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Moonlight Blu-ray Review: Will Take Its Place Alongside the Greatest Films Ever Made

An absolutely lyrical, and near-perfect story about love, race, and sexuality rarely depicted in film.
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When it comes to films about sexuality, especially those from the LGBT point of view, you don't often see it mixed with race. It is usually about stereotypes, explicit imagery, and desperation to arouse the viewer just to get his or her reaction. Fortunately, director Barry Jenkins' stunning 2016 drama, Moonlight, breaks through those cliches to deliver a story as truthful and universal as one can and needs to get. Based on the unfinished play, In Moonlight Black Boys Look Blue by Tarell Alvin McCraney (who wrote the story), the film centers on the character of Chiron in three parts

Leonard Cohen: I'm Your Man Blu-ray Review: An Awkward Documentary Hybrid

From the department of celebrity death cash-ins: An unnecessary Blu-ray upgrade of a forgettable concert film/biography mash-up.
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We’d already hit capacity overload on the “Fuck 2016” meme by the time Leonard Cohen’s death was announced on Nov. 10, but that didn’t mean the gut-punch of his passing hurt any less. Less than a month before, Cohen had solemnly announced, “I am ready to die” in David Remnick’s exhaustive New Yorker profile, before abruptly reversing course a few days after the interview’s publication at a listening session for his final album, You Want It Darker. “I said I was ready to die recently, and I think I was exaggerating. I’ve always been into self-dramatization. I intend to live

The Survivor (1981) Blu-ray Review: I Guess Fate Really IS the Hunter

Severin Films brings us the seldom-seen supernatural thriller which seems to have inspired others more than itself.
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While he is perhaps best known to cult horror and sci-fi audiences today as the guy who was in Michelangelo Antonioni's Blowup, Dario Argento's Deep Red, and Roger Vadim's Barbarella, the career of one-time Alfred the Great star David Hemmings was much more extensive than that. Off-screen, the late English actor/filmmaker was the co-founder of the Hemdale Film Corporation ‒ the very busy production company responsible for several iconic films from the '80s, including several Oliver Stone hits (Platoon and Salvador), Hoosiers, The Last Emperor, and even still-mimicked trendsetters such as James Cameron's The Terminator and Dan O'Bannon's zombie horror

Cameraperson Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: No Better Film Experience Last Year

A soulful and illuminating document of the human experience.
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When it comes to human honesty, there is no better genre of film stronger than the documentary. In a time where special effects, explosions, CGI, and even 3D basically dominate the box office, it is very refreshing to know that some movies would rather deal with reality and what the world is really like. Director Kirsten Johnson's fascinating 2016 film, Cameraperson, shows us what being human truly means to be. In this brilliant snapshot, or series of tableux, Johnson captures in real time, stories of people, places, and things. Whether it is a young boxer in his first match in

Black Society Trilogy Blu-ray Review: Madman Miike's (Relatively) Somber Saga

In these three films about criminal outsiders, Takashi Miike tones down his frenetic style demonstrating a commitment to craft.
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Takashi Miike is the Japanese director who will, seemingly, film anything. And anything does not just mean he'll put the ugliest or craziest images on screen, but he will try literally anything. Hyperbolic nastiness, vicious violence, creepy sex including necrophilia? Yes. A madwoman chopping off a man's foot with piano-wire to teach him a lesson? Sure. A children's fantasy film with talking umbrellas? Why not? Or, in the so-called Black Society Trilogy, three (relatively) restrained movies about the difficulty of being an outsider, even in the outsider society of organized crime, where the need for family both sustains and destroys

Howards End Blu-ray Review: Luxuriously Lush

A magnificent presentations of a wonderful period drama
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Upon watching the new 4K restoration of Howards End by the Cohen Film Collection, I come to realize it was my very first time watching a Merchant-Ivory Production. This surprises me as I feel like I know exactly the sort of films they made. Founded in 1961 by producer Ismail Merchant and director James Ivory, the film production company became well known in the '80s and '90s for their beautifully made period films that often adapted literary works set in Edwardian England. Working with modest budget (often adapting books from the likes of Henry James and E.M. Forster that were

