The Criterion Collection

Blu-ray Review: Criterion Updates Paranoia Classic ‘Seconds’

Seconds

CHICAGO – John Frankenheimer’s “Seconds” with Rock Hudson was considered an unusual choice for The Criterion Collection when it was announced earlier this year. Never before available on Blu-ray and discontinued on DVD, the 4K restoration on this edition is the real draw, especially given that the film’s strength lies in its stunning visual compositions. With its canted angles and fish bowl aesthetic, Frankenheimer enhances what is actually a relatively weak script.

Blu-ray Review: Beautiful Criterion Edition of ‘The Earrings of Madame De...’

The Earrings of Madame De...

CHICAGO – French films from the ’50s can be a tough sell to a modern audience and Max Ophuls’ “The Earrings of Madame De…” recently upgraded by Criterion to a gorgeous Blu-ray edition and re-released on DVD, hasn’t gotten the critical attention it deserves over the years and so it’s not as instantly recognizable as “something that should be seen” as some of the other films of its era. Trust me. This is “something that should be seen” by everyone.

Blu-ray Review: Criterion Upgrades Ang Lee’s Masterful ‘The Ice Storm’

The Ice Storm

CHICAGO – Ang Lee won his second Oscar this year for his work on “Life of Pi” but he wasn’t even nominated for one of the best films of his career, the masterful “The Ice Storm,” recently upgraded to Blu-ray by Criterion and re-released on DVD. Few films from 1997 have held up more completely as Lee’s adaptation of the Rick Moody novel feels even more symbolically dense and accomplished. It’s a stellar drama, one of the best of the ’90s, and Criterion has loaded it down with special features.

Blu-ray Review: ‘Shoah’ Feels More Essential Than Ever

Shoah

CHICAGO – The Criterion Collection has become not just a series of consumer-based releases but a historical assemblage of some of the most important films in history. Few films are more important, and therefore more appropriate for this collection, than the landmark “Shoah,” an exhaustive examination of the Holocaust from the people who were there. With fewer and fewer Holocaust survivors around to tell these stories, this amazing work feels more essential than ever. It has become more than mere film. It has become history in the way that it reflects such an important chapter in human existence.

Blu-ray Review: Criterion Upgrades Bergman’s ‘Wild Strawberries’

Wild Strawberries

CHICAGO – Every month, Criterion mixes in a few HD upgrades for films in their collection to sit alongside new releases for the collection. One of those titles this month is spine #139, Ingmar Bergman’s adored “Wild Strawberries” (1957). It’s not one of my favorite Bergman films as I’ve always found its structure more frustrating than enlightening but “Wild Strawberries” has loyal fans who will be satisfied by this strong HD transfer and interesting special features.

Blu-ray Review: Gorgeous Transfer For Criterion’s ‘3:10 to Yuma’

3:10 to Yuma

CHICAGO – A simple man tackles an unspeakably evil one. Such is the premise of so many movies of all genres that it would be impossible to count them all. Perhaps in no genre is this structure more popular than the Western, a category in which we love to watch average family men beat the fastest gun in the West. This explains the lasting popularity of Delmer Daves’s “3:10 to Yuma,” a flick I still find relatively slight but appreciate more completely now that I can see it in a gorgeously transferred, 4K-restored version from The Criterion Collection.

Blu-ray Review: New Wave Cool Defined in ‘Band of Outsiders’

Band of Outsiders

CHICAGO – “Band of Outsiders,” recently released in a newly-restored Criterion Blu-ray edition, was one of the most influential films of its era and made waves not only when it was released but continues to influence international cinema today. From Quentin Tarantino’s love for the film (reflected both in “Pulp Fiction” and the name of his production company, A Band Apart) to the numerous ways that the fashion and dancing resonate from Paris to “Saturday Night Live,” “Band of Outsiders” is mesmerizingly cool. It’s Godard’s most accessible film and yet it is also a deconstruction of the very genre that he’s presenting. It’s a crime flick in which the crime doesn’t really matter. It’s the people, the love triangle, and, most of all, the attitude that makes it memorable.

Blu-ray Review: Criterion Upgrades Olivier’s Take on ‘Richard III’

Richard III

CHICAGO – Laurence Olivier’s 1955 adaptation of William Shakespeare’s “Richard III” came on the heels of his other beloved film versions of the Bard and wasn’t as well-received. History has reassessed the film and realized that this easily one of Olivier’s greatest accomplishments. As he almost always was, he’s so committed to this iconic role that he makes it his own, never feeling like he’s making the obvious choices that so many other actors have over the years. Olivier’s “Richard III” is so completely his own and few actor/directors in history ever understood Shakespeare or this character so notably.

Blu-ray Review: Criterion Treats Cult Hit ‘Repo Man’ Like Classic Film

Repo Man

CHICAGO – One of the many things I love about The Criterion Collection is the even battlefield that it creates within its own archives. A film by Alfred Hitchcock or Akira Kurosawa or Charles Chaplin can sit next to a cult hit like “Repo Man.” I grew up in the era of “Repo Man“‘s growing cult status and it’s amazing to me to see this midnight movie given the same level of respect as films widely recognized as classics. “Repo Man” is a classic in its own way and the people at Criterion recognize that. Fans of the movie, and there are MANY, will be more than satisfied.

DVD Review: ‘Gate of Hell’ Gets Extra-Free Criterion Release

Gate of Hell DVD

CHICAGO – Beneath every honorable warrior is a cold-hearted opportunist hell-bent on dominating his victimized prey at all costs. That’s a theory indelibly illustrated by Teinosuke Kinugasa’s revered 1953 classic, “Gate of Hell,” a melodrama populated by such frustrating characters that it nearly loses the viewer’s interest before its admittedly splendid finale, when the tale takes on grand dimensions of Greek tragedy.

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