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Empress Vampire (2012)
This is really fun!
I really enjoyed this movie. I knew it was a small-budget Indy, but it far exceeded my expectations! The cinematography was really quite good, and the story was very entertaining.
The star ruled every scene she was in, and what a beauty! Ange Maya is an extremely and unusually attractive woman - an ageless goddess of love. As co-producer and writer, she seems to be well in control. She may one of the most beautiful women in film. She is very sexy, as well, and that truly adds to her role as a seductive and strong Mistress of the Dark! There are several other beauties, but Ange owns this light hearted "horror" film.
Some of the funniest scenes involve law enforcement. If you see it, you will have fun! I gave it a high rating because it was so much fun and because of Ange.
The Martian (2015)
Interesting idea, made-for-TV script.
What an exciting beginning - a horrific storm approaches on Mars, arriving much sooner than expected, and thwarting mission plans, somewhat, in collecting soil samples. Even more horrific, is the sight of an astronaut being struck and knocked aside by something resembling a manhole cover.
The Mars landscape is quite fetching: miles...oops, kilometers of reddish iron-rich soil, dotted with weathered boulders, and having what appears to be mountains in the background. The rest of the movie displays variations on that same theme - boring, boring and nothing whatsoever going on. Apparently, the storms on Mars are very few and far between.
Unfortunately, after the first scenes, setting up the basic situation of the story, the film script appears more suited to a network situation comedy than to a story about a castaway astronaut and the effort to retrieve him. All of the characters seemed like a bunch of shallow wise-crackers, except in the (very) few and brief moments of mild concern for the stranded astronaut's dilemma.
One would think that abandonment on another planet would be a tense and precarious situation. Hardly. Everyone was so cleverly cute, one wondered if anyone was worried at all. "We are NASA. We are all so smart, we can fix anything." (Not an actual quote.)
This was a very boring film, overall, and would have been better placed on Lifetime or the Disney Channel. I will give the film two stars, one for Matt Damon's very realistic portrayal of an injured man, and one for the storm.
The Key (2014)
Excellent adaptation of a difficult novel
"The Key" is based on the novel, "Kagi", by the great Japanese author, Jun'ichirō Tanizaki. The greatest difficulty with bringing this story to screen is that it has no actual plot. It is about a long-married couple who seem to have lost the ability to communicate honestly.
The wife (Bai Ling) is a conservative, inhibited lover, while her artist husband (David Arquette) is obsessed with sexuality, jealousy, and control.
As the film begins, the wife finds a diary of his sexual fantasies that her husband had accidentally left available for her to see. Yet she refuses to read it, if for no other reason than spite. For the same reason, she begins to keep a diary herself, hoping he will find and read it.
The script is basically each of them telling to the viewer the contents of their diaries,describing their own points of view.
Tanazaki, the novelist, suggests that we "find beauty not only in the thing itself but in the pattern of the shadows, the light and dark which that thing provides."
Taking his advice to heart, director, Jefery Levy, has created a most unusual, beautiful work of art. This is a timeless, surreal world, where the uniquely unsettling cinematography has an ethereal, dreamlike quality, sometimes hallucinatory, as the couple try to communicate secret passions through the unread diaries, as the husband moves from passion to obsession to insanity.
David Arquette is fierce in his role as the sexually driven, tortured artist, continually seeking that which he can't define, while hoping that his wife will read his diary and understand. She, in turn, wishes the same about her diary.
Bai Ling is in full command of her role, and in many ways this may be one of her very best performances. Beautiful, but repressed, she is manipulated by her husband to achieve his desires, until she begins to rival his gradual loss of sanity. The viewer will wonder if it is perhaps she who has become the manipulator. Bai Ling's depth as an artist is on full display here, and you won't soon forget this performance as she captures both the light and the dark which "The Key" provides.
Ardennes Fury (2014)
Scam is what it is.
This is an obvious attempt to confuse buyers who are looking for a major motion picture with a similar name. This is not the first time this has been done, nor will it likely be the last.The hasty DVD buyer, be it for himself or purchased as a gift, will see the prominent word "Fury" and think he's picked the right one.
This is a common scam and some two-bit "production company" will make a few bucks on this junk.
You can search the word "mockbusters" and find plenty of examples of copycat films and/or titles attempting to capitalize on the publicity and public interest about a quality, big budget film.
The sad part is that once purchased it will be too late for the victims of this deception.
Pai mai chun tian (2010)
Light, but entertaining!
Two people are forced by circumstance, into prostitution. A sad, broke middle-aged man whose wife is dying, and a lovely, youthful divorcée whose child was taken from her. The man is quite a shy bumbler as he pursues his new trade, but is quite a likable sort. The pretty young woman, played with great sympathy by Bai Ling, is more pragmatic in her approach. However, she gets some really unexpected clients. Chao-Jung Chen, as the middle-aged man also gives a strong performance. Most of the others tend to play for comedy. The two pimps - apparently man and wife - are quite silly, especially the funny wife. This was a very entertaining film, silly at times and heartrending at other times, but most certainly unpredictable.
Battle Los Angeles (2011)
Possibly the worst film I've seen, though I couldn't sit through it.
Where to begin? Could it be the shallow wooden acting of jet fighter pilots sitting nearly completely still, unsurprised to see a spaceship the size of Rhode Island, and calmly watching as their missiles were fired back at them? Or was it the cartoon-like special effects? Of course, anything "military" was idiotically cliché..."That's an order!", "Turn back or be charged with insubordination"...and why were several billion-dollar jet fighters parked on a dirt road, their pilots and officers quartered in filthy abandoned buildings with rotting window frames, and no glass? Then some guy shows up from 1942, and everyone acts like that's as normal as someone getting off the bus.
I'm sure someone made money off of this, and there is certainly an audience for this, but...pure crap.