Another year has passed and so have the release of many new DVD titles. Every year it seems more and more titles are being put on the market thanks to digital technology. Unlike VHS tapes, DVD’s have allowed titles from both the film and television mediums to be purchased for home entertainment. An entire season of a television show that used to take up a whole top shelf in VHS format can now be sold in a small DVD package at a reasonable price (well...sometimes a reasonable price). After sitting on my arse numerous times throughout 2004 to check out the latest treats on DVD, I’ve compiled a top ten list consisting of both television series and films. Without further ado, here are my picks from a great year of DVD’s.
Top 10 of 2004
Will Ferrell’s Christmas comedy is not one of the best films I have seen this year, but it certainly is one of the funniest and most charming Christmas comedies I have seen since Christmas Vacation. That goes without mentioning the DVD, which includes plenty of featurettes for grown-ups and a selection of games for little ones. New Line Cinema goes all out once again with their InfiniFilm series making interactivity a key part of enjoying this title.
I can’t thank the BBC enough for introducing this dead-on mockumentary series about cubicle life. Ricky Gervais serves as co-creator and star of the series as the unforgettable David Brent. Brent is one of the most repulsive, narcissistic characters in television history, and that is specifically why this show is classic. While having a short run that disappointed fans, the program wisely comes to an end as opposed to desperately cranking out new episodes year after year. The DVD includes the first two seasons as well as the two-part Christmas special that wrapped things up nicely with the main characters. The set also includes outtakes, a commentary, and a behind-the-scenes documentary.
City of God
This is a title a little light on the special features side, but the film itself is undoubtedly one of the best crime films this decade! Set in the slums of Rio de Janeiro, an aspiring youth tells his story of growing up in a world where kids grow up to be mean murdering machines as a way for survival. Roger Ebert called it “one of the best films you’ll ever see” and I could not agree more. City of God is a phenomenal, disturbing piece of filmmaking that will have you thinking for days.
I never get to watch very much television. Therefore, I was not familiar with Fox’s renowned hour-long series 24. After getting my paws on the third season I was pulled in immediately thanks to the show’s intense real-time chronology. Once past the first couple of episodes, 24 leads to the strongest of addictions. With the show introducing a thrilling twist at the end of every hour it is quite a luxury to watch each episode at the push of a button as opposed to waiting until the following week. A couple of documentaries improve this hefty DVD set, especially one on the topic of bioterrorism.
What is better than seeing Quentin Tarantino’s acclaimed popcorn flicks in the theater? Seeing both volumes back-to-back thanks to their availability on DVD. The supplemental features lack on both discs, and there is even rumor that they will be re-released as thicker packages in the future. However, I can’t get enough of this righteously kick-ass blend of martial arts, spaghetti western, Hitchcock suspense, and melodrama. One could hold out for future editions, but they would be missing out on one of the best DVD combos this year. This two-part epic is Tarantino at the top of his game.
Arrested Development is unarguably one of the best comedy shows on the air right now. Thankfully, Fox has released its entire first season in 2004 just a year after the premiere of the series. I watched every episode on this DVD and laughed to my heart’s content. It is very rare that a comedy series benefits not only from jokes, but strong characters. The series follows the Bluth family through their dysfunctional tribulations after the family patriarch is locked away for bad accounting practices. There are a few featurettes to go along with the series, but the episodes alone are the heart of this package.
When there is no more room in hell, the dead will walk the earth.
-Ken Foree- Dawn of the Dead (1978)
That line rings true for the year 2004. Zombie movies are making a comeback and that makes me a happy SOB. This year saw the release of three mentionable titles that I’ve crammed into the #4 slot: The original Dawn of the Dead, the remake Dawn of the Dead, and Shaun of the Dead. Romero’s original classic was re-released in Ultimate Edition format (following the release of the Special Edition in the same year that I had already purchased…dicks!), which includes a theatrical cut, director’s cut, and European cut of the flick as well as an fourth supplement disc. The high adrenaline remake of Dawn was also introduced to store shelves this year with an unrated cut and plenty of mini-documentaries about blood and guts. Finally, the British hit Shaun of the Dead, which brilliantly spoofs Romero’s films, brings lots of laughs and extra features for zombie fans out there. These flicks are a trio of flesh-eating hysteria that should not be missed!
