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The Executioner Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Introduction to a Spanish Filmmaking Giant

Criterion shines a light on a filmmaker not so well-known in the English-speaking world.
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Even among dedicated English-speaking cinephiles, the name Luis García Berlanga might not immediately spark a glimmer of recognition. The great Pedro Almodóvar, who ranks Berlanga up there with Luis Buñuel among Spanish filmmakers, offers a few theories why in his brief appreciation on the Criterion Collection’s newly released disc of The Executioner (El Verdugo). One possibility: Berlanga’s films often feature extended scenes of overlapping dialogue — some have likened him to proto-Robert Altman — which can be tricky to subtitle. Whatever the reason, Berlanga’s films have had basically no representation on Region 1/A home video up to this point, so

The Thing (1982) / Tenebrae / Basket Case 2 & 3 on Blu-ray: Horror, Redefined

The groundbreaking madness of John Carpenter. The murderous manifestations of Dario Argento. The deranged imagination of Frank Henenlotter. On boy, here we go!
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While none of the titles covered in this article are necessarily new to the world of home video by any means, it is with a certain amount of pride I announce these four offerings have received what could very well be their definitive editions. And that's not an accomplishment which is easily accomplished, given the various histories of each flick. John Carpenter's The Thing ‒ now considered one of the finest science fiction/horror hybrids ever made ‒ was initially met with a great amount of disdain upon its debut in 1982, when timid audiences would have much rather consumed the

Burial Ground (1981) Blu-ray Review: Still Smelling of Death After All These Years

Severin Films unburies one of the most notorious titles from the Italian zombie apocalypse of the '80s, fully restored and just as empty-headed as ever.
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There really isn't a movie like Burial Ground. My first encounter with this notorious Italian gut-muncher from 1981 probably occurred a good seven years after the film first hit home video in the US, by which time the movie had already become a regular dust collector in rental stores across the nation. And one of the reasons why this was so is attributable to the fine craftsmanship which can be seen in every single frame of the picture: it stinks. Good God, how this movie stinks! But of course, when you're a teen-aged boy with nothing short of an addiction

The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection Blu-ray Review: Essential Comedy

The first five films from the comedy legends get a nice Blu-ray set.
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When I wrote about watching the original Ghostbusters at a Fathom Event, I talked about how my sense of humor has been refined into a very specific concoction that prefers comedy that comes from a sense of story, flowing naturally from well-written characters. I don’t tend to like being bombarded with jokes when they aren’t grounded in something more realistic. Watching the films in The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection really put that theory to the test. Story is completely irrelevant in a Marx Brothers movie. Their films have some semblance of a plot, but it only exists as a

Gregory Peck Centennial Collection Blu-ray Review: Two Great Films, One Nice Package

A nice set, just in time for the holidays.
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That Gregory Peck was one of the greatest film actors to ever exist there is no denying. Had he only appeared as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and never made another movie, he’d still be considered one of the greats (much like Harper Lee is considered a great American author though she never wrote another book - I cannot count Go Set a Watchmen as hers as I don’t believe she ever intended it to be released). Of course, Peck did make other movies including the classics Roman Holiday, The Yearling, Twelve O’Clock High, Cape Fear, and so

The Hills Have Eyes (1977) Blu-ray Review: Wes Craven's Masterpiece

The late Wes Craven's gritty 1977 all-time cult classic gets a stellar upgrade courtesy of Arrow.
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When legendary horror master Wes Craven passed away last year, it really shocked the world. Here was a man whose storytelling gifts knew no bounds. He didn't make your typical horror movies; every film he made had something truly relevant to say about the flaws and the dark, nasty side of society. Whether it was his very controversial and rather crude Last House on the Left (1972); his ultimate horror classic of the 1980s, A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984), that changed the face of horror for that decade; or his groundbreaking 1996 spoof Scream, which also redefined horror for

