Wednesday, December 15, 2010

VW's Favorite DVDs of 2010: Sam & Rebecca Umland

Long-time VIDEO WATCHDOG critics Rebecca and Sam Umland are both educators based at the University of Nebraska at Kearney. Their books include DONALD CAMMELL: A LIFE ON THE WILD SIDE and THE USE OF ARTHURIAN LEGEND IN HOLLYWOOD FILM. - TL

By Sam & Rebecca Umland

1) 3 SILENT CLASSICS BY JOSEF VON STERNBERG (Criterion)
Along with Flicker Alley’s CHAPLIN AT KEYSTONE and Kino’s and Eureka’s THE COMPLETE METROPOLIS, one of the three or four most incredible home video releases of the year containing classics from the silent era.

2) CHAPLIN AT KEYSTONE (Flicker Alley)
Another incredible box set consisting of about 10 hours of early, silent era Chaplin, representing virtually all of Chaplin’s work for Mack Sennett’s Keystone Studios. Years in the making and made possible by the cooperative efforts of film archives worldwide.

3) THE COMPLETE METROPOLIS (Kino US and Eureka UK)
Yet another important silent era film representing the virtually complete version of Lang’s silent era SF classic. Available in Blu-ray.

4) THE NIGHT OF THE HUNTER (Criterion)
Criterion’s welcome edition of this Charles Laughton-directed classic features a splendid Blu-ray transfer along with some important supplemental materials.

5) AMERICA LOST AND FOUND: THE BBS STORY (Criterion)
BBS—an acronym for Bob, Bert and Steve, the creative team of Bob Rafelson, Bert Schneider, and Steve Blauner—made the series of seven Hollywood films contained in this box set between 1968 and 1972, financed by the profits they made from the hugely popular NBC series THE MONKEES. As “countercultural” cinema, the films included here were both critical and commercial successes (e.g., EASY RIDER, FIVE EASY PIECES, THE LAST PICTURE SHOW) as well as box-office bombs (e.g., HEAD, DRIVE HE SAID, A SAFE PLACE). The Blu-ray presentations are stellar, and the supplements interesting and informative.

6) SHUTTER ISLAND (Paramount)
Narrative coherence is not as important as the fully immersive visual experience of Scorsese’s engaging and compelling psychological thriller. Paramount’s Blu-ray issue of the film is outstanding.

7) APOCALYPSE NOW: FULL DISCLOSURE EDITION (Lionsgate)
The 1979 theatrical version of Francis Coppola’s acknowledged masterpiece is included here (finally) for the first time in its proper aspect ratio (2.35:1), as is the Redux, both in HD. The “Full Disclosure Edition” has the additional essential supplement, HEARTS OF DARKNESS, Eleonor Coppola's outstanding documentary on the making of the film.

8) THE DAMNED (THESE ARE THE DAMNED, included in THE ICONS OF SUSPENSE COLLECTION: HAMMER FILMS, Sony)
Joseph Losey’s haunting, memorable film in the most complete version yet available on DVD.

9) PICNIC AT HANGING ROCK (Shock Blu-ray import)
We were happy to renew our appreciation of this haunting 1975 mystery directed by Peter Weir on Blu-ray. Shock’s Blu-ray disc contains the “Director’s Cut” (as opposed to the original theatrical version) and doesn’t include the array of supplements contained on Second Sight’s valuable 2008 SD DVD issue, but the improved HD image and sound make this a highly worthwhile edition of the film.

10) MICKEY ONE (Sony Pictures Screen Classics By Request)
Unaccountably neglected, never before released on DVD, and shot by master cinematographer Ghislain Cloquet (perhaps best known for the many pictures he shot for Robert Bresson), this fascinating Arthur Penn-directed, Kafkaesque film noir features Warren Beatty as a comedian on the run from the mob. Image and sound quality on this video-on-demand disc is excellent.

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