Recently in Blu-ray

Twilight Time Presents: From the Dark to the Way Too Light

What do two film noirs, three westerns, one failed Charlton Heston adventure epic, and one of the worst giallo movies have in common? They've all seen the light of Blu-ray.
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A timeless, tiresome proverb tells us it is darkest before the dawn, and we have all surely met that one idiot who is always more than happy to impose some form of such an idiom upon you whenever things aren't looking overly bright for you. Fortunately, there is no lack of lighting in this sextet of moving picture offerings from Twilight Time. In the instance of the two film noir titles included in this lot ‒ Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) and a re-issue of The Big Heat (1953) ‒ the lighting is always perfect. When we're in the great

Roots: The Complete Original Series Blu-ray Review: A Powerful Story About a Family and a Country

Not just an important television drama, but an essential component that should be used when teaching U.S. History.
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Commemorating the 40th anniversary a year early, the landmark television miniseries Roots has been remastered and released on Blu-ray. Based on Alex Haley's Roots: The Saga of an American Family, which spent 22 weeks as #1 on The New York Times Best Seller List and won a Pulitzer Prize, it purports to tell the story of Haley's family traced back to the birth of his great-great-great-great grandfather Kunta Kinte. However, Haley was taken to the court and reached a settlement requiring a six-figure payout and his acknowledgment that portions of Roots were taken from Harold Courlander's 1967 novel The African.

Nikkatsu Diamond Guys Volume 2 Blu-ray Review: Some Things Don't Translate

A second volume of movies from Nikkatsu's '60s heyday branches out from just crime movies, with occasionally baffling results.
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Japanese cinema is samurai showdowns, tough gangster pictures, or calm, quietly devastating domestic dramas. Kurosawa, Ozu, Mizoguchi. Oh, and Godzilla. Maybe a few decades of nothing for a while, then long-haired ghosts and incredibly violent weird movies by Takashi Miike. That’s what the industry and art form looked like to even an interested observer not too long ago. There were a few other movies that came in through the cracks (Afterlife in the late '90s, Kitano’s fireworks before that) but the vision of Japanese cinema, internationally, was fairly stable for a long of film enthusiasts. With their Nikkatsu releases in

Twilight Time Presents: Dramatic Epics from Time (and Even Space!)

An infinite number of stars. Six movies. Positively no refunds.
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Whether you attended only one week of high school or an entire day in the food and beverage industry, you're more than highly likely to be aware of something called "drama." Generally, it's a toxic element of life, which many of us tend to ignore (or at least pretend to when you really, matter-of-factly thrive on it). But when it comes to the moving pictures, the drama has a tendency to be much more fulfilling. Not because it's healthier (though technically, it is, since we don't actually have to live it), but because there's a darn fine chance it has

Zootopia Blu-ray Review: The Great Bunny Detective

Disney's latest animated adventure focuses on an odd couple of buddies tasked with setting aside their differences for the greater good.
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Judy Hopps is a bunny. Nick Wilde is a fox. In the peaceful animal world of Zootopia, that doesn’t automatically make them enemies, since predators and prey exist in perfect harmony. When a few predators mysteriously start disappearing and reverting to their primal ferocity, they threaten to destroy the urban utopia unless rookie Officer Hopps and her devious acquaintance Nick can crack the case. Although it’s a cartoon, Zootopia isn’t just for kids. Its recurring theme of bigotry blatantly uses the different animal classes in place of race relations, while elsewhere amusing riffs on The Godfather and Breaking Bad make

La Chienne Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Early Renoir is a Delight

Criterion does a masterful job of bringing an early sound picture to live.
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Life has not gone well for Maurice Legrand (Michel Simon). He works as a cashier for a hosiery company and is generally despised by his colleagues. In an opening scene, they openly mock and scorn him for being a wet blanket and for having to run home to his wife instead of going out on the town with them. The wife, too, rather deplores Maurice and spends nearly every moment of her time on screen berating him. The only pleasure the poor fellow gets from life is painting and even that is spat upon by his wife who declares he

