I have basically resigned myself to reviewing, watching and recommending Blu-rays whenever possible. I love the format and wish everyone could just magically adopt it so the prices would become more reasonable (a dream scenario I’m sure). I am always waiting and looking for deals when it comes to Blu-rays since most often the prices are simply too outrageous. As a matter of fact, while putting this piece together I only now bought myself copies of The African Queen and The Bridge on the River Kwai at Barnes and Noble as both were on sale and I had a 10% off coupon. The way I see it $39 isn’t bad for the those two titles, especially when suggested retail is $75 before shipping.
So understand, I know when recommending this many titles at once I realize the possibility of you purchasing all of them is slim to none, but hopefully I may be able to give you an idea of a few of the good ones to come out over the past 12 months. With that said, let’s begin exploring what I consider the best of 2010 when it comes to Blu-ray, along with one DVD set to really go old school.
The Criterion Collection really took to adopting Blu-ray this year and has hurt everyone’s wallets as a result. It was difficult just to narrow it down to 18 releases, but I guarantee if you bought these 18 releases over the course of the year you are looking fondly upon your collection at this moment.
- Federico Fellini’s 8½ [buy it now]: I simply love this movie and as a result consider it a Blu-ray must buy. Then again, I would say the same about most any Fellini film and you’ll most likely be hearing me say it again when Amarcord arrives on Criterion Blu-ray on February 28.
- Che [buy it now]: I am not as in love with this film as I was with the special features that accompanied this release. It caused me to write about this release here, here and here.
- Days of Heaven [buy it now]: If we’re talking beautiful films much in need of Blu-ray treatment this is one likely to be at or near the top of most people’s list and Criterion certainly didn’t fail on this release.
- Yojimbo & Sanjuro [buy it now]: I bet a lot of people will tell you Yojimbo is their favorite film from Akira Kurosawa even though Seven Samurai is probably the most well known. I’d have a hard time arguing against said people.
- Vivre sa vie [buy it now]: I’m a Godard fan and I had not seen this film prior to Criterion’s release, and it’s excellent. You can read my full review of this one here.
- Mystery Train [buy it now]: Along with Vivre sa vie I had a few other welcome discoveries from Criterion this year, one was Jim Jarmusch’s Mystery Train. After a lengthy review of the Blu-ray I wrote, “It’s cool and relaxed, the characters respond naturally to situations, yet it does have its share of eccentric and above the law moments that allow it to never get boring.” Give it a look.
- The Red Shoes [buy it now] and Black Narcissus [buy it now]: It only seems proper to group these two here just as I did when I reviewed them. Two great films. Two beautiful films.
- Crumb [buy it now]: Perhaps my biggest discovery courtesy of Criterion was their Blu-ray release of Crumb, a fascinating documentary on underground comic artist Robert Crumb that completely took me by surprise.
- Breathless [buy it now]: Like 8½, this is included here simply because it’s a fantastic movie. It may actually be my favorite movie of all-time. That said, if you own Criterion’s previous DVD release you probably don’t need to upgrade to Blu-ray, but if you don’t yet have this film in your collection hit that Buy Now link immediately and remedy the error.
- The Thin Red Line [buy it now]: Did someone say beautiful? On top of that The Thin Red Line is just as amazing as it is beautiful.
- Seven Samurai [buy it now]: Add it to the 8½ and Breathless pile, though this release is probably the most visibly improved of the three classic Criterion releases and one I would say is probably most worthy of upgrading if you already owned the DVD.
- Paths of Glory [buy it now]: When it comes to Kubrick this is probably one of the more overlooked titled simply because it was a smaller, non Warner release, but it is a gem. I can’t believe someone would ever watch it and not immediately fall for it.
- The Night of the Hunter [buy it now]: I have no idea if demand has forced Amazon to charge more for this title than Criterion is charging, but it is definitely one of Criterion’s best releases of the year. Simply beautiful in every way and includes one hell of an impressive grouping of special features. You can read my review here.
- Modern Times [buy it now]: I can’t help but wonder how long it is going to take Criterion to get to the rest of Chaplin’s catalog. They’ve announced all of their titles through March so far and still no word on the next release. I would expect at least one or two next year and perhaps a box set of some sort. Either way, this is a great title to get started with and it’s loaded with features, get more on those right here.
- Cronos [buy it now]: I hadn’t seen this film before Criterion issued it on Blu-ray in early December, but it is classic del Toro, the del Toro we know from The Devil’s Backbone and Pan’s Labyrinth, which should be enough to get enthusiasts on board, if not read my full review.
- Roberto Rossellini’s War Trilogy [buy it now]: Here’s our one DVD exception, Criterion’s treatment of Rossellini’s War Trilogy may in fact be the best release of the year. It’s exceptional from top to bottom and the films are standouts in their own right. The three films in the set are Rome Open City, Paisan and Germany Year Zero and if you haven’t yet seen them at the very least give ’em a look on Netflix. You can read my review here for more information on what’s included
Digging into the catalog titles is where we find a few gems that may or may not have been overlooked. Some of these are personal favorites I’m glad to have on Blu-ray and others are Blu-rays almost any avid film fan should have in their collection. Two that I have not included are the two I mentioned at the outset of this article, The African Queen and The Bridge on the River Kwai. I’ve heard both are great, but as I have not yet had the chance to watch them on Blu-ray I can’t attest to their quality.
