The first section up is a pretty, pretty thorough DVD/Blu-Ray/4k UHD section. You'll notice a little focus on 4k since the Xbox One X's release means a whole lot more 4k Blu-Ray players are in people's homes now... and I also just happened to have upgraded my TV just in time and have fallen in love with it.
One note: prices fluctuate on an almost minute by minute basis, especially this close to Black Friday, so be aware of that. Every effort has been made to be as close to the mark as possible, but there may be some small price differences.
Cheap ($24.99 and under)
For my money this is the coolest Blu-Ray packaging available this holiday season. Target has Stranger Things Season One available in a vintage VHS style package. The case itself slips out of the cover just like a VHS and has a little magnetic flap that you open up to access an exclusive mini-poster and both DVD and Blu-Ray discs of every Season One episode of Stranger Things. Sadly there aren't any extra features, but this is worth it for the packaging and beautiful 1080p discs themselves. Only mouth breathers wouldn't want this in their physical media collection.
Logan was one of my favorite movie-going experiences this year. It's serious, but doesn't forget to be fun. It's adult without being up its own butt and man does Hugh Jackman get beat to shit in this one. This is the culmination of nearly 20 years of this character on screen and it smartly uses that baggage to craft one of the best comic book movies we've ever gotten.
The trilogy capper for possibly the most surprisingly great sci-fi franchise in recent memory, War for the Planet of the Apes is a beast of a movie. It has everything: Spectacle, emotion, humor and some of the most mind-blowing CGI to ever be put up on a big screen. Apes together strong!
The first John Wick was awesome. We all know that. The second expands the world by diving deeper into the assassin community hinted at in the original. Keanu Reeves is in a zone as this character and this one ups the brutality of that first film. Just as many precise headshots as the original with even more complicated shootouts as John Wick finds himself up against the entire contract killer underworld. Very, very fun and we get to see a Matrix reunion when Lawrence Fishburn shows up!
I know it's not popular to love this movie, but I've never been accused of being popular. I'm a sucker for a good, catchy musical and an even bigger sucker for a sappy romance story, so when you combine the two you get something that'll get a lot of play in my house. Musicals make the best background work material for me, which means I'll be humming City of Stars for years to come. It may not be 2016's most important movie, but it was one of its most joyful. At least for dorks like me.
This one sneaks up on you. It's got a little bit of everything you'd want in a period piece: it's well-shot, got a great script and a terrific cast. It's also a very interesting story, about the unsung heroes who helped make NASA what it was and broke racial barriers and glass ceilings along the way. It's not the flashiest 2016 awards contender, but it's one of the most solid.
This one might have snuck past you this year. The Girl With All The Gifts is the best Young Adult movie you've never seen. It plays like an adaptation of The Last of Us and is done very seriously, which sets this post-apocalyptic zombie thriller apart from most of its type. The flick is very grounded, but not at the expense of real tension and fun. Plus you get to see Glenn Close shoot zombies in the head, so bonus!
I love this weird-ass Gore Verbinski movie. It's beautifully shot and takes a dark, almost EC Comics level twist into schlocky territory halfway through. That mix of artistry and B-movie fun isn't for everybody, but it sure as hell is for me! This is a title I've seen pop up in some Black Friday ads, but if you want to pay a little extra to not fight the Wal-Mart/Target/Best Buy hordes and have it delivered you can still get it for pretty cheap.
That first Annabelle movie was pretty awful... I'm talking the spin-off movie, not The Conjuring. We all know The Conjuring is awesome and gives everybody the heebie-jeebies. But the Annabelle sequel is actually pretty damn good and captures some of that slow-build Conjuring magic. That damn doll ain't done yet!
Here's another one you might have missed. This is another solid horror flick starring Brian Cox and Emile Hirsch as father and son morticians who get a body in their basement morgue that's way more of a mystery than most corpses. As they perform the autopsy weird shit starts happening and the closer they get to the identity of this dead girl the more scary stuff happens. It might not scream “Christmas” but it'll certainly make any horror fan's day to get this in their stocking.
Jordan Vogt-Roberts did a bang up job bringing Kong back to the big screen. There's some weird character choices on display (they take two of the most interesting actors working today, Brie Larson and Tom Hiddleston, and give them the most boring characters), but man is Kong cool. He eats a giant squid Oldboy style! Don't think this one's an all-timer, but it sure is a big, fun spectacle flick.
This one's for all you kaiju fans. Hardcore Godzilla fans adore this movie, which is half black satire about the incompetent governmental response to Godzilla and half giant lizard destroying stuff. I'm not the world's biggest Godzilla fan so I struggled a bit with this movie personally, but those who really dig Big Green's stuff all seemed to love it.
