• 2019: Favorite Blu-ray Releases


    2019 brought us some great blu-rays releases. We saw some wonderful blu-ray debuts from the likes of Shout!/Scream Factory (The Blob, Earthquake, The Fly and The Omen Collections), Arrow Video (The Hills Have Eyes Part II, Horror Express,

    THE YEAR OF MARTIAL ARTS FILMS

    Every year, we like to pick out a section of the film world to focus on when we do these year-end lists. The first year we did this (2017) was the “Year of Argento”. 2018 was the “Year of Carpenter”. 2019 is the “Year of Martial Arts Films”. Over the past couple of years, more and more companies are taking a chance on martial arts films and bringing them to blu-ray in special editions with all sorts of goodies and brand new transfers.


              Wheels on Meals (Eureka Entertainment) Wheels on Meals is one of my favorite martial
              arts flicks. I saw this during the Video Store Days and fell in love with it. This edition of
              the film on blu-ray is a fan’s dream come true. Beautiful transfer, multiple audio, and some
              really great interviews, including one with Benny “The Jet” Urquidez, who is a favorite of
              mine.


              Legend of the 7 Golden Vampires, The (Scream Factory) This was a film that always
              eluded me. I never saw it on any of the video shelves during the Video Stores Days. There
              was a DVD released about ten years ago or so, but never got around to picking up. This
              release contains two versions of the film, the original UK version and an alternate cut of the
              film that was made for the American market. We also get a couple of interviews and a
              commentary track. Whether you be a Hammer fan or a Shaw Brothers then this film and
              blu-ray will be right up your alley.


              Street Fighter Collection, The (Shout! Factory) The Street Fighter films are the very
              definition of “grindhouse” These films, especially the first film but don’t discount the other
              two films, are so sleazy and filled with gore that some things found in the first film are
              actually shocking 45 years later. The fact that we have these films on blu-ray is a minor
              miracle and with picture and sound that actually is really good. We get a few interviews
              and a ton of trailers and tv spots.


              Last Hurrah for Chivalry/Hand of Death (Eureka Entertainment) For this John
       .      Woo double feature, Eureka has brought together two of Woo's early king fu
              flicks, beautifully remastered 2K, and bringing back two classic English dubs
              fans have been salivating for. Eureka has also included a booklet with essays
              and interviews and a stunningly beautiful slipcover.Kung fu fans and John Woo
              fans alike need this in their collection ASAP.


              Three Films with Sammo Hung (Eureka Entertainment) Despite the terrible name for
              this collection, the films and special features found within are just amazing. All three films
              have been given brand new 2K remasters and the audio has been given the lossless treatment
              (along with including the classic dubs for each film). The special features include new
              (commentary tracks) and old (interviews) and make this release a well rounded release.



              Double Impact and Double Dragon (MVD Visual) I am including these two together
              because they are very similar. Both obviously share very similar names, both star two
              groups of martial artists (I know that Scott Wolf doesn’t know martial arts, and there are just
              two Van Dammes, but the films want you to believe otherwise.), and both are 90s examples
              of what us Americans considered martial arts. Both films are good in their own ways and both
              are given the royal treatment by MVD. Both releases contain lengthy making of docs that
              cover everything that you would like to know about their respective films and both are worth              checking out.


              Mr. Nice Guy (Warner Archive) I have very fond memories of watching Mr. Nice Guy
              in the theater with my dad. We had a great time watching the film and that is something
              I will always treasure. Warner Archive released Mr. Nice Guy on blu-ray right before
              Halloween, and while the film isn’t as good as I remember, it is still a lot of fun. Warner
              did something really nice with this release and struck a brand new 4K transfer of the film
              and included the original Hong Kong version of  the film, which runs about 11 minutes
              longer than the U.S. cut, and said U.S. cut. To say that Warner did a great job would be
              an understatement because the film looks flawless. The treatment that Warner gave the
              film is something that I know martial arts fans are hoping Warner gives to other martial
              arts films they own like The Blade and Pedicab Driver.


    American Werewolf in London (Arrow Video)

    While not my favorite film, An American Werewolf in London is loved by many and this Arrow Video blu-ray rights the wrongs that Universal placed upon this film back in 2016. The transfer looks great and is free on any DNR but the star of the show is the litany of special features which total about five hours, including two feature-length documentaries, one about the film itself and the other about all the werewolf films that Universal has made over the years. Even if you are not a fan of the film this is a wonderful edition.


    Anna and the Apocalypse (Second Sight)

    Anna got no love in the States with just a lowly DVD release with a small number of special features. To get the best release, we have to travel all the way to the UK where the film was given more love than you would expect. We get two versions of the film that offer up what works and doesn’t work and how the filmmakers dealt with it. We also get two making ofs, one made during filming, the other afterward. We also get a deleted song, some on-set shenanigans, and the original show film that inspired the film. Oh, and we also get a really nice booklet that contains the lyrics to all the songs.


    Crimson Peak (Arrow Video)

    Guierllmo del Toro is one of the best living directors. He has such a unique and powerful eye that you can’t help but rewatch his films time and time again just to soak in the world he has created. He is one of the very few directors who has never made a bad film with having only directed ten films. Crimson Peak is a wonderful film that appears to be a ghost story but is so much more than that. The titular house is a thing of wonders that we would love to take a tour of the whole thing.

