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The Case of the Scorpion's Tail Blu-ray Review: Stereotypical Giallo

Sergio Martino's horror film ticks off all the giallo boxes but never rises above them.
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When Lisa Baumer’s (Ida Galli) husband dies in a plane explosion (via a very obvious model getting blown to bits in a special effect that will make Classic Doctor Who fans proud), she must rush to Athens in order to collect on the $1,000,000 insurance money. That she was dallying with a man who was decidedly not her husband when the plane exploded and that despite the insurance’s protests she takes her money in cash creates an all-too-familiar suspicion amongst fans of Italian horror. The Case of the Scorpion’s Tail follows the stereotypical hallmarks of the Italian giallo to near

Doom Asylum Blu-ray Review: Terribly Charming

Arrow Video has done their usual magnificent job releasing this ridiculously bad, yet somehow entertaining horror film.
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When a hotshot palimony attorney (Michael Rogen) wins a big case, he takes his girlfriend (Patty Mullen) for a ride in his convertible. He pays a little too much attention to the girl and too little on the road and winds up wrapping the car around a tree, killing the girl, and maiming himself. In the next scene, he finds himself on the autopsy table of a nearby asylum where a medical examiner (Harvey Keith) and his assistant (Steve Menkin) prepare to cut him open (why he’s taken to the asylum and not a morgue is never explained). Ah! But

Woman Is the Future of Man/Tale of Cinema Blu-ray Review: Best Left in the Arthouse

Double feature from filmmaker Hong Sangsoo presents two equally bewildering tales.
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South Korean arthouse cinema doesn’t often receive U.S. Blu-ray release, so kudos to Arrow Academy for making these films available, especially in this dual-movie format. Unfortunately, the projects selected for this release are so bewildering and ultimately unrewarding that they’re difficult to recommend to any but the most fervent admirers of niche dramatic films. Martin Scorcese happens to count himself among that crowd, declaring his admiration for the director and Woman Is the Future of Man as a bonus feature introduction to that film, but I beg to differ with his fawning praise. As discussed by the actors during their

Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards! Blu-ray Review: Undercover Yakuza Hijinks

Released in 1963, director Seijun Suzuki was on the brink of his artistic breakthrough with this comic gangland picture.
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Seijun Suzuki, one of the stable of directors at Nikkatsu in the '50s and '60s, Japan's oldest film studio, was fired in 1967 after his imaginative and visually inventive Branded to Kill completely confused the studio head. It was the culmination of an increasingly prickly relationship between Suzuki and the studio, as he worked very hard to put a personal touch and visual flair on what were standard studio genre scripts. He would happily undermine the generic beats and tone of the violent gangster movies he was tasked with making, if it would allow him to get something interesting on

A Quiet Place Blu-ray Review: Shhhhhh

Surprisingly effect horror film from that goofy guy in The Office.
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To make a film filled with long silences and almost entirely free of audible dialogue is a bold choice. To then make it a genre picture - a horror film no less - is pretty close to insane. To then have it become one of the most critically and commercially successful films of the year is about as close to a miracle as Hollywood gets. A Quiet Place is a horror movie filled with monsters that quickly devour you the moment you make any sound. It focuses on one family (the credits list them as the Abbotts, but I don’t

Black Lightning: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: A Realistic Feel to a Show About Superheroes

Being a fan of all the CW superhero shows, I quickly found Black Lightning stood out as my favorite.
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Disclaimer: Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the Blu-ray reviewed in this post. The opinions shared are those solely of the writer Jefferson Pierce (Cress Williams) is Garfield High’s principal and one of the most upstanding and respected members of the Freeland community. Little would anyone know that nine years ago he was running around as a costumed vigilante known as Black Lightning. But his days wearing a mask and fighting criminals are over. His wife, Lynn (Christine Adams), had grown tired of his nightly escapades that frequently brought him home bloodied, injured, or

