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Archive for the 'The Criterion Collection' Category

Super-Sized Top Ten: Aaron’s Astonishing Blu-ray Picks For 2014

astonishing-194012This year I decided to go big with my list for the best Blu-rays.  Kicking off my Top 10 year-end lists for 2014 is an article devoted to what I consider to be the best the Blu-ray format has had to offer for this year.  These are films that I have been able to really dig into and see them as easy recommendations for anyone with the greatest home media format currently available.  Much like the previous years, I stayed true to some rules; I have to have actually watched the movie on Blu-Ray, recognize it for the quality of their video and audio transfers, delved into the special features, and attempt to keep off any film on this list that may also be on my “Top 10 Films of the Year” list,” which basically means no LEGO Movie.  I followed these rules for the sake of keeping my list interesting, along with creating some extra sections to provide even more highlights of the year, so here we go:

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Brandon’s Bodacious TOP 10 Blu-rays Of 2013!

Brandon Top Ten BluIt’s my turn!  No need for a preamble as to what goes into the generalities of crafting these Top 10 lists as the gents before me all did a fine job of explaining.  2012 provided what seemed like all the remaining “Must Have” box sets, leaving 2013 seeming kind of empty handed on the surface.  Now there have been new sets, but many just prove to be repackagings of the older discs and calling them “new” (like the new Star Trek box set, The Exorcist 40th and the Hitchcock Essentials Collection).  Universal would have had #1 on this list at “Hello” had they released a 2nd volume companion to last year’s Classic Monsters Collection (Yes, I’m still whining about that).  2013 was no slouch though, as there were still a set or two to release and plenty of titles that have never been on Blu-ray before finally making the jump.  What I love about this period we are in now is that so much of the big name films from yesteryear seem to be out that others and many cult items are getting their turn at the plate and that makes things even more exciting as these are the ones people watch all the time and have been double dipping format to format on for years. Continue reading ‘Brandon’s Bodacious TOP 10 Blu-rays Of 2013!’

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The Forgiveness of Blood: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

American director Joshua Marston broke out in 2004 with his jolting, Oscar-nominated Maria Full of Grace, about a young Colombian woman working as a drug mule. In his remarkable follow-up, The Forgiveness of Blood, he turns his camera on another corner of the world: contemporary northern Albania, a place still troubled by the ancient custom of interfamilial blood feuds. From this reality, Marston sculpts a fictional narrative about a teenage brother and sister physically and emotionally trapped in a cycle of violence, a result of their father’s entanglement with a rival clan over a piece of land. The Forgiveness of Blood is a tense and perceptive depiction of a place where tradition and progress have an uneasy coexistence, as well as a dynamic coming-of-age drama.

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The Kid with a Bike: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

The Kid with a Bike - www.whysoblu.com

Twelve-year-old Cyril (Thomas Doret), all coiled anger and furious motion, is living in a group home but refuses to believe he has been rejected by his single father (Summer Hours’ Jérémie Renier). He spends his days frantically trying to reach the man, over the phone or on his beloved bicycle. It is only the patience and compassion of Samantha (Hereafter’s Cécile de France), the stranger who agrees to care for him, that offers the boy the chance to move on. Spare and unsentimental but deeply imbued with a heart-rending tenderness, The Kid with a Bike is an arresting work from the great Belgian directors Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne (Rosetta), masters of the empathetic action film.  Continue reading ‘The Kid with a Bike: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)’
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Ivan’s Childhood: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

Ivan's Childhood - www,whysoblu.comThe debut feature by the great Andrei Tarkovsky, Ivan’s Childhood is a poetic journey through the shards and shadows of one boy’s war-ravaged youth. Moving back and forth between the traumatic realities of World War II and serene moments of family life before the conflict began, Tarkovsky’s film remains one of the most jarring and unforgettable depictions of the impact of war on children.   Continue reading ‘Ivan’s Childhood: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)’

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Rosetta: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

Rosetta - www.whysoblu.comThe Belgian filmmaking team of brothers Luc and Jean-Pierre Dardenne turned heads with Rosetta, an intense vérité drama that closely follows a poor young woman struggling to hold on to a job to support herself and her alcoholic mother. It’s a swift and simple tale made revelatory by the raw, empathetic way in which the directors render Rosetta’s desperation, keeping the camera nearly perched on her shoulder throughout. Many have copied the Dardennes’ style, but few have equaled it. This ferocious film won big at Cannes, earning the Palme d’Or for the filmmakers and the best actress prize for the indomitable Émilie Dequenne.  Continue reading ‘Rosetta: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)’

