Young Elijah Wood and Macaulay Culkin team up in this classier than you'd expect Bad Seed style thriller about a good kid staying with family after his mom passes away and discovering his cousin is actually a murdering psychopath. The Home Alone kid as a killer is a brilliant bit of casting that I think would be more well known if they went campier with it. But I have a lot of nostalgia for this one and revisited it recently and respect the restraint they show by making this a slow burn thriller instead of an exploitation movie.
Directed by Freddy Krueger! Another title I haven't watched since my teen years, but I remember the video box being cooler than the movie was. It's about a down and out teen who talks a demon on his phone and gets demonic powers
The Gate was a favorite horror flick of mine growing up. I suppose I took to it because it there's a kid in the lead (young Stephen Dorff, no less!), but it's also got some rockin' practical effects and a creepy tone. It's all about kids who accidentally unlock a portal to hell in their backyard with the help of some weird heavy metal lyrics out of a random LP. Little demon dudes then ruin their weekend. I'll always remember the creepy dead construction worker that crashes out of the wall. Burned into the psyche, that one.
I remember friends tracking down any and all Japanese horror in the wake of the original Ringu. It was an obsession and Pulse was one of the first post Ring titles we got. It was J-horror playing with technology. The Ring was about a cursed video cassette, this was about a website that asks if you want to see a ghost... Click yes and you done fucked up, son. Sorry.
This is a kidnapping movie, believe it or not. That just so happens to involve poisonous snakes. It has a superstar cast that includes Susan George, Oliver Reed and Klaus Kinski and a really pissed off black mamba. It's one of those “I can't believe this exists” movies as kidnappers have snatched a boy and while holding him for ransom have to deal with his pet snake. I would have loved to have been in the room when this was pitched someone like Oliver Reed...
This is exploitation at its finest. I mean, look at that cover! It's about promiscuous cheerleaders who put on cursed uniforms and culty weird stuff starts to happen. This is a movie that exists and for that I am eternally grateful.
Vestron put out all the Warlock films, which were another childhood/teen years staple for me. That's all three Julian Sands-starring witchcraft-centric genre films remastered for Blu with commentaries, interviews, making-of material and other bonus features. Without looking it up I'm pretty sure the first film was the only one to get a theatrical release, but I know that I watched it about three dozen times on cable growing up.
An early Hitchcock film, Lifeboat takes place almost completely on a large lifeboat after a ship is torpedoed by a Nazi U-boat. It's kind of like 12 Angry Men on a boat, a character study against an interesting backdrop... a dynamic that is made even more volatile when the survivors pick up another person in the water who just happens to be the Nazi captain of the u-boat that sunk them. And yes, Hitch somehow figures out to give himself a cameo in this very limited scenario.
Silkwood is one of the best “damn the man!” movies, featuring a knockout performance by Meryl Streep as Karen Silkwood, a low-level employee at a nuclear facility who finds out she and her co-workers have been exposed to radiation and fights the company at risk to her livelihood and possibly her very life. Based on a true story, co-starring Kurt Russell and Cher
Is it safe? A very '70s feeling movie (that's a good thing) that takes its time to let the man-in-the-wrong-place-at-the-wrong-time story unfold. Dustin Hoffman and Laurence Olivier are so damn good in this movie and the dentist drill scene is an all-timer. A steal at its current blu-ray price.
This is a zany comedy about a dude who kinda looks like Bruce Lee (and kinda wants to be him) who unknowingly becomes a drug mule and, as you can tell by the cover, gets his ass kicked a whole lot. He may want to emulate his hero, but he certainly can't fight like he did.
This one has to be seen to be believed. It's a trippy disco-era musical that also happens to be a biblical allegory and one of the most epic misfires of all time. Lovers of well-intentioned bad movies will want to crack open a few beers, call in their buds, and give this one a spin. Prepare to have your minds blown.
PRE-ORDER, December 19th. So this is a collection of great stop-motion animated films about toys. You have Cowboy, Indian and Horse. Horse is the responsible one, and Cowboy and Indian always fuck things up. I haven't seen the Christmas special in this set, but the original film is really damn funny.
