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DVD Shopping Bag: Top 9 Blu-rays of 2009
Blu-rays Best from 2009
By Robert T. Trate
January 25, 2010
Commander Cody in Star Wars The Clone Wars on Blu-ray
© Lucasfilm/ Robert Trate
All right all you loyal Maniacs listen up. I am sorry that this week’s DVD Shopping Bag does not feature my thoughts on Bruce Willis’ Surrogates. I just couldn’t sit through it again. Hopefully a mini series will be made from Robert Venditti and Brett Weldele’s graphic novel. I for one think it deserves it. I won’t apologize for not featuring Saw 6 because, let’s face it, that series is beyond played out. I wanted to talk about some of my favorite things in the DVD Shopping Bag: Blu-rays. Over the past year I have gathered quite a large collection of titles and would dare to say that I have become a connoisseur of them. Why didn’t this column appear in the first or second week of January? For starters I always do a look ahead at the New Year first and the following week Duncan Jones’ Moon arrived. So I’ve been busy. Now obviously I didn’t watch every Blu-ray that came out last year, but I tried. Mania is a genre specific site so I am keeping it within the family. With out further ado here is the DVD Shopping Bag’s Top 9 Blu-rays of 2009.
9 Night of the Creeps
Not exactly the a film one would expect on a top nine list but Fred Dekker’s Night of the Creeps re-release has been long in coming. Films of this nature often get ignored or spend an eternity in VHS and bootleg hell. Night of the Creeps certainly has been there but now it is back from the dead in 1080p and has never looked better. The eighties perhaps weren’t meant to look that good but Dekker’s story about aliens crash landing in the fifties then waking up in the eighties is perfectly trapped in the era of big hair, sunglasses at night and cops that have dark back stories spouting great one liners.
Why pick up this third version of Hellraiser? The picture quality, hands down. There are many who will argue the difference is negligible between DVD and Blu-ray. Owning Anchor Bay’s first edition of Hellraiser and comparing it to the Blu-ray I saw numerous things that oozed new life into the film. Sweat glistened, the orange light on human skin burned, the blues froze and the bathed-in-light Cenobites never looked more sinister. Long gone are the memories of faded transfers and the video store copies. Hellraiser burns on screen and is proof that Blu-ray really does make a difference. The scene that sold me was Frank’s (Oliver Smith) rebirth into our world. It was perfection in 1080p and TrueHD.
There are so few films that actually take full advantage of what Blu-ray has to offer. Sin City pushes it to the limit in commentaries, special features, picture in picture comparisons (comic, movie and green screen work) and above all, alternate versions of the film. If you loved Sin City you have to have this Blu-ray (see full review).
When The Matrix first arrived, it buried the most anticipated film of 1999; we just didn’t know it at the time. For some the sequels diluted its power and brilliant blending of multiple genres. I for one have decided that the saga starts and stops here. With its chilling blues and hot greens The Matrix on Blu-ray completely catapults you into its world. Yet the double edged sword is seeing Carrie-Anne Moss’ beauty as Trinity then Laurence Fishburne’s terrible skin as Morpheus in 1080p. Blu-ray may redefine a few other things like make-up and lighting besides picture and sound quality. Fishburne may be the first causality of the Blu-ray experience.
“Prettier Than Ever” doesn’t only describe this Blu-ray but it is also the special feature that details how much time and effort were put into the restoration of this perfect film. The massive commentary track will take you to that merry old Land of Oz and beyond. However, it is every TV special, documentary and the 6 hour MGM feature “When the Lion Roars” that illustrates how timeless this film really is. This is one of those must own Blu-rays and the definitive version for all time.
Outside of the additional scenes with Walter Kovacs (Jackie Earle Haley) there are incredible special features that involve a lot of picture in picture moments, taking full advantage of the Blu-ray technology. A historic timeline running parallel to the Watchmen timeline allows you to see how different the two worlds really are. There are direct comparisons to the comic that play alongside the film as well as storyboards to show you how the images literally jumped right off the page. I saw the Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut yet found myself drawn to this one more. It might be blasphemy but the Black Freighter works better as a separate entity.
Warner Brothers spent a million dollars restoring Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film. Cary Grant may have passed away in 1986 but you’ll believe he is alive and well after watching this Blu-ray. It is as if you are transported back in time to 1959 and you are watching the first print ever created. It’s beautiful. Warner Brother’s gave this film every special feature and inside look any fan could ever hope for. North by Northwest is everything a Blu-ray disc should be.