For my money this is the best new Giant Rampaging Monster Movie out there. Anne Hathaway plays a woman whose life is in the shitter and it plays out like an indie drama... until she realizes she has some kind of connection to a giant monster tumbling buildings halfway across the world. This is a great treat of a movie that is both geeky and touching. The opposite of hollow spectacle.
Imperfect, but worth watching for a great cast, including not one but two fantastic performances from Michael Fassbender as different androids. Ridley Scott merges his original Alien with the crazy Prometheus mythology he crafted and the result may be a little bit of an ugly baby, but it's an interesting one.
This is a cool one. Back in the day they used to recut movies to fit into a TV time slot. They'd take extraneous deleted scenes and pad it out. They did with Superman: The Movie and that results in a unique 3 hour version of the movie. This is paired with Richard Donner's preferred cut of the original so you get both the interesting footnote cut and the real deal one in a single package!
I like Man of Steel more than most, but Wonder Woman is unquestionably the best entry into the DCEU so far. Gal Gadot knocked it out of the park and Patty Jenkins did a bang-up job properly introducing us to Diana Prince. The WW1 setting is great and Gadot plays Wonder Woman with the same aw-shucks pure goodness that instantly made Christopher Reeve an icon in Superman.
PRE-ORDER, December 5th. So you want a weird, atypical superhero gift this holiday season? Behold GUARDIANS, Russia trying their hand at the massive Hollywood style superhero film. There's a Man Bear in it, you guys. A Man Bear with a chain gun. If that doesn't pique your interest I don't know what will.
I feel bad for Andrew Garfield who was a great Spider-Man and a fine Peter Parker, but happened to be in two not great films. But all that shit's in the past now. It's Tom Holland's time as Spidey and he's fantastic. Marvel Studios has sprinkled their magic dust on Sony's property and finally folded Spider-Man back into the MCU fold and did it in a movie with a lot of humor, heart and fun. Plus they gave us a pretty great villain to boot. Big fan of this one.
The Big Sick will end up being one of my favorite movies of the year. It's a perfect dramedy, one that gets you deep in the heartplace while making you laugh your ass off at off-color humor (seriously, this film has one of the best 9-11 jokes you'll ever hear). This film should and will be nominated for awards and, more importantly, should launch Kumail Nanjiani into superstar status.
If I were to recommend a title to blind buy from this guide it would be The Brand New Testament. Nobody knows anything about this movie. If you need to be prompted, it's about the child of God (who is a drunk asshole living in a shitty apartment in Belgium) who escapes out into the world. Not that one, that's her big brother. But she's a lot more like him than her dad who revels in making up contradictory laws and punishing those that break them. It's weird, funny as hell and super smart. More people need to see this one.
The followup sequel to An Inconvenient Truth is more timely and pressing than the original, which did a lot of good by putting global warming front and center as a discussion topic. We haven't moved quick enough, but there's still hope and that hope will have to come when both the left and right come together for the common goal of saving this planet (and us in the process). Al Gore showcases this very thing in the doc. It's not too late.
A great parable about grief. This story follows a young boy coping with the death of his mother and it has a very Guillermo del Toro vibe and that's a good thing. Great performances, gut-punching story and cool effects. This is a winner.
Felicity Jones is in this one, too! I think Rogue One plays a little too much like a fan film instead of an actual Star Wars story, but I dig all the pieces. The cast is cool and work well together, the look of the film is right on and I really like how it takes a lot of care to bridge the prequel trilogy to the original trilogy, folding in bits from Rebels and Clone Wars as it does.
Call me weird (many do), but I really dig this movie. Luc Besson is at his best when he goes crazy and this movie is crazy. Unabashed Fantasy with bright colors, nutty characters and over-the-top action. Valerian fizzled at the box office, but it's not bad and I expect it gain a loyal fanbase over the years, much like Besson's other colorful sci-fi epic The Fifth Element.
This was a no-brainer recommend a few weeks ago. Anybody who likes good movies, fun and enjoying life should adore Baby Driver. Now Kevin Spacey has been revealed to be a bit... icky... But he doesn't exactly play the hero here, so it just might smart a little bit when he pops up in the flick, but there's no reason to discount the rest of this masterfully executed heist-themed love story from Edgar Wright.
Cars may be my least favorite Pixar franchise, but this one's actually a step up from the last one, thanks in large part to Larry the Cable Guy returning to the background. It's a story about making the decision to lift others up instead of putting yourself in front and it's a message that is pretty great for today's kids, I think.