Blood Bath Blu-ray Review: Bloody Interesting

Sometimes the behind-the-scenes stories are more interesting than the actual films.
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Roger Corman’s name is synonymous with low-budget, independently financed b-pictures. He’s produced over 400 films in his career, most of which come with titles like Sharktopus vs. Pteracuda or Voyage to the Planet of Prehistoric Women. They almost always made money because he knows the basics of filmmaking and he has his finger on the pulse of what's going to sell. He also gave a great many A-list directors and actors their start in the business including folks like James Cameron, Francis Ford Coppola, Martin Scorsese, and Jack Nicholson. A famous bit of spurious trivia says that he filmed Little

Le Amiche Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Antonioni Drains the Passion from Melodrama

This middle-period entry from the Italian master hints at what's to come, but stands on its own as an interesting work.
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It’s tempting to label Michelangelo Antonioni’s fourth feature film Le Amiche a transitional work, as it shuns Neorealism and embraces melodrama like some of his earlier work, but also moves toward the aggressively modernist sensibilities that would define subsequent masterpieces like L’Avventura, La Notte and Red Desert. While it’s true that Le Amiche only obliquely studies interpersonal alienation, it’s also more than just a bellwether for the more experimental work to come. With its long, meandering takes and restrained performances, it acts like a melodrama that’s had the passion slowly drained out of it, and stands on its own as

Killer Dames: Two Gothic Chillers by Emilio P. Miraglia Blu-ray Review: Killer Queens?

Arrow Video places two more (partly) forgotten gialli on the map in a box set that some folks will kill for.
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Following in on the high, blood-stained heels of their previously-released gialli box set, Death Walks Twice: Two Films by Luciano Ercoli, Arrow Video has once again assembled a mini ensemble to two dissimilarly similar titles from a somewhat forgotten Italian genre filmmaker. This time, we are allotted the opportunity to discern (and maybe even dissect) two unique thrillers from the realm of movies fueled by sex, violence, funky fashions, even funkier music, and J&B Scotch aplenty, both of which were helmed and brought to fruition by one Emilio P. Miraglia. Much like Ercoli ‒ whose films were made and distributed

The Naked Island Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: The Picture is Worth a Thousand Words

Japanese film explores the travails of a poor farming family without the use of dialogue.
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Kaneto Shindo’s film about the daily struggles of a poor farming family has one major hook: a total absence of dialogue. Filmed in black and white on a rocky speck of an island off the coast of Japan, the film initially plays more like a documentary than a narrative film until a tragic event unfolds in the final act. Up until that point, the daily monotony of hardscrabble farming life wears out its welcome as a film subject long before its allotted time is over. The family consists of a middle-aged man, his younger wife, and their two young sons.

The Assassin Blu-ray Review: Mesmerizingly Beautiful, Maddeningly Obtuse

Hsiao Hsien Hou won Best Director at Cannes for this gorgeous, but largely plotless and completely unsatisfying historical drama.
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It’s hard when reviewing a movie to admit that you don’t get it. If you have enough ego to broadcast your opinions on films, you probably have enough ego to be sure you have something interesting to say about them. So when a movie confounds you, there can be the temptation to pretend you get what it’s doing, for appearance’s sake. This movie isn’t smarter than me, after all! Well, The Assassin has confounded me, and I’m not sure if that’s because it was smarter than me, or what it was trying to do was something I am not receptive

Killer Dames - Two Gothic Chillers By Emilio Miraglia Blu-ray Review

Arrow Video creates another fantastic set featuring two Italian giallo films.
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Emilio Miraglia rose through the ranks of Italian cinema in the early '60s, making his bones as an assistant director on over 15 films before taking the reins as director. After a couple of mostly forgotten action flicks and a heist picture, he made two well regarded (at least among genre fans) giallos before turning to the Spaghetti Western genre. He directed six films between 1967 and 1972 and then completely disappeared from cinema all together. It's the giallos he is remembered for and Arrow Video has put the pair together in another of their fantastic, limited edition releases. A

