Collaborative Blogging, Film Reviews

Frankenstein’s Army, or: I Was Promised Nazi Zombies

Great blog collab with A Voluptuous Mind, round 2! Read Christa’s review here.

The Film:

Frankenstein’s Army

Where to Watch:


The Premise:

A unit of the Red Army attempts to complete a secret mission to find and destroy Dr. Frankenstein and his army of zombies (robot monsters).

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

This is a found footage movie, so we’ve got the obligatory explanation of a mission that’s about to go horribly wrong. It’s WWII, and a group of Russian soldiers are about to film their mission, to be completed in the name of Stalin!

We’ve got a pretty solid start thanks to epic marching through Mother Russia music and some terrible Russian accents.

Soldiers march in the snow while carrying red flags with the Soviet Union's hammer and sickle

The first action this unit of the Red Army sees happens when they have to take out a sniper’s nest (except for poor little incompetent Sasha who has to stay behind and guard their gear). After the fighting’s done, they encounter this weird monster skeleton, which is kind of creepy but, eh, they don’t give it a whole lot of attention.

We also get a better idea for who the soldiers are. Though I really only kept track of the attractive one (the Polish guy, OBVIOUSLY) and the guy who was a dick (because I wanted to see him die). Aaaaaaaaaand they all get drunk because that’s what you do in the Red Army.

A man in soldier's uniform stares dreamily into the camera
Can we get a spin-off of the Polish dude just staring into the camera?

Later, they hear an urgent message on the wireless from Tiger Bear, presumably another battalion, at a mining village nearby. There’s a lot of running through the sad, brown woods to get to the village. When they arrive, they find a pile of bodies, all nuns, being burned outside of a church. Surely the Nazis are responsible for this (spoiler alert: no, they aren’t. And stop calling me Shirley).

The Russians go into the church and discover it looks like a factory inside. Because they’re STUPID they start the machines up and encounter a robot monster, which salutes (of course). Before they can destroy the robot monster, it kills their commander pretty much by ripping out his intestines. Basically now either the asshole or the pretty Polish one is going to be in command. I think it’s the asshole guy. (I’m sorry, guys, but I need a more structured plot.)

Since they have no radio signal and no idea what’s going on, a small group goes into the village, where they find a house full of animals in cages. Suddenly the occupant returns and demands to know what they are doing (short answer: preparing to eat the animals).

A man with a gun crouches next to a man on the ground, saying "I'm liberating your rabbits from fascist oppression."
Russians: masters of sass.

He says everyone in the village ran from the things the doctor makes, but he knows where the rest of the Russians are. Of course they are in a creepy old basement, which doesn’t deter the jackass who’s in charge. As they navigate the narrow underground tunnels, they encounter a robot monster who awesomely has scythes for hands and a kind of steampunk-y helmet that clamps open and closed. There are some really pointless scenes in which one of the guys is mortally wounded and the Russians find a German nurse to heal him but he dies anyway…so I’m skipping those.

At this point, the cameraman reveals that there is no Tiger Bear, and there are no Russian soldiers awaiting their help. They are, in fact, on a top-secret mission to destroy the lab of one Dr. Frankenstein, mad scientist. After more robot monsters attack, including one with really cool metal lobster claws and a Pinhead look-alike, the Russians decide they’ve had enough and leave the cameraman to the robot monsters.

Now, having been sent down a chute by his own comrades, the cameraman starts muttering about Stalin (shame of all shames)! He reveals his Jewish parents will be freed in exchange for the doctor and generally feels sorry for himself. Eventually, he gets up and starts wandering through the lab. In the lab there are a bunch of odd hybrid experiments, including a woman’s head sewn to a teddy bear (how would that ever be useful to Nazis?) Then a bunch of really cool-looking robot monsters start chasing the cameraman. One attacks him with a sledgehammer. Camera glass breaking. Fade to black.

When the cameraman wakes up, Dr. Frankenstein feeds him this weird soup and explains his robot monster creations. He gets really offended when the film guy implies they’re puppets when, in fact, they’re individuals.

A man cuts into the skull of a restrained man, while a woman holds the victim still
Post would be incomplete without still of mad scientist brain splicing experimentation.

Frankenstein starts cutting this Nazi’s brain open to splice it with a Russian brain, which will, in theory, allow the two sides to understand each other and end the war (riiiiiiiiiiiiiight). When this experiment fails, Frankenstein begins a new experiment with the cameraman. When the Red Army suddenly returns, Frankenstein flees, explaining that the robot monsters will go nuts without him as a leader. However, one of the Russian dudes shoots him. The cameraman pleads with his comrade to save him, but the Russians just take the camera and peace out.

The Critique:

Maybe this is just me, but I interpreted “monstrous new soldiers pieced together from body parts of the dead” (from the Netflix summary) as zombies. So I was highly disappointed by the lack of any zombies in this movie.

The summary also says the monsters were created by the Nazis, which really isn’t true—they were just created by this one crazy German guy. So the monsters weren’t even directly part of some Nazi conspiracy. Sometimes German robot monsters aren’t Nazis; they’re just German robot monsters. Admittedly, they looked pretty cool.

Also I didn’t think the found footage thing worked particularly well in this movie and made the film feel really disjointed.

The Rating:

Small Pink PantherSmall Pink Panther 2/5 Pink Panther Heads

In a more generous mood, I might say 3/5 because it wasn’t that bad, but I’m cranky due to lack of Nazi zombies.

