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Cemetery Without Crosses Blu-ray Review: Franco-Spanish Spaghetti Western

Robert Hossein's Euro-Western is long on style and brooding, short on story and character.
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Filmed in Spain, with a mostly French cast directed by (and starring) the French Robert Hossein and with a screenplay co-credited to the Italian Dario Argento, Cemetery Without Crosses is, of course, a Western set in Texas. It’s interesting to consider how the Western, which had captured the imagination of the world enough that a cottage industry of European Westerns existed for decades, has now almost completely disappeared. Genres come and go (the screwball comedy has never been really successfully revived, and whenever a modern musical comes around to “revive the genre” is does so by not looking, or feeling

Batman Unlimited: Monster Mayhem Blu-ray Combo Pack Review: The Joker is Back to Take Over the World

...and give Batman another exciting adventure.
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Batman is back for another film in the Unlimited series that is based on a toy line in a semi-futuristic universe. Once again, Green Arrow, Nightwing, and Red Robin come along for the ride but this time a new hero has been added to the mix, Cyborg. And while in the previous film they found themselves up against a group of animal-themed villains, in this latest incarnation they are fighting Silver Banshee, Solomon Grundy, Scarecrow, and Clayface with The Joker as their leader. The villanous group is collecting random pieces of electronic equipment to allow them to upload a laughing

He Ran All The Way Blu-ray Review: Beautiful Cinematography Elevates Standard Noir

A small thriller (John Garfield's last film) draped in spectacular black and white imagery by cinematographer James Wong Howe.
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He Ran All The Way was written by Dalton Trumbo and directed by John Berry, both just before they were blacklisted in Hollywood as Community Sympathizers after the HUAC hearings. Try as I might, I couldn’t find much Red propaganda in the film. What I did find was a taut, beautifully shot little thriller about a guy who terrorizes and invades the home of a girl who, had he met her just the day before, he would have probably dated her for a while, maybe even got married. It was a mess of circumstance and bad habits and pretending to

La Grande Bouffe Review: Strangely Succeeds Despite Its Uncomfortable Content

Warning: You may need several bottles of Pepto Bismol and a few grains of salt for this one.
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As many of us know, 1970s cinema was a changing time in a new kind of filmmaking, where the content was more sexually graphic and explicit than the decades before it. The most pivotal films of this kind included Bertolucci's Last Tango in Paris and Pasolini's Salo, or The 120 Days of Sodom, which were censored and banned outright. But since then, the shock of these films have become tamer and less explicit than films now are. Director Marco Ferreri's scandalous 1973 cult feature, La Grande Bouffe (The Big Feast), his once extremely controversial "food and sex" epic, joins these

Yellowbeard Blu-ray Review: A Brutal and Brutally Unfunny Pirate

Half of Monty Python, a gaggle of Mel Brooks regulars, and James Mason waste their time and ours.
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As is the case with a number of cinematic failures, the production history of Yellowbeard is far more interesting than anything that actually made it to the screen. Star and cowriter Graham Chapman’s behind-the-scenes book has the details — among them, the film was partially financed by The Who’s Keith Moon and featured aborted involvement from Adam Ant and an unused soundtrack from Harry Nilsson. These may not seem like scintillating revelations, but compared to the film — well, let’s just say an oral history from Adam Ant on all the roles he didn’t play would probably be a better

The Babysitter Blu-ray Review: For Those Too Scared to Watch Cinemax

Alicia Silverstone shows she's still clueless in this 1990s erotic thriller lacking in both areas.
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Clueless remains one of my favorite films of all time. From the minute I saw its pastel colored world of baby-doll dresses and platform shoes, worn to success by the luminously blonde Alicia Silverstone, she taught me everything I needed to know about beauty, fashion, and to always leave a note when you sideswipe another car. In the wake of what I call Clueless-mania, Silverstone became Hollywood's "it" girl, a moniker that was never proven despite her success in Amy Heckerling's film. The Babysitter, released just three months after Clueless as a means of capitalizing on Silverstone's success, sailed by