- Collateral [buy it now]: A personal favorite and my favorite Michael Mann film. On top of that, this is an excellent looking Blu-ray.
- Doctor Zhivago (45th Anniversary Edition) [buy it now]: A very good film and this is a release that didn’t receive a ton of buzz back in May, but it’s a rather solid transfer, not to mention anything from David Lean is liable to look great in high definition.
- Seven [buy it now]: An excellent transfer and a worthy Blu-ray addition though the features were a bit disappointing. No matter, still a favorite of mine and a must buy as far as I’m concerned on Blu-ray.
- King Kong (1933) [buy it now]: A richly textured release, though if you don’t like grain in your HD transfers you may want to avoid this one.
- Grindhouse (Special Edition) [buy it now]: Finally, both films together as a double feature with the faux trailers in-between. Unfortunately it is lacking the extended versions of each film, which would have made this a definitive release, it is still a great buy.
- Beauty and the Beast (Diamond Edition) [buy it now]: Classic Disney, beautifully realized in high definition. While I am not this film’s largest supporter it is an excellent release, with tons of features and when it comes to Disney animation I pretty much abide my personal rule that all must be owned.
- The Treasure of the Sierra Madre [buy it now] and The Maltese Falcon [buy it now]: Buy ’em both right now. These transfers are excellent on top of the fact they are two of Bogart’s best.
- Apocalypse Now (Three-Disc Full Disclosure Edition) [buy it now]: The definitive edition to be sure.
- Psycho (50th Anniversary Edition) [buy it now]: I had some reservations regarding this release when I reviewed it and debated whether I should include it or not so I’ll just repeat what I said at the end of that review. “I won’t say this is a ‘must have’ in terms of upgrades, but if you haven’t yet upgraded to either the Legacy Edition of Psycho or the edition released with 2005’s Master Collection then this is a release you should really consider. Otherwise, I think those previously remastered editions should satisfy.”
- One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest [buy it now]: This was also a last second addition, primarily because it is pretty much the same thing that was released back in 2008, though it does have the complete “Completely Cuckoo” documentary so it is up to you. You can click here for my full review.
Kino has plenty of titles to mine from their collection such as The Great Train Robbery, Nosferatu, The Birth of a Nation, Intolerance and more works from D.W. Griffith, The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari, Akira Kurosawa’s Dersu Uzala and more films from Buster Keaton and this year they unleashed a pair of obvious titles and a nice Keaton double feature.
- Battleship Potemkin [buy it now]: Excellent Blu-ray for an excellent film, if you’ve seen it you know what I’m talking about and if you haven’t you don’t know what you’re in for.
- Sherlock Jr. / Three Ages [buy it now]: I loved Sherlock Jr. and enjoyed Three Ages, the two together make a worthy title to buy.
- The Complete Metropolis [buy it now]: I was a bit disappointed in the lack of features with this title, but it is still a title any film buff should quickly pick up.
These are probably the two best releases of the year and while I’ve already reviewed one I feel I’ve hardly scratched the surface of the other. Both are expensive, but both are worth it to those who love these films.
- Alien Anthology [buy it now]: An excellent release, beyond what I could have possibly expected, Fox’s treatment of the Alien quadrilogy of films showed they cared about delivering a worthwhile package for those that have already purchased these titles in the past.
- America Lost and Found: The BBS Story [buy it now]: This set includes Head, Easy Rider, Five Easy Pieces, Drive, He Said, The Last Picture Show, The King of Marvin Gardens and A Safe Place and I have only started to dig into its seven films, 112-page booklet and hours of special features for films from the likes of Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Peter Bogdanovich, Bob Rafelson and Henry Jaglom.
I didn’t know how to classify these three, but couldn’t leave you without mentioning them.
- Avatar: Collector’s Edition [buy it now]: I guess technically this is a catalog title since the first edition was released in April, but it seems a bit too early to make that distinction, but like the Alien Anthology, Fox Home Entertainment did a spectacular job with this release from the film to a wealth of special features you’ll find yourself exploring for hours.
- Bronson [buy it now]: I ranked it #7 on my Top Ten of 2009 list and it’s a Blu-ray I cherish.
- A Prophet [buy it now]: This film popped up on a lot of writers’ top tens this year, but I had it at #1 on my list last year. A Prophet is spectacular and a film you should all consider adding to your collections.
And that does it, let me know what are your favorite Blu-ray releases of the year and perhaps some you’re looking forward to in 2011. If you’re interested in exploring any or all of the titles I listed above you can browse them all in the Amazon.com Wish List I created for this list specifically.