Blood Bath (1966) Blu-ray Review: Alternatingly Bloody Good and Awfully Bad Stuff

Arrow Video brings us the ultimate release of the Roger Corman horror film best known for its bizarre and convoluted production history.
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Within the grand scope of filmmaking, there is perhaps no greater force than that of editing. If you take a peek at some of the deleted and alternate scenes from George Lucas' original Star Wars, you may bear witness to some truly dreadful moments which were, thankfully, excised during a frantic last minute editing session ‒ as overseen by people other than Mr. Lucas himself. You see, sometimes even the main driving force behind a feature really doesn't know what to keep and what to snip out. On the flip side of the coin, there have been more than a

Outlaw Gangster VIP: The Complete Collection Blu-ray Review: It Don't Feel Good To Be a Gangster

Obscure Japanese films from the 1960s get an excellent release.
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In May of 1968, Japan's oldest movie studio, Nikkatsu, released a little Yakuza drama called Outlaw Gangster VIP. It proved rather popular and profitable, and so they released a remarkable five sequels to it in just under two years. It is rather understandable then that these films get a little repetitive plot-wise. Testy Watari plays Goro Fujisawa, a Yakuza warrior who has (rightfully) earned the nickname Goro the Assassin but has grown tired of the gangster lifestyle and hypocritical honor codes. In each film he tries to escape the gangs to live a normal life, meets a girl (always played

The Zero Boys Blu-ray Review: A Thrill-less Thriller

Nico Mastorakis' cult horror-action movie does nothing with an interesting premise, gets great Blu-ray release anyway.
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Execution is the most important aspect of any thriller. A science fiction movie with good ideas can stand pokey pacing and indifferent acting. A drama can overcome hokey or outdated material with powerful performances. But in a purely cinematic, manipulative genre like the thriller, filmmaking is at a paramount. Holding the audience’s attention, placing them in the action, building up tension, that’s what thrillers are supposed to do. The Zero Boys does not. It starts with an interesting enough premise - what happens if slasher movies villains go up against people with some degree of combat training? And then doesn't

When Everything is WAC: A Visual Buffet from the Warner Archive

From one of Lucille Ball's first big roles, to one of John Carradine's last, this assortment of odds and ends from the Warner Archive Collection has it all.
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Since its humble inception at the beginning of 2009, the Warner Archive Collection has been paying its respects to many hard-to-find motion pictures which would be otherwise unavailable to classic movie buffs everywhere. And, much to the delight of the aforementioned grouping of folks who have had more than their fair share of ultra-sleek CGI-laden popcorn movies we pay a questionable lump of dough to see once in a theater packed full of people who still have yet to learn the fine art of cinema etiquette (seriously, turn your phones off, kids!), the WAC ‒ as it is so lovingly

Dillinger (1973) Blu-ray Review: Times Were Tough, So He Got with the Times!

Arrow Video brings us John Milius' directorial debut, featuring eager performances by Warren Oates, Ben Johnson, Harry Dean Stanton, and Richard Dreyfuss.
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Never one to take a backseat to a popular genre, the always active brains behind the once prolific American International Pictures ‒ Samuel Z. Arkoff and James H. Nicholson ‒ instantly knew a moneymaker when they saw (or thought of) it. Even after Arkoff's production partner left to form his own company in 1972, only to unexpectedly leave this world from a brain tumor a few months later, Sam Arkoff continued to switch on that proverbial green light to many a low budget offering from seasoned industry professionals and total wannabes alike. And it was in July of 1973 that

The Witch Blu-ray Review: An Incredibly Spooky Descent into Gothic Madness

A chillingly original depiction of Gothic horror and familial breakdown.
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As we know, the horror genre is a rather dying one. In this case, filmmakers are forced to think up new ways to terrify their audiences. Some have failed, while others have truly succeeded. I think that director Robert Eggers definitely went far and beyond with the latter when he released his mesmerizing 2015 thriller The Witch. Not only does this film take you into some very dark places, but it also succeeds in taking the usual cliches of other horror films and turns them on their heads. The story takes place in New England during the 17th century, where

