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Bob Dylan: Dont Look Back Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Glimpses into the Heart of the Artist

Come gather 'round people and watch one of the greatest documentaries ever made.
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By the time Bob Dylan toured England in the Spring of 1965, he’d released five albums (two of which went platinum), scored a couple of number one hits, been covered by such luminaries as Joan Baez and The Byrds, written some of the greatest songs in popular music, and became the voice of a generation. Critics loved him, fans mobbed him, and journalists followed him about, asking him an endless supply of inane questions. Though he started out writing protest songs and was heavily involved in causes such as the anti-war movement and the civil rights movement, by this point
Southern rockers Lynyrd Skynyrd had quite the homecoming this year. More than 50 years after Jacksonville teenagers Allen Collins, Gary Rossington, and Ronnie Van Zant formed their first band, My Backyard, Rossington brought the current incarnation of Lynyrd Skynyrd to Jacksonville’s Florida Theater. Over the course of two nights in April, they performed the band’s debut album and follow-up, (pronounced 'Lĕh-'nérd 'Skin-'nérd) and Second Helping, in their entirety for the first time. Although Rossington is the sole member to have played on those albums, the 2015 line-up does the music and former members proud with their faithful recreations. Playing both

Twilight Time Presents: Hard Pills to Swallow and Hard Acts to Follow

From tales of vengeance to yarns of violence, this quintet of feature films shows some great men who are truly down on their luck.
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At some point or another in life, we've experienced something that can be best summed up as being that of a hard pill to swallow. Likewise, we have seen at least one thing within our own lifespans that we can safely label as being a hard act to follow. Well, for their September 2015 line-up of Blu-ray exclusives, Twilight Time has somehow managed to wrangle up films that fall under both of those two categories, be it one or the other separately, or ‒ in the rare instance ‒ both. Here, we bear witness to both life and death (but

Katy Perry: The Prismatic World Tour Live Blu-ray Review: Visually Impressive, Thematically Confusing

While the visual and the musical aspects of the concert were well done, there were a few things that were not so good.
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Capturing Katy Perry’s 2014/2015 concert tour recorded in Sydney, Australia last December, the show features seven different acts, nine costume changes, five hair changes, and a giant triangular stage that runs throughout the arena floor. Everything included is sixty tons of equipment requiring thirty trucks to transport. With everything needed to put on a show of this magnitude you would expect it to be an impressive performance, and visually it is. The giant triangle-shaped video screen behind the stage was crisp and clear as it projected various pictures and videos that went along with the different themes. During “Dark Horse”

Twilight Time Presents: Five Selections of Summer

From Peter Gallagher's superfluous face and body hair to the bloody waters of a Samuel Fuller bathhouse, this quintet has it all.
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Once again, a seemingly brief period of time has passed by, leaving in its wake a stack of movies on my proverbial workbench that is almost as long as summer itself. So it's only fitting I start my analysis of this quintet off ‒ which was made available to the public during the summer ‒ examining the titles that blatantly exploit said season. Speaking of "exploit," the term "exploitation" certainly comes to mind for many whenever Randal Kleiser's 1982 flick Summer Lovers is brought up. That, and the occasional "had me a blast" joke when people realize Kleiser also directed

Trainwreck Blu-ray Review: Apatow Wrecks the Comedy

Schumer gets some laughs, but Apatow seems determined to be a drama director.
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Judd Apatow’s latest directorial effort has its problems, but first-time leading lady Amy Schumer isn’t one of them. Working from Schumer’s script, Apatow largely reins in the outspoken star, turning what should have been an outrageous raunchfest into a melancholy rumination on coming to turns with adulthood. The film’s somber tone continues the path of Apatow’s most recent feature film directorial efforts, This is 40 and Funny People, and even to some extent Knocked Up, reaching all the way back to 2007. In all of these cases and again in Trainwreck, the focus is on growing up and accepting adult

