Chris Gould's 'Best of 2005'
Chris Gould takes us on a trip through his top DVD releases of the past year
1. Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the SithUS Region One
First up we have probably the most obvious candidate of the year. It’s obvious because it’s one of the most recently-released titles on the list, but also because it’s the culmination of three decades of rabid Star Wars fanaticism on my part. Alright, so the movie itself was another disappointment, but the same cannot be said of the DVD. Starting with the ever-impressive Vang Ling menus, continuing through the spectacular audio-visual experience and ending with the wealth of in-depth bonus material, Revenge of the Sith is a new technical benchmark if nothing else. Is it the best release of the year? I guess that depends largely on your point of view (to paraphrase an old Jedi Knight).
2. Team America: World PoliceUK Region Two
For the next entry we go back to May for a film that, had it received a more comprehensive set of supplements, would have undoubtedly been my number one choice for the year. Put simply, Team America: World Police is a movie that gets funnier every time I watch it. While the audio-visual elements of the disc were perfectly acceptable, I couldn’t help feeling a little short-changed by the bonus material. After the excellent release of Orgazmo, with its hours and hours of supplemental features, this Parker/Stone collaboration’s selection of deleted scenes, featurettes and trailers just doesn’t seem as impressive. A commentary from the guys would probably have sealed the deal, but alas it was not to be. Still, the disc is worth it for the film alone, so anything else is a bonus!
3. Phantasm CollectionUK Region Two
Next up is an odd choice, for me at least. The Phantasm series was one that I’d never really had much exposure to, but Anchor bay’s recent boxed set impressed me greatly. Even putting aside the excellent restoration work done for the films themselves, the bonus material is extremely comprehensive, with hours of commentaries, documentaries, featurettes, trailers and more. What was especially pleasing about the release was the manner in which all of the principal cast and crew got involved, offering in-depth, candid interviews and serving up some genuinely entertaining commentary on the movies. Furthermore, they actually managed to sound as if they were enjoying themselves; something that is all-too rare among the promotional fluff served up on most releases. It’s quite sobering that in a year filled with relatively poor ‘blockbusters’ the release that offered the best supplemental material was based on a series of low-budget horror flicks produced mostly in the 70s and 80s…
4. Sin City: Recut, Extended, UnratedUS Region One
The next entry on the list was a shoe-in from the start. I was greatly impressed by Frank Miller’s Sin City during its theatrical run, making it one of the must-have DVDs of the year for me. While the original release offered a superb audio-visual experience it was severely lacking when it came to bonus material, but thankfully the current trend of releasing improved versions of our favourite DVDs a few months down the line yielded this ‘Recut, Extended, Unrated’ release. Including both the theatrical version and a new edition of the movie claiming over twenty minutes of additional footage (in reality it’s less than ten when you take credits out of the equation), this is the DVD set that should have been released the first time around. Putting aside the blatant profiteering one can’t help but be impressed by the continued audio-visual excellence and the hours of bonus material on offer.
5. Kung Fu HustleHong Kong Region Three
The next entry in my list is the first Stephen Chow film to gain any real recognition in the UK: Kung Fu Hustle. Chow’s humour may not be to everyone’s taste, but one has to admire his ability to take elements from wildly disparate genres and blend them into a successful movie. The DVD release of the film provides a great audio-visual experience backed up by a more than capable selection of bonus material. Furthermore, the region three ‘Ultimate Edition’ includes a very nice script book to set it apart from the run-of-the-mill region one and two releases, as well as a DTS track not present on the other releases. It’s not the most impressive DVD set of all time, but it’s a solid effort that does a great job of representing a highly entertaining movie.