Daughter of Dracula (1972) Blu-ray Review: Oh, the Horror

Another one of the late Jess Franco's many bad movies has made its way to Blu-ray. And I have caught up on a lot of sleep. Coincidence?
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Prior to his departure from this world in early 2013, the late Jesús Franco had left an impressive looking resume behind in which his services as a film director totaled over 200. This did not include his work as a screenwriter, producer, composer, editor, cinematographer, or any of the other jobs Franco often handled himself for productions belonging to either he or another. Put simply: Franco kept himself very busy, right up until the end. His work has become the subject of many obsessed individuals around the world, and the bulk of his career has been printed in at least

Slugs: The Movie (1988) Blu-ray Review: A Marvelously Muddled Mess

One of horror filmdom's most enjoyable atrocities rises up from the sewers once more in a stellar new HD transfer from Arrow Video.
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As a feller who spent entirely too much of his teenaged years in the horror sections of local video stores, there were two things I learned to keep a watchful eye out for when it came to satisfying my never-ending urge to keep myself amused. One item the look out for was any horror movie which proudly sported the subtitle "The Movie" ‒ something anyone who had the misfortune of seeing Mexican trash cinema maestro René Cardona Jr's Beaks: The Movie undoubtedly also made a mental note of. The other thing wasn't one I mastered immediately, however, for there was

Twilight Time Presents: Party Poopers, Poor Sports, Sore Losers, and Bad Romances

From pubescent tweens and nightmarish games to pornographers and people who love to shoot things up, there's an awful lot of foul play afoot here.
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Despite all of society's best attempts at grooming us to be normal, well-behaved, completely functional human beings, there are just some people who, as Linda Ronstadt once repeatedly declared, are no good. And this wave of releases from Twilight Time ‒ initially unleashed unto collectors in June ‒ certainly highlights many peculiar elements from various walks of life, who all seem to fit the bill(s) for party poopers, poor sports, sorry losers, and bad romances. We begin with one of the grandest party poopers of all, Frankie Addams: a socially inept and unfetteringly awkward twelve-year-old tomboy in the Deep South,

Vamp Blu-ray Review: Belongs in the Pantheon of Great Comic Horror

A surprisingly clever '80s movie with lots of "bite."
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Usually, horror comedies are a one-in-a-million, meaning that some work (the Evil Dead trilogy, Slither), and others don't (976-Evil, Vampires Suck), but fortunately for Richard Wenk's 1986 underrated romp Vamp, the horror and comedy actually mix very well, while adding a little satire that helps elevate the film to cult-like status. With esteemed actors like Chris Makepeace, Robert Rustler, and Dedee Pfeiffer, and amazing make-up/special effects by four-time Oscar-winner Greg Cannon, this film can surely add itself to the pantheon of great comic horror. Makepeace and Rustler play Keith and AJ, two Los Angeles college roommates and best friends who

Haunted Honeymoon (1986) Blu-ray Review: Tamer Wilder

Gene Wilder, Gilda Radner, and a dragged-out Dom DeLuise star in one frighteningly unfunny feature.
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I was perhaps all of ten years old when I first saw a trailer advertising the Gene Wilder/Gilda Radner comedy Haunted Honeymoon. It was in the (singular) local movie house of the small(minded) town I grew up in, and I recall being more confused by it than intrigued. Why was Dom DeLuise dressed as a woman? And, most importantly of all, why wasn't anyone laughing at the preview ‒ my easily amused ten-year-old self included? The immediate theory my preadolescent brain formed was, based on the evidence at hand (i.e. the startlingly unfunny trailer and the lack of a reaction

Valley of the Dolls Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Laughter, Tears, and a Mountain of Dolls!