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Purple Noon: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

Purple Noon - www.whysoblu.comAlain Delon (The Leopard) was at his most impossibly beautiful when Purple Noon (Plein soleil) was released and made him an instant star. This ripe, colorful adaptation of Patricia Highsmith’s vicious novel The Talented Mr. Ripley, directed by the versatile René Clément (Forbidden Games), stars Delon as Tom Ripley, a duplicitous American charmer in Rome on a mission to bring his privileged, devil-may-care acquaintance Philippe Greenleaf (Elevator to the Gallows’ Maurice Ronet) back to the United States; what initially seems a carefree tale of friendship soon morphs into a thrilling saga of seduction, identity theft, and murder. Featuring gorgeous on-location photography in coastal Italy, Purple Noon is crafted with a light touch that allows it to be suspenseful and erotic at once, while giving Delon the role of a lifetime.  Continue reading ‘Purple Noon: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)’

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Eating Raoul: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

A sleeper hit of the early 1980s, Eating Raoul is a bawdy, gleefully amoral tale of conspicuous consumption. Warhol superstar Mary Woronov and cult legend Paul Bartel (who also directed) portray a prudish married couple feeling put upon by the swingers who live in their apartment building; one night, by accident, they discover a way to simultaneously realize their dream of opening a little restaurant and rid themselves of the “perverts” down the hall. A mix of hilarious, anything-goes slapstick and biting satire of me-generation self-indulgence, Eating Raoul marks the end of the sexual revolution with a thwack. Continue reading ‘Eating Raoul: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)’

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Le Havre: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

In this warmhearted comic yarn from Aki Kaurismaki, fate throws the young African refugee Idrissa (Blondin Miguel) into the path of Marcel Marx (Andre Wilms), a kindly old bohemian who shines shoes for a living in the French harbor city Le Havre. With inborn optimism and the support of his tight-knit community, Marcel stands up to the officials doggedly pursuing the boy for deportation. A political fairy tale that exists somewhere between the reality of contemporary France and the classic French cinema of the past, Le Havre is a charming, deadpan delight and one of the Finnish director’s finest films.  Continue reading ‘Le Havre: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)’

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The Last Days of Disco: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

The Last Days of Disco, from director Whit Stillman, is a cleverly comic look at the early 1980’s Manhattan party scene from the vantage point of the late nineties. At the center of the film’s roundelay of revelers are the icy Charlotte (Kate Bekinsale) and the demure Alice (Chloe Sevigny), by day toiling as publishing house assistants and by night looking for romance and entertainment at a Studio 54-like club. Brimming with Stillman’s trademark dry humor, The Last Days of Disco is an affectionate yet unsentimental look at the end of an era. Continue reading ‘The Last Days of Disco: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)’

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Summer with Monika: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

I told you we’d be back with some more Ingmar Bergman madness, didn’t I? Well, up next we’ve got Summer with Monika, Bergman’s film about the joys and innocence of romance. Wait, I did say this was a Bergman film, right? Okay, throw in some drama and despair, and you’ve got yourself a Bergman stew. If Summer with Monika sounds familiar that’s probably due to his recent film that was shot a couple of years prior to this one. That one was called Summer Interlude, and you can read our review HERE. How will Summer with Monika stack up to that previous film? Keep reading after the jump to find out. Here’s hoping that Criterion keeps the Ingmar Bergman train going. We need more Bergman on Blu-ray! Continue reading ‘Summer with Monika: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)’

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Summer Interlude: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

It’s about time we got some more Ingmar Bergman (Seventh Seal, rules!) on Blu-ray, but we’re taking it back a few years and focusing on his dramatic efforts with regards to love. Yeah, you might be saying that love and Bergman don’t mix, but they do if you add the components of death, despair, and so forth. Summer Interlude is no different and it marks the celebrated director’s TENTH film. He had yet begun to define himself, as some would say. Criterion Collection has done a great thing by bringing Summer Interlude to the Blu-ray format. Keep reading after the jump to see if Summer Interlude is worth owning. Also, keep it here, because we’ve got more Bergman on the way with Summer With Monika. See, I always take care of our readers. 😉  Continue reading ‘Summer Interlude: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)’