Twilight Time Presents: Absolute Beginnings and Bitter Endings

From Bowie to Brando to Blofelds, this selection of five fairly forgotten flicks has an awful lot going on.
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For all things in life, there is a beginning and an end. And somewhere in the middle of all that mess, there is usually a great big production number. Sometimes, we start out with a big bang. In other instances, we go out with a grand finale worthy of the ending from All That Jazz at the most, or - at the very least - Ed Wood's Plan 9 from Outer Space. Providing you're working on a really restrictive budget, that is. And while this lineup of Twilight Time releases sadly has no correlation to the magnificent offerings of Edward

X-Men: Days of Future Past: The Rogue Cut Blu-ray Review: Two Versions of the Same Story

For those looking to spend more time with the X-Men, The Rogue Cut will satisfy.
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After two movies away from the helm, Bryan Singer returned to the director's chair for the triumphant blockbuster Days of Future Past, which blends the two iterations of the franchise into one continuity. Based on the landmark issues X-Men #141 and #142 by Chris Claremont and John Bryne, Days of Future Past finds humanity on the brink of extinction after a robot force known as the Sentinels intended to wipe out mutants comes to the realization that humans are the source of mutations. Mankind's only hope is Wolverine (Hugh Jackman) going back in time to stop Mystique (Jennifer Lawrence) from

La Grande Bouffe Blu-ray Review: A Feast For The Senses That Leaves One Overstuffed

Marco Ferreri's controversial film gets a grand treatment from Arrow Video, but leaves one filling a bit sick to the stomach.
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They say Catherine Deneuve refused to speak to her then lover Marcello Mastroianni for a week after seeing his performance in La Grande Bouffe. It created a huge stir at the Cannes Film Festival. It was rated X in America, banned outright in Italy, and became part of a censorship legal battle in Britain. It is surprising, then, just how tame the film seems from a modern angle. You’ll see more nudity and sex on a typical episode of Game of Thrones, more abandoned gluttony on any number of reality-television programs, and more scatological humor on any given night of

Psycho Beach Party Blu-ray Review: The Lovechild of Norman Bates, Gidget, and Mrs. Vorhees

It's like a Scooby Doo mystery for adults.
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Psycho Beach Party bills itself as "a 50's psychodrama, a 60's beach movie, and a 70's slasher film" [sic]. The original stage play was adapted to film by its author Charles Busch back in 2000, and now it's seeing a high definition Blu-ray release 15 years later. It's an eclectic mix that works in its own strange way, but I can see why it never quite reached mass appeal. Its gross take in the first six months of release was less than a fifth of what it cost to make. You can pair up psychotics and slasher films without much

Still of the Night Blu-ray Review: Not Everything Meryl is Gold

Little life or suspense is contained in this sluggish Hitchcock homage.
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Meryl Streep. An actress often named among the greatest actresses who ever lived. An actress whom, many claim, has never starred in a bad picture. I debunk that myth and point to this 1982 mystery thriller, Still of the Night, now on Blu-ray through Kino's KL Studio Classics. It's certainly interesting watching this Hitchcock throwback; and it couldn't have come at a more propitious time in Streep's career - released eight months after she won an Oscar for Sophie's Choice. However, despite the reteaming of Streep with director Robert Benton, helmer of Kramer vs. Kramer, Still of the Night is

Jonathan Strange & Mr. Norrell Blu-ray Review: A Magical Series About Real Magic in England

A faithful adaptation of the modern classic novel, a complicated and convoluted fantasy story about rival wizards in 19th-century England.
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There are people who cannot handle fantasy. There are viewers who think that any mention of the specifically impossible (instead of what fiction is normally filled with, which is the "practically impossible" or the "completely improbable") invalidates a story. I know people who like Game of Thrones who get upset at the dragons and the Red Woman and the White Walkers - which is strange, since the very first scene of the first episode has White Walkers in it - they came first. Those elements are "unrealistic", while all the other made up stuff is taken in stride. For the