It never ceases to amaze me just how insane this series is. The Fast and the Furious started as an “urban appealing” street race flick and ended up being a James Bond style epic soap opera about hot cars and family. This one steps up the melodrama and action in equal measure as Dom turns against the family for... a good reason, actually. Charlize Theron makes a good, smart baddie and the rest of the family are at their charismatic best.
One of the directors of John Wick helmed this Cold War spy flick and it shows. Charlize Theron has some amazing fight scenes in this movie, including one where she gets beat to shit and still dishes it out ten times worse to those she's fighting. Overall the plot's a bit weak sauce, but it has a lot of cool factor and some of the best action of 2017.
PRE-ORDER, December 26th. If you want more knuckle on face bone breaking action, then I urge you to check out S. Craig Zahler's Brawl in Cell Block 99 featuring a career-best performance from Vince Vaughn as a big brute with a heart of gold. This dude doesn't want to bust heads, but will do it if it means protecting his family. It's a slow burn when when it gets going and people start getting hurt you'll be crying out in empathy. Things get brutal.
James McAvoy is a beast in this one (almost literally!). This is the film that really put M. Night Shyamalan back in the game, it's that good. McAvoy takes a lot of credit for that with his central performance as a sympathetic, but scary, man suffering from split personality disorder.
PRE-ORDER, December 5th. If you took Home Alone and mixed it with The Strangers you'd be close to Better Watch Out. A young teen boy has one more chance to convince his babysitter to be his girlfriend and has everything all planned out. And that's when the home invasion stuff starts. Some good twists and turns and a whole lotta Christmas-themed thriller fun!
Here's another horror oddity that might have slipped past you this year. Metal and Satan go hand in hand in this tale of a burned out Metalhead Dad who moves to a small Texas town only to have the house's previous owner show up, trying to do right by Mr. Satan. Very well-done flick that should please most horror fans.
How about this documentary that goes inside extreme haunted houses? It's really good. I saw it at Fantastic Fest back in September. You know what a haunt is, right? It's like when that neighbor is totally into Halloween and turns his garage into a little do-it-yourself haunted house. An Extreme haunt goes way further, including liability waivers, full contact scares and other stuff designed to legit break your psyche. It's a real thing and this is a doc that takes a look at the people who run it and the ones who sign up to get traumatized.
PRE-ORDER, January 9th. IT was one of the biggest movies of the year and this Stephen King nerd couldn't be happier about the movie. It has everything you could want out of a horror movie: An evil clown, mulleted bullies, bloody bathrooms and cursing kids! This is a fantastic adaptation of one of my all-time favorite novels and this disc promises some behind the scenes looks at the making of the movie as well as 11 deleted or extended scenes. No word on if it will float or not...
If you're feeling nostalgic after watching the big screen It adaptation then Warner Archive has you covered with a Blu-Ray master of the original TV mini-series. It's dated, sure, but Tim Curry is still a frickin' badass Pennywise. Your stocking will floaaaaattttt.
Or for $10 more you can get the IT TV mini-series as well as three other King adaptations on Blu-Ray, including Kubrick's The Shining (not the shitty TV mini-series), anthology film Cat's Eye and Tobe Hooper's Salem's Lot. Not a loser in the bunch. Cat's Eye is the lesser title in the mix, but even that one's pretty great. I mean it has a tiny dwarf that tries to steal Drew Barrymore's breath as she sleeps and it's up to her hero kitty to nip that shit in the bud.
Korean director Chan-wook Park made this incredibly sensuous and seriously messed up twisty-turny thriller and because America gotta America the vast majority of people here missed out. But that just means you can surprise your good-movie-loving friend with this. Throw out that 50 Shades crap and replace it with this. You can thank me later.
Moonlight was the surprise winner of this year's Oscars and I can't get too mad at it even though I do love me some La La Land. It's a powerful, important movie. It's not the kind of movie I throw on when I need a pick-me-up, of course, but it's a great film none the less. A grounded, all too real aching emotional rollercoaster.
Aubrey Plaza could be the most perfect voice of her generation. She's the kind of dry smart-ass the world needs right now and Ingrid Goes West puts her front and center as a loony woman who stalks and befriends an Instagram influencer. Very of the moment film with a great cast.
This is the one that could very possibly win Robert Pattinson an Oscar nom. He's that good in it. Go in knowing it's a crime thriller and you won't end up hating the shit out of Robert Pattinson and you'll be in a good place.
I actually missed this one so far and will be watching it in my awards contender roundup this holiday break. Directed by David Lowery and starring Casey Affleck and Rooney Mara it's supposedly more about lost love than spooks. All I know is after Ain't Them Bodies Saints and Pete's Dragon I'm in for any story Lowery wants to tell.