Lean on Pete Blu-ray Review: A Boy and His Horse

This is not just another saccharine horse drama.
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I can’t begin to tell you how many times I expected Andrew Haigh’s Lean on Pete to fall in the same league as Seabiscuit, Hidalgo, Secretariat, and so many other films about horses and horse racing. Sure, I knew this was going to be more for adults, since it is rated R, and it is an A24 release. The latter usually means we’re in for something different, and that certainly is the case here. Charley (Charlie Plummer) is a 16-year-old boy living with his out-of-control father, Ray (Travis Fimmel), who struggles to make ends meet, but is always up for

Shark Week: 30th Anniversary Collection Review: More Bark than Bite

Other than the public's deep fascination with sharks, it's hard to understand how these oddly produced shows have been luring in viewers all these years.
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Available exclusively at Walmart until September, Shark Week: 30th Anniversary Collection celebrates the long-running cultural phenomenon that is Discovery Channel's Shark Week by presenting 10 programs, although the set skips over the first decade of the series. Other than the public's deep fascination with sharks, it's hard to understand how these oddly produced shows have been luring in viewers all these years. While technically it is correct to identify itself as a "3-disc collection," that is slightly misleading as the Blu-ray and one of the DVDs both contain the same “5 Fan-Favorite Episodes”: Monster Mako (2015), Monster Hammerhead (2014), Great

The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection: Volume 2 (1966-1968) Blu-ray Review

This is recommend for fans of the character and for these type of comedic shorts.
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As mentioned in my review of Volume 1, Friz Freleng was an instrumental figure in animation history because of his work on Warner Brothers' Merrie Melodies and Looney Tunes. He and producer David H. DePatie went on to form DePatie-Freleng Enterprises. Kino Lorber Animation has been releasing that company's work on Blu-ray. The latest title is The Pink Panther Cartoon Collection Volume 2, continuing with the character's next 20 theatrical shorts. Depending on the cartoon, the Pink Panther continues to find himself either a chaotic force or on the receiving end of one, both resulting in a lot of laughs.

The Last House on the Left Blu-ray Review: A Video Nasty Gets Its Day

Wes Craven's first film gets an excellent new set from Arrow Video.
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A few weeks ago I called a dirt-bike drama from Paul Verhoeven a vile piece of work. It was sexist, homophobic, and all around brutish in his depiction of teenagers in Holland. Yet here I am about to give a much more positive review to Wes Craven’s The Last House on the Left, a film that depicts brutal violence, torture, rape, and murder. The natural question is why do I find one film’s depiction of deplorable things vile and the other’s depiction of the same and worse somewhat entertaining? The answer lies both in genre and directorial intent. Spetters is

Miracles Blu-ray Review: Sometimes It Takes a Lot of Small Miracles to Make a Big One

An entertaining story that has a number of familiar faces and a happy ending that would make a nice addition to anyone’s collection.
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In a small village somewhere in the jungles of South America, the young daughter of a tribal chief has become deathly ill. Kayum (Adalberto Martinez), the respected witch doctor, is called in to heal her, but even his powers cannot cure the girl. Finding himself staked to the ground and left to rot in the sun, Kayum calls out to God to bring him a real doctor that can save her. But his only response is a thunderstorm. Thankfully for the little girl, the thunderstorm is more than what it appears to be. And while that storm rages on another

The Martian Chronicles (1980) Blu-ray Review: Is There Life on Mars?

Kino Lorber Studio Classics blasts off into the crazy surreal cosmos of this sci-fi mini-series.
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Despite the fact that it has been released on virtually every form of media since the dawn of home video itself, it wasn't until I sat down to review Kino Lorber's Blu-ray release of Michael (Logan's Run, Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze) Anderson's The Martian Chronicles that I witnessed the TV mini-series for the very first time. And what an interesting endeavor it proved to be. Boasting a rather enviable list of names with their own individual cult followings, this 1979 co-production between the UK and the U.S. has not aged very well over the years. In fact, it

I Can Only Imagine Blu-ray Review: The Song Is Amazing. The Movie Is Not.

