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10/10
A funny spoof on reality TV shows taken to the max
18 March 2012
For a no-budget work this opus made in Pittsburgh, Pa and its environs appears as professional as much of the dreck coming out of major studios, yet it is hilarious in its takes on the modern phenomenon of reality TV. Without getting into spoilers and with the sole critical observation that the intro until the action begins is about 6 minutes too long, it is a delight to watch. Joe Giacobello/aka Joe Bello is the producer who comes up with the idea of an ultimate reality show involving a tontine-type prize of total social deprivation. Particularly memorable as "contestants" are the mad animal rightser and his mouse played straight with a near unabomber intensity by the actor Daniel I. Radakovich, and particularly the character played by the actor David Dietz IIIrd as a pastiche of all religious clichés without respect to sect or belief systems. As a sendup of sendups it is sheer camp genius. Mr. Bello/Giacobello is someone I look forward to seeing more production from and it is nice to see something other than more Zombies coming from Pittsburgh.(though those remain nice too:)).
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Indemnity (2012)
9/10
Pleasant featurette vampire flick with little bite but much charm
18 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
For me vampire movies have to have gore, this movie has so little gore it could easily be PG if not for someone being killed/dying in it. The budget obviously was rather low but how much does chocolate syrup cost? Some of the outdoor early scenes were just too dark for anything to be seen, so the lighting was likely another place this affected...though it helps the atmosphere.

That being said, I gave this effort a very high rating, as it does an excellent job of setting up the climactic scene in a highly-believable way, sort of a "country-noir" fashion rather than thriller-horror 'cabin-in-the-woods-gorefest' tropes that have recently been so overdone as to make this a welcome respite. A few jarring elements do exist-the main setting bar somehow does not give off the vibe of a truly rural dipsomat, resembling more a Goth or hockey bar one would find in a city's trendy district. A lot of ADR seems to have occurred, which given the close quarters and the likelihood of operating machinery probably was needed to quell background noises which gives a slight echoeysound to the talking and probably led to the one reviewer's perceived "woodenness" in some of the dialog scenes. I concur there was possibly a little too much bar polishing, which is clichéd but is so because it does occur in real life, though if the doer was the owner he would be less likely to do it so often, more often having a flunkey do it. Given the tenseness of the situations(barfight, Police inspection, vampire-slaying) however it did not strike me as overmuch for indicating nervous reactions. The main character was likable if a bit young looking for a vampire, the barkeep a bit moreso if seeming somewhat old for an IraqI vet(Vietnam would be more credible)with very mobile facial expressions despite his full beard. The lady vamp was talented and very sexy and I would like to see more of her acting in it, the sheriff's deputy was perfectly cast as a slightly slimy bureaucrat on the take playing the bar owner for money at 'darts' for his baksheesh, the 2 bar bullies were also well cast and credible. It is hard to see the market aimed for by this, as it is almost like a romance but with a bad/sad ending. But my date got the sniffles at the gal vamp's Pieta-like dying in the barkeep's arms so it might be a good date movie despite the 'relationship goes sour' premise. It also might be excellent as part of several stories in an anthology approach possibly worked around the bar? The ending is ambiguous enough for a sequel.

Highly recommended as a change of pace from the usual.
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The Idea Thief (II) (2011)
8/10
Interesting take on alternate reality
18 March 2012
Warning: Spoilers
The Idea Thief is an actualization of a major paranoid complex of authors of all sorts regarding their work, utilizing the old but still viable device of a movie within a movie to explore its ramifications. It is framed comedically, and there is an interesting cast made of large student aged actors in this low-to-no-budget oeuvre from Western Pennsylvania. I actually found myself somewhat involved in the interior movie which is why I downrated it a bit.(A zombie pic where they outright win?-oh, it isn't a real movie? Drat it! It is like the "it was a dream" in the Wizard of Oz-deflating). A point was also deducted for being able to see the punchline shortly into it, but at least no tortuous "twist" was added out of lack of anything better to think of, and the watcher is played fairly. I look forward to seeing more from this director.
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Demons (2009)
9/10
on the whole most enjoyable program
11 September 2010
I do think it should have another year or so to complete it as a series. I enjoyed the characters and their acting, re. Cooke's north country/Yorkshire tone I think it is easier for Yanks to understand than some of the Scottish variants in the Dr. Who recent varieties and the Welsh bits in Torchwood. and the variance is far less than in the USA, where BTW "Rupert's" "Pennsylvania" accent is actually legitimate, although it is not an Eastern PA or Philadelphia accent(he would need to say water as woa-aw-oah-ter in 4 syllables), the used accent is a southwestern accent but before you get to the distinctive Pittsburghian scots-irish-Dorset/cornish bit, which uses the word "red" to mean "clean" as in "red up yer room." and "Younz/yinz" for "you all" and " 'nat" for "and all that." A good former example of a user of the accent (not the Pittsburghian one) was former American football coach Bud Carson, whose accent was thought to be from Georgia when he was actually from Western PA(he was for a time the head coach at Georgia Tech).
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Darkest Days (2005)
9/10
Enjoyed the movie-comments but no real spoilers
26 June 2007
Warning: Spoilers
As one of the first people to see the movie at the NYIFF showing in LA, I have to admit I liked the film a lot.

