Featured Titles: The Criterion Collection on Blu-ray
While my usual modus operandi here is to lavish praise on a specific movie, this time I’m lavishing praise on an entire company: Criterion. Cinephiles already are well aware of The Criterion Collection, which is well-regarded due to its selection, the care taken in the course of transferring the movies to video, and the comprehensive extras included with each release. A film enthusiast could do a lot worse than just watch every movie Criterion releases — and you’d get a better curriculum than what is offered in most film studies courses in the process. If you’ve ever enjoyed an audio commentary track on a laserdisc, DVD, or BD, you can thank Criterion for that; their release of the 1931 King Kong was, according to Wikipedia, the first home video release to include that feature. Criterion also deserves a lot of credit for their pioneering work in the letterbox format. It might seem hard to believe for some of my younger readers, but there was a time when it was impossible to get a home video version of a movie in its original intended aspect ratio. It’d be like if the only prints available of the Mona Lisa had 33% of the painting cut off of the top and bottom to fit the frame size popular at the time, or every album on CD was missing a third of the tracks that appeared on vinyl. (Of course, if you’re old enough to remember vinyl-first releases, you probably remember standardized pan-and-scan.)
Now at long last, Criterion is starting to release some of its catalog in high definition. After seeing what the company was able to accomplish on DVD, I’m really excited to see where Blu-ray takes them. Their first four releases include a couple of my personal favorites: The Third Man is from Orson Welles at the height of his prowess; Bottle Rocket marks the beginning of Wes Anderson’s feature career; The Man Who Fell To Earth is a visually striking science fiction film starring David Bowie; and Chungking Express comes from the highly regarded Chinese director Wong Kar-wai. All of these movies are worth a look.
Also Out This Week
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Death Proof and Planet Terror make their belated appearance on Blu-ray. Before the high-definition format war died its welcome death, the Weinstein Company was HD-DVD exclusive. Thankfully, all that noise is behind us and those nerds (including me!) still into physical media don’t have to choose which format to invest in while knowing that either choice will cause them to miss out on something cool. Of the two “Grindhouse” movies, Death Proof is by far my favorite. Maybe I just like fast cars, hot chicks, and a brutal, senseless bad guy more than I”m into zombie apocalypses. Could it be that I’m finally growing up? Nah — I still think Frank the Tank, Will Ferrel’s character in Old School, is frickin’ hilarious. Fans of comedy might be distressed to notice that I’ve accidentally left Tommy Boy off of my BRD wrap-up image up there. I miscounted the movies I needed to cover! In other tragedies, an Uwe Boll movie (In The Name of the King) gets pointlessly rereleased on BD, and the terrible new Mummy film makes its home video debut.
Thanks for reading (and hopefully commenting on) Add to Queue, Levi’s weekly round-up of US home video release highlights. Sorry, rest of the world; region locks are the industry’s way of saying they still don’t understand the Internet. Cover art courtesy of Amazon. There are few things as fetching as a bruised ego on a beautiful angel. . Follow me on Twitter. Add me to your PSN or XBL friends list: VsRobot. You can also e-mail me at levivsrobot [at] gmail [dot] com.