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Night School (1981) Blu-ray Review: Maybe Some of It Will Rub Off on You

The Warner Archive Collection cordially invites you to attend the premiere of Rachel Ward's slasher movie debut in High-Definition.
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One of several kajillion slasher movies manufactured in the early '80s alone, the American-made Night School sports an oddly Canadian aura about it throughout ‒ from the British director (Ken Hughes, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang, The Internecine Project) and starlet Rachel Ward (in her film debut) to the vaguely familiar, mostly nocturnal urban New England location photography by Scanners cinematographer Mark Irwin, right down to the finale which honors the horror sub-genre's giallo roots. When viewed in this erroneous light, Night School feels like some sort of underrated cult classic. Amusing enough, however, if you stare directly into the big

Walking Out Blu-ray Review: A Father-Son Hunting Trip That Fails to Deliver in Many Ways

While the film had a lot of potential in being a survival film with a heartfelt story, it failed to capture the elements I was looking for.
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David (Josh Wiggins) is a child of divorce. He lives with his mother in a big city in Texas while his father, Cal (Matt Bomer), lives out in a remote area of Montana. The father and son have had a difficult time connecting over the years, and when 14-year-old David comes for a visit, their relationship is still as strained and awkward as it has always been. But Cal looks to change this by getting his son away from the technological entrapments of his phone and taking him deep into the wilderness to hunt for moose. Hunting was something that

Henri-Georges Clouzot's Inferno Blu-ray Review: Lost Masterpiece or Dodged Bullet?

Documentary details Clouzot's experimental Inferno, using recently discovered footage from the failed production, to mixed results.
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There's a little cottage industry of documentaries about movies that didn't get made. Every few years one of them pops up - Lost in La Mancha about Terry Gilliam's early, disastrous attempt to make The Man Who Killed Don Quixote or Jodorowsky's Dune. Implicit in the premise is that the world of cinema is missing out on a masterpiece - that a world of perhaps game-changing potential is lost to us because of some unfortunate timing, a couple of bad days on a set, or a miscalculation that metastasizes into a disaster. Honestly, whenever I see or read these stories,

Justice League Blu-ray Review: The DC Cinematic Universe Is Heading in the Right Direction

Will leave fans looking forward to the next film in the DC franchise.
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It’s been some time since the last film Batman v Superman: Dawn Of Justice where the Man of Steel (Henry Cavill) gave his life fighting Doomsday. The loss of the world’s most powerful superhero affected the entire planet, leaving most without hope. Even Batman (Ben Affleck) feels the loss as he takes responsibility for the death of Superman. But there isn’t time for everyone to grieve. The Dark Knight is still patrolling the streets and has stumbled upon a new threat. Some strange insect-like creatures have been appearing around the world attracted by the scent of fear. After defeating one,

Robert Altman's Images Blu-ray Review: Nothing Like Altman

A surrealistic horror film that feels more like Ingmar Bergman than Robert Altman.
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Made in the middle of his incredible 1970s run of films that includes M*A*S*H, McCabe & Mrs. Miller, The Long Goodbye ,and Nashville, Robert Altman’s Images is unlike any of those films and in fact is different from pretty much anything in his long, storied career. There is none of the overlapping dialogue that Altman pioneered and his camera, which he typically inserts into a scene letting it rummage around for a story, is more beautiful, constructed, and poetic. Made in 1972, Images premiered at the Cannes film festival where it won Susannah York the award for Best Actress. It

Eagles of Death Metal: Nos Amis (Our Friends) Blu-ray Review: Friendship in the Face of Evil

Heartfelt if slight documentary about a rock band's return to Paris in the aftermath of a terrorist attack.
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Until the Paris Terrorist attack on November 13, 2015 where their concert at the Bataclan was targeted leaving 89 dead, for non-fans Eagles of Death Metal, if they had heard of them at all, were mostly thought of as Josh Homme's other band. Queens of the Stone Age, Homme's central musical outlet, has been a staple of the American hard rock scene for two decades, while Eagles of Death Metal was the weird side project where he co-wrote the songs, was the rhythm section, and hardly ever toured with the band. If the first third of Eagles of Death Metal:

