Whether they are hitting shelves This Week in DVD or This Week in Blu-ray, chances are slim that a great home video release gets by either Rob Hunter or Neil Miller. Together, they provide some of the blogosphere’s most consistent (ok, mostly Rob, but you get the idea) coverage of the best take-homes from week to week. Whether you’re using them to help you fill your shopping cart or your Netflix queue, surveys have shown that you are using them. And with 2010 coming to a close, we thought it only fitting to give these two shut-ins a shot at listing their favorite home video releases of the year. From the fun to the feature-filled, there were plenty of great releases from which to choose. So prepare yourself, as you always do, to sacrifice the weight of your pocketbook in exchange for in-home cinematic bliss.
Note: All titles are linked to Amazon, where you can find out more about each release and perhaps even buy it, thus supporting all that is good and righteous in the world (i.e. Rob Hunter’s Asian importing fetish — Asian DVD importing fetish, that is.)
Like its DTS-encoded predecessor on DVD, Steven Spielberg’s modern epic is one of those fine reference discs that demands space in any home theater aficionado’s collection. What better way to stretch your fancy system’s limits and test its boundaries than with Spielberg’s intense take on the D-Day invasion of Normandy. The only thing that could feel more real would be if your own intestines were blasted out of your mid-section, spilling blood and Cheetos onto your carpet. We don’t even care about its pedestrian special features, the picture and sound quality alone make it a must-already-own disc. - Neil Miller
So why include a title on this list that isn’t jam-packed with special features or presented in ultimate high definition goodness or packaged in a cool as hell DVD case? Because when it comes down to it the contents of the DVD are the most important factor, and this movie from director Armando Iannucci is probably the funniest movie released onto DVD this year. The dialogue is rapid-fire fast and sharp as a scalpel, and both of those factors contribute to the film’s high replay value. That and you’ll find yourself missing funny bits because you’re still laughing hysterically at something spoken minutes earlier. Peter Capaldi’s performance in particular is a torrent of verbal venom creatively laced with absolutely brilliant obscenities. This DVD should be in every person’s home for when the world outside gets you down and you’re feeling depressed. And in case a neighbor inquires if you know what ever happened to that Chlumsky kid from My Girl. - Rob Hunter
Who needs a theatrical release? Not Joss Whedon. With the writer’s strike in full effect, the famed producer of Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Firefly set out to make a simple musical number with his brother and a few famous friends. It was charming. We saw that coming a mile away. What we didn’t see coming was the fact that it was infectious, thanks in great part to a wonderful performance from Neil Patrick Harris as the title character. It dominated the charts of iTunes then lept onto Blu-ray and DVD, complete with one of the single greatest commentary tracks in the history of cinema. Right up there with Roger Ebert on the Citizen Kane DVD must go Joss Whedon and cast’s Commentary: The Musical. It is truly magical. - Neil Miller
Yeah, I’m surprised to be including something from The History Channel too, but I was really impressed with the series when I featured it in the DVD column some months ago. A bevy of scholars and celebrities take a look at the founding and building of the United States of America with live-action reenactments and some very cool CGI recreations. The show keeps things moving at a brisk pace while hitting all the salient points you should have been taught in school but probably weren’t. A series like this demands to be seen, so buy it and watch it with your kids. Or by yourself. Or borrow your neighbor’s kids like I did. (Just don’t forget to give them back.) You’ll be entertained and informed, but odds are good that you’ll also be enlightened. A lot of things went right to keep this country of ours on track, and it’s mostly due to a lot of brave, smart, and strong people who cared. It would be nice to see that kind of spirit return. -Rob Hunter
These fine folks have been churning out quality DVDs for a few years now with a focus on beloved TV shows, music, and the occasional film, but 2010 saw them begin something truly special. Roger Corman’s Cult Classics started hitting shelves back in May with the release of Suburbia and Rock ‘n’ Roll High School, and fourteen more titles have followed including crazy classics like Starcrash, Piranha, Humanoids From the Deep, and The Slumber Party Massacre. In addition to paying a long overdue tribute to the collected works of uber-producer Roger Corman the series is also collecting some incredibly fun flicks. The discs feature new transfers as well as new extras, and some of the titles are actually making their DVD debut with this collection. The series looks to continue being a monthly gift to Corman fans and genre fans alike well into next year. The only thing that could have improved these releases would be numbered spines… but my wallet is thankful Shout! Factory didn’t think of that first. -Rob Hunter
