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Mary Poppins Returns Blu-ray Review: Entertaining for the Whole Family

My expectation was that the movie would be magical, musical fun, and it did not disappoint.
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When I first heard that there would be a Mary Poppins sequel, I was extremely skeptical. How could anything possibly compare to Julie Andrews’ performance along with those songs? As further information was announced, I changed my tune. Learning that Rob Marshall would be directing was the main reason for piquing my interest. I consider his adaptation of Chicago one of the best films of a Broadway musical ever made. Finding out that Emily Blunt would play the iconic character, with supporting roles by Lin-Manuel Miranda and Emily Mortimer, guaranteed that I would be watching. My expectation was that, if

The Deadly Mantis (1957) Blu-ray Review: It's Not Great, but There's Entertainment to Be Had

Editor Chester Schaeffer does a masterful job piecing together a visual narrative.
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Combining/stealing ideas from previous atomic-monster movies, The Deadly Mantis was unleashed upon the world in 1957. Scream Factory is responsible for the creature feature resurfacing on Blu-ray. It's not great, but there's entertainment to be had from this cheaply made production and the disc's extras. On an island in the South Seas, explosions from the testing of atomic bombs trigger the melting of glaciers near Greenland because the world is interconnected. An iceberg topples over, revealing to the audience (dun dun dun) a giant mantis frozen inside it. The characters take a while longer to discover what's happening. After an

Foreigner: Live at the Rainbow '78 Blu-ray Review: On Their Way to Becoming Juke Box Heroes

The setlist is "Foreigner" in its entirety, out of sequence, and two songs from "Double Vision."
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Foreigner began as vocalist Lou Gramm, guitarist Mick Jones, multi-instrumentalist Ian McDonald, drummer Dennis Elliott, keyboardist Al Greenwood and bassist Ed Gagliardi. Recorded on April 27, a year after their smash self-titled debut and about six weeks before the release of their second album, Live at the Rainbow '78 is a 75-minute concert film that spotlights a talented band on the rise. The setlist is Foreigner in its entirety, out of sequence, and two songs from Double Vision. The band opens with a boisterous “Long, Long Way from Home” getting fans enthused right from the start. At song's end, the

Unknown Soldier (2017) Blu-ray Review: A Gripping World War II Drama

Finland's most expensive film comes to Blu-ray in the U.S. thanks to the folks at Kino Lorber.
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One of the great things about the Finnish war drama, Unknown Soldier, is that it doesn’t rely on copious amounts of blood and carnage to make an impact on the viewer, nor does it ramp up the score to trigger some kind of emotional nerve. All too often, war films - especially those coming out of Hollywood - are plagued by cliches that involve the director increasing these departments to 11 as a way to elicit some type of response from the audience, and they fail to capture the human element of the story, which is what matters the most.

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald Blu-ray Review: A Crime Itself

David Yates's second venture into the Harry Potter prequel series is a dull, tedious effort.
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Maybe five films is a bit too much to look at everything in the pre-Harry Potter universe. Or, maybe it’s not enough. It depends on how you view it. There’s quite a bit of information unloaded on the viewer in Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald that it feels like there should be 10 movies just to explore everything J.K. Rowling has in mind. But there’s also this feeling, after sitting through The Crimes of Grindelwald, of how much of a chore it will be to get through the already-planned three future films. Picking up where Fantastic Beasts and Where

Kolobos Blu-ray Review: Terrible Name, Even Worse Movie

A '90s slasher has plenty of violence and little else.
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If you’ve ever wondered what it would be like to cross MTV’s seminal reality TV series The Real World with a trapped house horror film on an extremely low budget and a totally late '90s aesthetic then look no further than Kolobos. It is all those things and more. Now with an Arrow Video release, you can see it in all its restored glory with plenty of extras to fill you in on all the behind the scenes trivia. Answering a classified ad, a group of attractive, young, obnoxious people show up at a house filled with video cameras to