The Criterion Collection releases the best camp melodrama out there!
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America was a bit of a mess in the 1960s, not just on the national stage but at the local cineplex as well. By the time the decade was over, the Hollywood studio system as audiences knew it was dead - killed by a man who could “talk to the animals” of all things. But Hollywood limped to the finish line with the tortured tale of three lovely ladies and their struggles with fame and addiction in Valley of the Dolls. Dolls, as campy then as it is now, receives a shot of respectability this week with its premiere on

An American Werewolf in London (Full Moon Edition) Blu-ray Review: Its Cult-classic Status Is Certainly Warranted

Required by law to state "You'll howl with laughter."
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After a string of comedic box-office successes (Kentucky Fried Movie, National Lampoon’s Animal House, and The Blues Brothers), director John Landis had the clout to pick his next project. He veered away from comedy to a screenplay he first worked on in 1969 while a production assistant on Kelly’s Heroes in Yugoslavia. An American Werewolf in London was Landis’ take on the Wolfman. David (David Naughton) and Jack (Griffin Dunne) are backpacking their way through Europe. The film opens with them traversing through the moors of Northern England, but all Jack can think of is hooking up with a woman

Twilight Time Presents: Something I Can Never Have

From the unconditional (or unwanted) affection of one's parental unit, to the ever-classic pursuit of maximum financial units, these five flicks have more to offer than just a nude Ornella Muti (although that's just fine on its own!).
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At one point or another in life, we have experienced the passion, turmoil, and frustration that comes from not being able to possess something ‒ sometimes, anything ‒ we wanted more than life itself. For some, it is a material obsession; the desire to acquire great wealth to control others with, or to even take charge of an individual. For others, it is simply the allure of being able to step out of the proverbial limelight for once and lead what they perceive to be a life of normality. And it is in this marvelous line-up of May 2016 releases

Dead-End Drive-In Blu-ray Review: Post-Apocalypse, '80s Style

It's like a b-grade version of Mad Max, but it's still a lot of fun.
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The synopsis for Dead-End Drive-In on IMDB reads as follows: “In the near future, a teenage couple is trapped in a drive-in theater which has become a concentration camp for social outcasts. The inmates are treated to drugs, exploitation films, junk food, and new wave music.” That sounds a bit like paradise for me so if that’s the post-apocalyptic future we have to look forward to, sign me up. An opening crawl details the recent economic collapse of every major economy and the violence that ensues. The camera moves through an unnamed Australian city and we see broken windows, burning

Warcraft Blu-ray Review: In My Entire Life, I Have Never Felt as Much Pain as I Do Now

Devoid of any originality, credibility, or explanation whatsoever, the big-screen adaptation of Blizzard Entertainment's massively successful strategy game is a giant, predictable bore.
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Contrary to popular belief, the oft-repeated phrase "Hollywood has run out of ideas" has been popping up for quite sometime now. During the '60s and '70s, television producers would take two-part TV shows or standalone TV movies and release them theatrically abroad, luring (mostly) European filmgoers into cinemas to see an extended episode of something like The Man from U.N.C.L.E., in order to take advantage of an outrageously gigantic demand for all things James Bondian at the time. It would have been foolish not to take the chance, right? It was a most cunning strategy on their part. In the

Styx: Live at the Orleans Arena Las Vegas Blu-ray Review: A Quality Performance Even Without the Band's Biggest Songs

Instead of having someone else singing some of the songs Dennis DeYoung sang, Styx just completely leaves them out of the rotation.
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Filmed while on tour in July of 2014, the Blu-ray shows off some of the band’s well-known hits. Interspersed between the eight-song concert are interviews with the band and crew members detailing their adventures and lifestyle on the road. Topics covered range from what they do during their off hours to the inner workings of the business and how the technology has changed their experience of being away from home and their family. The line-up for the concert is Tommy Shaw (vocals, guitar); James “JY” Young (vocals, guitar, keyboards); Todd Sucherman (drums); Lawrence Gowan (vocals/keyboards); Ricky Phillips (bass, backing vocals);

The Flash (2014): The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review: At Its Core, The Series Is a Family Drama

An entertaining show that stands out among the glut of superhero programs.
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Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the DVD reviewed in this post. The opinions shared are those solely of the writer. Like the Flash, I have the ability to go back in time, so let me do so and grab my description of the TV series' premise from my review of the series' first season: “The Flash presents the adventures of Barry Allen (Grant Gustin), an assistant forensic scientist for the Central City Police Department, where his adoptive father, Detective Joe West (Jesse L. Martin), works. Joe met a young Barry years ago

The Horrible Dr. Hichcock (1962) Blu-ray Review: Truth in Advertising?

