Monday, December 24, 2012
My Top Five DVD/Blu-rays Of 2012
Most new movies released on home video are given the same generic treatment--the same usual featurettes, where the cast & crew go on about how "This is the best script I've ever read!" or "I've always wanted to work with this director!" If you want me to talk about some Will Ferrell movie, or THE AVENGERS, or BRAVE, I suggest you go to the "US Weekly" website.
Great DVD/Blu-ray releases are becoming fewer and fewer, because just about all the studios now release their older product on DVD-R. While that means a number of films that probably would never see the light of day are now being released, it also means no more special features, or audio commentaries, or remastered editions. It's way cheaper to slap an old movie on DVD-R than it is to do all the work needed to prepare a "special edition". There are still some companies who take the time and trouble to make a DVD/Blu-ray release a worthy purchase--companies such as Kino, Criterion, and a few others.
But don't worry--if you are a film buff and like spending all your hard-earned money on this stuff, there are still plenty of things available for you. Here, in my extremely humble opinion, are the best DVD/Blu-rays of 2012:
1. ALL QUIET ON THE WESTERN FRONT (Blu-ray) from Universal
The reason I picked this number one is because of the incredible restoration that was done on this title. ALL QUIET was made in 1930, and the Blu-ray version looks like it was made yesterday. The silent version of ALL QUIET is included as well, and a nice little booklet about the production is part of the packaging.
2. TWINS OF EVIL (Blu-ray) from Synapse
Of course, I have to pick a Hammer film starring Peter Cushing. TWINS had not been available in any Region One format until this release, and Synapse has done this film up right, with a number of special features. There's an all-new documentary, THE FLESH AND THE FURY: X-POSING TWINS OF EVIL, which is almost as long as the actual film, and is one of the best extras put on a DVD in years. There's also a look at the Hammer Props collection of studio historian Wayne Kinsey. I'm sure a lot of people will think it's crazy to go to all this effort for a vampire film that isn't really one of Hammer's best efforts (some of my Facebook friends won't like me saying that), but I think Synapse should commended, especially in an age where most "big name" movies don't get a home video showcase like this.
3. LONESOME (Blu-ray) from Criterion
This is actually a set of films from experimental Hungarian filmmaker Paul Fejos, made during his time at Universal Studios in the late 1920s. LONESOME is kind of like a version of SUNRISE set in urban America. The other two movies included here are THE LAST PERFORMANCE, starring Conrad Veidt and Mary Philbin, and the early talkie-part musical BROADWAY. I didn't really know much about Fejos until I bought this. This set is filled with documentaries and a audio commentary which tell about the man. Only Criterion would put out something like this--and it's a good thing that there is a company which does that.
4. FRANK CAPRA: THE EARLY COLLECTION (DVD) from Sony/TCM Vault Collection
I wrote a blog about this earlier. Hopefully this release will be popular enough to induce Sony to finally put out all the other Frank Capra movies still unavailable on home video.
5. WINGS (Blu-ray) from Paramount
WINGS is of course the first film to win the Academy Award for Best Picture. The movie's restoration looks great, and among the features are a re-recording of the film's original score, and a special effects track prepared by Ben Burtt (the man behind the sound of the STAR WARS series).
NOTE: I chose the films for this list from my own collection. The fact that I work for a living means I can't buy everything, so if you are wondering why, say, something like the Universal Blu-ray box set of their monster movies is not on here, it's because I don't own it. However, if anyone out there would like to send me money to buy any products that you feel should be on this list......