Best New Movies on The Criterion Channel in April 2022

A new month means new programming on The Criterion Channel. April sports new collections and the Criterion Edition debut for several legendary filmmakers, and it kicks off a bit of a digital blaxploitation fest, along with other movie compilations. Here are seven of the best deals.

Across 110th Street (1972)


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Available: April 1st

Directed by: Barry Shear

Written by: Luther Davis

To throw: Anthony Quinn, Yaphet Kotto, Anthony Franciosa

Providing a satisfactory definition of “blaxploitation” requires squaring up the definition of “exploitation” when it comes to film subgenres. Not everyone agrees on the latter’s definition, but there is a lot of overlapping opinion when it comes to their elements. They’re often cheaply made (some might even say cheap) and involve dramatizing visceral impulses, often adult in nature, with a free pass in indulgence. Violence, sex-but-maybe-not-romance, bloody revenge, foul language. By the 1970s, many other films were being made to serve African-American (and generally black) audiences, and many of them were exploitation films. The president of the NAACP, in 1972, coined the term blaxploitation to denigrate the practice, but that term stuck, and now is what these tense, gleefully confrontational, often urban movies are fondly called.

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Across 110th Street is one of the most expert entries in this canon. Quentin Tarantino finalists will recognize his famous theme song as a prominent drop in this director’s tribute to the era, Jackie Brown. 110th has all the trappings of a solid crime thriller and the 1970s commitment to no shots. It’s about two cops – a jaded white force veteran, an African American rookie – tracking down a group of crooks who robbed six figures from the mob. Of course the mafia boss is ruthlessly evil, and of course he hunts down these crooks as well. This film has a procedural structure, mixes in social commentary, but, above all, is compelling action noir. Well shot, well paced and well edited.

Blue Velvet: Criterion Collection Edition (1986)


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Image via De Laurentiis Entertainment Group

Available: April 1st

Directed by: David Lynch

Written by: David Lynch

To throw: Kyle MacLachlan, Isabella Rossellini, Dennis Hopper, Laura Dern

April may just be a dark month. A slice of art like David Lynchit’s blue velvet is so versatile in its mental and sensory polls that ten viewers could walk away from it with ten different gender classifications in mind, and some can walk on without bothering to classify at all. To be reductive on this subject, blue velvet is a psychedelic film noir, with an energy so unsettling that it could be perceived by anxious people as a horror image. At this point, the fact that Lynch could create unsettling narrative dreamscapes is taken for granted, but in 1986 he stood out. Dunes, a big-budget sci-fi adaptation that didn’t make a ton of money. On this commercial level, the man felt that he had failed. This movie itself wasn’t entirely its own vision either – for all the tentpole studio’s reasons – and so it felt like it failed twice. Going forward, he pledged never to fail this last artistic test again.


blue velvet is his debut under this new resolution, and it earned him an Oscar nomination for directing and a mind-blowing wave of influence he’s still riding on. So much ink has been spilled over this movie, but the only logical thing to do is watch it.

The Last Picture Show (1971)


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Image via Columbia Pictures

Available: April 1st

Directed by: Peter Bogdanovitch

Written by: Larry McMurtry, Peter Bogdanovitch

To throw: Timothy Bottoms, Jeff Bridges, Ellen Burstyn, Ben Johnson, Cloris Leachman, Cybill Shepherd

Many of director John Ford’s excellent films are on the Criterion Channel lineup this month, but this slot is dedicated to one of his sidekicks, Peter Bogdanovitch. fans of The Sopranos will know the late director as an actor, as he played Dr. Kupferberg, Dr. Melfi’s therapist. The last picture show is his fourth directorial credit, and clearly the one that caught the industry’s attention. He has been nominated for eight Oscars and numerous other awards. Based on the novel of the same name by its co-screenwriter, author Larry McMurtry (worth Googling for the multitude of other great movies his books have spawned), it tells the coming-of-age story of two high school friends in a lonely, fictional town in the Texas. It has the energy of a western but is about the seeding of this city, its booming oil days behind it, and any semblance of a future existing only outside its borders. Bogdanovich imbues it with the exuberant, excited energy of youth and the sadness of an important moment in history coming to an end.


