Quantcast

And Now For Something Completely Different (Brandon’s Top 10 Blu-rays Of 2019)

Another calendar year has come and gone in the “death of physical media” era we’ve been living in for years upon years now. While I think in the eyes of those of us collectors who prefer ownership, things are still thriving and benefiting us immensely (You SPOIL us, Reverend Entertainment!), 2019 has seen the desire of the big studios’ future plans come more to fruition. At Why So Blu alone, there have seen severe disappointments with announcements of digital only 4K Ultra-HD releases (The Limey, in particular) and new beloved movies only getting a standard Blu-ray release with bare minimum bonus features (Midsommar). On the brighter side, stingy big studios allergic to sub-licensing their catalogs have begun to soften their stance and the unthinkable of Warner Bros, Paramount and Sony (Moreso in terms of allowing new bonus features, something they used to not do) started unloading onto us in 2019. Your move, Lionsgate (The most head scratching and frustrating studio with catalog releases). As I’ve been saying for years, I don’t see a death for physical media ever happening, it’ll just be changing and a smaller output that has standards already have been practiced for almost 10 years now. It’ll evolve to look more like the current state of vinyl records in its future, and that’s okay. The people who are still passionate about putting these out know how to blast excitement into it (I mean, who doesn’t get antsy about the Vinegar Syndrome Black Friday sale every year?). But, enough about the future, let us get to the now, my Top 4K Ultra-HD and Top Blu-ray titles released in the 2019 calendar year.

As usual, 2019 was another tough one to compile the list and some tough cuts were made. Like always, my list can only include something I’ve reviewed or currently own in 2019. I will note one GIGANTIC omission from my list as I don’t own it yet, but it SHOULD be mentioned on any list this year, as I can confidently assume its one of the best releases of the year. Like the Bergman set last year, it should be put on notice for any serious collector. Also, It’s A Wonderful Life 4K is going to be MIA from my list as my player had issues with it and proved unwatchable. But from what I could tell the restoration on it was a complete master stroke for the format.

10. Spider-Man: Into The Spider-verse (Sony)

There was a coin toss between this and another film vying to make this list (Funny enough, another Sony title). Spider-Verse won out because that film is going to be discussed on my Top 10 of the year for sure. And yeah, this one made my Top 10 Films of 2018, but I haven’t written about the best Spider-Man film in about a year, so I’m good. Into The Spider-Verse features an absolutely fantastic presentation with an pretty outstanding video transfer that looks head and shoulders over the standard Blu-ray which is tough in animation. The Atmos track is playful, fun as hell and delivers in the impacting boom department. Its the all-star of this release, but the extras, while not over the top great, are a pretty nice compliment that don’t keep you too busy after the film but allow you some decent further exploration.

9. Tammy And The T-Rex (Vinegar Syndrome)

We currently live in a pretty f***ed up situation when it comes to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray. Big A-List box office and critical success stories opt for regular Blu-ray presentations. Absolute classic or popular catalog movies with inferior DVD or Blu-ray releases in the past sit and collect dust on the shelves. Distribution companies eager to sublicense the material get rejected. But low and behold, Tammy And The T-Rex pole vaulted over DVD and Blu-ray and went straight from VHS to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray. Even if this movie was not an absolute bonkers, gory bundle of joy (SERIOUSLY, seek it out! It is a riot), a standing ovation must be given to the folks at Vinegar Syndrome. Like always, their transfers are magnificent and Tammy’s 4K image is no different. Couple that with a Blu-ray disc loaded with wonderful new extras, and you have one of the most impressive debut releases on the format that hopefully pushes the needle for more distributors hesitant to dive in (And understandably so right now).

8. Casino: Best Buy Exclusive Steelbook (Universal)

Martin Scorsese remains one of my favorite directors and an undisputed master of the cinematic arts.  Any time a film of his gets a new release, I’m interested (Kundun from Kino…I’m coming for you!). Any time one of his gets a 4K Ultra-HD upgrade, even more excitement (Still, where are you Taxi Driver 4K?!??!). Casino is possible his finest effort in the 1990s that isn’t Goodfellas, and its a true treat here on the format. Leaving the previous Blu-ray in the dust, the picture quality is immensely superior, with much more depth to it and crispness. Universal has gone an extra mile and given it a brand new DTS:X track for which to hear it by. I personally opted for the Best Buy steelbook edition, but you’re winning by just owning it however you fancy.