6. Star Wars: Clone WarsUK Region Two
Moving on we come to the Star Wars: Clone Wars series, of which two volumes were released this year. It’s a sad fact, but these animated shorts proved to be more entertaining that the live-action Star Wars event of the year, with their fast-paced storylines and quirky animation style. I’m cheating slightly by including both volumes as one entry in this list, but they compliment one another very well and it would be hard to separate them. Technically, Fox delivered the goods in the audio-visual department, while offering a reasonable amount of bonus material that concentrates on the hard work and dedication that went into bringing the episodes to the screen.
7. Super Size MeUK Region Two
Now we go way back to January for the DVD release of a relatively unknown (at the time) documentary called Super Size Me. Morgan Spurlock’s life-endangering exposé on the risks of eating too much fast food was enough to put me off of McDonald’s for life, as well as taking a long hard look at some of the other foods I forced into my already abused body. Along with the entertaining feature itself, the DVD release was packed with tons of bonus material including a humorous commentary track, deleted scenes and interviews with the director and other individuals who have decided to fight the good fight against the massive corporations. Super Size Me proves that award-winning documentaries don’t have to be boring or feature Michael Moore. That alone earns it a place in this list.
8. Batman Begins: Special EditionHong Kong Region Three
Batman Begins was arguably the best live-action ‘comic book’ movie of the year (although some Sin City supporters would probably disagree). The film managed to breathe new life into a franchise largely ruined by terrible sequels and hammy acting, with Christian Bale’s turn as the caped crusader proving to be an altogether darker experience. Having watched the film again recently I can honestly say that I enjoyed it very much, especially because it received a very respectable two-disc Special Edition release packed with plenty of interesting content, presented in a novel way (items are selected via the pages of an electronic comic book). As is usual for Warner Home Video releases, audio-visual presentation is also top-notch. All-in-all this is a very worthy purchase.
9. The IncrediblesHong Kong Region Three
If Sin City and Batman Begins are good examples of successful live-action comic book movies, The Incredibles is definitely the best animated superhero adventure of the year. Managing to out-fantastic the Fantastic Four, this dysfunctional family featured in one of the more enjoyable films of 2004 and certainly one of the most jam-packed DVDs of this year. You’d be hard pushed to find a more appealing audio-visual transfer, but it is the abundance of bonus material that really sets this one apart from the run-of-the-mill ‘Special Editions’ that seem to crop up every week (and really aren’t deserving of the ‘special’ tag). If you want hours of commentaries, short films, featurettes, documentaries, outtakes and deleted scenes, then this is the set for you.
10. Shaolin Soccer: Ultimate EditionKorean Region Three
Who’d have thought it? Two Stephen Chow films in the top ten! Proving once again that Korean releases are very near the top of the DVD ladder, Shaolin Soccer: Ultimate Edition includes more versions of the film than is probably healthy, along with a generous amount of bonus material (although that sadly lacks English subtitles). I was surprised to find myself including two Chow films in this list, but I guess it’s a testament to his talent and ability to blend different genres. I can’t imagine Hollywood churning out a kung fu football film any time soon. Anyway, this set is here because of the awesome presentation, improved audio-visual transfer and because, well, it’s my list!
I’m sure many of you will disagree with these choices but, as the saying goes, you can’t please all of the people all of the time (or any of the people judging by some of the comments left on the website). We all have different tastes and that’s the beauty of movies—there’s something for everyone. I haven’t seen everything I wanted to see in 2005 (the Raging Bull special edition for example), but the titles on this list represent the discs that have stuck in my mind over the course of the year. Honourable mentions must also go to the special editions of Orgazmo, Star Trek: First Contact and The Frighteners, the latter for the Peter Jackson commentary and near-four-hour documentary. I also briefly considered including the excellent Special Edition of The Fly, but sadly I received it a little too late to fully explore the set. Another title that missed out was the director’s cut of Hero, but it’s nice to finally have a version that is viewable (unlike the appalling release from mainland China). As always I hope you enjoyed this little stroll down the 2005 DVD release memory lane, and welcome any and all constructive comments as we look forward to 2006. Let’s hope it brings us a better crop of releases than this year.
Editorial by Chris Gould
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