To my great shame I have not yet seen Logan Lucky despite the fact that it seems tailor made for my goofy sensibilities. Steven Soderbergh does another heist movie where he brings in a lot of fun people to do fun things. Channing Tatum, Daniel Craig, Adam Driver, Riley Keough... It's in my way too big catch-up-over-the-holidays pile, but I've heard enough good stuff about it that I felt I could include it here.
This series dipped in quality pretty hardcore after Gore Verbinksi's initial trilogy (say what you will about the bloated 2 and 3 they at least had a ton of imagination going on) and this film rebounded pretty well. It's not perfect, but it captures some of that original Pirates magic even if Captain Jack has long overstayed his welcome. Plus a Beatle is in it, so...
I never really dug these movies until I watched them with my nephews. Now I have a little understanding why parents of young kids like some dumb shit sometimes. Granted I'm an easy target for fart jokes and there are a whole lotta them in the Despicable Universe, so it didn't take much to swing me over. This one introduces a long lost brother, tempts Gru back to the villain side and has Trey Parker voicing a disgraced child actor villain, so how could anyone outright hate it?
Here's an animated movie you can love without any qualifiers. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm is Batman The Animated Series' first feature and has all the talent from that show on board to give us one of the best Batman movies ever made. It's animated, but still the story's great and voice acting is crazy on point. This movie nails the character in a way that they've struggled with in live action for decades. So good.
Featuring Adam West's final go at the character of Batman, this animated film is interesting in that it's an attempt to recreate the original '60s Batman TV show. This is actually a sequel to a movie released last year called Return of the Caped Crusaders that brought West and Burt Ward back as Batman and Robin, took the style of the '60s show and told a new story. And it was pretty kickass.
Guillermo del Toro was once attached to do a feature surrounding this combination of characters called Justice League Dark. It fell apart, but this animated movie is actually pretty great. DC usually does a bang up job with their animated features. This has John Constantine, Batman, Swamp Thing, Zatanna, Deadman and Etrigan solving a supernatural mystery. Good stuff.
This deluxe edition Blu-Ray comes with a Harley Quinn action figure. Can't personally vouch for the story as I haven't seen this one yet, but reviews are solid and it's Batman on a road trip with Harley Quinn, so it's gotta be pretty sweet, right?
Pinocchio is my favorite classic Disney animated movie. Has been since I was a kid. Like the best Disney classics it's pretty damn dark. Pleasure Island where bad boy smoke cigars, drink beer, play pool and turn into donkeys crying for their mothers? Trauma material. Pinocchio has been on Blu before, but this is one of Disney's fancy Signature Releases. Definitely worthy of being in your or a loved one's physical media collection.
Lion King also got a signature edition blu-ray! One of the best of Disney animation's renaissance, my little brother's first movie in a theater and it has a fart joke in a song. All quality reasons you should own this. Plus it's good study-up material for Jon Favreau's photoreal version coming soon!
There's a ton of great Hayao Miyazaki on Blu this holiday season. I've taken my favorites and included them here so he didn't need his own section... Here's Howl's Moving Castle, an all-timer.
Witches via the Miyazaki filter. I know it's probably blasphemy, but I love the US dub of this because it features the late, great Phil Hartman so prominently.
My first Miyazaki in a theater, which is a totally immersive experience. Real easy to fall into his animated worlds when they're huge and gorgeous in front of you. You probably have a real big TV (and if you don't you can sit real close to your small one) so you try to mimic my experience with this weird ass awesome movie. You're welcome.
And perhaps the most iconic Miyazaki movie of all time... That cover image is unforgettable. Absolute classic.
You'll be seeing a string of 4k titles here and that, my friends, is influenced by the fact that I picked up a new 4k TV to go with my fancy Xbox One X and began the dive into 4k myself. I figured I wasn't the only who is going UHD in the wake of the One X, so here you go. Nothing rings in the late-in-the-year holidays like the Peanuts specials. I watched them over and over again as a kid. Great Pumpkin for Halloween, Charlie Brown Thanksgiving for well, Thanksgiving and the next title for the big holiday. It might be a little too late to get this in time for Thanksgiving this year, but you can always pick it up now and make sure you don't repeat that mistake again in 2018!
Oh, Charlie Brown. You and your poor little pathetic Christmas tree always make me feel better for some reason. You're not too late to have this attack your eyeballs in UHD this holiday season. There's a lot of counter-programming Christmas titles on the list this year (lots of seasonal horror), but this is one of the legitimate real deal holiday titles that you don't have to be ironic about.
