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Deadly Manor Blu-ray Review: A Complete and Total Dud

I'm not one prone to hyperbole but Deadly Manor might be the stupidest movie I've ever seen.
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A group of teenagers decides to go camping at the lake. Four of them are in a Jeep, two drive a motorcycle (this will be important later). None of them seem to know where it is. The one guy who has been there before only has vague notions. No one even knows what the lake is called. They can’t find it on a map. Someone suggests that maybe it is too small to be on one. They pick up a scraggly looking hitchhiker. He says he knows where that lake is. He doesn’t say where he is going but he

One Missed Call Trilogy Blu-ray Review: Let This One Go to Voicemail

A spooky premise and an excellent set of extras can't save this trilogy of films from getting hung up on.
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A group of friends are hanging out. A cell phone rings, but nobody recognizes the ringtone. Finally, someone realizes it is hers but by the time she gets to it, she’s missed the call. The caller ID says it is from herself. Stranger still is that it is dated a couple of days in the future. There is a voicemail. It is from the girl who owns the phone. It begins with her talking about something innocuous - that it is starting to rain or some such thing - and ends with her screaming. That’s strange, everyone agrees, but it

Manon Blu-ray Review: Doomed Love in Post-war France

Henri-Georges Clouzot tale of doomed love works like a film nor in a melodrama setting.
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Manon Lescaut is an 18th Century novel by Antoine François Prévost. It was controversial at the time of its release, for it depicted a woman so full of greed she’d resort to low morals (cheating on her husband, turning to prostitution) in order to live the lifestyle she preferred. It was banned for a time in its native France, which of course means it was extremely popular. Twenty years after publication, an acceptable version was printed, toning down the scandalous details and injecting moralizing disclaimers. It remains a classic, so much so that my wife, ever the lover of French

Swamp Thing (2019): The Complete Series Blu-ray Review: What Is and What (Unfortunately) Will Never Be

The complete first and only season of DC Universe’s Swamp Thing shows what could have potentially been a great series.
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It was doomed from the beginning. Before making its debut on the DC Universe streaming service, Swamp Thing had its initial 13-episode first season cut to 10 episodes. Then, once it finally premiered, the show was cancelled after the airing of the pilot episode. The series was able to play out the remaining nine episodes, as the show aired weekly and didn’t release all at once. But the fate of the series was already determined, and those who stuck with it to the end, hoping to get at least some kind of closure, were left gravely disappointed. It’s a pity,

My Bloody Valentine (1981) Blu-ray Review: Superb Slasher Restored

One of the best '80s slasher films, My Bloody Valentine returns to Blu-ray with newly restored video and audio.
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My Bloody Valentine was, if not quite a box-office bomb, a severe disappointment. It was released right at the height of the slasher craze, a year after Friday the 13th had directly copied the formula of John Carpenter's wildly successful Halloween, upped the gore factor, and turned what was a phenomenon into an entire genre. Cheap and easy to make, most slasher movies were throwaways, only interesting in their sometimes innovative and gruesome special effects. And despite hitting the basic tropes spot on (takes place on a holiday, has a masked killer in an interesting costume, and plenty of "teenagers"

Waves (2019) Blu-ray Review: The Place Beyond the Palms

Trey Edward Shults' latest is ambitious and also aggravatingly flawed.
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The use of popular music can make or break certain scenes in movies. Martin Scorsese knows this, even though he uses the same Rolling Stones song (“Gimme Shelter,” for example) or variations of it in a lot of his movies. But no matter the song, its placement is practically perfect. Others, like David O. Russell, struggle in this department. The Fighter went for the obvious with Aerosmith’s “Back in the Saddle Again” and The Heavy’s “How You Like Me Now?” Silver Linings Playbook had a terrible use of Led Zeppelin’s “What Is and What Should Never Be,” during an argument

FLCL Progressive/Alternative Blu-ray Review: A Classic Badly Revived

A U.S. anime hit returns with a pair of mediocre sequel series that totally misunderstand the original's appeal.
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided the writer with a free copy of the Blu-ray reviewed in this article. The opinions shared are his own. FLCL (pronounced Furry Kurry or Fooly Cooly, dependent on one's mood) looked like it was the beginning of something. It was a direct-to-video anime series released in 2000-2001, which at the time in Japan generally meant a series that a production company was given a larger budget to produce higher quality animation, without the restrictions that were placed on anime television so the content was directed by the vision of the creator. And FLCL, written by

Edge of the Axe Blu-ray Review: Careful with That Axe, Psycho Killer

Arrow Video presents this late entry into the slasher genre that spends too much time developing character when it should be chopping up bodies with an axe.
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It is always fascinating to me when the makers of low-budget slasher films try to inject their films with an actual story and well-developed characters. This seems rather pointless when all fans of the genre want is attractive people being hacked to death in creative ways. This is especially interesting as the majority of people who make low-budget slasher films wouldn’t know an interesting story if it slapped them in the face with a black leather glove, nor a well-developed character if it stabbed them in the eye with a shiny, sharp knife. Edge of the Axe is a Spanish-American

