Oh boy, this week is an amazing release week with tons of films that I either adore or have been wanting on Blu-ray for years now. If you want to help the site out and want to buy these releases, please click the links throughout this article because it helps keep the site going on strong. And here we go!
How much more can be said about Steven Spielberg’s Lincoln? I watched it in the beginning of 2013 in order to take in Daniel Day Lewis’ performance, which is of course more like a transformation. Sally Field was also quite good in this, as was Tommy Lee Jones. It’s a character actor’s smorgasbord too, which will have you spotting ‘that guy’ over and over throughout. The Blu looks stunning but I only got to check out the other edition of the Blu, which only had two short extras, which means it was quite light on special features. The one pictured has more extras, which for any completest (like me), will spend the extra few bucks to get.
Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly will be remembered as one of the great crime films of the 2010’s. I’m not sure why this film didn’t connect with audiences the way I felt it should, but like some of the best films, it will take some time for people to come around. Or maybe it will stick around being a cult favorite, which is fine by me. A fantastic cast with Brad Pitt, James Gandolfini, Ray Liotta, Richard Jenkins, the film loosely based on George V. Higgins’ 1974 novel ‘Cogan’s Trade’ (who also wrote the book ‘The Friends of Eddie Coyle’ which the film version is beautifully represented in the Criterion Collection) is a darkly comical look at the underbelly of the world. There’s many layers to this film that deserves repeat viewings, and Anchor Bay’s release looks very good. Sadly the extras are to be desired, with a few deleted scenes and a 6 minute making of piece. Buy buy this film and give it the love it deserves.
Ah Scream Factory, every time you have new releases come out, I want to buy them all. And this week’s double whammy might rank up there with some of the best horror films in their own ways. From Beyond is one of my favorite Stuart Gordon films that sadly feels like it’s been put on the back burner when people mention his catalog. Funny, horrific, disgusting and based loosely on Lovecraft’s writings, it’s a great film that I’ve grown to love on so many repeat viewings, first on VHS, then on DVD that had one of the worst box art ever. I love that Scream Factory has original art and the original poster on the opposite side. This release has tons of extras, like two audio commentaries (one with Stuart Gordon, Producer Brian Yuzna, and Actors Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs and the other with screenwriter Dennis Paoli) and also has a great list of newly filmed docs, from special effects with John Buechler to docs focused on Barbara Crampton and Jeffrey Combs. A must have for horror fans and Lovecraft fans alike.
A new Mystery Science Theater 3000 set, this time featuring one of my favorite episodes Danger!! Death Ray. There’s not much to be said for my love for this series but this is another one that I need to pick up later today.
I love Don Coscarelli. I’m not going to try to be coy here. And I have a love for the Phantasm series. The first is one of the most effective and freaky horror films to come out in the last 40 years. Hands down. The sequels go in a much more batshit insane route, with post apocalyptic tones the further you go. Phantasm II is a film that ups the ante from the original, with more intense special effects and making Reggie (Reggie Bannister) the hero we all know and love now. A lot of people complain because Mike was recast, but I get past it because it’s almost like a complete nightmare and how each film ends and is pieced together feels as if they were made on a different plane of existence. Scream Factory again proves why they are the go to company for horror catalog titles. A great commentary with director Coscarelli, Tall Man Angus Scrimm and Reggie Bannister, which just is as funny and insightful as you’d hope for. And a great list of special features that one now expects from this company. A stellar release for a fun sequel.
Criterion also has two films this week and as usual they impress. A new Robert Bresson film in the collection is always time to cheer, and A Man Escaped is a powerful film that fits perfectly within the collection. I watched this film about 5 years ago on a whim, finding a copy for cheap on a shoddy DVD transfer that looks like it was 7th generation VHS rip. But I still fell in love with the film and just pushed it aside in my head, hoping to get a proper release one day. Mind you, I never got to check out the 2004 New Yorker DVD because it’s been out of print for awhile. But luckily Criterion has done a stellar job with this film. And of course you get a ton of extras, such as a documentary about Bresson’s filmmaking style, a documentary from 2010 that was on the Gaumont release which has filmmakers speaking about Bresson’s influence, a 1965 episode of Cineastes de notre temps and more. It tends to be easy to write about these releases each week.
When I think of this film, I think of one line in particular. “As a mass killer… I’m an amateur by comparison. Wars, conflict – it’s all business. One murder makes a villain… millions a hero.” Haunting, poignant and a masterpiece that was overlooked for many years, Monsieur Verdoux is not Charlie Chaplin as we grew to know and love. This is a man who was upset and made a film to reflect that and sadly alienated his fan base and bombed at the box office. It did (rightfully so) win an Academy Award for best writing for the film. Criterion packs the film with relevant special features, such as a documentary about the making of the film and what political ramifications it had on its star. A fantastic release and we wait with baited breath for the next Chaplin film to get a Blu release in the collection.
As you all well know, we are huge fans of Spielberg’s film Jurassic Park over at CriterionCast. When I think of the music, the way Sam Neill reacts to the dinosaur park around him, the first time we see the T-Rex, the way they fear the raptors, and so many other moments that give me chills. If you already have the box set that came out last year, this one is just the films separately so if you just wanted to order the first film and not the sequels, it’s now time. But like me, if you have the box set, you’ll just wait for the 3D Blu to come out late in April. That’s if the up-conversion looks as good as I hope. This is the Spielberg film to buy this week. But I’m partial to dinosaurs. And Jeff Goldblum. Chaos Theory. You can also get The Lost World and Jurassic Park III.
