Blu-ray Review - Pleasure


Co-writer/director Ninja Thyberg originally shot "Pleasure" as a short film in 2013, helping to attract attention to her burgeoning career with a look at the technical ways and psychological damage of the adult film industry. Returning to the material, Thyberg looks to expand the experience for the lead character, depicted here as a young Swedish woman hoping to break into the business doing whatever she can to score gigs. Thyberg increases the run time and ups the graphic content, but there's little dramatic expansion for "Pleasure," which plays with a certain bluntness, but any emotionality is difficult to find. The troubling details of life in X-rated entertainment is what holds attention here, as Thyberg doesn't have much in the way of characterization, presenting a simplistic take on the deadening arc of a pornography participant. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

4K UHD Review - Cloak and Dagger


1982 was a big year for actor Henry Thomas, who wowed the world with his marvelous performance in Steven Spielberg's masterpiece, "E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial." 1983 was a big year for director Richard Franklin, who managed to beat dismal expectations and provide a reasonable ride with "Psycho II," immersing himself in Hitchcock fandom and technique, emerging with a surprise hit. 1984 paired Franklin and Thomas for "Cloak & Dagger," which endeavored to merge spunky kid film fun with a Hitchcockian thriller, using the popular worlds of video games and unsupervised children to inspire a strange combination of juvenile antics and adult intensity. Franklin and screenwriter Tom Holland don't seem to care about the target demographic for "Cloak & Dagger," charging ahead with a collection of life-and-death moments, many of which involve an 11-year-old boy and the dangers of his imagination. It's a tonal tightrope walk for the production, and while Franklin struggles a bit with pacing, he remains committed to a real sense of danger, giving the effort unusual tension. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Harlem Nights


In the years leading up to the production of 1989's "Harlem Nights," star Eddie Murphy was viewed as basically unstoppable. He was young, hilarious, and participated in major box office hits, including the top-grossing movie of 1984, "Beverly Hills Cop." Hollywood quickly learned Murphy could put butts in seats, even for mediocre endeavors, such as 1986's "The Golden Child," and he managed to turn a stand-up comedy feature (1987's "Raw") into event cinema. Murphy was everything, especially to Paramount Pictures, who looked to the actor to generate blockbusters, including 1987's "Beverly Hills Cop II," and especially 1988's "Coming to America," which wasn't warmly received by critics and not expected to reach a large audience by the studio, but it became a word-of-mouth smash, proving Murphy didn't need a gun or a fast mouth to inspire ticket sales. By 1989, Murphy could make any project he wanted to, and he did, putting himself in charge of "Harlem Nights," which marked his directorial debut. Suddenly, the superstar was the principal creative force for a period gangster film, generating a major ego-stroke effort that also happens to be incredibly entertaining, periodically hilarious, and loaded with outstanding talent both in front of and behind the camera. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Fire in the Sky


In 1975, Travis Walton disappeared for five days after chasing a beam of light in the forest. When he returned, he claimed he was abducted by aliens, with members of a timber stand improvement crew witnessing the initial contact. Instead of retiring to a quieter life to deal with his trauma, the abductee elected to profit off his newfound fame, creating the 1978 book, "The Walton Experience." 1993's "Fire in the Sky" is an adaptation of Walton's story, with screenwriter Tracy Torme taking on the challenge of finding dramatic possibilities in a tale that only holds sensationalistic value. Torme is mostly successful creating a shape to "Fire in the Sky," wisely turning Walton into a supporting character while director Rob Lieberman goes for a balance of horror and heart in this attempt to remain sensitive about a dubious claim. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

