Regrettably, there were few geek titles on Blu-Ray or DVD this year that blew me away this year so putting together a list of the best Blu-ray/DVD's of the year was a bit difficult.
In years past, collections like James Bond: 50th Anniversary Collection, The Aliens Quadrilogy, The Planet of the Apes Cycle and Blade Runner – The Final Cut easily topped any ‘best of’ list, however there still were some really wonderful releases to enjoy in 2013.
BREAKING BAD: THE COMPLETE SERIES (Sony)
Easily ranking alongside the greatest TV series of all-time including The Wire, the original Star Trek, Twilight Zone, and Mad Men, Sony has always done a spectacular job with Vince Gilligan’s masterful series on Blu-ray, but it’s even better to have all five seasons of the show in one collection along with the copious bonus features and a few nifty new treats, including an impressive two hour plus documentary about the making of the series, spotlighting the final eight episodes, which plays like a really entertaining high school yearbook. And for those who enjoy such things, there are also the usual kitschy collectibles you expect in such a set such as an El Pollo Hermanos apron. Great for cooking meth in.
ARGO: EXTENDED EDITION (Warner Bros)
Less than a year after the release of the Oscar winning Argo Blu-ray – which was entirely satisfactory to begin with – Warner Bros. tops the release with a slightly extended version that is even more laden with special features about both the real historical drama of Argo as well as the re-creating (and, in some cases, fabricating) of the real-life events. A good disc becomes a great disc with this well-warranted double-dip.
THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY – EXTENDED EDITION (Warner Bros)
Although I’m less enamored with Peter Jackson’s adaptation of The Hobbit than the previous Lord of the Rings Trilogy, there’s no denying that this release is an extraordinary accomplishment and does justice to the extended editions that preceded it; featuring literally hours of special features exploring the creation and making of the film. While few filmmakers today have the clout to pull off what Jackson does here, this massive effort is the template for what all blockbuster Blu-ray’s should be.
STAR TREK: THE NEXT GENERATION / STAR TREK: ENTERPRISE (CBS Home Video)
CBS Home Video continues its remarkable run with its enhanced ST: TNG releases whose behind-the-scenes special features set a new benchmark for TV bonus content along with the gorgeous restorations of the original episodes. Almost equally impressive is the far less entertaining series, Enterprise, which despite its lack of on-air dramatic pyrotechnics includes a lot more heat in its candid and eye-opening bonus content in which the cast and crew address what went right (and, more often, wrong) with the ill-fated prequel series. Both are must-own’s for Trek fans.
LIFEFORCE (Scream Factory) / CAT PEOPLE (Scream Factory)
Tobe Hooper’s camp classic gets the loving Shout Factory treatment here, featuring a beautiful transfer of the film’s international cut along with a coterie of special features including actress Mathilda May musing on her unforgettable nude scenes in one of the most absurd, but enjoyable cult classics of the ’80s. Shout Factory, which had a banner year across the board with some excellent re-releases and debuts on Blu-ray such as Saturn 3, also released director Paul Schrader’s 1982 gonzo remake of Cat People (although he denies it’s a remake). Some nice new supplemental interviews with the cast along with Schrader and composer Giorgio Moroder all improve dramatically over Universal’s original bare-bones DVD release.
OBLIVION (Universal) / JACK REACHER (Paramount)
Tom Cruise toplined two of the most solid genre pieces of the year. Oblivion is a visual tour de force – thanks to the efforts of director Joseph Kosinski – which combines a Kubrick-ian visual aesthetic with a true pulp sensibility and a few Twilight Zone-like twists. A solid disc is complimented by a nice array of bonus features and commentary. Another Cruise throwback that is immensely satisfying is Jack Reacher, an homage to ’70s action thrillers like Bullitt. Aside from being a smart and cerebral actioner, bonus features and commentary from director Chris McQuarrie, star Tom Cruise and composer Joe Kraemer are all immensely satisfying. Plus how can you go wrong with any film that has director Werner Herzog playing the villain?
SECONDS (Criterion) / EYES WITHOUT A FACE (Criterion)
John Frankenheimer’s ’60s nail-biter gets a beautiful BD release with re-purposed commentary, but new bonus features which re-evaluate this misunderstood classic. There’s also some great vintage footage of Rock Hudson shooting on set from a local newscast during production. Another undeservedly obscure horror classic gets the Criterion treatment, not to be confused with the Billy Idol song of the same name: Eyes Without A Face. Both are must-own’s.
THE RIGHT STUFF: 30th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Warner Bros)
So great to finally have this milestone film on Blu-ray by the brilliant and underrated Phillip Kaufman in a beautiful Warner Bros. digibook with a stunning new transfer of this movie masterpiece.
CLEOPATRA: 50th ANNIVERSARY EDITION (Fox) / HEAVEN’S GATE (Criterion)
Two films that nearly destroyed their respective studios both came to Blu-ray this year. Cleopatra incorporates much of the spectacular Five-Star Edition material from several years ago and gets a gorgeous new transfer. While the film itself is worth a revisit, the behind-the-scenes drama is even more absorbing in the hours of bonus material.
As for Heaven’s Gate, this deeply misunderstood film gets the lavish Criterion treatment, and while it largely ignores the ignominy that the film has suffered in the wake of its disastrous release, the film itself is still an impressive effort from director Michael Cimino that is decidedly in need of re-evaluation.
One of the best of the Bond’s gets a stellar video and audio transfer, among the year’s best. Special features are adequate, but not nearly to the level one would expect given the long history of magnificent special features that have accompanied many of the 007 films in the past. I suspect we’ll be seeing special editions of this and Quantum of Solace when the next Bond movie debuts in 2015.
For my complete list of the Best DVD’s of 2013, visit digitalbits.com.