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Thief (Criterion Collection) (Blu-ray + DVD)
Thief (Criterion Collection) (Blu-ray + DVD)
DVD ~ James Caan
Offered by westcoastmedia
Price: $23.99
30 used & new from $14.50

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mann's Feature Film Debut Gets Deluxe Criterion Treatment, January 30, 2014
In keeping with Mann's notorious habit of tinkering with his films long after their theatrical release, this version of Thief includes the extra scene from the director's cut with legendary blues musician Willie Dixon on the bank of the Chicago River, but returns the beach sequence to its original length with the music intact. Perhaps the most contentious revision in the 1995 Director's Cut was the awkwardly sped-up effect applied to the climactic gunfight. This version, which Criterion claims was taken from Mann's "original 35mm answer print," restores the slow motion effect to this gunfight.

Some have claimed that the gun-metal bluish tint to this version is a new addition by Mann, but this is in fact the look of the theatrical version, which has been faithful restored to the Blu-Ray's stunning transfer.

Ported over from the 1998 DVD is an audio commentary with Michael Mann and James Caan. It is interesting to note how many real-life cops and crooks worked on this film behind and in front of the camera, which Mann points out at various points. They banter back and forth like old friends and recount all kinds of filming anecdotes in this informative and engaging track.

There is an interview with Mann where he talks about how growing up in Chicago influenced his fascination with cops and criminals. He provides insight into just how little of the source material was used in the film (not much) and instead drew inspiration from actual thieves. Mann also talks about his famous knack for authenticity, which included having Caan learn how to crack a safe and then do it on camera.

Also included is an interview with Caan who says right from the get-go that Thief is one of the films he's most proud of in his career. He talks about first meeting Mann and how the screenplay made him want do it. The veteran actor talks about the training he did to prepare for the role and how he interacted with cops and crooks. Caan tells some fantastic filming anecdotes.

There is an interview with Johannes Schmoelling, formally of German electronic band Tangerine Dream. They composed the film's pulsating score and he talks about joining the group back in the day. He also talks about how they got to score the film and of collaborating with Mann. He recalls the director telling them exactly what he wanted.

Finally, there is a trailer.


Nashville (Criterion Collection) (Blu-ray + DVD)
Nashville (Criterion Collection) (Blu-ray + DVD)
DVD ~ Keith Carradine
Offered by MightySilver
Price: $23.00
35 used & new from $19.09

10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Criterion Gives Altman's Magnum Opus Glorious Blu-Ray Treatment!, December 3, 2013
This new Blu-Ray transfer of Nashville looks fantastic. The folks at Criterion should be commended for the excellent work on this print, which has incredible detail while still retaining its filmic look.

Ported over from the Paramount DVD is an audio commentary by director Robert Altman. He points out that the cast wrote most of the songs for their respective characters. All of the songs were done in-house and when Nashville came out, local musicians hated them. He mentions the numerous collaborators he worked with in front of and behind the camera and explains what they contributed to the film. Altman talks about his approach to filmmaking on this engaging and informative track.

Also included is a fantastic theatrical trailer.

“The Making of Nashville” features various cast and crew members recounting their roles in this film and what they think of it now. They talk about getting involved in the project and their impressions of Altman. The likes of Keith Carradine, Lily Tomlin and Michael Murphy (among several others) tell fantastic filming anecdotes and address Altman’s famous habit of encouraging improvisation among the cast.

“Robert Altman’s Interviews” include one from 1975 when Nashville was released and he talks about the film’s origins and how hard it was to get made. There’s another from 2000 where he talks about various cast members and their characters. The third one is from 2002 and Altman points out how Nashville was the first big film where he had complete creative control.

There is “Behind the Scenes” footage of the opening traffic jam scene and the final one. It’s pretty grainy and has no sound, but does provide a glimpse into Altman’s working methods.

Finally, there is “Keith Carradine Demo.” Altman recorded three songs that the actor created fro the film in his office and you can listen to each one.


Seconds (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Seconds (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Rock Hudson
Offered by MightySilver
Price: $22.70
37 used & new from $16.99

5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Criterion Blu-Ray Gives Film a Second Life, August 14, 2013
Criterion's Blu-Ray edition of Seconds features an impressive looking transfer that showcases cinematographer James Wong Howe's stunning black and white camerawork. The detail and depth of image is superb and all scratches and dirt have been removed while still preserving the filmic look.

