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Category:    Home > Reviews > Drama > War > WWII > Genocide > Murder > Russia > Crime > Home Invasion > Thriller > Documentary > Horror > Vamp > Bitter Harvest (2017/Lionsgate DVD)/Black Butterfly (2017/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Dracula: The True Story (1997/MVD/Janson DVD)/Jackie Chan Double Feature: Snake In The Eagle's Shadow/Drunken Master (both

Bitter Harvest (2017/Lionsgate DVD)/Black Butterfly (2017/Lionsgate Blu-ray)/Dracula: The True Story (1997/MVD/Janson DVD)/Jackie Chan Double Feature: Snake In The Eagle's Shadow/Drunken Master (both 1978/Twilight Time Limited Edition Blu-ray)/Navy SEALS Versus Demons (2015/MVD Blu-ray)



Picture: B-/B+/C/B+/B Sound: B-/B+/C/B+/B Extras: C/C/D/B/D Films: B/C/B/B/C



PLEASE NOTE: The Jackie Chan Double Feature Blu-ray is now only available from our friends at Twilight Time, is limited to only 3,000 copies and can be ordered while supplies last from the links below.



Here's a new set of genre thrillers for your consideration, but we start off with a WWII tale....



Bitter Harvest


Set between the two World Wars and based on true historical events, George Mendeluk's Bitter Harvest (2017) is a new period piece film with beautiful cinematography and production design that fans of 20th Century dramas won't want to miss in a controversial story that has up until this point been pretty untold on film. The film centers around a famine called Holodomor, which was engineered by Stalin and took the lives of many.


Set in a time when Ukraine was forced to adjust to the horrifying territorial ambitions of the burgeoning Soviet Union, one man (Irons) fights through the rising of the famine of Holodomor and seeks to protect not only the woman he loves, but his county as well.


Bitter Harvest stars Max Irons (The Host), Samantha Barks (Les Miserables), Barry Pepper (Battlefield Earth), and Terence Stamp (The Limey, Superman II, The Collector, Star Wars: Episode One) to name a few in a story that is tough but needed to be shown.


Presented in standard definition with an anamorphic widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and a lossy English 5.1 Dolby Digital track, the film could definitely benefit to a higher definition release as the transfer isn't nearly as rich and detailed as it should be. Still, the look works.


No Digital UV copy.


Special Feature...


Photo Gallery - A Look At Bitter Harvest



While we didn't review an HD version, this is definitely a film that could benefit from a 1080p or 2160p transfer in the future. Still, a worthwhile watch and definitely a subject that history buffs will find interestingly portrayed.



Black Butterfly


'A Killer Story With A Twist' is what the Blu-ray slipcase promises for Brian Goodman's Black Butterfly (2017), the new thriller starring Antonio Banderas and Jonathan Rhys Meyers that is a spin on the home invasion genre. The film also stars Piper Perabo (who is really great and should be used in better films), Abel Ferrara, and Vincent Riotta.


Owing some debt to the Johnny Depp/Stephen King vehicle Secret Window, the film pits an aging author (Banderas) against a drifter (Meyers) that he picks up hitchhiking after he defends him from an angry truck driver in a small town diner. Taking him to his house in seclusion, where he is struggling with writers block and alcoholism over his new novel, Banderas lets Meyers shack up at his place for a few nights. However, Meyers gets a little too personal and close for comfort and soon, Banderas finds his seemingly peaceful private life upturned with those close to him in danger.


The film is shot well and the acting and direction isn't bad overall, but this has one of the worst endings I've ever seen in any film that feels truly tagged on at the end. I'm still not going to spoil anything for you, but this is a film full of clues throughout that if you observe closely, has a twist that's pretty easy to pull out, yet may shock some.


The problem is too many twists, as if they didn't know how to end the film so the filmmakers kept throwing darts at a dart board hoping that one would stick. While the premise is intriguing (though as I mentioned with Secret Window, a film about a writer being stalked by a killer in his secluded getaway isn't the most original concept) and Banderas gives an interesting performance (even though his career has kind of wound up in obscurity these days), it's not enough to make this film worthy of recommendation.


The presentation on the disc is impeccable with a 1080p high definition transfer and a 2.39:1 widescreen aspect ratio paired with a lossless DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) 5.1 track giving the film a nice home viewing experience. The film has a desaturated and earthy tones and a few aerial shots, namely of the curving countryside in the beginning of the film, that look nice on disc. Little issues with compression throughout and the dialogue and score are nicely mixed.


A digital UV copy is also included.


Special Features:


Commentary with Director Brian Goodman and Co-Writer Marc Frydman


''Black Butterfly: Backstage'' featurette



Black Butterfly is a great build-up with an ending that sadly doesn't deliver. However, Banderas and Perabo are pretty good and Meyers plays a character that's easy to loathe. I don't see too many repeat viewings of this in my future, though.



Dracula: The True Story


Count Dracula remains of the biggest icons in Horror both in film and book forms. This documentary, Dracula: The True Story, is similar but shorter than InterVision's recent Trail of Dracula doc that came out last October 2016. This version shows lots of clips from Francis Ford Coppola's film, Nosferatu, and other Dracula films and a brings some interesting theories to life on screen.


