Hello. My Name Is Brandon Peters. This Is My Top Blu-rays List. Prepare To Read!

One of my favorite and most frustrating times of the movie writing season is the end of the year “TOP X” lists. They are a lot of fun, but also hurt the brain when trying to weed through all the releases and then put them in a specific order. When it came to 2018, the year was one full of significant and terrific upgrades of previously released titles. Whether it be the format jump to 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray or a brand new Blu-ray release, the year showed that you’re doing more than just buying the same thing again for a new bonus feature. DVD and VHS brought about “double dipping” but in the case of standard Blu-ray, you’re actually getting an (ideally) improved picture and audio presentation to leap past your previous edition. It truly does fall under the term “upgrade”.  New 4K and 2K scan restorations have yielded some impressive results and “fixed” many collector’s issues with the previous versions of a film.  While us 4K Ultra-HD users pine for EVERYTHING to come to the format, many of the 4K restorations put on Blu-ray are keeping us satisfied with some of the smaller films for now.

As I did last year, I’m going to split the 4K Ultra-HD and standard Blu-ray release lists. When it comes to some of the spots in the rankings, I’ve decided to give some slots to a grouping of films that related to each other in one form or another as I didn’t want a particular studio or director hogging up so much space in the list. Time was also a big factor this year, as I’m seeing less and less of it as my years continue on, to check out a lot of other stuff I haven’t reviewed. Its quite possible I own a title absent here that would make the list, but I just haven’t had the opportunity to get to it yet. This year, I’ve reviewed 175 Blu-rays and 4K Ultra-HD titles with still a few more to come before December is over. As always, I only include the titles I own. Which, means I need to give a shout out to what I’m sure is one the finest titles of the year and probably would argue for #1; The Criterion Collection release of the Ingmar Bergman’s Cinema box set. That impressive  (And expensive) item I saved for putting on my holiday wishlist. Its currently run out of print in its first pressing and is promising to return at the end of February. A couple of titles came in at the buzzer and made it into the list within a day or two of this publishing. I was looking forward to Severin’s All The Colors Of The Dark and Skinner releases too, but those have no yet started shipping. Normally all the great stuff has hit by November, but this year went right down to the final new release Tuesday of the year. Keep in mind, my 4K rankings can tend to skew mostly in consideration of audio/video presentation with not as much emphasis on the extras.

4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray this year saw an increase in releases and with that, some good catalog choices to go along with a few random ones here and there. I still haven’t had the chance to pop in the Bad Boys set, but I imagine they look and sound pretty stellar. Anyway, without further adieu, here are my favorite 10 releases for the format and hope studios continue to utilize the format and the independent ones begin to embrace it.

10. Predator: 3-Movie Collection (Fox)

Maybe I’m over-praising this one a hair, but it was quite refreshing to finally get a release of the original Predator film that did it justice, where standard Blu-ray couldn’t get it right. It felt like after the super waxy and overdone Ultimate Hunter Edition, that Fox just threw in the towel and said “This is just how its gonna be”. Toss in the under appreciated Predator 2, the fun as hell Saturday prestige B-movie Sci-Fi Matinee joy that is Predators and carry over all previous bonus material; you have yourself a very fine set. They’ve since updated to include the new film, but this set is fine as well.

9. The Dark Crystal – Anniversary Edition (Sony)

When a new format comes around, it warms me to see that the Jim Henson catalog is returned to almost instantly. Two years ago saw Labyrinth and this year saw the The Dark Crystal early on. This legendary collaboration with Frank Oz is getting  Netflix sequel in the near future, but much love and care was put into this restoration as well as a new set of celebratory bonus features. This is one of those upgrades that is really easy to move on to considering how long ago the previous edition came out (And you likely bought it when it was under $10 anyway) and the amount of new features and restoration work put into it.

8. Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again: Sing-Along Edition (Universal)

This sequel didn’t quite hit the highs of the original, but serves more as a victory lap with a dynamite performance from its lead, Lily James. Its 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray release is has a fantastic, top of the line video and audio performance that will full utilize your home entertainment in the best of way. The stunning video is met with a playful and powerful DTS:X track that will rock your viewing area. Bonus materials here are aplenty (Though a long list, they are all short and probably would’ve been best served put together as 1 longer featurette). If you’re into musicals, ABBA or just want to see your system shine, this is one of your best options.

7. Christine – 35th Anniversary Edition (Sony)

John Carpenter’s work saw its first 4K Ultra-HD release this year with the unexpected makeover that Christine was given. But hey, why not! The film’s 4K HDR picture and Atmos track are top of the line and really enhanced the film. Plus you get some solid extras tossed in. The year would later see more Carpenter output on 4K UHD with Halloween and in the UK Escape From New York, They Live, Prince of Darkness and The Fog. I’m eager to check out the Studio Canal UK titles, but have not picked them up yet. Here’s hoping The Thing could be around the corner in the near future!

6. Annihilation (Paramount)

Brian and I breathed a collective sigh of relief after the standard Blu-ray only PR came that we were informed there would be a Best Buy exclusive 4K Ultra-HD of this release. It was a natural 4K film and featured a pretty awesome Atmos track to bring on the full quadrant experience. While the extras look a little light, they are pretty informative and take a nice journey through different aspects of the production of the film. For a modern movie that didn’t do a whole lot of business at the box office, this feels like about as good a release as any.

5. Mission: Impossible – 6-Movie Collection (Paramount)

Paramount is excellent at tying in the 4K Ultra-HD upgrades for their franchises by hitting up all entries upon the arrival of a new one (PLEASE GET ME A NEW STAR TREK ASAP LOL!). Then once I saw they did Transformers with the Blu release of The Last Knight and the 2 Angelina Jolie Lara Croft movies with the new Tomb Raider, I cried out to Brian White in excitement of my certainty we would be getting all the Mission: Impossible movies on 4K UHD in the summer. And it came to fruition. They looked gorgeous in their upgrades and all held up quite nicely, carrying over the bonus found on the previous Blu-ray releases. One of cinema’s finest franchises got some of the finest treatment.

4. Blade Runner 2049 (Warner Bros)

Denis Villeneuve’s beautiful film became a beautiful home video release. The picture looked great and the Atmos sound serious felt like you were in the room. Blaster fire felt like it was exploding your wall. Its a film I’m absolutely fascinated with, still studying, still processing and appreciating the hell out of what they’ve done on a task that seemed doomed for failure. I wish the extras offered a little bit more, but they do provide the complimentary prequel shorts and few solid featurettes.

3. Steven Spielberg On 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray

Ready Player One (Warner Bros), The Post (Fox), Saving Private Ryan (Paramount), Schindler’s List (Universal) Jurassic Park Collection (Universal)

Steven Spielberg had 7 films both past and present release on the format this year. I’m highlighting the one’s worth highlighting (That one’s for you, Aaron). Each one of these releases saw the best of care in terms of audio and video presentation and also gave us terrific new or vintage extras to accompany. In the case of Ready Player One, you’re getting a top performer that showcases terrific 4K live action as well as animated sequences. And the Atmos track on it is probably the most fun you’ll have all year with a surround track. Now, can we get Jaws on 4K Ultra-HD in 2019, please? We don’t need to hit a milestone. Its fine any time you want to release it, Universal.

2. The Matrix Trilogy (Warner Bros)

When the release of the first film came out, I was like “Okay, I’ll pick up The Matrix.” I took my time getting to it and the was pretty amazed withing seconds of the film starting. It was fresh again and made full use of the format in picture and sound. This restoration bled over in the 4K representation of the under appreciated sequels for a bangin’ trilogy release. Extras are still here. My only gripe is they didn’t at least include the disc for the AniMatrix, be it the same standard Blu or a 4K upgrade. So I have to hold on to my standard Blu-ray trilogy set in order to keep that gem intact. But really, this is top flight for your system and a terrific trilogy of film’s to revisit.

1. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Warner Bros)

Back in June, Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece and cinematic gamechanger, 2001: A Space Odyssey was announced to be leaping to the 4K Ultra-HD Blu-ray format. Then it got delayed from its October release date. Delayed again from its November release date. In this time, some (Like Brian) had already received their pre-orders of it. I literally just received mine days ago. And it was worth the wait. Upon the film starting my jaw dropped clean to the floor. The restoration on this film looks absolutely amazing. It is a marvel to watch at any point. You won’t believe your eyes. The psychedelic final act is more mesmerizing than its ever been. There is no film old or new that has looked this good or this impressive on the format. 2001 is the BEST 4K picture you could possibly ask for. Maybe I’m still in shock over seeing it like this, but it definitely makes the argument and shows the promise and ability of the 4K Ultra-HD picture quality. Warner has also packaged it very nicely in a hard shell with some lovely photos and a little booklet. This is THE release for collector’s and film lovers this year on 4K and I’ll be surprised if it is even topped next year.

While 4K Ultra-HD continues to grow, the standard Blu-ray format shows absolutely no signs of stopping. Many impressive new restorations improved subpar previous editions this year and things thought to maybe never happen became a reality. Warner Bros and Sony are now letting both Criterion and Shout! Factory handle their titles and has delivered some long awaiting films to the format. Long awaited titles that very small distributors like Scorpion were holding for years like Dario Argento’s Opera finally dropped. Heck, next year sees Arrow Video finally bringing William Friedkin’s Cruising to Blu-ray as well as some other titles on many other’s wishlists. The format continues to thrive and its thanks to the boutique labels that it continues to be impressive and worthwhile even though there is a better format available.

10. Fraggle Rock: The Complete Series – 35th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Sony)

Jim Henson not only is making the 4K list, but he’s doing double duty here with standard Blu-ray. Yes, this was all shot on video and isn’t the prettiest video presentation (And won’t be the last video sourced release on this list) here on the format, but they’ve collected EVERYTHING, including the animated show, promos, shorts and more to add with old and brand new interviews for the series. Its all in one place, presented best it can be and leaves no questions asked with the set. This is the peak release for this brand, and deserves this spot despite its video sourced shortcomings.

9. Cutting Class (Vinegar Syndrome)

Not the greatest slasher film in the world, but its interesting to see a young Brad Pitt in one nonetheless. While lacking in some areas, the movie does feature some creative kills and solid gore. It also has one of my favorite final girl/scream queens, Jill Schoelen. She also there for a brutally honest interview about the film, basically says “This movie sucks, but thanks to those who like it”. Schoelen also dives into Hollywood gender politics of the time which is also fascinating. There are more bonus goodies as well as coming with a variety of cool limited slip covers (Can you spot all 5?). I chose the trampoline one. Not to mention Vinegar Syndrome did their typical best in the business restoration to it. I have their release of Mausoleum, but unfortunately have not had the time to get to it. They had another great year in 2018, and shout of to them for putting out Blood Hook, too!

8. Elvira: Mistress Of The Dark (Arrow Video, UK-Only Region B Locked)

I had been waiting years for this one, and holding off on the super expensive German release from last year served me well as Arrow wound up putting it out this year. The film itself is a silly, raunchy little comedy full or charm and fueled by the charisma of Cassandra Petersen. Elvira was my “girlfriend” growing up according to my mom as I always enjoyed her beer commercials and horror hosting, so it was nice to revisit her and this film again. The transfer looks great and they have a lengthy retrospective documentary looking back upon the film that is truly engaging and a fascinating look back at both the movie and the persona. Even if you’re so-so on the film, the release is plenty worth it.

7. The Changeling – Limited Edition (Severin Films)

The long awaited and demanded ghost story classic starring George C Scott finally arrived on Blu-ray this year from Severin Films. The limited edition came with a unique slipcover and a CD of the soundtrack. The film’s preservation and presentation was wonderfully complimentary of the feeling and mood of the story. Bonus materials proved to be both fun and educational diving deep into the film’s production but also the history by the actual haunting that the script was based upon. The Changeling is one of the best haunted house/ghost stories ever put to celluloid and its oddly become a hard to find rarity over the years. But it was nice to see it gets its due and appreciation on Eli Roth’s History of Horror this past fall on AMC.