Ported over from the out of print Paramount DVD is director John Frankenheimer's informative and frank commentary. He isn't afraid to admit the film's shortcomings, specifically its failure to connect with a mainstream audience. He also gives credit where credit is due; pointing out that it was Rock Hudson's idea to have the protagonist played by two different actors. This is an excellent and revealing commentary.

"Alec Baldwin on Seconds" features the actor talking about Frankenheimer and the film. They had worked together on the director's last movie and Baldwin shares an entertaining anecdote about the man. He also speaks admiringly of Rock Hudson's performance, citing specific scenes that resonate.

"A Second Look" features interviews with Frankenheimer's wife Evans and actress Salome Jens. The latter talks about how she was cast and her impressions of working with Frankenheimer. Evans shares some fantastic anecdotes about how the film came together, like how her husband wanted to cast Laurence Olivier, but the studio wanted a bigger star - hence the eventual casting of Hudson.

"Palmer and Pomerance on Seconds" is a visual essay on the film. Scholars R. Barton Palmer and Murray Pomerance analyze the film's style and themes in detail.

There is a vintage interview with Frankenheimer from 1971 where he talks about his philosophy on filmmaking and how other art forms influenced his own work.

Finally, there is "Hollywood on Hudson," a rare WNBC news special that was shot on location in Scarsdale, New Jersey. The actor briefly talks about his character and working with Frankenheimer.
Comment Comments (4) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Oct 31, 2013 4:49 AM PDT


The Devil's Backbone (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
The Devil's Backbone (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Marisa Paredes
Price: $21.99
26 used & new from $18.07

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Criterion Delivers the Goods with Definitive Edition on Blu!, August 5, 2013
The good news is that all of the extras from the The Devil's Backbone (Special Edition) have been ported over with several new extras added into the mix on this new edition. The first disc includes a brief, new introduction by Guillermo del Toro talking about what this special edition has to offer.

He contributes an impressive audio commentary, talking about his aim to take the gothic romance novel and transport it into the Spanish Civil War. Del Toro was also interested in fusing the war genre with the ghost story. He goes into great detail dissecting the elements of the gothic romance and how it applies to his film in a very accessible and articulate way. There is not a single lull in this highly engaging and informative track.

Also included is a trailer for The Devil's Backbone.

The second disc starts off with "Summoning Spirits," a new interview with Del Toro where he talks about the gothic horror genre and how he created the ghost of Santi. The director talks about his drawings for the character and why he looks the way he does. We see how Del Toro achieved his vision and the special effects work that went into it. This is a fascinating look at the process.

"Making of Documentary" is a 27-minute look at various aspects of the film. They are broken down into six segments that can be viewed separately or altogether. Del Toro and his co-screenwriter, Antonio Trashorras talk about the film's classic ghost story and how they tried to put an original spin on it. The director, with his art director Cesar Macarron, talk about the look of the film and how they wanted characters to be framed in archways -- "Humans confined by architecture," as Del Toro puts it. This is an excellent look at how the movie was made and told in a concise and informative manner.

"Spanish Gothic" is a new extra that sees Del Toro talking about The Devil's Backbone and Pan's Labyrinth (New Line Two-Disc Platinum Series) and their relationship to the Spanish gothic genre. He talks about the origins of the film's title, steeped in Mexican folklore, and how he changed it to fit the Spanish setting. Del Toro also talks about how he tried to create something new within this genre.

"Director's Notebook" features a few scribblings from Del Toro's notebook. It is interesting to see how much the finished film reflects these drawings.

"Designing The Devil's Backbone" is a new interview with Del Toro, which examines the art direction and set design, singling out several key collaborators. A lot of planning and work went into the look of the film, from costumes to the content of the rooms, and it all had a purpose or a meaning.

There are four deleted scenes with optional commentary by the director. He explains that they were cut mostly because they slowed down the pacing of the movie.

"Sketch, Storyboard, Screen" allows one to watch parts of the film with selected sketches by Del Toro that he did for certain scenes. These drawings pop up in the corner of the screen so as not to obscure the entire frame. You can also compare six scenes from the film with the thumbnail drawings, storyboard and the final product simultaneously. There is also a gallery of sketches and drawings of characters, sets, and the special effects.

