Warner Bros. thriller titles arrive on Blu-ray

Warner Bros has release several “thriller” and “action” titles to Blu-ray – including The Astronauts Wife, The Butterfly Effect, The Butterfly Effect 2, A Perfect Murder, Frequency, Just Cause, Hard to Kill, Next of Kin and Murder in the First.

All the films look and sound great on the Blu-ray format and arrive at a price to make the Blu-ray worth adding to your collection. They come with a variety of special features, but nothing new to add to a reason to pick them up.

The Butterfly Effect – Released in 2004 and directed by Eric Bress and J. Mackye Gruber, The Butterfly Effect features a solid sci-fi story with a great ending, but suffers from the somewhat stiff acting of Ashton Kutcher. The film also features Amy Smart, Melora Walters, Elden Henson, and William Lee Scott.

The film follows Evan (Kutcher) as his life starts unfolding via the chaos theory of the Butterfly Effect as he visits his own past and changes small events to greatly affect the future – mostly making matters much worse.

It is a little ham-fisted, but manages to hook the audience thanks to the subtle and sometimes not so subtle changes made to the plot. It also features a great ending (and even greater alternate ending). Fans of science fiction will want to give this film a try. It has aged extremely well, and is worth a second viewing as well.

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The Butterfly Effect 2 – Released direct to DVD in 2006, The Butterfly Effect 2 was directed by John R. Leonetti and stars Eric Lively, Erica Durance, Dustin Milligan and Gina Holden.

It follows the same basic formula as the first film, and at times manages to be a bit better – despite its direct-to-DVD feel and limited budget. Other than the title, the film has little to do with the original Butterfly Effect, but is worth watching if you liked the science fiction elements introduced in the first film. It moves at about the same pace, and features the same sort of storyline and conclusions.

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The Astronauts Wife – 1999’s sci-fi thriller The Astronaut’s Wife was written and directed by Rand Ravich and features solid performances from Johnny Depp and Charlize Theron. The movie manages to provide some good suspense while also feeling a little like a throwback to the 50’s over the top B sci-fi films of the past.

The plot follows an accident in space that leaves a crew of NASA astronauts, including Depp’s Spencer Armacost, in the dark and cut off from communication for two minutes. They return to Earth as heroes, but Spencer’s wife Jillian (Charlize Theron) starts to think something might not be right with her husband. Her suspicion grows as the other astronauts start committing suicide, and Spencer’s behavior grows more erratic.

The film takes on a Rosemary’s Baby vibe after Jillian becomes pregnant and starts to believe her babies from are another world. Although it gets a tad campy at times, The Astronauts Wife is a great sci-fi thriller and worth taking the time to watch.

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A Perfect Murder – The 1998 film is a remake of the classic Alfred Hitchcock’s film Dial M for Murder. The film was directed by Andrew Davis and stars Michael Douglas, Gwyneth Paltrow and Viggo Mortensen.

Updating the story, Wall Street hedge fund manager Steven Taylor (Michael Douglas) living the high life with his trophy wife Emily (Gwyneth Paltrow) – who happens to be having an affair with con man/painter David Shaw (Viggo Mortensen). Steven has made some bad (and even illegal) business moves and he is on the verge of losing everything.

His solution is to hire David to kill his wife so that he can collect on insurance and her inheritance. Things take a turn for the worse when Emily survives the attack, and starts to suspect Steven might not be the man she thought he was or the husband of her dreams.

Although Dial M for Murder didn’t need a remake, A Perfect Murder is a solid film and provides some decent twist and thrills. It doesn’t replace the original, but the solid work from Paltrow, Douglas (who is perfect in this kind of role) and Mortensen make the film worth taking the time to watch.

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Frequency – 2000’s sci-fi thriller Frequency was directed by Gregory Hoblit with a screenplay by Toby Emmerich. The film stars Dennis Quaid, James Caviezel, Andre Braugher, Elizabeth Mitchell, Noah Emmerich, and Shawn Doyle.

