• Criterion Blu-ray editions debut next week—with Chungking Express, The Man Who Fell to Earth, Bottle Rocket, and The Third Man—and the reviews are already coming in. “Chungking Express, Criterion’s first Blu-ray release, is nothing short of magnificent,” say the folks at the “source for everything related to Blu-ray,” Blu-ray.com. “The video and audio treatments are superb and exactly what I was hoping to see and hear. I really feel like we are entering a new era where important cinema will finally be treated with the deserved attention no other format has been able to secure.”

    At the Digital Bits, editor Bill Hunt answers his own question, “Is this first Blu-ray disc release from the Criterion Collection worth the wait?” with a resounding, “I’m delighted to say . . . absolutely!” He continues: “Simply put, this is one of the most deliciously filmlike images I’ve seen on Blu-ray to date . . . If Chungking Express is an indication of the kind of picture and sound quality we can expect on future Blu-rays from Criterion, then I can’t wait to see the next one. BRAVO!”

    On The Man Who Fell to Earth, Blu-ray.com had this to say: “The contrast, as expected, is incredibly strong. In fact, the Blu-ray transfer impressively outdoes the standard DVD version with its strong and very detailed visuals, where Anthony B. Richmond’s cinematography simply shines.”

    Over at the HDRoom, the Blu-ray Bottle Rocket also makes the grade: “Long story short, this film looks beautiful in high-def. It is not scrubbed, hyper-realistically sharp, or artificially polished like many recent releases . . . It presents a gorgeous filmlike quality.”

    And Washington Times film critic Sonny Bunch, in a piece that also includes an interview with Criterion technical director Lee Kline, focuses on the Carol Reed classic: “The sewers of Vienna haven’t looked this good in a long time. Thanks to Blu-ray technology and classic-DVD distributor the Criterion Collection, Joseph Cotten’s famous chase of Orson Welles through the Viennese sewer system in The Third Man finally has been restored to the crisp beauty director Carol Reed envisioned.”

    Update (22DEC08): Interview magazine has a “Blu Crush” on all four of Criterion’s new, “essential” Blu-ray releases but hones in on “the quartet’s most inspired facelift,” The Third Man: “Criterion’s transfer approaches the beauty of bygone celluloid—its jaw-dropping richness is like luxurious whole milk after a life of the skimmed stuff.”

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