The legendary “Perfect Man” – Sandow – my Review of Sandow (2018) – by Lorraine Dmitrovic

Some men are born heroes. Others become living legends over time. Some, like “strongmen,” journey through eras as heroes and legends and are remembered that way forever. Extraordinary strongman Eugen Sandow, today regarded as the “Father of Modern Bodybuilding,” truly once wrestled a lion and was also a mentoring force to future real-life Olympian, Launceston Elliot.

Sandow (2018) suggests how their paths crossed for fame, money, respect, and of course the love of sport. Each attained worldwide recognition because of their achievements. Sandow became a pop star of sorts, worshipped for his physical prowess and perfect physique; Elliot won an Olympic gold medal yet was never elevated to superstar status.

Sandow teaser trailer, 2017

To view my review on Yeahflix:


Official trailer for Sandow (2018), starring
Timo Kervinen as the legendary strongman

In the opening credits, “via stock footage” filmmaker Alexander Cooper showcases Sandow going fist to claw with a lion in a poetic ballet danced to music that cleverly merges into a modern day panorma (filmed by drone) of the Olympic Stadium in Athens, Greece.

We become acquainted first with an aged Launceston on a cemetery stroll with a newspaperman. His memories, his tales of Sandow, begin. To understand the impact the strongman would have on Elliot’s life as a young weightlifter, the filmmaker invites us to understand the many-faceted Sandow. Even with the man’s many faults, Elliot viewed his mentor somewhat as a god whose imperfections could be justified or overlooked because he considered him to be a key to his own success.

Likewise, Sandow didn’t experience instant success, he had to climb for it, training intensely to forge his skills. As with struggling musicians and artists, his first audiences were rapt around smaller stages cheering on the strongman in bloody wresting matches or while weightlifting beauties balanced on each end of a barbell. As word of Sandow’s impressive feats spread his popularity rose quickly in the world spotlight.

Still, it had been a long journey to become “Sandow” – overcoming being bullied through young adulthood by his friends, and by his father as well, who constantly belittled him and told him he would never be honoured with the statue he longed for. His turning point  came with his association with the illustrious showman and starmaker Florenz Ziegfeld Jr. (wonderfully played by Olivier Maigniez). Strongman Sandow also soon became a businessman, investing in any and everything related to health and/or strength.

Olivier Maigniez, who played Florenz Ziegfeld Jr.
(photo  ©: David Meyers)

The Great War (World War I (WWI), 1914-1918) devastated Sandow’s business ventures such as international spas and clinics, and publication of a magazine was ceased. He became an inspiration to returning WWI soldiers, visiting convalescing men in hospital, one of whom had lost his sight. Where strength was needed in body and spirit of others, Sandow often personally strove to fit the bill.

The film is as much about relationships – whom to love, trust, control, betray, impress and challenge – as it is about the rise-to-fame stories of Sandow and Elliot.

Timo Kervinen as Eugen Sandow on the strongman-wrestling circuit in Sandow (2018)

The necessary re-casting of the lead role with Finnish actor Timo Kervinen as Sandow is a bonus. Timo is totally convincing in a believable performance with his natural physique of a Victorian strongman. He skillfully conveys bravery, sometimes tinged with narcissistic macho, and contrasts Sandow’s sincerity and invincible confidence all without any braggadocioWhile his Sandow is a magnificent public figure and perfect specimen of a man in a life filled with superhuman milestones, Timo also makes the strongman down-to-earth human, subject to the same fears, insecurities and sad occasions experienced by the everyday man . Timo expresses all this with amazing creative balance, and he has the audience on his side quickly, and faithfully, throughout the movie.

Sandow - Timo Kervinen and Tiffany E Robinson during the filming of Sandow (2018) (503x900)

Timo Kervinen and Tiffany-Ellen Robinson on location during the filming of
Sandow (2018) (photo courtesy of Timo Kervinen)

Sandow - Timo in training in a London gym, 2016 (720x900)

Born in Finland, Thor-like actor Timo Kervinen in training in a London gym, 2016
(photo courtesy of Timo Kervinen)

The production design authentically captures the opulent Victorian Era in costumes, with scenes often revealing the pretense of public decorum against the clashing realities of private life. Skilled, artful camerawork and an excellent script give this lean-budgeted movie a far more impressive look and feel. A carefully chosen contemporary soundtrack refreshingly enhances the Victorian feast. Add picturesque locations, inventive action sequences and unexpected emotional outbursts, and Alexander Cooper’s Sandow is undeniably a winner. Albeit, had closer attention to sound editing been possible, the movie would’ve spilled over with even more shining moments.

Cooper gives us a first class room with a view, encourages us to follow the dreams that Sandow and Elliot are chasing. He doesn’t overlook the tiniest details in an era when cocaine was legal and the opportunity Sandow has to make moving pictures with Thomas Edison.

Timo Kervinen as Eugen Sandow and Tiffany-Ellen Robinson as the strongman’s wife

Sandow’s wife, Blanche Brookes Sandow played by Tiffany-Ellen Robinson, and perhaps more than one mistress (such as singer-actress Lillian Russell portrayed by Jane Nerissa Broadhead), were not fans or cheerleaders. They loved him the way real women love real men; indeed, because of his wife’s love he would be denied the final symbol of legend, denying him what most men, famous or unknown, have always been bestowed with at the very end – what Sandow had wanted above all since childhood. To him, it was a “symbol” of conquering power over weakness and insignificance. And something he knew would have impressed his father. You’ll understand when you watch the final scenes. The real people in his life didn’t love the legend, they loved the real man.

Sandow (Timo Kervinen) and Lillian Russell (Jane Nerissa Broadhead), production still

Interview with filmmaker Alexander Cooper for Sandow (2018)

How did you first become aware of real-life strongman Eugen Sandow? What particular things about his life encouraged you to present him and his story for a feature film?