The Black Dragon's Revenge (1975) Blu-ray Review: Bruce Lee Van Clief

Blaxploitation meets Brucesploitation in an utterly shameless, completely inept, no-budget cash-in on the demise of a martial arts master.
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A brief disclaimer beginning with "The names and characters in this film, based upon the Death of Bruce Lee, are fictitious..." cautiously alerts anyone with a lick of common sense or taste as to what sort of tripe awaits them. And yet, The Black Dragon's Revenge still manages to hit way below one's expectations of a cheapo martial arts flick produced in the wake (pun very much intended, since it's more than obvious the producers of this particular atrocity showed no remorse or honor whatsoever) of Bruce Lee's controversial death. Here, two equally tendentious subgenres of exploitation filmmaking ‒ that

The Internecine Project (1974) Blu-ray Review: Don't Ask, Don't Tell... Die Anyway

An overlooked, underrated slice of internal political espionage is probably more relevant today than you realize.
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Given the right amount of time, the natural progress of corruption can make even the lowliest tale of espionage and assassination seem relevant. Take Ken Hughes' The Internecine Project, for example. Originally penned as a freebie favor by screenwriter Jonathan Lynn for writer/producer Barry Levinson (no, not that Barry Levinson, but another guy with the same name), The Internecine Project started out as an espionage thriller about a sleeper KGB agent in the US who ‒ upon activation ‒ must dispose of the few people who are aware of his true identity. And while Ken Hughes and an unknown ghost

Inferno (2016) Blu-ray Review: Well, It Certainly is Hellish...

Tom Hanks and Ron Howard reunite for another apocalyptic Dan Brown/Robert Langdon adaptation. But is it a bit too late?
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If there's one grouping author Dan Brown never imagined he would be lumped into, it's that of the works by purported novelists E.L. James, Stephanie Meyer, and whoever it is we have to blame for those Hunger Games and Divergent books. And yet, thanks to terrible film adaptations of the works of Dan Brown ‒ to say nothing of other (real) writers whose works have been equally massacred by Tinseltown scribes who keep appearing to miss the moral of the story ‒ it has almost become virtually impossible to distinguish legitimate writers from hacks. Brown's messages to humanity first became

Disney's Pinocchio: The Signature Collection Blu-ray Review: Much Here to be Appreciated

This is a great addition to any collection whether you have children or are a big kid.
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On the weekend of November 21, 2016 at D23’s Destination D: Amazing Adventures event at Walt Disney World Resort, the addition of Disney’s triumphant animated classic Pinocchio to the celebrated Walt Disney Signature Collection was announced. Pinocchio, which inspired the world to wish upon a star, arrived for the first time on Digital HD and Disney Movies Anywhere on Jan. 10, and on Blu-ray and DVD on Jan. 31 with hours of new and classic bonus features. So once again Disney opens the vault to allow those of us who don’t already own the movie to take another walk down

Scavenger Hunt Blu-ray Review: A Long Overdue Release That Stands the Test of Time

It compares to It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, mainly because it contains an overabundance of celebrities racing around to win a prize.
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When game designer, Milton Parker (Vincent Price), passes away, his $200 million fortune is left to be distributed between his family. At least that’s what they expect to happen. Being the game player that he is and invoking his motto of “Play to Win,” his last will and testament states that the person or persons to receive his entire fortune will be whoever collects the most points in a scavenger hunt. The items that need to be collected are written in riddle format, and the only rule is that they cannot purchase the items, but must obtain them by any

Wagon Tracks Blu-ray Review: Revenge on the Santa Fe Trail

Silent western icon William S. Hart rides onto Blu-ray for the first time.
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William S. Hart was one of the preeminent stars of the silent film era, well-loved for his portrayals of stoic, strong-jawed Wild West heroes. His relative obscurity today isn’t helped by a lack of representation on home video; most, if not all, extant DVD releases of his films are Alpha Video public-domain cheapies. But here comes Olive Films, riding in heroically on horseback with the first Blu-ray release of a Hart film, 1919’s Wagon Tracks, sourced from an original 35mm nitrate print from the Library of Congress. It’s a good choice. Far from an anonymous run-of-the-mill oater, Wagon Tracks is