Finally, there is the "War of Values," featuring Spanish Civil War expert Sebastiaan Faber examining the role that this historical conflict plays in The Devil's Backbone. He provides a brief rundown of the war and puts it in the context of the film. This is an informative look at the historical backdrop to the film.


Medium Cool (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Medium Cool (Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Robert Forster
Offered by MightySilver
Price: $25.01
24 used & new from $21.99

8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Criterion Blu-Ray Looks Great and Loaded with Extras!, May 30, 2013
Medium Cool has never looked better on this newly minted Criterion Collection Blu-Ray. The colors look vivid while the transfer still retains the texture of the original film stock.

There is an audio commentary by director Haskell Wexler, editor Paul Golding, and actor Marianna Hill. Wexler addresses the criticism of the opening scene and how the two journalists don't help the accident victim. He mentions being faced with that decision several times in his career. All three praise Harold Blankenship's performance and how real it is. Wexler and Golding point out that during the protest scene at the end, tear gas was really shot at them, but the famous line, "Look out Haskell, it's real!" was added later.

Also included is a commentary by historian Paul Cronin who examines the origins and production of Medium Cool. He expertly analyzes the film's themes while also delving into what led Wexler to make it. Cronin points out that Wexler paid for the film himself and then the studio paid to distribute it. He explains the fascinating backstory to the film's famous line in this great look at how Medium Cool came together.

There is a trailer.

There is an interview with Haskell Wexler where he talks about the origins of Medium Cool and how he was going to direct another film, but realized that something was going to happen in his hometown of Chicago and wrote the screenplay for the film. He discusses the influence of documentaries in this engaging interview.

Also included are excerpts from Paul Cronin's 4-hour documentary on Wexler entitled, Look Out Haskell, It's Real!, that focuses on the making of Medium Cool. Wexler, a few historians and key cast members take us through the production in this absorbing documentary.

There are also excerpts from a documentary about Harold Blankenship, who Eileen's son in the film. He grew up in a rough neighborhood in Chicago, but now lives in the wilds of West Virginia. He recalls being in Medium Cool in a kind of fragmented way and it is startling to see how much he's changed over the years.

Finally, there is "Medium Cool Revisited," which sees Wexler return to the city for the 2012 NATO Summit. He ended up shooting a documentary about the Occupy movement and this 30-minute featurette takes a look at how he did it.


Frankenweenie (Four-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD + Digital Copy)
Frankenweenie (Four-Disc Combo: Blu-ray 3D/Blu-ray/DVD + Digital Copy)
DVD ~ Winona Ryder
Offered by Cross Creek Cinema
Price: $25.00
44 used & new from $13.46

3 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Atmospheric Return to Form for Tim Burton, January 7, 2013
As the title suggests, Frankenweenie is basically Frankenstein (1931) for children but with plenty of sly references for his older fans (at one point, Victor's parents are watching Christopher Lee as Dracula in a Hammer horror movie). Victor fits in quite nicely with Burton's roster of cinematic outsiders marginalized by the ignorant masses that misunderstand them. The atmospheric black and white stop-motion animation has a texture to it that almost feels tangible unlike most of the CG animated films being made today.

"Original Short: Captain Sparky vs The Flying Saucers" is the clever movie within a movie that Victor creates (with Sparky's help) and is included in its entirety. It is a loving homage to alien invasion films from the 1950s.

"Miniatures in Motion: Bringing Frankenweenie to Life" takes a look at the stop-motion animation process for this film. We see how the animators brought Burton's original drawings to life. It is wonderful to see all these people crafting a film with their hands instead of relying predominantly on CGI.

"Frankenweenie Touring Exhibit" is a brief featurette about a traveling exhibit of props and production sketches from the film displayed for people from all over the world to see.

"Original Live-Action Frankenweenie Short" was made in 1984 and was shot in gorgeous black and white. It's about a young boy named Vincent (Barret Oliver) who decides to resurrect his dead dog Sparky a la Dr. Frankenstein. Shelley Duvall and Daniel Stern play his very Leave It To Beaver-esque parents. Also featured is the late-great Paul Bartel as Vincent's science teacher.