Previously only available as part of a larger Busby Berkeley box set, Warner Archive has put out one of the most famous musicals of the '30s as its own DVD. Gold Diggers of 1933 is a love story (three of them, actually) set against the backdrop of a Broadway show with famous choreographer Busby Berkeley working his magic with extravagant musical numbers. Even if you've never seen a Berkeley musical number you've seen parodies or nods to them in stuff like the opening to Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom and the dream sequence in The Big Lebowski.
William Powell and Myrna Loy are two of my favorite people to watch interact in a movie. They starred in the Thing Man series (which is absolutely fantastic if you haven't had the pleasure) and another one of their pairings was put to DVD this year. Manhattan Melodrama is famous as being the movie gangster John Dillinger was watching before he was gunned down by the FBI outside the theater. It's a charming movie, too, so at least he went out with a smile on his face.
Warner Archive is a print-on-demand service that opens up Warners' crazy huge archive by only manufacturing a DVD when an order is placed. That means they can offer up a lot more stuff because they're not committing to hundreds or thousands of units for obscure stuff. One of the things they have on offer is this, which is a documentary on the making of The Wizard of Oz, featuring rare behind the scenes archival footage. Very neat!
Pink Panther director Blake Edwards made a movie about making movies with his wife, the great Julie Andrews, in the lead. It's a jet black satire of his own industry, following a director whose movie flops and the whole system seems to fall on his head and a wholesome star who decides to shake up her image by going topless. This is a more obscure treat for movie fans.
A one-armed WW2 veteran arrives in the town of Black Rock and all hell breaks loose. Holy shit, what a great movie with an even better cast. Spencer Tracy was nominated for an Oscar for this role and he's surrounded by tip top talent like Ernest Borgnine, Lee Marvin, Walter Brennan and Robert Ryan.
This is just a flat out lovely movie, a technicolor marvel that'll pull at your heartstrings. As previously established, I love a great musical and this is a great musical about a man who stumbles across the town of Brigadoon, a Scottish village that is under some kind of spell and only shows up once every 100 years for one day. Gene Kelly plays a vacationing American who interacts with this town, gets to know and like the townspeople and even falls in love... but how could it work? He only has one day... unless he chooses to stay and give up everything in his life. Very sweet, incredibly romantic and one of the better song and dance movies of this era filled with great song and dance movies.
Here's a weird anthology tale from the mind of Ray Bradbury called The Illustrated Man. It's about a man covered in tattoos and each one is a story and each story is messed up. Think of it like if Tales from the Crypt was tattooed onto some dude instead of in a giant dusty tome.
Steve Martin reteams with his Jerk director Carl Reiner for this absolutely no-shits-given zany comedy (I mean, Martin plays a character called Dr. Hfuhruhurr... come on!), another one that was on constant cable rotation when I was a wee lad.
Freebie and the Bean is the shit. This movie is so good, you guys. It's an odd-couple detective story that gos so wacky and over the top that it is one of the most fun crime movies of the '70s. It's like they looked at The French Connection and other super serious '70s crime movies and said “lighten up, my dude.” Alan Arkin and James Caan absolutely kill it. I can't recommend this one enough.
Christopher Guest's classic mockumentary about a small theater group putting on a show. Lots of people have tried to make this kind of movie, but nobody does it quite like Christopher Guest and his talented cohorts.
One of the Coen Bros' most underseen gems, Barton Fink follows a screenwriter who has to navigate the 1940s Hollywood system. It's a great movie about writer's block. I know that sounds dull as hell, but it's the Coen Brothers, so it's absolutely awesome. John Goodman is so damn good in this thing, which goes absolutely off the rails in the most spectacular way. Big recommend from me.
Another good Coen option this year is the 20th anniversary steelbook Blu-Ray of the original Fargo. Nothing says “Merry Christmas, I love you” like feeding bodies into a wood chipper, don't you agree?