A nice story that is poorly executed and leaves us with too many questions.
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In March of 2018, everyone at my Church started talking about a new movie based on the MercyMe hit song. I was skeptical for two reasons. One, my experience is that Christians are so starving for content that they’ll eat ground round and say it tastes like filet mignon. Two, every time I asked someone why they liked the movie, all they talked about was the song. The song is amazing. The movie is not. It’s ground round and it’s not prepared very well. In a film filled with stereotypes, one-dimensional performances, and unexplored storylines, J. Michael Finley, who looks

Disorganized Crime Blu-ray Review: Is It an Action Film or a Comedy? Or Is It Just Disorganized?

I really liked the characters and really enjoyed the performances.
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Frank Salazar (Corbin Bernsen) is a skilled bank robber from the East Coast who is currently hiding out from the law in a small town in Montana. But true to his nature, he finds himself scoping out the local bank. When he finds that the bank is holding an exceptionally large amount of cash, he comes up with a plan to rob it and contacts four of his friends to help him pull off the job. Before he can hook up with his buddies George (Ed O’Neill) and Bill (Daniel Roebuck), two cops who have been chasing him all the

Jack the Giant Killer (1962) Blu-ray Review: The Original Mockbuster

Kino Lorber Studio Classics debuts the infamous Harryhausen knock-off in HD, complete with the incredulous musical variation as a bonus.
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"If they could do it, I can do it!" At some point in life or another, some of you have found yourselves saying something along those lines. You may also have also found yourselves coming to the realization shortly after that you could not do whatever it was the other person(s) succeeded in doing so well, usually due to pesky annoyances such as experience and training. Indeed, that was essentially the entire reason for producer Edward Small's 1962 fantasy flick Jack the Giant Killer ‒ which is now available on Blu-ray from Kino Lorber Studio Classics ‒ being summoned into

Under Capricorn Blu-ray Review: Hitchcock Goes Down Under

Kino Lorber does a decent job restoring one of Hitchcock's lesser films.
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In his interviews with Francois Truffaut (which is included in this set via audio format), Alfred Hitchcock admits that Under Capricorn was a bit of a failure. He believed this was due to his over-excitement over Ingrid Bergman (then one of the world’s biggest stars) agreeing to be in the picture. He paid so much attention to her and the media fawning over her that he didn’t give the script the good working over it needed. Based upon a book by Helen Simpson, it was adapted by Hithcock’s friend Hume Cronyn (an actor with little writing experience) and written by

The Addiction Blu-ray Review: A Very Disturbing but Highly Intelligent Tale of Urban Vampirism

I definitely have to recommend this shocking and masterful film.
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As a filmmaker, Abel Ferrara has always stepped outside of the mold to deliver highly provocative works of humanity going completely awry. Whether it's insanity (The Driller Killer), female revenge (Ms. 45), hip-hop culture (King of New York), or police corruption (Bad Lieutenant), you can always count on him to piss off critics and audiences everywhere. He is a director of amazing extremity and unapologetic cruelty, and his very underrated 1995 cerebral horror classic, The Addiction, represents both at its most low-key and uncomfortable stride. Shot in crisp black and white, the film stars the always amazing Lili Taylor as

The Bloodthirsty Trilogy Blu-ray Review: Dracula Goes East

Three Japanese movies directed by Michio Yamamoto that involve Western-style vampires, with style, atmosphere, and some decent sprays of blood.
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As one of the great national cinemas, the Japanese movie industry has invented whole cloth many genres and excelled in many non-native filmic conventions… except arguably the Western-style horror movie. Until the late '90s, when The Ring brought out a rather short-lived craze of ghost stories (usually with a long black-haired ghost, which is cribbed from Japanese folk-lore), Japanese example of horror were rather sparse, and rather different than Western films. In the West some of the acknowledged greatest movies of the silent era are horror films. There are several distinct studio and national traditions: Universal horror creatures, the '50s

Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Portrait of the Artist As a Fascinating Man

