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2007 was a really interesting year for me personally. First I made the decision that after a four-year layoff that I’d suck up forking over the tuition, finally get my ass in gear and go back to school to finish up my degree. I’ve stuck with it since January, and after dropping around $20,000 by the time June rolls around I’ll be all done with college for the third time in my life. Then there was my engagement and subsequent marriage in late September and everything that goes along with that whole deal—including becoming an instant Dad to the coolest little eight year-old I know—that stole away what little time I had left after working all day and attending classes all night (not that I regret any of it in the least, Sweetheart. I love you).

Add in a little bit of this and a little bit of that and I’ve hardly had any time at all to write up reviews for the site over the past twelve months or so, but that doesn’t mean I stopped buying and watching DVDs. Sure, I fell asleep during plenty after getting in late and popping something in and it usually took two or three nights to get all the way through most discs, but I've still managed to check out more than my fair share since this time last year. I also jumped headfirst into both HD DVD and Blu-ray, which in addition to plenty of the year's new releases led to watching many of my old favourites all over again in glorious high definition.

But never mind all that—you didn’t come to read about my year like some belated and lame family Christmas letter. Here are my selections for the best of what was available in region one during 2007 on both standard DVD and high definition formats.

Matt Joseph's Best of 20007
In all honesty Pan’s Labyrinth is like fourth on my list of favourite Guillermo del Toro films after The Devil’s Backbone, Cronos, and Hellboy, but it was still 99% better than most of the film’s released on DVD over the past year. New Line Home Video’s two-disc release was up in that percentile as far as DVDs go too with an outstanding presentation and some really nice extras to go along with the feature. Calling it the best new release DVD of 2007 was still a close call considering the competition, but after taking into account that I purchased three separate versions of the movie throughout the year the choice became perfectly clear. Be sure to check out Chris Gould’s review of the region two, two-disc set from Optimum for the lowdown on one of the best fantasy flicks in recent years.

Runners-Up Best New Release DVD

Matt Joseph's Best of 20007
My runners-up for best new DVD release are all great two-disc sets in their own right. The Departed may have lacked a commentary track, but the rest of the Oscar-Winning film’s set—including the TCM Scorsese on Scorsese documentary not found on hi-def versions—was worth a nod. The Host was quite simply the best monster movie I’ve seen in several years, and its off-kilter ways kept it in the back of my mind far after the first viewing and led to more than one repeat spin in my player.

Live Free or Die Hard was a nice surprise after not allowing myself to get my hopes up, and the two-disc unrated edition packed some real punch with an outstanding presentation and some real meaty extras including one of the year’s better commentary tracks and a candid, 25-minute interview with Bruce Willis by Kevin Smith. Casino Royale (Gabe's review) was my favourite action film released on DVD in 2007. Sony’s two-disc set really brought the secret agent home in style, and even thought the extras felt a little light compared to the other choices presented here the movie’s presentation was right on and a real bright spot early in the year.

Matt Joseph's Best of 20007
Fans of this semi-cult classic waited years for somebody to release the film on DVD and most would have probably been happy with just a vanilla disc with decent picture and sound. Leave it to Lionsgate to treat the die-hard faithful to a two-disc set loaded with some spooktacular features to go along with a really nice presentation. As if the commentary tracks weren’t enough, they even included a feature length documentary on the making-of the movie to satiate your appetite for everything Monster Squad on the second disc and all for a bargain price at most retailers to boot. If you want to know more, this was one of the few DVDs that I managed to review this past year and you can read all about it here.

Runners-Up Best Catalog Release DVD

Matt Joseph's Best of 20007
Taxi Driver finally got shown some love on DVD with a feature packed set, and if you think that’s not reason enough for it to be mentioned here you obviously haven’t seen the film. So you say you haven’t seen it? Here’s a dunce cap—and I want you to wear it until you sit down in your recliner and take a ride in Travis’ taxi for the evening…shame on you. Robocop received similar treatment after languishing in catalog hell ever since Criterion’s disc went out-of-print and a half-hearted attempt at a special edition was released a couple of years ago. The new two-disc set featured both the theatrical and unrated cuts of the film, a fairly solid presentation, and some decent extras spread across both discs.

Next up is Anchor Bay’s Phantasm (Gabe’s review), which is a really nice set that lands here by default over another Anchor Bay Collection title, Re-Animator (Gabe’s review…again). I liked both sets a lot, but the Re-Animator set was just a rehash of Elite’s Millennium Edition from a few years back save for a new documentary and without the isolated score included. To be fair, Phantasm and its extras had been released previously as part of an elaborate set of all four movies by Anchor Bay as well, but that was overseas in the UK which meant for many this was their first chance to score a really nice version with anamorphic widescreen and plenty of extras here in region one. Lastly there’s Criterion’s Robinson Crusoe on Mars, which finally made its way over from their laserdisc vault with a shiny new transfer and plenty of supplements. There were a few new discs released from the folks at The Criterion Collection this year that were all worthy of praise—such as The Third Man and If…—but I didn’t grow up watching those on late night television either, so this was easily my first choice when it came to picking one of their discs for inclusion here. If you’re a fan of classic science fiction flicks, do yourself a favor and check it out as it’s definitely worth your time.