4K UHD Review - Thriller, A Cruel Picture


In the supplementary materials on the release of 1973's "Thriller, A Cruel Picture," interviewees discuss writer/director Bo Arne Vibenius's frustration with the failure of his first feature, a family movie offering softness to a wide audience. Inspired to create a hit film, Vibenius set out to manufacture an effort guaranteed to offend, hoping the endeavor would be banned in his native Sweden, giving him the perfect marketing hook. His plan worked, turning "Thriller, A Cruel Picture" into a buzzy sensation, pushing down on viewers with its extreme nihilism, graphic violence, and hardcore sex footage. Vibenius achieved his creative goals, but such severity doesn't automatically make for an arresting viewing experience, with the helmer getting lost in his quest for atmosphere, slowing this revenge story to a full stop far too many times. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Immoral Three


Director Doris Wishman had a dream, and after the death of her husband in 1958, she decided to pursue a career in filmmaking, focusing on sexploitation entertainment, hoping to reach an audience with lusty tales of revenge and love. 1975's "The Immoral Three" is part of her colorful oeuvre, acting a sequel to "Double Agent 73," though star Chesty Morgan didn't return for additional spy games. How does one replace such an unforgettable screen presence? By hiring three actresses to take care of nudity requirements, which is meant to make up for Morgan's noticeable absence. Wishman remains committed to a tale of men vs. women with "The Immoral Three," offering bloody violence and acts of savage male behavior, trying to pick up where "Double Agent 73" left off, also working to up her technical game with a bright, more camera-aware endeavor that doesn't live up to its potential, but offers decent Wishman-branded fun for those patient enough to find it. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Double Agent 73


Director Doris Wishman had a dream, and after the death of her husband in 1958, she decided to pursue a career in filmmaking, focusing on sexploitation entertainment, hoping to reach an audience with lusty tales of revenge and love. 1974's "Double Agent 73" is part of her colorful oeuvre, reuniting with "Deadly Weapons" star Chesty Morgan for another tale of danger and desire, this time endeavoring to offer audiences a slight spin on the superspy subgenre, positioning the unmissable star as a 007-type trying to bring down bad guys using many forms of self-defense and assassination attempts that involve a large bosom. Wishman's a bit more ambitious with "Double Agent 73," trying to expand on earlier experimentation with action and suspense, and she lands some decent scenes of low-budget fury. The helmer doesn't provide a sustained level of excitement, but the effort has some memorable moments and genuine craziness to make it an entertaining sit. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Deadly Weapons


Director Doris Wishman had a dream, and after the death of her husband in 1958, she decided to pursue a career in filmmaking, focusing on sexploitation entertainment, hoping to reach an audience with lusty tales of revenge and love. 1973's "Deadly Weapons" is part of her colorful oeuvre, with Wishman presenting actress Chesty Morgan to the world (billed here as Zsa Zsa), offering the exotic dancer a chance to carry a movie. "Deadly Weapons" does make the most of what Morgan is known for, keeping pressure off her thespian skills to move ahead as a campy tale of relationship devotion and vengeance, with Wishman working to build an exciting, titillating tale of a busty woman and her thirst to destroy the men who ruined her life. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Keyholes Are for Peeping


Director Doris Wishman had a dream, and after the death of her husband in 1958, she decided to pursue a career in filmmaking, focusing on sexploitation entertainment, hoping to reach an audience with lusty tales of revenge and love. 1972's "Keyholes Are for Peeping" is part of her colorful oeuvre, with the helmer aiming to create a farce starring Sammy Petrillo, a comedian best known as a Jerry Lewis imitator, and one Lewis didn't enjoy. Once again, Petrillo brings his strong "we have Jerry Lewis at home" energy to the endeavor, portraying a marriage counselor trying to connect with his first patients. "Keyholes Are for Peeping" is barely a movie to begin with, with Wishman finding ways to recycle or utilize old softcore footage, conjuring a comedy that's big on broad antics and lusty visuals, with Petrillo in the middle of it all, hamming it up to the best of his ability. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Love Toy


