty cop endangering the lives of beautiful women through his series of bad mistakes, the ultimate femme fatale, and the powerful evil man. Yet, within the framework of what a noir is, lies bizarre and aloof humor that allows all the darkness to be stomached, creating captivating moments that are as surreal as they are deadly.

Romeo is Bleeding Lena Olin

The film’s cast is paramount. Gary Oldman leads the ensemble in what is one of his finest performances. Oldman is an actor who never, ever disappoints, and regardless of how worn out, or tired a genre character he plays – he always brings something new and something fresh to the role that makes it uniquely his. His character of Jack Grimaldi is in fact, grim – hit the nail on the head with the not-so-subtle character name. A man consumed by the lifestyle he swore to bring to justice, he starts informing for the mob, and that’s when everything goes to shit.

Oldman is anchored by a remarkable gallery of talent; Lena Olin as quite possibly the best femme fatale depicted on screen, a vulnerable and damned Juliette Lewis, a sweet and very perceptive wife in Annabella Sciorra, Will Patton, David Proval and Gene Canfield as Oldman’s cop buddies, CRIME STORY’S Paul Butler and James Cromwell as FBI agents, Tony Sirico, Michael Wincott, and Dennis Farina as mobsters, with all roads leading to the big bad, Roy Scheider in the role of the perfectly heavy-handed named Don Falcone – the ruthless mobster who wants Olin dead.

Romeo is Bleeding Roy Scheider

While Oldman does his worst by trying his absolute best to play all sides against the middle and somehow end up with all the money, the women, and getting away with it; director Peter Medak and screenwriter Hilary Henkin build a world filled with fast and dangerous people, showstopping set pieces, memorable dialogue, and eccentric without being too much costume design. Not to mention an elegant and dangerous score by Mark Isham. The world-building within the film is terrific, and truly accentuates the dusty and grim neo-noirs of the early 90s.

 

3 for 3: Tim Burton

Tim Burton Press Conference

Frank and Tom are joined with former guest, and now recurring co-host, Mac McSharry to discuss three Tim Burton films. Burton is very well known, directing over nineteen films and his steadfast collaboration with Johnny Depp. Tune in to find out which three Tim Burton films are discussed, and what the next topic will be for 3 for 3 with Frank, Tom, and Mac.

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