DVD/BLU-RAY

Blu-ray Review - Treasure of the Amazon

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Prolific director Rene Cardona Jr. elects to claim part of the jungle adventure gold rush of the early 1980s with "Treasure of the Amazon," one of three movies he made in 1985. Cardona Jr. is not one to offer hospital corners on his pictures, and this messiness extends to "Treasure of the Amazon," which attempts to create three distinct plotlines about outsiders in the deep jungle hunting for gold and diamonds, tracking separate games of survival as the teams are hit from all sides by danger. The feature isn't a good example of multi-character storytelling, but it does remain on the move, with Cardona Jr. interested in exploitation elements to hold attention, working to give his jungle event some cheap thrills. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Cyclone

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For his second film of 1978, director Rene Cardona Jr. gets away from the unsatisfying mysteries of "The Bermuda Triangle," and tries to latch on to the disaster movie trend with "Cyclone." Of course, he's a little past the peak of the subgenre's popularity during the 1970s, but Cardona Jr. comes armed with a small-scale overview of human suffering, taking a second bite of the Andes Mountain Disaster after overseeing 1976's "Survive!" Instead of revisiting high-altitude danger, "Cyclone" visits the vastness of the ocean, tracking the physical exhaustion and thinning patience of characters lost at sea. Cardona Jr. doesn't have enough cash for the Irwin Allen treatment, but he creates passable misery with the picture, which has some fine moments of agitation contained within a bizarrely long run time. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Bermuda Triangle

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Considering the potential of a story set inside the Bermuda Triangle, it's very disappointing to watch Rene Cardona Jr.'s take on the myth. Instead of dialing up the suspense while managing a ship-based tale of familial troubles colliding with the unknown, the helmer mostly manufactures a soap opera with "The Bermuda Triangle," filling a bloated run time with unexciting events happening to uninteresting people. Sure, there's a cursed doll in the mix (making this play like an "Annabelle" sequel), but the director oversees a strangely casual chiller that's more about banal conversations than nail-biting sequences of survival. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Eye of the Tiger

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Not really cut out for roles that require a great deal of warmth and gentleness, actor Gary Busey goes full exploitation for 1986's "Eye of the Tiger." The screenplay (by Michael Thomas Montgomery) plays to the performer's strengths, tasking him to play a hardened man whose hunt for some type of domestic heaven is destroyed by the deadly ways of a local biker gang that controls the town. Director Richard C. Sarafian (who worked with Busey in 1984's "The Bear") doesn't pretend he's makes a Shakespeare adaptation with the endeavor, diving into merciless violence and heated confrontations, while the material adds a few fantasy touches to make the whole thing wonderfully absurd. "Eye of the Tiger" is slight but entertaining, with Busey offering a steely turn that helps the feature reach its potential as bottom shelf escapism with noticeable hustle and plenty of angry encounters. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Donny's Bar Mitzvah

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Crudeness should have a level of wit to it, helping viewers work through gross-outs and general raunch knowing there's some light at the end of the tunnel. Writer/director Jonathan Kaufman skipped smartness when he put together "Donny's Bar Mitzvah," which is meant to deliver a mockumentary- style faux documentary romp about the titular teen and his special party, which, rather quickly, spins wildly out of control for a collection of characters. Kaufman intentionally aims for the bottom of the barrel with this endeavor, which is relentless in its pursuit of vulgarity. It's a chore to sit through, with the helmer's greatest sin being a lack of invention when it comes to jokes, which there aren't any. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Martha: A Picture Story

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Martha Cooper was once a young woman with a dream to become a working photographer, facing a male-dominated industry that wasn't particularly interested in her talents. Cooper ultimately didn't allow such discouragement to break her spirit, and "Martha: A Picture Story" charts her rise in the industry, gaining widespread respect and fame for her interest in the world of street art, with this artful "writing" finding an unusual guardian in Cooper, who fell in love with the subculture in the 1970s and never looked back. Director Selina Miles is offered access to Cooper, splitting time between interviews and photographic activity as the subject continues her research into the ways of graffiti and its creators. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Adoration