7. Aquaman (Warner Bros)

Aquaman makes it onto the list purely because of its stellar presentation. I won’t make a secret that I wasn’t the world’s biggest fan of the movie (Though, I have made respect for its ambition and LOVED the action direction on it). That aside, Aquaman is truly one of the most demo-ready modern movies for which to showboat the format. The extras are a little short and fluffy, but as I mentioned, its strength is in the film itself’s performance. I had to replace my receiver earlier in the year and the disc I first reached for to test out my calibration (And “ultimate powerrrrr” – Star Wars opens today, so I can make a funny) was Aquaman. And I cued it right up to one of my favorite scenes of 2018; Mera and Arthur’s rooftop chase to escape from Black Manta and other baddies. Then I skipped back to Nicole Kidman’s baller fight to open the film. Yeah, this one is a home theater system delight.

6. Prince of Darkness: Collector’s Edition (Studio Canal)

One of John Carpenter’s most overlooked films winds up being the sole UK-only release to make my list. I’ll mention though, that 4K has no region locking, so that isn’t a big deal, but those who may not have known about its availability before reading this list may want to know. You can find it readily available on Amazon in its standard edition (This one has sold out, sorry) from my paid link below. The image sees a nice remaster to go along with fantastic package, a whirlwind of extras, lobby card stuff and the soundtrack. Studio Canal has put out a doozy of good 4K John Carpenter releases and this was the last of the bunch to received the thick collector’s edition packaging. I lucked out with being able to get They Live and Prince of Darkness this way, landed an Escape From New York 4K steelbook, but had to “settle” for a regular edition of The Fog. Oh well, at least someone is putting out Carpenter on 4K. In the states we only have Christine and Halloween.

5. Alien (Fox)

This top 5 comes down to very hard choices. All could vie for that top spot, and a rearranging could happen in my head after this posts, but alas, these are the way the chips are falling today. Alien featured a masterful restoration for its 40th anniversary. Its one of those “Like watching it for the first time” restorations.  Either the year before or before that I got to watch a 35mm print of it on the big screen, so I have been super spoiled in my “like seeing it for the first time” factor. The whites are very perfect and most of the more refined colors give the film a whole new (Or originally intended) feel and the detail is extremely impressive. I can’t wait to pop this one again, and Alien gets plenty of spins in my player year in and year out.

4. Batman, Batman Returns, Batman Forever, Batman & Robin (Warner Bros)

The 1989 Tim Burton masterpiece of comic book film artistry and pop culture cinema was the catalyst to me typing out this list right here. I don’t know that I’d had more fun any year revisiting these brilliantly remastered versions of the 1990s super franchise. Normally when a stack of Blu-ray lands on my doorstep, despite the excitement, I’m like “Sigh, got a lotta work to do here”, but these I jumped head on in. I had a blast writing the reviews for them. It almost felt like an event week on here for me. The extras remain the outstanding documentaries and material culled together for the 2005 DVD releases. You can grab them individual (In their ugly cases) or in a complete set with a slightly less ugly package art. These are must haves in my house, and the original will forever remain my favorite superhero/comic book movie and one of the most important films and theater going experience of my life.

3. Apocalypse Now: Final Cut – 40th Anniversary Edition (Lionsgate)

Holy crap, Lionsgate…you released a masterpiece of cinema on 4K Ultra-HD…on disc? And you’ve landed on the top 10 with ease. See what happens? We receive a new cut and the final word on it from Francis Ford Coppola in a stunning new presentation. Personally, I’ve always felt there was nothing wrong or needing changed with the theatrical cut (Never checking out ReDux), but heck, this was pretty excellent. The restoration is top notch and the new Atmos mix is splendid. Everything from the previous great edition, including the MUST BE INCLUDED Hearts of Darkness are here. This is possibly the best war film made, but also, I’d argue, one of the finest low-key stealthy horror films we’ve ever seen. My last viewing truly convinced me of that. It works in that regard too, have a look. And while you’re at it, use this 4K edition when you do so.

