Even better than the real thing

The top 10 best DVDs of 2006

The movies and shows that made it onto my list of the year’s finest DVDs were selected for a combination of their main content and special features. So you won’t find anything like Pirates of the Caribbean 2 in here, even though its special features were exceptional. (The movie blew!)

Mind you, I have yet to give either Blu-Ray or HD DVD a chance, so these discs are strictly old-school format stuff. This year, I will invest in one of the new formats and basically start all over again with the DVD collection. Just the thought of the organizational nightmare this will birth makes me want to go Netflix. I spent a lot of dough on my movies, and now I have to reboot. Screw you studios! You are a burr in my side!

Please excuse me. Here is a list of the 10 best DVDs for 2006. I would like to take this time to praise television show DVDs. Yes, I spend thousands of dollars per year on premium channels I never watch, and then I indulge myself in the DVD encapsulation of all the shows I’ve missed. My wallet is taking some major double hits. I keep HBO because The Sopranos will eventually come on again, and that is a show I watch when it airs.

Sorry, I wandered again. Here’s the list.

1) Rocky (Two-Disc Collector’s Edition)
At the beginning of 2006, I had two DVD commentary wishes. Number one would be a Steven Spielberg commentary for Jaws, and that will never happen. Number two would be to hear Sylvester Stallone gabbing about his boxing masterpiece. Not only did I get my wish, but the man also delivers with one of the best film commentaries ever recorded. Funny, insightful and honest, I will watch this again and again. On top of this greatness, the double disc set offers plenty of documentaries and classic trailers for the Rocky fan. If you buy this DVD, you can get a ticket to see Rocky Balboa, which is quite great for a geriatric boxer movie. Hey, Stallone does it again.

2) Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut
One of the single coolest feats produced for DVD. Richard Donner had shot a bunch of footage for Superman II while filming the original Superman, then he got his ass fired and replaced by Richard Lester. While the theatrical cut contained much of the footage Donner shot, Lester’s version relied on slapstick. With this disc, Donner gets a chance to show off his original vision—a vastly different motion picture. Biggest change: Marlon Brando reappears as Superman’s dad. (A contract dispute with Brando resulted in Superman talking with his mom for the theatrical cut).

3) Midnight Cowboy/ All the President’s Men/ Dog Day Afternoon
Here is a lot of deserved “special” treatment for some of history’s finest films. Each of these got double-disc treatment with loads of extras. They contain so many extras that it’s pretty much guaranteed that two birthdays will pass if you attempt to take them all in at one sitting.

4) The Best of The Electric Company
Some ‘70s kids got it on with Sesame Street, some mellowed out with Mister Rogers, but others (such as myself) were addicted to The Electric Company. Watching this show for the first time as an adult (thanks to the DVD), I was surprised to find out how “grown up” the comedy sketches were and how hip the music was. I also learned how to spell cat. C-A-T.

5) A Scanner Darkly
While Richard Linklater’s rotoscoping animation looked cool enough on the big screen, it absolutely pops on TV, especially if you own a hi-def set. The colors, oh, the colors. This contains an excellent commentary with the actual Keanu Reeves and a well-done making-of documentary.

6) That’s My Bush/Stella
Two great Comedy Central shows that never had a chance. I still meet people who have no idea that Trey Parker and Matt Stone had made a parody of Three’s Company set in the current White House with Timothy Bottoms playing George W. Bush. That’s My Bush, a gutsy, bizarre comedy, had its first season end right before 9/11 and, oddly enough, was not renewed. Stella takes the cream of comedy troupe The State (Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter and David Wain) and offers some of the strangest sketch comedy of recent years. The episode where the boys opt for hanging out at the coffee shop ("The ultimate hang zone!") should’ve won somebody an Emmy.

7) Masters of Horror
Showtime television’s original—and remarkably sick—horror anthology gets some nice DVD treatments for movies directed by such horror maestros as John Carpenter, Dario Argento and John Landis. The show employs some very inventive effects artists, and those who like their gore will be pleased. While not all of the movies are first rate, the special features usually are amazing.

8) Eraserhead
OK, the lone exception on the list. The special features are weak, but finally having this on DVD makes it worthy of a spot. We still need a better DVD release for Lost Highway, and when is the rest of Twin Peaks coming out? Come on David Lynch, get on your horse!

9) Baby Doll/ A Streetcar Named Desire
Warner Home Video has been doing a stellar job with classic films, and these Elia Kazan classics got supreme treatment this past year. While most are familiar with Marlon Brando’s T-shirt-donning performance in Streetcar, Baby Doll had become somewhat of a forgotten film. The movie is controversial even by today’s standards, and it contains an incredible performance from Karl Malden. They can be purchased separately or as part of the excellent Tennessee Williams Film Collection.

10) Robot Chicken- Season One
Ultimate geek Seth Green presents satirical sketches using action figures via stop motion animation. Sounds totally messed up, and it is. It’s also one of the more consistently funny DVDs on the market at this moment. I’m especially fond of a Tooth Fairy sketch where the lady gets proactive in preventing some domestic violence. Plenty of commentaries and behind-the-scenes stuff make it a great package.

While I won’t provide a list of the year’s worst, I will spew some bile at Universal Home Video for tricking me into buying their 21 Grams: Special Edition DVD. The first edition, which I possessed and sold in anticipation of the Special Edition, had no special features. The Special Edition had a crappy short on the film’s director, and that’s it. They even kept the same artwork. Read the labels ladies and gentleman. Read the labels, lest you be screwed.