Birdboy: The Forgotten Children Blu-ray Review: Definitely Not For Kids

Animated film from Spain tells a dark, sad tale that retains a hint of hope.
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In a post-apocalyptic landscape, three friends, a mouse, a piglet, and a little fox, dream of escaping their horrible little island and moving to the city where they might breath the clean air, drink the clean water, and live their lives out prosperously. But they neither have the ability or the means to leave. Dinky the mouse steals “happy pills” from her fundamentalist parents, who constantly berate her and use a baby Jesus doll that literally cries blood to fill her with guilt. Zachariah the piglet lives with his drug-addicted mother who turns into a giant spider when she gets

Ichi the Killer Blu-ray Review: Blood-soaked Fun

Well Go USA's new 4K transfer of Takashi Miike's splatter classic gives you all the gore you can handle in pristine high definition.
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While watching Well Go USA’s new 4K transfer of Takashi Miike’s classic splatter flick Ichi the Killer, you may ask yourself whether or not one needs to see all that gore in super high-definition. Is it necessary, you may ponder, to see the insides of a man cut straight down the middle, or the viscera of a dozen nameless foes sloshed across the floor, blood dripping from the ceiling, or even the title cards rising from a puddle of semen in all its digitally restored, detailed resolution? For fans of the highly influential, totally disgusting, and surprisingly funny film, the

Eaten Alive! (1980) Blu-ray Review: Lenzi Frenzy from the Cannibal Craze

Severin Films sinks its teeth into Umberto Lenzi's hilariously tasteless cult flick. Break out the ketchup.
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Though Ruggero Deodato is perhaps Italy's (if not the world's) most "famous" director of gory cannibal movies, the entire bloody movie subgenre can be attributed to the late great Umberto Lenzi (Eyeball, Cannibal Ferox). Eight years after accidentally forming the concept with his 1972 shocker The Man from Deep River ‒ a strange "mondo" take on A Man Called Horse ‒ Lenzi returned to the jungle for something even stranger. Fusing the cannibal flick with a literal cult movie, Eaten Alive! (Mangiati vivi!) manages to exploit the real-life horrors of Jim Jones and the Jonestown Massacre. It also serves as

Thor: Ragnarok (2017) Blu-ray Review: The Marvel Cinematic Universe Holiday Special

Chris Hemsworth lets his hair down (and sleeps with one eye open) in this highly enjoyable change of pace from director Taika Waititi.
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Admittedly, I am not the biggest contemporary superhero movie enthusiast. At one point in time, I would have fallen somewhere in the vicinity of such a category, but I essentially dropped out around the same time the current Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) as we know it came into existence in 2008. Sure, I catch the occasional superhero flick here and there (including the occasional new DC abomination, which usually only helps me appreciate Marvel's contributions all the more), but I generally remain indifferent to what I see. And then there is Thor: Ragnarok ‒ a film which proves even a

Darkest Hour Blu-ray Review: Gary Oldman Gives a Riveting Portrayal as Winston Churchill

A compelling historical drama about standing up for one's beliefs in the face of great adversity.
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Joe Wright's Darkest Hour tells the story of Winston Churchill's first few weeks in office as Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, a tumultuous time as World War II raged in Europe and the leaders of Parliament couldn't agree on the direction to take. Gary Oldman gives a riveting portrayal of Churchill that will long be remembered, It was helped realized by the outstanding make-up work of Kazuhiro Tsuji and his team. On May 9, 1940, the Labour Party in the British Parliament wants to replace Prime Minster Neville Chamberlain (Ronald Pickup) as Prime Minister because of his capitulation to

Murder on the Orient Express Blu-ray Review: Kenneth Branagh Dunnit (Pulled Off Poirot, That Is)

Branagh is in his element here and whether one is previously familiar with the great Belgian detective or not, there is a lot to enjoy in Murder on the Orient Express.
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As an avid fan of Agatha Christie mysteries on book and screen - especially David Suchet's excellent portrayal of her most famous detective, Hercule Poirot - I had to admit that the preview images of Kenneth Branagh and his take on Poirot's inimitable moustache put me off. What was he thinking? It was simply too ridiculous to be taken seriously. But I am happy to report that Branagh not only pulls off the Belgian sleuth, but he approaches the character and Christie's most famous puzzle with originality and enthusiasm. Branagh is not only the lead actor in the film, but

