"Safe" (1995)

January 2015

SafeEnvironmental Illness as a Horror Story

The Criterion Collection 739
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
***1/2

We face chemical exposure every day. We experience it while we're driving, when we're cleaning, when we use pesticides, when we're near smoke or smokers, and when we're dealing with plastics and synthetic fabrics. COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) sufferers like me are particularly zoned in to this exposure since we literally feel it in our lungs. Most of us identify the issue and eliminate it from our lives, or at least reduce our exposure. Others, though, have severe psychological triggers that can cause nausea, fatigue, headaches, and skin inflammation, requiring bed rest or hospitalization.

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"Time Bandits"

December 2014

Time BanditsA Favorite Time-Travel Movie Has Never Looked Better

The Criterion Collection 37
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****1/2

Sound Quality
****

Extras
***1/2

Since I love fantasy, social-satire, and time-travel films, Time Bandits has long been a favorite movie. It's had a checkered experience on home video: Criterion's previous laserdisc and DVD left something to be desired, as did the Image Blu-ray release. The new Criterion Blu-ray, produced and restored at 2K under director Terry Gilliam's supervision, and with the correct aspect ratio of 1.85:1, solves everything. It's a knockout. I don't give this advice often, but if you love this movie as much as I do, read on and be prepared to put your old version on the eBay auction block.

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"The Shooting / Ride in the Whirlwind"

December 2014

The Shooting/Ride in the WhirlwindRevisionist Cult Westerns from 1965

The Criterion Collection 734, 735
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
***1/2

In the 1960s producer/director Roger Corman developed a moviemaking machine that gave first opportunities to many budding actors and directors. Monte Hellman was one of the latter, Jack Nicholson one of the former. The two teamed up to make two short Westerns, The Shooting and Ride in the Whirlwind. They were made concurrently in six weeks on a low budget, and they featured overlapping casts but different leading men.

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"F for Fake"

December 2014

F for FakeRevisionist Welles

The Criterion Collection 288
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
***1/2

Picture Quality
***1/2

Sound Quality
***

Extras
****1/2

Orson Welles. Mention the name and images come to mind immediately: Welles who made Citizen Kane, a movie that many consider the best one ever made. Welles whose radio version of The War of the Worlds seemed so real that it started panic in the streets. Welles who was married to the incredibly beautiful Rita Hayworth. Welles who mesmerized audiences in The Third Man.

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"My Darling Clementine"

November 2014

My Darling ClementineWyatt Earp Reinvented in a Western Classic

The Criterion Collection 732
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
****

Wyatt Earp is one of the bigger legends in US western history. Who hasn't heard of the Gunfight at the O.K. Corral? He's been a character in movies many times over, and was most recently played by Kevin Costner (Wyatt Earp, 1994) and Kurt Russell (Tombstone, 1993). Twenty years on, it looks like we're due for yet another version. Hollywood keeps reinventing the same story. So did Earp.

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"The Vanishing" (1988)

October 2014

The VanishingA Deadly Cat-and-Mouse Game Generates Intense Suspense

The Criterion Collection 133
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
**

Modern audiences have come to equate suspense and horror movies with blood. But when you think about it, the great ones have little of that. Thus it is with the original European version of The Vanishing. The movie builds incredible suspense and brings you to the edge of your seat, but without guns or blood.

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"Dracula" (1979)

October 2014

DraculaFine Blu-ray Transfer Sheds New Light on Langella's Portrayal

Universal 61131593
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
***

Here's another film in time for Halloween. I've been waiting eagerly for Universal to release John Badham's Dracula on Blu-ray. Though I like the camp of Bela Lugosi, the menace that Christopher Lee provides in the Hammer films, the overall Ruisdael-like look of Werner Herzog's Nosferatu the Vampyre, and the multilayered performance of Gary Oldman in Francis Ford Coppola's Bram Stoker's Dracula, it is this 1979 version that I find most satisfying overall (by coincidence, Herzog's film and this one were both released in 1979: Herzog's in January, Badham's in July).

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"The Innocents"

October 2014

The InnocentsA Chilling Ambiguity from Criterion

The Criterion Collection 727
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****1/2

Picture Quality
****1/2

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
***1/2

Halloween is just about here again, and Criterion has celebrated by releasing a near-perfect edition of one of cinema's greatest ghost stories.

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"Macbeth" (1971)

September 2014

MacbethA Bloody and Entertaining Macbeth from Roman Polanski

The Criterion Collection 726
Format: Blu-ray

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
***1/2

Extras
***1/2

Thespians often refer to Shakespeare's quest-for-power masterpiece as "bloody Macbeth," a name that Roman Polanski took to heart in creating his masterful, moody, and suspenseful film version in 1971. There's already plenty of blood in the stage version. Macbeth sees a "dagger of the mind" that turns bloody, and Lady Macbeth spends a portion of the last part of the play trying to wash imaginary blood off her hands. There's a lot of talk about blood here and there.

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"All That Jazz"

September 2014

All That JazzArt Imitates Life

The Criterion Collection 724
Format: Blu-ray and DVD

Overall Enjoyment
****

Picture Quality
****

Sound Quality
****

Extras
****

Not many directors would take a heart attack as inspiration for an autobiographical movie, but not many directors were like Bob Fosse, a song-and-dance man and choreographer with a very dark side. In All That Jazz he created a most entertaining movie about his life that only he could have made.

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