Kicking off my Top 10 year-end lists for 2012, here are my Top 10 Blu-rays that I have enjoyed and could not pass up giving full recommendations to. The following list is set of films that I consider to be some of the best that the Blu-ray format has had to offer for this year. Much like last year, I stayed true to some rules; I have to have actually watched the movie on Blu-Ray, recognize it for its quality video and audio transfers, delved into the special features, and most importantly, I did not put any film on the list that may also be on my “Top 10 Films of the year” list. This means excluding films like Cabin in the Woods (which has a fantastic Blu-ray). I followed these rules for the sake of keeping my list interesting, so here we go:
Special Mentions: Because there were so many releases, I created a few subcategories to help divide things up and make fair mention to other Blu-rays worth checking out.
TV on Blu-ray: A lot of great shows on television had some equally great Blu-rays released, which further highlighted their quality. Here are some of the shows that I got to view in this format and believe are well worth anyone’s time.
Breaking Bad: Season 4, Game of Thrones: Season 1 (Review), Homeland: Season 1 (Review), Louie: Season Two (Review), Mad Men: Season 5 (Review), Spartacus: Vengeance (Review), The Walking Dead: Season 2 (Review)
Criterion Collection on Blu-ray: Every year Criterion releases so many great films and classics that are given the best possible treatment, that it is constantly a chore to try and separate them. Here are my favorite Criterion Blu-ray releases this year.
Anatomy of a Murder, Being John Malcovich, Certified Copy (Review), Following, The Game, Godzilla, La Haine (Review), Rashomon, Rosemary’s Baby
Disney Retro Releases on Blu-ray: Disney has gone ahead and released a number of older films on Blu-ray this year. Despite mostly being barebones in the extras department, I have been waiting to get my hands on some of these for a while. Additionally, some do have very good transfers and one is my favorite film ever, so I wanted to provide some acknowledgement.
Dick Tracy, Ed Wood, Grosse Pointe Blank (Review), High Fidelity, The Rocketeer (Review)
The Top 10:
10. The Amazing Spider-Man (Review)/Prometheus (Review) – So these first few entries are ties and for specific reasons. This first set consists of two films that may or may not have lived up to everyone’s expectations. Both The Amazing Spider-Man and Prometheus received mixed reception this past summer. One was a restart to a franchise, which came earlier than expected. The other was an ambitious science fiction film, which tied Ridley Scott back to one of his earliest (and best) efforts. I liked both films, despite their problems, and they both received the deluxe treatment when it came to their Blu-rays. Both have amazing video and audio transfers and are loaded with special features that go over every aspect of the film. Sure, The Amazing Spider-Man may still not have revealed its “untold story” and Prometheus still doesn’t explain why Charlize Theron can’t turn left, but feature-length making-of’s (Prometheus’ has a four hour doc!), deleted scenes, commentaries, and more are packed on these fantastic Blu-rays and I still find the films to be highly watchable.
9. Total Recall (Review)/They Live – The next set on this list are two cult classics that now look better than ever thanks to Blu-ray. The only good thing to come out of the recent remake of Total Recall is the effort put in to re-release Paul Verhoven’s 1990 version on Blu-ray. The “Mind-Bending Edition” is fitted with an all new video restoration that is absolutely fantastic. The new retrospective on the film was really solid as well. John Carpenter’s alien invasion/satire They Live also received the Blu-ray treatment this year and thanks to Scream Factory’s devotion to releasing special editions of various horror films and cult classics, the film looks and sounds great and has a nice set of bonus features as well. They Live’s box art is also just flat-out awesome. Both of these films are a lot of old school fun and were treated well on for their Blu-ray releases.
8. Strangers On A Train/Sunset Boulevard (Review) – The last tie on this list belongs to two great Film Noir features that have debuted on Blu-ray this year in spectacular fashion. Strangers on a Train is one of my favorite Hitchcock films and now I have been able to view it in HD, which was great. The film has a really solid transfer, a terrific score, and the film benefits even more from having a really great commentary track. Sunset Boulevard is just one of those great films that need to be seen in general and now anyone can do it thanks to the terrific Blu-ray that has a wonderful video and audio presentation. One could easily think that the Blu-ray on a film like Sunset Boulevard could take away from its classic aesthetic, but instead, Blu-ray has only provided a great way to be able to view this film for the better.
7. Die Nibelungen – This was one of the most intriguing finds of the year for me on Blu-ray. I read The Nibelungenlied in college and it’s a really cool (and dark), German adventure story; one of the oldest, which has gone to inspire people like Tolkien for example. While celebrated largely for films like M and Metropolis (Released in a restored Blu-ray a couple years ago), Fritz Lang was also responsible for a two-part epic based on this story, which was brought to Blu-ray this year. It is epic in scope and especially impressive, since it is from 1924, but just as a much an interesting piece of history, as the film has a heavy connection to German politics (to put it lightly), which Lang tried to distance himself from. It is wonderful filmmaking though and it looks and sounds great and features a great retrospective about the making-of and legacy of the film.