The Prisoner (1955) Blu-ray Review: A Forgotten Gem

Not quite a classic, this mostly forgotten Alec Guinness drama gets a much needed spotlight shined on it from Arrow Academy.
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Despite starring Alec Guinness, being nominated for numerous BAFTAs, and being banned in several countries (as either being too pro-communist or too anti-communist depending on which way the country leaned), Peter Glenville’s 1965 film The Prisoner has mostly been forgotten today. With a new HD transfer and numerous extras, Arrow Academy makes a pretty good case on why we ought to start remembering it. In an unnamed European country, the communist government wants to bring down the Church. They plan to do so by having a well-respected Cardinal (Alec Guinness) confess to treason which will cause the people to lose

Doctor Who: Peter Davison: Complete Season One Blu-ray Review

A marvelous collection that Whovians should be happy to have on their shelf.
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The BBC has released Doctor Who: Peter Davison - Complete Season One, the second in its series of classic Doctor Who seasons on Blu-ray and the first featuring Peter Davison, the Fifth Doctor. This season, also known as the 19th season of the classic run, aired from January 4 to March 30, 1982 and contains the stories: Castrovalva, Four to Doomsday, Kinda, The Visitation, Black Orchid, Earthshock, and Time-Flight. In addition to Special Features from previously released DVDs, there are also brand new special features throughout the eight-disc set. Peter Davison had no easy task, following the very popular Tom

The Magnificent Ambersons Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Flawed Masterpiece, but Still a Worthwhile Film

The Criterion Collection has stacked this beautiful release of Welles's troubled second production with a plethora of extras.
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Before getting into the history of the film: the mangling by the studio, the likely deliberately destroyed edited footage, and all of that intrigue, first we have to see the movie itself: The Magnificent Ambersons, Orson Welles's follow-up to his explosive debut Citizen Kane. Based on a novel by Booth Tarkington about the downfall of a noveau riche mid-Western family, The Magnificent Ambersons has elements of drama and comedy and some sense of tragedy, but most of all it is the portrait of a changing country, and world. George Amberson, the only son of Isabel and heir to the fortune,

Creed II Blu-ray Review: A Worthy Addition to the Rocky Franchise

Although it contains familiar plot points from other films in the series, the filmmakers do a good job of blending engaging characters with thrilling fight sequences.
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Creed II opens with two boxers on the rise: Adonis Creed (Michael B. Jordan) and Viktor Drago (Florian Munteanu). Both young men have complicated relationships with their fathers, each of whom made a name for themselves in the ring. In Rocky IV, Apollo (Carl Weathers) and Ivan (Dolph Lundgren) battled in an exhibition fight, which led to Apollo's death, so after Adonis becomes the WBC Heavyweight Champion and Viktor has won a number of matches, a savvy promoter wants the sons to fight. Ivan relishes the idea, seeking a return to glory through his son because after his loss to

Liz and the Blue Bird Blu-ray Review: Take a Flyer on This Moving Anime Film

Close friends face the end of high school and differing plans for the future
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High school life is a favorite topic of anime productions, but this one differentiates itself by having a very narrow focus on the unresolved relationship between two senior girls as they near graduation. Mizore and Nozomi are close friends destined for different paths after high school, but still going about their daily school routines, including intensive orchestra rehearsals, as they try to ignore their future. In order to ease their upcoming transition, Nozomi encourages Mizore to study the story behind the orchestral work they’re rehearsing, a tale of a human who keeps a wild bird as a pet before setting

The Craft Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: Witches be Crazy!

A definitive '90s movie and also not nearly as good as I remember.
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It’s a funny thing, really, to revisit films that defined your adolescent years. Sometimes, they can be just as good as you remember. Other times, they aren’t, and you are left questioning why you thought it was a good film in the first place. I think, when I first saw The Craft, it had just premiered on HBO and I had heard some positive chatter from the people at my school. Therefore, I was eager to check it out myself. I didn’t have cable, but a relative did, so I watched it with her and we both thoroughly enjoyed it.

