The Criterion Collection

Blu-ray Review: Criterion Edition of Timeless ‘12 Angry Men’

12 Angry Men

CHICAGO – Few films from the ’50s have held up quite as remarkably as “12 Angry Men.” It’s a human drama that’s constantly being remade, re-told, and even re-imagined into other stories. What is it about this one-room story that has such timeless power? Why has it survived generations, working as much today as it did 54 years ago? Does anyone think it won’t have the same power 54 years from now?

Blu-ray Review: Stunning Criterion Set For Kieslowsk’s ‘Three Colors’

Three Colors

CHICAGO – Movies don’t get much more personally influential than Krzysztof Kieslowski’s “Blue,” “White,” and “Red,” collectively known as the “Three Colors” trilogy, and recently released in one gorgeous box set from The Criterion Collection. As we all do, I was a bit concerned that perhaps my memory of these films had been enhanced with time, but I found the opposite — they’re even better with age and stand as one of the best film achievements of not just their era but of all time.

Blu-ray Review: ‘Identification of a Woman’ Drifts Through Fog of Ennui

Identification of a Woman Blu-Ray

CHICAGO – “Framing a shot?” asks Ida (Christine Boisson), the latest photogenic lover of Italian filmmaker Niccolò (Tomas Milian), in Michelangelo Antonioni’s hypnotic 1982 effort, “Identification of a Woman.” Like Guidio, the hero of Federico Fellini’s 1963 masterpiece, “8 1/2,” Niccolò has the desire to create but has no story to tell, just “an idea of the female form” that perpetually haunts his imagination.

Blu-ray Review: Spectacular Criterion Edition of ‘Dazed and Confused’

Dazed and Confused

CHICAGO – Richard Linklater’s “Dazed and Confused” is not just a fun comedy, not just a clever slice of nostalgia, and not just a stoner movie. It is, without question, one of the best films of the ’90s. It passes through nostalgia to something more like a time machine, in a way not that dissimilar to George Lucas’ “American Graffiti.” A deeply personal project from one of our best modern writer/directors, “Dazed and Confused,” recently released on Criterion Blu-ray and re-released on Criterion DVD, gets better with each passing year.

Blu-Ray Review: ‘Kuroneko’ Hauntingly Foreshadows Modern Asian Horror

Kuroneko Blu-Ray

CHICAGO – Halloween just isn’t the same without an Onryō. Thanks to America’s tireless remakes of Japanese horror films, the materialization of Onryōs in pop culture has become as much of a seasonal tradition as witches and goblins. They’re often characterized by long black hair, white robes, bodily contortions, tragic backstories and an unquenchable thirst for vengeance beyond the grave.

Blu-Ray Review: Lasse Hallström’s Marvelous, Bittersweet ‘My Life as a Dog’

My Life as a Dog Blu-Ray

CHICAGO – Neither flat-out depressing nor mawkishly sentimentalized, Lasse Hallström’s 1985 Swedish classic, “My Life as a Dog,” avoids all the mistakes routinely committed by filmmakers working within the coming-of-age genre. It doesn’t view events through a treacly nostalgic haze and doesn’t condescend to its characters as if they were all quirky eccentrics ripe for satirizing.

Blu-Ray Review: Jean Cocteau’s ‘Orpheus’ Gets New Life on Criterion

Orpheus Blu-Ray

CHICAGO – “Interpret as you wish,” invites narrator and filmmaker Jean Cocteau prior to his contemporary retelling of the Orpheus legend and the second installment of his Orphic Trilogy, which also includes 1930’s “The Blood of a Poet” and 1960’s “Testament of Orpheus.” Cocteau’s 1950 masterwork, simply titled “Orpheus,” is one of his most emotionally complex and deeply personal projects. It’s also a lot of fun.

Blu-Ray Review: Brilliant Dissection of Faith in ‘Secret Sunshine’

Secret Sunshine

CHICAGO – The partnership between IFC and The Criterion Collection has led to a number of great releases (“A Christmas Tale,” “Che”) and a few questionable entries (“Life During Wartime”) but rarely has it completely unearthed a film as little-seen as Lee Chang-Dong’s brilliant “Secret Sunshine.” This award-winning dissection of faith amidst tragedy never even received a Chicago release as far as I can remember but it absolutely deserves a wider audience. This is a great film given a strong release by the DVD/Blu-ray series ever.

DVD Review: Stanley Kubrick’s ‘The Killing’ Features Early Work of Future Master

The Killing

CHICAGO – When film lovers hear the name of one of the great masters of the form — Stanley Kubrick — their mind usually races to one of his most famous flicks, whether it be “2001: A Space Odyssey,” “A Clockwork Orange,” “Dr. Strangelove,” “The Shining,” or even “Full Metal Jacket.” But where did one of our most beloved directors hone his craft? In a series of smaller films, two of which are now available in a single Criterion Blu-ray or DVD release — “The Killing” and “Killer’s Kiss.”

Blu-Ray Review: ‘Cul-de-sac’ From Masterful Director Roman Polanski

Cul-de-sac

CHICAGO – Whatever you may think about Roman Polanski as a human being (or a criminal for that matter), it is simply undeniable that he is one of our best living filmmakers. From “Repulsion” to “Chinatown” to “The Pianist” to “The Ghost Writer” — he’s a master of the form, one of my absolute favorite directors of all time. One of his lesser-known works (that would be the best film of many other director’s entire careers but arguably doesn’t even rank top ten for Polanski) is the tense, taut “Cul-de-sac,” given the special edition treatment this week by The Criterion Collection.

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