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Blu-Ray

The latest winner in the format wars, we look at both television and movies that are hitting the shelves in this pristine new technology.

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Sunday, 13 January 2013

The Titfield Thunderbolt - out on Blu-ray and DVDCommunity spirit, ingenuity and charity overcome deceitful commercial forces, in this charming and whimsical tale of how a village fights back after its local railway is threatened with closure. An Ealing Films’ production, the film was written by Academy Award winner T E B Clarke (“The Lavender Hill Mob”), and directed by Charles Crichton (“A Fish Called Wanda”). It has been specially re-mastered to celebrate its 60th anniversary.

The Titfield to Mallingford line is a loss-making branch line but the locals love it dearly. When British Rail announces its closure, they come together to make a bid to run it themselves. They are given a month to prove that they are up to the job, but a sly local bus company is determined to stop them in their tracks. The harder the villagers strive to succeed, the more underhand and destructive the methods employed by the bus firm.

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Sunday, 13 January 2013

Berberian Sound Studio - out on Blu-ray and DVDA reserved British sound mixer called Gilderoy (Toby Jones – “The Girl”, “Captain America: The First Avenger”, Doctor Who) is hired by an Italian film studio in the 1970s to mix and produce sound effects for their latest picture, “The Equestrian Vortex”. The audio technician is shocked and dismayed when he discovers that it is a gory horror movie about witches.

A fish out of water, the longer Gilderoy works on the disturbing film, the more emotionally stressed and disillusioned he becomes. Caught in a claustrophobic environment and surrounded by overbearing personalities like Francesco, the bullying producer (Cosimo Fusco – “Angels & Demons”) and the movie’s charming and morally dubious director, Santini (Antonio Mancino), Gilderoy’s grasp on reality begins to fray.

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Monday, 31 December 2012

The Baytown Outlaws on Blu-ray and DVDThree dysfunctional, hillbilly brothers called the Oodies are contracted to return a boy called Rob to his Godmother, Celeste (Eva Longoria – Desperate Housewives). Unbeknownst to them, Celeste’s evil ex-husband (Billy Bob Thornton – “Bad Santa”, “Armageddon”) has been holding the lad until his sizeable trust fund is unlocked, and consequently takes extreme offense when the outrageous Oodies snatch Rob from under his nose.

What ensues is a road movie where “Mad Max”, “Desperado” and The Dukes of Hazzard collide as one gang of stereotypical killers after another is despatched by Thornton’s increasingly incensed character to take down the Oodies and recapture Rob (Thomas Brodie-Sangster – Game of Thrones, Doctor Who). Meanwhile, an FBI detective investigates corrupt Sheriff Millard, the unsavoury brothers’ regular employer.

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Monday, 31 December 2012

The Colditz Story on Blu-ray and DVD“The Colditz Story” is typical of its 1955 vintage. War films of this time were full of British pluck and heroics. Despite facing incarceration in the German Armies supposedly securest prisoner of war camp, our heroes keep a ‘stiff upper lip’ and carry on with their aim – escape. “The Colditz Story” is based on Major Pat Reid’s book of the same name, and he acts as a technical adviser for the film. There are inaccuracies between the book and the film, but only in the name of poetic licence - a lot of the action did happen more or less as portrayed.

Seeing this film now, one can only be bemused at the blatant lack of truthfulness in the portrayal of the conditions the POWs endured. Even in the accompanying special feature, a very interesting documentary about Colditz, the survivors are quick to point out just how bad the conditions were. But films of this time all seem to be a little sugar-coated. The population were probably not ready to be reminded of the harsh realities of war, but instead wanted to be roused and reminded we won.

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Sunday, 11 November 2012

The Castle of Cagliostro on dual format Blu-ray and DVDJapanese anime film “The Castle of Cagliostro” focuses on Lupin III, a jet-setting, unflappable thief from manga comics stretching all the way back to 1967. Lupin and his partner in crime, Jigen, are tracking down a counterfeit money operation when they witness a beautiful young lady being chased by a car full of mobsters. They come to her rescue, only for the woman – a princess no less – to be snatched from under their noses.

The fake money and Clarice, the imprisoned princess, both lead back to the tiny principality of Cagliostro. The suave and heinous Count Cagliostro intends to marry his unwilling captive but Lupin has other ideas, hoping to stop the wedding, save the princess and sabotage the cash factory. Throw in a competing cat burglar, a detective hot on Lupin’s trail and a centuries-old, global conspiracy, and you have all the makings of a classic caper!

