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Best DVD Packaging of 2004
1) Freaks and Geeks - The Complete Series: Fan Yearbook Edition
Quite simply the most perfect implementation of a DVD packaging concept ever attempted, the Freaks & Geeks Fan Yearbook is a beautiful piece of work. Not only is it a scarily accurate replica of a real high school yearbook, the 80 pages of photos and liner notes provide an amazing bounty of trivia and information about the show, even beyond the hours and hours of supplemental content on the discs themselves. Be sure to read all the notes and signatures scribbled in the margins.

2) 2) Videodrome – Criterion Collection
Criterion’s deceptively simple packaging for this David Cronenberg cult picture looks just like a bootleg Beta tape, cleverly tying into the movie’s plot. Long live the new flesh!

3) Alien Quadrilogy – Japan Region 2 Alien Head
Perhaps the most ridiculously fan-crazy packaging ever made, the limited edition Alien Quadrilogy set from Japan stores its 9 discs inside a life-sized bust of the alien monster’s head. It may not be the most practical or space-efficient DVD storage medium, but it sure makes for an interesting conversation piece.

4) Wonderful Days – Korea Region 3 Limited Edition
This Korean animated film didn’t exactly set the world’s box office on fire, but the limited edition DVD box is truly a thing of beauty. Unfolding in layers like a puzzle, the sleek, elegant packaging perfectly compliments the impressive visual design of the movie. It may be a little unwieldy when you spread it all the way out, especially since the enclosed poster is permanently attached to the box, but it’s a marvel of vibrant colors inside worth staring at all on its own.

5) Kill Bill Vol. 1 & Vol. 2 – Japan Region 2 Premium Editions
The Japanese sure love their elaborate DVD packaging. The two Kill Bill Premium boxes look great on the shelf and contain all sorts of toys and goodies inside.

6) Star Trek – The Original Series: Seasons 1-3
Are they supposed to be tricorders? Photon torpedoes? Giant space suppository tablets? We may never know what Paramount really had on their mind, but the funky hard shell casing that houses each of the Star Trek Original Series box sets just screams “60s” so definitively that it suits the show fine.

7) Thunderbirds – International Rescue Edition
The crappy live-action remake was a huge flop, but fortunately its existence prompted MGM to bring the original Thunderbirds are Go! and Thunderbird 6 marionette-animated features to DVD. You can buy them separately in plain-vanilla DVD cases, or get them together in a terrifically fun box with cardboard cut-out spaceships. The only dilemma: the kid in you will want to cut them out and play, while the collector will want to keep them intact.

8) Master & Commander: The Far Side of the World – Collector’s Edition
The tasteful artwork and enclosed fold-out map make the Master & Commander 2-disc Collector’s Edition the classiest DVD package of the year.

9) The Ultimate Matrix Collection
Truth be told, the super-deluxe Matrix box set that looks like a computer server and comes with a bust of Keanu Reeves is more than a little overkill and actually kind of ugly. Much less obnoxious is the simple, sleek design of the standard Ultimate Collection box that houses 10 discs within a remarkably space-conscious package printed in Matrix-style computer code artwork.

10) Infernal Affairs Trilogy – Hong Kong Region 3 Limited Edition
In stark contrast to the simple elegance of the Matrix box, this Hong Kong 8-disc set is a large, bulky, and wholly impractical contraption. The 8 discs are stored in 6 keepcases, set inside a plastic stand, over which goes a hard shell cover. This little DVD shrine is then placed inside a cocoon of black bubble-wrap and deposited into an oversized cardboard box. It’s a real pain in the neck to take a disc out when you actually want to watch one of the three movies, but the package is an impressive behemoth nonetheless.

Honorable Mention:

Kill Bill Vol. 1 & 2 – Best Buy Exclusive Box
The award for least-fancy but most-welcome DVD package of the year goes to the unassuming slipcover box that holds both Kill Bill volumes. Best Buy gave them out for free with the purchase of Vol. 2. Despite one really unfortunate typo in the text on the back, this little box is pretty stylish and you can’t beat the value.

- Joshua Zyber


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