This was the second title I purchased in 4k when I got my new UHD set up (the first was by the same director and can be found in the next section). These vintage movies tend to look better than the newer ones because most of the stuff released today is only mastered in 2k for release whereas many of the restorations of classics are done in 4k. That won't be true of every old title, but your odds are better. This one looks flat out incredible and Close Encounters is one of the best movies ever made so that's a double-win for you!
David Lean shot his movies big big big, many times on larger format film stock (ie 70mm), which means a good 4k restoration will look ungodly in UHD. Bridge on the River Kwai is a flick that consistently pops up on Best Films Ever Made lists and for good reason. It's not only beautifully shot, it's a riveting wartime POW camp flick. A must see for any cinephile, especially in this clarity.
While it might not ever rank next to something like Bridge on the River Kwai, Kingsman is a current series I dearly love. James Bond but naughtier and way more fun. The sequel to The Secret Service came out this year and so did this “Premium Edition” of the original, which can be picked up both on Blu-Ray and 4k (which also includes a Blu-Ray copy).
This one's on my list to pick up in UHD. Arguably Ron Howard's best top to bottom movie, Apollo 13 still holds up. I watched it pretty recently and it's tense and each frame is filled to the brim with the cream of the crop of acting talent. Miss ya', Bill Paxton.
Get ready for the big Jumanji rebootquel by watching the original Robin Williams vehicle in UHD! Can't imagine that mid-'90s CG holds up super well in 4k resolution, but damned if I don't want to find out!
Peter Jackson made his dream King Kong project without taking much of a break from doing that crazy Lord of the Rings trilogy schedule. The result is that Kong has a lot of the same energy and feel that his Rings movies did. It's a little bloated, not enough time is spent on Skull Island, but other than that I really do dig this movie and I greatly look forward to seeing how the 4k UHD looks.
Keanu-triggered headshots in 4k! Plus a really smart dude's name is floating over Keanu's right shoulder on that cover, so you have to purchase any new edition of this movie that comes out. It's the law. (Hint: it's me!) For real, though, one of my favorite movies of the last 10 years.
I love, love, love Cabin in the Woods. It's such a smart deconstruction of what goes into our modern horror mythology while at the same time being a pretty damn fun horror movie itself. If you're lucky enough to have never see it, buy now and don't read a damn thing about it! If you happen to know someone who has never seen it then you have the perfect present for them, don't you?
It might get my lynched here, but I'm not super crazy for Joss Whedon's stuff. I mean, I like Firefly a lot, but I never got deep into Buffy or Dollhouse or his other shows. Next to Avengers my favorite thing he's been a part of is Cabin in the Woods! But I know I'm in the minority and as such I wanted to offer an olive branch among the 4k options. (Plus it makes a good transition to my next item)
Like I said above, I like Firefly. Most people Loooooooooooooooovvvvveeeee it and I get it. The cast is awesome together, the devil may care vibe is super fun and you do kind of wish there had been ten seasons of this thing. At least there's this nifty 15th anniversary package for you to add to your shelf.
Some of the biggest bang for your buck you can get on Blu-Ray this holiday season. Season 4 of HBO's fantastic, too close to reality, comedy about the tech industry from Mike Judge who kind of defined this sort of humor with Office Space.
Jody Hill working with Danny McBride is magic. When you throw in Walton Goggins into the mix then you get something beyond magic. What's beyond magic? I don't know, but it's vulgar, crude and funny as hell whatever it is. McBride and Goggins are warring vice principals angling for the coveted principal job and are forced to team up and take down a common enemy. This show's great and you can own it on Blu-Ray! Hooray!
Gal Gadot is great as Wonder Woman, but time will tell if she ever truly tops Lynda Carter. This set takes the entire series and gives you all 2956 minutes aired of Wonder Woman spinning and doing her thing in one convenient package.
PRE-ORDER, December 5th. Let me get this up front right away: This is a rough one, content-wise. If you're squeamish about slashers then you might want to avoid it, but if you like your Christmas-themed entertainment to be violent, full of asshole nuns abusing orphans and a troubled kid who grows up so traumatized by Santa Claus that he grows up and becomes a killer Santa himself then this one's for you. There's a speech by a grandfather at the beginning of this movie that will be your new favorite thing in life. On Pre-Order from the good folks from Scream Factory (think of them as the Criterion for cheesy horror), but you can still get it in time for Christmas. Don't be naughty and pre-order now!