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Sunday, 11 November 2012

My Neighbour Totoro on Blu-ray and DVDA father and his two young daughters move into a quiet countryside abode whilst the mother recovers in hospital from tuberculosis. The girls imagine that the house is haunted, but instead discover some magical creatures in a giant camphor tree. Whilst the father is kept busy working at a university, the girls go on some fantastical, delightful adventures that are guaranteed to melt the coldest hearts.

Totoro is like the bizarre but perfect combination of an eight-foot rabbit and an owl, and he is accompanied by two smaller versions of himself that either hop alongside him or climb up his furry body to catch a ride. A woodland spirit, he is only visible by children, and only appears when he wants to. He can fly on a spinning top and is able to call on other spirits such as a twelve-legged cat-bus (imagine the Cheshire Cat spliced with a bus!).

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Sunday, 11 November 2012

Killer Joe on DVD and Blu-rayWilliam Friedkin, director of “The Exorcist” and “The French Connection” proves he still has the knack in this searing Texan thriller. Matthew McConaughey (“The Lincoln Lawyer”, “Contact”) stars as Joe Cooper, a police detective who moonlights as a hit-man for hire. A poor and highly dysfunctional family hatches a plot to knock off the estranged mother so that they can cash in her $50,000 life assurance policy. Joe is just the man for the job.

Chris (Emile Hersh – “Into the Wild”, “Speed Racer”) is perilously in debt to a local drug dealer; he persuades the other family members to support his murderous scheme in spite of Joe’s bizarre request that Dottie, the teenage daughter (Juno Temple – “Atonement”) is offered up as a retainer. The execution job is carried out with clinical precision but complications arise when Joe comes knocking for his payment.

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Monday, 05 November 2012

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World on Blu-ray and DVDAre you sitting comfortably?  It’s only the end of the world again. “Seeking a Friend for the End of the World” is the cinematic directorial debut of screenwriter Lorene Scafaria. She achieved recognition for adapting the book “Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist” for the big screen (kudos to you if you’ve heard of that one – very popular with the under-18s according to IMDB). She has a quartet of films stuck in development hell, one of them an adaption of the musical “Bye Bye Birdie”, and a few acting roles while waiting for her writing break.   

Scafaria takes us to a near-future where an asteroid is going to obliterate life on Earth. Indeed, what would you do and how would you feel when humanity’s end is near? It’s going to be a time for rejoicing amongst ‘preppers’ everywhere - the ones who have invested in Titanium-lined nuclear bunkers, but here they are portrayed as a midpoint between ‘sad’ and ‘mean’. This is a movie about the futility of preparation, the demolition of hope. Supposedly its aim is to make your heart soar in seeing two people find solace in each other.  All I wanted to do was slap them for wallowing in being victims.

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Monday, 29 October 2012

Die Nibelungen on Blu-ray and DVDMade in 1924, “Die Nibelungen” is a set of two silent, black and white films by Austrian director Fritz Lang. The fantasy plot is based on a poem written in 1200 AD, the story of which was also the basis for part of Richard Wagner’s epic, 19th Century Ring Cycle opera. This release heralds the meticulous restoration of the material, piecing together sequences from various sources to produce the most complete and authentic edition possible.

The story tells of Siegfried, a chiselled warrior who slays a dragon and gains near invincibility from its blood. He wishes to marry Kriemheld, the beautiful daughter of King Gunther of Burgundy, but first must impersonate the King and beat the subject of his ardor in three trials of strength. The false act is exposed and one of the King’s vassals, Hagen Tronje, murders Siegfried on the pretence of protecting the kingdom. Kriemheld flees, marries Attila the Hun and manipulates him to seek vengeance against Hagen.

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Monday, 29 October 2012

Storage 24 - out on Blu-ray and DVDSelf storage. Not the most gripping arena for a horror film, you might think. Lock it down, throw in an eight foot, snarling, slobbering alien and some angst-ridden characters, and you have “Storage 24”. The concept comes from Noel Clarke (“Kidulthood”, Doctor Who), who also produces and co-stars, along with Laura Haddock (“The Inbetweeners Movie”) and Ned Dennehy (“Tyrannosaur”, Parade’s End).

Charlie (Clarke) is visiting the storage warehouse with his best mate Mark (Colin O’Donoghue – “The Rite”). Charlie’s girlfriend Shelley (Antonia Campbell-Hughes – “Albert Nobbs”) has just split up with him and dumped their stuff in storage. Charlie tries to save their relationship but then a plane inconsiderately falls out of the sky, and its deadly cargo goes on the hunt. The power falters, the security shutters come down and escape seems impossible.