Bobcat Goldthwait is an underrated director and Shakes the Clown was where he finally stepped behind the camera and made people notice him. He did a movie a while back called World's Greatest Dad that I still think about. This one is a comedy that could easily be a horror movie since it's about gangs of clowns fighting each other. Shakes is framed for murder and he has to figure out which clown is setting him up.
One of the most feel good movies ever made. Burt Reynolds is at the top of star-power here, oozing charisma out of every pore in this tale of charming booze smuggler trying to get his payload to its destination before being caught by the red-faced Sheriff Buford T. Justice (Jackie Gleason). This movie set the box office on fire when it was released and it's easy to see why. Such an easy, breezy fun flick.
Tobor is '50s sci-fi at its most... well, '50s sci-fi. Tobor is robot spelled backwards, by the way. This one plays a little like a proto-Lost In Space with a big robot that bonds with a kid and has to go save him from kidnappers.
Speaking of robots, Space Camp was a big deal for me as a kid mostly because of the relationship between young Joaquin “Leaf” Phoenix and his NASA robot friend. Thanks to shows like Double Dare offering Space Camp prizes I think every '80s kid dreamed of going to Space Camp, so this movie's like a big wish fulfillment story. What if you not only got to go to Space Camp and train to be an astronaut, but also accidentally get shot into space? Yes please want thank you.
Speaking of '80s wish fulfillment, Vice Versa was my favorite of all the body-swapping tales, probably because Wonder Years was such a big deal in my house. I also happened to be pretty into Little Monsters, so Fred Savage was like a friend I visited with through my TV. Sounds a little sad when I type it out that way, but fuck it. That's how it felt! Here he and his dad Judge Reinhold switch bodies, leading to shenanigans as the man acts like a boy and the boy acts like a man. Today if that happened you wouldn't be able to tell much of a difference. I don't know if that's a good thing or bad thing...
Hey, look! A Fred Savage double feature! Princess Bride turns 30 this year so they've celebrated by putting out this anniversary Blu-Ray at the low low inconceivable price of $7.99! As you wish!
Yeah, it's a double dip, but it's cheap and one of the best movies ever. John Candy was great in literally everything he did, but for my money Planes, Trains and Automobiles is his tops as an actor. His “I like me” speech to Steve Martin is one of the best scenes of the '80s. What a great way to instantly crack cynicism down the middle and it could only work coming from someone as loveable as inherently kind as John Candy. Technically this is a Thanksgiving movie, but it works for Christmas, too.
Another repackage, but Scrooged is a must own Christmas movie, so I'll allow it. Bill Murray doing the Ebenezer Scrooge bit as a greedy TV exec who is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future. This movie runs every holiday for me and if it doesn't for you then you need to reevaluate you life's choices, fam.
There are all sorts of movies that came out in the '80s, but when I think of the decade Mr. Mom is one of the movies that jumps immediately to mind. From fashion to set decoration this is what I remember the '80s as being like. Plus everybody wanted Michael Keaton to be their dad, right?
This 50th Anniversary release of The Good, The Bad and The Ugly is NOT a double dip. It is in fact a new restoration that, for the first time in high def, allows the original theatrical version of the movie to take front and center. The previous Blu release was the one with the deleted scenes cut back into the movie with the distractingly old man dubs from Eli Wallach and Clint Eastwood. GBU is one of the best westerns ever made and has one of my all-time favorite scores. The transfer was done in 4k and this 2 disc set includes the theatrical cut, the extended cut and tons of interviews and film historian commentaries.
GBU star Lee Van Cleef stars in this lesser known, but just as awesome western with the absolutely badass title Death Rides A Horse. This is a double-barreled revenge spaghetti western as two different people are after the same bad guys, one the son of murdered parents and the other the man who was framed for those killings. Tarantino famously used some of Ennio Morricone's score for this film in Kill Bill (it starts off the O-ren Ishii fight). It's a badass movie with an even more badass score.
