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Best DVDs of 2000
by Chris Hughes

Best DVDs of 2000 - Chris Hughes
1) The Ultimate Toy Box
This is by far and away the best release of the year 2000. The Ultimate Toy Box features a stunning transfer, deeply immersive sound and a selection of extras that simply can't be beat. Each film has its own audio commentary track, trailers, previews, isolated effects and out takes but the real treasure trove is to be found on the third disc. On the extras disc you'll find a top to bottom examination of Pixar's creative process from initial sketches to finished film. There's so much content here that you can spend hours with the disc and only begin to scratch the surface. The Ultimate Toy Box is indeed the very definition of Special Edition.

2) Fight Club
David Fincher understands the DVD format better than most of his contemporaries and that fact is readily apparent in the high quality of Fight Club. This fantastic two disc set offers information on almost every aspect of Fincher's extraordinary film from the writing and directing to the special effects and title designs. There are no less than four audio commentary tracks each of which includes unique content, seventeen short behind the scenes vignettes , out takes and deleted scenes with optional commentary and much more. The only drawback to this release is the rather counter intuitive user interface.

3) North by Northwest
Warner Brothers has an inconsistent track record when it comes to special edition DVDs and it was therefore with some trepidation that I learned they would be releasing North by Northwest. Warner came through this time though with a disc that matches in almost every way the fantastic Universal Hitchcock discs. North by Northwest isn't Hitchcock's most critically acclaimed film but it is arguably his most popular and it gets the presentation it deserves here. The film has been completely restored and the results are stunning. It looks as good here as it must have on the day of its release. The disc includes a very good documentary, an extensive production stills gallery, Hitchcock trailers, TV spots and an audio commentary by writer Ernst Lehman.

4) Bridge over the River Kwai
Those of us who have been waiting with baited breath for the release of David Lean's Lawrence of Arabia can get a little taste of what's to come by picking up Columbia's Bridge over the River Kwai two disc set. This classic film has been completely restored, immaculately transferred and presented in packaging that looks great on the shelf and is a joy to handle. The exclusive limited edition contains an isolated score, an extensive documentary, two contemporary featurettes, the film's original trailer, a pleasant photo gallery and a reprint of the original booklet handed out at the premier. Bridge over the River Kwai is a significant work of art and one of the best films ever made. If this disc is any indication we won't be disappointed when Lawrence is released later this year.

5) Se7en
Both New Line and David Fincher deserve credit for the high quality of this disc. Part of the Platinum series, Se7en features four audio commentaries, several deleted scenes with optional director commentary, an alternate ending, galleries of production and publicity materials and numerous short video segments that explore various aspects of the film. Se7en doesn't have the bulk of extras offered on Fight Club but it makes up for that fact with one of the best transfers you're likely to see on DVD. Fincher and his DVD production staff went back to the original negative for this transfer and worked through every inch making color corrections, framing adjustments and other refinements. The result is a film that looks better on disc than it did in the theater.

6) T2- The Ultimate Edition
I'm not a big T2 fan but I am a huge fan of this disc. When they called T2 the 'Ultimate Edition' they weren't kidding. This disc (or discs depending on which pressing you bought) is first class all the way from the attractive metal cast to the elegant animated menus and voluminous ancillary content. T2 includes four featurettes, over 700 story boards, an audio commentary (with captions identifying the speakers), trailers, photo galleries and three versions of the film that can be viewed via seamless branching. Much of the focus of the extras is an examination of the writing, design, production and editing process making T2 a perfect example of DVD as film school on a disc.

7) Gladiator
Ridley Scott's summer blockbuster Gladiator may never reach the cult status of his seminal science fiction extravaganza Blade Runner but it shows the director at the height of his craft and is very entertaining. The two disc Gladiator set is very similar to last year's Alien special edition in terms of extra content. There's an informative and entertaining commentary track with Scott, deleted scenes with optional commentary, deleted scenes, two featurettes, concept art, story boards, trailers and other tidbits. The transfer is remarkable and the aggressive soundtrack is available in DTS, Dolby Digital 5.1 and Dolby 2.0 surround.

8) His Girl Friday
While the other large studios have been focusing their efforts on recent blockbuster releases Columbia has been quietly publishing catalogue titles in fantastic special editions. His Girl Friday is a prime example of the Columbia Classics line. The film itself has been restored to nearly pristine condition, looking better here than it has for decades. Extras include an audio commentary with film critic Todd McCarthy, four featurettes, the theatrical trailer and a nice gallery of production photos and publicity materials. Watch Columbia's release announcements for additions to this outstanding series in the coming months.

9) The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus Collection
I've had a hard time getting behind the release of most TV shows on DVD. After all, there are so many significant films that have yet to be released that it seems a shame to waste effort on things like the 'Best of Friends' box. Be that as it may, there are a handful of shows that I welcome and Monty Python's Flying Circus is one of them. Having instant access to each and every one of the hundreds of Python sketches is a real treat and certainly worth the $150 (street) that you'll pay for the set. My only complaint with this set is A&E's rather inscrutable destain for meaningful extras.


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