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Tuesday, 23 October 2012

The cover for the Halloween 4 Blu-rayGet ready to don your William Shatner masks and carve up your pumpkins, because Anchor Bay have released fantastic new Blu-ray editions of “Halloween 4: The Return of Michael Myers” and “Halloween 5: The Revenge of Michael Myers”. Relive the horrors of Haddonfield, Illinois like you have never seen them before, in sparklingly clear high definition. The unstoppable butcher is back in business!

Donald Pleasance (“The Great Escape”, “You Only Live Twice”) returns to the slasher series as the increasingly loopy Dr Loomis, a man as driven to put an end to Myers’ killing spree as Myers himself is compelled by sheer hatred and evil to slaughter all in his path. Danielle Harris (“The Last Boy Scout”) plays Jamie, Michael’s eight-year-old niece, and Ellie Cornell (“Free Enterprise”) is Rachel, Jamie’s teenage foster-sister.

WARNING: THE FOLLOWING REVIEW CONTAINS SOME PLOT SPOILERS

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Monday, 08 October 2012

Who Dares Wins - splendid on Blu-rayLewis Collins was, in 1982, being touted for great things. The following year he would conclude his six-year run on The Professionals, and there were rumours that once Roger Moore moved on from the James Bond franchise, Collins was top of the list to take over as 007.  Viewing “Who Dares Wins” with this in mind, it can very much be seen as the audition for what many anticipated to happen next.

The Special Air Service (SAS) was at the time held in high regard, thanks to their exploits which concluded the Iranian Embassy siege in 1980. Little was known about the men behind the masks of this elite unit of the British Army. So, a mix of curiosity and pride meant interest, in the UK at least, in a movie celebrating their (fictional) exploits would be high. Paranoia, black ops and espionage combine in what is effectively an old-school British action thrill ride.

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Monday, 08 October 2012

The Wild Geese take flight on Blu-rayIf you have a rainy Sunday afternoon, or are stuck at home ill and need some good, honest chew-the-scenery acting then this is the film for you. Not only does “The Wild Geese” have a storyline and bold characters, it also has damn fine actors to play the parts. Richard Burton, Roger Moore and Richard Harris lead a cast of thespians who you will have seen in countless other films and TV shows of the 1960s and 1970s.

The movie’s plot follows a group of colourful mercenaries, made up of retired and out of work soldiers who are happy to get back to doing what they do best. The ragtag bunch is sent by British industrialists to rescue a deposed political leader from a remote corner of the African wilderness. Little do the mercenaries know that they are to be double-crossed by the man behind the mission, played with menace and avarice by Stewart Granger (“Scaramouche”, The Virginian).

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Thursday, 04 October 2012

The Pact - available on Blu-ray and DVDAnnie (Caity Lotz – Death Valley, Mad Men) returns to her childhood home to attend her mother’s funeral. The house holds a dark place in Annie’s heart, and that only gets worse after her sister Nicole (Agnes Bruckner – “Murder by Numbers”, Covert Affairs) mysteriously disappears, leaving behind Eva (Dakota Bright), her estranged young daughter. Annie fears something is very wrong, and the house appears to be at the centre of it.

Strange things start to happen from the very first night: objects move about, odd noises abound and lights flicker ominously. After the funeral, Annie invites her cousin Liz (Kathleen Rose Perkins – Episodes, “The Island”) and Eva back to the house, only for Liz to also seemingly vanish into thin air. Annie barely gets out alive, but realises she must return to solve the mystery and free herself of the terrifying forces lurking within.

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Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Victim - on Blu-ray and DVDMichael Biehn of “The Terminator” and “Aliens” fame takes over the directorial reins in this edgy thriller about murder, corrupt cops and a mysterious loner living deep in the woods of California. A distraught woman (Jennifer Blanc – “The Divide”, Dark Angel) flees from a couple of sheriff’s deputies after a romantic picnic turns into a nightmare. She stumbles on a cabin and is reluctantly taken in by Kyle (Biehn) until the immediate danger has passed.

Annie (Blanc) fears the cops mean to kill her but before he commits, Kyle wants proof that her story of murder is true. When the body of her friend Mary (Danielle Harris – “The Last Boy Scout”, 2007’s “Halloween” remake) fails to materialise, Kyle’s disinclination to remain involved increases until the law officers come knocking, and events rapidly spiral out of control with deadly consequences.