Macbeth (2015) Blu-ray Review: Heavy On Visuals, Light On Poetry

A new take on the Scottish Play is visually stunning, but skips a few too many of the Bard's words.
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Directors of both stage and screen love fiddling with the settings, periods, and sometimes even the words of William Shakespeare. His plays have been transplanted from Shakespeare’s own 16th Century to modern times and every period in between. The play's settings regularly gets moved around to suit the director’s whims and his words have been translated and modified time and time again. This speaks to how well his dramas speak to every person in every age. It also says something about how director’s attempt to mold great works under their own visions. In one of the features on the Blu-ray

The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2 Blu-ray Review: A Disappointing End to a Disappointing Series

The Hunger Games series concludes with a dull roar.
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After the inert and exposition-heavy The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 1, the final chapter of the dystopic “trilogy” rumbles to its inevitable conclusion in The Hunger Games: Mockingjay - Part 2. Based on Suzanne Collins’ novel of the same name, this 2015 movie is directed by Francis Lawrence with a screenplay by Peter Craig and Danny Strong. It’s hard to argue that Mockingjay - Part 2 is an improvement on its first portion, as Lawrence is up to the same tricks and the script dribbles with the same instructive dialogue. The personality has long since been drained from the

Bandits (2001) Blu-ray Review: Not As Bad As You've Heard

Come sleep around with the sleepover bandits.
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Even if you didn’t know Bandits was made in 2001, you’d automatically know it was made in the late '90s to early oughts. There’s just something about the film that screams that time period. It’s not so much the period aspect of it - the clothes, cars, etc - but rather I think it stems from both Billy Bob Thornton and Bruce Willis having the lead roles in a Barry Levinson film. Those two actors have had long, storied careers and certainly have made plenty of films since Bandits, but there’s a certain something about those years that pits them

The Stuff Blu-ray Review: Once Is More Than Enough

A creature feature that would work much better today than it would back in 1985.
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When I was a kid, there was a new type of desert that had everyone talking. It was called TCBY (aka the country’s best yogurt) and I remember there being centers all around the midwest. Okay, maybe not the entire midwest but there was more than one restaurant in Brooklyn Park, Minnesota, which is where I grew up. Everyone flocked to this place to try this yogurt and I remember it being very good. I also recall one night as I was eating some of it before bedtime. My dad told me about this movie he’s seen called The Stuff

Barcelona Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Innocent Imperialists Abroad

Whit Stillman's winning romantic comedy about politics set in late Cold War Spain.
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The first thing to get about Barcelona is the movie is sympathetic to its protagonists. Fred and Ted are cousins who haven’t seen eye to eye on anything since Fred stole Ted’s kayak when they were 10 - though Fred says he was only borrowing it, and the thing was a death trap anyway. They bicker. Ted, an expatriate living in Barcelona, is full of pretension and self-consciousness. Fred is a naval officer, sent to Spain ahead of the fleet to plan recreation. He wears his uniform everywhere, is proud of it, and will be damned if all of Barcelona

Emelie Blu-ray Review: Strong Performances Elevate Generic Horror

From the Tudors to terror, actress Sarah Bolger shines as an unhinged babysitter.
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The horror genre cannibalizes itself, and I'm not talking about movies about cannibals. Unlike other genres, horror stereotypes are so ingrained in the collective consciousness that it's near impossible not to watch a horror movie through the lens of a previous one. Emelie immediately conjures up similarities to The Hand That Rocks the Cradle and that's not a bad thing in my book, being one of my favorite "rogue babysitter" films. Sarah Bolger and the child actors assemble work wonders with a script that tries to avoid the pitfalls but never sticks the landing. A couple's anniversary sees them hiring

Star Wars: The Force Awakens Blu-ray Review: Return of the Franchise (to Great Heights)