Orphan Black Season Three Blu-ray Review: Maslany Clones a Success

BBC America's ambitious sci-fi show returns its focus to Maslany's multiple characters.
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The latest season of Orphan Black is easily superior to Season Two for one reason: more Tatiana Maslany. Where the previous season got derailed by far too much exploration of the newly introduced male clones played by Ari Millen, these episodes wisely keep the focus on Maslany’s many delightful guises. That’s not to say the overall arc for the season makes much sense, but at least we’re consistently entertained by Maslany’s clone characters. As the new season gets underway, deranged and unstable clone Helena is locked away in a secret military compound, left so isolated that she begins having conversations

Insurgent Blu-ray Review: Improved FX Help It Surge Above Its Predecessor

The second entry in The Divergent Series benefits from fancy special effects but not much else.
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The films of The Divergent Series have firmly established themselves in the second tier of young-adult literature adaptations, joined by such other lesser lights as The Maze Runner and Percy Jackson films. This second film in the series doesn’t contribute much to change that position, aside from a noticeably larger effort in the special effects department. There’s very little action to be had here, and far too much dialogue, leading to a largely unconvincing film punctuated by occasional bursts of CGI wizardry. Now that our heroine Tris (Shailene Woodley) has discovered her true nature as a powerful divergent, she and

A Month in the Country Blu-ray Review: The Film Birth of Branagh and Firth

Twilight Time releases this beautifully rendered ode to art and life for the first time on Blu-ray.
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British cinema has a style, a feeling all its own, which is why some of the world's greatest actors and actresses hail from the land of our past oppressors (I say that with love, of course!). With that being said, it's great to look back at certain British films and see our top actors back when they were just beginning, as is the case with Twilight Time's recent Blu-ray release of 1987's A Month in the Country. A quiet, meditative film, A Month in the Country gave us the acting debuts of both Kenneth Branagh and Colin Firth, playing roles

Heaven Adores You Blu-ray Review: As Personal as Elliot Smith's Music

The friends and family of Elliot Smith create a beautifully intimate film about his life and music.
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I wanted to watch and review Heaven Adores You, the new documentary about Elliot Smith, because I am a huge Elliot Smith fan. Though I cannot claim to have discovered Smith’s music off of a mixtape out of the Portland music scene, my connection to his music is still a deeply personal one. I believe that such a personal connection is a common thread among Elliot Smith fans, regardless how or when they discovered his music. When I heard the news that Elliot Smith had died, I was riding shotgun in my manager’s car. We were on our way to

Justice League: Gods and Monsters Blu-ray Review: A Lot of Sizzle Without a Lot at Stake

A dark and gritty alternative to the bleak and dreary comics.
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Justice League: Gods and Monsters is the all-new original movie that marks the return of Bruce Timm to the DC animated universe and features a version of the Justice League vastly different from the one we know. Imagine a brutal and violent Superman, an even more brutal and violent Batman who isn't Bruce Wayne, and a brutally violent Wonder Woman who wasn't forged from clay and you've got... well hey now, that actually doesn't sound all that different from the bleak and joyless characters currently being featured in DC films and comics, does it? Come to think of it, the

Cannibal Ferox Blu-ray Review: Umberto Lenzi's Unforgiving Subgenre Swan Song

The notorious cash-in of a craze beget by the cash-in of a cash-in makes its much-needed (?) High-Definition debut courtesy the finely deranged folks at Grindhouse Releasing.
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In 1970, with the entire world in a state of change, Elliot Silverstein's A Man Called Horse was released to cinemas. Like the environment that spawned it, the film was about a transformation: a white man named John Morgan (as played by the late Richard Harris) - captured and enslaved by a group of Native Americans - soon becomes one with the very tribe that had previously seized and humiliated him. Of course, no groundbreaking work of art goes unnoticed abroad - especially in Italy, where filmmakers were keen to cash-in on anything that generated so much as a dollar-fifty

