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Best DVDs of 2002
by Phillip Duncan

2002 was a great year for DVD. Not only did it celebrate its success with a five-year anniversary and the appearance of $50 players, but studios also continued to innovate and release great tiles. The list below is not meant to be an all inclusive list and I'm sure I'll think of a few to add to it the minute it's published, but without further ado, here's my pick for the 10 best DVDs of 2002. They are not numbered, but generally fall in order of 1 to 10. Happy watching, Phillip Duncan.

2002 Top Ten DVD

1 Giant Leap
This title appeared out of nowhere and really took me by surprise. A unique and innovative blend of information, music and visuals, it's more that a music video. It's an artistic political statement and an examination of the culture and the world we live in. Various musicians, artists, scientists, and notable people look at topics like Love, Sex, Death, Money and other forces that make the world go round.

Frailty
Anyone that follows my writing on the site here will see this as no surprise. I've lamented my love of this film since I saw a sneak preview a few weeks before its release. Bill Paxton's directorial debut is a polarizing view of religion and faith that keeps viewers guessing until the final frames. Freshman screenwriter Brent Hanley joined forces with Paxton to create one of the year's most daring films that dived audiences in theaters and found wide acceptance on DVD. Packed with three commentaries, multiple documentaries and other features, it's one of the most feature laden and well produced single disc sets I've had the pleasure of reviewing.


The Devil's Backbone
Director Guilerrmo Del Toro made have become a Hollywood name with his knock-out rendition of Blade II, but it's this quite Mexican ghost story that shows the talent that resides in this boisterous and outspoken man. Set against the events of a civil war, its themes of isolation and desire frame a haunting story of murder and destruction. This great DVD has Del Toro's first commentary track and though it is more subdued than his Blade II track, it reveals plenty of info on the film. Also on the disc is a great documentary.



Insomnia
This disc is on here for many reasons, but the major one is the commentary. Director Christopher Nolan made a tremendous splash in Hollywood when his second film Memento became a underground hit. Fueled by it further mainstream success, Nolan was given his choice of projects at Warner Brothers and decided on this remake. With powerful performances by Al Pacino, Robin Williams and Hillary Swank, Nolan's tale of morality and exhaustion is every bit as interesting as Memento. As I said, this one is one here mainly for the commentary, which sets it apart from so many others in the field. Noaln's commentary is accompanied by a reedited version of the film that is cut to match the order in which it was filmed. A perfect look at the filmmaking process, the commentary shows that despite DVD being five years old, new and innovative ways to present what has almost become a standard feature exist.

Star Wars Episode II: Attack of the Clones
I told myself I was not going to include this on my list and wasn't terribly excited about its release despite the fact I thought it was a good film and a great addition to the Star Wars mythos. All of those feelings changed the minute I popped this 2-disc DVD set into the player and was floored by the pixel perfect digital transfer, color and sound. Lucas has done for live action film and DVD what Pixar's A Bug's Life did for animation on its original DVD release. Lucasfilm have crafted what is arguably the best looking and best sounding DVD on the market today.



Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring
Peter Jackson's epic film comes to DVD with the double-dip edition a few short months after the basic edition and it's accompanied by hardly any dissension by the fans. After watching the contents of this amazing 4 disc set, it's easy to see why. Sure to appear on almost every best of list this year, this set is truly a testament to what DVD can do. The extended cut of the film is spread perfectly over the first two discs with numerous commentaries. Add two more DVDs filled with hours and hours of making of and behind the scenes content and it serves as a time capsule look at the making of the film. It's a double set in one package. It's a documentary and film combined.

Fox Television Boxed Sets (Buffy the Vampire Slayer and The Simpsons)
Television shows have become big business and big sets on DVD the past year and no other company does as good a job as Fox. Some may complain on the lack of features on some of the sets, but you can't complain about the price. When released, a full season (22 episodes, 1 hour each) of Buffy the Vampire Slayer advertised for approximately $40. Compare that to a season of the Sopranos (13 episodes, 1 hour each) for $70 and you see what I mean. Fox is finally giving the fans what they want in these full season sets and they are doing it on a pace that's easy on the budget as well. I feel for the Star Trek fan that's forced to shell out $100 every two months to pick up the latest Next Generation set. If you're looking to build your television DVD library, there's no better place to start than one of these two sets.

The Civil War - A Film By Ken Burns
I never thought I'd be adding a 5 disc, 12 hour +, DVD set to my best of list for the year, but the PBS Civil War series by famed filmmaker Ken Burns is simply a set any scholar or Civil War buff would be proud to add to their collection. The video has been re-mastered beautifully and the sound has received the deluxe treatment as well. Something that instantly struck me as well thought out on this set was the menu navigation as well. It's perfectly intuitive and any section can be accessed with only a few clicks of the remote.



Schoolhouse Rock
As we grow older, we look for things to remind us of our childhood and this 2-disc set from Disney is the epitome of childhood nostalgia and adult coolness. This could have easily been the Muppet Show sets from Time-Life if they had only been priced better, but the educational and musical songs from Saturday morning win out. All the greats (Conjunction Junction, 3 is the Magic Number) and others are here for your toe-tapping pleasure and enjoyment.



Transformers: Season 1
Hats off to Rhino for finally releasing this much requested set and not dropping the ball in the process. The entire 16 episodes of the first season are available in this perfectly packaged set. A fourth disc is added as well with several extra features. A documentary details the work that was done to restore the set, which look phenomenal considering its age. Fans of the 80s cartoon will not be disappointed if they pick this up with its sleek, silver package and numerous extras and pristine transfer.



Last year on the 2001 Top Ten I hoped for the original King Kong on DVD and it looks like I'll have to make that wish again. I also commented on the Lord of the Rings eventually being released on DVD and it made onto this list. So, what is there to look forward to and hope for next year?

Hopefully Raiders of the Lost Ark will make it out next year, but with the possibility of a new sequel in 2004, it's likely that 2004 will be the year for a DVD release as well. It's also time for Spielberg's first two films (Amblin' and Duel) to make their DVD appearance and while we're at it, let's see THX 1138 from George Lucas and Speilberg's critical favorite Schindler's List. 2002 was a great year for classics on DVD, but there are so many that deserve to be revisited on the format as well. The Day the Earth Stood Still, King Kong, Mighty Joe Young, and numerous other films are sitting in the vaults of the studios waiting to be released.

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