Parasite Blu-ray Review: Remarkable and Timely

A modern masterpiece of wicked social commentary and unexpected pathos.
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Director Bong Joon-ho has crafted a very impressive body of work. Whether it's urban squalor (Snowpiercer), monster chaos (The Host), friendship between youth and beast (Okja), and a mother taking the law into her own hands (Mother), he has shown the film world that he can put his own distinctive, stylish spin on the often colorful, albeit dark side of humanity. And with arguably his finest achievement, the ferociously entertaining Parasite (2019), he has amazingly tapped into greed and social dysfunction with an air of urgency and unpredictable emotion. The film centers on two vastly different social classes: the super

Harriet (2019) Blu-ray Review: A Long Walk to Freedom

Though mildly hampered by biopic cliches, the film succeeds with a strong performance by Cynthia Ervio.
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One of the most surprising things about Harriet is the fact that, prior to it, there hadn’t been a single feature film made about Harriet Tubman, the American abolitionist breaking free from slavery and leading numerous missions to free others. Her life story had been the subject of many television miniseries/single episodes, but Hollywood had never made a movie about it. And what we are given is your average biopic that was mostly made to garner some attention from Oscar voters. That’s not to say that Harriet is a particularly bad movie; it’s actually a good one. But it has

The Addams Family (2019) Blu-ray Review: Not Creepy or Kooky

Animated take on the famous family is so bland it practically vanishes from sight.
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The Addams Family is the very definition of Hollywood product, a project so completely lacking any creative spark or reason for existence that it feels like everyone involved had to be convinced to participate. The character designs are so over-exaggerated and super-deformed one can almost sense the pixels threatening to revolt in protest, while the story is so obvious it could have written itself. And yet, in spite of its many shortcomings, it isn’t an altogether unpleasant family film, especially because it largely sidesteps the rude humor one typically expects from lower-tier animated fare. For this iteration of the famous

Brewster's Millions Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: Maybe Worth a Hundred

A movie I loved as a kid as depreciated a great deal over the years.
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In 1902, George Barr McCutcheon, writing under the pseudonym of Richard Graves, wrote a novel entitled Brewster’s Millions. In it, a young man named Montgomery Brewster learns of a large inheritance of $7 million due to him after his uncle died. The stipulations of the will are strange - he can only earn the $7 million is he spends $1 million within one year's time and manages to not own any assets at the end of it. The novel was turned into a Broadway play in 1906, a radio play in 1937, and has been adapted into no less than

Sliding Doors Collector's Edition Blu-ray Review: Let Them Close

A unique concept that stretches itself way too thin.
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The idea behind Sliding Doors is one that is rather original and intriguing. Imagine someone living two separate but shared storylines. One focuses on what happens if she were to miss the train she’s supposed to catch to go back home. The other focuses on what happens if she got on the train in time. They have the same people, but differ in terms of certain character actions and landmark events. It’s something that might have worked in The Twilight Zone. As a feature film, and one that relies on so many rom-com cliches, not so much. Gwyneth Paltrow plays

Jexi Blu-ray Review: Mindless, Silly Fun with a Hint of Possibility

Overall, the movie is enjoyable.
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Phil (Adam Devine) has led a lone and solitary life. He has no real friends, spends the majority of his time at home, and is completely obsessed with his cellphone. So much so, that his two co-workers, Craig (Ron Funches) and Elaine (Charlyne Yi), who have sat next to him at work for the last three years don’t even know one another’s names. Even though Phil aspires to be a real journalist, his social anxiety keeps him from reaching that goal and instead, his job consists of him writing top-ten lists that usually includes cute animals with the sole purpose

The Lighthouse Blu-ray Review: A Shining Beacon of Excellence

A two-hander where your two hands will be firmly embedded in your armrests.
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I wasn’t at all familiar with director and co-writer Robert Eggers until this masterful sophomore effort, but immediately added his debut, The Witch, to my must-see queue after falling under the spell of The Lighthouse. The film really shouldn’t work, and yet it’s about as close to perfection as I encountered in last year’s film slate. It’s a dialogue-rich two-hander that is so stage-ready it’s just missing spotlights, it’s a twisted cerebral thriller with some insane freak-out moments, and it’s filmed on actual film in black and white in a nearly-square 1.19:1 aspect ratio that legitimately makes it seem like