6. The Doctor Is In…Blu!

Doctor Who: Tom Baker-Complete Season One (BBC); Doctor Who: Peter Davison-Complete Season One (BBC)

These releases are the start of something big that I never thought would happen. On DVD, the classic Doctor Who series was released serial by serial, skipping around Doctor to Doctor. You could never get a full seasons set (Something made very difficult with the nature of many of the first 2 Doctors episodes being lost forever). But, no so on Blu-ray. It began with the release of the most popular Doctor, the Fourth iteration as played by Tom Baker, in his first season. Arguably the series’ best as it includes many of the most popular villains and a few dynamite storylines (Genesis of the Daleks is a series high point). Peter Davison’s first series was an interesting choice to follow, but one press of play and you can see why. Baker’s first season, I believe is all video sourced for every episode. The quality is fine, though you have to be accepting of it. Davison’s first series not only has its video looking eons better, but many of the episodes had location shooting that was shot on film. And those reels have been restored, transferred and inserted in their proper place in the story. And they look pretty remarkable. They’ve also Star Trek’d it and give you the option for improved modern visual effects on certain episodes. In terms of bonus features, you couldn’t ask for anything more complete, as every serial has its own documentary covering various aspects with essential players. Shout out to the BBC1 continuities they include too. I love them. Here’s looking forward toward next year’s releases of Baker’s final season and Sylvester McCoy’s (And hopefully more).

5. Scream Factory Enters A New Sub-licensing Era!

Collector’s Editions of Creepshow, Candyman, Urban Legend and Ninja III: The Domination

With new licensing partners, the Shout! Factory brand saw many big titles becoming a part of their library while also showcasing a worthy double dip of a previous release. Urban Legend, while having the same audio/video spec as the previous release, blew me away with an incredibly engaging two and a half hour documentary AND extended interviews with pretty much every party not named Leto or Jackson come to play. Candyman featured an impressive new transfer with a wealth of interviews and bonus featurettes past and present. Creepshow found itself with a LOVELY transfer and terrific packaging for the King classic to go along with some solid and unique bonus features. The more love to Ninja III: The Domination the better, as this one added interviews to the already terrific commentary for the film. These are four standouts for me personally, but there were many other great additions to fans libraries from them this year as well.

4. That Mandatory Criterion Slot

Night of the Living Dead, Silence of the Lambs, The Princess Bride

Unfortunately, I kind of fell behind on Criterion releases in 2018, both in buying and watching. FilmStruck (RIP) helped get me through some cash strapped times. I was wildly thrilled and impressed with their definitive releases of Night of the Living Dead and Silence of the Lambs to kick the year off. Both films are marvelous as part of their Blu-ray catalog. Princess Bride became a wonderful surprise with the perfect packaging and a transfer that knocked my socks off. This is probably one of my favorite transfers of the year as it just was candy on the eyes from start to finish. Its nice to see it receive master treatment after being just a refurbished bargain bin title for years.

3. When A Stranger Calls (Second Sight, UK-Only Region Free)

A last minute jump from maybe not making the list due to availability to 3rd place. Not bad. I’m not even the biggest fan of this film. I enjoy it, but I think its got such an effective opening, the rest never lives up to it. Though, I will say the ending is terrific and the in between grows on me the more I return to it. However, this release is fantastic. The new art is great, it comes in a hard shell case with a booklet, the soundtrack and a poster (Original art) to boot. The new transfer of the film looks very good. Bonuses include new interviews with the director and Carol Cane. One of the biggest surprises on here is it also includes the television movie sequel (In HD) When A Stranger Calls Back and the original short film The Sitter. This is one of the definitive releases that horror fans really need to get their hands on.

2. Batman: The Complete Animated Series (Warner Bros)

Yay, I’m the fourth list to include this set. What more do I add that hasn’t already been said three times already? Why isn’t Mystery of the Batwoman included? Don’t talk about that? Oh, okay. The set is a dream come true. The episodes look great, all the bonus material is intact, there’s a wonderful new documentary included and you get Mask of the Phantasm, too. The set’s biggest crime are that the Funko Pop Mini figures don’t stand up, one of said figures isn’t of Rupert Thorne and There’s A Batman In My Basement was included. Other than that, we are sitting very pretty. In all honesty, this release is a dream come true and was handled with care.

