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Yojimbo & Sanjuro

Director: Akira Kurosawa
Cast: Toshiro Mifune, Tatsuya Nakadai, Yoko Tsukasa


Yojimbo & Sanjuro

Perhaps no other director can claim to have created a body of work as influential as Akira Kurosawa. In fact, wide swaths of popular culture feel like footnotes on the work of the Japanese auteur. Films as diverse as Bonnie and Clyde, Star Wars, Unforgiven, Scarface and Kill Bill are more or less unimaginable without Seven Samurai, The Hidden Fortress and, newly released in a gorgeous Blu-Ray transfer, Yojimbo and its companion piece Sanjuro. Criterion has taught us to expect from them the cleanest and most faithful digital transfers possible and these Blu-ray versions of the classic films in no way disappoint. The images are clean and crisp and the sound remastered and renecoded as Dolby 3.0. You won’t hear a single hiss or hum out of this film nearly half a century old. Small leaves blowing on the ground are visible even in some of the more darkly lit scenes. The transfer itself is a work of art. Also, as is to be expected from a Criterion release, there is a wealth of extras here. The commentary by Stephen Prince, the author of the excellent The Warrior’s Camera: The Cinema of Akira Kurosawa and numerous other works of film criticism, freshens the film after repeated viewings with his vast knowledge of world cinema. Prince never plays the pedagogue and brings fanboy sensibility to his commentary track that makes his discussion of Kurosawa’s techniques and influences hugely satisfying. W. Scott Poole



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The Bridge on the River Kwai (Blu-ray)

Director: David Lean
Cast: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, James Donald


The Bridge on the River Kwai (Blu-ray)
Sony Pictures

It’s more than just big ideas on a broad campus. While the label implies such a grandiose scale, issues of scope are not the sole reason for the tag. Movies are considered “epics” when the initiatives inherent in their design are as vast and varied as the motion picture landscape that play out upon. These films are not just bursting with wide-open vistas and the various multicultural elements intrinsic to them. No, the devil and dimension is in the details, in the smaller moments that modify and magnify the expansive setpieces on display. A perfect example of this often foolproof formula is David Lean’s brilliant The Bridge on the River Kwai. Taking a fictionalized approach to the POW experience in World War II, this amazing motion picture not only addresses a major military search and destroy mission, but its deals with the smaller human issues of duty, honor, and what it takes to be a man. Bill Gibron



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(  BBC)

Review [29.Sep.2008]
Review [26.Sep.2007]



Life, a titanic effort by the BBC’s much-respected Natural History Unit (producers of an amazing catalogue spanning over 50 years including the recent Planet Earth), began in 2006 and eventually roamed all seven continents—plus a couple of oceans—and conducted more than 150 shoots over a period of three years. With a very healthy budget, filmmakers were allowed to experiment and try out new techniques: miniaturized high-definition cameras that burrowed into the ground to find mudskipper egg chambers and followed the scuttling ants on a jungle floor, to gratuitous high-speed photography that capture, with every loving nuance, the intricate movements of nature’s swifter creatures like absolutely stunning wild animal takedowns or even something as prosaic as a catch of surf glinting as the speckled waves fall in the gleams of a dwindling sunset. Wow. Broken up into ten episodes, Life follows very rough, broad arcs, documenting families of life from the humblest insect to oceanic leviathans. Each “story” follows a specific organism in their everyday travails. If one wishes to be dismissive, it can be described as “food, sex, and death”. It is not inaccurate, but it is thoroughly dishonest. No words can describe life—least of all these, which in itself is its own dishonesty—and an attempt to explain it will fall short. This is a film that one experiences for all its majesty. Aaron Wee


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The Complete Metropolis (Blu-ray)

Director: Fritz Lang
Cast: Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Fritz Rasp, Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel,


The Complete Metropolis (Blu-ray)
Kino International

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is one of those films which everyone knows about and many have seen, but until recently it was available only in a severely shortened version which, to be charitable, didn’t entirely make sense. Then in 2008 a negative was discovered in a museum in Argentina which included about 25 minutes of footage not seen since the film’s 1927 premiere in Berlin. The “complete Metropolis” restores this footage and adds intertitles to cover areas when the film was missing or too damaged to be used, clarifying relationships among the principal characters, restoring several subplots and generally making it clear that this film was not a science fiction curiosity but a masterpiece of philosophical filmmaking. The film’s appearance has also been restored digitally, creating the closest experience possible to that of viewing Lang’s original cut. Sarah Boslaugh



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America Lost and Found: The BBS Story - Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

Director: Bob Rafelson, Dennis Hopper, Henry Jaglom, Jack Nicholson, Peter Bogdanovich
Cast: Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, Jack Nicholson, Karen Black, Bruce Dern, Jeff Bridges, Cybil Shepherd


America Lost and Found: The BBS Story - Criterion Collection (Blu-ray)

They were more than just the Monkees, and the talented trio of Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steve Blauner were out to prove just that. So they formed BBS Productions, tapped into the clamoring counterculture zeitgeist around them, and found like-minded moviemakers (Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Peter Bogdonavich) to share in their vision. The resulting films would jumpstart the all important post-modern movement, inspiring a legion of young guns to forget standard academics and head directly to film school. Encapsulating both the best of (Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, The King of Marvin Gardens, The Last Picture Show) and the endearingly obscure (A Safe Place, Head, Drive, He Said) from the ‘studio’, this collection recalls a time when cinema took chances, when the revolution was not only televised, but plastered across cinemas from one end of America to the other. While mostly forgotten by today’s finicky film fans, this glorious box set achievement from Criterion will remind everyone that, all Pre-Fab Four facets aside, there was no more important players than Rafelson, Schneider, and Blauner. Bill Gibron

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