I first became aware that there was a real-life circus strongman who was the founding father of bodybuilding, when I read an article about him on a website called “Forgotten Newsmakers.” Images of travelling circus strongmen began to fill my head and I started to imagine what life might have been like for these travelling circus ‘rock stars’ before rock and roll existed. Also being a big fan of Stallone and Schwarzenegger films when growing up, I was able to put into the film, what I wanted to see. The real life Sandow travelled a lot; my father was away much of the time on business trips when I was a boy, and I’d often wonder where he was. This film was not intended as a biopic per se, although it was inspired by real characters. It’s very much fictionalized and draws on many of my own life experiences.

How closely did you work with your Director of Photography (DoP) and film editor on Sandow?

Very. Richard Bertenshaw is an extremely talented DoP with a bright future. We worked very closely on the shoot although he wasn’t involved in post production. His input into the film was immense, and he produced some amazing cinematography including some very impressive drone footage. Later on in post production, I instructed the editor from afar, since Birdie Sawyer was based in Maine, USA. I had started with a local editor in the UK, but as has happened before, I was let down; she decided to travel abroad for months on end, and with no response from her, I had to find a replacement. Birdie Sawyer edited the footage, but he didn’t sync all the sound together, which caused me further difficulties in getting the film completed.

Your screenwriting resulted in a good, tight script mixing then-present and childhood flashbacks with many highlights of Sandow’s professional life. Knowing his history, how were you inspired to choose which elements?

The story was developed by a French writer Gerard Maurez, who had initially created a script that had included many other elements I liked but were never filmed owing to time and budgetary constraints. The final draft, which featured the Elliot character telling the story, was created by me. My brother had also thought of other elements, such as Sandow visiting the blind soldier in hospital. Other elements came together from very strong improvisation by the actors. One that comes to mind is the dinner scene which follows Elliot’s training montage in the garden, and also Elliot’s training in the river; these were never planned as such since Elliot was going to be running on an athletics track, which was a difficult location to pin down. 

Did your shooting script have any major changes during filming, say because of new information about Sandow come to light? Were any of Sandow’s descendants involved in any way in the production?

Quite a number of scenes in the script were cut due to time and budgetary constraints. No descendants of Sandow were involved in the shoot.

The film opens through the point of view of a now older Launceston Elliot, Sandow’s once young fan-friend, giving a special outside-looking-in insight. The strongman became the young man’s mentor. How did you decide to use this approach?

My father. He wasn’t a bodybuilder, but he was certainly a great builder. He built a large country house for me from which I receive a rental income. My father was my mentor really, and he taught me many things. He was an excellent driver and I remember him taking me out on driving lessons, for example. He would always easily beat me in squash – he played at semi-pro level against a Dutch champion in the 1970s.

What lessons can a man like Sandow impress upon us? His father seemed to not have much faith in him. Do you feel Sandow’s motivation to succeed came from having a true mentor early on while with the circus? 

I think that having a mentor is an incredible thing. A trainer. A father-son type relationship is very special. My father once told me how he liked to take things apart to see how they worked, and then try to put them back together. My grandfather was not very encouraging about this – he would say ‘there he goes, Richard is breaking things again!” So, with my own son I remember how encouraging and loving my father was with me, so that means our bond is closer. In the old days of my father and grandfather, father-son relations could be quite strained and “stiff upper lip” about things.

Do you think Sandow’s circus experience and training are what ultimately changed his life for the better, physically and inwardly?

I think these are catalysts for growth, but Sandow above all was determined to prove his father wrong, that he could create something special that would outlast him.

After a last bullying incident, he became even more determined. Ten long years later he took to the stage as a strongman Prussian wrestler and was soon “discovered” by Florenz Ziegfeld Jr., who offered Sandow fame and fortune and top-billing. Do you feel Sandow believed his own strongman “publicity” to the point he thought he was invincible?

Shortly after my father died in 2014, I was at a very low point and one evening I was attacked in London and badly beaten, sustaining a black eye, scarring on my chin and severely broken teeth. I was beaten much more severely than the character in the film and I required months of extensive dental treatment. My teeth were never the same and I was now changed as a person. I was also involved in a car crash near Peterborough while driving back from London. Around that time I truly felt I’d reached rock bottom in my life. So, no – I don’t believe Sandow in the film thought he was invincible. It was a show – an act – and I made it a point that we see the humanity and reality of the man behind the facade.

The wrestling/boxing match scenes were very believable. Are you a fan of the sports? Sandow’s dialogue post-fight in one scene reveals the price he had to pay – “This was not a show, this is real blood.”

I was particularly a fan of the Rocky movies when I was a boy. It’s a pity that Elliot’s Olympics wrestling match was not filmed, that would’ve been a lot of fun for me. Yes, I believe the characters had much in common regarding their huge will to win. Whereas Elliot wanted a gold medal in the Olympics, Sandow was more seeking the adulation of his fans and especially, in the film, the female ones.

As shown in the film, Sandow’s career changes included touring with Elliot, creating “Sandow clinics” for training athletes and the general public, and plans with Ziegfeld Jr. to produce a “Sandow Protein Powder.” Negative personal life changes suggest drug use and infidelity. Do you think Sandow had taken on too much to maintain his reputation as a strongman at the cost of his personal life?

Well yes, in the film he’s seen snorting cocaine. As a larger than life figure, as a lot of bodybuilders used steroids, growth hormones and so on, the Sandow character had a tendency to take things to excess in the film. It’s ironic that he urges moderation in Elliot, just as his mentor Atilla had taught him, since it seems impossible for him to put that into practice himself. Is moderation even possible to achieve in life? Someone will always think we’re doing some things too much, or other things too little. My father always urged moderation with regard to my alcohol consumption, but for a long time I struggled with it. “Moderation in all things,” he would tell me, yet I never thought his lengthy commutes driving several hours to and from work by car could be described as moderate.

