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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Tuesday, 09 April 2019

Screening two years after “Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves”, Mel Brooks takes that movie’s tongue-in-cheek approach as a base line and spoofs it to within an inch of its life. Cary Elwes (“The Princess Bride”, “Saw”) plays Robin, with Amy Yasbeck (“Mask”, “Pretty Woman”) as Maid Marian, Roger Rees (“The Prestige”, Warehouse 13) as the Sheriff of Rottingham (yes, you read that right) and Richard Lewis (Curb Your Enthusiasm, “Leaving Las Vegas”) as Prince John.

Brooks (“Blazing Saddles”, “Young Frankenstein”) takes a fast and loose approach, much in the style of “Airplane!” and “The Naked Gun” series, propelling the film forwards with an avalanche of gags and slapstick humour rather than complex plot. Thankfully Elwes is utterly winning as Robin, dashing, charming and effortlessly athletic - not a million miles from his role as Westley in the aforementioned “The Princess Bride”, just not as intellectually sharp.

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Monday, 08 April 2019

A smartly-dressed boy called Daryl is discovered lost and alone in the middle of nowhere. Handed in to the authorities and apparently suffering from amnesia, the boy (Barret Oliver – “The Never Ending Story”, “Cocoon”) is fostered by Andy and Joyce Richardson, who soon realise that Daryl has particular gifts. How does he learn the piano and smash a baseball on his first attempt, never mind showing up his teachers at school.

Andy (Michael McKean – “This Is Spinal Tap”, Better Call Saul) and Joyce (Mary Beth Hurt – “Lady in the Water”, “The Age of Innocence”) become very attached to sweet-natured Daryl and fear that his biological parents may come knocking. When this eventually happens, their world gets turned upside down and Daryl’s very existence is put in jeopardy. Who is he and where did he come from?

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Monday, 01 April 2019

“The White Reindeer” is a Finnish folk-horror about a frustrated woman who is bewitched by a shaman into a vampiric, shape-shifting reindeer. Pirita (Mirjami Kuosmanen) is the woman in question, left alone in snowy, bleak Lapland when her husband Aslak (Kalervo Nissilä) goes on a long herding trip. At night Pirita becomes the white reindeer, luring man after man into a valley before transforming back into her human form to drink their blood.

Fans of Hammer Horror movies from the 1960s and 1970s will be very familiar with the type of tale on offer here, but the movie feels quite fresh thanks to the shift to Finnish culture and a more documentary-style approach. This is almost a silent film thanks to there being very little dialogue, and atmospheric orchestral backing to keep things moving.

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Thursday, 14 March 2019

It is Spring 1941 and the battle for control of the North Atlantic is raging. Hulking, ‘unsinkable’ German battleship Bismarck is tasked with taking out Allied convoys, spurring the Royal Navy into a frantic fleet redeployment. The Admiralty’s new Chief of Operations, Captain Jonathan Shepard (Kenneth More – “A Night to Remember”, “Genevieve”) is the man responsible for making some hard decisions for the greater good.

Based in the London war room, 200 feet underground, Shepard puts personal tragedy and concern for his son’s life aboard the aircraft carrier HMS Ark Royal to one side. Aided by Wren Officer Anne Davis (Dana Wynter – “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, “Airport”), Shepard is forced to leave convoys desperately exposed in order to support the hunt for the Bismarck, but terrible weather conditions mean the giant vessel is alluding detection.

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Sunday, 03 March 2019

“Occupation” is an Australian sci-fi film about a town’s efforts to resist a devastating alien invasion. The townsfolk are up in arms about a new road bypass potentially wiping them off the map, but that is the least of their worries when an alien fleet arrives during an Aussie football game, flanked by a gigantic mothership. Outgunned by a technologically superior foe, the survivors have no option but to retreat and then devise a plan to fight back.

The cast includes Dan Ewing (Home and Away), Temuera Morrison (“Aquaman”, “Star Wars: Episode II – Attack of the Clones”), Stephany  Jacobsen (“Alex Cross”, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles) and Charles Mesure (Once Upon a Time, The Magicians). Writer/director Luke Sparke (“Red Billabong”) will return with a sequel called “Occupation Rainfall”, commencing shooting later this year.

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Monday, 25 February 2019

Fritz Lang’s seedy film-noir stars Glenn Ford (“Superman”) as Jeff Warren, an army vet returning home from the Korean War to his job as a train engineer. Highly susceptible to feminine wiles, Jeff falls for the young wife of Deputy Yard Master Carl Buckley (Broderick Crawford – “All the King’s Men”). That would be trouble enough but Carl is highly suspicious of his young wife, and unbeknownst to Jeff he has already committed murder in a fit of jealous rage.