George Romero's last real theatrical zombie movie. Universal brought him back in the mid aughts for one more decently budgeted go at the zombie universe he defined. And it's not bad! It's certainly better than the direct to video stuff he did after (although a blow to the head is better than Diary of the Dead, so that's not saying much). I may be a little biased because I am in this one. That's right, I got to be one of Romero's walking dead, shambling around in the background when the zombies push on Dennis Hopper's big tower.
Zack Snyder's remake of Romero's Dawn of the Dead not only put him on the map, but also screenwriter James Gunn who would later go on to write and direct Marvel's Guardians of the Galaxy films. The original was a masterpiece of its era and the remake is no slouch either. I'm not sure it takes complete advantage of the set up of people trapped in a mall during a zombie outbreak and it definitely ignores the long tedium feeling for those kind of just waiting out the apocalypse in the '70s film, but it's full of energy and has a fantastic cast.
James Gunn wrote and directed this awesome black comedy sci-fi horror flick before he tackled Guardians of the Galaxy. Firefly's Nathan Fillion stars alongside Elizabeth Banks and frequent Gunn collaborator Michael Rooker in this goofy fun B-movie. This one's seriously a great time.
One of the very best Stephen King adaptations, Misery was interesting in that it is a horror movie that was awards worthy. Kathy Bates won an Oscar for her portrayal of the psychotic Annie Wilkes, the number one fan of a romance novelist who happens to fall under her isolated care. Directed by Rob Reiner who also happened to direct one of the other great Stephen King adaptations: Stand By Me. Great book, great movie, fantastic adaptation.
Little Drew Barrymore starred in this Stephen King movie shortly after appearing in ET. It's... weird and definitely of its time, but also has some really cool set pieces. Stranger Things fans will recognize a certain trait for Eleven is lifted directly from this movie (psychic powers triggering bloody noses). Another nice release from Scream Factory.
We're not done with Scream Factory Stephen King movies yet! Had to squeeze in The Lawnmower Man, the absurd adaptation of one of King's short stories (kind of... the story has virtually nothing to do with the source material) starring Jeff Fahey as a simple man who becomes a side experiment for a doctor (Pierce Brosnan) and ends up being a computer god. The early early early CG alone is enough to push this film into cult status now.
This is a really cool '90s anthology horror flick featuring a predominantly black cast, and a great cast at that. Clarence Williams III is so good and over the top in this movie! The evil doll segment still sticks out in my memory.
Linda Blair is famous for being the little girl in The Exorcist, but she made a string of exploitation flicks throughout the '70s and early '80s including, but not limited to, a roller rink romance, a revenge flick and this brutal slasher about pledges having to spend the night in a notoriously haunted house. It's silly and gory and kinda stupid and fun. Just what you want out of an '80s slasher.
I have a soft spot for Poltergeist II. It's nowhere near as good as the original, which is one of my all-time favorite movies. That goes without saying, but this one goes mean. The poor Freeling family is run through the ringer in this one. They have to deal with evil braces and weird demon tequila worms and stuff. It's grosser and darker than the first one and definitely misses Spielberg's guiding touch. Still, I'll always dig it. Call it nostalgia if you want, but that evil preacher is some serious nightmare fuel. God is iiiinnnn, his hoooollllyyy tem-ple...
Poltergeist 3 is way harder to defend, but I suppose I have a little bit of nostalgia for this one, too. I remember seeing it in the theater when I was a kid and some joker cranked up the air conditioning to the point where you could see your breath, which made it an almost 4D experience when the apartment building freezes over. It was a pretty epic screening for a pretty epically not great movie. But Zelda Rubinstein returns and actually has quite a bit to do, so that's cool.
Natasha Henstridge's big movie. She stars as a human/alien hybrid who escapes from her scientist captors and feels the need to reproduce. Lots of good gore effects and a surprisingly good cast, including Ben Kingsley, Alfred Molina, Forest Whitaker and Michael Madsen.
I'd say this is John Waters' most accessible movie, even more so than Cry Baby, I think. It's a great, straight forward dark comedy that still retains Waters' trademark quirkiness. This also might be my favorite Kathleen Turner performance (sorry, Jessica Rabbit). She's just so gleefully sadistic in this one!
Joe Dante is a favorite filmmaker of mine. Everybody knows his big stuff: Gremlins, The Howling, Innerspace, The Burbs and Piranha, but for some reason Matinee seems to be forgotten. Set during the Cuban Missile Crisis and focusing on a coming of age story about a young boy falling in love against that backdrop the movie wears its heart on its sleeve, not just with the inherent sweetness of the characters, but also of its love of the movie business itself. There's a huckster film producer (played by John Goodman) who is coming through town to show his cheesy B-movie called Mant in this small town and he bonds with this kid. I was about the age of the main kids in this when the movie came out, but it's not just nostalgia for me. I watched this recently and it's still pretty great. If you've missed this one give it a shot.