The film’s time-travel device gets a little out of whack towards the end, but the solid performances of its cast and the fast pace of the plot keeps you hooked on what is happening on the screen.

The film follows 1999’s New York City cop John Sullivan (Caviezel) as he works to stop a serial killer with his firefighter father Frank (Quaid) days before he died in 1969. The two are able to talk to each through Frank’s ham radio that seems to be bouncing the signal off the solar radiation flares that are taking place in both 1969 and 1999.

The killer is stalking women in 1969 and the two men have to work together to catch the killer before he can kill John’s mother (Mitchell). The film also has “butterfly effect” type results as little changes Frank makes in the past (such as turning left during a fire instead of right) alters John’s future.

Despite the time-travelling aspects that get out of hand towards the end, Frequency is a great film and continues to entertain with multiple views.

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Just Cause – Based on John Katzenbach’s novel, 1995’s Just Cause was directed by Arne Glimcher and stars Sean Connery, Laurence Fishburne, Kate Capshaw, Blair Underwood, and Ed Harris.

The movie features Connery taking on the role of Harvard professor Paul Armstrong – who heads to Florida to find evidence that will overturn the conviction of Bobby Earl Ferguson (Underwood) before he is put to death for the rape and murder of a young girl.

Although all the actors are solid in their roles, Just Cause isn’t a great film and feels very “by the numbers” and predictable in its plot. Fishburne does a great job as a possible dirty cop who might have set up Bobby Earl for the murder.

Harris makes the movie worth watching thanks to an over-the-top performance as psycho serial killer Blair Sullivan – who could give Hannibal Lector a run for his money.

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Murder in the First – Released in 1995 film and directed by Marc Rocco, Murder in the First is a rough and violent film stars Christian Slater, Kevin Bacon and Gary Oldman.

The film follows the trial of Alcatraz prisoner Henri Young (Bacon) – who is being charged with Murder in the First for killing another inmate. His Public defender James Stamphill (Slater) discovers Young has been brutally beat by Alcatraz warden Milton Glenn (Oldman) and kept in the prison’s dungeons as punishment for Young’s involvement in an attempted prison break.

While the movie is extremely historically inaccurate and hard to watch due to the brutality of Young’s abuse, Murder in the First is a solid period drama and courtroom thriller. It features an outstanding and heartbreaking performance from Bacon, but suffers from an extremely over-the-top performance from Oldman.

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Hard to Kill – 1990’s Hard to Kill stars Steven Seagal in his prime and at the top of his limited acting abilities as he takes on the role of Detective Mason Storm –  a Los Angeles police detective who falls into a coma after being shot during a home invasion. The shooting, which left his wife dead, is the result of evidence Mason uncovered on a dirty politician.

Seven years later, Mason awakes to discover his son is in hiding, and his old enemies are still hunting him. With the help of his nurse (Kelly LeBrock), Seagal does what Seagal does best – kill every bad guy he comes across and saves the day.

There isn’t much plot, character development or acting skill on display in the film, but Seagal knows how to make an action movie and it is still fun to see him do his thing.

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Next of Kin – 1989’s silly action thriller Next of Kin was directed by John Irvin and stars Patrick Swayze, Liam Neeson, Adam Baldwin, Helen Hunt, Bill Paxton, and a young Ben Stiller.

Set in Chicago, the film follows mountain man turned city cop Truman Gates (Swayze) as he investigates the murder of his brother (Paxton) and tries to stop his older brother Briar (Neeson) from getting revenge on the local mobsters responsible for the killing.

Despite its silly plot, Next of Kin is a decent action flick thanks to the way Swayze plays the role of Truman and the level of believability he brings to the character. Throw in Neeson doing his action star thing, and an odd performance from Stiller (who seems completely out of place in the film) and you have one of the better action flicks to come out of the 80s.

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