by Rob Vaux Posted: November 2nd, 2012 at 7:21 am
As Noah Cross once said, “Politicians, ugly buildings and whores all get respectable if they last long enough.” You can add cheesy third-tier horror movies to that list as well. Terror Train arrived in 1980, during the heyday of drive-in slasher flicks when the likes of Halloween and Friday the 13th ruled the horror scene. Like a lot of its contemporaries, it found a basic gimmick, then assumed its work was done and filled in the blanks as quickly as possible. It included a bit of a whodunit in the mix, but beyond that and its vaguely interesting setting, it offered nothing to separate it from the pack. Now it arrives on Blu-ray, a dubious “classic” without much to recommend it beyond name recognition. Hit the jump for the full review.
by Rob Vaux Posted: October 22nd, 2012 at 7:26 am
Little Shop of Horrors isn’t the first film with a lost alternate ending, but it’s certainly one of the most interesting. Having stuck resolutely to the downbeat absurdity of the source material, director Frank Oz needed to make an abrupt about-face when test audiences hated the way the movie ended. A happier finale was put together and the film went on to become a justly celebrated cult classic. The newly released Blu-ray edition finally restores the original version, along with the one that ultimately saw the inside of theaters. Which one is better? With a disc like this, it really doesn’t matter. Hit the jump for the full review.
by Rob Vaux Posted: October 17th, 2012 at 6:47 am
It’s hard to overestimate the impact of Universal’s classic monster movies. They brought the themes and techniques of German Expressionism straight to Hometown U.S.A. and forever defined our notion of horror movies in the process. Every Halloween decoration ever made owes them some debt. Every onscreen boogeyman and misunderstood outcast can trace their roots back to them. They’ve become so ingrained in pop culture that we scarcely acknowledge their existence anymore… save during moments like this one, when they make the leap onto a new medium. As part of their 100th anniversary celebration, Universal has packaged eight of them into an “Essentials” Blu-ray collection, a handsome set that nonetheless stumbles into a number of expected pitfalls. Hit the jump for my full review.
by Rob Vaux Posted: October 11th, 2012 at 8:48 am
When it comes to boxed sets, the James Bond franchise faces a fascinating dilemma. Unlike Star Wars or Harry Potter, which have viable endings – or even Star Trek, which can be broken down into identifiable “phases” – Bond lacks any sense of closure. You could divide it up by actors, but that leaves some sets with up to seven movies and others with only one or two. You could go by era, but that, too, proves rather messy. And as for completion… this franchise can (and probably will) bury us all. So how do you pick up a “complete” set, knowing that you’ll just have to add to it in a couple of years?
The 50th anniversary of the franchise provides as good an opportunity as any to pick up a “definitive” collection, and the studio makes sure that the effort is worth it. Little about the set is new or different, but the simple fact of holding all 22 Bond films in Blu-ray form is enough to make most film geeks cackle with glee. Hit the jump for my full review of Bond 50: The Complete 22-Film Collection on Blu-ray.
by Rob Vaux Posted: September 14th, 2012 at 12:43 pm
September turns out to be D-Day for sexy Blu-ray sets. Even with the unfortunate delay of The Avengers Phase 1, we’ve still got giant collections for Titanic, James Bond, Indiana Jones and Alfred Hitchcock. The good people at Warner Bros – prepping the Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection to kick off the fun – likely realized early on that they needed to bring their A-game to compete, especially with the series so recently ending and a glut of other Potter DVDs and Blu-rays readily available. Looking at the new set, however, “A-game” is an understatement. It’s more like “exercising the nuclear option.” Good luck making a splash with this 600-pound gorilla in the room. Hit the jump for my full review.
by Rob Vaux Posted: August 28th, 2012 at 12:41 pm
Along with True Blood and Game of Thrones, Boardwalk Empire stands as HBO’s current marquee series, which means they pull out all the stops when it comes to their Blu-ray releases. With the third season fast approaching, the beautiful second season set hits shelves to help the uninitiated catch up. There’s no better way to enjoy what has become one of the best shows currently on television. Hit the jump for the full review.
by Rob Vaux Posted: August 22nd, 2012 at 7:14 pm
Star Trek: The Next Generation finally comes to Blu-ray, and if you don’t think that’s cause for rejoicing, you don’t have many Trekkies in your life. The series grappled with significant problems in making the leap to an HD format, thanks to its copious effects shots created in an era when high definition simply didn’t exist. They’ve finally cracked the code and the new Season One Blu-ray reaps handsome rewards as a result…. with a few notable hiccups. Hit the jump for my full review.
by Rob Vaux Posted: August 8th, 2012 at 9:36 am
If Falling Skies doesn’t grab you right away, give it a few episodes. Amid the shuffle of Must-See shows like Game of Thrones, it feels a little quieter and more pedestrian. But if you remain open to it and let it find its rhythm, it turns into a thoroughly enjoyable bit of summer escapism. With the first season Blu-ray now in stores, those who missed it have a second chance to see what it’s all about. Hit the jump for my full review.