Director Doris Wishman had a dream, and after the death of her husband in 1958, she decided to pursue a career in filmmaking, focusing on sexploitation entertainment, hoping to reach an audience with lusty tales of revenge and love. 1971's "Love Toy" is part of her colorful oeuvre, with Wishman doing away with any dramatic interests, charging ahead with a full-on fetish picture that plays to taboo desires. Wishman doesn't have anything more than a to-do list of sexual adventures, trying to transform "Love Toy" into a strange psychological and physical display of bedroom experiences. There's no feature here, just an assortment of kinks handed screen time, tied together with the thinnest of plot, buttoned with a true B- movie ending. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - The Phantom of the Opera


There's so much to appreciate about Dario Argento's work in the 1970s and most of the '80s, with the helmer in full command of his moviemaking powers, still burning with youthful creativity and audacity when it comes to shocking audiences with mysteries and horror. The 1990s welcomed the beginning of a creative decline for the helmer, who struggled with a changing film industry and audience tastes. 1998's "The Phantom of the Opera" is a prime example of Argento's desire to create something extraordinarily bizarre and lavish, only to be held back by budgetary issues and a blurred vision for romanticism. It's an oddball endeavor, with occasional flashes of inspiration, but the overall effort is often confused, poorly cast, and a bit too random with its ideas. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century


Dino De Laurentiis actually did it. The famous producer hyped the stuffing out of his 1976 remake of "King Kong," making sure audiences everywhere knew the film was coming and it was going to be an event. He worked his publicity magic to the extreme, managing to turn the feature into a major hit – number four on the list of top-grossing movies of the year (sandwiched between "Silver Streak" and "A Star is Born"). De Laurentiis willed his production into tremendous profitability, and when there's money to be made, knockoffs aren't far behind. 1977's "Yeti: Giant of the 20th Century" is one of many cranked out during the late 1970s, with the Italian endeavor hoping to inspire their own "King Kong" energy with the tale of a recently thawed Yeti who can't handle the pressures of modern life, with his soul soothed by the beauty of a young woman. De Laurentiis had a top shelf cast and agreeable special effects, while "Yeti" frequently struggles with crude technical achievements and an overall lack of property destruction, concentrating on heart instead of horror, which makes this howler all the more ridiculous. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Videophobia


2019's "Videophobia" is co-writer/director Daisuke Miyazaki's attempt to address the lack of privacy in the digital age, with those looking to cause harm capable of doing so rather easily, putting the burden of justice on the victim, and options are limited. It's not a statement picture, but an atmospheric one, with the production turning to the surreal and the mysterious to understand a psychological erosion happening within the lead character, who endures a shocking event in her life she doesn't fully understand. "Videophobia" arrives in the midst of rising revenge porn and deepfake cases, and while Miyazaki doesn't directly address the mental health and legal crisis, he hopes to provide a more internalized journey of horror through filmmaking artfulness. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - King Car


"King Car" is a Brazilian production looking to combine elements of a horror film with social commentary concerning many issues facing the country, including class divide. It's co-written and directed by Renata Pinherio, who strives to make an artful picture filled with displays of shock value and general weirdness, which includes scenes of a female character having sex with a car. If you thought "Titane" was the only movie interested in the carnal cravings of automobiles, you'd be wrong, but Julie Ducournau's feature was something to behold, with a level of insanity that invited a deeper inspection of artistry. "King Car" is mostly a mess of ideas, with Pinherio too caught up in the madness she's creating with this riff on Stephen King's "Christine," unable to form a story out of the screenplay's borderline random assortment of images and incidents. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Almost Summer


1978's "Almost Summer" represents a transition in teen-centric storytelling, moving past the beach party movies of the 1960s while inching toward a more sympathetic understanding of adolescent concerns, as found in features throughout the 1980s. It wants to be many things for many audiences, which ultimately prevents the endeavor from becoming something truly memorable. Director Martin Davidson ("The Lords of Flatbush," "Eddie and the Cruisers") has a large collection of characters to manage, and an eager cast to make magic for the cameras, but the writing is often stuck while trying to be silly and sincere, becoming a sluggish, melodramatic study of growing pains and relationship challenges, also delving into the bitter world of politics and all the treachery that includes. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

