"Rumble Fish"

June 2017

A Much Better Film Than I Thought in 1983

The Criterion Collection 869
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
*****

Sound Quality
****

Extras
****

Director Francis Ford Coppola has usually alternated his big blockbuster movies, such as The Godfather (1972), with more personal, insightful, lower-budget offerings such as The Conversation (1974). After Apocalypse Now (1979) and before The Cotton Club (1984), he directed two small films based on novels by S.E. Hinton, The Outsiders and Rumble Fish (both 1983). Sharing many cast members, the films are quite different. The Outsiders is a color, stylized-by-Hollywood effort; Rumble Fish is more personal, moody, and was shot mostly in black-and-white.

Read more ...

"Blow-Up"

May 2017

Antonioni’s Homage to Photography and an Iconic Era

The Criterion Collection 865
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
****

How interesting that one of the most iconic movies representing London’s Swinging ’60s should be filmed by an Italian. Michelangelo Antonioni (1912-2007) was already famous for having directed his trilogy L’Avventura (1960), La Notte (1961), and L’Eclisse (1962) when producer Carlo Ponti signed him to direct three films in English. These turned out to be Blow-Up (1966), Zabriskie Point (1970), and The Passenger (1975). Zabriskie Point failed on almost every count, and The Passenger was a critical if not a commercial success -- of the three, Blow-Up was the cinematic masterpiece.

Read more ...

"The Lair of the White Worm"

April 2017

Ken Russell’s Cult Fave on Vestron Blu-ray

Vestron/Lionsgate 6
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
****

Extras
***1/2

LaserDisc aficionados will fondly remember Vestron Pictures, a film and television studio that provided a large portion of Image Entertainment’s catalog. Lionsgate now owns the Vestron catalog, and has begun reissuing its titles in Criterion Collection-like editions with remastered images and sound, with commentaries and extras that contribute to the viewing experience. Vestron made a steady stream of low-budget, schlock horror movies, but every once in a while strove for greatness and hired someone famous, if outrageous, to direct a film -- someone like Ken Russell.

Read more ...

"Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown"

March 2017

Pedro Almodóvar’s Colorful Screwball Comedy on Blu-ray

The Criterion Collection 855
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
*****

Sound Quality
****

Extras
***

Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown was inspired, in part, by La Voix humaine, a 1930 play by Jean Cocteau. The film that brought Pedro Almodóvar international fame, it was the first of his movies I saw, in a small art house in Washington, DC. It blew me away -- here was Bringing Up Baby (1938) or Ball of Fire (1941) given a Spanish flare, brought up to date for 1988, and presented in vibrant, even outrageous color. Nearly 30 years later, I felt the same rush while watching this new reissue, one of the best the Criterion Collection has ever presented.

Read more ...

"The Asphalt Jungle"

January 2017

John Huston’s Heist Masterpiece on Blu-Ray

The Criterion Collection 847
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***

Extras
****

In 1950, John Huston directed The Asphalt Jungle for MGM and set the pattern for virtually every caper/heist movie to follow. Rififi in particular, with its intricate, suspenseful, nearly dialogueless depiction of a theft, owes much to Huston.

Read more ...

"McCabe & Mrs. Miller"

December 2016

Robert Altman’s Unique Western on Blu-ray

The Criterion Collection 827
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
****

American film director Robert Altman loved to bend familiar genres to his own purposes. M*A*S*H (1970) was like no other war movie that had preceded it. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) turned the typical showdown-and-shoot-out Western into a Northwestern, set in the fictional mountain town of Presbyterian Church.

Read more ...

"Night Train to Munich"

November 2016

Carol Reed Channels Alfred Hitchcock

The Criterion Collection 523
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***

Picture Quality
***1/2

Sound Quality
***

Extras
*1/2

Sir Carol Reed (1906-1976) was a British film director best known for three masterpieces: Odd Man Out (1947), The Fallen Idol (1948), and The Third Man (1949). After this brief flash of genius, his films went relatively unheralded until Oliver! (1968), for which he won an Academy Award for Best Director.

Read more ...

"Chimes at Midnight"

October 2016

Bigger-than-Life Falstaff from Orson Welles on Blu-ray

The Criterion Collection 830
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
**1/2

Extras
***1/2

William Shakespeare was a hero to Orson Welles, who spent much of his career trying to make definitive film versions of the plays. Welles directed an excellent Othello (1951), and his experimental Macbeth (1948) was a flawed masterpiece -- in both, he played the title role. But his greatest homage to the Bard was Chimes at Midnight (1965), which gives a different view of the story of Falstaff and Prince Hal in being a pastiche of parts of Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Henry V, and The Merry Wives of Windsor.

Read more ...

"Carnival of Souls"

September 2016

The Indie That Wouldn’t Die Finds New Life on Criterion Blu-Ray

The Criterion Collection 63
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***

Extras
****

Carnival of Souls isn’t one of the black-and-white classics Criterion is known for. It’s a cult indie film that became a horror favorite when Roger Ebert re-screened and reviewed it in 1989, 27 years after its initial release. But considering its history, singular locations, and magnificent camera work, it’s one of the best editions that Criterion has produced. Its many secrets and wonders are revealed through insightful commentaries and a generous set of extras.

Read more ...

"Here Comes Mr. Jordan"

August 2016

James Gleason Scores Lots of Laughs in One of His Bigger Roles

The Criterion Collection 819
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***

Extras
***1/2

It’s likely that Here Comes Mr. Jordan (1941), the first film based on Harry Segall’s 1938 play Heaven Can Wait, is probably less well known to contemporary audiences than Warren Beatty’s 1978 remake, which reverted to the play’s title. Then there’s film director Ernst Lubitsch’s Heaven Can Wait (1943), which was based on an entirely different play by Leslie Bush-Fekete and was the reason the 1941 film bore a different title.

Read more ...

More Articles ...