The film focuses on this twisted love triangle, with femme fatale Vicki (Gloria Grahame – “It’s a Wonder Life”) both manipulating the two men but also trapped by Carl in a hellish relationship through blackmail. Director Lang (“Metropolis”, “M”) sucks us into his dark romantic web as we wonder whether Jeff can extricate himself before he too succumbs to Carl’s furious, drunken temper.

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Monday, 21 January 2019

Eureka Entertainment kick off their 2019 releases with a film noir Oscar winner by director Otto Preminger (“Stalag 17”). A murder mystery where the titular character has already been offed as the film opens, “Laura” is primarily told in a series of flashbacks as we learn about Laura (Gene Tierney – “Leave Her to Heaven”), a captivating marketing designer, and the huddle of men and women in her social circle.

Det Lt Mark McPherson picks up the case after Laura has been shot in the head. Amongst the small number of likely suspects is Waldo Lydecker (Clifton Webb – “The Razor’s Edge”), a sharp-tongued columnist who took Laura under his wing, unscrupulous playboy Shelby Carpenter (Vincent Price – “House on Haunted Hill”) and Anne Treadwell (Judith Anderson – “Rebecca”), Laura’s aunt who has more than a passing interesting in Shelby.

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Friday, 04 January 2019

“The Festival” is a comedy movie from the creators of The Inbetweeners about a couple of mates who attend a massive music festival after their graduation. Mopey Nick (Joe Thomas – “The Inbetweeners Movie”, White Gold) has just suffered a painful breakup and is dragged along by his enthusiastic best buddy Shane (Hammed Animashaun – Black Mirror, Flowers), whose dream is to get backstage with superstar DJ Hammerhead.

On the way the duo meets Amy (Claudia O’Doherty – “Trainwreck”, “The Inbetweeners 2”), an Aussie with verbal diarrhoea who is desperate to meet new friends. After an eventful journey they arrive at the festival site, only to awkwardly bump into Nick’s ex, Caitlin (Hannah Tointon – Hollyoaks, “The Children”). Expect mud, mayhem, music and MDMA as festival life results in some wild and outlandish encounters.

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Monday, 29 October 2018

Jackie Chan's Project A Parts I and II out now on Blu-rayIn a brilliant one-two punch combo, Eureka Entertainment have produced a second Jackie Chan Blu-ray movie box set to complement their recent “Police Story” release. This limited edition collection features “Project A” and “Project A Part II” in which Chan plays Sergeant Dragon Ma, a diligent and courageous coastguard-turned-police man who becomes the bane of Hong Kong criminal gangs, corrupt cops and pirates.

“Project A” sees Ma taking on dastardly pirates who have made a mockery of all those who have previously attempted to locate and apprehend them. Ma realises the only way to succeed is to go under cover and destroy them from the inside. In “Project A Part II” Ma is tasked with cleaning up the roughest district in Hong Kong, no mean feat when some of his colleagues are in league with the local kingpin, never mind more pirates out for blood!

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Monday, 22 October 2018

The Rockford Files - Season 1 out now on Blu-rayJames Garner (“The Great Escape”, “Space Cowboys”) stars as Jim Rockford, a laid-back private investigator with a penchant for damsels in distress and getting into life-threatening predicaments. Having served five years for armed robbery, a crime he may or may not have committed, Rockford has developed thick skin and an ability to read people and situations, meaning he is exceptionally good at his job. He also has a string of useful contacts including police Sgt Becker (Joe Santos – “The Last Boyscout”, The Sopranos) to help him solve cases.

The few other constants in Jim’s turbulent life include his father Rocky (Noah Beery Jr – “Walking Tall”, “Red River”), his dishevelled trailer home in a parking lot in Malibu and his gold Pontiac Firebird Esprit automobile. He is invariably skint and even though he cracks most of his cases, events generally conspire against him such that he is rarely paid his full rate of $200 a day plus expenses. Charm, wit and quick thinking keep him one step ahead of the criminals, but they are never far behind.

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Monday, 15 October 2018

Hereditary -out now on Blu-ray, DVD and VODThe title of ‘best horror film in decades’ is enthusiastically banded around every year; once in a while there is some merit to the acclaim, often not. In the case of “Hereditary”, the promotional noise was deafening so I was keen to see if the hype and comparisons to “The Exorcist” and “Rosemary’s Baby” were valid. The film opens with the announcement of the death of the Graham family’s matriarch, an event that marks the family’s slow descent into Hell.