Before We Go Blu-ray Review: A Quaint Little Film

The relationship between the main characters ends up feeling so natural it overshadows the film's initial flaws.
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Nick (Chris Evans) is sitting on the floor of Grand Central Station thinking about something important in his life when suddenly Brooke (Alice Eve) rushes by, dropping her cell phone, shattering at his feet. Without a moment’s thought, he picks up the phone and sets off after the obviously distraught woman. As the station is closing for the night, he returns the phone only to find that not only has she missed the last train of the evening, but her purse with all of her money and identification has been stolen. Knowing Brooke has no way to take care of

Mr. Holmes Blu-ray Review: A Study in Relationships

Not a thrilling mystery, but a lovely tale about growing older.
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It is hard to believe that the fictional character Sherlock Homes first appeared in print in 1887. Sir Arthur Conan Doyle created what would become one of the most well-known, iconic characters that is still intriguing to people today. Not only is he the basis for two current televisions shows in Elementary and Sherlock, but many films since he was originally introduced. One of the most unique tellings of this famous detective is Mr. Holmes. Based on Mitch Cullin's novel, A Slight Trick of the Mind, it tells the story of Holmes seeking to solve his final case.At age 93,

Just Let Go: Lenny Kravitz Live Blu-ray Review: A Giant Directorial Miscue

It's very difficult to enjoy the presentation as a whole, which is a shame because the music is so good.
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In support of his tenth studio album, Strut, Lenny Kravitz has released a live concert film that was recorded over a three-month period during the European leg of his 2014 tour. While there are twelve songs on the disk, it does come across more as a documentary than a concert performance. Between songs and sometimes right in the middle of them, there are interviews with Kravitz and the band. It’s a strange combination because just as the viewer is getting into the songs the entire vibe changes as you listen to philosophical explanations of what music is, and how the

Toy Story That Time Forgot Blu-ray Review: A TV Special Accessible to All Viewers Throughout the Year

It's good to see the care Disney/Pixar put into delivering a stunning Blu-ray.
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Toy Story That Time Forgot is the Disney/Pixar franchise's second television special following the 2013 Halloween special, Toy Story of Terror! It first aired in December 2014, and although it is set a couple days after Christmas, the story and message aren’t specific to the holiday, making the program accessible to all viewers throughout the year. Trixe the Triceratops (Kristen Schaal) feels frustrated because Bonnie plays with her as everything but a dinosaur. When Bonnie visits her friend Mason, she tosses the toys she brought over (Woody, Buzz, Rex, Trixie, and Angel Kitty) aside into his playroom and joins him

Tenderness of the Wolves Blu-ray Review: Serial Killer Social Drama

Fassbinder proteges Ulli Lommel and Kurt Raab bring the disturbing story of child-murderer Fritz Haarman to lurid life.
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Seventies German cinema belonged to Rainer Werner Fassbinder. The director incredibly prolific from an annoyingly precocious age. He directed his first feature when he was 22, died when he was 37, and in that 15 years he made over 40 films and TV productions, all while directing plays and living the sort of wild hedonism that, well, leaves you dead at 37. Along the way, he built up a kind of commune/repertoire of actors, filmmakers, and hangers-on, all working on various projects. One of these was Kurt Raab, an actor and production designer who was deeply interested in the Fritz

Black Cats Blu-ray Review: Same Story, Massively Different Films

Two Italian horror masters tackle the Edgar Allan Poe tale.
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There have been well over 300 films based on the stories of Edgar Allan Poe - that’s more than three times the number of tales he actually penned. That means filmmakers and television producers have been dipping into the well of Poe over and over again. That’s not bad for a guy who died before moving pictures were even invented. Even more astounding is the fact that most of Poe’s stories are relatively short (he only published one novel in his life) and his style is more concerned with mood than plot. Which is perhaps why so many films based

Jeff Lynne's ELO: Live in Hyde Park Blu-ray Review: So Good You Won't Get It out of Your Head