To be completely honest the only reason I'm including this one is because it's been a title I've been trying to track down for years. I'm a bit of a Robert Shaw nut. He played Quint in Jaws and I took that name as my online writing persona ever since I was 16. Shaw stars in this film directed by The Exorcist's William Friedkin based on the well-known stageplay of the same name. I'm sure it's very locked down, like most play adaptations are, but now that it's available on blu-ray I can check another obscure title off my list.
Frank Capra's Lost Horizon has this special blu-ray release celebrating its 80th birthday. It's another hole in my film knowledge, but I do know it was nominated for best picture and won best art direction and is about a group of people who survive a plane crash and find themselves in Shangri-La.
PRE-ORDER, December 12th. Billy Wilder's The Apartment should be on any movie-lovers Top 100 Movies To See Before I Fall Off A Cliff or whatever. The point is it's amazing, Shirley MacLaine is amazing in it, as is Jack Lemmon, and even though it's black and white it still feels fresh today, thanks in large part to the infectious energy MacLaine gives to the film. This Blu is limited to only 3000 copies and includes a brand new 4k transfer, new bonus features and a bunch of ported content. No. Brainer.
I know it's hard to talk a lot of people into giving silent film a chance, but I believe if you can give just about anybody to sit still for 5 minutes for any Buster Keaton movie they'll watch the whole thing. The General in particular is incredible. It's a Civil War movie about a bit of a bumbling do-gooder going behind enemy lines to reclaim a train, but more than that it's genuinely funny. There are sight gags and stunts on display here that are absolutely unbelievable. Keaton always brought heart to everything, but The General is his masterpiece. I already own this, but I might pick this release up because I've never seen the other feature included, Three Ages.
Kevin! That first Home Alone is still some good shit and I have a soft spot for the sequel, too. I was Culkin's age when these movies came out so there's some serious wish fulfillment going on in this and John Williams' score for the first film is still my go-to Christmas music. You filthy animals can get both of the movies in one set here for pretty cheap.
In terms of pure knuckle on face value for your dollar getting both The Raid 1 and 2 in one set for less than $7 each is pretty much your best deal on this guide. These Indonesian action films are incredible. The first is pretty much a live action video game where our hero cop has to go through waves of bad guys in an apartment complex, working his way from floor to floor until he reaches the top and can face the big baddie. The second movie is more like The Godfather Part II, an epic sprawling crime film. Both are great in their own ways and some of the most kick ass action movies you'll ever see.
I love these kinds of releases. This is simply a compilation of old kung fu trailers. That's two hours worth of trailers for random, obscure and probably kickass movies you've never heard of like Thundering Mantis or Shaolin Invincible Sticks or Yellow-Faced Tiger. Some times the trailers for these movies are the best part because they show all the big action stuff. Perfect background noise for parties or research material for new kung fu flicks to dig up and watch.
The gold standard for home invasion films. Sam Peckinpah's Straw Dogs is an unblinking journey of a meek man being forced to stand up for himself, his family and his very life. There's some real tough material in here, with an especially graphic and complex rape scene, so be warned of that going into the movie. But it's got a lot on its mind and has some flat out incredible performances.
It is the year of Twin Peaks, thanks to the return season we got on Showtime, so it's fitting that Criterion put out the theatrical film prequel David Lynch made called Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me which shows the events leading up to Laura Palmer's death. It's even weirder than the show and way more graphic.
Ghost World is one of the best comic book movies that nobody ever talks about because I guess a lot of people don't know it's based on a comic book. Terry Zwigoff's adaptation of Daniel Clowes' original comic is a damn delight and spoke to a whole generation of young people, especially women. Really psyched Criterion has put this one out.
Stanley Kubrick's most overlooked and possibly most beautiful movie. Famously shot mostly by candlelight, which required the invention of whole new camera lenses to actually capture on film, this period piece is through and through Stanley Kubrick in its sensibilities. Artistic, ungodly beautiful, patient, but deeply complex in character. I don't think it's his most rewatchable movie by a long shot, but it's still a fantastic film.
