Welcome to DVD Talk's Top 20 discs of 2009
. The reviewers nominated their favorite discs, voted for thier favorite 10, and this is the result. The list includes some of the biggest releases of 2009, as well as some excellent discs that didn't get as much press as they should have. One thing is for sure, you can't go wrong with any of these top-notch DVDs and Blu-ray discs. Now without further ado, the best discs of 2009 as chosen by the writers of DVD Talk:
20. Monty Python: Almost the Truth - [DVD review, Blu-ray review] - Monty Python: Almost the Truth: This six-part, six-hour, self-deflating doc of the innovative British comics is a joy to watch, an insightful and thoroughly entertaining jaunt through a rich and unreasonably funny body of work. But it's more than an assemblage of talking heads and zany clips; taken as a whole, it's one of the most thorough and detailed examinations of the creative process that's ever been put to film.
19. Rome: The Complete Collection - [DVD review, Blu-ray review] - Rome is a bloody good time that will be a standout in anybody's DVD collection. This HBO series rises above the rest with astounding production quality, incredible writing, historical value, and acting that is second to none. In all honesty though, it's the package as a whole that makes the series feel so special. There isn't a single defining characteristic that stands out more than the others, which is quite remarkable. Nothing of this magnitude has been attempted before, and the results simply have to be seen to be appreciated.
18. Raging Bull - [Blu-ray review] - Raging Bull, the Oscar-winning biopic starring Robert De Niro as real-life prizefighter Jake La Motta is a knock-out on Blu-ray. This gritty drama by filmmaker Martin Scorsese which masterfully humanizes a loathsome brute, providing the genesis for antihero dramas like The Sopranos, sports a terrific image and is packed with outstanding extras.
17. No Country For Old Men - [Blu-ray review] - Taking home the Best Picture crown at the Oscars in 2007, No Country for Old Men has earned the label as the Coen Brothers' most highly-acclaimed picture. That's really saying something considering their catalog. Miramax's Collector's Edition of No Country for Old Men brings a few strong cards to the table, namely a boost to Master Audio sound and a giant bag 'o tricks in the special features department. The Press Timeline feature is, without question, the highlight of the disc, sporting an almost overwhelming array of question/answer sessions and radio broadcasts that elucidate just about everything the viewer would want to know about the film.
16. Let the Right One In - [DVD review, Blu-ray review] - Despite a subtitling error plaguing the first run of DVD and Blu-Rays and an MIA commentary (available on foreign releases), Tomas Alfredson's icy, eerie Let the Right One In earns a DVDTalk Collector's Series rating for the film alone, deftly illustrating the social struggles of youth within a creepy, sorrowful vampire tale. Look for "English (Theatrical)" subtitles on the back to identify corrected discs and experience the film before the 2010 American remake spoils all the surprises.
15. Hot Fuzz - [Blu-ray] - [Blu-ray review] - Simon Pegg and Nick Frost lead a fantastic cast in this ably helmed send-up of action film from writer/director Edgar Wright. Hot Fuzz is "off the chain" and blazes onto Blu-ray, bringing with it, a phenomenal audio and video presentation, as well as numerous, entertaining and insightful special features.
14. The Human Condition - [DVD review] - A three-movie epic, two chapters per movie, nine hours long--Masaki Kobayashi's The Human Condition is meant to be digested like a meaty novel. Savor it in pieces, or devour it in one go, it all depends on you. The story follows an idealistic Japanese soldier through his various philosophical and political incarnations, usually leading to some kind of disappointment, but also strengthening his resolve and transforming the man. Utterly engrossing.
13. District 9 - [DVD review, Blu-ray review] - Who needs a Halo movie anyway, especially when the compromise collaboration between producer Peter Jackson and director Neill Blomkamp yielded such fabulous results. More than just a mock documentary or a sci-fi cautionary tale, this alien invasion/resettlement film tackles tough issues like Apartheid, genocide, and the bumbling bureaucratic responses to same - and does so effortlessly.
12. Wings of Desire - Criterion - [DVD review, Blu-ray review] - Wings of Desire is one of those films that, though having been on DVD before, was never on DVD in a fashion that matched the quality of its filmmaking. Criterion have done right by the Wim Wenders' classic by giving it a shining new transfer, new subtitles, and a ton of extra features that should please viewers new to the movie and old fans alike. This tale of sensitive angels walking amongst the German populace is hard to describe in a few short lines; it's the tone and the mood of the piece that makes it truly special. Wenders uses the metaphor of the divine to inspire his audience to ponder what it means to be human, and he does so in an artful way that touches the heart as much as it provokes the soul.