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Tuesday, 25 September 2012

The Raid - on Blu-ray and DVDAn elite SWAT team breach a Jakartan tower block in a bid to bring down an untouchable drug lord and his lucrative manufacturing labs. Rival gangs and law enforcement squads have tried before, but nobody has ever made it out alive. Getting in seems easy, but then the alarm is sounded and the slick team’s careful planning goes to pot. Boxed in, out-gunned and with a bounty on their heads, the squad must adapt or die.

Directed by Welshman Gareth Evans and starring Iko Uwais, both of “Merantau Warrior” fame, the film borrows the best elements from classics such as “Assault on Precinct 13”, “Hardboiled” and “Die Hard” to present one of the toughest, most violent and exciting action movies of the decade. If you like movies with high body-counts, epic fight scenes and non-stop action, you will not want to miss out on “The Raid”.

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Sunday, 02 September 2012

[Rec]3 Genesis out now on Blu-ray and DVDAlso known as “[Rec]3 Genesis”, this second sequel to the hit Spanish, found-footage zombie-scarer tries something new in a bid to stop the rot setting in. Set at the same point in time as the other films, it relocates the action to a luxurious wedding reception. Starting out as a mock wedding video, the action switches to a more regular, cinematic style as an infected family member turns and sets about contaminating and eating the other guests.

As the zombie hordes multiply, two figures stand out, resourcefully and defiantly fending off the undead in a bid to be reunited. They are groom Koldo (Diego Martín), and panda-eyed bride Clara (Leticia Dolera – Mad Dogs). The newlyweds have some help from a priest who might be able to influence the zombies, and whatever makeshift weaponry  they can pick up in the sizeable venue and grounds. Meanwhile, the authorities are closing in on the source of the infection.

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Sunday, 02 September 2012

The Aggression Scale out on DVD and Blu-rayWhat do you get if you cross a mute, psychotic teenage boy, a maladjusted teenage girl, four gun-toting hitmen and a heap of stolen cash? Welcome to the premise of this bloody and nerve-shredding film. Imagine a fusion of “Home Alone” and MacGyver, but with an ‘18’ rating and two stars from Twin Peaks (Ray Wise and Dana Ashbrook) thrown in to up the crazy factor. This is an unstable melting pot guaranteed to explode!

Murder suspect Bellavance (Wise – Mad Men, Reaper) is out on bail, and desperate to go on the run. Before he can do that, he commands his unsavoury goons to track down money stolen from under his nose. Every suspected employee is literally in the firing line until the guilty party is uncovered. Their last stop is the new home of Bill and Maggie Rutledge, whose cunning and impressively resourceful children refuse to go down without a fight.

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Wednesday, 29 August 2012

Rumble Fish - now a Limited Edition Blu-ray release“Rumble Fish” is a companion piece to “The Outsiders”, both directed by the legendary Francis Ford Coppola and based on novels about street gangs by S E Hinton. Shot almost entirely in black and white, this movie has quite a different, art-house feel to it. It stars Matt Dillon as Rusty James, a slow-witted hoodlum who is struggling to match his absent brother’s idolised status amongst city kids, and constantly getting into scrapes.

When his brother (Mickey Rourke – “Sin City”, “The Wrestler”), aka The Motorcycle Boy, returns to town, Rusty wants things to return to the way they used to be. Gangs seem to have largely faded away though, and the heat immediately focuses back on the siblings in the shape of a cop (William Smith – “Red Dawn”, “Maniac Cop”) obsessed with taking them down. Lacking any sense of purpose or direction, the only way is down. “Rumble Fish” has a great cast. Supporting Dillon (“Crash”, “There’s Something About Mary”) and Rourke are the stunning Diane Lane (“The Perfect Storm”) as Rusty’s on-off girlfriend.

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Sunday, 05 August 2012

 

The Octagon - out now on Blu-ray and DVDAfter Chuck Norris’ success in “A Force of One”, the American Cinema Group decided to take risks with “The Octagon”. The budget and scope were dialled up to create a much more ambitious vehicle for the karate king. Scott James (Norris) gets entangled in an epic battle against the titular organisation that operates a ‘no questions asked’ ninja training base for terrorists and mercenaries.

Co-star Karen Carlson (“The Candidate”, Dallas) is a scheming publishing heir who is being blackmailed by The Octagon. Lee Van Cleef (“The Good, The Bad and The Ugly”, “Escape from New York”) is McCarn, a grizzled mercenary associate of Scott’s, and Tadashi Tamashita (“American Ninja”) plays Seikura, the renegade head of the terrorist organisation and coincidentally a man Scott used to consider his brother.