4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (2007)


4 months 3 weeks 2 days

Available: April 1st

Directed by: Christian Mungiu

Written by: Christian Mungiu

To throw: Adi Cărăuleanu, Luminița Gheorghiu, Mădălina Ghițescu, Vlad Ivanov

Set in the 1980s, the location of this Palme D’or winner is Romania, during the final days of that country’s communist dictatorship. Its protagonists are two university students who must cross the abandoned and half-dark streets of Bucharest in search of an illegal abortion. At the time, in the country where they live, all abortions were illegal, meaning there was no medical supervision to ensure a safe procedure. The penalties were possible mutilation, but also additional punishment for the two girls by the communist government. Filmed in a truthdocumentary-style, the film is a thriller, one that tells the story of a dangerous journey – with the interesting and menacing characters that a hero tends to encounter on such quests – which is a descent into darkness, with a palpable menace, art and drama to spare, and the audacity to pull off all his emotional acts.


Last Year at Marienbad: Criterion Collection Edition (1961)


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Available: April 1st

Directed by: Alain Resnais

Written by: Alain Resnais

To throw: Delphine Seyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoeff

Often described as a puzzle, this film deconstructs the idea of ​​the rules of the medium, delivering enigmatic French New Wave drama. It’s surreal, serving the events of the present as well as the past. This past, however, could be completely made up. Its characters dress impeccably and hang out in an equally luxurious European hotel. They don’t have names. The man wants the woman to believe they’ve met before, but have they? The film never settles on an answer. It contains elements of parody without being technically entirely parody. Its wonderful shot composition, music, sense of flow, and entertaining narrative nuggets land it on many lists of the best movies ever made. His refusal to give answers makes him highly reviewable and highly dissectable.

Better Luck Tomorrow (2002)


better luck tomorrow

Available: April 1st

Directed by: Justin Lin

Written by: Ernesto Foronda, Justin Lin, Fabian Marquez

To throw: Parry Shen, Jason Tobin, Sung Kang, Roger Fan, John Cho

This coming-of-age crime drama, which premiered at Sundance, is the second feature from Justin Linwho, four years later, will direct Fast and Furious: Tokyo Driftwho would start his road to be the godfather of this franchise. better luck tomorrow unfolds the tale of a group of Asian American teenagers (doing great things with their lives in every way) who are bored with the baggage of expectation and the doldrums of success, trading that for a life of criminal misadventures. Far from being a feel-good story about high school life in sunny California, it delves into dark Scorsese-influenced degradation and the stylish violence of indie films. It caused a bit of controversy for Lin, but found defenders in Roger Ebert (who enjoyed it vocally) and, curiously, MC Hammer (whose infusion of cash would help get the picture done in the first place). spectator of the Fast and Furious movies know that Lin directs with talent and energy, and both are on display here. It’s a movie that tackles serious themes and difficult material, but it’s a Justin Lin movie, so that makes it a lot of fun to watch.


Ministry of Fear (1944)


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Available: April 1st

Directed by: Fritz Lang

Written by: Seton I. Miller

To throw: Ray Milland, Marjorie Reynolds

Another Criterion-approved black for the road. According to the novel of the same name, ministry of fear has quite the premise: an innocent man, recently released from a mental institution, wins a delicious cake, by accident. Inside this cake is a roll of microfilm. On this microfilm are incriminating Nazi secrets. Predictably, these Nazi villains must hunt down our hero in search of that precious MacGuffin. World War II wasn’t even over yet, and here is this image, struggling with its iconography to tell not a propaganda story, but a story of tension and fear so well executed that the Coen Brothers would pay homage to one of his landmark scenes in their masterful single blood. Fritz Lang was a prolific director – his German-language offering M a first entry into the serial killer subgenre, should also be sought after – and the air of doom he brought to his early German films is all over this Hollywood production.


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