Matt Joseph's Best of 20007
If you’ve missed out on Showtime’s breakout hit then there’s no better place to start than with Dexter: The Complete First Season. This show was my surprise favourite this past year and kept me glued to the television longer than what was probably healthy on one particular Saturday when I ran through half a dozen episodes back-to-back. Dexter’s got a little bit of everything up its sleeves, and Michael C. Hall’s lead performance as the serial killer with a conscience is one of the best currently on television. The four-disc set has a nice set of extras to accompany the series and should set the stage nicely for those waiting on the second season to be released later this year on home video.

Runners-Up Best Television Show On DVD

Matt Joseph's Best of 20007
Finally somebody realized that releasing Twin Peaks on DVD without its pilot episode was just a bad idea and rectified the situation by including it and both seasons of producer David Lynch’s landmark series on DVD with a plenty of extras. The result was a damn fine set from Paramount Home Video in Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition that no cherry pie loving fan should go without. Universal Home Video hit a home run with their release of Heroes: Season One with a set chock full of extras and a decent presentation, and fans who were lucky enough to purchase the set on HD DVD got even a few more surprises when popping each disc in their players.

Releasing The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the same manner that they did the complete Get Smart last year by offering it for a limited time as a direct from Time-Life exclusive and as a complete set may limit its exposure to a lot of casual DVD buyers, but after checking out a friend’s copy of the set I’d urge anyone else to do the same. Included was every episode of the series presented in excellent quality and a hours of extras that I wished I’d had the time to go through 100%. Lost may have started its third season off slower than fans would have liked, but if you weren’t glued to your television screens by the end then there’s no help for you. Disney gave the show a great third volume that kept up quality-wise with the previous seasons’ releases and upped the ante in the special features department. Quality, quality stuff here folks, and for a real treat make sure to check out the Blu-ray release for the better than broadcast experience.

Matt Joseph's Best of 20007
Those with an HD DVD player should definitely have made The Ultimte Matrix Collection a top priority this past year. The pristine presentation for all three films and the extras—especially Warner’s In-Movie Experience picture-in-picture feature—made a second go around with this set like watching the trilogy for the first time all over again. The only real disappointment was that The Animatrix wasn't presented in high definition, but overall that fact didn't hurt the set badly at all. If you’ve yet to make the jump to high definition just yet make sure to replace your standard definition collection with either the HD DVD or the eventual Blu-ray release as it’s definitely worth it.

Runners-Up Best Boxed Set

Matt Joseph's Best of 20007
I have some reservations including the Harry Potter boxed set here as it’s assuredly not the last such set we’ll be seeing from Warner Home Video with two movies yet to go and all, but it’s a nice set nonetheless and a great place to start if you’ve yet to purchase any of the Potter films on home video or are looking to upgrade to either HD DVD or Blu-ray. The movies are as magical as their characters, the presentation for each is superb and there are plenty of special features to be found on each disc. Warner also gets kudos for their Stanley Kubrick boxed set, which included new special editions of five of the director’s films from the studio and the documentary Stanley Kubrick: A Life in Pictures on a separate disc and exclusive to the set. The quality of each presentation and the extras included—my favourite being a commentary track on Full Metal Jacket with R. Lee Emery and Vincent D’Onofrio—make this set mandatory for Kubrick fans. For more casual viewers Warner has also thankfully released each film individually on both standard definition DVD and high definition formats.

Matt Joseph's Best of 20007
I loved Shaun of the Dead, but I love Hot Fuzz even more. The second feature film from the team of Pegg and Wright is packed to the gills with so much stuff here and there that it demands repeat viewing, and it gets better every time I see it. Universal did the HD DVD up right—even if they did leave standard DVD owners holding the bag—by producing a disc loaded with virtually every extra found on the original region two DVD release including multiple commentaries, plenty of behind the scenes featurettes, and an amateur film from Wright that even contains its own commentary tracks. You would have been hard pressed to find another HD DVD release this year that looked and sounded this good and with as many hours of extras as Hot Fuzz (Chris Gould’s region two, standard definition DVD review).