How long did you weight-train for the role of Elliot before filming the 1896 Athens Olympics scenes?

Timo as Sandow and Cooper as Elliot during Olympic training in Sandow (2018)

I did preparation for the role in the months building up to the shoot, but as you can probably tell my physique was not ‘enhanced’ by steroids. This was intentional since I wanted a natural look that might have been seen in Victorian times.

Filmmaker Alexander Cooper as Launceston Elliot in the 1896 Olympic weightlifting  competition in Sandow (2018)

On the production design side, many of the interior and exterior locations are evocative and picturesque. How were they decided on?

Thank you. Filming took place in London at Putney Vale, various mews/streets in SW1 not far from where I used to live, and in the basement of the Mostart Centre in Stoke Newington where we built the sets we needed for some key scenes. Other scenes, including Sandow’s house and the snooker room scene were filmed in and around Haddlesey House in Selby, West Yorkshire and Wharfedale Viaduct at Arthington.

I chose to film in places wherever there were satisfactory locations and resources. Funding this myself I have had to be extremely cost conscious to keep spending under control. Therefore sometimes the locations I chose were sub-optimal. There’s always a trade-off. I had always intended that Sandow would be a big budget lavish production, but funding it on my own I had to use what was available at the time to get it done.

Do you think Elliot remained somewhat in awe of Sandow, owing him his very life, especially regarding his mentor’s physical strength? What inspired this to be part of their relationship?

My father put up a brave battle with blood cancer for 7 years, but ultimately after three rounds of chemotherapy the inevitable happened, and we had to say goodbye. I did, and do, still remain somewhat in awe of my father, from the time I fell in a bed of nettles when I was four years old and he chopped them all down with a spade. This memory inspired Sandow’s lifting the car in the movie which saved Elliot’s life after their car crash – something any loving father would attempt to save his son. Also how my father persisted and completed the house he spent the best part of ten years building. Losses are inevitable for us all, just as my own father lost his mother in a car crash. Just like Sandow and Elliot, we both have had our strengths and weaknesses, and I have dedicated this film in my father’s memory – “until I see you again.” The dedication in the end credits is a message from me to my father: “This film is dedicated to the enduring memory of Richard Vaughn Cooper.” After his death in 2014 I would meet him sometimes in my dreams, he would either be in a garden in the height of summer or in the lobby of a luxury hotel smiling at me and talking to me about moderation as he used to. I really hope we meet again some day in the next world.

What stadium is featured during opening credits? In a later scene, what’s the name and location of the long arched bridge?

The stadium footage is drone footage of the Olympic Stadium, Athens Greece, in present day. The long arched bridge you refer to and I mentioned earlier is Wharfedale Viaduct at Arthington. It can also be seen in the British TV series, Emmerdale. I may have mentioned I love this location, which I’d never planned to use; I was made aware of it by a crew member while we were on the Sandow house location in Yorkshire.

Sandow - Timo standing in from of the arched bridge on Sandow (2018)

Timo Kervinen in costume as Sandow during the filming of Sandow (2018)
(photo courtesy of Timo Kervinen)

Did you immediately know you would cast Timo Kervinen as Sandow? What do you feel he brought to the role of the legendary strongman?
 Sandow - Timo looking in mirror as Sandow in Sandow (2018)

Timo Kervinen in the title role in an introspective moment in Sandow (2018)
(photo courtesy of Timo Kervinen)

Not right away. Actor-model Andrei Lenart was originally cast in the role, and he was filmed in the fundraiser trailer I made, which unfortunately failed to raise money for the film. It was only later when we couldn’t agree to the salary terms for his acting contract that I had to find a replacement. And yes, pretty soon after finding Timo, I decided the role was his. He had already played Arnold Schwarzenegger’s  character in The Terminator stage show in Japan, so he ticked many boxes.

Sandow - film festival poster Sandow 2018

Copyright © June 2018: Lorraine Dmitrovic
All photos copyright © June 2018: Sandow (2018)/Alexander Cooper/Timo Kervinen


Living Room Coffin (2018) – The “elephant in the room” is never one that you invite in – but Iris inadvertently does! review by Lorraine Dmitrovic

Jennifer Prediger and Blake Berris in Living Room Coffin (2018)

Blake Berris as former boyfriend, Seth, and Jennifer Prediger
as Iris Hawthorn in Living Room Coffin (2018)

To view my review on Yeahflix:

Living Room Coffin definitely one-ups the elephant. What exactly can you do – or shouldn’t do – in this situation? In this 2018 comedy-drama, the elephant is a coffin that police dispatcher-911 operator Iris Hawthorn didn’t order, gets delivered to her front door – and it’s put right on display in her living room. She needed a coffee table, true, yet she wonders if it’s a goodbye present from a former boyfriend. Or maybe someone’s playing a cruel joke? The delivery men can’t take it back, so she’s stuck with it.

Living Room Coffin (2018), official trailer

This is the dilemma for Iris, which starts her on the journey to trace the bizarre gift to its sender. She doesn’t find the answers all in one place, but picks up insight and a few bread crumbs while stopping in at a haunted house, a funeral parlour, and a church. Along the way, we wonder if fate or karma is at work. Undoubtedly both are, as she has a sick yet feisty granny.

Living Room Coffin (2018) - Irene Roseen as the grandmother and Jennifer Prediger as Iris Hawthorn

Iris (Jennifer Prediger) checks Grandma Edith (Irene Roseen) for a temperature

Other “gifts” associated with a coffin begin to arrive. Confiding in friend Patricia who works at the same police job, Iris only ends up with more questions. To further complicate the search, she’s also distracted by missing romance in her mundane existence, and then her former boyfriend reappears. Otherwise the most exciting thing in her life is comparing with Patricia who has the more outrageous day on the job. Iris definitely wins out, now that she has the uninvited guest on a plexiglass stand dominating her living room.

