NICK's TOP 15 DVDS OF 2004

EditorialNick NunziataComment

Discuss this here on our message boards.

This was a phenomenal year for the format of DVD. Truly special. Warner Bros. got off their schneid in a big way, more companies poured their energy into the format, and more and more beloved films got editions more deserving of them. A few titles that had been in limbo for a long time got their chance at the marquee. Whittling all of these amazing releases into a comprehensible list was a bitch, but I tried to concoct stuff that I felt was the most deserving and not totally repreentative of what I consider the best films, or my favorite films but DVD releases that really showed the merits of the format. Plus, it's finally evident to most everyone that DVD is rapidly approaching the value and respect levels previously reserved strictly for the theaters. Here you go, pups...

.15. Gone with the Wind (Buy the DVD)

I totally don't dig the film, but the set is impossible to deny. I'm surprised they didn't unearth Clark Gable and coerce a commentary track from his unliving husk. As it stands, this rivals the Lord of the Rings flicks in girth, length, and distance of the money shot. Frankly, I don't give a damn about this film but this is a DVD worth giving 11 damns about.

Best Feature: Nice Gable documentary.

Beware: You will celebrate two birthdays while wading through this epic of love and rednecks.

Total Rating: 9.0

.14. Videodrome: Criterion (Buy the DVD)

What a badass DVD. From the videocassette looking box to the new transfer (which is still a little raw at times), to the amazing second disc laden with features, this is a DVD to savor. Cronenberg has had a good couple of years with DVD, and for those that don't have his Naked Lunch Criterion set from last year... it's even better than this. If only more horror was treated with this much respect. A really must-purchase title for fans of Cronenberg and people with guts made for storage. I cannot believe how vividly this flick forsaw the mind numbing world of reality television back in the day.

Best Feature: Packaging to die for.

Beware: As great as this DVD is, the film is not going to make any people fans by the features alone. Body horror is beautiful, but not for everyone.

Total Rating: 9.0

.13. Hellboy: Director's Cut (Buy the DVD)

This would have been higher on the list if it didn't duplicate all of the special content from the first DVD in addition to the new stuff. I hate it when two discs are released so closely together and one totally negates the other. Still, this is a great flick given as loving and comprehensive a treatment as anything this side of Hobbiton. A gorgeous package, more special features than most three discs, and tons and tons of the best rotund Mexican ever. Great, great stuff.

Best Feature: The commentaries.

Beware: The old Hellboy DVD is irrelevant.

Total Rating: 9.0

.12. Spider-Man 2 (Buy the DVD)

This is a totally fun flick and it's cut from a richer grain than both the original Spidey as well as most genre films, let alone comic adaptations. It loses a little over repeat viewings but it's still a blast and this DVD is a lot better than the first one. Loads of special features, slick production, and the understanding that the audience is king makes it a total winner.

Best Feature: Text commentary is absolutely terrific.

Beware: There are a few different incarnations of this disc. The "deluxe" edition probably isn't the extra dough.

Total Rating: 9.1

.11. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (Buy the DVD)

Sublime. If it wasn't for the "other" western on this list and the fact that the first edition of this film on DVD was ass awful, this may be higher on the list. That said, this is absolutely incredible stuff. From the little posters and the cool booklet inside to the laundry list of special features, this is so pant shatteringly splendid that I pulled out all my Eli Wallach action figures and smashed them together in joy. Amazing stuff. Now, they need to do the same for all of the great old westerns.

Best Feature: The longer cut of this movie. Finally.

Beware: The box is a little bigger than most, a fact that irritates the Jack Johnson off me. Also, Richard Schickel rarely makes for entertianing commentaries.

Total Rating: 9.2

.10. Creature from the Black Lagoon: Legacy (Buy the DVD)

I'll admit it, this isn't a DVD that would make many people's lists, but I'm not many people. I'm actually six people (on the message boards, at least). But, this may be one of the most influential movies of my life, both in regards to my taste in film and my definition of what matters most: SEA BEASTS. Plus, these are pretty solid discs. Three 'Creature' films are in here, tossed in are some decent features and commentaries (Bob Burns!), and the resulting vintage is nothing to scoff at. God, you rarely see people scoffing at stuff, do you? Tomorrow, I'm going to Best Buy and scoffing at some stuff. Yes, the packaging is Davey and it reminds me too much of the Van Helsing crossover... but it's THE CREATURE. Brilliant.

Best Feature: Three vital films presented in the spiffiest manner possible.

Beware: The packaging ain't too swift.

Total Rating: 9.2

.9. Freaks and Geeks (Buy the DVD)

I'm not a die-hard fan of the show. My wife is, but she also likes Shag: The Movie so I'm not going to defend her tastes on this day. The fact is this: there is no better DVD on the planet to hold up as an example of a creator giving a gift to his fans. This DVD may have come out eventually, but it wouldn't have had this much fanfare and been this stacked had Judd Apatow not taken millions of fans' plea to heart and put together a slam-bang package. You have to respect that. This is better than cookie dough ice cream in July.

Best Feature: Eight grillion commentary tracks.

Beware: As far as I know, there is no Linda Cardellini DVDA to be found.

