Monday, August 19, 2013

Frankenstein's Army (2013)

Frankenstein's Army is a cleaver horror film that uses the found footage concept to tell a story about a lost Russian unit that comes across a secret Nazi lab where the journal of Dr. Victor Frankenstein is being translated into gruesome experiments.  The film is directed by Richard Raaphorst and Mr Raaphorst does a good job with what little he has.  I was unfamiliar with Raaphorst work so I enlisted a friend who knew of his work.  Mr. Raaphorst was the individual who did a fake trailer of a film entitled "Worst Case Scenario".  The clip went viral and was nominated for the best trailer, no movie, at the golden trailer award.  Frankenstein's Army is a movie with some of the ideas Raaphorst presented in his trailer "Worst Case Scenario" video.

Shot in Prague, in the Czech Republic the film uses it's location to maximum effect.It was shot in an old abandoned mine.  I was fascinated on how the film came about, and since this is Raaphorst's first feature he should be commended at the quality of the film.  The monster's in the film were not CGI, which seems to be the fad in today's movie making, but not here.  In the film the monsters are actual creations and they are something to look at.  The gore content is a bit much, but after all we're dealing with zombie soldiers made from dead corpses.  The art direction is stunning and it makes the film worth seeing.

The one thing that kind of made me suspend disbelief was the concept of the found footage.  The film is shot from the point of view of the cameraman, and that's fine, but this is happens during the closing days of World War 2, and the handheld color film camera would not be developed until the late 50's early 60's. Knowing this kind of took the air of reality away from the film for me, and yet I still liked it.  The detail in the monster creations and even the acting in the film is well done.  Some of the cinematography is dark, and the editing is a bit quick for me at times and it felt like a video game, but again this is hard not to achieve when the audiences point of view is that of the cameraman.  It would be interesting if the filmmakers had more money to do a more narrative film.  I do believe that the story is an interesting one, and one where a more narrative story would enhance the films horror, but sometimes you are given what you are given and must make due, and filmmaker Raaphorst should be commended on what he has made.

In a way Frankenstein's Army is a throwback to those old monster flicks from the past, and maybe that's why I really liked it.  The film is not long at all, and it has some good pacing in it.  I have to admire Raaphorst's direction, and being that this is his first feature film I can only hope that this is the beginning of a promising career.  The visuals in this film are stunning, and if you like a good old fashioned horror film with some gore then this is your film.  In fact this film reminds me of Stuart Gordon's films such as "Re-Animator" & "From Beyond", and if you like those types of films you'll love "Frankenstein's Army

All in all a really good solid horror film.  I believe it is playing on VOD in some regions and it is also on Amazon on demand, and itunes. I believe it will be released sometime in September on DVD.  I know I'll be interested in seeing if the DVD has a director's commentary.  If so it will be worth picking up.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Lovelace (2013)

I had been waiting to see this film for some time.  After reading Linda Lovelace's books "Ordeal" and "Out of Bondage" I was mortified by what she experienced and what she went through.  It wasn't until I met the lady at a convention that I had a chance to talk with her for about 10 to 15 minutes.  Some critics point to Lovelace's appearances at these conventions as her being a hypocrite and that her experiences were all a lie.  I only spoke to her for a little while, and she was pleasant and I addressed her as Ms Marchiano since that was her name now.  She told me to call her Linda, and she really seemed genuine.  She talked about her children, and I saw how much she was committed to them.  I believe it was this that drove her to provide for her family, and why she would resurfaced as Linda Lovelace.

So how was the movie?  Seeing this film is hard.  Especially if you've read the book "Ordeal".  It's well written and written with Mike McGrady who was a prize winning reporter for Newsday. It's what's not in the movie that I have a problem with.

The filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman do a good job.  They stay close to the book, and present Lovelace's rise to stardom two ways.  One way we see her as everyone else saw her.  A pretty shy young women rise to stardom. The second half of the movie is what really went on, and how Linda was seduced by a Svengali type named Chuck Traynor.  To tell you the truth I wasn't too keen on this type of structure in the film, but it does work.  Especially if you know nothing about Linda's book or her experiences.  If the filmmakers would have done the drama in a linear fashion the tale would be very dark and almost hard to watch.  It is difficult to see the abuse that Linda experienced, and it makes you uncomfortable to watch, but let me say that if they had stuck closer to the book those scenes would be 100 times worse.  I kid you not that the book is brutal in its description and I applaud the filmmakers for making a film that shows the abuse, but in so doing so they make what Linda experience less then frightening and more melodramatic.  

Chuck Traynor was an evil man.  He was a sadistic control freak, and he took full advantage of Linda's vulnerabilities.  In interviews Traynor denies all the abuse, and tells anyone who will listen that Lovelace made it all up, but Lovelace took a polygraph before the book was published, and though some people can fake the results I don't believe Linda did.   Peter Sarsgaard does a good job as Chuck Traynor, and yet I believe that the filmmakers pulled their punches, and didn't really show how twisted Traynor really was.  By doing this the filmmakers give us a one dimensional view of Traynor.  A film can either go all the way or not at all for me, and by not showing the true evil Traynor was I believe the film waters his character down.  The abuse that Linda experienced was physical and mental, and it was only herself that saved her.  She became stronger and walked out on Traynor, and if the filmmakers had concentrated on this I think the film would have been better.

The way the film presents Linda's emancipation seems weak, and if anything Linda was not weak.  She became a strong willed women who fought her critics.  She did not back down in the advance of adversity. That's what I thought the film should have focused on, and since it doesn't it's a weaker film for that.

As for the performances.  They are all fantastic.  From Sharon Stone's performance as Linda's mother to Chris Noth's performance as Anthony Romano the financier of the film "Deep Throat".  All do a great job. I'd also like to give credit to Robert Patrick ,Debi Mazar, and Hank Azaria as supporting characters.  They all do a great job here, and should be noted for their fine performances.  But the one who should really be complimented is Amanda Seyfried who plays Linda.  Her performance of Linda is really well done, and she really brings the role to life. Seyfried plays Linda with such passion that you really believe she is Linda.  It's because of this that the movie is so watchable.   I have to recommend seeing this film.  It is even relevant to today's climate, and should be seen by everyone who thinks porn has no victims.  If anything I hope it makes people seek out Lovelace's book "Ordeal" and read it for themselves.  It's a good book that is quite revealing and eye opening.

There is a documentary also about the film "Deep Throat" called "Inside Deep Throat", which I highly recommend.  It's an interesting view on the film, and why it succeeded and why it will always be popular.

In the end I liked the film, but felt sad.  I knew that Ms Marchino wanted her story told, and she was hoping to capitalize on some of it since she was not paid or never made anything from the film.  Her daughter and son are listed as consultants and I hope that they are happier seeing their mother's plight and her triumph over such adversities.  I think she would have liked the film, and hope that it would serve as a warning to other young girls.  The film also touches on Linda's self esteem problems that contributed to her being a victim of Chuck Traynor.  It is a theme in the book that Linda touches on throughout her book "Ordeal".   But Linda Lovelace will always be an enigma to us since it is hard to put oneself in her shoes.  The book tells us, the movie shows us, but for many of us she will always be known as that girl in the funny porn film that made a lot of money, but what is ironic is that the real events were anything but funny.  They were more tragic then funny.

In the end Lovelace is a hard film to see, but it is the performances that make you look on.  The performances are all riveting and this is the films strength.  If you get a chance see it. The film is also available on PPV on most cable systems, so if you're local theater doesn't have it you can order it on cable from home.  I hope this way the film finds its audience and is successful.  It would be a nice footnote to Ms Marchiano's legacy.