Gate II (1990) Blu-ray Review: Fun, But for Big Fans Only at Best

Scream Factory re-opens the door to the hotspot below with a stunningly clear 2K scan.
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My first viewing of Gate II was when the film first came to my hometown's dinky second-run theater (which was our only theater) in 1992, several months after the low-budget B-movie had already opened. It was the very kind of film our local cinema proudly shelled out for: something they could pick up on the cheap and pair with another "affordable" feature from the era for a barely-advertised double-bill ‒ which my best friend and I would see at the sparsely-occupied Sunday matinee for a whopping five bucks, per our weekly movie-going ritual. While we were well accustomed to seeing

Battle Cry (1955) Blu-ray Review: Former A-List Hit with Future B-Grade Stars

The Warner Archive Collection digs up another wartime relic with a nice cast of cult favorites.
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Battle Cry's cast is enough to send shivers up the spine of any classic B-movie enthusiast from sheer excitement. The film itself, on the other hand, may cause one to shudder from entirely different reasons. For, despite the impressive gathering of actors who would later gain fame (or perhaps, infamy) from appearing in some of the greatest cult movies of all time (as well as a heap of television work), there simply isn't enough to keep the average viewer's attention throughout the bulk of this equally bulky World War II drama. And, frankly, that says an awful lot ‒ especially

Big Business / Scenes from a Mall Blu-ray Review: An Interesting Combination

Two disappointing Bette Midler films from 1988 and 1991 are teamed up in a not-so-funny double feature.
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Kino Lorber recently teamed up two late-'80s / early-'90s films for a Blu-ray release that seem to share little in common other than both being comedies that star Bette Midler. Movies linked by actors instead of directors don't always pair well together and this is an interesting combination. Big Business is a 1988 teaming of Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin in a Jim Abrahams (Airplane) directed film. The "body change" and "split up twins" scenarios were a popular trope of films of this era. Most people go back to the Freaky Friday reference from the '70s but the idea of

The Sea Wolf (1941) Blu-ray Review: Another Major Discovery from the WAC

Formerly lost at sea, the original 100-min cut of this classic sails in to home video thanks to the Warner Archive.
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The discovery of any classic film in its original uncut form brings with it an opportunity to rejoice. Recently, the Warner Archive Collection uncovered an uncut 35mm nitrate print of Michael Curtiz's classic 1941 film adaptation of Jack London's The Sea Wolf. Buried away for decades in the Museum of Modern Art's storage facility in New York, the unveiling of such a print was a significant find ‒ as the film had only been available in a heavily-shortened version since its first theatrical re-release in 1947. Naturally, much like the WAC's recent re-discovery of the three-hour TV cut of Richard

The Emperor in August / Sayonara / The Yellow Handkerchief Blu-ray Reviews: Three for Japan

All is fair (great, in fact!) in love, war, and on the road in this trio of classics from Twilight Time.
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American and Japanese. Remakes and originals. Love and war. Though they may all appear to be starkly different on the outside, this trio of Twilight Time releases from (or at least filmed in) Japan evinces we're only human on the inside. The Emperor in August (2015, Shochiku Company) Remaking a classic historical war film is never an easy task. Especially when the story focuses on internal political strife as opposed to the always bankable sight of what SCTV's Farm Film Report would likely refer to as "stuff gettin' blowed up real good." It's an ever harder chore to pull off

Elevator to the Gallows Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Ruthless People

French director Louis Malle launched his award-winning career with this spellbinding crime thriller.
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Louis Malle’s directorial debut is notable for numerous reasons. He was only 24 years old at the time, fresh off a three-year stint working at sea with famed oceanographer Jacques Cousteau where he only had to “direct fish”, as he was frequently fond of recounting. He had no real pull in the film industry, and yet was able to land the already established actress Jeanne Moreau to star, as well as jazz titan Miles Davis to contribute a totally improvised score. His best accomplishment: the resulting film is a resounding success, largely thanks to his sure-handed direction of its mesmerizing