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The Organizer: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

In turn-of-the-century Turin, an accident in a textile factory incites workers to stage a walkout. But it’s not until they receive unexpected aid from a traveling professor (Marcelo Mastroianni) that they find their voice, unite, and stand up for themselves. This historical drama by Mario Monicelli, brimming with humor, and honesty, is a beautiful and moving ode to the power of the people, and features engaging, naturalistic performances; cinematography by the great Giuseppe  Rotunno; and a multilayered, Oscar-nominated screenplay by Monicelli, Agenore Incrocci, and Furio Scarpelli.  Continue reading ‘The Organizer: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)’

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David Lean Directs Noel Coward (1942-1945) (Blu-ray Review)

All the great directors have to start somewhere, right? Well, David Lean (Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago) and famous English playwright Noel Coward would team up for four films in three years. How’s that for plowing through? David Lean was an editor and he and Coward teamed up to create some film magic so to speak. The Criterion Collection has brought us a beautiful boxed set of these early Lean/Coward films for our enjoyment. They come fully restored and fully loaded in terms of extras. How will they stack up to scrutiny? This review will be a doosy, and for all intents and purposes, the overall grading system will be for the films themselves as whole as opposed to rating each individual film separately. The same for the technical specifications. It’s easier that way since I’m reviewing a complete set and not just one film. I hope this makes sense. Let’s get to it!   Continue reading ‘David Lean Directs Noel Coward (1942-1945) (Blu-ray Review)’

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Certified Copy: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

I’m all for a good love story or two especially when they’re of the unconventional kind. Certified Copy comes to us from famed Iranian filmmaker (and jack of all trades) Abbas Kiarostami. The film stars the very lovely and talented Juliette Binoche (The English Patient, Chocolat) and baritone opera singer, in his big screen debut, William Shimell. The Criterion Collection has seen fit to bring out all the stops with regards to the Blu-ray; it even features one of Abbas Kiarostami’s forgotten films, in its entirety, as part of the supplements package. Seriously, when one of the special features is a feature length film, you’ve already gotten a great start. Let us see if Certified Copy makes the grade.  Continue reading ‘Certified Copy: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)’

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¡Alambrista!: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

¡Alambrista! is our next Criterion Collection Blu-ray review, which tackles that pesky subject of immigration and those coming over to make a better life for themselves and their family. If memory serves me correctly, ¡Alambrista! was the first film released theatrically to cover the subject. That would have been in 1977. Whether it remains relevant or not is another question. Then again, it’s in the Criterion Collection vaults for a reason, so I’ll let you take a wild guess on its relevancy. How does ¡Alambrista! stack up 35  years later? I will do my best to shed some light on the film – it’s subject matter I’m too familiar with. Let’s do this.  Continue reading ‘¡Alambrista!: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)’

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La Haine: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

La haine (Hate) is French actor-director-writer Mathieu Kassovitz’s 1995 film that deals with race, riots, police brutality, and class warfare seen through the eyes of young people in the ghettos of France. Criterion Collection has, at long last, brought this important film to the Blu-ray format. The original DVD was also released by Criterion back in 2006 to coincide with its 10 year anniversary at the time. Now 17 years later (the film was released in 1995 theatrically), high definition enthusiasts can see what all the praise is about on Blu-ray. La haine is fully loaded and looks to nail the viewer right between the eyes. Stay sharp!   Continue reading ‘La Haine: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)’

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The War Room: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)

The 1992 presidential election was a triumph not only for Bill Clinton but also for the new breed of strategists who guided him to the White House and changed the face of politics in the process. For this thrilling, behind-closed-doors account of that campaign, renowned cinema verité filmmakers D. A. Pennebaker (Monterey Pop) and Chris Hegedus (Startup.com) closely followed the brainstorming and bull sessions of Clinton’s crack team of consultants—especially the folksy James Carville and the preppy George Stephanopoulos, who became media stars in their own right as they injected a youthful spirit and spontaneity into the process of campaigning. Fleet-footed and entertaining, The War Room is a vivid document of a political moment whose truths (“It’s the economy, stupid!”) still ring in our ears. Continue reading ‘The War Room: Criterion Collection (Blu-ray Review)’

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