The proof is in the pudding and Up on Blu-ray has all the proof it needs. I often wondered what made Pixar work as well as it does. Watching the entire production team journey to the Tepui Mountains in South America is only one facet as to how Pixar embraces the creative process. The movie was brilliant. The Blu-ray was perfect and if you can only buy one Blu-ray off this list it would have to be this one (see full column).
After watching Avatar I went back and watched District 9 again. After all these are the two big science fiction films of 2009. Avatar clearly has the spectacle but District 9 has that and the story. I believe a lot of people will have an eye opening experience when they watch Avatar at home for the very first time. The spectacle will clearly be diminished as the “story” will take center stage. District 9 on Blu-ray keeps its spectacle and its heart is still there too. Jason Cope deserves just as much praise as Sam Worthington for his completely digital alien Christopher Johnson. Every emotion is real and conveyed to the audience while not speaking English once during the film. Throw in every special feature and web video you could ever want and District 9 will be endure in your collection.
Honorable and dishonorable mentions:
I talk enough about Star Wars over at my Toy Maniac column so I’ll keep it brief. There are 7 director’s cut episodes out of the 22, obviously with footage that didn’t make it to network television. The episodes themselves are never completely rendered when aired so the final product, as in the best picture and sound quality, is only on Blu-ray. This is the way Star Wars is meant to be seen. Not to mention, Star Wars the Clone Wars has made Star Wars fun again.
While the rest of the world was discovering Star Trek (2009), seemingly for the first time, the rest of us were reaping the benefits of an already rich franchise. Paramount finally released the original Star Trek films on Blu-ray. Most of the special features were transferred from the special collector’s edition yet some of the films were not. This meant bad news for Scotty’s nephew in the Wrath of Khan. Why Paramount released the original theatrical cut is beyond me let alone why not both? However placing all the Star Trek films in 7.1 Dolby TrueHD was incredible treat (once I set up all the extra speakers). Outside of the strange Wrath of Khan cut seeing the Klingon Bird of Prey appear in The Search for Spock made me realize again how wondrous Blu-ray can be.
I picked up one of my all time favorite films on Blu-rays last year, Logan’s Run. Got it the day it came out without reading any reviews. I already had the original DVD release but I wanted to see the fiery ritual of Carousel in 1080p. Sadly this was nothing more than a direct DVD to Blu-ray transfer. I don’t even think anyone at Warner Brothers even watched their print, let alone cleaned it. I can appreciate scratches and hairs with a 35mm print while the film plays in a movie house. On my Blu-ray player, that’s another story. Sadly the people behind the store counter couldn’t understand that yes it still works but it is a crappy transfer.
Check out the DVD Shopping Bag every week for all the latest Blu-rays and DVDs that Hollywood has to offer.
ACTION / ADVENTURE / KUNG FU/ THRILLERS / WESTERNS
Action Man Collection: Action Man, Peking Blonde, The Big Game, The Day of the Wolves ~ Nigel Patrick, Moria Lister, Beatrice Campbell, and Edward G. Robinson
Adventures of Robin Hood - 20 episodes! COLLECTOR'S EMBOSSED TIN! ~ Richard Greene, Donald Pleasence, Paul Eddington, and Peter Asher
Atonement [Blu-ray] ~ James McAvoy
Blade of the Ripper ~ Edwige Fenech
Dirty Deeds/Crime Spree ~ Gerard Depardieu
The Escapist ~ Steven Mackintosh, Brian Cox, Liam Cunningham, and Joseph Fiennes
Fireball (Ws Dub Sub Ac3) ~ Preeti Barameeanat, Khanutra Chuchuaysuwan, and Kumpanat Oungsoongnern
Fuel [Blu-ray] ~ Michael Esparza
Give 'Em Hell Malone [Blu-ray] ~ Thomas Jane, Ving Rhames, Doug Hutchison, and Elsa Pataky