An Actor's Revenge Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Kabuki Costumes in Modernist Cinema

Kon Ichikawa's remake of a '30s movie dresses a stagey plot in innovative cinematic stylings.
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Yukinojo, the kabuki female impersonator who gets the titular vengeance in Kon Ichikawa's An Actor's Revenge (1963), is a tough sell for a cinematic character. Heavily made up both onstage and off, never once dropping his female gestures and high-pitched voice, Kazuo Hasegawa's performance is definitely deeply committed. This, which according to the title card early in the film was his 300th film performance, is also a remake of a popular film from the '30s, also starring Kazuo Hasegawa. A Kazuo Hasegawa in his early 20s playing a female impersonator so mesmerizing that the most beautiful woman in Edo (Tokyo

The Hero Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Long Train Ride into the Soul of an Artist

A movie star reflects on his life and the compromises he made to get there.
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Arindam Mukherjee (Uttam Kumar), an enormously famous movie star, boards an overnight train from Calcutta to Delhi to receive a national award. There, he meets an interesting cast of characters including Aditi Sengupta (Sharmila Tagore), a young journalist who edits a modern women’s magazine. She is contemptuous towards egotistical movie stars like him, but decides to secretly interview him as an expose to draw in readers. She wanders over to him in the dining car pretending to want an autograph for her niece and because she’s pretty and the journey is long, he begins talking to her freely. Over the

Hack-O-Lantern (1988) Blu-ray Review: Every Night is Halloween

Massacre Video brings us a High-Def release of this cult Satanic Panic '80s horror oddity.
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Only a short time ago, finding a copy of Jag Mundhra's low-budget '80s horror flick Hack-O-Lantern on VHS was similar to discovering the source of The Nile. Granted, said copy would usually be a well-worn one, as the direct-to-video film ‒ which also once bore the title Death Mask before seeing later distribution on home video under the title Halloween Night ‒ was certainly not the sort of moving picture to have made rounds on the retail videocassette market. Rather, Hack-O-Lantern was the sort of schlocky cheesy tripe which could have only hailed from the glorious days of rental pricing;

The Trip to Spain (2017) Blu-ray Review: Moore (or Les) of the Same

Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon are at it again in this feature film version of the popular UK TV series.
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The third film adaptation to spawn from Michael Winterbottom's television series The Trip, The Trip to Spain reunites British comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon for yet another bizarre road trip. This time, our pair of middle-aged delinquents embark off to good ol' España to indulge in the finest Spanish cuisine (and wine for the Welshman, as Steve is on the wagon here). But food and drink are the least of the viewer's concern, as our hosts' seemingly erratic behavior is the thing that keeps us coming back for more. Or "Moore," as is the case in The Trip to

The Girl Without Hands Blu-ray Review: A Mesmerizing Fairy Tale

Distinctive animation elevates a simple story into the sublime.
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Based upon an old German fairy tale as collected by the Brothers Grimm, The Girl Without Hands is a French animated film with a lot of heart and a unique sense of style. The devil (Phillippe Laudenbach) appears to a poor miller (Olivier Broche) and makes him a deal. For the small price of what’s behind his mill, the devil will make him rich. Knowing that only an old tree lies behind his mill, the miller agrees. Soon liquid gold begins flowing through his mill, making him richer than his wildest dreams. When the devil comes to collect, the miller

The Taking of Beverly Hills (1991) Blu-ray Review: Try Hard

The ridiculously fun 'Die Hard' knock-off with a mulleted Ken Wahl finds its way to BD thanks to Kino Lorber.
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Any time you depict a filthy rich jock as someone the average moviegoer should be able to sympathize with, you're bound to run into some trouble. In the instance of Sidney J. Furie's 1991 non-hit The Taking of Beverly Hills, we get just that ‒ played to the hilt by former Hollywood heartthrob and Wiseguy star Ken Wahl. Sporting a perfect urban mullet (which perfectly compliments this thick bushy eyebrows) throughout, Wahl plays a football hero nicknamed Boomer. While Boomer's career may have recently ended due to a leg injury (an eerie omen to our lead actor's fate: Wahl effectively