2. The Shining (Warner Bros)

This top 5 is just a spoil of riches here and a repetitive “Feels like watching it for the first time” phrasing. But, its such a joy when a caring and massive restoration takes place. The Shining is such a massive looking movie, I’ve long argued its even commanding and humongous on the smallest of screens. I would LOVE for an IMAX revival showing of Kubrick’s masterpiece. There aren’t any new extras here (A common trait among catlog 4K titles), but its just the strength of the film and awe of the restoration that does it for me. Quite possibly the biggest mistake I made was watching this (I reviewed it) 4K Ultra-HD release before seeing Doctor Sleep. Its odd how much bigger and cinematic this felt on my TV at home compared to how little those same sets (In idea) felt on a Fake-IMAX screen at my AMC. But, that shows how above and beyond one filmmaker can be to another. I wish Warner had given a little more in terms of packaging to match last year’s 2001: A Space Odyssey, but bringing the legend over to 4K is well enough.

1. The Wizard Of Oz – 80th Anniversary Edition (Warner Bros)

One of the greatest films ever made had one of the best restorations I’ve ever seen. Every corner of every frame was quite masterful. Even when maybe a slight make-up reveal is evident, its almost educational in a way. This movie still holds up today and is just a wonder to see as such the cinematic game changer it was and continues to be. Like Star Wars of its day, The Wizard of Oz instantly takes you back to a place of childhood wonder and warms your heart, inspires and makes you feel like everything will be okay. The film is a piece of magic captured on celluloid. It lands with a bit of ease at the number 1 spot, but don’t count out the others here, as they have impacted and impressed me with their presentations.

Before we move on to the Blu-rays of 2019, there are two that didn’t make the cut. I have the Hitchcock: British International Pictures Collection from Kino Lorber, but have yet to crack it open and check it out in time for this review. Anybody putting out Alfred Hitchcock at least gets a mention. We have almost EVERYTHING possible (Some of his earliest work is flat out missing/destroyed) on the format, lacking just a simple Stage Fright and Mr. & Mrs. Smith release (C’monnnnnn Warner Archive!).

The biggest gaping hole in my list is the Criterion Collection release of Godzilla: The Show-Era Films. This massive and impressive set is an instant list-maker, but alas…I don’t have it…yet (Its on my Xmas list)! Like their Bergman set last year (Which I got for my Birthday last January!), this one deserves mention as its an impressive and unthinkable achievement just to even exist. So here’s to you, Criterion, continuing to set the benchmark for home video releases.

10. Valentine – Collector’s Edition (Shout/Scream Factory)

I long awaited this under appreciated slasher from the end of the 90s revival cycle (arriving in 2001), and I was just merely expecting a bare bones Warner Archive release. Getting as super loaded Scream Factory Collector’s Edition with a good looking presentation? SPOILED BRAT right here! You may remember when I did the Blu-ray Wishlist as a monthly piece, this was one of the first ones. There are some outstanding interviews appearing on this release and its just a David Boreanez retrospective on the movie of being absolutely perfect. Even without it, its perfect enough. I couldn’t wait for this one to arrive and it did not disappoint. To this day, I remain a solid defender of Jamie Blanks’ “other” slasher, Valentine.

9. Batman Beyond: The Complete Series (Warner Bros)

With the complete success and enthusiasm of Batman: The Animated Series last year, Warner Archive smartly followed it up with the epilogue series, Batman Beyond. Strong in its own right, many get to return to it with some terrific restoration on the episodes to go with a few new features. Its packaged pretty neatly to match Batman:TAS, but this one came with a real deal Funko Pop of Terry McGinnis’ Dark Knight as opposed to the minis that (are hard to keep standing up) were packaged with Batman:TAS. This lovely set features everything and no weird omissions (Why wasn’t Mystery of the Batwoman with Batman:TAS?), making it absolutely complete. Here’s hoping Warner keeps scratching this itch and we receive Superman The Animated Series or Justice League next October (Wonder Woman Funko, Wonder Woman Funko! Please please!).

8. When Harry Met Sally (Shout Select/Shout Factory)

When they announced this release, I admit, I was kind like “Eh, okay.” But upon receiving and reviewing it, it absolutely was one of my biggest surprises of 2019. Not only is the film still absolutely terrific, but the new transfer is an absolute marvel. You’d swear this was a Criterion release looking at it. Couple that with some great new interview material with Billy Crystal and Rob Reiner, adding to the swarm of archival bonus material porting over and you are in a sea of When Harry Met Sally education. I never imagined in a million years this one would be making a Top 10 list of mine when it was announced or when I was doing the review, but here we are. Its truly one of the best releases and double dips of 2019.