Cemetery Without Crosses Blu-ray Review: An Obscure French Western Gets Its Day

The Good, The Bad, and the Boring.
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About the time the western genre was growing stale in America, European filmmakers picked it right back up. More than 600 different Westerns were made in Europe between 1960 and 1980. While they were made in just about every country on that continent, the majority came from Italians. The most famous and arguably best examples of European Westerns come from the Italian Sergio Leone and his Dollars Trilogy. While the Spaghetti Western may have ruled they day, a great many other European countries got into the western game as well. Cemetery Without Crosses is one such film. Made in 1969

Slow West Blu-ray Review: Like Death, Westerns Are Universal

German-Irish actor Michael Fassbender stars and co-produces this New Zealand-made tale from the American West, which features many a Scotsman and Aussie. How's that for diversity?
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With the American western genre all but dead, this is as good of a time as any for filmmakers from other corners of the globe to try their hand at something the Italians once perfected in the 1960s: revamping it. In 2005, Australian musician Nick Cave (our deepest of condolences to you and yours, good sir) penned a screenplay for The Proposition. In 2010, the Aussies brought us a great contemporary western entitled Red Hill. Sadly, neither film really garnered enough attention stateside in order to reignite the flame of passion for the cowboy movie. Well, here we are in

42nd Street / Ladyhawke / Wolfen Blu-ray Reviews: The Musical, Magical, and Mythical

The Warner Archive Collection brings us three classic catalogue titles out of the Standard and into the realms of High-Definition.
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In continuing their fine tradition of reviving the occasional catalogue title for today's HD-savvy generations, the Warner Archive Collection has been releasing more vintage titles to Blu-ray than ever before. Recently, three classic titles from one end of yesteryear or another - the 1933 musical 42nd Street, the oddball 1986 magical fantasy/comedy/adventure Ladyhawke, and the mythical 1981 urban horror flick Wolfen - landed on my doorstep; each as far removed from the other as can be. My trio of diversity begins with the 1933 musical 42nd Street, as choreographed by the great Busby Berkeley and directed by the one and

My Beautiful Laundrette Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Film Stands the Test of Time

A groundbreakingly potent depiction of bleak social commentary
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When discussing some of the most influential LGBT films, Stephen Frears' 1985 modern classic My Beautiful Laundrette usually is one of the most talked about, because it doesn't just address the unforunate issues of homophobia, but also the brutal, sometimes tragic aspects of racism, social status, and cultural differences. One of the reasons why it remains such an influential film is because it showcases a same-sex relationship that is both tender and unusual. It is no wonder why this is considered, along side The Grifters and Dangerous Liaisons, one of his very best cinematic creations. The story centers on Omar

Rush (1991) Blu-ray Review: The '90s Drug Genre Looks Inward

A slow-burn examination of drugs and police corruption is revealed in Kino's recent Blu-ray release.
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Reflecting the times, the cinematic landscape of the 1990s found itself awash in drugs (on-screen, at least). On the heels of films like Goodfellas and New Jack City, director Lili Fini Zanuck directed Rush. Despite a setting in 1975, Rush is very 1990s in its actors - popular stars Jennifer Jason Leigh and Jason Patric - as well as starring roles for Gregg Allman and a soundtrack by Eric Clapton in his somber phase. Dated, to be sure, Rush is a slow burn that, had the budget and script gone bigger, could have presented some intriguing socio-political examinations regarding police

Limelight Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Chaplin's Coda

Age must pass as youth enters.
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My Chaplin journey hasn't been linear. I didn't start with the silent shorts and work my way through The Kid (1921) and onto A Countess From Hong Kong (1967). It was a rambling journey that went forwards and backwards through highlights of his spectacular career with Criterion including Modern Times, The Great Dictator, City Lights, and The Gold Rush. In many ways the other films were reflections and parables of the times Chaplin was living in. The newest Criterion Blu-ray release is Limelight from 1952. It's subtitled "in his human drama" and this film is his most personal story. The

