DOWN BY LAW
The film that introduced me to Tom Waits and Jim Jarmusch. When you have a love affair with any creator/film, you can usually count on Criterion to deliver the goods in terms of an excellent DVD presentation. And so they do with this film, a somnambulistic indie comedy that never fails to provide me with a giggle or some eye-candy, thanks to Jarmusch’s comedic sensibilities and the great Robby Muller’s cinematography.
MR. SHOW: THE COMPLETE FIRST AND SECOND SEASONS
It’s “Pumkininny!” If you don’t get that, you’ve obviously been watching the wrong acidic-witted, mid-90’s sketch comedy shows. HBO, after several delays, finally releases a decent enough DVD and thankfully relieved me of my horribly worn vhs tapes that I and my friends have punished with endless re-watching. Hopefully, my 2003 top ten will include Mr. Show: The Complete Third and Fourth Seasons.
They just had to go and release extra-packed editions of all four of Tarantino’s major films this year. As a fan, it makes me happy, but as a top ten list compiler, I don’t want to give the guy four out of ten spots. So, I’ll mush them together, spread them out. Dogs presents an impressive debut, a caper film where the dialogue was just as deadly as the gunfire. I still remember my friend recommending it to me, going on and on about the opening restaurant scene, and how I doubted at any heist movie starting with a ten minute conversation about “Like a Virgin” and the etiquette of tipping would be entertaining- Dumb me. True Romance is easily the best non-Tarantino directed Tarantino film. Colorful, chaotic, and the only film to offer the perfect combination of hallucinatory guardian angel Elvis and praise for Sonny Chiba.
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE
A beautiful, beautiful film, and, not surprisingly, Criterion delivers with a two-disc edition packed with extras. Somehow it seems silly to write a lengthy explanation about a film that uses few words to tell its story of unrequited love and subdued desire. So, I’ll just shut up.
SPAGHETTI WESTERN COLLECTION
Well, as a fan of Italian genre films, I was already happy midway through the year with Anchor Bay’s Giallo Collection of 70’s Italian pulp thrillers. Then, tacked onto the end of the year, upstarts Blue Underground (who contributed to the Giallo Collection extras) present the appropriately gritty, entertaining, and eclectic Spaghetti Western Collection, which offers proof that BU will be a force to be reckoned with when it comes to cult films on DVD.
LORD OF THE RINGS: THE FELLOWSHIP OF THE RING (Extended Edition)
Peter Jackson cannot be denied. He took extremely tough source material and side-stepped disaster by producing one of cinemas great fantasy adventures. The extended edition is even better, fleshing out what was already a great film. And with multiple commentaries, audio options, nice packaging, fantastic image, and two discs of extras, DVD fans cannot be wronged.
LAST HOUSE ON THE LEFT
/ RETURN OF THE LIVING DEAD
I put these two together because they are fine examples of two cult films originally being announced as spare barebones releases- Fans grumbled and MGM listened, delaying the titles in order to give them Special Edition treatment at budget prices all can afford. While clumsy in its execution and quite dated, Last House... remains an engaging and notorious landmark in the history of horror cinema. Return... on the other hand is pure horror fun, and the kind of movie they just don’t make any more, equal parts, gross, funny, and exaggerated take-out-your-brain (no pun intended) cinema.
THE YOUNG ONES: EVERY STOOPID EPISODE
The only thing better than playing “Murder in the Dark” with a group of friends is watching The Young Ones. And if you don’t get that, you’ve obviously been watching the wrong offbeat, acidic-witted, mid-80’s British comedy shows. Solid, absurd hilarity in each and every twisted anarchic episode.
All I can say is- Finally. Two of the 90's most requested films to get SE treatment. While I have my minor quibbles, the transfers still satisfy and the films continue to be ceaselessly entertaining. There were a lot of imitators and, sure, there are plenty of geek film makers flexing their muscles in tribute to the films they love, but, so far, there aren’t many that have a marriage of sharp dialogue, love for actors, and inspiration with imagination and a singular voice quite like Tarantino does.
PROJECT A (Region 2)
This is my “Non-Region 1” winner this year. Hong Kong Legends is one of the best fringe/genre DVD company in the world. Here is a company not content with just finding a good print, but frame-by-frame cleaning them up and restoring them. The care that they lavished upon Jackie Chan’s 1983 breakthrough is proof of this, resulting in a two disc Special Edition that is a must for any Hong Kong Action fan. Meanwhile, on our side of the pond, Dimension/Disney release Project A in a hacked, horrendously dubbed, pathetic quality, barebones transfer. If they want to know what the HK action audience wants, Dimension/The Mouse should stop butchering films and pay attention to what’s going in the UK.
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