7. Space: 1999 – The Complete Series (Shout Factory)

I gained an education and filled in a big hole in my science fiction fandom this year when I discovered this cult series reviewing it for Shout Factory. Its almost the perfect antidote for a world lacking a Star Trek (And it was during this time). The two seasons are completely different types of sci-fi, but enjoyable in pushing their missions. There are fun BBC ties and factoids that come with it. Doctor Who’s “Terror of the Zygons” was originally to be the final story of Tom Baker’s maiden voyage, but was held off to try and bolster the ratings of Space: 1999. In addition, Big Finish Productions are producing a series of audio dramas, presenting new adventures for the crew. Space: 1999 scratched a nice itch for discovering “new to me” vintage (British) science fiction television. I’m not eager to go and explore another gap in my knowledge, Blake’s 7 next (Someone could put it on Blu-ray and have me review it, too!).

6. The New York Ripper (Blue Underground)

Slowly, but surely, Blue Underground keeps doing outstanding work in upgrading their titles for double dips on Blu-ray. No, they aren’t putting out 4K Ultra-HD movies, but their restorations are leaving little to the imagination anyway. Lucio Fulci’s very tough slasher film arrives with a crisp and eye-opening restoration as has been the case with these lately. I’m very excited for one of my lesser fave Fucli movies, House By The Cemetery, in January to see if the new transfer makes it more enjoyable. And while you’re at it Blue Underground, Dario Argento’s gorgeous-looking Inferno should be next on your roster for the 4K restoration treatment.

5. The Blob – Collector’s Edition (Shout/Scream Factory)

I had the Australian release of the 1980s masterstroke in remaking, The Blob for a while and Scream Factory’s update was an easy upgrade. The image quality is definitely a step up. But, the absolute boatload of career spanning interviews that took me about a full week to get through is reason enough to own and place it on the list. This release pretty much leaves no leaf unturned and no question unasked when it comes to The Blob and those involved in it. Those in the US that had been waiting FOREVER for this to come out in a better edition (There was a quickly sold out Twilight Time edition with no real impressive extras to speak of prior) were at least made to feel it was worth that wait.

4. Police Story / Police Story 2 (Criterion Collection)

We’ve had these on Blu-ray before thanks to Shout Factory, but this release and restoration blew it out of the water. The restorations on these legendary action classics make them feel fresh and revolutionary again. The depth is outstanding and continues to show how these are some of the most dangerous movies ever made. In 2019, you could still blow someone’s mind having them see Jackie Chan’s early work. Its breathtaking, operatic and an orchestra of dance in the form of action. In today’s world, its very rare that we see anything that sniffs out the work here on Police Story. Fans of John Wick (Which are excellent movies) and the like should take a look back at these films and find something old to enjoy with the new.

3. Big Trouble In Little China – Collector’s Edition (Shout/Scream Factory)

While the presentation of the film remains the one we’ve already had on Blu-ray, its again the extras alone that take this film to a whole new level. Its unbelievable just how jam packed these 2 discs are with both old and new material. They even were able to carry over Arrow Video’s interviews with key players on here, too. EVERY interview is just long and full of great info, telling its own complete story. Its a welcome week of trudging through them, I tell ya. These aren’t just a long list with short runtimes, every one of them deep dives and really provides an understanding and background of each person going into and after Big Trouble In Little China. Oh, and the film is an absolute delight to boot.

2. Monty Python’s Flying Circus: The Complete Series – Norwegian Blu-ray Edition (Network)

I’m stunned this is only coming in at #2, but I have a big caveat that I’ll explain when it comes to #1. There have been some unfortunate issues people have had with the condition of their packaging upon arrival, but mine luckily arrived unscathed. And…I’m super careful with it. This beast is just insanely impressive and the type of lovely, bulky item that studios started getting away from any years ago. As I said about the future of physical media, a lot of it is going to be done up real nice and aimed at the particular audience who is going to want it. And this is the shining example of such. Even the season cases inside are done with a more special material than just your regular one sitting on the shelf. The restorations where there are legitimate film inserts are eye-popping and the extras are wonderful (Though I do understand, not all of them from the previous DVD set made it over). And each season comes with a THICK book of production notes. I still look at this set in wonder. For all intents and purposes it should be my number one, but…