Jennifer Prediger and Rémy Bennett in Living Room Coffin (2018)

Rémy Bennett as co-worker, Patricia,  and Jennifer Prediger
as Iris Hawthorn in Living Room Coffin (2018)

Iris, wonderfully played by actress-filmmaker Jennifer Prediger, aims to solve the origin mystery, and first knocks back on wine and listening for other spirits. She then manages a sensible, calm approach during her search. One thing leads her closer to another during this horror hopscotch, until she discovers the peculiar truth of why she received the coffin.

Jennifer Prediger in Living Room Coffin (2018)

Actress-filmmaker Jennifer Prediger as Iris “tries out” the mysterious coffin

Part philosophical, part dark comedy and borderline absurd, Living Room Coffin
certainly encourages you to contemplate life as to how none of us can avoid the inevitable last big sleep which fortunately comes much later rather than sooner for most of us.

Writer and first time director, Michael Sarrow, laced his highly original story with a few “usual suspects” – many of which are red herrings, of course. His take on life and passing on becomes food for thought, relating it to some provoking life and death choices people make. Choices that may or may not be fully thought through, and then reneged on when one or more poor souls are involved ….

Living Room Coffin benefits from great, sincere and often humorous performances from characters even in smaller roles. The nonchalant delivery men, for example, played by Linas Phillips and Johnny Pemberton, provide comic relief while leaving Iris to deal with the heavy duty coffin situation alone.

The film could have swerved off in many different directions; Sarrow chose to stick to solving this profound mystery clearly and simply. Geared up for resolution, Living Room Coffin inspires us to realize that some things, many things, like relationships, end eventually. What does one see in a cut flower? Remnants of beauty and time passing. All parts of a mystery that can astonishingly unfold bit by bit – should you ever find an elephant, or a coffin, in your living room.

Living Room Coffin (2018) poster

Living Room Coffin (2018) poster

Copyright © May 2018: Lorraine Dmitrovic
All photos copyright © May 2018: Greenstep Productions/Leo Mark Studios

Review – Avengers: Infinity War – the best comic book I’ve ever watched! by Lorraine Dmitrovic

Avengers Infinity War (2018) posterOfficial poster for Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Marvel Studios

To view my review on Yeahflix:

From shocking opening to even more shocking ending, the epic adventure Avengers: Infinity War (AIW) is what every superhero movie should aspire to be. It’s a dark joyride, a thrilling spinning wheel turning time and space on their sides. It’s also like compulsively reading one fabulous Marvel comic book after another because you need to find out more about what’s going on with your fave superheroes and villains. This is one movie you don’t want to end.
Avengers: Infinity War – Official Marvel Universe trailer

It was once thought that too many ingredients – or characters – would spoil the broth, and while the storyline is propelled by 64 characters, each is given the time and attention they deserve. The result? AIW avoids the overblown, ongoing fireworks finale battle of Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015). This latest installment climbs each step one by one, builds suspense and tension to the highest degrees and maxes to the enth single or joined-forces superhero confrontations with arch villain Thanos (Josh Brolin) and his delegated band of baddies. You’re wide-eyed and mouth agape as good clashes against evil and sonic booms vibrate throughout the universe.

Avengers infinity war thor close-up
Chris Hemsworth as Thor (Image: Marvel Studios)

Thanos clearly has a God-complex, with his directive maintaining his warped idea of mercy that half of every planet he conquers must perish in order to achieve peace. He launches a multi-front war on Earth that necessitates an unparalleled response from the good guy collective. Thanos’ team of assorted mercenaries and a Voldemort-type noseless wizard come up against the tried and true, plus new additions, of Marvel comic superheroes; even Spider-Man is “knighted” into Avengerhood. Thor is joined along the way by James Gunn’s own Guardians of the Galaxy team. The new collaboration is likeable and effective. Chris Pratt is all Star-Lord, although at one point with his hand motions you think he’s going to summon his “pet” velociraptor, Blue. Rocket Raccoon dishes out some of the best lines in the movie, and you’ll love his new “nickname” to boot.

Avengers Infinity War - Guardians of the galaxy sun reports movie had a whopping £400m budget
Avengers: Infinity War enlists the help of the Guardians
of the Galaxy
 team (Image: Marvel Studios)

Almost all the Avengers have assembled to hunt down Thanos, and among the long list are Vision, Wanda, Black Panther, the Hulk, Iron Man, Captain America, Black Widow and Dr. Strange. Creator of the Avengers comic characters, Stan Lee, has his customary funny cameo, although it’s a little on the brief side and wasn’t as hilarious as his zany caricature barber wearing coke-bottle eyeglasses and wielding scissors like cosmic weapons in Thor: Ragnorak (2017).

Avengers Infinity War - producer Kevin Feige and Stan LeeAvengers: Infinity War – producer Kevin Feige and Avengers
comic creator Stan Lee (Image: Marvel Studios)

Most questions from previous Avengers superheroes and Thor films are answered. Although Hela (Thor and Loki’s half-sister) doesn’t show up, you’ll discover that stormbreakers (with a dynamite vignette featuring Peter Dinklage) work best against the supreme enemy. It’ll be up to Infinity Wars II – and there will most assuredly be one – to resolve that completely.

Avengers Infinity War (2018) Black Panther Captain America Back Widow and team ready to battle
Black Panther (Chadwick Boseman), Captain America (Chris Evans), Black
Widow (Scarlett Johansson) and team ready for battle (Image: Marvel Studios)

No one left the theatre when the end credits started to roll. Yes, there was an extra scene at the very end. It was every bit as numbing as the final scene before credits. No wonder people were meme-ing about it in stunned silence after getting up from their theatre seats.