Annie (Toni Collette – “The Sixth Sense”, Wanderlust) realises there was much she did not know about her mother’s life. The deeper she digs the worse things get, and Annie can barely hold her emotionally fragmented family together. Daughter Charlie (newcomer Milly Shapiro) develops increasingly weird ticks and draws some troubling pictures, whilst father Steve (Gabriel Byrne – “The Usual Suspects”, “Miller’s Crossing”) and son Peter (Alex Wolff – “Coming through the Rye”) look to each other for support.

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Monday, 24 September 2018

Eureka Entertainment’s Blu-ray box set contains “Troll”, “Troll 2” and “Best Worst Movie”, a documentary about the making of the second film. The set is a serious contender for the oddest release ever, not least because “Troll” and “Troll 2” are completely unrelated films. Banding them together almost seems unfair, but I am not sure which film is more hard done by – the 80s VHS schlock horror or the allegedly ‘so bad it is good’ sequel.

Troll - The Complete Blu-ray Collection

In “Troll”, the Potter family move into an apartment block beset by a magical troll whose devious plan is to turn every tenant into a bizarre, sprouting jungle infested by demonic creatures. “Troll 2” tells the tale of the Waits’ family’s move to a place in the country, only to discover that the entire town is occupied by goblins who trick people into eating contaminated green food that turns the consumer into gunky goblin food.

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Tuesday, 21 August 2018

Jackie Chan's Police Story 1 and 2 on Blu-rayTom Cruise is currently wowing cinema audiences with his feats of bravado in “Mission: Impossible - Fallout”, and whilst the scale of his stunts might leave viewers in awe, his broken ankle pales into insignificance compared to Jackie Chan’s copious injuries sustained throughout his career. For example, in “Police Story” and “Police Story 2”, newly released on Blu-ray, these include spinal damage and a dislocated pelvis.

This new hard-cased box set features stunning 4K restorations of two of Chan’s best-loved movies, allowing us to experience some of his best action scenes and moments of whacky humour in super-sharp HD. Not content with writing, stunt coordinating, acting in and directing the films, Chan also sings the theme tune (watch out Dennis Waterman). A selection of different cuts of both films headlines some quality bonus content.

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Friday, 17 August 2018

Flesh + Blood - out now on dual format Blu-ray and DVDThe setting is Western Europe in 1501. A small band of roguish mercenaries led by a fearless warrior called Martin (Rutger Hauer – “Blade Runner”, “Sin City”) seek revenge against some back-stabbing noblemen. Seizing control of the local lord’s castle and capturing his son’s young bride-to-be, Martin and his mob think they are on top of the world until a devastating counter-attack is launched.

Dutch director Paul Verhoeven (“Robocop”, “Starship Troopers”) displays much of his trademark violence, nudity and often grim sense of humour in this action romp from 1985. Originally censored in the UK, Eureka’s combined DVD and Blu-ray release presents the full, uncut version of the film, along with a heap of extra features and content.

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Monday, 13 August 2018

Birdman of Alcatraz - out now on dual format Blu-ray and DVD“Birdman” is a biopic about the fascinating and remarkable life of Robert Stroud. Stroud (1890-1963) was a pimp jailed for murdering an abusive client, and who narrowly escaped death row after also murdering a prison guard. Resigned to live out the rest of his days in solitary confinement, Stroud found his true calling when he rescued a stranded baby bird and nurtured it to adulthood, going on to become a leading authority on avian diseases.

Burt Lancaster (“From Here to Eternity”, “The Train”) stars as Stroud, with Karl Malden (“On the Waterfront”, “Meteor”) as Harvey Shoemaker, the by-the-book prison warden at Leavenworth (Stroud’s first prison), Telly Savalas (Kojak, “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”) as fellow con Gomez, Neville Brand (“Stalag 17”, “Tora! Tora! Tora!”) as a prison guard and Thelma Ritter (“Rear Window”, “All About Eve”) as Stroud’s possessive mother.

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Monday, 09 July 2018

The Endless - out on Digital HD, Blu-ray and DVDAfter receiving a mysterious video tape invite to an ‘Ascension’, two brothers decide to drop in on a cult they abandoned ten years ago. Aaron (Aaron Moorhead) is depressed and wants to see old friends at the cult’s Camp Arcadia; Justin (Justin Benson) is much more wary and sceptical about the organisation. They plan to only stay one day and one night but are swiftly drawn in by the group’s friendly, seemingly innocent nature.