“The Old stories tell us of great heroes, joy and misery, feast and lament, and the clash of brave warriors. All this you may hear now, if you will.” (Order HERE)
6. Finding Nemo (Review) – In a word, “Finally!” Finding Nemo continues to be one of my three favorite films that Pixar has made and now I can finally watch it again and again on Blu-ray. I love the story in this film and the excellent voice cast, which includes one of my favorite unlikely duos: Albert Brooks and Ellen DeGeneres. The script is full of witty humor and touching moments and the undersea animation is top notch. A wonderful film met with great Blu-ray treatment from Disney. The video and audio for this film is stunning, plus the film has all-new special features that include a retrospective roundtable discussion about the film, which is well worth watching. Every Pixar film is now finally available on Blu-ray and it was worth the wait.
“I have to get out of here! I have to find my son! I have to tell him how old sea turtles are!” (Order HERE)
5. Titanic (Review) – “James Cameron doesn’t do what James Cameron does for James Cameron. James Cameron does what James Cameron does because James Cameron is James Cameron!” That South Park quote is oddly fitting, because only James Cameron seems to know how to top himself. Before he made Avatar and went deeper than any man before him, Titanic was the biggest film ever and this year it debuted on a titanic-sized Blu-ray, which looks and sounds amazing. It also boasts hours of special features, including three commentary tracks, an hour-long documentary that looks back on the making and reception of Titanic, an all-new documentary about the actual ship, a ton of making-of featurettes, an hour of deleted scenes, and more. Some people may focus too heavily on the romantic story thread in this film and disregard its quality, but it has so much more to offer and it looks glorious on Blu-ray.
“No, thank you. We are dressed in our best and are prepared to go down as gentlemen. But, we would like a brandy.” (Order HERE)
4. Little Shop of Horrors – It is freaking awesome that this Blu-ray exists, because it has unearthed something that was thought to be lost – the incredibly dark, alternate ending to 1986’s Little Shop of Horrors from director Frank Oz. This director’s cut of the film is the one that was originally supposed to hit theaters, before test audiences rejected it, but now it is available to see and it is crazy! Along with that, the Blu-ray is fitted with a bunch of never-before-seen footage and a great new transfer. I tend to be selective when it comes to musicals, so a dark comedy about a killer plant from outer space seems to fall into my sensibilities. The fact that it has a great cast and music only makes it more worthwhile.
“I’m just a mean green mother from outer space and I’m bad!” (Order HERE)
3. Jaws (Review) – Now we get to the most inevitable entries for me on this Top 10 list. Jaws is a film that is perfect and influential in many ways, so the fact that it is now on Blu-ray is a great treat for anyone who is a fan of film. It is a simple horror/adventure story of a shark terrorizing a small beach community in New England, made better for so many reasons, including the lead performances, the iconic John Williams score, and of course the direction of Steven Spielberg. The restoration of this film on Blu-ray is fantastic, as Jaws looks better than ever (regardless of whether you are convinced by Bruce the shark or not) and sounds just as great too. The collection of extras is really solid as well, with one fairly new documentary that goes over so much concerning the legacy of the film. Jaws is certainly one of the best Blu-rays available to own now.
“So, eleven hundred men went in the water; 316 men come out and the sharks took the rest, June the 29th, 1945. Anyway, we delivered the bomb.” (Order HERE)
2. Bond 50 – The lead up to James Bond’s latest adventure, Skyfall, brought the release of this 50th Anniversary Blu-ray package, containing every James Bond film, along with a bonus disc and a special slot for when Skyfall is released on Blu-ray. I love Bond films and I am happy to now own every single Bond film on Blu-ray. Each one is packed with special features and the films all look and sound very good on Blu-ray. The bonus disc is a nice addition as well, though the missed opportunity of including the Everything or Nothing documentary that aired on television recently, let alone any sort of retrospective or look at Bond’s legacy, is basically the one reason that I am holding this back from being No. 1. Still, this is a 22-film package, containing films that I love to watch. It is also a bonus that the design of the package is incredibly sleek and cool, Bond-style.
“That’s a Smith & Wesson, and you’ve had your six.” (Order HERE)
1. Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures (Review) – Much like the Star Wars Blu-ray set from last year, it seemed inevitable that the Indiana Jones Blu-ray set would most likely top my list for this year. What’s strange is that despite being happy to finally have all these films on Blu-ray, it seems more like a great set devoted to Raiders of the Lost Arc, which happens to have the other films on Blu as a bonus. Raiders looks and sounds amazing, as do the other films, but the best treat of this set is the behind the scenes footage of Raiders, which includes a breakdown of the fight scene that was supposed to happen instead of the now famous scene where Indy simply shoots a big, bad guy brandishing a sword. That reason alone is why I love this set. Getting to have the best adventure film ever made, along with its mostly strong follow-ups is a nice bonus as well.
“You want to talk to God? Let’s go see him together; I’ve got nothing better to do.” (Order HERE)
Honorable Mentions: And here is the rest. A collection of other great Blu-rays that are all well worth checking out and gave me a lot of difficulty, when I realized that I couldn’t include all of these on my Top 10 list.
The Adventures of Tintin (Review), Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection, Avatar Limited 3D Edition (Review), Chinatown (Review), Drive (Review), E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (Review), Ghost Rider: Spirit of Vengeance (Review, just for you Gregg), The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Hunger Games, John Carter (Review), Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol (Review), Monty Python and The Holy Grail, The Sting, The Town: Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Review), Transformers Dark of the Moon: Limited 3D Edition (just for you Gerard)