Here's another great '80s oddity from Scream Factory, a street gang rock musical starring Michael Pare, Diane Lane, Rick Moranis and a very young Willem Dafoe called Streets of Fire, directed by the great Walter Hill (The Warriors). Super cool cult movie that is known by exploitation enthusiasts, but not a whole of people beyond that.
This movie is a who's who of mid-'70s cool. Richard Pryor, George Carlin, Otis Day, Bill Duke, The Pointer Sisters. It doesn't work great as an actual movie, but the whole thing seems to be set up specifically to capture the tone and vibe of a time period and that it does. It's a great time capsule, especially if you have any nostalgia for funk or '70s comedy.
It's my least favorite RoboCop movie, but directed by one of my favorite people: Fred Dekker. He directed two of my all-time favorites in Night of the Creeps and Monster Squad. Then he entered into this film at a disadvantage in that Peter Weller didn't return in the role and he had to make a PG-13 RoboCop movie. That said, Dekker imbued the film with his kinetic visual style and fun twists (the robot ninja assassins in particular are pretty neat) and did his best. He made something weird, that's for sure, and that counts for something.
This film tickles the happy centers of my brain. I watched it on a loop when I was a kid. I think between this and Back to the Future I wanted Michael J. Fox to be my big brother. Fox is a force of nature at this moment in time and elevates this movie to something really memorable. And how often do you get to see Marty McFly as a werewolf? Just this one time, I think.
Jason Bateman steps into the lead (there was no way on God's green Earth Michael J. Fox was going to come back to this franchise after Back to the Future) and... it's not great, but it is worth watching if you like giant chunks of '80s cheese.
Speaking of giant chunks of '80s cheese, you can't get more '80s than Teen Witch, I think. Yes, it's about a teenage witch (Robyn Lively) who discovers her powers on her 16th birthday and uses them to become the most popular girl at school. There's a white person rap battle in here that's a thing of legend. How Did This Get Made fans will remember that crew adoring the hell out of this movie. It's super hard not to love. Top that!
Universal might not be treating the modern versions of their monsters right, but they certainly keep putting out gorgeous high def versions of their vault titles. This Blu-Ray set gets you Dracula, Dracula's Daughter, Son of Dracula, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula and Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein. Yes, even though there's two Frankensteins in there, they're really secret Dracula movies! Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein by itself is worth the price of the whole set!
Drac's not alone in the Blu-Ray special fancy release department! The Mummy's in on the fun, too. You get 6 titles here: The Mummy, The Mummy's Hand, The Mummy's Tomb, The Mummy's Curse, The Mummy's Ghost and Abbott and Costello Meet The Mummy. That's a lot of bandaids!
Wolf-Man (probably my favorite) has a Blu set, too, with 7 films. The Wolf Man, Frankenstein Meets the Wolf Man, House of Frankenstein, House of Dracula, Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein, Werewolf of London and She-Wolf of London. Some double-ups with the Dracula set. Not sure why they did that, but I guess it's better than leaving something out if you only want to buy one of the two.
Frankenstein and Bride of Frankenstein director James Whale also made this black and white horror film called The Old Dark House also starring Boris Karloff and it's pretty legit. I've only seen it once and that was on the big screen courtesy of an archival print. It was really hard to get ahold of for a long time, but there's been a new 4k restoration so film fans can finally have a high def quality version of it.
In the '70s a whole exploitation subgenre rose up called blaxploitation, made by and starring people of color. Shaft is the most famous crossover example of this subgenre (you're damn right!), which spanned all sorts of sub-subgenres, from Kung Fu movies to westerns to crime tales and musicals and, yes, horror movies. Blacula was pretty famous, but less well known was Blackenstein, which has been super hard to find for a long time, but now Severin Films have put it out on Blu-Ray. Something weird, but something pretty cool, too.
Shoutout to Brian Collins for carrying the torch for this film for years. He loves this obscure gem almost as much as I love Temple of Doom. This one never saw DVD, I don't think, existing only on VHS until this Blu-Ray release. Don't tell Brian, but I still haven't watched this, but I'll do my best to fix that before the end of 2017.
If your life was missing William Shatner fighting an evil cult led by Ernest Borgnine then boy howdy do I have the movie for you! Church of Satan's Anton LaVey was actually a technical consultant on this drive-in classic and this movie also boasts John Travolta's very first on-screen appearance!