Highly recommend for ELO fans and the greatest-hits setlist would make a good introduction to those new to the band.
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Founding member Jeff Lynne was such an essential component to the massive success of Electric Light Orchestra throughout the '70s and '80s as the band's sole writer, arranger, and producer after fellow founder Roy Wood left during the making of their second album, ELO 2, it seems a tad redundant for him to be leading a band called Jeff Lynne's ELO. But setting aside whatever legal and/or ego entanglements may have been involved in that decision, Jeff Lynne's ELO headlined BBC Radio 2’s Festival in a Day in Hyde Park on September 14, 2014. Joined by keyboardist Richard Tandy, an

Back to the Future 30th Anniversary Trilogy Blu-ray Review: Once More Around the Clock

As good as it gets. Unless you have a time-traveling DeLorean lying around and were planning on joining me at the theater back in 1985.
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The theory of time travel is a tricky one indeed ‒ especially within the confines of the filmmaking world. While some of the greatest minds on Earth may lose most (if not all) of their marbles attempting to figure out just how to achieve the much-used science fiction element of jumping from one point in time to another in real life, some of the the world's most active imaginations have figured out a way of doing it on-screen. But it can still be a very hazardous journey, as Robert Zemeckis and his writing partner Bob Gale ‒ affectionately known as

A Special Day Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: Special Performances from Italian Screen Legends

Italian stars Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni play against type in this beguiling drama.
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The setup for this Italian film is deceptively simple, but belies the impact of the performances by its two stars, screen legends Sophia Loren and Marcello Mastroianni. Playing against type, their characters meet by chance in their otherwise vacant apartment building and spend the entirety of the film and their day getting to know each other. Loren is a resigned and harried housewife, tired of the grind of caring for her oaf of a husband and ungrateful brood of kids but unable to find any escape. Mastroianni plays a persecuted journalist about to be shipped off for both his liberal

Aladdin: Diamond Edition Blu-ray Review: Disney Ain't Never Had A Film Like This Before

Fans that have wanted to see Aladdin in high definition will be happy to learn their wish has finally been granted.
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Aladdin is the fourth title released during the era known as the Disney Renaissance when the famed animation studio had an artistic and financial resurgence at the close of the Twentieth Century. It stands apart from the other titles on the slate because of star Robin Williams, whose manic performance as the Genie made the character seem better suited for a Looney Tunes cartoon. Based on the Arab fairy tale One Thousand and One Nights, Aladdin tells the story of the Genie of the Lamp, sought after by the power-hungry Jafar (Jonathan Freeman), Grand Vizier to the Sultan (Douglas Seale)

Eaten Alive Blu-ray Review: Not Nearly As Good As the Movies From Which It Draws Its Inspiration

Existing fans will love it, but newcomers may be disappointed.
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Back in 1975, the world was introduced to Spielberg's screen adaptation of Peter Benchley's novel Jaws. Mardi Rustam, Tobe Hooper, and a handful of others hoped to capitalize on its success by making a flick about a man-eating gator, fed prey by the mentally unstable innkeeper next door. It wanted to blend the creature monster aspect of Jaws with the "You check in but don't check out" vibe of Psycho, and the "Backwater folks is crazy and homicidal" flavor of Hooper's own Texas Chain Saw Massacre. Eaten Alive was the product of this gruesome threesome, though it stands as less

Tomorrowland Blu-ray Review: Although the Pacing is Uneven, the Film Entertains and Inspires

It's got enough heart and good intention to almost make you overlook its flaws.
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When an optimistic teen girl stumbles upon a doorway to a fantastic world of science and invention, she finds herself embarking on a journey toward a better tomorrow. Aided by a cynical, former boy genius and a mysterious young girl, Casey Newton sets forth to uncover the secrets of Tomorrowland and the explanation for its disappearance. If I was writing copy for the back of the Blu-ray, that’s what I’d say about Tomorrowland. It’s concise and accurate, without giving away anything about the film. But of course, a movie is so much more than a blurb on the back of