1.  Doctor Who: The Collection – Seasons 18, 10, 23 (BBC, UK)

As a standalone, one time release, Monty Python should have had this. However, there are NO RELEASES in the calendar year I look forward to more than these classic Doctor Who Blu-ray sets. And notably, the REGION FREE ones coming from the UK. The UK sets have a booklet that come with them and heavier duty packaging. And of course, much more great Lee Binding artwork abound within. Due to the nature of its production, classic Doctor Who is never is going to win any fancy video contests (Where film insert elements are available, the show does look quite dashing), but they have somehow managed to clean up and admirably present old BBC videotape in a respectable manner. The bonus content on these sets are incredibly outstanding, bringing in old material and wonderful new material that you sometimes can’t believe they came up with such wonderful ideas. Something like revisiting The Doctor Who Cookbook from 1985 and having some of its contributors make their recipes (Seriously, this is incredibly fun). There are outstanding one on one interviews from Matthew Sweet (Like Bonnie Langford for Season 23), a fantastic new look back at the Jon Pertwee era (Doctor Who and the Third Man), sit downs with the surviving writers to talk about that season and even scripts that WEREN’T used, and just interesting profiles on people (Weekend With Waterhouse). There are even different cuts, audio mixes and new effects as an option for the episodes. Each set is a full on piece of archival history on the show for that particular year it aired. They leave you with no questions afterword. The ideal release.  Everyone should get releases like this for something they love so much. I wait with baited breath for when they are announced, shipping from the UK and the mystery that surrounds what will be next. To Toby Hadoke, Matthew Sweet, Chris Chapman and the rest of the Doctor Who on Blu team (And I’m not forgetting you, animation team, your work is fantastic as well), I salute you. Your work and these releases bring myself and my family extreme joy throughout the year.

That wraps up another year of covering discs and completing more shelves in my Blu-ray library. Next year, I’m looking forward to April Fool’s Day finally jumping to the format as well as My Bloody Valentine returning to it. Next month I get the terrific final season of Doctor Who with Sylvester McCoy as the Doctor (Which WAS getting released this year but saw a delay) as well as the missing episode animations of The Faceless Ones and Fury From The Deep later on. Hopefully the early Peter Jackson films (Bad Taste, Meet the Feebles) come out next year. And, as we do every year, we hope that FINALLY, that year will be the year we can all add Blu-rays (4Ks) of True Lies and The Abyss to our collections. Please Mr. Cameron, let us stop our begging!

What were some of your favorite Blu-ray or 4K Ultra-HD releases in 2019? Do you enjoy some of the same ones as I do? Let me know in the comments below. If you are interested in purchasing any of these Blu-rays and use the links provided below, please know that they are paid Amazon Associates links.

 

Share

Writer/Reviewer, lifelong obsessive film nerd. As eager to educate in the world of film as I am to learn. An avid lover of horror, schlock and trash, Brandon hosts the Cult Cinema Cavalcade podcast on the Creative Zombie Studios Network (www.cultcinemacavalcade.com) You can also find more essays on his blog Naptown Nerd (naptownnerd.blogspot.com).

6 Responses to “And Now For Something Completely Different (Brandon’s Top 10 Blu-rays Of 2019)”


  1. Brian White

    I did enjoy the list Brandon, particularly your custom graphics. They have a very nice flow and presentation to them!
    I have several of the 4Ks you have listed in my upcoming list. I agree on Aquaman. Movie aside the presentation was amazing!
    I am saddened that I won’t have time to check out Oz and Apocalypse before I publish this weekend, but your reputation precedes me and I know these are fantastic releases!!!

  2. Gregg

    Wow what a comprehensive list! I’m elated to see my favorite film of all time looks great on 4K (Casino).

  3. Aaron Neuwirth

    Great stuff as always. Now it looks like Aquaman, Spider-Man, and Coppola-Man are all working to being the WSB MVPs. And yeah Jackie Chan!

  4. Adam Toroni-Byrne

    Phenomenal list!!! Has me adding things to my Amazon wish list right now. You rock!

  5. Dave Follin

    You can’t beat Big Trouble in Little China! Nice write up!

  6. Gerard Iribe

    I do not own any of the ones featured in your primary list because I haven’t gone 4K yet, but I do own a couple of the genre releases in your main list. Man, and I thought I was the only one that enjoys Valentine!