Pinocchio: The Signature Collection Blu-ray Review: Delightful For All Ages

The classic Disney film gets a new release with a little bit new and a whole lot of old supplementals.
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By 1937, Walt Disney Studios had been making animated shorts for over a decade. They’d become very successful but were still seen as a silly kids studio by most of Hollywood. With the smash success of Snow White and the Seven Dwarves that changed. The film made over $8 million dollars in its initial run, garnered lots of critical praise, and won an honorary Oscar. With all that success, Disney quickly moved into making his second full-length animated feature, Pinocchio. Based upon an Italian children’s novel, Pinocchio tells the story of a wooden puppet that is given life by a

Trailer Trauma 3: 80s Horror-Thon Blu-ray Review: The Ultimate Party Mix

Imagine a seven-and-a-half-hour compilation of nothing but horror movie previews from the '80s. Then go one step further.
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Before the days of easily comprised playlists, which can be effortlessly constructed via an MP3 player synced up to something resembling iTunes, we adults had to deal with the complexities of assembling party mixes with using archaic technology such as analog cassette tapes. If you were lucky, you had a dual-cassette boombox with high-speed dubbing capabilities, but that hardly made editing a breeze: you either knew when and where to release the pause on Deck One as you hit the 'record' button on Deck Two or you didn't. And that was just for audio mixes, kids ‒ compiling a video

Boy, Did I Get a Wrong Number! (1966) Blu-ray Review: Please Hang Up and Try Again

Olive Films releases one of Bob Hope's legendary flops, which is almost bad enough to be funny.
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If there's one thing film historians and aficionados alike can agree on, it's that you can't make a good movie with a bad script. Even a comedic titan such as the late, great Bob Hope would discover he was not immune to this theory as both he and his career entered the 1960s, wherein the legendary star of stage, screen, and radio ‒ who was now fully able to make a few dumb sex jokes for an hour-and-a-half thanks to changing times ‒ found himself with nothing more to do than make a few dumb sex jokes for an hour-and-a-half.

Blu-ray Reviews: Musicals and the Musically Inclined from the Warner Archive

Debbie Reynolds, Doris Day, and Julie Andrews highlight a trio of amazing rom-coms from more enjoyable, innocent times.
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Romantic comedies may have been a dime a dozen back in the '50s, but ‒ as any good numismatist knows ‒ a mint condition dime from the 1950s is worth much more than a pretty penny today. And the Warner Archive has been quite busy of late bringing a venerable assortment of shiny motion pictures classics to Blu-ray for future generations to marvel over, including a grand musical from the '50s, an amazing throwback to the musical from the '80s, and another '50s flick starring one of the era's most beloved musical starlets. In the latter instance, I speak of

Keeping Up with the Joneses Blu-ray Review: An Action Comedy That Needed a Bit More of Both

Poor execution and utilization of the cast really left it flat.
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Jeff Gaffney (Zach Galifianakis) works for MBI, a giant corporation, in their HR department. He lives in a cul-de-sac with his wife Karen (Isla Fisher) and two kids. He has the perfect life, but it’s a simple, dull existence where he doesn’t even have enough security clearance to know what his company even does. But that all changes when a couple of his neighbors move to Hawaii and two incredibly attractive and exciting people, Tim (Jon Hamm) and Natalie Jones (Gal Gadot), move in across the way. Having some new blood in the neighborhood immediately attracts Karen’s attention as she

Who? (aka Robo Man, 1974) Blu-ray Review: Wait, What?