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Director Fabrice du Welz was last seen on screens with 2017's "Message from the King," a largely forgettable endeavor that provided the helmer with a taste of Hollywood-style filmmaking, working with a decent budget and big stars, including Chadwick Boseman. Feeling a bit burned by the experience, du Welz returns to more personal storytelling with 2019's "Adoration," which has more in common with early efforts like "Alleluia" and "Vinyan." He's not making a horror movie with the offering, but "Adoration" triggers a few chills as it examines the ravages of mental illness and the destructive purity of a boy's heart. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Kindred

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Co-writers Joe Marcantonio and Jason McColgan try to summon the spirit of early Polanksi with "Kindred," which shares a great deal in common with "Rosemary's Baby" and a few other paranoid offerings from the director. Marcantonio also makes his feature-length helming debut with the endeavor, aiming to give the audience a deliberately paced ride of panic and despair, hoping to reach a dark psychological space with the movie, which deals intimately with imprisonment and manipulation. "Kindred" isn't a particularly long picture, but it could still do with another editorial pass, with Marcantonio trying a bit too hard to prove himself with dreamscape imagery and prolonged suspense, missing a chance to manufacture an impressive nail-biter with real snowballing potential. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Time Travelers

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The world of B-movies is loaded with tales of sci-fi and weird science, with most productions careful to portion out thrills, saving real action or suspense for the last five minutes of the film. 1964's "The Time Travelers" is the rare endeavor to hit the ground running with its oddity, rarely pausing to deal with melodrama or superfluous characters. Writer/director Ib Melchior is committed to a snappy pace for the effort, which largely details a countdown situation involving an escape from a destroyed Earth. There are pressure points to analyze, mutants to battle, and literal magic tricks to stage, giving "The Time Travelers" plenty to do as it attempts to mount a bravely downbeat study of time loop hell. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Child in the Night

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1990's "Child in the Night" endeavors to understand in the inner workings of a child traumatized by violence. It's a T.V. offering that's not engineered to go too deep into psychological pain, but writer Michael Petryni has a few ideas on the nature of compartmentalization in children that have merit, connecting the fantasy of "Peter Pan" to the horrors of a real-world crime. It's the execution from director Mike Robe that has some trouble figuring out how to bring such feeling to the small screen, creating a thriller that teeters on the edge of self-parody at times, but retains a moderate amount of dramatic power thanks to a cast of professionals who know how to do something with periodically mediocre writing. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Calendar Girl Murders

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"Calendar Girl Murders" is a film that could only be made in 1984. The made-for-television production attempts to bring elements from the world of Playboy Magazine to the small screen, giving the home audience some cheap thrills as "Paradise Magazine" parades around scantily clad women while the production works on a murder mystery to help support what's basically a display of beautiful actresses. The teleplay doesn't put in a significant effort to juice up the detective story, but the production has Tom Skerritt, who delivers a reasonably committed performance, matched well with Sharon Stone, who works hard to keep herself distanced from the ogling nature of the picture. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Are You in the House Alone?

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An adaptation of a Richard Peck novel, 1978's "Are You in the House Alone?" is a television movie that puts in some effort to come across as a horror event, tracking the increasing paranoia of a teenage girl as she's stalked by a demented individual. The endeavor dials up the sinister score, inserts criminal POV shots for maximum slasher impact, and deals with creepy characters. While the picture has a certain level of suspense, it's far more effective as an emotional journey for most of the participants, with writer Judith Parker ("L.A. Law") taking special care to explore the cruelties and frustrations of a sexual assault, trying to ignore the film's genre leanings for as long as she can. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Crestone

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IMDB and various online information related to "Crestone" label the feature a documentary. It's not, actually, with co-writer/director Marnie Ellen Hertzler making it clear throughout the endeavor that she's making a staged representation of possibly real people. "Crestone" follows the struggle of a Soundcloud rap group known as Deadgod, with its members electing to move to the middle of nowhere in Colorado, hoping to find the meaning of life through music and marijuana. Spoiler alert: they don't, but Hertzler tries to make a compelling commercial for the unit, channeling the spirit of Harmony Korine as she spends time with old friends(?) who need all the publicity they can get. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