What makes this film a true winner is the casting of all Avenger heroes as though in supporting roles, with none really standing out as “the stars.” Admittedly Loki, the perennial teen villain played by Tom Hiddleston, steals the first scene, and it also crosses your mind that he’s still in transition from “god of mischief” to superhero. Count him down in AIW, but not out, as according to old myth the great horn-helmeted god can only be permanently vanquished in one way. Genuine affection is seen between Thor (Chris Hemsworth) and Loki, and their relationship is perhaps “put on hold” until the next sequel. (More on that later.)

Avenger infinity war - loki close-upLoki (Tom Hiddleston) in the shocking opening scene (Image: Marvel Studios)

While AIW is “darker” than Thor: Ragnarok (2017), it shines more. The script was tweaked and polished to perfection, the best script yet in the series. It’s so good you don’t want to give away any bits and pieces. The comedy is sublimely timed and executed, and the bonds of love will make you cry, as will the backstory of Gamora and Thanos – whose pure devotion is to accomplish his warped evil by any means necessary. You eventually wonder if Thanos ever asked himself “Was it all worth it?” You realize the answer would be “yes” as all deranged alpha villains seem to view trouble, and the time to make it, as their middle names.

Avengers Infinity War - Josh Brolin as Thanos
Thanos (Josh Brolin) intends to conquer the universe
with the infinity gauntlet. Will he succeed? (Image: Marvel Studios)

The soundtrack is an impressive combo of majestic symphony and down-to-earth contemporary, and includes the classic pop tune Rubberband Man by The Spinners. AIW is stated as being the second-most-expensive film ever made, and it shows in the remarkable, well-worth-it production values, camera work and CGI. Chances are the next sequel will surpass that budget.

The AIW producers, including James Gunn, have been instrumental in pulling together and giving sense to a film that could have emerged as a puzzling mix-mox. A filmmaker since his youth, Gunn made his first big double-duty splash as writer and first-time director with Slither (2006) starring Nathan Fillion. Way back when, around the time Slither was released, Gunn belonged to the same Firefly (TV sci-fi series) community site I did.

CNET reports that there will be a sequel, known unofficially as Avengers 4, saying that “The film was shot back-to-back with Infinity War, beginning in August 2017 and with principal photography ending in January 2018. [Some] filming was done in the Atlanta area. According to the Scottish newspaper The Daily Record, more scenes will be filmed in Edinburgh and Glasgow, Scotland in July 2018, with reshoots coming later in the year.”

Numerous photos are known to have been taken during location shooting in Atlanta of major Avengers characters for that sequel.

All in all, Avengers: Infinity War will certainly garner a place in cinema history as one of the most awesomely entertaining, magical and witty sci-fi fantasy yarns ever spun onto the big screen. Sprinkled with the fairy dust of legend, like he-man swashbucklers and damsels standing equal to men and braver than brave, with monster villains and creatures of sweet nightmares and horrid dreams pulling open our eyelids, the Avengers will keep evolving and pulling us by the hand right along with them into future, wondrous journeys of imagination and adventure.

Copyright © May 2018: Lorraine Dmitrovic
All photos copyright © May 2018: Marvel Studios





First Review Article-Interview as a Contributor to YEAHFLIX

Many kind thanks to movie review site YEAHFLIX for inviting me to be a contributing reviewer! I’m happy to be on the team, and I’ll do my best to give a heads-up and thumbs-up on many current and classic diverse films in many genres.

My first review article, with an interview, is a “Spotlight” piece highlighting actor Tom McLaren and his career: “Tom McLaren, Actor and Author, Looking Forward to Upcoming Releases”

Tom McLaren, Actor and Author, Looking Forward to Upcoming Releases – by Lorraine Dmitrovic

When Tom McLaren set his sights on Hollywood, he never looked back. To follow his dreams, he left successful careers in the corporate finance divisions of Twentieth Century Fox and Warner Bros., and since 2011 he’s racked up over 150 professional film and commercial credits on the IMDb – with more feature films and other projects coming down the pipe.

McLaren has one of those faces the camera loves. And talk about versatile. One day he’s in an indie horror film. The next week finds him shooting a print ad, filming a commercial, recording a radio spot, or “appearing” on an audio CD. He’s played naive, trusting husbands, believable dads and experts in white lab coats, and policemen and priests with goodly authenticity.

Tom McLaren - Tom McLaren, Kristina Hayes and Cameron Dallas on set in Expelled (2014)

Tom McLaren – Tom McLaren, Kristina Hayes
and Cameron Dallas on set in Expelled (2014)

To view my review on Yeahflix:

He’s best known for three movies that are available on digital and streaming platforms worldwide. Says Tom, “Expelled (2014), Exorcism of Molly Hartley, and Santa’s Little Helper (both 2015) are certainly the biggest movies I’ve been in so far. They still ‘live on’ in worldwide distribution. Here in the US, Expelled is now in its 4th year on Netlfix. Exorcism is just about to leave the 2-year deal with Netflix to move to TV syndication. Santa airs on the USA Network every Christmas.”

Tom McLaren - Expelled on Netflix photo

Expelled promo photo on Netflix

To view the Expelled official trailer, shared from Cameron Dallas –

Interview with Tom McLaren

Lorraine: How did Expelled (2014) come about, and what did you like about playing the dad?

Tom: It was quite a surprise. I met my movie son Cameron Dallas at the table read, had no idea he was an internet superstar with tens of millions of fans all over the world. When Cam promoted Expelled on his social media, we exploded. After the theatrical release, we opened on iTunes as the #1 best selling movie, beating out Guardians of the Galaxy and The Maze Runner, staying in the top 10 best sellers for about a month. To this day, Expelled is one of the most successful digital movies of all-time. Playing his dad was a gift, and I received such an outpouring of support from Cam’s fans. There wasn’t anything in the scripted character in my backstory, so I chose to make him the nice, pretty well clueless dad who unconditionally loves his sons – who’s the complete opposite of the distrusting mom. It was great fun doing those scenes with Cam and Kristina Hayes.

