Home / Reviews / The Criterion Channel review: The movie-streaming service for discerning cord-cutters

The Criterion Channel review: The movie-streaming service for discerning cord-cutters

The Criterion Channel is the most effective movie-streaming service you’ve by no means heard of. A subscription prices about the identical as Netflix or Hulu: $10.99 monthly, or $99.99 if paid yearly (about $8.33 monthly). As an alternative of providing new motion pictures which have completed their theater runs, unique flicks produced in home, or binge-worthy TV collection, the Criterion Channel’s library consists of about 2,000 fastidiously chosen movies, a lot of them offered as curated collections accompanied by the additional supplies usually discovered solely on DVD or Blu-ray disc releases.  

Not each movie on provide is a masterpiece, however the overwhelming majority are least good. The web site They Shoot Footage, Don’t They? maintains what I take into account to be essentially the most dependable checklist of the 100 greatest movies ever made, and you’ll watch not less than half of these motion pictures on The Criterion Channel.

That stated, this service may be very undoubtedly geared towards the adventurous viewer. Most of the titles are in languages apart from English (so, you would possibly must learn subtitles), and the newer titles on rotation after I wrote this assessment are, to place it politely, fairly obscure. Just a few of the much less obscure ones are Gabriel Abrantes & Daniel Schmidt’s Diamantino, from Portugal; Jafar Panahi’s three Faces, from Iran; Bi Gan’s Lengthy Day’s Journey Into Evening, from France; and Hu Bo’s An Elephant Sitting Nonetheless, from China.

[ Further reading: The best streaming TV services ]

Geared for the fanatic

The Criterion Channel splash screen Criterion

The Criterion Channel is unabashedly targeted on hardcore movie buffs.

The cineaste, however, will discover the Criterion Channel important. You’ll discover practically full—and in some instances, full—collections of movies by masters like Chantal Akerman, Michelangelo Antonioni, Andrea Arnold, Olivier Assayas, Ingmar Bergman, Les Clean, Robert Bresson, Luis Bunuel, Jane Campion, Charles Chaplin, Rene Clair, Jacques Demy, Carl Theodor Dreyer, Sergei Eisenstein, Rainer Werner Fassbinder, Federico Fellini, Hollis Frampton, Jean-Luc Godard, Aki Kaurismaki, Abbas Kiarostami, Krzysztof Kieslowski, Masaki Kobayashi, Akira Kurosawa, Louis Malle, Jean-Pierre Melville, Kenji Mizoguchi, Mikio Naruse, Yasujro Oz, Satyajit Ray, Jean Renoir, Eric Rohmer, Roberto Rossellini, Seijun Suzuki, Andrei Tarkovsky, Jacques Tati, Francois Truffaut, Agnes Varda, Jean Vigo, Wim Wenders, Lina Wertmuller, Wong Kar-wai, William Wyler, and plenty of others.

Hidden treasures await your discovery, too. Are you a Christopher Nolan fan? You received’t discover The Darkish Knight or Interstellar right here, however you possibly can watch Nolan’s fascinating micro-budget debut function Following, and his early brief movie Doodlebug. Did you want Josh & Benny Safdie’s Uncut Gems, starring Adam Sandler? That’s not right here, both, however there’s a complete collection of the brothers’ early brief movies and their 2009 function Daddy Longlegs.

Following on The Criterion Channel Criterion

Jeremy Theobald performs a younger man who follows individuals and finds greater than his share of hassle in Christopher Nolan’s function debut Following.

Did you swoon over Guillermo Del Toro’s The Form of Water? His Mexican horror movie Cronos is right here. The channel doesn’t provide any Quentin Tarantino movies, nevertheless it does provide Toshiya Fujita’s Woman Snowblood (1973), a serious inspiration for Kill Invoice. Odd gems like Leos Carax’s The Lovers on the Bridge (1991), Shane Carruth’s Upstream Coloration (2013), Louis Malle’s Vanya on 42nd Road, and Ana Lily Amirpour’s A Lady Walks Residence Alone at Evening (2014) are value discovering.

There’s enjoyable stuff, too

Not each movie is ponderous arthouse seriousness—all berets and cigarette smoking and existential disaster. The location presents fairly a number of enjoyable issues as properly, from a handful of Hitchcock titles to monster motion pictures, samurai motion pictures, horror motion pictures (each black-and-white basic and bloody coloration), movies noir, midnight cult movies (plenty of David Lynch and John Waters), comedies, rock music motion pictures, sci-fi motion pictures, fantasy motion pictures, kung-fu motion pictures, English crime tales, and “B” motion pictures from the 1950s. A current assortment showcases the ground-breaking, low-budget drive-in movies by the Godfather of Gore, Herschell Gordon Lewis, director of Blood Feast (1963) and Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964).