4K UHD Review - Scanner Cop II

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"Scanner Cop" introduced the character Sam, a cop with scanner abilities trying to find some balance between duty and his telepathic powers. For "Scanner Cop II," Sam is still trying to deal with his history and power, but the screenplay is only marginally paying attention to emotional development. The sequel wants to put on a major show of force when it comes to scanners and their destructive ways, setting up a war of minds that allows for plenty of gore zone visits and intense staring contests from the actors. The loss of an interesting story is a shame, but "Scanner Cop II" delivers more genre highlights, with director Steve Barnett aiming to win viewers over with a grislier take on the "Scanners” universe. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


4K UHD Review - Scanner Cop

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David Cronenberg wasn't pursuing a franchise opportunity when he created 1981's "Scanners," but he managed to inspire the creation of one, without his involvement. Executive producer Pierre David labored to transform the original feature into a series of DTV sequels, achieving some success with 1991's "Scanners II: The New Order" and 1993's "Scanners III: The Takeover." Instead of marching into a fourth installment with the same old telepathic warfare, David elected to slightly change the situation, taking directorial control of 1994's "Scanner Cop," which turns the whole brain- popping concept into a detective story, almost playing like a pilot for a syndicated television show. "Scanner Cop" isn't a major reorganization of the premise, but it tries to merge supercop events with horror happenings, finding some inspiration when it creates a mess with the characters and their squishy minds. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Walking the Edge

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1985's "Walking the Edge" plays an unexpected game of switcheroo with its lead characters. The story is initially presented as a revenge tale spotlighting one woman's mission to murder the punks who killed her husband and son, but the material quickly gives up on that, transitioning to a not-so-innocent bystander, who quickly becomes the focus of the endeavor. There's confusion with this creative choice, which doesn't do the feature any favors, but director Norbert Meisel and writer Curt Allen seem to believe they're making the right decisions to best serve their B-movie. What the production does achieve is smart casting, bringing in Nancy Kwan as the initial gunwoman, while Robert Forster portrays the fringe player-turned- gunman, giving his best effort to make "Walking the Edge" burn with intensity and fear, adding some kooky thespian energy to the film. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - Embattled

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It's been a long time since actor Stephen Dorff delivered an alert performance. He's been working the B-movie circuit for some time, flirting with a few softer diversions (including Sofia Coppola's "Somewhere"), but he's mostly stuck with playing hardened guys in criminal situations. For "Embattled," Dorff is once again tasked with portraying a nasty human being, but the screenplay by David McKenna ("American History X," "Blow") doesn't permit the character to act as flypaper for cliches, putting in the effort to create dimensions for a seasoned MMA fighter struggling with ego and anger issues, gradually recognizing the emptiness of his life. The role is a perfect fit for Dorff, who gives one of his finest performances, and it's a strong film overall, exploring forms of violence and neglect, but also taking a look at the true formation of masculinity and family. There are plenty of hard hits and trash talking, but "Embattled" goes beyond the sport's aggression to grasp the wounded hearts in play. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Nest

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After making a critical splash with 2011's "Martha Marcy May Marlene," writer/director Sean Durkin finally finds his way to a follow-up with 2020's "The Nest." It's a period picture, and one that looks beyond the decorative aspects of the 1980s to understand the decade's particular lust for greed and social standing, following the disintegration of a seemingly happy family. Durkin retains the coldness of "Martha Marcy May Marlene," giving "The Nest" space to examine the souring of personal relationships and the corruption of responsibility. This particular chill doesn't inspire a hypnotic viewing experience, but it does permit the actors an opportunity to find their characters with their own timing and emphasis. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com


Blu-ray Review - The Legend of Hei

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It's important to understand that "The Legend of Hei" is a prequel to a Chinese animated show, with the production working backwards to explore certain characters as they once were before the series began, giving fans a chance to experience an origin story with cinematic scale. If one isn't aware of any connection to an ongoing tale of spirits and humans, "The Legend of Hei" is probably going to lose the average viewer once major world- building begins in the feature's second half. Backstory is plentiful in the endeavor, but when subplots and exposition grow wearisome, the movie does offer a visually compelling understanding of different worlds and odd characters, while the action is surprisingly intense, keeping things agreeably violent and destructive to help outsiders stay invested in what appears to be China's attempt to manufacture a Ghibli-esque take on ways of colonization and the power of magic. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com