Bill & Ted's Bogus Journey Blu-ray Review: A Delightfully Goofy Sequel

Rather than simply repeating the story from the original film, returning screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon offer audiences something different with this sequel.
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The 26th Century utopia based on the music of Wyld Stallyns is threatened when Rufus's (George Carlin) former teacher, the villainous De Nomolos (Joss Ackland), sends look-alike robots back to the past to kill Bill (Alex Winter) and Ted (Keanu Reeves) after the events of their Excellent Adventure, so and alter the future. Rather than simply repeating the story from the original film, returning screenwriters Chris Matheson and Ed Solomon offer audiences something different with this sequel. Instead of more time-traveling silliness, Bill and Ted have a metaphysical adventure as the robots are successful in killing them early on. The

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms Blu-ray Review: Anime at Its Finest

Veteren scriptwriter Mari Okada makes a dazzling directorial debut
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Although Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms didn’t make as much of a splash in the U.S. as the Oscar-nominated Mirai, it’s just as worthy of acclaim. It’s also somewhat of a rarity, as it was directed by a woman, a refreshing departure from the traditional boys club of the anime world. Mari Okada has a lengthy resume as a successful screenwriter for her production studio P.A. Works, and takes full advantage of the opportunity to wholly express her vision with this directorial debut. Maquia is a 15-year-old member of a blonde, fair-skinned, nearly eternal race called the Iorph, content

The Little Mermaid (1989) Anniversary Edition Blu-ray Review: Another Disney Dip Under the Sea

The Little Mermaid is a wonderful animated film on par with many of the Disney classics of the past, and the Blu-ray offers a top-notch high-def experience.
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Based on Hans Christian Andersen's story, The Little Mermaid began a period in the studio's history known as the Disney Renaissance, which saw a resurgence of critical and commercial success that lasted a decade. The tale appealed to Walt also and it almost appeared in an anthology of Andersen stories, although that film never got passed the development stage. Tying into the its 30th anniversary, The Little Mermaid is being re-released as part of Walt Disney's Signature Collection, reusing the same HD transfer from the Diamond Edition and bringing over bonus material from past editions. Sixteen-year-old Princess Ariel (Jodi Benson),

A Star Is Born (2018) Blu-ray Review: An Engaging Tale of Addiction, Fame, Partnership, and Family

For his directorial debut, Bradley Cooper has done a wonderful job with this film.
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Confession time. I have not seen any other version of A Star Is Born. I have not seen the Barbra Streisand and Kris Kristofferson version, the Judy Garland and James Mason version, nor the Janet Gaynor and Fredric March version. I have not even seen What Price Hollywood? which is viewed by some to be the predecessor to all of the versions of A Star Is Born. I have only seen this version of A Star Is Born starring Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga, so I will not be making comparisons to those other films. I am solely reviewing this

Lu Over the Wall Blu-ray Review: Manic Dream Pixie Mermaid

The story is a bit simple, but the animation really shines.
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With Lu Over the Wall, GKIDS continues to prove there is a place in the animation film world beyond Hollywood and Studio Ghibli. There are so many great films being released year after year and it's amazing to find more and more companies filling in the cracks to allow American audiences a chance to view movies they'd otherwise miss. In the sleepy seaside town of Hinashi lives a shy young boy named Kai Ashimoto (Kanon Tani). He makes electronic music on his computer and posts them anonymously online. When local girl Yuho (Minako Kotobuki) recognizes his phone (and thus him)

Desert Fury Blu-ray Review: More Like Desert Melodramatic

Western noir is a weird blend of genres, settings, and sexuality, but never amounts to much.
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The credits roll over a vast desert, much like the type you’d see in an old Western starring John Wayne. Except here a long highway stretches across the screen letting us know that this isn’t an old western but a contemporary film. To highlight this, a modern automobile (well, modern for 1947 when the film was made) comes rolling in across the highway. Inside are two strangers coming into town, again like they do in those old westerns, except these aren’t black-cladded cowboys but rather two gangsters in matching suits. They stop at a bridge and speak of it in

The Real McCoy (1993) Blu-ray Review: Dammit, Kim!