The Rocky Horror Picture Show 40th Anniversary Blu-ray Review: Don't Dream It, Buy It

Celebrating 40 years of absolute madness and mythic pleasure.
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What else can I say about The Rocky Horror Picture Show that hasn't already been said before. It is the greatest midnight movie ever made, the greatest cult film of all-time, and one of the most exhiliateringly strange cinematic experiences I've certainly ever had. However, this classic film does go much deeper than just its weirdness and uniqueness. It is a film that means a great deal to not just me, but the entire LGBT community. The film taught us that being different doesn't make us second-class citizens, it makes us stronger and more human. It was a statement on

Tremors 5: Bloodlines Blu-ray Review: There's Nothing New Under the Ground

Michael Gross returns for another direct-to-video sequel about giant killer worms that, sadly, doesn't so much as scratch beneath the surface.
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I was but a mere fresh teenager when my curiosity was first piqued by Universal Studios' Tremors ‒ starring Kevin Bacon and Fred Ward ‒ back in 1990. As I recall it, I was wandering through the mall in Medford, Oregon, where a large cardboard display of the film's familiar Jaws-inspired artwork ‒ along with the memorable tagline "They say there's nothing new under the sun. But under the ground..." ‒ sat out in front of the in-house theater (this is back when there was a tiny cinema located inside the mall itself). Being a huge fan of horror and

The Honeymoon Killers Criterion Collection Blu-ray Review: A Striking Portrait of Isolation

A one-and-done feature from Leonard Kastle, The Honeymoon Killers subverts expectations of exploitation.
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The only film ever directed by opera composer Leonard Kastle, The Honeymoon Killers wears its influences on its sleeve, but never feels derivative or carbon-copied. The story, based on the real-life “lonely heart” killings by Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, is pure exploitation fodder, and while Kastle’s film acknowledges the luridness, it also dabbles in kitchen-sink realism and rhythms of alienation that recall some of the French New Wave. Kastle doesn’t gawk at his twisted subjects, instead opting to make their social and romantic hopelessness deeply felt. The Honeymoon Killers also might have the best backstory of a “one-and-done” filmmaking

Immoral Tales and The Beast Blu-ray Reviews: 1970's French Erotica

In which our hero has to ask himself, how much fake semen can one person handle?
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In my review of La Grande Bouffe, I noted that Arrow Films is second only to Criterion in creating masterful productions of interesting and obscure films. With their release of Immoral Tales and The Beast, I could easily add "obscene" and "pornographic" to that description. Or perhaps, "erotic arthouse" would be more suiting. I’m being intentionally flippant here which isn’t fair to the films (especially Immoral Tales which has its moments of artistic flair and depth of meaning behind its sex and rampant nudity) but after seeing two films back to back featuring enormous fake ejaculating penises, I can't help

The Leftovers: The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: Relishing the Remnants

HBO's newest series creates a complex and confusing web of intrigue worth watching and rewatching.
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Those who know me are aware of my regular refrain when the fall arrives: "I don't watch television." With so many movies out there, I find little worth devoting three months of my life to on a weekly basis. Life's too short to waste on bad television. The Leftovers was recommended to me constantly, so I decided to give the pilot a cursory glance....cut to a day and a half later and I'd successfully binged watched the entire series, a first for me. As if that's not already a rare occurence, I rarely ever watch the same season twice but

Big House, U.S.A. Blu-ray Review: Lean, Tough '50s Crime

This surprisingly grim, unsentimental crime film with great character actor cast is a tough-minded winner.
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This was an unexpected treasure. Big House, U.S.A. (which is a completely undescriptive, absolutely terrible title for this grim thriller) is as close as movies came in the '50s to being like the crime-fiction novels of the era. It's a lumpy narrative that follows our antagonist from bad end to bad end, getting into one horrible scrape from which he can't escape to another, without ever making him sympathetic or likeable. Doesn't sound like a fun time at the movies, but Big House, U.S.A. is consistently engaging, taut, and interesting, and doesn't always go just where I expected it to.