4K UHD Review - Lifeforce


The question of who really directed 1982's "Poltergeist" remains an active mystery to this day. Tobe Hooper is the credited helmer, and some cast members have reinforced his leadership role during filming. Other production members have suggested co-writer/producer Steven Spielberg was the true creative guiding force, with Hooper more of an employee than a visionary. Perhaps the truth behind this strange collaboration will never be revealed, but "Poltergeist" was a crackerjack horror picture that employed tremendous style and furious surges of mayhem to help update a traditional haunted house tale. It was also a massive box office hit, giving Hooper a chance to become an in-demand director, with 1985's "Lifeforce" his follow- up project, and it's nowhere near the quality of the previous feature. Hooper takes full command of another genre endeavor, joined by co-writer Dan O'Bannon ("Alien"), and while he's offered a large budget and creative control from Cannon Films (trying to craft their first summer blockbuster), the director just doesn't get this extremely oddball movie off the ground. "Lifeforce" is an adaptation of a 1976 Colin Wilson novel, challenging the production to deal with the demands of literary storytelling and the potential of a sci-fi extravaganza. The project comes up short in many ways, often so excited to simply present the image of a nude female on the move, it neglects to build a rich sense of menace and intrigue when dealing with the enigmatic plans of space vampires and their attack on Earth. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Sunnyside


In the late 1970s, there was no bigger name than John Travolta. He successfully transitioned from a successful television show to big screen glory, scoring back-to-back hits with "Saturday Night Fever" and "Grease," making him one of the most famous faces in Hollywood. John Travolta became a brand, an icon, and a superstar, but this is not the Travolta that appears in 1979's "Sunnyside." The producers couldn't tempt John Travolta into appearing in the low-budget gang picture, so they went the exploitation route, hiring his older brother, Joey, to make his acting debut in the movie, emphasizing similar looks and voices while selling a new Travolta to ticket-buyers hungry for the surname. The scheme didn't work for obvious reasons, but not helping the cause is the general meandering nature of "Sunnyside," which hopes to be a tragic understanding of a life handed over to the never-ending cycle of street violence, but mostly remains an airless, deathly dull viewing experience in need of sharper dramatic points and, well, a seasoned lead actor, preferably not named Travolta. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Games of Survival


For his directorial debut, Armand Gazarian attempts to participate in the home video gold rush of the 1980s, assembling "Games of Survival" (titled "Game of Survival" on the Blu-ray packaging), which presents low-fi action for evenings of VHS rental roulette. Gazarian doesn't come armed with a major budget, locations, and actors, getting by on the bare minimum of technical achievements, electing to shoot the endeavor on 8mm, giving it the general atmosphere of a student production. "Games of Survival" doesn't aim high when it comes to dramatic engagement, but Gazarian is looking to land a basic actioner with sci-fi touches, trying his hardest to make some B-movie magic with grungy cinematography and modest fight choreography. There's a mild sense of appealing lunacy in play, but there's nothing here that's too challenging for genre fans. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com

Blu-ray Review - Ilya Muromets


1956's "Ilya Muromets" was intended to be a major moviegoing event for Russian audiences, with director Aleksandr Ptushko throwing everything he had into the creation of the Cinemascope epic, which is inspired by "Russian heroic folk tales." The feature wasn't welcomed with open arms in America, soon recut and retitled by Roger Corman (presenting the more eye-catching "The Sword and the Dragon"), who aimed to transform the endeavor into a matinee distraction. And a copy of the picture eventually found its way to the "Mystery Science Theater 3000" gang, who riffed the re- edit in a particularly amusing 1994 episode of the show. "Ilya Muromets" has now returned, restored by Mosfilm, who hope to present the effort the way it was originally seen by Russian viewers, reinforcing the amazing scope of the feature as Ptushko's imagination is celebrated throughout the viewing experience, with the helmer striving to bring fantasy to life. Read the rest at Blu-ray.com