Kino Lorber places Russell Mulcahy's heist stinker starring Kim Basinger and Val Kilmer on display for you to give or take.
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Like Kino Lorber's recent release of 1974's The Midnight Man, 1993's The Real McCoy is another Universal production filmed in the South about an ex-con who finds it isn't easy to change their stripes (so to speak). Of course, comparing The Midnight Man to The Real McCoy is like juxtaposing Highlander with Highlander 2: The Quickening. The subtle film reference joke there being that the latter three titles were all manufactured by a filmmaker one either loves or hates (or both, if they're a Highlander fan): one-time pop music video director Russell Mulcahy. Here, former Vicki Vale Kim Basinger stars

Audition Blu-ray Review: Family Drama Turns Violent

Takashi Miike's disturbing melodrama gets a nice restoration from Arrow Video.
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Perhaps the most shocking thing about Takashi Miike's 1999 film Audition is that for its first half or so there is nothing shocking about it at all. Miike, a Japanese director known for films featuring perverse images, black humor and extreme violence, spends the first 50 minutes of his nearly two hours run time telling an intimate, emotional, family drama. For anyone who comes to Audition knowing Miike films such as Ichi the Killer, Visitor Q, or Izo, watching nearly an hour of cinema in which nothing weird, blood soaked, or insane happens is the craziest twist of all. This

At Eternity's Gate Blu-ray Review: Poetic Beauty

Willem Dafoe excels in unconventional biopic of Vincent Van Gogh.
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Yes, we just had a semi-biopic on Vincent van Gogh not too long ago with Loving Vincent; the trippy, experimental effort that saw well-known actors turned into water color figures. And, hey, in the end, that worked out rather well. Now, we get another film about the famous painter with At Eternity’s Gate, which has the wonderful Willem Dafoe headlining as van Gogh. Surprisingly, though, this is not the familiar, Oscar-bait type of feature that one expects around late November (the time of its theatrical release). It’s a rather deep, philosophical exploration at the late painter’s last days. Dafoe narrates

The Group Blu-ray Review: 1930s Women's Issues - Not So Different from Today

It's hard for most of the women in The Group to realize their full potential. Something that was true for 1933, 1966, and sadly, for many, still today.
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Kino Lorber has released the 1966 film The Group on Blu-ray. Directed by Sidney Lumet (12 Angry Men, Dog Day Afternoon, Murder on the Orient Express, Network), the film explores the post-college lives of eight women for a decade. An adaptation of the Mary McCarthy's bestselling 1963 novel of the same name, The Group follows eight young women as they graduate a Vassar-like college in 1933. They are young and white and privileged - and they are all assured, even convinced, that the world is their oyster. But the world is not that simple, and each woman will face challenges

Horror Express Blu-ray Review: Hammer Horror-esque

Peter Cushing and Christopher Lee battle an alien ape on a train. What more could you want?
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Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing first performed in a movie together in Laurence Olivier’s 1948 adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Cushing played Oscric, a minor character, while Lee was an uncredited spear carrier). They were nearly inseperable after that, performing again together more than 20 more times. They made several great movies, quite a few bad ones, and became stars performing for Hammer Studios in a slew of horror films. They were the best of friends up until Cushing died in 1994. In 1972, both actors were set to make a low-budget horror movie based upon the novel Who Goes There?

The Midnight Man (1974) Blu-ray Review: I Could Stay Here All Night

One of Burt Lancaster's most elusive (and intriguing) features finally hits home video in the U.S. thanks to Kino Lorber.
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Occasionally referred to by the relatively few who have seen it as a Southern precursor to David Lynch's Twin Peaks, 1974's The Midnight Man is an exceptional neo-noir starring the one and only Burt Lancaster as Jim Slade: an ex-cop from Chicago, who also happens to be an ex-con. Released from stir after serving a stint over a crime of passion (which is, thankfully, only alluded to), Slade accepts a job as a night watchman at a college in a tiny, sleepy-eyed town in the South; an invitation for a new life extended by his old friend, fellow ex-cop Quartz