by Rob Vaux Posted: August 2nd, 2012 at 5:44 am
With 2012’s Battle of Snow White more or less over, the time has come to argue about who won (he says without a trace of irony). Opinions vary – and no one over at the Walt Disney Company has lost any sleep – but I’m backing the one that didn’t have Kristen Stewart mumbling her way through a half-assed version of the Crispian’s Day Speech. Mirror, Mirror benefits from a riotous sense of fun – something Snow White and the Huntsman utterly disregarded – and from playing with our expectations instead of simply ignoring them. Hit the jump for my full review of Mirror, Mirror on Blu-ray.
by Rob Vaux Posted: May 31st, 2012 at 12:02 pm
A minor classic from the Golden Age of blockbusters… one of two films that led to the PG-13 rating… the definitive “I hate Christmas” movie… whatever terms you want to use, Gremlins definitely doesn’t suffer for descriptors. Neither does its cult classic sequel, which a number of people love even more than the first film. Yet the franchise’s combined cache has apparently fallen so far that Warners won’t give it the Blu-ray release it deserves. Instead, the two films get a quick transfer to the new format devoid of bells or whistles. Neither movie deserves such a fate. Hit the jump for my full review of Gremlins and Gremlins 2 on Blu-ray.
by Rob Vaux Posted: May 11th, 2012 at 10:33 am
You won’t see many Chinese movies as irreverent, mischievous or iconoclastic as Let the Bullets Fly. The nation is better known for works of gravitas and dignity: celebrating its rich history or exploring serious aspects of the human condition. Bullets is more Hong Kong than Beijing, with Stephen Chow its obvious spiritual kin. The distinction doesn’t necessary make it a great movie, though it certainly helps it to stand out from the crowd. Hit the jump for the full review.
by Rob Vaux Posted: February 24th, 2012 at 5:12 am
Sometimes, a spookhouse is just a spookhouse. Creators of those Halloween haunted houses that spring up every year sometimes try to attach a story or characters to them, but that’s not the purpose of their existence. They’re here to give us some old-fashioned jolts: the kind that come when a guy in a mask leaps out of the shadows shrieking like a loon. We jump, we cry out, and we giggle at the relived realization that nothing bad actually happened. Lather, rinse, repeat.
The Paranormal Activity movies exist as unfiltered embodiments of that ethos. Just as certain comedies can be gauged solely on how often they make us laugh, so too does this found-footage horror series live and die by the amount of popcorn flung reflexively in the air. The first film raised that equation to near-art. The second tried to regurgitate rather than recreate and suffered accordingly. Now comes Paranormal Activity 3, a film that more or less rights the ship even as it extends the dubious premise of ongoing (and unnecessary) sequels. Hit the jump for my full review.
by Rob Vaux Posted: January 2nd, 2012 at 7:00 am
HBO’s Boardwalk Empire follows in a long line of prestige series produced by the cable network, which actually works against it a little bit. It’s hard to get excited about yet another must-see series from them, especially after the infamous letdown of The Sopranos finale and the way the network botched other great shows like Deadwood and Carnivale. One hopes, however, that those harsh lessons have been well-learned, and with Boardwalk Empire now a bona fide hit, HBO has a chance to capitalize on the very high standard that the first season sets. The new Blu-ray collection does the show justice, and makes an exquisite New Year’s present for faithful fans. Hit the jump for my full review of the first season of Boardwalk Empire on Blu-ray.
by Rob Vaux Posted: November 9th, 2011 at 8:21 am
What is there to say about Pulp Fiction that hasn’t been said before? Quentin Tarantino’s postmodern masterpiece arrived like a bolt of lightning in 1994 and the cinematic world hasn’t been the same since. It survived a rash of poorly conceived knock-offs, the nearly lethal overexposure of its creator, and a snubbing at the Oscars that ranks among the worst miscarriages of justice ever perpetrated by the Motion Picture Academy. Now, 17 years later, it finally arrives on Blu-ray; time has not tarnished its appeal one iota. Hit the jump for our review of Pulp Fiction on Blu-ray.
by Rob Vaux Posted: November 8th, 2011 at 6:31 am
With the Fall Classic rapidly coming our way, A&E productions has foisted another series of nostalgic baseball DVDs upon us. As usual, the Yankees take center stage, but this time at least, they’ve left room for another team of note to share the spotlight. That would be the California/Anaheim/Los Angeles Angels, one of the most snake-bitten franchises in baseball without even the cold comfort of a famous curse to fall back on. The Angels celebrated their 50th anniversary this year, which A&E properly notes in a pair of DVD sets… as well as delivering another gorgeous piece of Yankee porn to keep the pinstriped faithful warm after their disappointing playoff departure this year. Hit the jump for my full review of Angels Memories, The Anaheim Angels 2002 World Series Collection, and Yankeeography Collectors Edition on DVD.