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This year has been a bit off and on for the issuing of high-quality DVDs. There seems to have, for me at least, been peaks and troughs for the releases which are worthy additions to my (in need of reinforcing) shelves. In no particular order I have a fairly extensive of releases which I enjoyed and appreciated as well as those from this year I still haven’t got round to viewing!

My Year in DVD - 2002

The Oscars last year were a fight between two films, The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring and A Beautiful Mind. While I didn’t feel A Beautiful Mind should have picked up all the awards it did, it was a fantastic film with a decent two disc DVD release. Based on a true story, it told the life of brilliant mathematician John Nash and while this sounds quite lame, it is a moving and brilliant piece of cinema. Nothing too outstanding extras wise although there are a fair amount, other than John Nash’s actual Nobel Prize-Winning Theory and Acceptance speech. Definitely worth checking out as it is an excellent film. Leading on from this, what many people will be hailing as the DVD release of the year – Lord of the Rings. After several releases the Extended Edition was released with an extra thirty minutes of footage and two discs worth of extras. The most exciting thing for me though was the inclusion of a DTS soundtrack. I never thought I would be happy to watch a film over two discs but in this case the film was so good it didn’t matter. The picture pushes the limits of what DVD is capable of and the sound was wonderful. I’d imagine all the fans will have this by now but to those of you with just the “standard” two disc release – sell it or Ebay it and then get this version. Next year I expect to be here harping on about how great the Extended Edition of The Two Towers is, however for this year I would say this is a definite inclusion for any DVD enthusiast.

My Year in DVD - 2002

Other DVDs let loose on the public this year with both excellent picture quality, sound and a wealth of extras include Star Wars – Attack of the Clones, Spider-man (Limited Edition three disc release with fantastic DVD extras, of course), Monsters, Inc and the much over hyped (and a bit of a let down in my opinion) Minority Report. All of these DVDs are great and it wouldn’t surprise me if you have at least one of the above and because of that, I am not going to talk about them as I think we all know they were great. But what else was released this year? Obviously many DVDs are released every year especially now that DVD players are easily outselling video players so what gems might you have missed?

Action


Possibly overlooked this year was Resident Evil. It was not a fantastic movie but a great action zombie adventure. The fact that there is not much to think about didn’t matter to me as I enjoyed it very much. The picture was almost flawless and the audio commentary was highly amusing. I am still waiting to see if there will be the rumoured unrated extra violent directors cut next year. In a similar vein, Blade 2 entered the cinemas and then was released on DVD shortly after. This vampire decapitating hack and slash monster movie was presented with a very good video transfer and of course (what I hope to soon be standard for action movies) a DTS soundtrack. A great selection of extras made this a good package however the film itself was not as good as it’s predecessor and the computer graphics used in the fight scenes made me expect to reach on the floor and pick up a video games controller as it just seemed far too much like a game for my liking.

Moving on to the eagerly anticipated Back to the Future trilogy which some of us have had since June. We find Marty and Doc Brown skidding up and down corridors and time travelling. While some sites claimed the picture was reference quality I would have to say that it comes with more grain than a bag of chicken feed. The picture is sharp however and presented with good colour levels. In fact it will never look better and as for the sound, well you have guessed it – DTS. The sound mix is good and it is great to hear that classic theme in surround sound. The extras aren’t bad either especially the commentaries so this should definitely be considered as it is a fantastic purchase. Speaking of time travel I do have to mention A.I – Artificial Intelligence. The film itself has its advocates and those that hated it...however apart from the way it ended, I really enjoyed it. The video transfer again looked quite poor – very grainy but this was how the director wanted it to be presented so there isn't much point in crying. The story tells of a family in the future who cannot have children and so the miracle of technology allows them to have a robot child with feelings. Haley Joel Osment and Jude Law both do fine acting jobs and the special effects in the film are fantastic. The two disc set comes with many good extra features and so if you are interested in this genre I would recommend checking it out especially as the sales are just around the corner and it will probably be available for less than ten pounds.

My Year in DVD - 2002

Moving into the past and future was the two disc release of Tron – 20th Anniversary Edition on DVD from Disney. Even today the computer effects are in my opinion great. Especially considering how old this film is. The colours are vibrant and the sound is also excellent. The computer game world created in this movie in which computer programs are represented physically by miniature versions of the programmers that wrote them cost a lot of money and the related cost made this film a flop however it has an almost cult following now as we wait for the Tron 2.0 PC game. To round this little section off I just want to mention Bend it Like Beckham which isn’t really an action film (except for the footy scenes) but it deserves a mention as it was a great British comedy and I heartily enjoyed it as well as the impressive DVD release.

TV series


Having digital satellite TV I would rarely consider purchasing a TV series on DVD as everything is repeated every six seconds however there were for me, two releases which had to be made. The first is Red Dwarf. How long has this taken to get to DVD? God only knows, but series one has arrived with series two on its way. A fantastic two disc release, nicely packaged with quality extras including audio commentaries and a look at how the “special effects” were created. I am glad to say that this release is the original episodes and not the computer enhanced versions the BBC decided to produce. The other series is Band of Brothers. I am not telling you anything about this as I am sure you all know about it but I will say this –the region one version has a DTS soundtrack and the region two doesn’t. The region one is also cheaper. I will let you make your own mind up which set to purchase.