Finally, there is a music video for "Pet Sematary" by the Plain White T's. It is your standard tie-in video with the band playing over footage from the film.


Son Of Danse Macabre
Son Of Danse Macabre
Price: $2.99

1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An Ambitious Labor of Love, October 29, 2012
It's the sequel no one thought would happen. Danse Macabre is the popular Stephen King book where the legendary writer examined the horror genre from1950-1980, taking a look at literature, movies, radio and television. It was a fantastic rumination of what works best and what doesn't in the horror genre. However, King never wrote a follow-up to cover the next 30 years, leaving fans that loved his book wanting more. Well, someone has stepped up and taken on this ambitious task. One my favorite bloggers Bryce Wilson, he of the Things That Don't Suck blog, decided that he would be the person to pen a sequel to King's book, entitled Son of Danse Macabre, utilizing the structure of the original book while making a few changes here and there to really make it his own. First of all, I'd admire Bryce for having the cojones to take on this daunting task and then actually completing it. As someone who is also writing their own book but has yet to finish it I know how hard it is to do it, so my hats off to anyone who has the dedication to see it through to the end.

I found it interesting to see where he deviates from King's original template, tossing out the autobiographical chapter, which he actually covers at the beginning, and the chapter on radio - for obvious reasons. In its place, he tackles the horror genre in video games and horror comics - two of my favorite mediums so I was looking forward to what he had to say about them. When it comes to video games, I'm glad he singled out Alan Wake, definitely one of the better horror-themed games to come out in some time. To close out the chapter on video games, Bryce points out what a good one should do: "Dread instead of jump scares, a real sense of place instead of generic space holders, serious thought in its design instead of empty iconography, fear not of the maniac in the shadows but stemming from an entire environment and the self."

There are still a smattering of spelling and grammatical errors throughout but nothing that took away from my enjoyment of reading the book and something that can be easily fixed. I can't recommend this book enough. It is written with passion and a real love for the horror genre but it is not a fanboy love letter either. He is willing to skewer sacred cows that deserve to be savaged and champion films and filmmakers that often exist on the margins or have been unfairly derided. I can't think of a more appropriate gift to treat yourself or someone else for Halloween.


In the Mood for Love (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
In the Mood for Love (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Maggie Cheung Man-yuk
Price: $25.25
27 used & new from $17.99

9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic upgrade to Blu-Ray from Criterion, October 22, 2012
The Criterion Collection has given Wong's film a simply amazing Blu-Ray upgrade. For a film that has such striking imagery, this new transfer really shows them off. In the Mood for Love has never looked better. The sound is also top notch with atmospheric effects spread out and the music coming across crisp and clear.

There are two new extras with this Blu-Ray edition but sadly the interactive essay by film scholar Gina Marchetti is gone, as is the photo gallery, key cast and crew biographies. In the liner notes, we no longer have the essays film critic Li Cheuk-to and the director's statement. Completists may want to old on to the previous Criterion DVD - In the Mood for Love (The Criterion Collection).

"@ In the Mood for Love" is a 51-minute making of documentary that traces the film's origins to actual filming and how Wong made changes to the story as he went along. He says this film exists in the same world as his second film, Days of Being Wild, also set in the `60s. Tony Leung claims that early on the film was more erotic in nature but somewhere along the way changed to be more subtle.

There are four deleted scenes with optional commentary by Wong. He provides a bit of backstory to the footage and shares filming anecdotes. One scene revisits the characters 10 years later and we see how much they've changed in that time.

"Hua yang de nian hau" is a montage of images from Chinese cinema set to Zhou Yuan's song of the same name. Wong uses archival footage to celebrate his country's rich cinematic history.

There is an interview with Wong Kar-Wai and he talks about the challenge of getting his film made during an economic crisis in Hong Kong. He speaks of his fondness for the time period depicted in the film. He also speaks eloquently about the characters and his approach to them while also briefly talking about how he directed Cheung and Leung's performances.

"Cinema Lessons" features an interview with Wong at the Cannes Film Festival. He talks about his love of principal photography, which, for him, is like a vacation - hence his infamously long shoots.

Also included is the press conference at the Toronto International Film Festival with Maggie Cheung and Tony Leung. They talk about working with Wong and how he never has a complete screenplay and likes to improvise while filming. They speak of the challenges they faced making it and how it made for a sometimes frustrating experience.