Director Paul Schrader crafts a daring, spellbinding biography of Japanese writer Yukio Mishima.
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Yukio Mishima carved out a career as an esteemed playwright and author before ending his life by taking over a military facility and performing seppuku, a ritualistic form of suicide. Paul Schrader's daring film traces his life by having actors perform vignettes from some of Mishima's most famous works, painting a brilliant picture of this intriguing man. The film is notable not just for its subject but for its structure. After a brief color intro, it moves to black and white for the story of Mishima's childhood, then shifts to color for multiple vignettes that represent later stages of his

The Woman in the Window (1944) Blu-ray Review: Early Noir is Excellent

Fritz Lang's classic noir is nearly ruined by a terrible ending, but what comes before it is quite good.
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Fritz Lang’s 1944 crime drama The Woman in the Window is one of a handful of films that became the basis for what the Cahiers du Cinema called "film noir." These films (which include The Maltese Falcon, Murder My Sweet, Double Indemnity, and others) were beloved by French critics and filmmakers in the 1950s and '60s and helped usher in the French New Wave. The Woman in the Window was named as the best film noir of all time by Paste magazine. I wouldn’t go quite that far, especially as it is marred by a tacked on happy ending that

Spetters Blu-ray Review: A Dirt Bike Drama that Lives in the Gutter

Paul Verhoeven's dirt bike drama is a vile, sexist, homophobic piece of work that just might tell the truth of teenaged boys' life in Holland during the 1980s.
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Paul Verhoeven’s 1980 dirt-bike drama Spetters is a vile piece of work. It's the sort of film that finds sexual assault hilarious and believes a closeted gay man only needs a brutal gang raping to figure out who he is. Yet for all its disgusting brutishness, it has moments of surprising tenderness and has the feeling of truth in terms of Dutch youth culture in the 1980s. It's about three young men, Rien (Hans van Tongeren) and Hans (Maarten Spanjer,) both dirt-biker racers, and their mechanic Eef (Toon Agterberg), who dreams of fame, fortune, and beautiful women. Their lives are

Black Venus Blu-ray Review: A Horrible Mark in Our History

A devastating portrait of abuse.
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Black Venus tells the true life story of Sarah “Saartjie” Baartman, a South African woman who was mistreated her entire life due to her large buttocks and genitals. Though not technically a slave, she lived like one for several years in Captetown serving as a washwoman and nursemaid to the Caezar family. Eventually, Hendrik Caezar and his friend William Dunlop took Sarah to England and France where they exhibited her in a freak show like a wild animal. She was put into a cage, dressed like a stereotypical native, laughed and scoffed at by the rabble who poked and prodded

Death Smiles on a Murderer Blu-ray Review: I'm Not Smiling

Joe D'Amato's first horror film is a strange mixture of weird, gore, and boredom.
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In 1973, Joe D’Amato, the Italian auteur behind such masterpieces as Anthropophagus, Emmanuelle and the Last Cannibals, and Anal Strippers X-posed, directed his first horror movie, Death Smiles on a Murderer. He thought it was so good he put his real name, Aristide Massaccesi, in the credits. He should have kept the pseudonym and directed Anal Strippers 2 instead. In a movie that stars Klaus Kinski as a mad doctor, who uses ancient Incan magic to re-animate the dead, and includes scenes in which a shotgun blows the skin off a person’s face, a cat that scratches the eyes out

Peter Pan (1953) Blu-ray Review: Soars With Hours of Bonus Features

The latest release of this animated classic includes over two hours of bonus features.
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Peter Pan was previously released on Blu-ray back in 2013 in a Diamond Edition, but after being briefly consigned to the dreaded Disney vault it has now re-emerged in their current Walt Disney Signature Collection edition. If you already have the prior release, the principal reason to give this one a look is a handful of new bonus features. A secondary perk is the addition of a digital copy that wasn’t present in the prior release, giving cloud movie fans reason to rejoice. Other than that, this version appears to be technically identical to the version released less than five