23 years after my first attempt at watching it, this Riccardo Freda/Barbara Steele gothic horror movie about a necrophiliac surgeon still can't raise the dead to save its life.
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For Italian filmmakers, the 1960s were as versatile of a period as ever, especially for the ever-expanding realms of fantasy. It was a time when sword and sandal peplums, space operas, James Bond-ian espionage adventures, Poliziotteschi crime dramas, stylish giallo thrillers, and one of the country's best-known cinematic exports ‒ the spaghetti western ‒ ruled the screens. The decade also epitomized another unique motion picture subgenre: that of the gothic horror flick. From the late '50s to the late '60s, Italy's gothic movement brought forth a number of memorable, atmospheric titles from the likes of Mario Bava, Antonio Margheriti, and

Dead-End Drive-In Blu-ray Review: The Australian Escape From New York

This ozploitation feature could have been a spinoff in the Mad Max universe.
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It's difficult to decipher what will become a cult classic and what will end up being a major dud in this age of social-media marketing. Any film that gets released has the potential to be the next Rocky Horror Picture Show. Technically speaking, Sharknado is considered by many to be a cult favorite and I would both agree and disagree with that statement. I agree that audiences are the ones who get to choose what movies will eventually be part of this category. Where I disagree is that cult films are not instant, they just don't happen over night. Sometimes

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: An Early Masterwork

A wonderful tale of love and loss at the Kabuki theater.
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Kiku (Shotaro Hanyagi) is the adopted son of Kabuki royalty in Tokyo. As the presumed heir to this theatrical throne, he is constantly lavished with acclaim. The mouths that herald his praises come with two faces and out of the other, they spit ridicule. Even Kiku’s father-in-law cannot bring himself to tell him how poorly he acts. Late one night, he walks with Otoku (Kakuko Mori), nursemaid to Kiku’s brother's son, who finally tells him the truth - he stinks! Instead of lashing out in anger, Kiku’s is filled with gratitude that someone is finally willing to speak to him

The Monster of Piedras Blancas (1959) Blu-ray Review: Beheading Your Way

The outright evil, bloodthirsty cousin of 'The Creature from the Black Lagoon' makes its long-awaited splash to home video courtesy a beautiful HD release by Olive Films.
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Generally, motion pictures which owe their entire existence to the success of an entirely different (and more popular) feature have very little to offer the overall history of cinema itself other than its ‒ sometimes blatant ‒ connection to its source of inspiration. It's even harder to have an affect on the world of film when your movie happens to be an obvious "rip-off" of a horror film, especially if it was made during a time when horror movies provided audiences little more than an excuse for teenagers to make out at the drive-in. Or terrorize the really small, impressionable

The Girlfriend Experience: Season 1 Blu-ray Review: A Secret Life Has Consequences

Maybe this show can make the audience care about it as much as some of Christine's clients care about her.
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The Girlfriend Experience is a show about Christine Reade (Riley Keough), a law student and law intern in Chicago who finds out that one of her classmates Avery is an escort who provides the "Girlfriend Experience." An escort who provides the "Girlfriend Experience" also known as a "GFE" not only provides sex to her client, but also goes on dates, attends events, and provides the emotional support of an actual girlfriend. Intrigued by Avery's secret life, Christine gets involved and provides the GFE to clients while balancing law school and her internship at a high-profile Chicago law firm at the

The Night Manager (Uncensored Version) Blu-ray Review: Beautiful Spies

Mysterious characters, beautiful scenery, loads of intrigue, The Night Manager has everything you want in a spy story.
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I made the mistake of watching Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation just before I started The Night Manager. I really rather enjoyed Mission: Impossible; it's probably my favorite of the series in fact. It's a non-stop ride of thrills and magnificent set-pieces. No, the mistake wasn’t watching another Mission: Impossible film, it was the juxtaposition between that and The Night Manager that was difficult to adjust to. Calling The Night Manager slow would be an affront to snails. Its intentional languid, methodical pacing creeps across the screen. I do not in anyway mean this as a critique but coming off