PRE-ORDER, November 28th. You're gonna see a trend of cool obscurities making their way to Blu-Rays in the guide this year. We're reaching the point of Blu-Ray's life cycle where the gigantic titles have all found their way to the format and the powers that be are starting to dig deeper into their vaults, sometimes finding stuff that never even hit DVD. Deathdream is a legendary film for horror buffs, directed by Bob Clark who did the fantastic Black Christmas (and also the other famous holiday classic A Christmas Story) about a soldier killed in Vietnam who still returns home despite that little hiccup. Effects by makeup master Tom Savini.
Mario Bava is one of the godfathers of horror. He's the horror filmmaker that inspired the horror filmmakers you love. Kill Baby Kill is one of his most beloved films. It's a gothic tale about a doctor who is sent to a small town to perform an autopsy on a woman who died under mysterious circumstances. You get a fish out of water story, a skeptic facing the supernatural and a creepy ghost child.
Innocent Blood's original title was A French Vampire In America. It was intended to be a spiritual sequel to An American Werewolf In London and while it doesn't reach the same iconic highs as John Landis' werewolf film it's still pretty awesome. I mean, you get to see a Don Rickles vampire. What else could you possibly want out of a motion picture, I ask you.
Julie Christie is trapped in her home by an evil computer who wants to impregnate her with a computer/human hybrid that will take over the world. You know, your typical movie plot. It's a little gross and weird, but an interesting movie nonetheless.
Wait Until Dark is a classy home invasion film starring Audrey Hepburn as a blind woman tormented by a creepy Alan Arkin. It's a masterclass in suspense with some old Hollywood charm in every frame.
You want weird? Good, check this one out. Based on Dracula author Bram Stoker's final book, this crazy cult film was directed by Ken Russell and features an early Hugh Grant appearance. Lotsa camp in this one.
Since we're into weird movies right now, I couldn't ignore this new 3-disc release of The Man Who Fell To Earth, David Bowie's artfully weird sci-fi tale of an alien's visit to our planet. Criterion put out a Blu-Ray of this a while back, but that went out of print and is crazy expensive now, so if you want it this limited edition release is your best bet.
The Skull is one of my favorite Amicus/Hammer-era British horror flicks. It features two of that genre's biggest stars Christopher Lee and Peter Cushing in atypical roles. Cushing was usually the hero and Lee the villain, but here they're both obsessive collectors of occult items. They're competitors, not necessarily mortal enemies, and they're both after the skull of the Marquis de Sade... which still carries its owner's evil spirit. Very fun, very different movie for fans of this niche subgenre.
Phenomena is one of my favorite Dario Argento films. It's weeeeiiiirrrddd. A young pre-Labyrinth Jennifer Connelly plays a girl who can talk to and control bugs while a deformed dwarf runs around killing people. Oh, and Halloween's Donald Pleasence is in it and has a monkey sidekick. You really aren't prepared for how off the rocker this one is. It's so good!
From Italian goremeister Lucio Fulci comes the disturbingly titled DON'T TORTURE A DUCKLING. It's not as fun as his Zombie or City of the Living Dead, but it's a messed up giallo (meaning pulpy Italian crime/horror story) about a town where young boys are getting murdered and how the town reacts. The accusations fly and the demand for vengeance grows as a newspaper reporter tries to solve the case before mob justice sets in.
There were movies growing up in the '80s that seemed a little dangerous. This was one of them. I haven't revisited in years, but there was an uneasy feeling when this one came on cable... something grimy and gritty that stuck with me. I'm sure it's cheesy as hell now, but at the time this one was kind of like Pumpkinhead in that it legitimately got under your skin. I'd actually like to give this a spin soon and see if it still feels that.
I love a good steelbook release and the art on the Escape From New York Blu is pretty sweet. John Carpenter got a few really good steelbook double-dips this year, a couple of which are below. Escape From New York is one of Carpenter's best films back when he could do no wrong as a director. The man had an incredible run starting at Assault on Precinct 13 and going through to They Live where he was dishing out classic after classic.
The Fog was Carpenter's supernaturally spooky follow-up to Halloween and while it isn't as instantly iconic it's still one hell of a ghost story. Set in a coastal town with a deep, dark secret as a mysterious fog bank rolls in you couldn't possibly get more different than the suburban horror film that made him famous, which is one of the reasons I like this movie so much. Great cast, cool monsters and it's shot beautifully. This steelbook release has a rad cover, too!
Put on the damn glasses! This is John Carpenter at his most biting. Man does he hate Reaganomics and yuppies. This one is all about the blue collar versus the 1%, who of course are all aliens and alien sympathizers milking the working class for everything they have. Features one of the best fist fights ever captured on film.