1. Fulci First

Zombie (Blue Underground), City Of The Living Dead (Arrow Video), Murder Rock (Scorpion Releasing), Perversion Story (Mondo Macabro).

And at the very end, the list got very Brandon, very fast. Before anyone cries foul because there are 4 Blu-rays at #1, Blue Underground’s 2018 release of ZOMBIE is THE #1. The other 3 either were going to make the list at a different spot or were worthy of mention. If you know me, you know I have a love for Italian horror director (And gore-master) Lucio Fulci. He’s an acquired taste that most never acquire beyond enjoying Zombie. If it hadn’t been for the last minute steal by 2001: A Space Odyssey, Blue Underground’s 4K restoration of Zombie/Zombi 2/Zombie Flesh Eaters (As I said in the Naptown Nerd days, one day I’ll go over that.) would be the one that surprised and impressed me the most. I never in a million years imagined one of his films could look so lovely. I always chalked it up to poor storage and crappy film stock. Zombie looks amazing. Lets not put a damper on Arrow, who did a good 4K remaster on City of the Living Dead, which I adore as well. Scorpion debut his film Murder Rock on Blu-ray which is a nice solid release. I read once where someone put it best that Murder Rock (aka The Demon Is Loose) is like if Lucio Fulci directed Olivia Newton John’s “Physical” music video. Yes, its delicious. And in the giallo turn (Fulci had his hands in many things, including loads of comedies and some westerns), Monda Macabro releasing Perversion Story (One On Top Of The Other) to a nice release akin to their Woman In Lizard’s Skin from a few years back. I was hoping this would include FIVE Fulci features, but it appears as if Scorpion’s release of The Psychic, which is said to have been impressively restored, isn’t arriving until early January. I have many wishes to get all of his 70s and 80s horror output on Blu-ray, but these new scans are welcome as well. Next year we will see a 4K restoration of New York Ripper from Blue Underground. I would love to see Contraband and Conquest soon.

That wraps up 2018 for me. It was a big and exhaustive year for me in the Blu-ray world. I hit my 5 year milestone at Why So Blu and also crossed the 1,000 review mark. To those who look forward to my annual Wishlist article, it will be dropping in January 2019. There were too many surprise titles and later announcements I was waiting on to quiet down. A combination of that and simply having too much going on led me to push it off until the first month of the year. Don’t worry, it’ll be back. I appreciate your click, your time, your comments, your thoughts, your praise, your hatred, your love of 4K UHD and Blu-ray.

Now that all of us Why So Blu writers are through – What are some of YOUR favorite releases in 2018?


6 Responses to “Hello. My Name Is Brandon Peters. This Is My Top Blu-rays List. Prepare To Read!”

  1. Brian White

    Holy hell!
    I’m still going through this list, but I had to stop and say I love you! Mamma Mia 2 4K is in here loud and proud! I love it!!!
    Even Fraggle Rock is getting shown some love.
    So much goodness here it’s hard to contain my inner girl excitement. LOL

  2. Gerard Iribe

    Wow, great lists, Brandon! I started cracking up at Buffalo Bill’s thumbnail obscuring his unmentionables.

  3. Brandon Peters

    Thanks G! You can say I “tucked” that picture in appropriately lol

  4. Aaron Neuwirth

    So many ties!

    – Yes, you chose the right Spielberg films.

    – Gotta get that Changling.

    – I should have bought the 2001 4K when I had the chance, just to have.

  5. Brian White

    Taking another look again throughout here appreciating all the time you put into the the graphics here!

  6. Gregg

    Dang I’m really wishing I would’ve caught Mama Mia now. With your list, I believe that makes three containing BTAS collection. Well done on a 4K and regular Blu-ray list! Inthe words of Darth Vader, “Impressive. Most impressive.”