THE BEST DVDS OF 2007
1. Berlin Alexanderplatz (Criterion)
It must be seen to be believed: This 15-hour mind-warp of a film – made for German television in 1980 under the stern yet magnificent hand of Rainer Werner Fassbinder – is one of the most unique motion pictures ever produced. The Criterion Collection always does a good job presenting hard-to-find international material to our domestic audiences, but their edition of Alexanderplatz is less a success as a DVD as it is a cultural watershed. This is cinema at its most vital, and without this exceptional DVD edition, many American people wouldn’t have the chance to see it. Absolutely mandatory.
2. Gilmore Girls: The Complete Series Collection (Warner)
Bemoan the seventh season as much as you want, but with this complete dossier on all things Gilmore, we get a chance to watch TV’s smartest, sassiest, most staccato show blossom and grow from beginning to end. Sticklers may complain of the show’s incessant pop culture references and ‘no one talks like that’ syntax, but those who know of GG’s magic will relish the opportunity to just curl up with this collection (released in carrying-tote packaging) and let the hours pass. Magic.
3. Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition (Paramount)
Twin Peaks is the greatest show that has ever been broadcast on national television, and this Gold Box Edition houses – for the first time on Region 1 DVD – everything from the show’s pilot to its final episode. The only reason it’s not higher on this list is that this is by no means a ‘definitive’ collection: It lacks not only Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, but the bonus material that was featured on the Season One DVD box set that came out a few years ago. I know, I know – these are the rants and raves of a true stickler, but if you’re going to call something ‘definitive’, you’d better put your coffee and cherry pie where your mouth is.
4. Stanley Kubrick on High-Def (Warner)
The DVD box set was a bust – sure, the new bonus features and widescreen presentation are great, but where are Barry Lyndon, Strangelove and the rest of ‘em? – but 2001: A Space Odyssey and The Shining were glorious additions to the HD DVD pantheon this year (as I’m sure the Blu-ray editions were). Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket and A Clockwork Orange were also released on high-def – with less impressive results – but even if the Warner camp didn’t get it all right, these Kubrick titles are enough to justify the high-def revolution single-handedly.
Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
2001: A Space Odyssey [ Blu-Ray & HD DVD ]
The Shining [ Blu-Ray & HD DVD ]
Eyes Wide Shut [ Blu-Ray & HD DVD ]
Full Metal Jacket [ Blu-Ray & HD DVD ]
A Clockwork Orange [ Blu-Ray & HD DVD ]
5. The Sergio Leone Anthology (MGM)
Duck, You Sucker! isn’t exactly air-tight entertainment, but the three other movies presented on this sleek box set – A Fistful of Dollars, For a Few Dollars More and The Good, The Bad and the Ugly – are the best spaghetti westerns ever made. This is the second time the trilogy has been released, and while it’s tough to applaud a double-dip – why bother buying a DVD if a better version is going to be coming out in a year? – there’s no denying the fun of this set. With beautiful transfers, copious bonuses and nicely-accentuated Dolby Digital 5.1 sound mix tune-ups, this release is more reason than you’ll ever need to waste a weekend in front of the boob tube.
6. Planet Earth (BBC)
There was hesitation in calling this one the best wildlife documentary of all time when it first dropped on us this year, but it’s time to call a spade a spade: Planet Earth is the best nature documentary ever. Engaging, powerful, gorgeous, terrifying (the mere thought of that shark flying ten feet OUT OF THE WATER to catch that seal is enough to keep me out of a swimming suit for good) – Planet Earth is family-friendly home entertainment at its finest.
7. Blade Runner: Five-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Warner)
It’s overkill, but blissful overkill. With five cuts of the film – yeah, five – hours and hours of making-of documentaries and supplemental material and top-of-the-line high-def transfers, there’s absolutely no doubt in this writer’s mind that the Blade Runner experience will ever be more complete and multi-faceted as this one. Sure, I still think it’s a douche move for Ridley Scott to announce the ‘truth’ about Harrison Ford’s character’s status in the movie (is he human or replicant?), but that’s really the only negative aspect to this collection.
8. Harry Potter: Limited Edition HD DVD Box Set (Warner)
Yeah, in another couple years we’ll have to go out and re-purchase the complete Harry Potter films again – damn you, Warner Bros.! – but until then, it’s very easy to keep complaints to a minimum: This collection of the first five HP pictures comes not only with the best packaging of the year, but glorious high-definition transfers and stellar sound mixes. It’s enough to please both the nerdy cinephile of the house and the little sister who refuses to take her damned Gryffindor scarf off while indoors.
9. The War (Paramount)
Ken Burns’ exceptional documentary The War isn’t exactly the easiest thing in the world to get through – the devastation it presents is crippling in its emotional truism – but it’s a seminal work, nonetheless. And this multi-DVD collection is a perfect showcase for it: With excellent supplemental materials and thoughtful commentaries, it’s hands-down the greatest documentary release of the year.
10. Viva Pedro: The Almodovar Collection (Sony)
This one came out in January of this year, so it’s been overlooked by many DVD writers, but the fact remains that Pedro Almodovar’s cinematic output is some of the movie world’s best, and this nine-disc collection showcasing eight of the master’s greatest moments manifests just how unique the man’s genius really is: Not only does he keep getting better with age, but it seems as each new film is riskier than the last. How many filmmakers can you say that about?