Mr. Mom Blu-ray Review: Role Reversal Comedy Has Few Laughs

The John Hughes-penned comedy starring Michael Keaton and Teri Garr gets a new, albeit lackluster, Blu-ray update from Shout Select.
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Stan Dragoti’s Mr. Mom is what happens when someone decides that a sitcom with its premise might not have much shelf life on television networks and is probably better suited for the big screen with a 90-minute runtime. Its theme music even has that feel like we’re watching the opening credits for something that would air during the Thursday night comedy lineup on one of the big networks. In reality, it doesn’t even really work as a feature film. Granted, this John Hughes-penned comedy is essentially what launched Michael Keaton into stardom and proved that he is both quick on

Not as a Stranger (1955) Blu-ray Review: Robert Mitchum, Sociopathic Surgeon

Kino Lorber brings us Stanley Kramer's first directorial effort starring Olivia de Havilland, Robert Mitchum, and Frank Sinatra.
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Any movie which conjures up the mental image of a motorcycle bound Lon Chaney Jr. going out in a drunken blaze of glory certainly deserves a special place in history. However, when that same movie also happens to star Olivia de Havilland, Robert Mitchum, and Frank Sinatra ‒ along with a first-rate supporting cast including Gloria Grahame, Broderick Crawford, Lee Marvin, Harry Morgan, and the aforementioned Mr. Chaney ‒ its significance in the world of film increases substantially. Now toss in the superb production values and social commentary filmmaker Stanley Kramer was (and still is) so well known for, and

Victor Crowley Blu-ray Review: Why, Oh Why, Do They Keep Going into That Swamp?

If you love '80s horror or any of the previous Hatchet movies, you owe it to yourself to give Victor Crowley a shot.
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If it's been said once, it's been said a thousand times -- don't go into Honey Island Swamp in Louisiana unless you want to die horribly. Victor Crowley will either take you apart or make you wish he had. He will. It's simply gonna happen. A group of misled tourists didn't stand a chance against him in Hatchet. A hunting party and voodoo priest couldn't stop him in Hatchet II. A S.W.A.T. team hardly phased him in Hatchet III. He's been scouring the area around his home for over 50 years now, despite being shot, impaled, blown up, chainsawed in

The Witches Arrow Academy Blu-ray Review: Someone Get These Witches a Spell

Anthology collection starring Silvana Mangano as a variety of witches fails to bewitch.
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The concept of an anthology film in which you make one long movie consisting of several short films seems like a good one. Presumably, it is easier to wrangle big name directors and stars as the time commitment will be shorter than a full-length feature. You can have a variety of different genres and styles and if one film is a dud, then you’ve got several others that can compensate. And yet it is rare thing in which I’ve ever enjoyed an anthology film. It's a bit like short-story collections to me. It's difficult to tell an engaging story in

Blade of the Immortal Blu-ray Review: The Immortal Takashi Miike

Veteran director Takashi Miike reaches the unimaginable milestone of his 100th film with this spellbinding supernatural samurai tale.
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Takashi Miike has directed some of the most well-known Japanese genre films to ever reach our shores, including his turn-of-the-century gems such as Ichi the Killer, Audition, and the Dead or Alive trilogy, as well as his more recent samurai hit, 13 Assassins. For his 100th film, he has helmed the film adaptation of the classic manga series, Blade of the Immortal. Manji (Takuya Kimura) is an adept samurai who suffers mortal injuries and the murder of his sister in a massive battle against 100 enemies. Just as he’s about to bleed out, an ancient witch appears and dumps “sacred

Freebie and the Bean Blu-ray Review: A Film That Should Have Stayed Buried in the Past

While the drawn-out car chases through the streets of San Francisco are entertaining and interesting to watch, the rest of the film is rather unwatchable.
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In San Francisco, two cops Freebie (James Caan) and Bean (Alan Arkin) have spent more than a year trying to find some evidence on Red Meyers (Jack Kruschen), the biggest syndicate boss in the city. Having been reduced to digging through the man’s trash in hopes of finding some clues, they stumble upon some incriminating documents that weren’t shredded. Rushing to get a warrant so they can search his home and business, they find that they can’t get one right away and will have to wait through the weekend. Normally, that wouldn’t be a huge inconvenience, but they discover that

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