Summer Lovers Blu-ray Review: Beautiful Scenery, Beautiful People, Not Much Else

Randal Kleiser's follow-up to Grease takes him to Greece for a film that ought to be a lot more fun than it actually is.
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After the massive success of both Grease and The Blue Lagoon, director Randal Kleiser was given free reign to make pretty much any movie he wanted. Apparently what he wanted was to make a listless film featuring beautiful scenery, beautiful people and about as much casual nudity as an R-rated movie could stand in 1982. A young American couple, Michael (Peter Gallagher) and Cathy (Daryl Hannah), decide to spend the summer between finishing college and starting their careers vacationing on the Greek island of Santorini. She has always been a good girl, never getting into trouble and always behaving. He

The Princess Bride Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: As Good As You Wish

So well crafted, it is equally one of the best comedies, one of the best adventures, and one of the best love stories.
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Based on the novel by William Goldman, who also wrote the screenplay, Rob Reiner's The Princess Bride is a fantasy adventure filled with humor and romance that became an instant classic in the hearts of many who saw it. When a young boy (Fred Savage) is sick in bed, his grandfather (Peter Falk) comes over to continue a family tradition by reading him The Princess Bride. The young man is not overly thrilled about having to sit through a romance, but he gives his grandfather the benefit of the doubt. The film then cuts to the book's story introducing the

Lu Over the Wall Blu-ray Review: Vampire Mermaids Warm the Heart

A boy befriends a mermaid, and director Masaaki Yuasa reigns in his anarchic animation style...for a little while.
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Masaaki Yuasa is something of a wild card anime director. In an industry that can be chided for a certain uniformity of design and technique, he makes movies that look like nobody else's. To paint with a broad but not inaccurate brush, anime tends to go for contrasts of motion - energetic motion punctuated by stillness. Detailed backgrounds with simplified characters. Yuasa can do that, then wildly shift into incredible kineticism, with characters and backgrounds shifting with no concern for realism, detail, or anything other than the effect of the shot. Lu Over the Wall was conceived, as Yuasa explains

Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms Blu-ray Review: Emotional, Poignant Fantasy Epic

This visually arresting fantasy story of a mother and son that pulls at the heartstrings (and the tear ducts).
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Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms is visually stunning, and works hard at it. It opens with the working of a loom on screen, digitally animated. It's an incredibly detailed bit of mechanical animation, all lit with a white light that makes the images pale and almost translucent. The next image is of a beautiful vista - a white city sitting above a lake, blue water in the foreground and green and white mountains behind. Both shots are detailed, and rendered to be as visually impressive as possible. As the anime characters start appearing among these detailed fore and background

Reign of the Supermen Blu-ray Review: Too Much Story Compressed into a Small Amount of Time

Enjoyable but not as much as it should have been.
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In the previous DC animated film, The Death of Superman, the Man of Steel met his demise at the hands of the powerful Doomsday. It’s been six months since the loss of our hero and four new superheroes have risen to take his place. Superboy (Cameron Monaghan) is a teenage clone more interested in girls and media attention than crime fighting, and who happens to be created by Superman’s (Jerry O’Connell) arch enemy, Lex Luthor (Rainn Wilson). Steel (Cress Williams) is a man made of metal with a giant war hammer as a weapon. But is he a robot, a

The Possessed & The Fifth Cord Blu-ray Reviews: Giallo Before and After Argento

Two films from Luigi Bazzoni illustrate both what a great director he was and what seismic shifts Dario Argento created on Italian cinema.
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There were giallo around before Dario Argento unleashed The Bird with the Crystal Plumage but that film upended, supplanted and redefined the genre creating a million copycat films in its wake and making all previous films feel like they are part of a different genre altogether. Luigi Bazzoni directed two films in the genre, The Possessed in 1965 and The Fifth Cord in 1971, which straddle both sides of Plumage, making it a fascinating double feature to see how in just a few short years the genre had completely changed. Arrow Video is releasing both films this week with new

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