Lorraine: You’ve been cast as a priest a few times. What did you draw on for those roles?

Tom: Anytime I’m cast as someone with focus and determination it seems a natural fit, because I do the research and take the role very seriously. I value professionalism, whether I’m playing a priest, a doctor or a CEO. In Exorcism of Molly Hartley, I wanted my Father James to appear as a very experienced exorcist, in contrast to Devon Sawa’s novice character. That was my first studio film. I’ve been lucky to work with some great actors like Devon. (As well, from Santa’s Little Helper, Mike ‘The Miz’ Mizanin, is truly awesome. Randy Wayne, my son in Death Pool, is also a fantastic guy.)

Tom McLaren - Filming the Twentieth Century Fox feature film Exorcism of Molly Hartley with director Steven R. Monroe and star Devon Sawa (2015)

Tom McLaren filming the Twentieth Century Fox feature film Exorcism of Molly Hartley (2015) with director Steven R. Monroe and star Devon Sawa
(Photo: © 2015:  Twentieth Century Fox)

Lorraine: You’ve appeared in many print ads and commercials, some of them quite hilarious. Any faves among them?

Tom: I’ve done many commercials, never realizing they’d be such a big part of my career. The Loma Linda University and SoClean spots received wide exposure; friends tell me they’ve seen them over and over. Humorous spots are the most fun to do. My “exasperated butler” in the Matago App web commercial is a particular favorite. I almost didn’t audition, thinking there was no chance to get the part as I’m not the stereotypical bald British type. But casting booked me immediately, so there you go.
Tom as the “exasperated butler” in a web ad from Matago App

Tom McLaren - First look- I'm Detective Sykes in the upcoming feature film There's No Such Thing as Vampires (2019)

A first look at Tom as Detective Sykes in the upcoming feature film There’s No Such Thing as Vampires (2019). Filmed on various California locations, it wrapped principal photography in 2017. The film’s director, Logan Thomas, brought together Meg Foster, Raphael Sbarge, Maria Olsen, and Judy Tenuta with other talents Emma Holzer, Aric Cushing (co-writer), Tom McLaren, and many others. There’s No Such Thing as Vampires (2019), currently in post production, is planned to premiere at various upcoming film festivals.

Lorraine: You’re in the upcoming indie feature film “There’s No Such Thing as Vampires” (2019), cast as Detective Sykes. What do you feel you brought to the character?

Tom: There are two detectives in the film, me and Raphael Sbarge, who’s such a great veteran actor. My role was the more passive of the two characters, so I played Sykes with small-town earnestness, a guy doing the best he can. It was my first part where I carry a gun. The film should be out next year. I love the horror genre, so I’m thrilled anytime I get a chance to be in a scary movie.

Lorraine: Do you prepare the same way for an audio role such as Renfield in The Dracula Files as you do with a film role?

Tom: It was a dream come true to re-imagine Renfield. The original 1931 Dracula starring Bela Lugosi is one of my all-time favorites. Dwight Frye as Renfield was brilliant, one of the most memorable performances I’ve ever seen. The Dracula Files is an audio drama, but the prep is the same as for any theatrical role. It’s all about backstory and point of view. Fortunately, we recorded most of it as though it were a live stage play. We physically acted it out, which made it feel so real. The third and final season is due out later this year.

Tom McLaren - favorite shot from The Dracula Files (with actor Bill Castrogiovanni, he plays Seward opposite my Renfield).

Tom McLaren: My favorite shot from The Dracula Files, with actor Bill Castrogiovanni, who plays Seward opposite my Renfield

Lorraine: Are you able to share a little about other upcoming films, commercials or other roles we’ll be seeing you in?

Tom: I’ve been doing a lot of commercials and indie feature films lately. I loved my parts in two upcoming movies. I’m a husband driven to horrific extremes in the horror film 8 Days to Hell, and I’m a fallen religious man-turned drug addict in the dramatic movie The Opiate Diaries. I’m also a police officer in Miss Arizona – a female empowerment film with a largely female cast and crew – which is now hitting the film festival circuit. I’m also starting to develop my own projects, so the future is filled with possibilities.

Lorraine: You’re currently enrolled in acting improv classes. Is there ever a point where you feel you’ve learned enough about your craft as an actor?

Tom: Learning never stops for an actor. I always say that every gig is worthwhile, because I learn something new every time I step in front of the camera. I take classes every year as well. An actor has to fine-tune a wide skill set, because performing is very different in classes vs. auditions vs. professional jobs. It’s best to experience as many various situations as possible, the more, the better.

Lorraine: Was it a natural step for you to co-author Styling the Stars: Treasures from the Twentieth Century Fox Archive with actress Angela Cartwright, whom the world knows as Penny from the 1960s sci-fi TV series, Lost in Space and as Brigitta von Trapp from The Sound of Music (1965)?

Tom: This book was a dream project. It came at a time in my life after I’d quit my corporate career, but before I started acting. I was looking for a creative outlet. Angela and I had been friends for many years, and she called me one day with this book idea. She knew I had a business mindset, coupled with a love for classic movies and showbiz facts and figures. It was a long and complicated journey to bring the project to print, and we’re both very proud of it. The feedback I’ve received from book and movie lovers all over the world has been amazing.

styling the stars softcover 2017 (589x800)

Styling the Stars: Treasures from the Twentieth Century Fox Archive
by Angela Cartwright and Tom McLaren

Yeahflix - Tom McLaren with Marta Kristen-Kane and A Cart Fox lot near one of the LIS soundstages a book signing of Styling the Stars (the book Angela and I co-authored).