Runners-Up Best HD DVD Release

Matt Joseph's Best of 20007
Warner Home Video’s 300 (Chris’ region two, standard definition DVD review) was a balls to the walls action flick and little else, but who’s to say that there’s anything wrong with that? Both high definition versions featured stellar presentations, but the picture-in-picture feature which enabled viewers to watch the movie sans special effects work found only on the HD DVD version of the film gave it a slight edge over its Blu-ray cousin. Add in a good commentary track and some other worthwhile extras and you’ve got yourself one of the best discs released last year in any format. Knocked Up was another feature packed comedy hit from Universal that led to repeat viewings and hours of wasted time going over the extras included. Universal got another certifiable HD DVD hit on their hand’s with their release of The Bourne Ultimatum that contained a great presentation and plenty of features to go along with what was the best theater going experience I had all summer.

Lastly comes Paramount Home Video’s Transformers (Scott McKenzie’s standard definition DVD review) which was a movie that I liked a lot more than it deserved. I don’t know if it was just the nostalgia bug that bit me, but the scene where the Autobots arrive to Earth was quite a sight and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the giant robots smash stuff up too. The HD DVD contained the visual goods needed for the film’s great visual effects work, and the sound was a real surprise considering it wasn’t up the format’s usual technical standards. In addition to the excellent presentation there were features aplenty spread across the two-disc set with some exclusive content added as a bonus for HD DVD owners that should be enough to give fans everything they need to know about the making of the picture.

Matt Joseph's Best of 20007
What’s not there to love about Disney and Pixar’s latest feast for the eyes? The film itself is fantastic and now ranks second to The Incredibles as my favourite picture from the animation studio thanks to a heart-warming story geared towards both the child and adult inside each and every one of us. As far as the technical side goes the Blu-ray release is the best looking film to grace the format yet and there were plenty of extras included to shed light on the making of the picture. If you own a Blu-ray player and haven’t yet picked up Ratatouille you’re truly depriving yourself of the best that high definition has to offer.

Runners-Up Best Blu-ray Release

Matt Joseph's Best of 20007
The runners-up in this category all feature demo quality technical features and enough special features to satisfy their multitude of fans. Spider-Man 3 (Gabe’s review) may not have reached the heights set by its predecessor, Spider-Man 2, but it was still an enjoyable, albeit overstuffed, flick. The two-disc Blu-ray presentation is outstanding in every category, and it’s easy to see why Sony decided to include it with their Playstation 3 console late in the year. Superbad was another Sony release that looked and sounded great and had so many features that it too was afforded a two-disc set, so the year’s best comedy not called Hot Fuzz gets some 'McLovin' from me.

Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End was certainly the weakest of the three movies in the trilogy, and as such its inclusion here is more for the entirety of Johnny Depp’s swashbuckling adventures that were released on Blu-ray during 2007. Framing issues with the fist film aside, all three were a spectacular sight to behold in high definition and included a boatload of extras on six discs, including the entertaining and interactive feature, ‘Enter the Maelstrom’, on the third picture’s bonus disc. Like Paramount’s Transformers, another movie that I liked a lot more than it deserved was Fox’s Fantastic Four: Rise of the Silver Surfer (Gabe’s standard definition DVD review), which was a much faster and entertaining ride than the first. The presentation was flawless, and with all of the extras from the standard DVD two-disc set ported over to the Blu-ray disc Fox made sure that no fan of the picture was left wanting.

Matt Joseph's Best of 20007
I honestly don’t know where to begin in describing just how great Warner Home Video’s Blade Runner: The Complete Collector’s Edition on Blu-ray and HD DVD really is other than to say it is the most comprehensive chronicle of a motion picture ever released on home video. Five versions of the film, re-mastered as close to perfection as anyone could want and hours of bonus features including multiple commentary tracks and a 3 ½ hour documentary awaited the wise souls who rushed out and picked these discs up the day they were released. They certainly made us fans wait long enough, but boy was this one worth it. As I understand it the standard definition set is outstanding as well, but once you’ve laid your eyes on these puppies there isn’t any going back. Oh yeah, Ridley Scott’s movie isn’t half bad either.

Runner-Up Best Overall Release

Matt Joseph's Best of 20007
Steven Spielberg’s Close Encounters of the Third Kind is my sole runner-up for best release of the year with major props going out to the two-disc Blu-ray version and its excellent presentation and additional extras over the three-disc, standard definition set. Like the Blade Runner set, you get every incarnation of the film in all its re-mastered glory and some quality extras, such as a newly conducted, 20-minute interview with the director that partially makes up for his reluctance in doing an actual commentary. Simply put, Sony has created a package for Close Encounters that is out of this world.

Well, I think that pretty much does it for 2007, and thank God seeing as if I had to go through it all over again chances are 50/50 that I wouldn’t make it out alive. I hope you enjoyed whatever it is that you spun in your player this past year and continue to do so throughout the coming year, regardless if you’re Blu, Red, or steadfastly holding out with good ‘ol standard DVD.

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