Re-releases of old Classics


As always, this year several older films were re-released on DVD as the original DVD releases were appalling. First up is The Usual Suspects. This is the release the film finally deserves. Anamorphic widescreen with a (probably not needed) surround soundtrack and a decent selection of extras make this essential for everyone. It is truly one of the best films of all time. Also available again is Highlander – The Immortal Edition and finally this time with a much improved video transfer, a DTS soundtrack and a huge metal tin including a Queen CD. I think I am either part of a strange cult or all by myself when I harp on about how much I like this film but I don’t care. It’s a fun head removing sword fighting romp through time – There can be only one! Except there were four Highlander movies, and I think they are making a fifth (I have no idea how since everyone should be dead by now).

My Year in DVD - 2002


A couple of classic horror films reissued in 2002 were The Evil Dead – Book of the Dead edition and The Evil Dead – Army of Darkness. As a fan of these films, the director (Sam Raimi) and the legend of b-movie acting that is Bruce Campbell I snapped these up and was impressed. DTS sound featured on the Book of the Dead which also came with incredible packaging the like of which the DVD world has not seen before presented like the Book of the Dead itself wit ha rubbery and bubbily skin covering. Everyone loves it. The region two release of Army of Darkness also had a DTS soundtrack which is a just brilliant not just sonically but since the region one version of this two disc set is out of print and fetching ludicrous prices second hand, it is quite amusing to think it doesn’t even feature the DTS soundtrack that was for some reason added to the region two release.

My Year in DVD - 2002

This year also saw the release of the two disc special edition of One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest which is a fantastic film. I had not seen it before I received the review copy but it was outstanding. Excellent performances from the cast and this time round, an anamorphic transfer with much more realistic colour levels. If you are a fan of the film and have the older non-anamorphic version then I would suggest this version might be a worthy buy as is the special edition of Pulp Fiction which comes presented on two discs packed with lots of extra features and a DTS soundtrack. The Italian Job also was released and I forgot what a great film this is. I know it is on television reasonably regularly but nothing beats owning Michael Caine’s words “I only expected you to blow the bloody doors off!” on DVD.

Interesting Films


There were also several releases which you might not have checked out before which are definitely worth checking out including the violent and boundary pushing Battle Royale which is set on an island where a class of school children are each given a weapon and told that they will only be allowed to leave the island when there is only one child left. It is certainly an unusual story and the two disc DVD is packed with extra features and a slightly different alternate ending. Also from the Far East comes Shaolin Soccer. This tale of football and Shaolin martial arts disciplines is brilliantly funny with fantastic special effects and an explosive DTS soundtrack. Definitely one to import.

Donnie Darko was only recently released at the cinema in the UK however it has been available on region one DVD since March. It is a strange film that requires several viewings to fully appreciate what is going on. The DVD comes with a plethora of extra features which I hope are also present on the region two DVD release next year. Those of you with a taste for time travelling murderous rabbits and aeroplanes which fall from the sky should put in an order for this. It is not a film for everyone as it requires the viewer to pay attention and think about what is going on, so if you are up to the challenge – go for it!

My Year in DVD - 2002

Also released this year is the two disc version of Amelie which is one of my all time favourite films. Telling the story of Amelie Poulain, this film directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet of The City of Lost children and Delicatessen fame this beautiful comedy should be watched by everyone. Oh, and the region two comes with yes you’ve guessed it, a DTS soundtrack.

All the bits I haven’t got time to talk about


I really have only skimmed the surface on my DVD year however there are a few other shiny discs that I have not got round to purchasing or watching yet which really deserve a mention from all the reviews surrounding them. Ice Age for its comical rat/fox creature and what seems to be a beautiful transfer, Eight Legged Freaks for its hail to the b-movies of the 1950s, the innovative television series 24 portraying a day in the life of a cop, the special edition of Legend (region one only, region two early next year I believe), Reservoir Dogs for finally being anamorphic, but with what we all think are washed out colours, Brotherhood of the Wolf for being apparently a great French martial-arts science-fiction movie, ET special edition region one DVD for including the original version of the film and not the rubbish digitally edited version Spielberg wanted everyone to watch, Black Hawk Down for its blistering soundtrack, and released again are all the James Bond movies which I would say are fantastic. I have had the region one versions of these since they were released and have not regretted it once.

My Year in DVD - 2002

So there you have it, my year in DVD crammed into less than 2500 words. It hasn’t been a great year for cinema so there are only a few DVDs I am currently really looking forward to, however this will give me a chance to catch up on everything I missed from 2002.

Of course, if any of these titles take you fancy and you are not sure which region to purchase then always check out www.dvdcompare.org.uk and then remember that for the cheapest prices make sure you use a search engine such as www.dvdpricecheck.co.uk or www.happyhunter.co.uk.

Roll on 2003.

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