Joker Blu-ray Review: A Gritty Origin Story for Batman's Most Iconic Villain

Joaquin Phoenix delivers a strong performance as the Clown Prince of Crime.
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Numerous actors have depicted Batman’s most famous villain, the Joker, over the years, all with different takes on the evil clown. Joaquin Phoenix is the latest in a long line of actors that includes Cesar Romero, Jack Nicholson, Mark Hamill, and Heath Ledger. Phoenix’s Joker is an emaciated, mentally ill, very psychotic, yet somewhat sympathetic character. His performance highlights the strong, yet controversial Joker. Directed by Todd Phillips, Joker, the highest-grossing Rated-R movie of all time, is set in early '80s Gotham City, where a garbage strike has led to an infestation of super rats. Gotham’s prognosis is bleak and

Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll Blu-ray Review: It's Good to Be the King

Hail! Hail! tells an important, albeit incomplete, story of an American music legend.
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Chuck Berry Hail! Hail! Rock 'N' Roll pays tribute to the man many consider the King of Rock 'n' Roll, through testimonials from peers and famous fans, from a drunken Jerry Lee Lewis, who makes the claim for he and his mama, to John Lennon appearing through archival footage on The Michael Douglas Show. The film also documents the 60th birthday celebration concert held in his honor, which takes up the last half of the film. Unfortunately, it doesn't paint a complete picture of Berry's life as he cuts interviews short when touchy subjects are broached. In 1986, Berry was

Blue Collar Blu-ray Review: Workingman's Blues

Paul Schrader's directorial debut gets a nice new release from Kino Lorber.
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After finding great success as a screenwriter on such movies as The Yakuza (directed by Sydney Pollack), Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese) and Obsession (Brian De Palma), Paul Schrader had the clout to demand the ability to direct his own scripts. His first film as director was Blue Collar, a down and dirty drama about three guys working on an assembly line at an auto plant who decide to rob their own union and find themselves over their heads. It is a realistic portrayal of the lower middle class and how big business and big unions can grind a person down

The Magic Sword Blu-ray Review: Dragons, Princesses, and Basil Rathbone

A film so bad the guys at Mystery Science Theater 3000 called it "pretty good."
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Poor Basil Rathbone. After finding great success on stage and the screen, after becoming a huge star playing Robin Hood, after being nominated for two Oscars, and portraying the definitive Sherlock Holmes (at least until a certain Mr. Cumberbatch came along), he ended his career mostly hamming it out in drek. In the last decade of his life, he made films like Hillbillys in a Haunted House, The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini, and this rather silly sword and sandals fantasy. The Magic Sword is probably best known today as one of the many films ridiculed on Mystery Science Theater

Trapped (1949) Blu-ray Review: Great Restoration of a B-movie

Previously only available in murky, ugly prints, pretty good crime thriller Trapped has been beautifully restored in HD.
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Film noir are crime movies, but not all crime movies are film noir. There has to be an element of tragedy to the film noir - of a normal person (criminal or not) who takes an opportunity to do indulge their worse nature, and their world falls apart around them because of it. A real film noir needs to be about a failing of moral choice. There has to be some chance that the main character could have acted in a different way, may have wanted to, really, but they had their moment of weakness. An itch they just had

Very Bad Things Blu-ray Review: What Happens in Vegas Doesn't Always Stay in Vegas

A difficult, but hilariously dark morality tale about men behaving really, really badly.
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After Pulp Fiction (arguably the film that defined the 1990s) came out, it changed the dynamic of how violence was depicted in the movies back then. It kind of signaled a genre that could be called the "Violent New Wave," where some films used violence just as a selling point, while others used it as an important piece of the puzzle to show how far society has fallen. Actor-turned-director Peter Berg's polarizing 1998 black comedy, Very Bad Things, can be placed in between the two. On one side, it's about how masculinity can take some really unsavory turns; the other,

Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s, Volume 2 Blu-ray Review: The Love Triangle Continues

The impressive work put into making these cartoons available in high definition should be commended and make one hopeful for future animated releases from Warner Archive.
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After a disclaimer about the unfortunate ethnic and racial depictions that occur in a few shorts, Popeye The Sailor: The 1940s, Volume 2 presents the next 15 titles released in chronological order, which debuted during the years 1946 and 1947. For those who don't know the cartoon series, the stories make frequent use of a basic template. Popeye has a girlfriend named Olive Oyl, or at least that's what he thinks the nature of their relationship is. Bluto (or his stand-in) catches her eye and she runs off with him, but then when he gets sexually aggressive with her, she