Lady Snowblood on The Criterion Channel Criterion

A younger lady (Meiko Kaji) is raised to turn into a vengeful killer in Woman Snowblood.

Whereas little or no on the service is technically new, the artistic minds on the Criterion Channel work arduous at making outdated stuff appear new and thrilling once more. A curated batch of movies arrives every month, reminiscent of February’s Sidney Poitier assortment, which incorporates a minimum of 17 movies, plus a video introduction to the collection. Earlier collections included a Burt Lancaster collection, “Movie Performs Itself” (i.e. movies in regards to the film enterprise), a Bette Davis collection, and movies about canine.

The channel additionally suggests double options that viewers can choose and bookmark. These embody brainy crime movies, reminiscent of Stephen Frears’s The Grifters (1990) paired with David Mamet’s Home of Video games (1987); or two movies tailored from the identical play: Jean Renoir’s The Decrease Depths (1936) and Akira Kurosawa’s The Decrease Depths (1957), for instance. The location additionally curates “Saturday Matinees,” or motion pictures which might be thought of not less than considerably child pleasant: Oliver!, The Courtroom Jester, The Black Stallion, The Adventures of Prince Achmed, et al).

10 criterionreview screenshot2 jma Criterion

The Criterion Channel presents plenty of steered double options, reminiscent of these two movies revolving round con artists: The Grifters and Home of Video games.

The channel doesn’t provide any TV collection to binge, except you depend auteur-friendly choices reminiscent of Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980), Ingmar Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander (1982), Robert Altman’s Tanner ‘88 (1988), or John Lurie’s Fishing with John (1992) that initially debuted on tv.

Some particular administrators have their very own collections, and sure Criterion titles which were launched on DVD and Blu-ray can be found to stream, full with all their bonus options and even commentary tracks. The service presents a commentary monitor for Taxi Driver by Martin Scorsese and screenwriter Paul Schrader, recorded means again in 1990 for the Criterion LaserDisc version. There are various brief featurettes unique to the positioning, with administrators speaking about their favourite motion pictures. Current Oscar-winner Bong Joon-ho paid a go to to the Criterion workplaces for one in every of these. A collection referred to as “Observations on Movie Artwork” takes an in-depth take a look at a few of the titles after (or earlier than) you watch the precise movie. And one other collection lets you watch a brief movie paired with a equally themed function movie.

criterion collection user interface Criterion

Further content material—starting from making-of documentaries to interviews with the celebs, administrators, and different artists—is a serious a part of The Criterion Assortment’s enchantment.

It’s not excellent

Sadly, as with most different streaming companies, movies expire once in a while. In October, 2019, for Halloween, the service added all 9 of the sensible “B”-level horror movies produced by Val Lewton between 1942 and 1946, and people are already gone. The Criterion Channel web site lists the films that shall be expiring on the finish of the month, so it’s straightforward to maintain monitor of wish to see earlier than it’s gone.

One other draw back is that the Criterion Channel app isn’t broadly accessible on good TVs apart from fashions that use the Amazon Fireplace TV, Android TV, or Roku working programs. There are additionally apps for Android and iOS cell gadgets, and for Amazon Fireplace TV, Apple TV, and Roku media streamers. However once you wish to handle your queue or change your account settings, it’s significantly better to log into your account utilizing an online browser. You may type the service’s complete assortment by style, yr, title, director, or nation, and there’s a “filter” button that permits for even deeper sorting. In the event you’re within the temper for a comedy, a children’ movie, an animated brief, a Western, or a film from Argentina or India, the web site is the place to go. Add a film to you watch checklist, after which carry up the app in your TV.

On a usability degree, the channel is each bit pretty much as good as the highest three streaming companies, with sturdy, clear image high quality, crisp sound, legible subtitles, and intuitive controls. The cell app works nice, too, and you’ll obtain content material for offline viewing. The one barely complicated factor is that the Roku model comes up with three choices, Search, Discover, and Library. It defaults to Discover, which primarily presents a lot of the new content material and curated lists. Library is the place you’ll discover your queue and lately watched titles, however “library” looks like the incorrect phrase for it.

The underside line

With the demise of such streaming companies as FilmStruck and We Are Colony, the Criterion Channel is likely one of the few video-on-demand companies to supply a deep library of basic movies, and it does so with a watch on movie preservation and historical past (Fandor is one other, although it’s extra targeted on indie movies and its future is cloudy). In the event you love motion pictures, or in case you miss the times of DVD and Blu-ray discs and all of the extras that include them (however don’t wish to take care of the fee or storage necessities related to that media), you’ll love the Criterion Channel.

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About Jeffrey M. Anderson

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