The longer the brothers stay, the weirder the happenings they witness such as impossible magic tricks, bullets bouncing off thin air and the fact that no-one in the cult appears to have aged since they left. What is the ‘Ascension’? Is it a mass suicide as Justin fears or something more benign, and what is the anticipated outcome? The lads can be sure of one thing: If they leave, they will never discover the truth.

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Monday, 18 June 2018

The Defiant Ones - out now on dual format Blu-ray and DVDThis Oscar-winning drama stars Tony Curtis (The Persuaders!) and Sidney Poitier (“In the Heat of the Night”) as convicts on the run. Joker (Curtis) is a jaded white man who hates being subservient. Cullen (Poitier) is a proud black father who lashed out when his farm was being repossessed. Bitterly divided but shackled together, their common goal is to outrun their pursuers.

“The Defiant Ones” is a tense if quite predictable tale. Joker and Cullen are like opposing magnets constantly repelling each other but locked together. Simmering animosity threatens to bubble over into violence any moment, especially when their energy-sapping journey through swamps and scrubland offers nothing but constant frustration.

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Monday, 04 June 2018

The Old Dark House - out now in a dual format Blu-ray and DVD packageBased on the novel ‘Benighted’ by J B Priestley, “The Old Dark House” is an early 1930s horror in the haunted house vein, directed by James Whale (“Frankenstein”, “Showboat”) and starring Boris Karloff, Melvyn Douglas and Charles Laughton. Three people are caught in a torrential storm and seek shelter in a foreboding old house. The residence belongs to the highly unusual Femm family and their lumbering, mute butler Morgan (Karloff).

As the relatively hospitable Femms are serving up a simple supper, another stranded couple arrive and things seem as calm and settled as the tempestuous weather permits. But what of hosts’ dire warning to not let the leering Morgan get drunk, or the strange cries emanating from behind closed and locked doors upstairs? Curiosity is sure to get the better of the visitors, with potentially deadly consequences.

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Tuesday, 22 May 2018

Breakheart Pass - out now as a dual format Blu-ray and DVD combo“Breakheart Pass” crosses several genres including Western, action thriller and murder mystery. This will probably not come as a shock when the author is revealed: Alistair MacLean, known for “Where Eagles Dare”, “The Guns of Navarone” and “Ice Station Zebra”. The movie is set in the Winter of 1873 and stars Charles Bronson as a felon who is apprehended and stowed on a troop-carrying train passing through the Rocky Mountains.

Also known as “Nevada Express”, VIP passengers and army officers start disappearing or turning up dead, leading to an on-going investigation which John Deakin (Bronson – “Once Upon a Time in the West”, “Death Wish”) becomes entangled in, thanks to some medical knowhow and a keen eye for the details others seem to overlook. What is the motive and who is responsible? The race is on to solve the mystery before the train reaches the perilous Breakheart Pass.

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Tuesday, 01 May 2018

Marty - out now on dual format Blu-ray and DVDErnest Borgnine (Airwolf, “The Poseidon Adventure”, “Escape from New York”) stars as the titular Marty, a middle-aged butcher who lives with his mother and thinks his chances of ever getting married and settling down have passed. Despite being a nice bloke, Marty’s life is stuck in a rut until he comes to the aid of a jilted woman in a ballroom and they hit it off. Marty’s family and friends are shocked and discouraging and he has a major, personal decision to make.

“Marty” won a raft of prestigious awards on its release including Oscars for Best Picture, Best Actor, Best Director and Best Writing, along with the Palme d’Or in Cannes. The film started life as a TV play with the same writer and director, Paddy Chayefsky (“Network”) and Delbert Mann (“Separate Tables”). Emphasising realism and toning down the comedy in favour of everyday, character-driven drama, the movie feels fresh to this day.

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Monday, 23 April 2018

Cure - out now on dual format Blu-ray and DVD“Cure” is a thriller-horror film by Japanese director Kiyoshi Kurosawa (“Pulse”). Detective Takabe (Kôji Yakusho – “13 Assassins”) and his criminal psychologist colleague Sakuma (Tsuyoshi Ujiki – “Dora-heita”) are investigating a series of bizarre, apparently motiveless murders by different perpetrators. As the case develops, the police discover the involvement of a third party, an amnesiac man found on a deserted beach.