An offbeat, seldom-seen British spy-fi offering goes HD courtesy the efforts of Kino Lorber.
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Apart from farfetched clones and spoofs of the James Bond films, or television shows ranging from animation to puppets to live-action girls with nice bouncy boobies about, there aren't a whole heck of a lot of noticeable titles falling under the heading of "spy-fy" in the world. We can fathom the sight of 007 driving an invisible car, or kids and talking animals preventing world domination. We are also able to accept comic book superheroes and space travelers in galaxies far, far away embarking on dangerous missions of intrigue with a straight face ‒ as such titles tend to be

Doubt Blu-ray Review: One of the Best Modern Acting Ensembles

Without a doubt, I highly recommend seeing this movie,
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In a Bronx Catholic church, a year after Kennedy’s assassination, recently arrived Father Flynn (Philip Seymour Hoffman) gives a sermon about doubt. Sister Aloysius (Meryl Streep), principal of the church’s school, is intrigued by the sermon’s origin, because it comes from somewhere, and she suggests to her fellow Sisters of Charity to keep an eye out for anything suspicious. Sister James (Amy Adams) notices a seemingly unusual closeness between Father Flynn and Donald Miller, an altar boy and the school’s only black student. During her class, Donald is called to the rectory to meet Father Flynn. Upon his return, Donald

Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler Blu-ray Review: A Captivating Crime Thriller

A safe bet for silent-film fans.
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Based on the novel Dr Mabuse by Norbert Jacques, Dr. Mabuse, The Gambler is a two-part crime epic by legendary German film director Fritz Lang, and is the first in a trilogy that includes The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (1933) and The Thousand Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960). Running 270 minutes, the film, which was originally released in two parts, comes across nowadays like a TV miniseries, as the villainous Mabuse (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) attempts to stay ahead of state prosecutor Norbert von Wenk (Bernhard Goetzke) in this captivating thriller. The Kino Classics Blu-ray presents the film on two discs. The

The Night of the Grizzly (Olive Signature) Blu-ray Review: An Enjoyable, Classic Western

Clint Walker is a commanding, comforting presence on screen.
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The Night of the Grizzly tells the story of "Big Jim" Cole (Clint Walker), a former lawman, who along with his family plan to make a new life for themselves in Wyoming on ranch land Jim has inherited. Not only does he have to contend with wealthy rancher Jed Curry (Keenan Wynn), who used to own the property and wants it back, but also a bear named Satan that is terrorizing the area by killing animals. The bear causes so much damage Curry puts up a reward. Jim desparately needs the money but the bounty brings to town Cass (Leo

Blair Witch Blu-ray Review: Murky Modern Updating Misses Mark

The 2016 sequel to the '99 shock hit tries to update the original's formula, but to much diminished effect.
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Ambiguity is a central attribute to satisfying horror movies (I write "satisfying" because, if the box office is any indication, playing really loud noises every couple of minutes is the key to a successful horror movie). For a horror movie to get under your skin, you have to engage with it and that means, on some level, trying to figure out just what the heck is really going on. The Blair Witch Project, for all it did to foist the found-footage filmmaking style upon us, had ambiguity in spades. What this (comparatively) big-budget sequel, titled simply Blair Witch, demonstrates is

The Driller Killer Blu-ray Review: All Driller, No Thriller

The Driller Killer plays like a Taxi Driver knock-off whose arthouse ambitions are overcome by its need to fill grindhouse seats.
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The Driller Killer is known mostly for being Abel Ferrara’s directorial debut (if one discounts 9 Lives of a Wet Pussy, the hard-core porno he helmed three years prior) and for being one of first films put on England’s notorious Video Nasties list. I first came across it in a bootleg DVD shop in Shanghai. It was one of the few places I’d found in that city that carried art-house, classics, and other oddball films. The title alone had me curious and that scandalous cover featuring a blood-soaked face being punctured by an electric drill made me want to watch

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story Blu-ray Review

An impressive miniseries that sheds light on a significant event in American history.
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FX's true-crime anthology television series American Crime Story has set a high standard for its duration because its first season, The People v. O.J. Simpson, was critically acclaimed and won nine Emmy Awards including three for acting, one for writing, and for Outstanding Limited Series. Based on Jeffrey Toobin's book, The Run of His Life: The People v. O. J. Simpson (1997), the TV series takes viewers behind the scenes during one of the most notable trials of the twentieth century, though what is factual and what has dramatized is not made clear. The series opens with news footage of