Accompanied with a British voiceover, the doc goes into the origins of the novel with Bram Stoker, while highlighting through experts and historians who reveal the characters similarities to Vlad Tepes and Vlad the Impaler. While some argue that Stoker wasn't aware of Vlad at the time of the writings, others disagree. Bringing new life to the vampire genre, Stoker's story of Count Dracula will never cease to inspire filmmakers and writers for centuries to come.


There are some interesting interviews on the disc including Brianna Caradja, a descendant of Vlad Tepes, who takes a bit about her famous ancestor and Christian Honigsmann, a dermatologist, who suggests that the illness of porphyria in Transylvania at the time was the cause for the vampire craze.


Presented in standard definition with a 1.33:1 full frame aspect ratio, the highly compressed video and lossy Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo track on the disc could definitely use the HD treatment with needed upgrades. Details are nearly nonexistent and colors are muted.


Released in 1997, this (presumably made for TV) look at the character of Dracula is interesting, but nothing necessarily new to experts of the character.


No Extras.



Jackie Chan: Snake In the Eagle's Shadow/Drunken Master


When watching an early Jackie Chan film, it's hard to not stare in awe and shock at how effortlessly and fluent his stunt choreography is. This is illustrated masterfully in this great new Blu-ray double feature from Twilight Time which features Director Yuen Wo Ping's Snake In The Eagle's Shadow (1978) and the hilarious and action packed classic Drunken Master (1978). Both have been fully restored and have never looked better than they do in this highly limited edition set.


The films also star Yuen Hsiao Tieng, Huang Cheng Li, Shih Tien, and Hsu Hsia.


In Snake In The Eagle's Shadow, Chan plays a boy who is used as a janitor at his kung-fu school. He can't fight and is always getting bullied by the teachers and pupils until one day he is given a unique opportunity when an old man helps him train in an art of kung-fu called the 'Snake's Fist'. Mixing this art with his own signature style, Chan soon becomes an unstoppable force to be reckoned with.. and (SPOILER) even saves his Master in peril!


In Drunken Master (not to be confused with Legend of the Drunken Master, a later Jackie Chan outing), Chan stars as Naughty Panther, a title earned because of his lack of discipline. Constantly clowning around when he should be learning Kung Fu and outshining every fighter that crosses his path, his father sends him to live with and study under his uncle: a sadistic Master with the reputation of crippling his students. Meanwhile, a rival landowner places a price on Fei Hung's father's head, bringing kung fu action to the table!


This HD restoration of the films on Blu-ray disc is noticeable at first glance as the prints are very clean and the character detail far more impressive than previous incarnations. There are 1080p high definition transfer a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 (both were shot in real anamorphic 35mm Panavision) and a nice sounding 1.0 DTS-HD MA (Master Audio) Mono tracks with language tracks in Cantonese, Mandarin, and English. The sound effects on the films are humorous with the canned 'chopping' sound that has become recognized as a trait of old kung-fu films. The Hong Kong locations are mind blowing and translate to HD quite well here. I was pretty impressed with how good this disc looks.


Special Features...


Isolated Music & Effects Tracks


Drunken Master Audio Commentary track with Film Historians Ric Meyers and Jeff Yang


Collectible insert booklet with linear notes by Julie Kirgo



This is a must have for Kung Fu and Jackie Chan fans! These films look great on this limited edition Twilight Time! When revisiting these films, it's hard to not wish that Chan and Bruce Lee could have shared the silver screen together. What a great matchup that would have been!



Navy Seals Versus Demons


It says it all in the title. Navy Seals Versus Demons (2015) is a low budget action flick that borrows heavily from '80s Cannon Film plot points, but takes itself a little too seriously at times when it should be having more fun with its outrageous premise. Produced by A.K. Waters, who is also responsible for Navy Seals vs. Zombies, the idea of taking normal trained military soldiers and pitting them against the supernatural is the basic (and silly) premise in that they approach the demons as they would any other criminal. However light on budget, the film manages to have some decent special effects here and there but that doesn't make up for the messy plot and messier acting.


The film stars Mikal Vega, Matthew R. Robinson, Les Brooks Jr., Llana Mendoza, and Tim Abell and is directed by Jeff Reyes.


When 'Demons from Hell' take over Jack County, Texas - a group of badass Navy SEALS are sent in to take out the demons before their hatred spreads and they take over the world! Putting their own personal demons aside and attempting to work together, this ragtag team soon finds that this demons aren't like their normal human adversaries they are used to.


Presented in 1080p high definition with a widescreen aspect ratio of 2.35:1 and a lossy English LPCM 2.0 track, neither of which are super impressive, nor terrible. Some later in the film are quick dark and not too much visual style per say that puts the look of the film above the ranks of a Sy-Fi or Asylum movie. The film has some red and blue tones, without too much compression as the disc has plenty of space since there are no extras.


Navy SEALS versus Zombies could be more fun than it is given with its insane premise that leaves the possibilities pretty endless. Overall, they should have gone a more ''From Dusk Till Dawn'' route with this instead of trying to make some kind of bizarre '80s throwback film.



To order The Disappearance and Leave Her To Heaven limited edition Blu-ray, buy it and other great exclusives while supplies last at these links:


www.screenarchives.com


and


http://www.twilighttimemovies.com/



- James Lockhart

https://www.facebook.com/jamesharlandlockhartv/


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