This is a peculiar and fascinating movie that reminded me of “Se7en” in several ways. It is shot in a grainy, dark manner and features lots of distressed locations that suggest decay and neglect, thematically mirroring the personalities of some of the characters.The relationship between the stranger and Detective Takabe – a man in equal parts obsessively driven and emotionally fatigued – grows increasingly complex and psychologically charged, especially as the cop is also wrestling with problems at home.

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Monday, 02 April 2018

Buck Rogers in the 25th Centiry - out now on Blu-rayAstronaut Buck Rogers is involved in a devastating accident during a mission that results in him being frozen for 500 years. Lucky to still be alive he returns to Earth in the year 2491 to find the world ravaged by a nuclear apocalypse. A fish out of water, Buck nevertheless joins the effort to protect what is left of the planet from all manner of alien forces bent on its ultimate destruction.

Developed by TV supremoes Glen A Larson and Leslie Stevens, the series is loosely based on the 1920s’ fictional character by Philip Francis Nowlan and the 1930s’ serial starring Buster Crabbe. The dashing Buck is played by Gil Gerard (“Airport ‘77”), glamorous Colonel Wilma Deering by Erin Gray (“Dreams Awake”) and cheeky, pint-sized robot sidekick Twiki by Felix Silla (“Spaceballs”), with the voice of the legendary Mel Blanc (on most episodes).

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Monday, 12 March 2018

ReBorn out now on Blu-rayToshiro aka Ghost (Tak Sakaguchi – “Versus”) is a legendary, ex-special forces soldier trying to live a quiet life running a mini-mart and caring for a young girl (Yura Kondo). Ghost becomes the target of his old squad CO who hires a team of assassins, backed up by a sizeable platoon of grunts. Despite the odds, it quickly becomes plain that Ghost has lost none of his death-dealing skills; he is not going down without a fight.

The plot may be slight but the action is fierce, bloody and exciting to behold as Ghost carves a path through his enemies, sometimes taking on half a dozen men at a time. The fights are generally very close-quarters affairs, often with small blades, primarily because the hero can dodge bullets, even high-velocity sniper rounds! Ghost has a very efficient, no showboating approach that means he dispatches nearly everyone with minimal fuss.

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Monday, 26 February 2018

Quantum  Leap - The Complete Collection - out now on Blu-rayHaving made its debut Stateside in March 1989, in the UK it would be nearly a year before Quantum Leap would come to our screens. Here, the show began on BBC Two on 13th February 1990, airing Tuesday nights at 9.00pm. Unlike so many American series before it, its popularity meant we got to see all the stories from its five year run. However, the final episode was scheduled to be aired on 14th June 1994, but got bumped after the death of dramatist Dennis Potter earlier that month, delaying the airing until 21st June 1994.

Now we have the opportunity to get our hands on a UK Blu-ray release of the series, thanks to Fabulous Films. AND YOU HAD AN OPPORTUNITY TO WIN A SET, RRP £149.99, IN OUR PRIZE COMPETITION. The winner was Stuart Edwards of Wallingford.  Meanwhile, relive all the 97 adventures once more, as physicist Sam Beckett (Scott Bakula – Captain Archer in Star Trek: Enterprise) steps into the quantum accelerator, jaunting across the course of his own lifetime, putting right the little things which alter the big picture. He’s assisted by Al (Dean Stockwell – Jon Cavil in the Battlestar Galactica reboot), his only link back to the base of the time travel experiment and entering the scenarios as a hologram, with Al playing the percentages of trying to help work out where they’ve ended up and what they are there to do. Just to confuse things, Sam takes on the looks (in mirrors at least) of all sorts of different protagonists.

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Monday, 19 February 2018

The Handmaid's Tale - out on Blu-ray and DVDNot to be confused with the recent hit TV adaptation starring Elizabeth Moss, this is a 1990 film version of Margaret Atwood’s powerful novel of the same name. In the near future, the Earth has become a polluted, war-stricken nightmare world where infertility is rife. Set in the USA, now called the Republic of Gilead, fertile women are rounded up and forced to bear children for the rich and powerful whilst others frequent forced labour camps.

The excellent cast includes Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, Aidan Quinn, Elizabeth McGovern and Victoria Tennant. Those familiar with the Cult-TV-Award-winning television series shown on Channel 4 in 2017 will know exactly what to expect, as this cinematic version looks and feels very similar indeed, albeit not quite as graphic; Richardson (“The Parent Trap”) gives us a warmer, more feminine take on central character Kate.

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