Disc fever

Bob Grimm hustles the year’s best DVD packages for home viewing

This year, Blu-ray officially won its high-definition war with HD-DVD. So much for my HD-DVD add-on for the Xbox 360. Dumbest purchase … EVER!!! I watched, maybe, 10 films on the thing. Taking into account what I paid for the damned player, that’s about $55 a viewing if you factor in the cost of the DVDs. I’m an idiot, and I should not be allowed to have money.

While my list of the year’s best DVDs includes some Blu-rays, studios are still putting out plenty of good stuff in the standard format for those of you justifiably hesitant about upgrading. So plenty of the &$147regular” DVD stuff still makes the list. If you do upgrade to Blu-ray soon, get a current model. The older models require lots of firmware updates, with some of them unable to play certain discs and features. It’s headache fuel.

Here’s a list of the 10 best DVDs of 2008, taking into account movie content, special features and packaging. Fans of the mighty St. Bernard, I’m sorry to inform you that Beethoven’s Big Break did not make the list because, well, it sucked ass.

1. The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration (Blu-ray)
Director Francis Ford Coppola personally supervised the digital restoration of his classic mafia series, and the results are top notch. The damned thing is so beautiful, you’ll actually find yourself liking The Godfather: Part III! As for supplements, the Coppola commentaries are carried over from previous editions, but you do get some new documentaries and, of course, stunning picture and sound. Sofia Coppola’s pouting face has never been so vibrant. Coppola still loves his movies, for sure. Make a fourth one, Francis! Come on, I dare ya!

2. Spaced: The Complete Series
Simon Pegg basically got his start with this show, which is about two roommates pretending to be a couple so they can rent an apartment. The series has a great geek sensibility, with lots of humor about Star Wars and pop culture. The package contains a huge documentary and commentaries from the likes of Kevin Smith, Bill Hader and Quentin Tarantino. Many hours of fun-filled viewing, provide enough good energy to enable forgiveness toward Pegg for Run Fatboy Run. For those who love British humor, this package and the next one are mandatory purchases.

3. The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus (Collector’s Edition)
This classic comedy series has been on DVD before, but this is the coolest packaging yet. It comes with every episode of the show, lots of live stuff, including the film Live At the Hollywood Bowl, and all of the “Personal Best” DVDs, with each Python picking their favorite sketches. You’ll also find two new, extremely excellent documentaries featuring all of the surviving members reminiscing. It gets high marks for packaging that’s a lot smaller than previous editions, creating more space on shelves for movie collectible toys and sports trophies. Like any geek would have both of those.

4. Tropic Thunder: Unrated Director’s Cut (Blu-Ray)
Director Ben Stiller went all out on his Hollywood spoof, employing a crew that knew how to make a movie look good. It features some of the year’s best comic performances, and this edition throws in some extra scenes for good measure. The DVD has two commentaries, one with Stiller and his crew, the other with Stiller and his cast. One of the year’s best supplemental features is “Rain of Madness,” an insanely funny mockumentary on the making of Thunder.

5. The Little Rascals: The Complete Collection
The short film that introduced Spanky McFarland to the world is a classic, Jackie Cooper was one of the funniest child actors ever, and Stymie ruled all creation. This collection gathers together all of the “talkie” shorts from yesteryear. They are unedited, so you will see some racist stuff that will make you cringe. Still, The Little Rascals was one of the first productions to show white and African-American kids playing together and being friends, so it all sort of balances out. This is one of the programs I got to watch whenever I ditched school.

6. Abbott & Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures Collection
I got to watch these movies when I ditched church. Too cool for words—28 movies, all in one place for you to peruse and cherish. You get all of those awesome A&C monster movies, Abbott & Costello Go to Mars, and many others. You also get a nice collectible book and hours of bonus features. Lou Costello rocked, especially when he did the wheezy-crying thing. Bud Abbott was kind of boring, but I guess that was his job.

7. The Dark Knight: Two-Disc Special Edition (Blu-ray)
This one is a no-brainer. One of the year’s finest and best-looking movies is no letdown on the smaller screen. Those action scenes that director Christopher Nolan shot in IMAX will make you more than happy about the tons of cash you’ve been spilling into your entertainment system. It would’ve been higher up on the list if the features were better. There’s almost nothing about Heath Ledger’s contributions, which is a shame.

Pixar served up another classic with this tale of a garbage robot cleaning up the planet long after humans have abandoned it. Pixar movies give hi-def equipment a wonderful workout, and this is one of those films you can’t take your eyes off of. It’s also one of the strangest G-rated movies ever made. Seriously, it’s pretty dark for a children’s movie, and I think it’s having an effect. I saw some kids beating up on some punk who didn’t drop his glass bottle in the proper recycling receptacle the other day. OK … I’m lying. But I can dream, can’t I?

9. 30 Rock: Season 2
Tina Fey’s show is the kind of consistent brilliance you never see in a sitcom. It’s even funnier than Seinfeld. (Jerry actually stops by for a hilarious cameo in this season.) Alec Baldwin is perfectly sinister as an NBC executive, Fey is a total delight, and Tracy Morgan is warped on many levels. Every episode is funny, and it’s loaded with features. For those of you too lazy to TiVo, this package is paradise.

10. Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (Season One)
Tim and Eric are totally nuts, and their show comes off as something like Mr. Show on shrooms. Mr. Show’s Bob Odenkirk is a creative consultant on the series and, thankfully, he makes plenty of appearances. It’s worth the price of the disc for John C. Reilly’s Dr. Steve Bruhle segments. The show has had three seasons already, and if this one whets your appetite, you can get the others on iTunes. You haven’t lived until you’ve seen the music video for “Poke On!”