Supernatural: The Complete Eleventh Season Blu-ray Review: The Winchesters May Have Just Been Defeated by Their Own Writers

What other challenge can you bring to the Winchesters that can compete with the one and only God?
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Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the DVD reviewed in this post. The opinions shared are those solely of the writer. When Season Ten wrapped up, the Winchester brothers had found a way to remove the Mark of Cain from Dean’s (Jenson Ackles) arm. The mark had been slowly driving him insane and more and more violent and making him less human. Unfortunately, there were two problems with removing the mark. The first was that they had to kill Death, which they managed to do. But in doing so, not only was Dean

Female Prisoner Scorpion: The Complete Collection Blu-ray Review: These Aint Your Father's Women-in-Prison Films

A terrific collection of some really wonderful genre films is maligned by less than stellar video quality.
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Leave it to the Japanese to perfect the Women-in-Prison subgenre. First time director Shunya Itō took all of the sleazy elements of the genre - rampant nudity, rape, gratuitous violence, and lesbianism - and turned it into real cinema. Female Prisoner 701: Scorpion and its sequel Female Prisoner Scorpion: Jailhouse 41 aren’t just good examples of the genre but honest-to-god great movies. The subsequent sequels (Female Prisoner Scorpion: Beast Stable and Female Prisoner Scorpion: #701’s Grudge Song don’t fare quite as well but there are still some really nice moments in each. Arrow Video has recently combined the four films

Arrow: The Complete Fourth Season Blu-ray Review: Darkness Consumes Several Characters as Loyalties are Tested

Arrow's fourth season pushes several characters to their limits.
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Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the DVD reviewed in this post. The opinions shared are those solely of the writer. With the popular CW show, Arrow, about to begin its fifth season, The Complete Fourth Season has been released on Blu-ray. The show picks up directly where Season Three left off. Oliver Queen/Green Arrow (Stephen Amell) has packed up and left Team Arrow with his girlfriend Felicity Smoak (Emily Bett Rickards), opting for a life of domestic bliss. As the show is called Arrow, it does not last long before Queen is

The Jungle Book (2016) Blu-ray Review: Much More Than the Bare Necessities

Jon Favreau's live action/CG remake hits the mark.
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The biggest surprise about this charming and successful film is that it works at all. Sure, it had a solid blueprint to build on from the original Disney animated film, as well as Rudyard Kipling’s novels, but let’s review a few of the many potential pitfalls. First, casting an unknown and unseasoned child actor carried the potential to instantly doom the project. There was some dissenting opinion in my household, but I thought Mowgli actor Neel Sethi was a solid choice and held up his huge part of the equation just fine. He contributes a natural performance, never coming across

Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon Blu-ray Review: A Neglected Curiosity Comes to Home Video

A typically odd late-period Otto Preminger film showcases a fine Liza Minnelli performance.
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Otto Preminger’s work in the late ’60s and early ’70s did not do wonders for his critical or commercial reputation, but there’s something compelling about nearly all of the genre-flouting work he made during the period — even if one doesn’t find the films particularly good. Olive Films has done an excellent job of resurfacing a number of these maligned, mostly forgotten films, including the bonkers Elaine May-penned rom-com satire Such Good Friends, dubious racial melodrama Hurry Sundown and star-studded flop Skidoo, and it’s done it again with a long-awaited release of Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon.

Ash vs Evil Dead: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: The Return of the King, Baby

All involved can take great pride with the results.
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Regardless of the brief cameo at the end of the reboot/sequel (has there been an official designation?), the onslaught of returning properties, and the intensity of the fan base, news of the return of Bruce Campbell playing Ash in a TV series for STARZ still seemed damn near impossible to believe. And while the news was exciting, it also brought with it some trepidation because of the high bar the previous beloved works by Sam Raimi had set since not everyone has the same low standards Star Wars fans do regarding milking the franchise. Thankfully, all involved can take

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