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Top Ten DVDs that you (probably) missed in 2004
2004 was a banner year for DVD releases.  With both the original Star Wars Trilogy and Seinfeld being released this year, not to mention the conclusion of Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings epic, there were a lot of releases that many people were excited about.  With all the high profile releases, a few DVDs are bound to slip through the cracks though.  Here are ten movies that deserve more consideration:  The top ten DVDs that you (probably) missed in 2004.

1)  The Return – an astounding and complex film, The Return can be viewed on many levels.  Whether you see it as a coming of age film or as a metaphor for societal changes in Russia, this is an engrossing movie.  This simple story of two boys going on a road trip with their father is filled with enigmas and mystery.  Reminiscent of the best works of Tarkovsky, The Return was the best movie I saw in 2004.

2)  Touching the Void - The most nail-biting, knuckle-clenching, adventure movie released this year, the tension is accentuated by the fact that it is a true story.  Two young, experienced mountain climbers travel to Peru to attempt to scale a mountain that hasn’t been climbed before.  On the way down, one of the pair falls and shatters his leg.  They are still 20,000 feet up, out of food and fuel, with no hope of rescue.  Then things get really bad.  This is one of those stories that if it happened in an Arnold Schwarzenegger movie, people would complain that it was to implausible.  But this really happened, which makes it all the more astonishing.

3)  Tokyo Godfathers – an animated movie from Japan, Tokyo Godfathers doesn’t have giant robots and alien invaders.  Instead it tells the heartwarming story of three homeless people who stumble across an abandoned baby laying in the snow on Christmas day.  The trio tries to find the child’s parents, which is a bit difficult, and they run into some problems.  Of course the task is made easier by the fact that God is looking out for the baby.

4)  Charley Bowers – a forgotten innovator who worked in the silent era, most of Charley Bower’s films are collected in this two disc set.  A pioneering stop motion animator with a wild imagination, Bower’s films are creative and vastly entertaining.  A wonderfully irreverent collection.

5)  More Treasures from American Film Archives 1894-1931 – Some of the greatest films you’ve never seen.  The rare films presented in this set are a wonder to watch.  From early color and sound experiments, to newsreels, shorts, and even feature films, this set gives an overview of film production during the early days of the medium.  A great collection for historians and movie buffs alike. 

6)  Nine Dead Gay Guys – a wickedly funny black comedy, this British movie isn’t for the prudish.  Two young men move to London and find it hard to get work.  Though they are heterosexual, they don’t see anything wrong with becoming male prostitutes for men.  But when people start dying left and right, the lads find they might have gotten in a little over their heads.

7)  Forgotten Silver – A made for New Zealand TV movie co-written and directed by Peter Jackson.  This mockumentary in the same vein as Spinal Tap tells the amazing story of Colin MacKenzie, a silent film maker.  Told with tongue firmly in cheek, this look at a forgotten innovator is wonderfully amusing.

8)  Dead like Me - The Complete First Season - Mel Brooks once remarked that "tragedy is when I get a hangnail, comedy is when you fall in a open manhole and die."  The creators of Dead Like Me have taken that concept and really run with it, creating a show that is funny, entertaining and oddly touching.  The made for cable show concerns Georgia Lass, a young girl who doesn’t really know what she wants to do with her life.  She’s dropped out of college, moved back home, and gotten a job in a temp agency.  She hates her job and her life, but that suddenly changes when a toilet seat from a Russian space station that has entered the atmosphere slams into her going twice the speed of sound.  Georgia finds herself dead, and with a new job:  that of the Grim Reaper.

9)  Stark Raving Mad – a straight-to-DVD movie that deserved a better fate.  Seann William Scott (American Pie, Road Trip) stars in this fast paced kinetic heist movie that has a good amount of humor.  Surprisingly well made, I’ve found myself watching this one several times, and always enjoying it.

10)  Caught on a Train- Like Martin Scorsese’s movie After Hours a simple journey goes from bad, to worse, to unbelievably bad over the course of the evening.  But Scorsese’s film, this isn't a dark comedy.  It is a thoughtful drama that keeps you guessing throughout.

  Honorable Mention:
Broken Saints - One of the most intricate and engrossing DVDs this year was Broken Saints, a web based flash animation epic that spans 12 hours.  The DVD feartures improved graphics and sound over the original and has one of the absolute best soundtracks of any DVD this year.  This is the complex multilayered story of four people from different parts opf the world who each experiance visions of the appocolypse and set out to stop it.  A little hard going at first, this is a series that is well worth the time you invest in it.

The Who - Live at Isle of Wight Festival 1970 – one of the greatest rock acts ever performing when they were at the top of their game.   

Enter…Zombie King – this small independent film is a parody of Mexican masked wrestler movies.  While it doesn’t boast the highest production values, it more than makes up for its lack of budget with a funny and entertaining script. 

- John Sinnott
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