Recently in Blu-ray

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

Enter the Ninja Blu-ray Review: It Is Awesome

For fans of '80's action / exploitation / genre films, this disc is a must-have.
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If, in 1981, you had the chance to invest in throwing stars or something else, and you chose something else, Enter The Ninja is most likely the reason you lost everything and curse your life to this very day. The absolute obsession with ninjas that this film instilled in teenage boys lasted for years. Some would call it a craze while others just shook their heads and went on with their maskless and nunchuck-free lives; never to know the joys of spelling the word "assassin" without looking it up. Would moms worry? Maybe. But at least you weren't playing Dungeons

The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001) Blu-ray Review: Anarchy, Sentiment, Family, Karaoke

Takashi Miike's surrealist musical comedy finds its way to Blu-ray thanks to Arrow Video.
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Director Takashi Miike is credited with seven or eight films in the year 2001 alone, depending on who you ask. One of the most energetic and life-affirming of these pictures is The Happiness of the Katakuris. This is an absolutely joyful and bizarre flick, a musical comedy complete with stop-motion sequences, a pile of dead bodies and the ever-looming presence of Mount Fuji. The Happiness of the Katakuris is an unabashed remake of Kim Jee-woon’s 1998 film The Quiet Ones, with Miike paying direct homage to several of the shots and scenes in the Korean movie. He certainly strays at

Society Blu-ray Review: Glorious Mess of an '80s Horror Movie

Brian Yuzna's bizarre directorial debut is wildly uneven, but never less than fascinating.
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Horror movies are often critiqued as metaphors, largely in an attempt to approach them in terms that distance critics from the act of watching the horror movie. I'm not watching a guy with a knife stab some poor, mostly undressed girl, and enjoying it! I'm watching a metaphor! And filmmakers, who sometimes make the mistake of listening to critics, have built metaphorical aspects of their stories into genre codes (all skewered in Scream and its imitators) so the filmmaker is not filming mock-rape scenarios that end in violence for titillation's sake - they're filming a metaphor! Except it's always the

The Killers (1946) / (1964) Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Intriguing Double Feature

A great opportunity to see how artists and craftsmen handle the same material and obtain different results.
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Like taking a comparative literature class, The Killers from the Criterion Collection offers a great opportunity to see how artists and craftsmen handle the same material and obtain different results. In this instance, the source is Ernest Hemingway's short story "The Killers," which first appeared in a 1927 issue of Scribner's Magazine. An audio version of the story read by Stacy Keach is available as an extra and it tells of two hitmen who go to a diner looking to kill Ole Andreson, a Swedish boxer who frequents the place. When Ole doesn’t show, the men leave. Frequent Hemingway character

Five Easy Pieces Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: One Easy Role to Nicholson's Stardom

Nicholson breaks out in this early headlining role.
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A year removed from his breakout supporting turn in Easy Rider, Jack Nicholson moved to headliner status in this 1970 character study. Filmed during a time when character studies weren’t exactly prevalent in Hollywood, director Bob Rafelson’s film helped to lead a shift in the industry that paved the way for subsequent ‘70s greats. That’s not to say it holds up well, as it now seems to be a dated relic of a bygone era. Nicholson’s character Bobby Dupea is introduced as a lackadaisical oil-field worker, content to toil away in his job during the day and blow his pay

The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe Blu-ray Review: Forgettable but Fun French Farce

A spy comedy that's silly but never ridiculous.
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The Tall Blond Man with One Black Shoe is a '70s French spy comedy that never ventures into spoof or even too far into ridiculousness. It's not hilariously funny, nor so brilliant that it will replace anything on any of your top-ten lists. It is, however, a thoroughly enjoyable film with some hearty laughs and enough je ne sais quoi to keep you feeling happy the rest of the day. Like all good spy stories, the plot is as complicated as it is convoluted. France’s #2 man in counter-espionage, Bernard Milan (Bernard Blier), wants to discredit his chief, Louis Toulouse

The Who: Live at Shea Stadium 1982 Blu-ray Review: Long Live Rock

If this was the only concert of the band on record, there'd be no doubt why they are rock 'n' roll legends.
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Reading up on The Who, it appears what was intended to be a tour in support of It's Hard became a farewell tour because of Pete Townshend's personal issues and the friction they contributed to between he and his bandmates Roger Daltrey and John Entwistle. Although they have reunited many times since, and Daltrey and Townshend, the last living original members, are currently touring in celebration of the band's 50th anniversary, it's fantastic to see this document of The Who still at the peak of their abilities. Taken from their October 13, 1982 performance, the second of a two-night stand

Spider Baby Blu-ray / DVD Review: An Extremely Offbeat but Amazing Movie

This really is the most maddening story every told, but in a good way.
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In this 1960s, the independent film boom was well under way of becoming the next big thing in cinema. The indie films of the '60s, included 'nudie cuties', drive-in flicks, rebel-youth outings, and most importantly, horror movies. These horror movies were a mixture of blood, gore, cheesy but method acting, and dated production values. However, for better or worse, they changed the way that underground films would be made since then. In this case, director Jack Hill's 1963 cult masterpiece, Spider Baby, remains one of the best of the bunch. Yes, it's not as serious as George Romero's 1968 revolutionary

Contamination (1980) Blu-ray Review: On Earth, Everyone Can Hear You Scream 'Rip-Off!'