    This blu-ray, from Arrow Video, was supposed to be released at the tail end of 2018, but some unforeseen circumstances popped up that resulted in the release being pushed back to early 2019. This is the only release of any of del Toro’s films that feels like the man constructed the packaging, and everything found within, himself. The packaging is unique in that it looks like a book, but isn’t a book. There is a hardbound book inside along with many other trinkets that make this one of the best releases of the year.


    Do the Right Thing (Criterion)

    Spike Lee has made three masterpieces: Malcolm X, 25th Hour, and Do the Right Thing. The film is a powerhouse of emotion and anger that one would think could only be told in the 80’s and 90’s, but the film is just as relevant today as it was back then. You only have to look as far as the murder of Radio Raheem at the hands of the NYPD and then look at the murder of Eric Garner a few years ago, performed with the same chokehold, also by the NYPD. The film is raw and beautiful and ugly all at the same time.

    The blu-ray, from Criterion, is just a masterstroke of love and care. The 4K transfer will leave you with your jaw on the floor and the special features are nothing to scoff at either. The packaging, a digipack with beautiful inner and outer artwork is something wonderful to behold. The package is thick with a 108-page book featuring an essay about the film and excerpts from the journal that Lee kept while shooting the film.


    New York Ripper, The (Blue Underground)

    The New York Ripper is not a film for everyone. Hell, it's not even a film for every horror fan. It contains some of the most disgusting and revolting images ever put into a giallo but the film works (for the most part) despite these things. The film has become a cult classic for good reason and I think that people should give the film a shot.

    The blu-ray from Blue Underground is an amazing thing. The picture is the best the film has ever looked and the special features will keep you going for hours. The packaging is also one of the best of the year as well. This is a release that fans should not miss.


    Night Beast (Vinegar Syndrome)

    I love Night Beast. There is so much love and affection for sci-fi flicks, monster flicks, and exploitation in general that you can't help but appreciate what Dohler has done here. It isn't the best film out there, far from it, but what Dohler was able to do on a tiny budget is nice.

    I never thought that we would ever see a blu-ray release of this film but leave it to the fine folks at Vinegar Syndrome to find a way to please us Dolher fans. This blu-ray is just simply amazing. The picture looks so good and the special features are worth going back to again and again. Dolher fans will eat this release up and casual fans will love it too.


    Prey, The (Arrow Video)

    I had never heard of The Prey before its release, but I am glad that I took the dive. The film is good despite its many flaws, but this release really thrives in its presentation and special features. The film, all three versions, looks great and special features are really worth the deep dive. Lots of good stories to be found here. The standout feature is the audience track from the 2019 Texas Frightmare convention where the transfer used for this blu-ray release was debuted. Hearing the reaction to the kills really put a smile on my face.


    Return to Return to Nuke ‘Em High aka Vol. 2 (Troma)

    Say what you will about the film. I think that the film is pretty pointless as the first film seemed to be able to wrap up a lot of the story beats while this film contains a lot of filler. That being said, the blu-ray that Troma released is really impressive. The film looks great, as it should being a fairly new film, and the first disc contains some short films that I will never watch again. However, the best thing about this release is the making of doc that features on disc 2. Troma has been including lengthy making ofs on their disc-based releases since Terror Firmer and they do not disappoint here. The doc covers all the problems that Troma faced while making the film as well as their achievements. Even if you don’t like the film I can recommend this release enough even if it is just for the making of.


    Robocop: Limited Edition (Arrow Video)

    Robocop is one of my favorite films and the first R-rated film I ever saw, so it was a no-brainer to pick this release up. The transfer is mostly the same as the 2014 MGM blu-ray but Arrow did tweak the unrated scenes so they are framed more correctly. There are a ton of interviews, some deleted scenes, and trailers. Disc 2 is where the great stuff lies, at least for me. We get the theatrical version which has never been on blu-ray, as far as I can remember, two isolated scores, and the TV version of the film. I love the inclusion of the TV cut as this how I saw the film the most when I was growing up. I saw the theatrical version as well, but that TV cut is just gold. There are also comparisons between the three versions of the film that brings everything together. The packaging is really nice, but we all know how Arrow Limited Editions go so that is obvious.


    Robot Ninja (Tempe Digital)

    The road for Robot Ninja was a long tough one. Shot on film for the home video market in the late 90's, the film looked like garbage on that VHS release, with the picture being too dark due to a rushed release. It wasn't until this blu-ray release that the film finally was able to shine. Director J.R. Bookwalter did a brand new 2K scan of the film's original camera negative and the results are just amazing. Add to that a plethora of special features, the film's score (found on the accompanying DVD) and a gorgeous looking slipcover and you have one of the best releases of 2019.



    Roger Corman SteelBooks (Shout!/Scream Factory)

    Piranha, Humanoids from the Deep, Galaxy of Terror, Forbidden World, Rock 'n' Roll High School

    Back when Shout! Factory was first releasing films on blu-ray, they created a line called Roger Corman's Cult Classics and released a bunch of classic 70s and 80s films that Croman produced. The picture and audio quality was generally nice and there were some nice extras on them all. These releases were accepted by the Corman community, but not enough for the line to continue.

    This year, Shout! and Scream Factory have gone back and done 4K scans on a bunch of the films that were a part of the Cult Classics line and released them in fancy SteelBook packaging. These films were cropped on the Cult Classics releases but now the whole picture, and aspect ratio, has been restored with the films looking better than ever. Some of these releases have new special features, some don't, but they are all worth a purchase.

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