The Big Country Blu-ray Review: Big Movie, Big Director, Big Stars, Little Story

William Wyler's classic western gets a gorgeous new Blu-ray release for its 60th anniversary.
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The Big Country is an epic (or should I say “big”) movie on every scale. It was directed by William Wyler, one of the biggest directors ever. It stars Gregory Peck, Jean Simmons, Charlton Heston, and Burl Ives, some of the biggest actors of the 1950s. Opening titles were by Saul Bass, the best in the business. It was shot in the wide open spaces of the Western United States in the beautiful widescreen format. Everything about it is huge. Except the story. It can’t quite live up to the epic scale of the rest of the film. Gregory Peck

Red Sparrow Blu-ray Review: This Bird Simply Doesn't Fly

If you enjoyed the movie in the theater, this new release from 20th Century Fox will give you a lot more of what you enjoyed.
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March 2nd seemed like an unusual release date for an R-rated Jennifer Lawrence vehicle in which she plays a sexy Russian intelligence officer. I always get concerned about films that come out in February and March. They didn’t get in soon enough for the previous year’s awards and aren’t being saved for the big summer or holiday season. Is it because they were deemed not good enough? Sadly, in this case the answer is “Yes”. With an estimated budget of $69 million, according to IMDb, the U.S. gross was only $47 million as of the writing of this review. That

Daphne & Velma Blu-ray Review: Feels Forced and Missing Something

The early adventures of Daphne and Velma fall flat.
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Warner Bros. Home Entertainment provided Cinema Sentries with a free copy of the item reviewed. The opinions shared are the writer's own. As the Scooby-Doo fan in residence, the painful demise of the franchise has been swift. The most recent series, Be Cool, Scooby-Doo! was problematic from the start but even with a couple interesting episodes, it ended poorly with the remaining episodes dumped onto the website. A proud series that dates back to the Saturday mornings when Hanna-Barbera ruled the airwaves doesn't even rate a 30-minute spot on Boomerang anymore. The one-off appearance crossover with Supernatural and the parody/tribute

Smash Palace Blu-ray Review: Defies Convention and Cliche

The late Bruno Lawrence's stunning performance highlights this gritty story of separation and brutal masculinity.
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Sometimes films about divorce and parental miscommunication are difficult to swallow, especially because of how terrible they can be for the children involved. There are American films like Kramer vs. Kramer, Shoot the Moon, and Hope Floats, which are good but a little sugary. However, director Roger Donaldson's stark 1981 classic, Smash Palace, defies convention and cliche with harsh truth and blunt authenticity that typically goes unnoticed in modern film. It also shows how the location (in this case, New Zealand) can bring out certain facets to a film's plot. Based on a newspaper article, the film centers on the

Annihilation Blu-ray Review: Alex Garland Annihilates the Sophomore Slump

Garland follows up his impressive directorial debut on Ex Machina with another unsettling sci-fi tale.
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Annihilation gained notoriety during its U.S. theatrical release earlier this year when it was revealed that Paramount had decided to skip theatrical release in many other major worldwide markets, instead sending the film directly to Netflix. While this was widely viewed as a vote of no confidence in the film, the finished project proves that it has nothing to do with the film’s quality and everything to do with market dynamics. Screenwriter/director Alex Garland’s cerebral take on horror sci fi simply doesn’t fit into the Hollywood blockbuster formula, so while Paramount’s bottom line may have been protected by their unusual

The Hanging Tree (1959) Blu-ray Review: Hangin' with Mr. Cooper

The Warner Archive Collection knots it up with this captivating western starring Gary Cooper, Maria Schell, Karl Malden, and first-timer George C. Scott.
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Several years before a more somber wave of performers rode into town, Gary Cooper was ‒ as he had done so eloquently before ‒ pioneering a unique protagonist who would fit right at home in a '70s revisionist western. In Delmer Daves' The Hanging Tree, released two years before one of the genre's quintessential heroes passed away, we witness the stalwart High Noon icon delivering his final lead performance in a cowboy picture. This time, however, Cooper does not play a man haunted by what he must do. Rather, he's tormented over what he has done. Set in the tiny

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