IT Chapter Two Blu-ray Review: We All Bloat Down Here

In which Pennywise, the shapeshifting killer clown, strikes back! And scares no one.
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IT is back. The Losers Club, a tight-knit group of kids—good kids—with chips on their shoulders, humiliated Pennywise the dancing (and shapeshifting) killer clown (Bill Skarsgard), forcing him to hide in his hole. Now, 27 years later, Pennywise (he, she, “IT”) wakes from its slumber, hungry for flesh. Loser flesh. As conceived by director Andy Muschietti, Pennywise always looks and sounds demonic. But IT Chapter Two and its 2017 predecessor over-telegraph the evil. IT’s mouth drools. The head is bulbous, spider-like. The blood-tear makeup is sinister. Skarsgard goes all in to give us all kinds of creep. By contrast, the

Stick Blu-ray Review: Burt Reynolds Should Have Stuck to Acting

A sluggish, limp and completely uninteresting Elmore Leonard adaptation.
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More than half of Elmore Leonard’s novels have been turned into movies (and more than a few were adapted twice, not to mention television shows based on his work). It is easy to see why. Leonard writes like he’s got a movie in mind. His books are full of actions, his characters well-drawn, and he’s got an ear for dialogue. Sometimes, he’ll break long sections of dialogue down like a script with the character's name written out at the beginning of each line followed by what they say. He doesn’t spend a lot of time on a character’s inner dialogue

Universal Horror Collection, Volume 3 Blu-ray Review: Not Quite Scary

Volume 3 of this ongoing collection features four lesser films from the Universal Horror archives which will thrill any fan.
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Universal horror will always be synonymous with a handful of monsters and the dozens of films the studio made starring them. We’re talking Dracula, Frankenstein’s monster, the Mummy, the Invisible Man, the Creature from the Black Lagoon, and the Wolf Man. These are the enduring staples of a genre that lasted from the 1920s through the 1950s and whose legacy lasts even today. But Universal Studios made loads of other horror films staring dozens of other monsters, murderers, and villains. Most of these have long been forgotten, but now Scream Factory is bringing them back in high definition in their

She (1984) Blu-ray Review: Post Apocalyptic Nonsense

A low budget, low frills, completely ridiculous, and totally awesome early '80s masterpiece.
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I wonder if you could draw a line from the sword and sandal epics from the early 1960s to the post-apocalyptic movies of the 1980s. In other words, did movies like Spartacus and Hercules in the Haunted World influence films like Mad Max, The Beastmaster, and the movie I’m currently reviewing, She. All of these films feature both men and women in revealing costumes, whether it be form-fitting togas, short skirts with those feather-looking pterugas (and who says you don’t learn new words when writing movie reviews?), or general leg- and navel-bearing clothing. They do battle against hordes of evil

A Sunday in the Country Blu-ray Review: A Day in the Life

A loving portrait of country living, and a life full of regrets.
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Never was a film so aptly titled as A Sunday in the Country. The only way to make it more accurate would be to call it "Very Little Happens on a Sunday in the Country." Or perhaps "An Old Man’s Family Visits Him in the Country and Nothing Much Happens." As you might surmise from my snark, A Sunday in the Country is a film in which the plot is inconsequential. It isn’t about what is happening on screen but rather the mood it evokes, and the emotions it characters are feeling. The old man is Monsieur Admiral (Louis Ducreux),

Judy (2019) Blu-ray Review: A Look at Life After the Rainbow

Renee Zellweger's outstanding performance is the sole reason to see this otherwise formulaic biopic.
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There is no denying that all of the praise and awards attention that Renee Zellweger has been receiving for her performance as Judy Garland is justified. Zellweger disappears into the role of the troubled star in her final days when her acting career was behind her and she turned to performing at various venues to try to get by. It’s a devastating performance, and it wouldn’t be a shock if she took home all of the awards. I just wish the movie surrounding her performance was as captivating as she is. Director Rupert Goold brushes through so many aspects of

Tunes of Glory Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Acting Tour de Force

Alec Guinness (with a Scottish brogue) squares off with John Mills in this military drama.
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I have been on a bit of an Alec Guinness kick of late. He’s an actor I knew and loved from epic dramas like The Bridge on the River Kwai and Lawrence of Arabia and of course as the Jedi Knight Obi-Wan Kenobi in the Star Wars films. It has been a true treat then to dive deeper into his filmography and find so many wonderful performances. He was known to me mostly as a dramatic actor and so it has been a delight finding what a charming comedic actor he also was in films like The Man in the

Long Day's Journey into Night (2018) Blu-ray Review: A Beautiful Dream

An incredible feat of filmmaking that left me breathless and confused.
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You gotta love marketers. They can make you lots of money and screw you at the same time. Bi Gan’s second feature film Long Day’s Journey into Night (which has nothing to do with the Eugene O'Neill play) was marketed in his homeland of China as a romantic event. For its opening night on New Year's Eve, the film was scheduled so that it would end as the clock struck midnight. It was suggested its closing scene, which involved two people engaged in a romantic kiss, would make a perfect time for couples to bring a kiss into the new

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