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Blank Slate (2008 TV Movie)
7/10
Not bad for a TV Pilot... didn't get picked up...
25 May 2012
So this is what they call a 'backdoor pilot' in TV talk. It's not a movie as much as it is a setup for a prospective TV show. This is obvious from the opening credits, in which the main character fills us in on details that haven't happened yet (but which are about to) which will be important background for viewers of future episodes. The story does not conclude in this episode.

The whole thing's shot very TV as well, sort of 24-lite. And it's not done terribly well, either. The angles are often not very interesting, the camera moves are random and sometimes overstate unimportant details. The unsteady cam feels forced as a whole, and the camera man has a tendency to miss on his camera moves. Sound/music is competent but pretty standard fare for TV drama.

Some of the actors have obviously been doing bit TV parts so long they're bored of it. The "Scientist" character, Dr. Crick (Get it? GET IT?!) is especially notable for this specific kind of acting. You'll wonder by her third line if she's ever spoken this many lines on TV before. Sadly she's required to do some of the secondary plot's heavy lifting, so it's going to be a lot of declarative statements for us.

So it's not a very good TV pilot posing as a movie with poor technical skill, why bother writing a review? Well, the other review got me interested enough to watch it, and if you're interested enough to click "See all 2 reviews" I figured I might as well tell you what's good enough about it that I finished it.

The lead actress is interesting in a not-very-TV kind of way. You get the sense she's had a life of some kind. I don't know her from anywhere else, but after a shaky first scene, she acquits herself well in this role. Eric Stolz is good as the handler and while the 'mystery of the week' is handled sloppily and uninterestingly, the conspiracy-stuff is actually quite interesting. The premise is a bit misleading, but the secondary premise is far more interesting than the initial one.

OK, so it's got a lot of flaws and should be mediocre at best, but a couple of things elevated it a couple of notches above average. If you like amnesia stories, personality switching, or season-long mysteries you'll probably enjoy this and wish it went on to be a full series. Otherwise, you probably won't get past the first couple of scenes.
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The Hunters (2011)
6/10
A very cool set and good cinematography can't save this...
22 May 2012
The Hunters isn't the worst movie you've ever seen, it's just a bit of a mess. There are two things to recommend it highly, the cinematography is well above par for this kind of movie, and the location is just incredible. I think the sound editing and music is also quite good. The problem is the good things just serve to highlight the not-so-good things. If the good cinematography is of people trying way too hard to act, it's not interesting. If the location is terrific, but it's not really used all that well, you don't have much of a reason to make the film.

There is some excellent casting for the leading hunters and the main enemy, but the other characters are often miscast, overplayed, or underwritten. Certain scenes feel improvised, while others just seem to go on and on. The lead actor seems to be rather miscast for his role, which is strange since he apparently directed. There are also characters that just kinda drop in and out of the movie, especially the lead (only?) female.

The editor seems to be trying to make this into a horror movie, but it's not, and the nasty jump cuts and random shots of some dude yelling are not scary, they're annoying. The editing overall leaves a lot to be desired, leading me to wonder if the director cut the movie as well, since there's no editor listed in the IMDb crew page.

There was a pretty good movie to be had here had the script thought of better uses for the location and the actors been reeled in by a better director. But overall, it's better than bad, and if you're scouting for an incredible castle in Germany (?) you could do worse than watch this. Perhaps it's best to just think of it as a weird travelogue to Fort Goben.
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10/10
So much better than I expected
25 April 2012
So I went into this expecting a certain kind of movie because of the title. I mean, come on, "Elite Squad" by itself, but with "The enemy within" subtitle, I wasn't expecting much. Honestly, what I was expecting was "Elite Squad! The Enemy Within!". Basically, lots of 'splosions and running through the jungle.

This movie is so much more than that. It paints a painful portrait of the corruption and intrigue in the police and politics of Rio de Janeiro. The slums of the city serve as a beautiful backdrop to a dark and seedy tale.

The film is heavy on story, character development, and plot. This is not a shoot-em up bang bang movie, it's a story of corruption and morality with some violence. Definitely worth your time and your attention.

Edit: Also thought I'd mention that I had no idea this was a sequel when I saw it. I'll definitely check out the other films, but you don't need to see them to watch this and enjoy it.
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10/10
This is a difficult movie to watch
16 March 2012
I'm not going to review this movie. There are plenty of reviews to tell you what this is about, what happens. I'm here with a warning.

This is movie that may hurt you. There are difficult things to watch, and the movie does not leave you with an optimistic view of what happens next.

This is not a criticism. The filmmakers knew what they were doing and they have succeeded in doing it. This may be an important movie, and it is certainly powerful.

But this movie is not for everyone, and some may have a very difficult time afterwards. I know I have. You may have to pet a kitten for a while after you've watched it. That may help. -Olaf
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Primal (2010)
Best Lit Horror Movie I can remember
27 September 2011
This is a classic 'take your friends to the woods and kill them' first-time horror movie, but it's so much better than other similar movies that it deserves a watch.

First, I want to commend the outstanding lighting. I can't remember a better lighted movie. Every scene is just as dark or as bright as it needs to be, you're never confused about who is where or what is what. If you're a student of lighting or cinematography, especially if you want to make horror, this is a mandatory watch.

The cinematography is also very good throughout, never betraying a budget, as are the effects. The director holds his cast through what must have been a fairly frustrating shoot for some of the actors (you get to wear blood makeup for 3/4's of the movie! We're nowhere near a shower!). This is a professional movie, and I couldn't tell if it was made for 1 million or 10.