11. North By Northwest 50th Anniversary Edition - [DVD review] - Alfred Hitchcock earned his reputation as The Master of Suspense the easy way. He simply turned the journeyman language of film into a thing of cinematic beauty - and there is no better example of this tact than this 1959 classic. Featuring Cary Grant as our mistaken everyman hero and enough directorial bravado to define the term "auteur", it stands as a breathtaking example of the filmmaker's staggering genius.
10. Harlan Ellison – Dreams with Sharp Teeth - [DVD review] - You don't have to be a fan to appreciate this hilarious, insightful, and - Dare I say it? - sweet portrait of postwar America's own John Adams - an iconoclastic fantasist, essayist, political activist, film critic and all-purpose curmudgeon who apoplectically vents his spleen on topics ranging from to idiot game show contestants to would-be amateur writers who've brought the profession to its knees. Extra features include some wonderful on-camera readings by the author.
9. Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series - [Blu-ray review] - Everything about this show gelled from the start. The cast was unbelievable, the action was visceral, the atmosphere was dark and haunting, the writing was a cut above, and more importantly it was a show that wasn't afraid to take chances. There are so many "I can't believe they just did that!" moments it's not even funny, and it's a testament to Moore and company, who had some real guts and vision when it came to the production. This Blu-ray set is a dream come true and it's a near perfect presentation of one of the best science fiction shows ever to grace television. The A/V quality is remarkable, the supplemental features are plentiful and worth while, and the Blu-ray exclusive content is a blast to dig through.
8. Star Trek The Original Series - [Blu-ray review] - The long wait for the definitive high-definition presentation of Star Trek: TOS is finally over. Trek has never looked or sounded better, and for the first time, fans have the option of seamlessly branching between the original and enhanced visual effects on this classic sci-fi television series.
7. Wizard of Oz UCE - [Blu-ray review] - The Wizard of Oz is a timeless joy like no other: the dazzling Technicolor visuals, its deft blend of a classic fairy tale with a vaudevillian sense of humor, some of the most infectious music ever written for the screen, and an unrivaled cinematic magic that leaves viewers as entranced in wide-eyed awe now as when they first saw it. Several DVD releases of The Wizard of Oz have come and gone over the years, but it's near-impossible to conceive of a Blu-ray set more definitive than this sprawling special edition. Boasting a breathtakingly beautiful restoration and some twenty-four hours of extras, this lavish edition does just to the majesty of one of the most masterfully crafted and enduring films ever made.
6. The Office: Season Five - [DVD review, 2nd DVD review, Blu-ray review] - Season 5 of The Office stands tall as one of the finest to date. The show's effortless balance of drama, intrigue and pitch-perfect comedy remains remarkably consistent, thanks to strong performances, clever writing and a devoted creative team. Such a balance is rare in comedy-driven productions---especially for a series with 100 episodes under its belt---but if there's one thing that fans of The Office are used to, it's being pleasantly surprised. Universal's five-disc collection offers plenty of bang for the buck: aside from a rock-solid technical presentation, there's enough bonus features to keep things interesting after the credits roll.
5. Coraline - [DVD review, Blu-ray review] - Amid the recent onslaught of 3D animated films, Coraline 's dedication to the craft of stop-motion is daring. A dark story aided by inventive and truly creepy visuals, this meticulously designed film contains a layered warning. Like us when we go to the movies, the protagonist hopes for a kind of escape from the mundane, but is shocked by the consequences of diving deep into a deceptively fantastic alternate reality.
4. 30 Rock: Season Three - [DVD review] - What is arguably the funniest show on network television reached its Apex in its third season. With appearances from Golden Globe winners, Emmy winners and Oprah(!), it kept its comic sensibilities perfectly honed. Technically the discs are solid and there are enough enjoyable supplements to invite rewatching the episodes from this fantastic year.
3. Watchmen - [5-Disc Ultimate Edition DVD review, Blu-ray review, several other reviews] - They said it couldn't be done - and for some fans of Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons groundbreaking graphic novel, said sentiment remains true. For others, however, Zack Snyder delivered a reverent, entertaining masterwork, faithful yet fun, insightful without kowtowing to every element in the book. The result is one of 2009's best.
2. Up - [Blu-ray review, 2nd Blu-ray review] - Pixar has gotten so good at what they do, you'd almost think it was time to begin taking them for granted. Maybe when they start pumping out more sequels that will happen, but not when they continue to give us such inventive and original movies as Up. With its infamous ability to reduce even the most hardened man to tears in the first ten minutes, it's an adventure movie with a true heart. Well worth rewatching, and the DVD pulls back the curtain to give us hints at how the studio makes its magic.
1. Star Trek (2009) - [Blu-ray review] - Star Trek is a stupendous revitalization of a concept bled dry long ago. It offers nothing but pleasures to those in tune with Gene Roddenberry's original creation, and provides ample comfort to newcomers who should immediately set aside anticipated Trekkie bias and suit up with Starfleet for the true roller coaster ride of the year.
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