Give 'Em Hell Malone
Hard Revenge Milly: Hyper Violence Collection (two Hard Revenge Milly movies) ~ Miki Mizuno, Nao Nagasawa, and Kazuki Tsujimoto
Lady Ninja Kasumi Volume 5 ~ Emiru Momose
Lost City Raiders ~ James Brolin
Pontypool ~ Stephen McHattie, Lisa Houle, Georgina Reilly, and Hrant Alianak
Righteous Ties ~ Jae-Yeong Jeong, Jun-Ho Jeong, and Seung-Yong Ryoo
Sherlock Holmes ~ Gareth David-Lloyd, Dominic Keating, and Simon Lloyd Roberts
Sun Sets at Dawn (B&W) ~ Walter Reed
Wushu (Ws Dub Sub Ac3 Dol) ~ Fengchao Liu, Wenjie Wang, and Sammo Hung
Blade of the Immortal: No Virtue In Forgiveness Volume 3 (Eps.10-13) ~ Rina Satou
Five Element Ninjas (Shaw Brothers) ~ Tien-chi Cheng
Godkiller: Walk Among Us #2 ~ Davey Havok, Lance Henriksen, Danielle Harris, and Bill Moseley
Ikki Tousen Dragon Destiny, Volume 2 ~ Masumi Asano
Lady Ninja Kasumi Volume 5 ~ Emiru Momose
Magic Knight Rayearth Season 1 - Remastered Volumes 1- 4, Eps. 1-20 ~ Hekiru Shiima
Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 1
Naruto Shippuden: Box Set 1 (Special Edition)
Neo Angelique Abyss: Season 1
Sands of Destruction: The Complete Series ~ Luci Christian, Todd Haberkorn, and Eric Vale
Sgt. Frog: Season 2, Part 1 ~ Todd Haberkorn, R. Bruce Elliott, Cherami Leigh, and Brina Palencia
Tears to Tiara: Collection 2
George Shrinks - Zoopercar Caper
The Real Ghostbusters, Vol 2 (5 DVD) ~ Frank Welker, Maurice LaMarche, Arsenio Hall, and Lorenzo Music
SpongeBob SquarePants: Viking-Sized Adventure
You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown ~ Kevin Brando, Michael Dockery, Brad Kesten, and Jeremy Scott Reinbolt
COMEDY AND LOVE Mania Style
RiffTrax: Plan 9 From Outer Space LIVE! Nashville 2009 - from the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000!
Rifftrax: Shorts-tacular Shorts-stravaganza - from the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000!
Rifftrax: Planet of Dinosaurs - from the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000!
Rifftrax: Wide World of Shorts - from the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000!
Rifftrax: Voodoo Man - from the stars of Mystery Science Theater 3000!
Roberto Rossellini's War Trilogy (Rome Open City/Paisan/Germany Year Zero) (Criterion Collection) ~ Anna Magnani, Aldo Fabrizi, Carmela Sazio, and Gar Moore
Bad Biology ~ Charlee Danielson
The Cult Horror Colection - 3DVD SET! - The Skull, The Man Who Could Cheat Death, & The Deadly Bees ~ Christopher Lee, Peter Cushing, Suzanna Leigh, and Anton Diffring
Dead at the Box Office ~ Isaiah Robinson
Demonic Toys 2
Direct Action/Retrograde/Di... Contact ~ Dolph Lundgren
Doctor Death Seeker of Souls ~ John Considine, Stewart Moss, Barry Coe, and Moe Howard
The Double Born ~ Sammi Davis, Jon Lindstrom, and Charles Noland
Madness ~ Andreas Vaehi, Max Wallmo, and Victoria Bloom
Saw VI (Widescreen Unrated Edition) ~ Shawnee Smith
Saw VI [Blu-ray]
The Toolbox Murders [Blu-ray] ~ Cameron Mitchell, Pamelyn Ferdin, Wesley Eure, and Aneta Corseaut
Troma's War (Tromasterpiece Edition) ~ Carolyn Beauchamp, Sean Bowen, Rick Collins, and Jessica Dublin
SCIENCE FICTION / FANTASY
Alice: A Look into Alice's Adventures in Wonderland ~ Documentary
Highlander: Immortal Edition [Blu-ray]
InAlienable ~ Erick Avari, Richard Hatch, Walter Koenig, and Marina Sirtis
Rocky Jones Space Ranger 1 (B&W) ~ Richard Crane
Surrogates ~ Bruce Willis, James Cromwell, Ving Rhames, and Radha Mitchell
Bonekickers ~ Hugh Bonneville
Callan: Set 2 ~ Edward Woodward
MI-5, Vol. 7 ~ Rupert Penry-Jones, Richard Armitage, Peter Firth, and Hermione Norris
Parker Lewis Can't Lose: The Complete Second Season ~ Corin Nemec, Billy Jayne, and Abraham Benrubi
The Waltons Movie Collection (A Wedding on Walton's Mountain / Mother's Day / A Day for Thanks / A Walton Thanksgiving Reunion / Wedding / Easter) ~ John Walmsley, Eric Scott, Earl Jr. Hamner, and Richard Thomas
WWII in HD [Blu-ray]
WWII in HD ~ Gary Sinise