One of the more memorable blockbusters in recent years, and the high-def presentation is a fantastic showcase for it.
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Star Wars: The Force Awakens might well have been one of the most anticipated films of all time if the numerous box-office records it set are any indication. Since Star Wars (released in 1977, amended in 1981 with the subtitle Episode IV: A New Hope), the franchise went on to become a major pop-culture juggernaut with a presence in every medium thanks to its devoted fan base and the talented contributors who expanded the fictional universe. The Force Awakens, “Episode VII” of the main film series and the first of a planned sequel trilogy, is an action-packed, thrilling space adventure

Dangerous Men Blu-ray Review: Professionally, Thoroughly Terrible

A greater package than the movie itself warrants.
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Back in 2005, Dangerous Men had an extremely limited release -- the writer/director/composer/costume designer/etc. John S. Rad spent thousands of dollars to rent out four theaters in Los Angeles for a week to show his film, and its take was a whopping $70. It's not a coincidence. It's not simply a result of having almost no marketing (an ad even ran for it during Fear Factor). It's just a bad movie, evident in every trailer I've seen for it. The very first character we meet inadvertently sets the tone for the entire movie. His credited name is "Police Detective." Yes,

Room Blu-ray Review: A Difficult but Emotionally Rewarding Cinematic Experience

A film that should that stand the test of time with its powerful performances, terrific script, and truthful message.
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There is no greater fear for a parent than the loss of a child to certain horrifying circumstances, such as death or the thought of someone kidnapping their child and doing vile things to them. The plot of director Lenny Abrahamson's 2015 moving film, Room, takes that rather basic premise and extends it into something much more harrowing, but ultimately inspiring. Based on the acclaimed novel by Emma Donoghue, the film will take hold of you emotionally, once you get past the intensity of the story. It centers on the seventh year of capitivity of Joy (Brie Larson), a woman

Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street Blu-ray Review: Sam Fuller Goes to Germany

Fuller's only feature-directing credit of the 1970s found him infiltrating the ranks of a German crime procedural.
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Half a rollicking, goofy near-parody of noir and half a queasy, German New Wave-inflected portrait of futility, Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street (1972) is a singular film from iconoclastic director Samuel Fuller. Dead Pigeon is actually an episode of the (still-running!) German television series Tatort, though it was also granted a theatrical release in several countries, making it Fuller’s only feature-directing credit of the decade. Olive Films presents the restored director’s cut on a stellar new Blu-ray release. Watching Dead Pigeon on Beethoven Street will make you wish Fuller had directed an entire season of a crime procedural. His episodic,

Jane Got a Gun Blu-ray Review: Troubled Production, Decent Results

Natalie Portman more than holds her own as the star, but it's Joel Edgerton that really shines.
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Plagued by production difficulties, it's a wonder Jane Got a Gun ever saw the light of day. In 2011, the film made the Black List, an annual listing of popular unproduced screenplays. By May of 2012, Natalie Portman had signed on to star in the film alongside Michael Fassbender with Lynne Ramsey to direct. By the next year, Fassbender was out due to scheduling conflicts and Jude Law was in. Then Ramsey quit over artistic conflicts and out went her cinematographer with her. And Jude Law. Bradley Cooper came and went just as fast. Eventually they did make the film

The Gory Goodness of Arrow Video in May

The grue is ramped up to 11 with Arrow's latest output.
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You can't say Arrow Video isn't unpredictable! From gory horror to hard-boiled action and a biopic, Arrow has a cadre of films worth buying right now! Here are a few below: The Bride of Re-Animator (1989) Re-Animator (1985) is one of my favorite horror films. Its splatter-filled gruesomeness and Lovecraftian origins take the Frankenstein tale to Grand Guignol-level highs. Until now, I didn't realize a franchise built up around the story of brothers in blood Dan Cain and Herbert West. Thankfully, Arrow's new release of the 1989 sequel will do a lot to help fans discover it, or revisit it.

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