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Best DVDs of 2002
by Blake Kunisch

Blake's Top 5 Picks of the Year

Since the introduction of DVD, the special features have grown by leaps and bounds and the picture quality and sound fidelity have only gotten better with time. This year, there were many fine discs released and I always find it difficult to narrow the list down to 5 or 10 DVDs. This year, I found myself considering all different kinds of DVDs - from the standard movie release to TV-to-DVD disc collection. All-in-all, it seems as if the studios have gotten it right, releasing more than just a barebones movie before the special collector's platinum director's vista series dvd as with just a top 5, there were 21 discs in all. So, without further ado, in reverse order, my top 5 DVDs of the 2002:

#5: 24 - Season One
TV shows making their appearance on DVD are nothing new, and while 24: Season One doesn't feature a plethora of extras, the presentation and turn around time on this DVD are what earn it the #5 spot on my list this year. 24 debuted to amazing success in 2001 and many hoped for a quick release on DVD - for those, prayers were answered when Fox announced plans to put out Season One before Season Two debuted. A great marketing ploy for sure, but with less than a year between the end of the series and the release of the DVD, the turnaround was amazing. It made sense for Fox to release the DVD since syndication was not an option due to the linear storyline of the series, but few expected it so soon after the show. Spanning 6 discs (4 episodes per disc), the set lacks the extras that one would have hoped for, but does feature a few nice additions. The best of all, an alternate ending to the series - an extra that I relish whenever included on a DVD.

#4: Band of Brothers
The second of two television sets on my top five for the year, Band of Brothers amazed from start to finish. If the case doesn't captivate you, just wait until you open it. This hinged tin features a simple and elegant cover and disguises the greatness that lies within. Spread across six discs - five featuring 2 episodes each and a sixth with bonus features - the Band of Brothers miniseries is a must-not-miss. As if the miniseries were not enough to be included in this box set, the sixth bonus features disc is great. The 80 minute documentary "We Stand Alone Together: The Men of Easy Company" is well worth the price of any DVD out there today and when you then add Ron Livingston's video diaries (a spectacular feature allowing you to watch the making of the film from an actor's perspective) and a 30 minute feature about the making of the miniseries, and you've got the best TV-to-DVD of the year. Tom Hanks, Steven Spielberg & HBO do not disappoint here.

#3: The Others
Quite possibly one of the best films of 2001, the DVD release of The Others doesn't disappoint. While a commentary track would have been nice, this 2 disc set builds upon a terrific movie with some great extras. The 30 minute "documentary" is mainly a behind-the-scenes look at the movie featuring your standard interviews with cast and crew and nothing too special, but what does make this disc special is, "Xeroderma Pigmentosum," a look at a family that has to deal with the ailment that strikes the children in the film and "Visual Effects Featurette" - a short, 4 minute look at the visual effects that is quite interesting. As stated earlier, the extras could have used a little work, but the movie is what stands out in this set. Featuring superb picture quality and top-notch audio fidelity, combined with a terrific movie, this is one DVD not to be missing from any collection.

#2: Reservoir Dogs: Special Edition
When Artisan originally released Reservoir Dogs on DVD, there was much left to be desired. This one disc bare-bones version had horrible picture and sub-par audio with no special features. Luckily, for those of us who loved the film, it's been re-released on two discs with a beautiful widescreen, anamorphic transfer and lovely 5.1 Dolby Digital and DTS audio tracks. Aside from the much-improved technical aspects of the movie, Artisan graciously added tons of special features (thus necessitating a second disc). Deleted scenes and alternate angles of the "ear" scene are a much-welcome bonus and the audio commentary is not to be missed - although it would have been nice to have a "Kevin Smith-type" commentary where everyone would be gathered in the same room to discuss the film. Also, not to be missed on this disc - "Sundance: Class of '92," a look at the other emerging directors from the Sundance festival of '92 and "Critic Commentaries," three commentaries over selected portions of the film from three different critics. All in all, Artisan delivers a great package and a welcome upgrade from the original.

#1: The Lord of the Rings - The Fellowship of the Ring (Platinum Series Extended Edition)
Last year, without a doubt, one of the biggest movies of the year was the much-anticipated, long-awaited Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring. After the movie hit theaters, fans were hooked - we couldn't wait for the DVD - and then word came down from New Line - there would be two editions of this film - the first, the theatrical release, then later in the year, a special, 4 disc set featuring 40 minutes of extended and new scenes. What more could you ask for? Oh yeah, how about 2 DVDs jam-packed full of amazing extras - along with 4 - yes, 4 - commentaries throughout the whole extended film. Add to this amazing array of DVDs, the National Geographic: Beyond the movie and you've got the 5 best DVDs of the year in one nice package (of course, I'm only counting this as one of the best of 2002 - well, actually - the best). Kudos to New Line for the dedication put into this amazing package and many thanks to Peter Jackson on going back into the editing room and adding some great footage along with recording even more of the great score that accompanies the discs for full effect. An amazing package and extremely worthy of the title: #1 DVD of the Year.

Honorable Mention
Traffic: Criterion, Mulholland Drive, The Royal Tenenbaums: Criterion and Pulp Fiction: Collector's Edition

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