Gary Oldman playing Sex Pistols bassist Sid Vicious? Yep, indeed. From director Alex Cox comes this unlikely, atypical love story. True story: I once interviewed Gary Oldman for Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix and he said he took the part of Sirius Black because he wanted to do something his young kids could see. "What, they're not Sid & Nancy fans," I cracked and he burst out laughing. Sorry for the namedrop, but you'd do it too if you ever made Gary Oldman laugh cracking a Sid & Nancy quip.
This is an incredible film. Hal Ashby made one of my all-time favorites, a movie called Harold and Maude. The dude was great and Being There is a masterpiece, offering us Peter Sellers' best performance as Chance, the gardener... Think of him a proto-Forrest Gump, a pure innocent. Great flick, check it out if you haven't seen it.
The only Alfred Hitchcock film to win the Best Picture Oscar, Rebecca is a haunting picture (literally) about a woman who falls in love, marries and moves to her husband's estate to find the spirit of his deceased wife still lingering about the place. Obviously this was one of Guillermo del Toro's inspirations for Crimson Peak. Joan Fontaine and Laurence Olivier star.
Hitchcock's third feature, this silent thriller is about a young lodger who arrives in town just as a serial killer begins preying on blonde women. This is another one I haven't seen, but now that Criterion has put it out you bet your bottom dollar I'll be seeking it out!
If you've been going through life desiring a live action sexy Polish mermaid fantasy musical then The Lure is the one you've been looking for. I saw this one at Fantastic Fest last year and it's a trip. Definitely not for a more square viewer, but you loonies like me will dig this one a lot.
I love, love, love screwball comedies. The screwball type film are usually defined as being an exaggerated comedy filled with quick banter, usually centered on an atypical love story where the man and woman toss barbs back and forth. The Philadelphia Story is one of the best examples of that genre and shows just how much of a goddamn movie star Katherine Hepburn was. Cary Grant ain't half bad either.
This one I haven't seen, but it's another in the same vein as The Philadelphia Story, except Spencer Tracy is in the co-lead this time out, playing Hepburn's new husband. They're rival newspaper reporters and find that kinda makes life as a married couple a little difficult. I adore The Philadelphia Story, so I'll be sure to pick this one up while these Criterions are on sale.
Casablanca director Michael Curtiz tried his hand at To Have and Have Not, casting John Garfield instead of Bogart. This film is way more true to Ernest Hemingway's source material and really digs into the psyche of a man trading in his morals bit by bit out of desperation until he's not sure there's much of him left. Great dramatic thriller.
Francis Ford Coppola almost killed himself making Apocalypse Now and spent the '80s making more low key dramas like The Outsiders, One From The Heart and this film, Rumble Fish, which is notable for the beautiful black and white photography and the break out performance from Matt Dillon.
The story of a photographer who accidentally captures a death while photographing London and the chaos that follows. This is Michelangelo Antonioni's first English language film and is definitely worth seeing. I like Blow Out, De Palma's seedy quasi-remake of it more if I'm being honest (and probably losing a little cinephile cred admitting), but you can't go wrong with this one.
I don't know if there's ever been anyone cooler than Alain Delon in his prime. Case in point, Le Samourai, Jean-Pierre Melville's assassin flick. It's both incredibly European and inspired by US noir at the same time, which makes for a pretty goddamn cool movie.
Ah, Albert Brooks' Lost in America. Here you have Brooks and Julie Haggarty as husband and wife who quit their jobs, buy a Winnebago and hit the open road. Of course that doesn't exactly work out like they planned. Awkward, bittersweet and probably a little genius. There's a reason Criterion put this one out.
I mayyyyyy have a bit of an unhealthy obsession of Walter Matthau, but you'll have to take my word for it that despite that admitted bias Hopscotch is an awesome movie. Matthau plays an ex-CIA guy who decides to write a tell-all book about not just his agency, but also his KGB run-ins, which puts him on the shitlist of both. Luckily he's real good at outsmarting spies, so the cat and mouse chase begins. It's real damn good.