5. Dr. Strangelove
I’m in love with beautiful transfers on movies of old. In 2008, I named Dr. No as the best Blu-ray release of the year because even though it was shot in 1963, the movie looked as though it had just wrapped, and a young Sean Connery existed today. The same can be said for Dr. Strangelove, Stanley Kubrick’s beautiful black and white parody of Cold War era military politics. The likes of Peter Sellers and George C. Scott were at the top of their game in ’64, and we’re more than blessed to have it come to life in such a vivid, all-encompassing way in ’09. The featurettes are long, but deeply fascinating. The packaging includes a book that is worth a read as well. All-in-all, Strangelove could very well teach you how to learn to love the Blu-ray format.
4. Pixar’s Up
There is no substitute for Pixar. And in the releasing of their movies on the Blu-ray format, Pixar and their parent company Disney have found a groove. This year they brought Monsters Inc. to Blu and it was amazing. Last year, Wall-E was dazzling in HD. But none of these can top the quality we saw with the incredibly charming, heartfelt story of Up on the high definition format. The movie was vibrant and beautifully animated, the special features were off the chart, and the release came with both Digital Copy and a standard DVD copy of the movie. As we’ve seen from Disney before, it was the perfect item for anyone with or without a Blu-ray player.
3. The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Collector’s Set
Having seen The Wizard of Oz in high definition on TNT last year during the holiday season, I couldn’t wait to see it on Blu-ray. There is so much color and life in this film that it’s hard to imagine that we’re celebrating its 70th anniversary. But we are, and this Blu-ray came to party with bells on. With hour upon hour of special features — everything from radio promos and theater broadcasts to featurettes about Victor Fleming and an HD-exclusive documentary about MGM, this release was a completist’s wet dream. It’s likely that there is not a more definitive record of this film anywhere in the world. And with wonderfully sturdy packaging and a few sweet little gifts, it is the perfect addition to any collection.
2. North by Northwest: 50th Anniversary Edition
Who doesn’t love the work of Alfred Hitchcock? If your hand is raised, please leave this website and never come back. We don’t have any advice for you. Actually we do, but it would be to go back and watch Hitchcock’s mastery again, and again, until you see what the rest of us see: unmatched brilliance. That said, it is easy to see why I went ga-ga over North by Northwest (a personal favorite of mine) when it hit Blu-ray. Not only has Hitch’s epic chase flick never looked better, it comes with two Blu-ray exclusive featurettes that shed even more light on the brilliance man behind the camera. It was more than just an entertaining thriller with a few iconic shots and a hot blonde at its heart, but a true work of art from top to bottom, just the way Hitchcock made it.
1. Star Trek
Choosing the best Blu-ray release of the year was tough. Do I choose one of the classic releases, which took years to restore and transfer to high definition? Or do I go with one of the ’09 releases that dazzled us in theaters, then months later drove the experience home with a stockpile of special features? In the end, I just couldn’t resist the Herculean effort that went into the assembly of J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek on Blu-ray. Over 30 behind the scenes featurettes, all just as interesting as the last, a gag reel for the ages, and a movie that exists as a truly wonderful rebirth of one of the most beloved sci-fi franchises of all-time. How could I resist? This disc boldly goes to a place where so few Blu-ray releases go, in the category of first-run wonders. There’s no need for a special collector’s edition later, or an ultimate director’s cut in a year. It is all here, done right the first time.