Shark Blu-ray Review: Swim Along with Charismatic Killers

You won't need four rows of teeth to chew through this delicious Planet Earth appetizer.
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Fresh off reviewing BBC's Planet Ant, I find myself confronted with a series about a much larger, deadlier animal up for investigation -- the timeless predators who rule the seas detailed in Shark, another new chapter in the BBC Earth series. From scary Ragged-Tooths to Makos that could outrun Usain Bolt, Paul McGann narrates four one-hour segments that cover everything from what sharks eat to how they interact and socialize, and how these creatures who've barely evolved since the age of the dinosaurs are paving the way for scientific breakthroughs. Spinning up the disk reveals two "parts" in the episode

Here is Your Life Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Engrossing and Enervating Debut

The first feature film from Swedish filmmaker Jan Troell has its visual merits, but it's bogged down by a leaden narrative.
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A film that’s both engrossing and enervating at turns, Here is Your Life kicked off the feature-film career of Swedish director Jan Troell, an art house sensation in the ’70s with breakthrough duo The Emigrants and The New Land. The multi-talented Troell directed, shot, edited, and co-wrote the screenplay for Here is Your Life, based on one of a series of semi-autobiographical novels by Eyvind Johnson, and though Troell’s camerawork and editing are often inventive, the film never really breaks free from its novelistic shackles. After his father falls ill, teenager Olof (Eddie Axberg) is forced to leave his sickness-ridden

The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel Blu-ray Review: Not As Exotic As the First, but Still Charming

Were it not for those remarkable actors even Liftime would be embarrassed by this.
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God bless the Brits. Or at least British actors of a certain age. They can rescue even the most tiresome of films and make it a thousand times better. The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel was a surprise hit in 2012 earning some $136 million which was quite a bit more than its meager $10 million budget. It was about a random group of British seniors who decide to spend their golden years living inexpensively in India. They come to the titular hotel based upon its fancy webpage, but find out that it is quite less than they expected save for

State of Grace Blu-ray Review: Characters Anchor Crime Drama Neo-Noir

Twilight Time releases this underseen 1990s noir.
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Unlike some niche Blu-ray distributors, Twilight Time doesn't just release classic films. Oftentimes their release output includes underrated or little seen gems that wouldn't immediately warrant an HD disc. In the case of their latest, the 1990 crime thriller State of Grace, rewatching this on Blu was a great way to re-familiarize myself with a film that I'd forgotten I enjoyed. After a decade-long absence, Terry Noonan (Sean Penn) returns to his hometown of Hell's Kitchen, immediately getting back into the good graces of small-time hood Jackie Flannery (Gary Oldman). As Terry becomes more comfortable with his old friend, he

Stray Cat Rock Blu-ray Review: Motorcycle Girl Gangs and Hippy Crime Sprees

Five loosely connected Japanese exploitation movies capture the spirit, and looseness of their age.
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On an interview on this disc, director Yasuharu Hasebe talks about how ephemeral the movies he made were. “I expected it to last a week,” he says about one of the three movies he made on this box set. They were not made with posterity in mind, but were very much of their time and in their time. This is true of any movie, of course - however carefully constructed or intentionally contrived, a movie cannot help but be made in the time when it is made and by the people who make it. And there are movements and trends

Twilight Time Presents: Rebellion! Turmoil! Endless Talking!

From the hormonally-charged historical wrongdoings of King Henry VIII to David Mamet's acclaimed verbal diarrhea, this batch of flicks has all bases covered.
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Once more, the folks at Twilight Time have resurrected five photoplays from yesteryear - and this time, they're not holding back on the dramatics one bit. We begin our line-up with perhaps the most epic motion pictures of epic motion pictures ever; the fact that A Man for All Seasons features a supporting performance by the one and only Orson Welles himself doesn't even enter into it, believe it or not! Rather, Robert Bolt's A Man for All Seasons focuses on the charisma and talents of the late Paul Scofield, cast here as Sir Thomas More. Now, for my fellow

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