Hellraiser: The Limited Edition Scarlet Box Trilogy Blu-ray Review: A Puzzle Box Worth Solving

This box has such sights to show you.
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Bringing back 1980s horror is all the rage lately. It's hard to swing a dead cat without hitting reboots of Nightmare on Elm Street, Halloween, and Friday the 13th, throwbacks like Hatchet, or parodies like Tucker and Dale vs. Evil and Cabin in the Woods. It's about time Clive Barker's longest-running and most recognizable franchise enjoyed some of the limelight again. However, where the Nightmare and Friday box sets include every film in their respective franchises, no matter how critically revered or panned they were, The Scarlet Box includes only the first three Hellraiser flicks, which are generally considered the

Twilight Time Presents: A Quartet of Quirky Killers

Susan Hayward, Anthony Perkins, Tony Curtis, and Shelley Winters commit killer performances in this assortment of murderous movies.
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As it has been stated time and time again, the only two things we can be certain of in life are death and taxes. Onscreen, however, within the magical realms of cinematic art (where applicable), the subject of taxation ‒ with the notable exception of various legends hailing from Loxley and perhaps a song by The Beatles ‒ is one of the dullest subjects to spend your money on. Death, on the other hand, is a timeless and bankable topic. Few people would take note of a newspaper headline reading "Taxes Paid" (unless it's a politician or religious leader), but

Moby Dick (1956) Blu-ray Review: A Newly Restored Whale of a Tale

Twilight Time brings us the most famous filmic Melville adaptation of all, lovingly restored to match the original theatrical presentation.
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Obsession seems to abound every aspect of Herman Melville's Moby-Dick, from its initial published parable right down to its most famous film adaptation, right down to John Huston's 1956 cinematic version, wherein most of the obsession was to be found on the other side of the camera. With as feverish of a desire to capture the legendary white whale as was Melville's main antagonist, Mr. Huston tried (unsuccessfully) to acquire financial backing for his little pet project over the course of several years before finally finding a source of salvation in Pink Panther producer Walter Mirisch and his brothers. Thus,

American Honey Blu-ray Review: Director Andrea Arnold Takes Kids on the Road

A cross-country road movie that will either be held up as a treatise to the restlessness of youth or tossed off as pointlessly boring.
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The space between being a child and an adult - youthfulness - is full of manic energy, enormous emotions, nervous lust, and restlessness. It is a time of experimentation, of being able to let go and run off, of figuring out who we are, who we are going to be. Andrea Arnold’s American Honey captures that moment in life perfectly. First-time actress Sasha Lane plays Star, a lost child who left her meth-addicted mother in Texas to live with a family in Oklahoma and raise their two kids. The mother prefers spending time at the local bar line-dancing and the

Heart of a Dog Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Moving Meditation from a Singular Artist

Laurie Anderson's essay film sees her moving comfortably between abstractions and personal revelations.
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Can a film permeated with thoughts on death be playful? Can it be uplifting? Can it be equally cerebral and emotional, its two sides not merely coexisting but helping to inform the other? Can a film in which a person is almost wholly absent tell us innumerable amounts about the filmmaker’s relationship with that figure? In Heart of a Dog, the wondrous second feature film from multidisciplinary artist Laurie Anderson, the answer to all of the above is a resounding "yes." A deeply personal essay film narrated by Anderson in the kind of bemused monotone that features in spoken-word pieces

Creepshow 2 Blu-ray Review: Stick to the Original

I'd been better off not remembering this thing exists.
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In 1982, director George Romero teamed with writer Stephen King to make Creepshow, a comedy/horror anthology film designed to wax nostalgic about the old DC and EC horror comics of their youth. It was a surprise hit and remains a classic among horror hounds to this day. Five years later, they made a sequel. Romero took over writing duties (though it was still based on King stories) and Michael Gornick directed. Arrow Video has released a newly restored Blu-ray of the sequel filled with more extras than it deserves. I have very vague memories of seeing the first one on

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