November tends to be the biggest month of the year for the Criterion Collection, the boutique home video company releasing some of their most exciting releases in time for the holiday shopping season. And, lucky for us, that trend continues in 2016, as Criterion has just revealed this year’s batch of November titles, and the slate includes some absolutely major must-owns. From Paul Thomas Anderson finally joining the Collection (and bringing Adam Sandler along with him!) to a series of samurai films that have never gotten their proper due, these are movies that are worth stampeding for on Black Friday.
Check out Criterion’s full November 2016 slate below, listed in rough order of our excitement for each title. And be sure to visit Criterion’s website for full release info.
1. “Punch-Drunk Love” (dir. Paul Thomas Anderson, 2002). #843
It was only a matter of time before Paul Thomas Anderson finally joined the Criterion Collection, but his introduction to the canon is coming in an unexpected (if hugely welcome) form. 2002’s “Punch-Drunk Love” has always been the odd man out of PTA’s career, a mesmerizing and lyrical oddball romance that mined unknown (and unduplicated) depths from its leading man.
Pairing a mumble-mouthed Adam Sandler with an open-hearted Emily Watson, the film is singular even among the auteur’s signature works, as tipsy and off-key as the harmonium that ribbons through it. Graced with some of Philip Seymour Hoffman’s most quotable genius (“Shut shut shut shut shut shut shut the fuck up!”), “Punch-Drunk Love” is the rare romance that captures the bravery of falling in love, the strength of being in love, and the destructive tendencies that can mash two people together. Criterion’s edition includes a handful of deleted scenes, new interviews with composer Jon Brion, and — of course — Anderson’s 12-minute souvenir, “Blood and Blossoms.”
2. “Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams” (dir. Akira Kurosawa, 1990). #842
Akira Kurosawa was 80 years old when production began on “Dreams,” but the legendary auteur still had plenty that he wanted to say before his eventual death eight years later. Made, as several of his later works were, with the assistance of George Lucas, Steven Spielberg, and Francis Ford Coppola (Martin Scorsese even cameos as Vincent van Gogh), the lyrical omnibus film does exactly what it says on the tin: It vividly realizes nine of Kurosawa’s dreams. As uneven as nearly all projects of its kind tend to be, “Dreams” is flecked with moments of wistful beauty, and embraces a degree of unvarnished sentimentality unlike anything the master had made since 1947’s “One Wonderful Sunday.”
Even the least compelling segments are buoyed by an autobiographical immediacy, and the ones that bookend the film are as heartbreaking and essential as anything Kurosawa ever made. This would be his last masterpiece. Now, it’s Criterion’s most loaded release of the month, as it comes complete with a new audio commentary by scholar Stephen Price, the 150-minute making-of doc shot by “House” director Nobuhiko Obayashi, a bevy of new interviews with crew members, an essay by the great Bilge Ebiri, and more.
3. “One-Eyed Jacks” (dir. Marlon Brando, 1961). #844
“One-Eyed Jacks” debuted in 1961, and that was pretty much the last time you could watch a decent version of it. The first and only film directed by Marlon Brando (yeah, that Marlon Brando), this Western about a robbery gone wrong may not match up to one-hit wonders like “The Night of the Hunter,” but it’s still much more than a footnote from the pages of film history.
Starring Brando as a pistol-packing womanizer who finds himself wracked between conflicting desires, and shot to VistaVision perfection by the great cinematographer Charles Lang, the film is a major coup for Criterion, and their version boasts a new introduction by Martin Scorsese in addition to an array of new video essays and voice-recording excerpts made by Brando during the production (a habit familiar to anyone who’s seen “Listen to Me Marlon”).
4. “The Squid and the Whale” (dir. Noah Baumbach, 2005). #845
These days, Noah Baumbach is rightly considered to be as much a fixture of the indie scene as Wes Anderson or Quentin Tarantino, but it took the acerbic auteur a little bit more time to connect with an audience beyond the film festival bubble. While 1995’s “Kicking and Screaming” was simmering into future classic status, Baumbach spent the better part of a decade trying to gin up the movie that might best express his talents.
2005’s “The Squid and the Whale” did the job and then some. A savagely autobiographical Brooklyn story that’s set during the aftermath of a bitter falling out between two novelists whose careers are going in opposite directions, the film cuts to the core of what makes Baumbach tick, and this new edition finds him reflecting on the experience of making it in a series of new interviews.
5. “Lone Wolf & Cub” (dir. Kenji Misumi, Buichi Saito, and Yoshiyuki Kuroda,1972 — 1974). #841
Six films have been adapted from this famous manga series by Kazuo Koike and Goseki Kojima, and this year’s November box set (a Criterion tradition) is going to collect all of them for your viewing pleasure. The hyper-violent story of an executioner-turned-assassin who wanders the Japanese countryside with his infant son looking for revenge, these bloody B-movies are lynchpins of the chanbara genre for good reason.
Endlessly referenced but seldom actually seen, this collection is poised to give the “Lone Wolf and Cub” movies the overdue respect they deserve. New interviews, a silent doc from 1937 about samurai swords, the 1980 “Shogun Assassin” which garishly cuts together the first two films, and a whole lot more.