Tom McLaren with Marta Kristen and Angela Cartwright on the Fox lot near one of the Lost In Space soundstages on April 6, 2017 for a book signing event of Styling the Stars, the week it was released in softcover.

Review article text and questions © April 2018: Lorraine Dmitrovic




Parallel (2016) – review by Lorraine Dmitrovic

Review of Parallel (2016)

Be forewarned, Parallel (2016) is not for family viewing. When considering to watch the movie with the possibility of reviewing it, I admit I had my reservations and hesitated. But I was definitely intrigued by this sci-fi scripted tale by David Magowan from executive producer Alexander Cooper. I had no idea what Parallel, an indie film, was about, and I had no prior knowledge of the graphic and explicit sex scenes it contained.

Then, upon viewing Parallel, as the plot delved into the otherworldly shadows of its premise, through those rather pornographic scenes, gratuitous and shocking, I saw that the whole theme of parallels – which is reflected even in the opening credits – artistically pertained to the film’s concept. The violent natures of two other scenes were reminiscent of Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange (1971), and while distasteful, I understood the ideas behind them. Seen in context and objectively, I wasn’t offended by the sex or violence, although my underlying sense of morality was shell-shocked.

The concept is clearly and expertly presented, that people have their unrestricted in nature parallels in a parallel world. The tension comes from not only realizing this is so, but knowing it’s a dangerous poker hand to play from when one world invades the other – a “crossover.”

Faye Sewell as Heather and David Magowan as Neil in Parallel (2016)

Heather (Faye Sewell) and Neil’s (David Magowan) real world is very normal until they meet an unusual stranger named John Machlis (Brian Carter). Explaining himself first as a psychic, he soon reveals that he can introduce them to an alter world, which they skeptically agree “to visit.” The world they discover is stark emotionally and visually. They’re drawn back numerous times to further explore their parallel worlds.

At times, Parallel has the feel of the silent expressionist film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920). One also feels and wonders if Heather and Neil’s parallels are watching them – camera angles seem to suggest this, such as on the staircase scene. When they verge on acting-out like their alters, also in the staircase scene, he crosses the line in reality that she’s drawn – she wants to keep both worlds separate – and his dark parallel infiltrates his normal world mindset with displays of anger and crude behaviour and comments.

Daniel Westwood as Roy

All the characters in Parallel, including Heather’s work associate Roy (Daniel Westwood) who appears in her alter world, have been reduced to instinctive creatures no longer bound by society rules, conscience or social skills. In the parallel world, they are feelingless creatures with impulsive desires for sex (not love) and the innate urge for power and dominance – the epitome reached by murder. Heather’s parallel, perhaps because of being less aggressive as a female, needs convincing to commit the ultimate act of evil power. In this parallel world there are no consequences for acting on negative impulses – until a crossover, temporary or permanent, into the dark appears imminent.

They’re all tormented in some measure by what they’ve become and done in the parallel. Despite knowing it’s a dark world and they shouldn’t embrace it, they’re drawn magnetically to it, and to Machlis who helps them go deeper into their alter experiences.

Brian Carter as the mysterious John Machlis

Parallel has two potential endings, really. Both are totally unexpected, leaving you confused about how you feel, but not confused about what occurred in each. You want to root for the main characters, hope the best for them, yet you realize you cannot do that or even like them, because of what they’ve participated in and allowed to happen in both worlds.

When at work their boss brings in an expert who explains Machlis as a charlatan and con artist, it doesn’t change the fact that Heather and Neil have become acquainted with sides quite opposite to their natures. Neil admits to liking what he experienced in his parallel. He’s not so sure, however, near the end of the film when he’s disoriented, regretful and confused about which state he’s in.

Faye Sewell and David Magowan

At one point, Neil asks, “What does that say about us?” Good question. As their parallel entities, they’re no more advanced than the first walking-upright men, who killed to eat, took everything by force if necessary, animals relying on pure instinct to survive and have perverse, loveless pleasure when needed. Not quite zombies, but an army of these parallels if controlled might indeed surpass robots and mere humans if they were to be utilized by a country’s military.

Make-up is at times garish, mannequin-ish. Lighting is often harsh in the real world and dark in the other world. The script is tightly written; dialogue is intelligent, to the point. All characters were perfectly cast. The overall production design is sleek, with a stylish, economic use of sets and exterior locations. The camera work is frequently brilliant, impressive, perhaps with a nod to the most shadowy of Kubrick visions. The directors and director of photography have succeeded in initially creating an underplayed calm in the normal world which increasingly snaps to horrific raw action in the black and white parallel world. The absence of excessive slash and gore is refreshing. The pulsing, contemporary soundtrack contrastingly also includes an excerpt from the 2nd movement of Beethoven’s 7th Symphony in a scene with Machlis.

It’s a strangely satisfying film, the colour and the black and white of it, and it will continue to disturb your senses long after watching. It serves to ingrain the warning to never speak to strangers – or are they strangers? – and to not trust what you see before you, whether your eyes are open or closed in an altered state. And, oh, if you step close to a line that could separate you into two worlds, stare at it first for the longest time. Be sure before taking that step over – the crossover – or you may find yourself standing before that literary line from Dante’s 1814 Divine Comedy -“Abandon hope, all ye who enter here.”

Sometimes it’s best to heed the old adage “curiosity killed the cat.” Yes, move back, slip away posthaste from those dark places you want to, but really shouldn’t, discover within yourself. Parallel’s Pandora’s box will unleash things if opened – and you should never, ever dare peek inside the box long enough to want to step inside.

Parallel (2016) available online to view/purchase:

Interview – with Alexander Cooper, executive producer-actor of Parallel (2016)

Alexander Cooper, executive producer-actor, Parallel (2016)

How did you become involved as executive producer, also wearing a number of different hats on Parallel?