Film Reviews

Alex & Emma: Or, Personal Goals Are My Kryptonite

It might be wise for me to find every instance in which I proclaimed to the world my goal of updating this blog once a week, but I have chosen the (slightly) easier alternative of profusely apologizing to my readers and myself with no intention whatsoever to change my behavior.

This evening’s film is part of the oft-neglected “Remembrance of Films Past” series: Alex & Emma.  I LOVED this movie when it first came out. So let’s evaluate it (tear it apart) critically.

The Film:

Alex & Emma

Where to Watch:

Watch on Youtube; borrow from the library (though I acknowledge that it could be embarrassing to be seen walking around in public with this movie); die slightly from shame that you already own this movie (coincidentally, I have a friend who is getting rid of a copy of this movie. Free to a good home. Or a not-so-good home). The takeaway: don’t pay to watch this.

The Premise:

Luke Wilson plays Alex, a writer with a gambling problem, who must write a novel in 30 days or Cuban thugs will murder him. Alex hires Emma, a stenographer to help him. Yes, A STENOGRAPHER.

The Trailer:

The Uncondensed Version:

Let’s start with the credits. I actually really like the way the credits are animated and wish the entire film had been done this way. Sadly, it was not.

a stylized 1920s animation shows a woman with a parasol, with two men and two women in period costume on either side of her

The movie begins with the aforementioned Cuban thugs breaking in to Alex’s apartment and, among other things, LIGHTING HIS COMPUTER ON FIRE. They also dangle him out of the window and give him 30 days to write a novel, which will cover the cost of his gambling debt…or else. I have trouble believing Alex would really be paid so much for a novel that he would make so much money that he could pay off his debts and live happily ever after (though if this is the case, WHO IS THIS PUBLISHER AND WHERE CAN I FIND THEM???).

a man with a fedora and several gold chains holds a laptop over an open flame in a kitchen
This movie was released in 2003, so he’s burning like $3,000 right there.

One of the Cuban thugs is apparently played by a man named Chino XL. Spinoff about the Cuban mafia? It would have been so much better than this particular movie.

Anyway….the Cuban thugs are going to kill Alex because HE CAN’T WRITE A GODDAMN NOVEL. I think this may be a recurring nightmare for writers who never meet their deadlines.

Apparently Alex wrote a best-selling first novel entitled Love Is Always Having to Say You’re Sorry (this was perhaps the only detail of the film that I found mildly entertaining). Since he no longer has a computer, Alex hires a stenographer to help him write his novel (OBVIOUSLY).

The movie then switches between Alex and Emma writing the novel/ falling in love in bland, generic rom-com fashion and Alex, Emma, and Sophie Marceau playing out the plot of the novel, set in the 1920s.

I won’t go into the details of the plot because it is pretty much the most generic romantic comedy plot you can think of. 1920s Alex falls in love with the beautiful French heiress even though girl-next-door-type 1920s Kate Hudson would be better for him. Meanwhile, present-day Alex and Emma bicker, but only because they’re falling in looooooooooooooooooooooooove and secretly giving each other significant stares.

a woman reads a book at an outdoor book sale while a man in a plaid shirt looks on
Emma’s odd but charming quirk is that she reads the end of a book first to determine whether it will be worth her time. As a book nerd, social acceptance of this concept is a recurring nightmare for me.

Probably the major problem with this film is they are not writing a particularly good novel. There’s a lot of deliberately bad writing. Then there’s Kate Hudson putting on a Swedish accent, then German, then Spanish. It’s so very painful.

a woman with heavy eye makeup and a silk robe holds a white cup and saucer in each hand
Her accents are about as convincing as you imagine.

The Critique:

I don’t understand why I liked this movie so much.

Possibly because Luke Wilson is really pretty in period clothing.

a man in a 1920s white suit sits opposite another man on a train car

Here are a few major hang-ups for me regarding this movie:

Maybe Alex and Emma should have been putting on a play? I’m not convinced this would have made the film significantly better, but it seems like a generally more successful/interesting premise for a movie than writing a novel. Like Moulin Rouge? Or Shakespeare in Love? The Muppets?

Another significant flaw of this movie (and perhaps I’m just projecting my own personal experience with deadlines): if I had 30 days to write a novel with another person, I don’t think I would fall in love with my collaborator. I would probably claw his/her eyes out.

Plus let’s consider the financial issues that plagued me throughout the entire film. If Alex is a starving artist with a gambling problem and still has a really nice fucking apartment in Boston, I have a new career goal. And he gets $125,000 for his novel. WHAT. HOW CAN I MAKE THIS MY LIFE??? Do I have to fall in love with Kate Hudson? Fuck.

Also Alex’s gambling problem basically disappears. Just like in real life. Ha…

The Rating:

Small Pink Panther - Angry 1/5 Angry Pink Panther heads

This wasn’t even a fun bad movie to watch. I kept checking the case to see how long it was, hoping that 96 minutes on the back was a typo, just praying that it would all end soon.

Probably one of the worst movies of Luke Wilson’s career, which (I’m sorry, Luke Wilson) is saying something (and Kate Hudson’s…which is really saying something).  It’s for sure the worst of Rob Reiner’s. Yeah…Princess Bride Rob Reiner. THAT Rob Reiner. This movie is even sadder now.

If I ever made you watch this movie, I sincerely apologize. I deserve to be defenestrated.