Tying it together with Jurassic Park, Michael Crichton wrote that original novel and he wrote and directed Westworld, which Futureworld is the sequel of. No, he didn’t write or direct this one, but it doesn’t make this film any less fun. An AIP film with a much smaller budget than the original, it stars Peter Fonda who was one of the kings of the drive-in (Race With the Devil being one of my favorites) and Gwyneth Paltrow’s mom Blythe Danner. Shout! Factory puts the film out with only a trailer, but being on Blu-ray is a step up from the old MGM on demand DVD that came out January of 2011.
I have a soft spot for the Terminator films. Yes, even the third and Salvation. More so on the Salvation side, even with all of that crazy stuff that happened behind the scenes. Are they good? No, but the first two Cameron films are classics in their own genres. The Terminator is a horror film, a slasher film with a sci-fi twist. And Terminator 2: Judgement Day is the bigger, more impressive sci-fi action film that Cameron was perfecting (especially after Aliens). These are all previous releases in a box set, not new transfers, so you have varying degrees of quality. I’m still waiting for the original to get a new transfer, but T2 and Salvation both look fantastic. What’s weird is that I’ve seen another box set that looks similar that came out last year, but this one is more affordable so if you don’t own any of the films, it’s worth getting. If you just like the first two, it might be worth buying the second on Blu and waiting for a new version of the first.
Mill Creek Entertainment is one of my favorite companies due to the fact that they get the rights to some great under appreciated films and release them to all of us for an affordable price. Sometimes to varying degrees of quality (we all have had a love/hate relationship with their massive 50 film sets. I love them but sometimes when you get a film that you wanted to see for years that sadly is only a VHS rip from Portugal, well, what can you do?). This release is on one disc, and both look surprisingly good. They aren’t stellar, but one doesn’t expect that from any of these 2 packs they’ve been releasing as of late. Especially this week, we also have Hollywood Homicide/Hudson Hawk (and I like Bruce Willis’ vanity project), Hollow Man/Hollow Man 2 (from Bacon to Slater), The Squid and the Whale/Running With Scissors (one of these are good), Ship of Fools/Lilith (Lee Marvin, please), Attack Force/Into the Sun (Hey Travis, how were these Seagal films?), Terminal Velocity/White Squall (I like both of these films), Ernest Goes to Camp/Camp Nowhere (Ernest rules, Christopher Lloyd drools), Holy Man/Gone Fishin’ (Forgotten comedies) and D.O.A./Consenting Adults (I prefer the original D.O.A.)
An eco-thriller film noir, Panic in the Streets is one of my favorites too. I sadly missed doing an episode of the Silva and Gold podcast, because this Elia Kazan film is just a scary film considering this is something that can occur at any time, even today. Imagine someone being infected with a disease we as the public don’t know about, and the government keeping it hush hush, trying to find it before it spreads. Who’s to know how many times this has happened. Or if it could become something like Stephen King’s The Stand or Contagion? And nobody plays a more amazing heavy than Jack Palance. Tall, gaunt and intimidating. Zero Mostel also stars as a sniveling underling of Palance. A great film and it’s cool to see Fox putting these film noirs on blu that they put out via their Fox Film Noir line many years ago.
I adore this film. It reminds me of playing baseball with my friends between the ages of 10 and 14. Just a time of my life that was more or less pleasant, fun and I learned a lot about friendship. This is the 20th anniversary of the film, which makes me feel so old because I was 13 when it came out. Also, I only know about the older blu release but haven’t gotten a copy of this Blu yet to check out. It’s supposedly 2 discs, so it sounds like it has more than that lackluster release from 2011.
One of the most surprising/exciting releases to come out this week is of course from Kino with Little Fugitive, which is more or less the film that gave way to American independent cinema (with a modest budget of $30,000, even by today’s standards). It’s a beautiful film, made in Coney Island on the fly, and we’re lucky to get Morris Engel’s film on Blu-ray now. Hopefully that means his other films, Lovers and Lollipops and Weddings and Babies will come out soon on Blu from Kino. I was lucky enough to see this film a few times in elementary school here in Brooklyn and having checked it out again in 2008 when it was finally released on DVD, I was blown away by the style of filmmaking displayed. It’s an amazing American film that gives and gives with each viewing.
Olive Films is putting out a nice display of John Wayne films, only one I’ve actually seen. That being McLintock!, which was a film that I watched with my grandfather repeatedly back in the 80’s. I didn’t remember how much of a comedic western it was, always thinking it was more of a straight forward western. This was his most popular film from the 60’s, a way to update his all-American image, and it was successful. I have the old DVD and I can’t wait to check out the Blu, as well as the three other titles they put out this week (A Man Betrayed, Westward Ho and The Lawless Nineties).
Again, there were tons more that came out this week, many of which are from Olive Films, such as The Atomic Kid starring Mickey Rooney, Edward G. Ulmer’s Ruthless, Hell’s Half Acre, Samuel Fuller’s China Gate (finally!), John Ford’s The Sun Shines Bright, The Devil and Miss Jones starring Jean Arthur and the Jack Nicholson and Meryl Streep starring vehicle Ironweed. As well as a new Twilight Time Blu-ray release I’ve been wanting to get my hands on for some time, The Song of Bernadette.