I wanted to make a film, so I set about looking for a script. I put an advert on the website “StarNow” in early 2015. Shortly afterwards I met the writer of Parallel, David Magowan from Glasgow, as he had responded to my listing. I read his script and it struck a chord with me. I knew very quickly I wanted to make the film. Having no contacts in the film or film finance industries, we presented the concept to investors in London to raise funds. Having failed to find a backer, so it was up to me to get the film made. I attempted a crowdfunding campaign on Indiegogo. It raised a few hundred pounds, but no where near the eventual 15000 GBP it ended up costing. I wore so many different hats because there were so many things that needed doing and I couldn’t afford the staff.

What do you feel makes Parallel special and different from other doppelganger-type movies?

Alexander Cooper in a scene from Parallel (2016)

I think that Parallel is genuinely sexy and thrilling. On another note, others have said that it is a universally thought provoking film which makes the audience think and ask questions about their own lives.

Did you know of David Magowan’s work before he responded to your StarNow ad?

I had no idea about David’s other work before he showed me the script of Parallel.

Briefly describe your working relationships with cast and crew. Were there any especially heavy or light moments on set/on location while filming?

I won’t go into details of specific names of crew members; but I will say that the shoot itself was fraught, and felt at times as if we were shooting in the Parallel itself. The day we filmed the scene where Rhianna’s thugs beat Neil in the warehouse was especially heavy. In fact, the same day we were due to shoot an orgy scene and the crew broke up the shoot. A few days later they asked forgiveness and requested that I finish the shoot with them. I did, and that was fine in the end, but with various problems including crew members holding my intellectual property hostage, let’s just say I had made some mistakes in the crew hiring process. I had no such problems with the cast thankfully.

How did you come to choose Ieva Makselyte as a first-time full-fledged director? She achieved a very cohesive film and natural performances from the cast. Was she “attached” or the actual director?

That was quite random. I put out a listing on a website – I believe it was Film & TV pro. She came forward and seemed to fit the bill. Looking back, it would have been easier if I had just directed the film myself; at times indeed I had to intervene to get what we were looking for with shot choice and so on. That was my mistake, and so with my film Sandow (2018) I took on the director mantle and all creative responsibility. I was much happier and got much more respect on the Sandow set. Ultimately Ieva was credited as director. I wish her all the best with whatever she decides to do in life.

Many cast members are also on the crew. Was this in the plan from the get-go, or did that evolve?

Various crew members were involved as extras, this was helpful to save some time and money.

What are you working on now?

I’m just waiting for the final sound editing on my official directorial debut, Sandow. It’s a sports drama inspired by early strongmen and the founder of bodybuilding. I directed it, and as written on the IMDb, it’s “a hugely ambitious feature film project inspired by first British Olympic gold medallist Launceston Elliot and his trainer, legendary circus strongman and founder of bodybuilding Eugen Sandow.” I play Launceston.

One day I’d like to make a film I’d call “The Decision,” about an army officer who’s tormented by a female voice and a fateful decision he made. As of yet, I have no dates fixed for this production, and I’m considering making it in the “$3 film style” to shoot it like a stage play.

Listen in to “The Empusa Interview” on The Ultimate Movies Broadcast – Show 11 

EMPUSA – Released today, February 9, 2018. To be officially online at McNally Robinson Booksellers on February 13, 2018.

Available in the store now. While EMPUSA, the story of a vampiress at its “heart” is a romance and a sci-fi fantasy, it’s currently in the “Plays” section.

Listen in to “The Empusa Interview” on The Ultimate Movies Broadcast – Show 11

The Ultimate Movies Broadcast – Show 11

Co-host Mats Finnborn of Sweden interviews author-screenwriter Lorraine Dmitrovic about her newly published screenplay novel, EMPUSA. (Writing as Crystal Jamison, one of her pen names.)

Credits for photos/art/movie publicity stills:
-Farley and Claire Mowat ©: 1998 Lorraine Dmitrovic
-Robert Homme The Friendly Giant ©: 1999 Lorraine Dmitrovic
-Dracula, Prince of Darkness ©: 1966 Hammer Film Productions
-Dracula Has Risen From the Grave ©: 1968 Hammer Film Productions
-Dracula ©: 1979 Universal Pictures
-The Brides of Dracula ©: 1960 Hammer Film Productions
-Scars of Dracula ©: 1970 Hammer Film Productions
-Van Helsing ©: 2004 Universal Pictures
-Interview With the Vampire ©: 1994 Warner Bros. Pictures
-Mermaid in the Sea of Happiness ©: 2007 Lorraine Dmitrovic
-Spun Into Blue and Gold ©: 2005 Lorraine Dmitrovic
-Pleasant Sea ©: 2005 Lorraine Dmitrovic
-Verdigris the Sea Dragon ©: 2005 Lorraine Dmitrovic
-Figaro the Sea Horse ©: 2006 Lorraine Dmitrovic
-A Glittery Ocean Day ©: 2003 Lorraine Dmitrovic
-Clash of the Titans ©: 1981 United Artists
-Kraken illustration ©: 1870 original edition of Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea by Jules Verne (Please note: the Old Dutch spelling “kracken” is used in the screenplay novel EMPUSA)
-Nosferatu ©: 1922 Prana Film/Film Arts Guild
-Dracula ©: 1931 Universal Pictures
-Early 19th Century French Vampire Hunting Kit (likely a replica)
-Camille ©: 1935 MGM
-Love ©: 1927 MGM
-Queen Christina ©:1933 MGM

The Ultimate Broadcast Show theme and bridge music composed and performed by: Trevor Giampieri
-Sound editing/mixing: Lorraine Dmitrovic and Trevor Giampieri