I have always been a fan of The Simpsons and have made an oath to own every season. So naturally, these two titles make my list. However, the fourth and fifth seasons are not just “any season.” Some of the greatest episodes with the animated family were cranked out during these years. Homer relives his college years, Marge does battle with an evil monorail transit system, Bart becomes a scout after a sugar binge, and Maggie goes on a quest for her lost pacifier in the style of The Great Escape. Every season has its moments, but if you have to choose between the roughly animated first season and the later seasons, then four and five are the way to go. With commentary tracks on every episode and behind-the-scenes looks at the animation process, these are complete DVD packages.
Alright, so this 2004 DVD release is not packed with special features. However, there is a recent 2005 re-release that contains a whole second disc full of supplements (you will get my two cents on DVD re-releases later on in this article). Either way it is packaged, Eternal Sunshine is worth the purchase just for the feature film alone. Charlie Kaufman brings forth a wicked and twisted screenplay in collaboration with the stylish direction of Michel Gondry. Plus. Jim Carrey goes serious, Kate Winslet dyes her hair various colors, and Kirsten Dunst gets plastered and dances around in her underwear. This love story about memory loss is worth a video rental at least. Supplemental features on the 2004 original copy include a conversation with Jim Carrey and Michel Gondry, a commentary track with Michel Gondry and Charlie Kaufman, and deleted scenes.
After years of syndicated reruns it has come to this, and damn am I glad! At first I questioned why I would need these seasons of Seinfeld on DVD. The reruns played so much that the last thing I wanted to do was purchase the episodes and watch them over and over once more. As it turns out these are not your typical everyday television shows on DVD. The extra material is all there. In fact, there is so much of it that the episodes look like the bonus features. The entire cast, co-creator Larry David, and all of the key players to making the treasured sitcom come together for exclusive documentaries and mini-featurettes. Plus there are pop-up trivial facts, commentary tracks, and blooper reels. There are those who hate Seinfeld, and those who love it, but those that fall into the latter category will have plenty to be thankful for after watching this DVD. The question remains: will the seasons to come be just as jam-packed as these? God I hope so!
Honorable Mentions That I Failed to See
Ok, so I have not yet seen the new and improved Star Wars Trilogy on DVD. Lucas fans can now take the opportunity to pelt me with stones and plastic light sabers. However, this long awaited edition of the original three films is loaded with extras and resurrects the true spirit of George Lucas before he discovered (gulp) Jar Jar Binks and CG animation.
Right along with Family Guy, another failed series has hit a home run on DVD. Thanks to DVD perhaps networks will understand that some beloved shows make bad ratings thanks to poor programming tactics. Many have praised this homage to high school life in the 1980’s, making it a good candidate for a blind buy in the DVD department.
You may have picked up from my top ten list that I despise titles being released on DVD over and over and over. It is an insult to movie fans across the world. Devoted DVD buyers wait in anticipation for their favorite titles to hit DVD, buy the film, then find out six months to a year later that it has been released once again with a couple of extra deleted scenes and a lame ass blooper reel. I could care less if a “Special Edition” is upgraded to a “Super, Sexy, Slamming Cream Your Jeans Edition”. My request to executives is this: stop wasting the time and money of your movie fans!
I have not seen this DVD. However, I saw this film in the theater and know for a fact that no special feature in the world could support this steaming pile of dung. How this film made it to screens I will never know, but I can see why Christopher Walken is rumored to have almost walked away from the movie due to its absurd writing. The film itself has probably contaminated the DVD; so stay away from this turkey at all costs!
What Do You Think?
That about sums up MY picks for the year 2004, but now I want to know what YOU think. Being that I do not have the time or finances to check out every single title this year, I am positive that I failed to mention some underrated gems. Therefore, I want to compose a follow-up piece covering all the mentionable DVD’s released this past year according to the readers.
What is the best DVD you have seen this year? What is the worst? Let it be known to the MovieWeb readers!
E-mail me with your picks: [email protected]