Sleepy Hollow: The Complete Second Season Blu-ray Review: A Spine-chilling Drama with Comic Relief

If you are looking for a quirky show that offers chills, laughs, and revolutionary lore, watch this show!
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When I first heard about the premise behind Sleepy Hollow. I had no interest in watching it as it sounded ridiculous. A couple of friends who have similar tastes to mine when it comes to television told me that I would love it. They were right. and I am now a huge fan that is thrilled it has been renewed for a third season. Ichabod Crane (Tom Mison), while on a mission in the colonial army for General Washington, encounters a headless horseman. During their battle, they kill each other simultaneously. Crane's wife, Katrina (Katia Winter), a powerful witch, casts

We Are Still Here Blu-ray Review: A Modern Horror Masterpiece

An inventive and chilling breath of fresh air for the horror genre.
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The horror genre is kind of a dying genre, a literally tried-and-true category of cinema, where filmmakers are constantly trying to think up new ways of scaring moviegoers. The haunted-house group obviously qualifies as an attempt to revitalize horror cinema. There are films that have successfully taken us by surprise, including Ti West's The House of the Devil and The Innkeepers, and James Wan's The Conjuring and Insidious; while others such as Courtney Solomon's An American Haunting, have almost destroyed the entire landscape with half-baked attempts at supernatural hauntings and possessed victims. Fortunately, Director Ted Geoghegan 2015's modern masterpiece We

Manos: The Hands of Fate Blu-ray Review: As Close to Perfect as It Will Ever Be

The infamous, long-standing contender of The Worst Movie Ever Made is ready to recruit new followers in this eagerly awaited release from Synapse Films.
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The manufacturing of a cult film is not something someone may intentionally set out to do. Sure, you can wrangle a few college kids together, get the coeds to show their boobs, and shoot a shot-on-video z-grade shitfest under the delusion you are making the next greatest midnight movie ever, but you will be sorely mistaken. Much like a great work or (real) art, making a cult movie requires more than an idea and a chisel. So much more. A deranged, rushed form of feverish perseverance. A complete lack of technical know-how that is superseded by sheer determination. But most

Cop Car Blu-ray Review: All Thriller, No Filler

A tight, lean little flick that entertains then leaves just as quick.
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Two boys walk through a giant expanse of space in New Mexico. They engage in call-and-response cursing. The first boy, Travis (James Freedson-Jackson), calls out a bad word and the second, Harrison (Hays Wellford), repeats it. They come upon a barbed-wire fence. Travis pulls apart the wires and quickly moves through it with ease. Harrison approaches slowly, gingerly prying the throned wires and tentatively slipping through. In these few moments, director Jon Watts gives us a clear idea who these boys are - Travis is the leader while Harrison follows unsure of their plan. The boys have run away for

The Flash (2014): The Complete First Season Blu-ray Review: Check This Series Out as Fast as You Can

An exciting superhero series worth watching.
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When I first watched The Flash "Pilot" at the 2014 San Diego Comic-Con, I thought that "while there’s no denying it's a CW show and at times it comes across like Central City 90210 with its many good-looking actors and melodramatic moments, there’s a lot to like about the series." After going through the Complete First Season on Blu-ray, my assessment remains the same. Spun off from Arrow, the series 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

The Invisible Monster (1950) Blu-ray Review: What Are They, Nuts?

The very first Saturday matinee cliffhanger serial hits Blu-ray, and it's THIS? I'll take it!
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Having been raised by my grandparents - proud members of the Greatest Generation - I was privileged in a way my peers were not: I learned to know of and love a variety of films (as well as television shows and radio programs) that had become nothing more than footnotes in the entertainment history books before I was even born. Fortunately for me, I was growing up within the great boom of the analog video era - when thousands of motion picture titles were finding their way to videocassette for the older generations to rediscover, hopefully gaining a new audience

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