Top of the crop: Must see DVDs
The big story in DVD this past year would be the high definition DVD format war. My money is on Blu-Ray winning. Not because it’s any better than HD-DVD, but because its pretty, sky blue packaging is much more appealing to the eye than HD-DVD’s
Blade Runner (Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition)
Every edition of the film, each worth watching, is contained herein, including the infamous “workprint” that accidentally debuted at a film festival many years ago. The latest cut’s changes are subtle. Bad stunt wigs and Harrison Ford’s voiceovers are gone. The dove that Rutger Hauer’s replicant releases after expiring now flies off into the night rather than broad daylight. Director Ridley Scott has inserted some unicorn footage to help fuel the argument that Ford’s replicant-hunting detective is a replicant himself. A three-hour documentary on the film is a quality undertaking, as is all the cool stuff that comes with the set, including the nifty carrying case, a “spinner vehicle” replica and an origami unicorn. Best of the year by far.
(Warner Home Video Director’s Series)
The films of Stanley Kubrick have been out on DVD before, but these releases are the best editions yet of his work. This set includes freshly transferred versions of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket, The Shining and A Clockwork Orange. In some cases (especially The Shining and Clockwork) there are all new bonus features. And, damn, the movies look and sound great. In addition to standard DVD format, I’ve seen The Shining and 2001 in HD-DVD. It was a religious experience. If you don’t have a hi-def TV and some form of higher definition DVD player yet, ‘get cracking. All titles can be purchased individually, and HD-DVD and Blu-ray can only be purchased as single movies.
Knocked Up and Superbad (Extended and Unrated) 2-Disc Collector’s Editions
The funniest movies of the year, courtesy of the Judd Apatow comedy factory, followed up their theatrical releases with double-disc, unrated editions that improved upon the original versions. The deleted scenes on the Knocked Up disc are bountiful and great, while Everybody Hates Michael Cera is a highlight of the Superbad package.
Planet Earth (The Complete Series)
Mind-blowingly cool documentaries about Mother Earth, containing among it’s treasures that amazing footage of a Great White Shark grabbing a seal in mid-air. This is nice enough in standard DVD formats. If you can watch this in HD, you will never leave the house, become alienated and be spurned by pets. Trust me, it’s worth it.
The Larry Sanders Show: Not Just the Best Of
Garry Shandling’s groundbreaking series gets awesome home video treatment, with a selection of the best episodes and more than eight hours of new stuff. New material includes a feature length documentary on the show, audio commentaries and recent footage of Shandling visiting the likes of Sharon Stone. There’s also footage of the late Bruno Kirby performing one last gag with pal Shandling before leaving the planet. A fantastic TV show gets a happy DVD treatment.
Tom Goes to the Mayor: The Complete Series
The creative forces behind this show (affectionately known as Tim and Eric) are definitely an acquired taste. This set contains all of the bizarre animated episodes and worthwhile special features. Tim and Eric now have a live action show, Tim and Eric Awesome Show: Great Job!, currently in its second season on Adult Swim. You will love it or hate it. There is no in between.
Taxi Driver (Collector’s Edition)
Robert De Niro delivered his best ever performance in this, the story of Travis Bickle, sociopath taxi driver. Lots of interesting documentaries, with participation from director Martin Scorsese and De Niro. This will always be one of the greatest films ever made, and this is a DVD package worthy of it.
This 40th anniversary edition of one of the first true American “art” films is worth the price for the full feature commentary with stars Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross. That it’s a great movie only sweetens the pot.