By allowing ads to appear on this site, you support the local businesses who, in turn, support great journalism.
John Wayne Westerns get a Blu-ray upgrade this week
John Wayne and Monument Valley star in the 1956 classic "The Searchers," which is part of the new Blu-ray set "John Wayne Westerns Film Collection." - photo by Chris Hicks
Two John Wayne movies receive Blu-ray upgrades this week as part of a five-film Westerns set.

John Wayne Westerns Film Collection (Warner/Blu-ray, 1948-73, five discs, five movies, audio commentaries, documentaries: The Searchers: An Appreciation and A Turning of the Earth, featurettes, trailers). This Blu-ray box set includes three films that have been on Blu-ray for a while (The Searchers, Rio Bravo, Fort Apache) and two making their high-definition debuts (The Train Robbers, Cahill: United States Marshal).

Any Western fan worth his oats knows that The Searchers and Rio Bravo are not just top-of-the-line Westerns but also classic movies of the first order. In John Fords The Searchers (1956), Wayne proves his acting chops as an embittered ex-soldier searching for his kidnapped niece (Natalie Wood), and Howard Hawks Rio Bravo is the quintessential story (copied dozens of times) of lawmen (Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Walter Brennan) holed up in a jail, guarding a killer, hoping reinforcements show up before the bad guys.

Fort Apache (1948, b/w) is another classic, with Wayne as an experienced cavalryman whose commanding officer (Henry Fonda) is inexperienced and arrogant, leading to a suicidal confrontation with the Apaches. (Both The Searchers and Fort Apache show off southern Utahs Monument Valley to great advantage, especially in high definition.)

The new-to-Blu-ray Train Robbers and Cahill (both 1973) are lesser films but nonetheless entertaining. Train Robbers has Ann-Margret hiring Wayne and crew in a sort of caper flick, complete with a twist ending, while Cahill has Wayne as a marshal whose sons have helped a gang rob a bank.

Magician: The Astonishing Life and Work of Orson Welles (Cohen/Blu-ray/DVD, 2015, PG-13, b/w and color, featurette, trailer; eight-page booklet). Chuck Workmans documentary is filled with movie clips and talking-head comments (including vintage interviews with Welles himself) that make for an entertaining chronicle of Welles life and work. Ardent fans wont find anything new, but its nice to be reminded of the great actor/filmmaker's influence on just about everyone that came later.

Seventh Son (Universal/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 2015, PG-13, deleted/alternate scenes/ending, featurettes, art gallery). An aging spook, the seventh son of a seventh son (Jeff Bridges), has been keeping the countryside safe from supernatural predators but has failed to find a worthy apprentice to carry on his work. When an evil witch (Julianne Moore) escapes confinement, he recruits a farmers son (Ben Barnes) who may be the hero hes been seeking. It is based on Joseph Delaneys fantasy youth novels.

When Calls the Heart: Trials of the Heart (Shout!/DVD, 2015). This TV movie is actually the first (feature-length) episode of the second season of the Hallmark cable-channel series about a schoolteacher (Erin Krakow) from a privileged family who finds herself in a 19th century coal-mining town on the Canadian frontier. The main plot thread in this feature-length episode is about her tentative romance with a Mountie (Jack Wagner) and her familys disapproval. Lori Loughlin co-stars.

So Bright Is the View (IndiePix/DVD, 2015, not rated, in Romanian with English subtitles). A pregnant Jewish girl in Bucharest is pressured by her mother to join her in Israel but she wants to work out a future with her boyfriend and is pondering a move to the United States for work. Written and directed by twin brothers Joel and Michael Florescu.

Ballet 422 (Magnolia/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2015, PG, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurette, production galleries). This cinema verite documentary observes 25-year-old New York City Ballet soloist and resident choreographer Justin Peck as he develops the companys 422nd ballet, a new work, over a period of two months.

Cut Bank (Lionsgate/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital, 2015, R for violence and language, deleted/extended scenes, audio commentary, featurette). The title of this dark comic thriller refers to a small Montana town where dim mechanic Liam Hemsworth accidentally records a murder on video, which quickly spirals into a series of killings and plot twists. Good supporting cast includes John Malkovich, Bruce Dern and Billy Bob Thornton.

Sword of Vengeance (Well Go/Blu-ray/DVD, 2015, not rated, featurettes, trailer). Violent, bloody saga of a sword-wielding fighter called Shadow Walker (Stanley Weber) in 1066 England who takes on a tyrant and recruits villagers to help, but his quest is actually for personal vengeance.

The Loft (Universal/Blu-ray/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 2015; R for sex, nudity, violence, language, drugs). A group of married men share a high-end loft to use for dalliances with mistresses. But when a woman is murdered there, the killer is apparently one of the five friends or perhaps one of their unhappy wives. Stars include Karl Urban, James Marsden and Eric Stonestreet.

Nightlight (Lionsgate/DVD/Digital, 2015, R for language and violence, deleted scenes/alternate ending, audio commentary, featurette). Five teens go into the woods to play flashlight games and share ghost stories, unwittingly disturbing a demonic presence that drives people to suicide.

Assassins Game (Lionsgate/DVD/Digital/On Demand, 2015, R for violence and language, deleted scenes). A retired hit man (Tom Sizemore) is told his son has bungled an assassination, so he must fulfill the contract or his son will die. But hes conflicted after discovering the subject of the proposed hit is an innocent victim. Co-stars include Vivica A. Fox and Bai Ling.

Let Us Prey (Dark Sky/Blu-ray/DVD, 2015, not rated, featurette, trailer). A remote police station in a backwater Scottish village is taken over by a man known only as Six (Liam Cunningham), as he invades the minds of cops and crooks, turning everyone against each other. Only a rookie officer (Pollyanna McIntosh) stands in his way.
Sign up for our E-Newsletters