New to this edition is "On In the Mood for Love," which features an interview with film critic Tony Rayns. He puts the film in the context of Wong's career and how personal a work it is to the director. Rayns points out that Wong drew on his experiences of growing up in Hong Kong during the `60s.

The other new extra is "The Soundtrack," which features Rayns talking about the film's richly evocative soundtrack. Wong chose a mix of pop songs, Nat King Cole, waltzes and original instrumental music. You can also listen to 12 tracks from the soundtrack.

Finally, there are television spots from Hong Kong, the United States and France as well as trailers from these three countries.
Comment Comments (2) | Permalink | Most recent comment: Dec 7, 2012 9:15 AM PST


Eating Raoul (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Eating Raoul (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Paul Bartel
Offered by MightySilver
Price: $22.50
32 used & new from $18.75

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This Cult Film Fave Has Never Looked Better!, September 26, 2012
Eating Raoul has never looked better on this new Blu-Ray transfer. The transfer is perfect with a crisp, clean look.

There is an audio commentary by screenwriter Richard Blackburn, production designer Robert Schulenberg and editor Alan Toomayan. They point out that Bartel used a lot of friends from other films he had worked on in front of and behind the camera for Eating Raoul. The three men recall all kinds of filming anecdotes, laughing and joking with each other on this engaging track.

"The Secret Cinema" is a short film Bartel made in 1966. It was shot in black and white and done like a silent film but with a laugh track. Bartel remade it in 1986 for Steven Spielberg's short-lived television series Amazing Stories: The Complete First Season. In addition, Schulenberg talks about it in a nine-minute audio interview.

"Naughty Nurse" is another short film Bartel made in 1969. It focuses on the misadventures of a nurse who moonlights as a dominatrix.

"Cooking Up Raoul" is a 24-minute retrospective documentary featuring Woronov, Beltran and McClurg recalling their experiences making Eating Raoul. Woronov talks about how she first met Bartel and how he got her a role in Death Race 2000 (Roger Corman's Cult Classics) (1975). Beltran does an amusing Bartel impression as he recounts how he was cast in the film. McClurg came from an improv comedy background and tells a funny story behind her scene in the film.

Also included is a 5-minute gag reel featuring the cast blowing lines and cracking each other up.

There is an archival interview with Bartel and Woronov done in 1982. They talk about what their film is about and what they learned from Corman. Bartel speaks eloquently about the Blands and the `50s décor of their apartment among other topics.

Finally, there is a trailer.


Harold and Maude (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
Harold and Maude (The Criterion Collection) [Blu-ray]
DVD ~ Ruth Gordon
Offered by MightySilver
Price: $22.86
33 used & new from $19.09

6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Criterion Blu-Ray Restores this Classic from the '70s, June 19, 2012
You can finally get rid of the bare bone Paramount DVD as the Criterion Collection Blu-Ray features an excellent transfer that preserves the grain of the film stock while also delivering a pristine print, which is particularly evident in the dimly-lit scenes. Cat Stevens' songs sound particular good on the sound side of things.

There is an audio commentary by Hal Ashby biographer Nick Dawson, author of Being Hal Ashby: Life of a Hollywood Rebel (Screen Classics), and one of the film's producers Charles B. Mulvehill. Dawson takes us through the genesis of the project, including Colin Higgins' screenplay and Ashby going from his first film to Harold and Maude. Mulvehill recalls all kinds of filming anecdotes including casting and its disastrous reception. Dawson analyzes the film's themes in depth with some excellent insights on this very informative track.

Disappointingly, the film's trailer is not included despite being referenced in detail on the commentary as containing deleted footage.

There are audio excerpts from AFI seminars with Ashby and Higgins in '72 and '79 respectively. Ashby talks about how he got his start as an editor. Naturally, he talks about how he got the job to direct Harold and Maude while also discussing the challenge of casting the role of Harold. Higgins talks about the genesis of the script and the inspiration for Maude. Both are very engaging and informative.

Finally, there is an interview with Yusuf/Cat Stevens. He talks about how he got interested in making music as a way to express himself. Of course, he talks about how he got involved with Harold and Maude. Ashby was a big fan and used some of Stevens' songs during filming. The director even invited the musician to the set to see how he wanted to use his music.


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