Total Rating: 9.2

.8. Short Cuts: Criterion (Buy the DVD)

Not content to package the DVD with a booklet, Robert Altman and Criterion shoved the entire source novel for Short Cuts in the packaging for this totally underappreciated flick. Yes, it's fucked and depressing and it makes no sense at times... but that's kind of the point. This is the last of the director's films I liked, but it's a doozy and the DVD is the epitome of tender lovin' care. There's no commentary, which is a deal breaker for some... but there's a feature length documentary on the second disc. I promise, after watching disc two, you'll be pretty square on Short Cuts. And then some.

Best Feature: Disc two.

Beware: Julianne Moore's eternal nude scene is not arousing, and that's the point. If you spank to it, you're pretty freaked around. Oh yeah, and you'll not bake a cake and sing happy tunes after watching this.

Total Rating: 9.2

.7. Star Wars Trilogy (Buy the DVD)

Shouldn't this have been number one on the list by default? If you'd asked me some time ago, I might have said yes but the bar has been raised awfully high and though the discs are nothing to scoff at (see above), there's a bit of an underwhelming feel to the whole proceedings. The documentary on the last disc is certainly dy-no-mite and the flicks look amazing... so it deserves to be on the list. At the end of the day, it feels a little hollow and I'm sure we'll be buying new, sexier discs in a couple of years. But, cross a big one of the list. Star Wars is finally here and it's still great.

Best Feature: Seeing these films in Anamorphic Widegentleman.

Beware: Would it have killed George to have let us see the old versions again? You know, the ones that were perfectly imperfect.

Total Rating: 9.3

.6. Carnivale #1 (Buy the DVD)

I'd never seen this show before, but I knew I'd own the DVD. HBO doesn't usually release shit and any show that stars Clancy Brown is instant gold. What surprised me was the amazing delivery the show got on DVD. The packaging is downright jaw-dropping and the discs are like sepia toned butter on a perfectly baked biscuit when you pop them in your machine. Incredible stuff, and there's even some commentaries and a featurette to chew on. This is a case of style just coming together just right to make a DVD you'll love to play, but one that's also just terrific to look at and fondle.

Best Feature: Packaging to kill for.

Beware: This is a heady, spiritually intense show. Not for everyone. Especially if you hated being raised as a circus freak.

Total Rating: 9.3

.5. THX-1138 (Buy the DVD)

This DVD hit me like a magic missile to the forehead. I remember liking the movie, but I totally love it now and mostly thanks to an amazing array of special features and that rare instance where tinkering with a film has resulted in improvements. George Lucas gets a lot of flak these days, but not for this, his science fiction pre-masterpiece. Loaded to the nines with amazing artwork and an intimate audience with Lucas. This should be on everyone's shelves. Seriously.

Best Feature: A sparkling version of the film that started it all.

Beware: The item that sucks Robert Duvall off in the film is not included in this set.

Total Rating: 9.4

.4. Film Noir Classic Collection (Buy the DVD)

You have a young person you know who's starting to decide they're into film and are all into Tarantino and Fincher and Rodriguez and all the other cool cats? Shove this collection in their hands and tell them something to the effect of "Let me show you how it's done". This, my friends, is magic. A nearly perfect collection of the grit and gristle of the old days. 5 awesome, moody masterpieces from a time when "dame" didn't mean Judi Dench. They're not loaded with features, but the fact these were released and released together makes it solid freakin' platinum. Plus, you'll learn a ton from the historians on the commentary tracks. I did.

Best Feature: Out of the Past.

Beware: If you don't like stuff hard boiled, you won't like this.

Total Rating: 9.4

.3. Dawn of the Dead: Ultimate (Buy the DVD)

Four discs of Dawn of the Dead is almost overkill. In fact it is. Sweet, blissful overkill. This would be number one had it not been for the fact that there have been too damn many copies of this film on DVD already. A sickening amount, though nowhere near as sickening as the proliferation of public domain versions of the original Romero zombie opus. This is pretty much as good as having George Romero and Ken Foree living with you in your home. Only thing missing: commentary by the Hare Krishna zombie. This is truly the ultimate edition.

Best Feature: Black is beautiful.

Beware: The diverging cuts of this film are all solid but not as diverse as you might expect.

Total Rating: 9.6

.2. Master and Commander: TFSOTW (Buy the DVD)

This film is a masterpiece. It finished in a dead heat with The Two Towers when I did my top ten theatrical releases of 2002 but it's surpassed the Jackson film as time has allowed me to watch this Peter Weir classic on DVD time and time again. This DVD showcases the majesty of the format, a product that defies logic by not having a commentary track. With that considered, this is still a magical DVD set. Almost impeccable. If it had a commentary or two, it might be number one on the list, no mean feat. Give this film another chance if you aren't a fan, 'cause even though we won't get a series of Jack Aubrey films, a man can dream can't he?

Best Feature: Svelte and sublime packaging and booklets.

Beware: This is an old fashioned yarn. Remember when yard was good?

Total Rating: 9.8

.1. The Lord of the Rings: ROTK EE (Buy the DVD)

I mean, duh...

Even if you're not a card carrying member of the hobbit adulation society, it's hard to deny the sheer mass and scope of this set. It and its bretheren are the cream of the crop in DVD. The high water mark. I really think these discs have changed to some small extent how studios approach the format. One day we may regret it, but for now it is perfection.

Best Feature: Oodles of commentaries.

Beware: Even the most hardened J.R.R. fan will probably be overwhelmed by this collection of hobbit overload.

Total Rating: 10.0

Honorable mentions (Click to order):

Discuss this here on our message boards.