The cycloptic grandpappy of ALIEN clones makes its chest-bursting, worldwide High-Definition Blu-ray debut courtesy Arrow Video.
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Imitation may be the sincerest form of flattery - it's certainly the least-creative - but there are relatively few individuals out there with enough gall to market a movie of their own as a sequel to somebody else's production. Nevertheless, the annals of exploitation movie history could quite literally be lined with one-sheet movie posters of low-budget movies shamelessly retitled in an attempt to lure unsuspecting filmgoers into thinking they were follow-ups to other (better known) movies. The lengths some of these shady distributors would go to were admirable, to say the least - with my personal favorite being the

R.E.M. by MTV Blu-ray Review: Fables of the R.E.M. Construction

This should satisfy fans, most of whom likely already know the story, but it's great to hear it directly from the band members.
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Previously a part of the REMTV boxed set, the documentary R.E.M. by MTV is now available as a separate release on Blu-ray and DVD. It presents the history of the band through archival interviews and clips of news and performances, much of it, but not limited to, material from MTV. The band (Peter Buck, Mike Mills, Michael Stipe, and Bill Berry) and associates tell the story chronologically through interviews conducted over their decades-long run. The viewer witnesses R.E.M.'s career arc going from a cult favorite and critical darling to a force on the pop charts with hit songs and albums

Pit Stop Blu-ray/DVD Review: One of Jack Hill's Very Best Films

An unusually exciting story of wild youth and fast cars.
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When the 1960s arrived, there started a new type of film: the independent film. Films under this label were made outside the Hollywood system. They had limited to no budgets, unconventional or method actors, and sometimes cheesy production values. However, director Jack Hill's 1969 cult classic Pit Stop isn't the case. Although the film had a limited run, a next to no budget, and a radical story, it really rises above that to tell the story of rebellious youth with something to prove, obsession with fast cars, and pretty girls along for the ride. Hill's unique eye for detail, his

Welcome To Me Blu-ray Review: Kristen Wiig Is Amazing, but This Movie Is Far from Perfect

Kristen Wiig's magnum opus, or sort of.
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We know that Kristen Wiig has proven herself to be actress of extreme range and talent, as she has demonstrated in comedies such as Bridesmaids and Friends With Kids. In just in few years after her Emmy-nominated stint on Saturday Night Live, she established herself as an actress worthy in dramas, and my personal favorite one is The Skeleton Twins. In director Shira Piven's Welcome To Me, an uncomfortably flawed, but quirky depiction of mental illness, TV obsession, and fame, she handles both comedy and drama with flair, even if the film can be mostly beneath her genius. She plays
It’s been nearly 20 years since Slash was a member of the heavy metal band Guns N’ Roses. Since then he’s put out multiple solo albums and was a founding member of the highly successful band, Velvet Revolver. But in this recent video release the legendary guitarist shows off his incredible chops over his entire musical history. And once again he has teamed up with an exceptional vocalist, Myles Kennedy, who has his own unique singing style and sounds like a cross between Axl Rose and Scott Weiland. Since Slash has been making his own solo albums for years now,

Survivor (2015) Blu-ray Review: A Little Action, A Lot of Filler

This movie should have been Brosnan and Jovovich running around trying to kill each other.
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You look at the Blu-ray cover for Survivor and you see Pierce Brosnan and Milla Jovovich holding guns, with a tagline letting you know that Brosnan’s latest target is now chasing him. It looks like it could be a solid cat-and-mouse thriller. Indeed, there are parts of the movie where that is true, but the issue is that it makes up far too little of the movie. Jovovich plays a woman named Kate Abbott, a Foreign Services Officer from America who has been brought to London to try and thwart terrorist attacks. Brosnan plays an assassin who is brought in

The Pillow Book Blu-ray Review: Peter Greenaway's Idiosyncratic Collage

Eroticism and revenge mingle as aspect ratios shift.
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Peter Greenaway’s 1996 film The Pillow Book is alternately a sensual exploration of memory and a hot-blooded revenge fantasy, but it never fully embraces either, its eroticism often aloof and its violence almost completely suggestive. No one should expect otherwise from the idiosyncratic British director, who indulges his love for stagy compositions and florid production design while only half-committing to a traditional narrative, the film’s tableau-like scenes functioning more as standalone setpieces than components of a fluid story. Greenaway trains the viewer to expect this by plunging almost immediately into a dense collage of images — academy frames, widescreen frames,

The Searchers Blu-ray Review: Revisionist Western Before There Were Revisionist Westerns

John Ford's justly praised western classic explores the contradictions of glory and brutality in the settling of the West.
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Taking a highly praised classic on is a tricky business for any film reviewer. A movie as celebrated and revered as The Searchers has been picked over, analyzed, and revised up and down in critical estimation since it was dubbed a classic. It can be hard to just sit down and watch The Searchers like any movie. Not for nothing, the first time I saw it was in film school, surrounded by people who, even if like me they hadn't seen it before, had already had drummed into them what was "important" about it. The Searchers was not an instant

Rio Bravo Blu-ray Review: A Western Classic Restored

Howard Hawks' classic Western gets a nice upgrade with some new extras, what else is there to say?
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In 1952, director Fred Zinnemann made High Noon with Gary Cooper, who plays a small-town marshal whose being threatened by a man he once put away and his gang of thugs. Throughout the film, Cooper tries to find others to help him fight the gang, but one by one everyone either refuses or leaves town. In the end, it is only the marshal’s wife who brings forth any assistance. Howard Hawks and John Wayne, tough guys that they were, thought this plot was phony. No man worth his salt would go around asking for help in such a situation. And

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