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Blu-ray Review: Four More Warner Bros. Titles Join HD Club

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CHICAGO – Warner Brothers has been unleashing catalog titles on Blu-ray at a rate that would strain the bank account of pro athletes. Every week lately sees a wave of movies that have never been on Blu-ray before joining the HD revolution. This quartet is particularly varied with one timeless classic, an underrated performance from an underrated actor, and two moderate action movies. Pick your favorite. My order of preference is as follows:

Mean Streets
Mean Streets
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

“Mean Streets”

HollywoodChicago.com Blu-ray rating: 5.0/5.0
Rating: 5.0/5.0

Martin Scorsese’s breakthrough film is easily the best flick in this collection, one that actually makes my top 100 of all time. And it has lost NONE of its power in the four decades since it was first released. With one of Robert De Niro’s best performances, a confident style that announced the presence of one of cinema’s best directors, and a perfect HD transfer, “Mean Streets” is a must-own. I wish the special features were stronger but the HD transfer is well-above average (notably more impressive than any of the other three releases this week) and the movie simply rules.

Mean Streets announced Martin Scorsese’s arrival as a new filmmaking force - and marked his first historic teaming with Robert De Niro. It’s a story Scorsese lived, a semiautobiographical tale of the first-generation sons and daughters of New York’s Little Italy. Harvey Keitel plays Charlie, working his way up the ranks of a local mob. Amy Robinson is Teresa, the girlfriend his family deems unsuitable. And in the star making role that won Best Supporting Actor awards from the New York and National Society of Film Critics, De Niro is Johnny Boy, a small-time gambler in big-time debt to loan sharks.

Special Features:
o Commentary By Director Martin Scorsese, Mardik Martin and Amy Robinson
o Vintage Featurette Back On The Block

Murder in the First
Murder in the First
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

“Murder in the First”

HollywoodChicago.com Blu-ray rating: 4.0/5.0
Rating: 4.0/5.0

Kevin Bacon has long been one of the most underrated actors in Hollywood and he went through a period in the ’90s where it really felt like he was just about to breakthrough to a more acclaimed level of actor-dom. The man has never been nominated for an Oscar and yet easily could have been for “Apollo 13,” “JFK,” “Mystic River,” or arguably his best lead performance in “Murder in the First.” The film is just OK overall but Bacon’s turn in it is mesmerizing. If you’re a younger fan of the star of FOX’s upcoming drama “The Following” (in which Bacon is expectedly spectacular), check out “Murder in the First” for one of the best performances of the prime of his career.

Christian Slater, Kevin Bacon and Gary Oldman star in this compelling, fact-based story of the trial that shut down the dungeons of Alcatraz. In a haunting performance, Bacon plays convict Henri Young. His crime: heisting $5 for his starving sister. His fate: worse than death. He’s confined to the dungeons after a failed escape - an isolation lasting three mind-shattering years. When Henri at last emerges, he’s confused, savage, barely human…and he quickly slays the stoolie who ratted on his escape. It’s an open-and-shut case of Murder One. But a resolute attorney has another option. He and Henri will put Alcatraz and its sadistic associate warden (Oldman) on trial.

Special Features:

Photo credit: Warner Bros.


HollywoodChicago.com Blu-ray rating: 3.5/5.0
Rating: 3.5/5.0

This convoluted thriller has its ups and downs but it’s most worthwhile for the first real star turn by the future Captain America, Chris Evans. He’s engaging and charismatic in a movie that fits the bill on a rainy Saturday afternoon. It’s no classic but it’s well-made and engaging.

What if someone’s life was literally on the line and the power to save them was totally in your hands? For Ryan (Chris Evans) the choice begins with a frantic call from Jessica Martin (Academy Award winner Kim Basinger). Having been kidnapped at gunpoint and locked in an undisclosed attic, Jessica pleads with Ryan to get help before her abductors return to kill her. With no way of knowing where she is, and relentless, high-stakes thrill ride through a world of lies and murder in this riveting, adrenaline pumping suspense thriller.

Special Features:
o Deleted/Alternate Scenes
o Three Riveting Featurettes: Dialing Up Cellular, Celling Out, Code of Silence: Inside The Rampart Scandal
o Filmmakers’ Commentary

Hard to Kill
Hard to Kill
Photo credit: Warner Bros.

“Hard to Kill”

HollywoodChicago.com Blu-ray rating: 2.0/5.0
Rating: 2.0/5.0

Oh, Steven Seagal. Every time I think that I would like to watch a Seagal flick, I’m disappointed by the reality. It doesn’t help that the HD transfer here is pretty horrendous. It looks more like DVD than HD. And the film has its moments but it mostly serves to remind you that major action movies used to have a different rhythm in the days when Seagal was a star. If this one came out today, it would go straight to DVD. The lack of special features makes this less enticing as well.

A corrupt politician and his hitmen have gunned down Los Angeles detective Mason Storm and left him for dead. But they’ll find out the hard way. Storm is Hard To Kill.

Steven Seagal is “the suavest inheritor of the action-film mantle” (Janet Maslin, The New York Time) in this thriller. For seven years, Storm’s been in a coma-care unit. Now he’s awake with one goal: revenge. Aided by a devoted nurse (Kelly Le Brock), he retrains to unleash his monumental martial-arts skills with full fury. Hard To Kill is hard-to-beat excitement.

Special Features:

“Mean Streets,” “Cellular,” “Murder in the First,” and “Hard to Kill” were all released by Warner Bros. on Blu-ray on July 17, 2012.

HollywoodChicago.com content director Brian Tallerico

Content Director

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