The movie began with an very interesting use of credits via some particularly good line drawings accompanied by unusually apt music, which makes me think the director had originally been from a music or commercial background, this is however speculation on my part.

The beginning seemed to have a slight sound synchronization problem in some of the initial scenes, I daresay that was fixed in subsequent edits of the work. The usage of whited-out space for the dream/flashback sequences was an interesting take and probably more admirable for effort than in final effect. I do wonder how they found anyone to tell them how to pronounce the orc-like language which I believe was to represent Sanskrit, as that had been a dead language longer than the Mayan one done by Gibson in Apocalypto, which this effort reminds me of to a degree...though I cannot say why. Same sort of underlying religiosity vibe perhaps? My personal favorite was the actor playing the corrupted detective, the acting overall was quite good for those who are clearly at the beginning of their careers, the priest was also excellent. I am afraid I do not recognize who an earlier poster said was the "strange man" but no doubt I felt he did equally well with the rest. The lady detective did well but there was a longish scene with her doing reports and a wineglass that I felt should have been cut. The martial arts scenes were an unusual aspect too, it appeared like they were done in the traditional style before wires became so prevalent, which I much prefer to the new variants.

All in all a worthwhile thing to watch if you like the supernatural thriller genre without too much gore. Best, JL
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10/10
On the whole a surprisingly good movie
15 August 2006
I tend to dislike movies with melodramatic aspects, but this one actually works, though it doesn't really look to me like Brad Pitt in it has a condition that keeps him out of the sun, he was as toned and lightly-tan in this movie as in any I ever saw him in (apparently he had nothing to do inside in the dark but crunches :)). The locales are beautiful, the light is that Adriatic sunlight that is so marvelous, that the movie is great to see just from a cinematographic aspect. And Mr. Pitt actually did some much more than just getting by/decent acting in this one, one of the hardest things to do in the profession is to be the object of a tearjerker, and he successfully pulls it off. It is a shame he was just compensated some 10k-12k for this picture and in some recent ones so much for so little(but then he has had his distractions so I shouldn't carp). Excellent performances by the father and love interest characters round it out.(The faith-healer aspect was a bit jarring, as I was not aware that this had been a Yugoslavian/Serbo-Croatian tradition and it seemed a bit New-Agey to me, though I have since been shown an Ivo Andric story where it was mentioned in that region in an 1890s setting so it is presumably legitimate background). The other elements-sound, direction, etc. were up to high-quality low budget studio production in the States, and better than most of those. The dialogue flows well, and the original language is clearly English, this is _not_ a dubbed movie. I am surprised it went to video directly, I feel it could have easily gone to a successful theatrical release. Much much worse has done so, and profited greatly. It deserves a look-see.
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tres droll on the whole
3 May 2004
At first I thought-Oh, God, another student film catastrophe what with the heavily "dutched" initial segment and the fadeouts into titled sections etc. However, I toughed it out and am rather glad I did. The characters are stereo"typical" midwest[middle-Atlantic?] "slacker" sorts -the narrating one the cliched loafer student in a film program, there's some over-the-top acting [esp. by the "prof" cast member] that could have been toned down a bit...but on the whole a tres droll picaresque jaunt through semi-credible situations. And I quite enjoyed the "at the Improv" scene. The film does have some rough spots, and there are some lame "look at what the help does when the boss/mgr. is not on top of things" cheap yucks but amazingly they seem to work in this flick which normally I would claim to be far too long for its worth...but in this case I wanted a bit more. Not however the lengthy post-flick outtake elements which were not required-I know lots of people like them, I do not. The title is not really flattering and may turn some off but is apropos to the subject. One wonders if the Dave Matthews Band paid for product placement or if it was just an homage by the writer/producer/director. But I will look forward to this group's next effort. Why we had to kill 'Bitch' is like a really, really bad pun. One groans happily when it is finished.
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