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Monday, 16 July 2012

John Carter out now on Blu-ray and DVDSince 1935, various filmmakers have attempted to bring the Edgar Rice Burroughs novel “A Princess of Mars” to the big screen. It was first intended to be an animated feature film from Bob Clampett of “Beany and Cecil” fame. If it had been made, it would have been America’s first full-length animated film, beating Disney’s “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs” to the punch, which premiered in 1937. Out now from Disney is their recent $250 Million budget “John Carter”, bringing to life what without doubt is a visually stunning new world which is obviously trying to become the next “Star Wars”.

Available on 3D Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD, it didn’t match expectations at the Box Office, but has now clawed back $283 million worldwide. To put this in perspective, “Marvel Avengers Assemble” had a budget that was $30 Million LESS that “John Carter”, but has so far taken $1,500 Million (i.e, $1.5 BILLION) worldwide, and continues to climb. Even with this less than audacious performance, fans are calling for a sequel, and now it’s your turn to discover whether you think they’re worth backing in that quest!

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Friday, 06 July 2012

The Sweeney - Original Series One coming to Blu-ray“Get Yer Trousers On, You’re Nicked!” They are The Sweeney, son, and they haven’t had any dinner! One of the most ground-breaking British police dramas ever made has its first season committed to a Blu-ray enhancement – a timely release which coincides with the big screen remake, coming out on 12 September. Hitting store shelves two days beforehand, Regan and Carter are part of New Scotland Yard’s infamous Flying Squad. Mixing with London’s seedy underworld they tackle the crimes too hard to handle for your everyday Police Constable. 

Breaking many of the taboos which had been ingrained into the way the Police were portrayed on the small screen, this is your chance to either remember what the fuss was all about, or experience what still remains today a very powerful crime series. Technology may have updated, but the social and moral dilemmas are timeless.

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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Ruggles of Red Gap in a Blu-ray and DVD set“Ruggles of Red Gap” is an amusing black and white comedy from the 1930s starring Charles Laughton of “The Hunchback of Notre Dame” fame. Laughton plays a very prim and proper man servant who discovers one morning that he has been casually given away in a game of poker. Even worse, his new boss is a shameless and very wealthy American, quite a different proposition to the classy British Lord (Roland Young – “Topper”) he previously served.

His new master is Egbert Floud (the confusingly-named Charles Ruggles – “Bringing Up Baby”), a man who lives under the thumb of his bossy wife Effie (Mary Boland – “Six of a Kind”) in Red Gap, Washington, USA. Red Gap is a Western town full of cowboys and laid back folk who like to party. Needless to say, it takes Ruggles quite some time to adapt to his new masters and their way of life, but adjust he does and along the way makes some major self-discoveries.

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Wednesday, 20 June 2012

Island of Lost Souls comes to Blu-rayBased on H G Wells’ prescient novel “The Island of Doctor Moreau”, this disturbing movie tells a topical tale of genetic engineering and a mad scientist ruling an island populated by monsters of his own creation. Charles Laughton (“The Hunchback of Notre Dame”, “Spartacus”) stars as Dr Moreau, a sadistic genius with a serious god complex and a desire to evolve animals beyond all recognition.

Richard Arlen co-stars as Edward Parker, a man whose ill fortunes flip from being rescued from a shipwreck to being stranded on the freakish island with no feasible means of escape. Other stars include Bela Lugosi (“Dracula”, “White Zombie”) as one of Moreau’s more sentient (and furry) experiments, Kathleen Burke as a seductive lady with a hint of panther, and Arthur Hohl (“The Secret Claw”) as the Doctor’s right-hand man.

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Monday, 21 May 2012

Yatterman movie on Blu-ray & DVD“Yatterman” is a madcap, live-action remake of a late 1970s Japanese anime series. From their secret base under a toy shop, teenagers Gan and Ai spring into action whenever evil comes calling, aided by a huge mechanical dog-vessel called Yatterwoof and a small, ditsy robot called Toybotty. Together they form a super-powered, crime-busting outfit called Yatterman. In this feature-length adventure they are on a mission to locate four pieces of a mystical rock shaped like a skull.

Against them is team Doronbo, an equally strange bunch made up of Catwoman-esque Lady Doronjo, her two sidekicks Boyacky (a rat-like man) and Tonzra (a piggy-man), and their own super-mechanoid fighting machine-cum-vehicle. The dastardly Doronbo gang are searching for the skull rock for their illusive, god-like boss Skullobey. Across the globe, random buildings and objects are disappearing and the magical rock is to blame. In the wrong hands it could spell the end of the world.

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