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You won’t be surprised to see a release from The Criterion Collection on our list of favorites. In fact, when narrowing such a list down to a final ten it’s difficult not to want to include every Criterion release from the year. Then again, we’ve got an entirely separate list for that. We do, however, want to highlight the very best of them — and perhaps highlight one of the very best and most influential films of all-time. Akira Kurosawa’s 4-hour feudal epic has never looked so good and it’s never been surrounded by such depth of extras as it is in this release. It gives new life to the concept of comprehensive. Significantly cheaper than a college-level film studies class and perhaps even more rewarding, this set is not to be ignored. Else you may find yourself on the wrong end of a Toshiro Mifune attack. - Neil Miller
I pimped this already in my DVD column as well as a stand alone review, but goddamn this set is just so perfectly designed that I’m including it here too. The first bionic hero remains the best as Lee Majors stars in this TV hit from the mid to late seventies, and it receives fantastic treatment with this collection from TimeLife which is easily the best designed/packaged box set of the year. The cool and practical case features a lenticular image on the cover and an audio chip that plays dialogue and music when opened, and includes six DVD hard-cases inside, one for each of the five seasons and one for additional extras. The episodes are digitally restored and look as good as can be expected. The box set isn’t cheap, but if you or someone you know is a big huge enormous fan of the show this is a must-have release. -Rob Hunter
Six years we followed along, patiently waiting to see how the turbulent exploits of Jack, Kate, Hurley, Sawyer and John Locke would turn out. Six years of anxiety as Tuesday nights came and went. Six years of “BOM! Lost!” And what do we have to show for it? The answer is out there, amongst the divided masses that make up The Island’s extended population. What is clear is that the journey was incredible — even the parts that didn’t feel so incredible — and the attention to detail put into Lost was wonderful throughout. Its fitting then that the entire series was given such a neat, imaginatively designed box set full of hidden treasures. Because like the show itself, the box may not contain all of the answers we wanted, but we sure couldn’t help but open it. - Neil Miller
Horror films all around the world have a friend in this UK based label, and it’s evident in even a small sampling of Arrow’s *all region* releases this year. Mario Bava’s A Bay Of Blood, Lucio Fulci’s City Of the Living Dead, and Dario Argento’sInferno are just a few of the titles they’ve remastered and released on DVD and Blu-ray, and they’re interested in more than just the best video and audio. Arrow is renowned for including tons of extras both on the discs and with the packaging itself. And I haven’t even mentioned their greatest release of the year… they just put out the Japanese classic, Battle Royale, on remastered DVD and Blu-ray filled with extras. Both the film and the package are things of beauty. Next year’s roster is already looking just as impressive with Argento’s Deep Red, Fulci’s The Beyond, and the Chris Makepeace classic, Vamp. Okay, maybe classic is a strong word choice, but I guarantee that Formica has never looked better. -Rob Hunter
There are plenty of Blu-ray releases still on the table that you desire to cross off your want list in the near future (Star Wars, anyone), but how many of those properties might also occupy a spot on your bucket list, as well. The Alien Anthology is one of those sets, one of those franchises that have teased fans since the dawn of high definition. How many four-movie sets can you get that include a film each from Ridley Scott, James Cameron, David Fincher and Jean-Pierre Jeunet? How many Blu-ray sets include multiple versions of classic sci-fi films that altered your universe when you first saw them? How many sets include a film from 1979 that is so spectacularly remastered that you’d believe that it was a 2010 release, if you didn’t know better already? There is only one. There can be only one. - Neil Miller
Finish your shopping and be sure to join us for the rest of the 2010 Year in Review.