The writing is well above par for this type of movie. There is a character who makes decisions that are very frustrating for the viewer and freezes more than you want him to, but that is good writing, not bad as some reviewers have complained. You get a feeling from the script that these people know each other and have relationships deeper than what you see. The plot moves along at a nice clip, and the comedy comes at the right moments to relieve tension and is genuinely funny. The last line works in a special kind of way where it's predictable, you want it said, and yet it brings a smile to your lips when it is said.

One more thing, the gore is pretty normal for the whole movie, but the ending turns to a couple of concepts that definitely pushed me past my comfort zone and made me feel very squeamish. While most of the movie is horror of the jump-scare sort or the tension sort, the last few minutes get to some psychological horror that is genuinely disturbing. It felt scary and squidgy at the time, but it was appropriate and elevated the movie past a basic type of horror movie.

Hokay, so I'm giving this a 10 because it seems horribly low-rated to me. I think the movie did everything it set out to do, is scary, funny, and fun in parts, and feels like a complete piece. It gets a lot of average ratings but it doesn't feel like an average film. I see that a lot of people dislike the ending, but I'm not sure what they wanted/expected. The script went where it wanted to go. The ending ramps up the gore and is all but certain to shock you. Definitely worth a watch for yourself to see if you agree with them or me.
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The Caller (2011)
Shill-Shocked.
19 September 2011
Warning: Spoilers
So, listen, this isn't the worst movie ever made.

I watched it looking for a good, old-fashioned horror movie, and I guess that's more or less what it was. The problem is one of expectations, and also one of substance. The user-reviews here made it sound like one of the best horror movies of the year, so as it started to fall apart, I got more and more frustrated with it. I now see that these are planted reviews. It's not even very subtle shilling, I'm sorry I fell for it.

If you have not yet watched it, feel free to do so, but try to lower your expectations. This is a small, tense thriller with good cinematography, a pretty lead actress, and some jumpy bits. It's not the best or most terrifying horror movie, and the ending mostly makes you want to come up with better endings. But hey, it's probably better than Saw 12.

{Spoilers begin now.}

If you have already seen this movie, and you came back to IMDb to reread some of the glowing reviews to see what they liked about it, like I did, let's chat.

The way I see it, this movie starts out a 7 or so, but slowly drags its way down to a 3 by the end, almost willfully. The beginning is interesting, there are hints of the crumbling relationship, hints of a new beginning, and a vague sense that something is wrong. The editing keeps throwing things at you with loud crashes and bangs so that you don't forget to be tense, I guess. This style of editing is really annoying more than anything, as it keeps reminding me I'm watching a movie rather than getting me invested in the damn thing. But it's a style and I'm used to it.

As the picture goes on, I got more and more annoyed by something I couldn't quite place. I think it's just the thinness of the script. The relationship she's just left with "Steven" was what? How long were they married? Where were they before? Were they ever happy? Was he a psycho the entire marriage? Because that's really all he ever seems to be. Why would a hot girl like her ever be with an aggro jerk who looks like an ugly William Mapother?

And then French class. While I admit Hunky guy's little bit of dialogue in the classroom scene is charming.... why was she taking a French class? Did she always want to learn French? Was this just to leave the apartment? Did she just want to meet Hunky guy? From here on in, the character development gets downright weird. Her relationship with him seems to be based more on sitting and standing near each other in places than any commonalities or shared interests.

By halfway through the movie I realized I was never going to learn anything about anyone. This script just moseys from event to event: Meet Hunky guy, check. Go on date, check. Creepy phone call, check. Brick wall, check. Creepy phone call, but it's really just mom, check. Actual creepy phone call, check. Have awkward floor sex five feet from his bedroom, check. Creepy phone call but it's really a dream, check. Kill Luis Guzman for no reason, check. Oh, yeah, creepy ex, kinda forgot him for a while, check.

The thing that's so dull about the second half isn't that the events are terribly predictable. Sure, you know that Rose will do something to her back then as soon as she mentions the photo session, but the burning was a cool enough effect. And it's not the lack of almost any actual on-screen horror. (Though who pitches a horror movie with "You'll never see any of the killings!" as a selling point?) The trouble is that we never get to know anyone so we don't know why they're doing anything or care that they're doing it.

Who is Rose? Why is she doing all this? Why is she so ready to believe that the other end of the phone call is in the future? Is she crazy? What made her so crazy? For that matter, why does she get all psycho with Mary? Why did she go from "You're my best friend" to "I'mma eff your life up!"?

Who is Mary? What does she even do for a living? Is there something in her past that makes her inexorably gullible, or is that a natural trait? Is there no 911 service in Puerto Rico, or does she have some bad history with the police? Why does she even answer the land-line when she has a damn cell-phone?

Who is Luis Guzman's character? Does he own the building? Is he the super? Why can't he fix the damn AC? Who is Hunky guy? Why is he single at his age? Who is her ex? Does he have a job? Or does his business card read "Stalker"? Why with only five people in the movie do I not even know who one of them is?

Anyway, I think that's really my big problem with the movie. The premise, setup, and plot are so simple. There's a ton of space for character development, but it's all just filled with: eeeeeeeeeeeEEEEEE-whoooooshh! Kkkksshhhseeessshhhhh! Smash! Krak!

And also they made Puerto Rico look really ugly and that just seems a waste.

-Olaf
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