Film Review: “STALLONE: Frank That Is”

  • Starring:  Frank Stallone, Sylvester Stallone and Richie Sambora
  • Directed by: Derek Wayne Johnson
  • Rated:  Not Rated
  • Running time:  1 hr 13 mins
  • Branded Studios.

I love me some Frank Stallone.

I was first introduced to his music when his group, Valentine, appeared as the street-corner singers in the Academy Award winning film “Rocky.”  I played the soundtrack album to death and one of my favorite tracks is Stallone’s song “Take You Back.”  He also contributed to and performed several songs for the film “Staying Alive,” including the top 10 hit “Far From Over,” which earned him Grammy and Golden Globe nominations for best motion picture song.  Criminally it was NOT nominated for an Oscar, the category that year being overtaken with songs from “Flashdance” and “Yentl.”

As an actor, Stallone has turned in fine work in films like “Barfly,” “Hudson Hawk” (a guilty pleasure of mine) and “Tombstone” (he is the card player that accuses Doc Holiday of cheating early on in the film).  With all of these achievements you’d think he would be a household name like his brother, Sylvester.  Unfortunately despite his talents, that is one shadow he has never been able to escape.  Until now.  Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome…Frank Stallone.

This entertaining documentary begins with Frank Stallone in the next phase of his career…doing big band songs.  Dressed to the nines, and sporting a pair of Frank Sinatra’s cuff links, he takes the stage to great applause.  He is in fine voice and the crowd loves him.  We learn that he always had a love for music and, when he caught Elvis Presley on television, vowed to make it his career.

Growing up in Philadelphia he played in a couple of different bands.  He then formed Valentine, a band with several different line-ups (the third version is the one that appeared in “Rocky.”)  Along the way he worked with both Darryl Hall and John Oates, who played guitar in Valentine 2.  In a conversation with Oates we learn that, after he left the band he hooked up with Hall.

Having a song in the most popular film of 1976 should have been a ticket for musical stardom for Stallone and his group.  Unfortunately, when the band had a gig it was often introduced as “Frank Stallone and Valentine,” much to Stallone’s chagrin.  The shadow of his movie star brother followed Frank as a solo artist, with newspaper ads touting him as “Sylvester Stallone’s Brother, Frank.”  One club announced his appearance by simply noting that “Rocky’s Brother” was playing.

But it isn’t just music that Stallone does well.  We learn he is also an accomplished boxer and, as I noted, a fine actor.  Unlike some “actors” who only get cast because they have more famous family members – I’m looking at YOU, Joey Travolta.  You too, Don Swayze – Stallone never used his brother as a stepping stone.  In fact, sometimes the name was a curse.

As the film progresses we are treated to a bevy of Frank’s friends, touting his talents.  Among them are big brother /Sly, Billy Dee Williams, Arnold Schwarzenegger, Talia Shire – who can understand Frank’s frustration at being known as someone’s brother (her maiden name is Coppola, as in Francis Ford, and she wanted to be judged on her talents, not get a job because of who her brother is) and Steven Bauer.  Attesting to his musical talents you have such musical icons as Bon Jovi guitarist Richie Sambora, Guns and Roses bassist Duff McKagen and the ever-young Frankie Avalon. 

If you’re looking for a film in which the underdog keeps fighting, and you’ve already seen “Rocky” a hundred times, I hope you give “Stallone: Frank That Is” a look. 

Blu-ray Review “Stallone Three-Film Collector’s Set (Rambo: First Blood / Cop Land / Lock Up)”

Starring: Sylvester Stallone, Peter Berg, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Robert De Niro
Number of discs: 3
MPAA Rating: R
Distributed by: Lionsgate
Release Date: August 14, 2012
Running Time: 327 minutes

3-Film Collection: 3.5 out of 5 stars
Extras: 3.5 out of 5 stars

With Stallone being a hot topic with “The Expendables 2” in theaters, Lionsgate Home Entertainment is bundling together three films from the iconic action star’s career, including: “Rambo: First Blood (1982)”, “Lock Up (1989)” and “Cop Land: The Director’s Cut (1997)”.  As much as I love Rambo, I would really have another great 80’s Stallone film like “Over the Top” in its place here.  Also as great of a film, “Cop Land” is I also would have like to see them include only 80’s Stallone.  Nonetheless at least the Director’s Cut of the film is included.  If you are looking for a dose of Stallone to get you psyched for “The Expendables 2”, you should definitely check out this release…especially for it’s low cost.  Now Lionsgate…one question, where is volume two?

“Cop Land” shows Sylvester Stallone in a different light in this edgy crime thriller sharing the screen with all-star cast – including Robert De Niro, Harvey Keitel and Ray Liotta. Stallone plays Freddy Heflin, the sheriff of a small and seemingly peaceful town until he uncovers a massive, deadly conspiracy among these local residents and is forced to make a dangerous choice between protecting his friends and upholding the law.  We all know that one of Stallone’s best roles is John Rambo. In “First Blood”, he stars as the ex-Green Beret haunted by memories of Vietnam. When Rambo becomes the target of a massive manhunt, he must use all his combat skills and weapons training to stay alive and outwit his pursuers.  “Lock Up” stars Stallone as Frank Leone as he enters Gateway Prison, a nightmare jail where every minute is hard time. Leone goes head-to-head with the warden, who will stop at nothing to get him, in order to survive.

The three-disc package presents each title in its original aspect ratio – 2.39:1 for “First Blood” and 1.85:1 for “Lock Up” and “Cop Land”. Each title also comes packed with a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 and Dolby Digital 5.1 EX tracks.  Believe it or not I feel that “First Blood” and “Lock Up” are a tie for the film that looks the best.  Funny how they are also older than 1997’s “Cop Land”.  Nonetheless the presentations are impressive all around.  “Cop Land” steals the best audio track of the pack, followed by “First Blood” in a close second and “Lock Up” in third.

The special features are jam packed with goodies.  “First Blood” features two audio commentary tracks from Stallone and novelist David Morrell.  There is a featurette called “Drawing First Blood”, is an impressive making-of documentary running just over 20 minutes. There are about 5 minutes  of deleted scenes including the controversial alternate ending.  Lastly there is a trivia track including.  With “Lock Up” there is a brief but decent making-of featurett. “Sylvester Stallone Profile” features interviews with Stallone in addition to behind the scenes footage of the cast and crew.  There is a behind-the-scenes featurette with interviews with the cast within a collection of raw clips.  Lastly there is a theatrical trailer included.  Lastly “Cop Land”  includes a great commentary track with writer/director James Mangold, producer Cathy Konrad, and actors Sylvester Stallone & Robert Patrick.  There are two short deleted scenes with optional commentary by Mangold, Stallone and Konrad.  “Cop Land: The Making of an Urban Western” is a basic behind-the-scenes featurette, topping off at almost 15 minutes.  Lastly there is a short “Storyboard Comparison” piece, running under 2 minutes.