CHICAGO – If you’ve ever wondered what the difference is between a director and a producer, let “47 Ronin” explain how the hierarchy of creativity hinders the evolution of even the most straightforward-sounding pitches. “47 Ronin” is the type of samurai movie set in Japan that features native actors speaking only English, while Keanu Reeves stars as an outsider clearly plunked into the picture for stateside star power.
CHICAGO – It’s rare that I feel comfortable using this kind of hyperbole in a Blu-ray review but here it goes — having watched it again on Criterion Blu-ray, after not seeing it in years, I’m more convinced than ever that John Cassavetes’ “A Woman Under the Influence” is one of the best films ever made. Maybe it’s because I’m older now and have a family of my own, but my most recent viewing of this masterpiece was heartwrenching in a totally different way. It’s stunning.
CHICAGO – Every few years brings another version of “The Princess Bride,” one of the most beloved films of all time. The latest is a 25th anniversary (yes, I feel old too) edition on Blu-ray, complete with an all-new 2-part featurette called “True Love: The Princess Bride Phenomenon.” That last word there is an over-used one but when you open the BD and see an ad for the “Princess Bride” game for iPhone, it’s hard to argue that Rob Reiner’s movie is NOT a phenomenon.
CHICAGO – He will surely be most-remembered for the trenchcoat-wearing eccentric detective “Columbo” but Peter Falk was a successful and underrated actor outside of the role that defined him. The great Falk passed away today at the age of 83 and the worlds of film and television will miss him greatly.
CHICAGO – It’s pretty hard for contemporary audiences to look at a title like “Machine Gun McCain,” and not immediately make a political joke out of it. The most obvious one would be, “What’s the sequel called, “‘Pistol-Packing Palin’?” Of course, this minor cult classic came out long before the 2008 election, and was playing in theaters at the same time John McCain was being held as a prisoner of war in North Vietnam.
CHICAGO – When true film fans receive the monthly Criterion newsletter, they usually skim it looking for their favorite films. It’s not that Criterion really ever makes bad decisions, but when a personal favorite gets the call, it’s like watching the baseball player you grew up idolizing get inducted into the Hall of Fane. Such is the feeling I get when I look at the Criterion Blu-Ray release of “Wings of Desire,” one of the most lyrically beautiful films ever made.