After watching in the vicinity of two hundred movies this year, this is my chance to look back on 2008 and pick some of my favorite DVDs of the year. It’s a genre-busting list, punctuated by exemplary films that will be remembered for a long time to come. Forget about the numerous failed spoof movies, and never mind the likes of The Love Guru, Speed Racer, or The X-Files: I Want to Believe. These are what I consider, the best the year had to offer.
The Godfather Collection – Four-Disc Coppola Restoration
Francis Ford Coppola‘s legendary Godfather collection was cleaned up for long-time fans, and for a whole new generation of movie lovers. While the second and third films are less impressive, the first Godfather film is one of the greatest ever made, and the numerous extras make this collection a must-own.
No Country for Old Men
This dark film, which won four Oscars, is the crowning achievement for the Coen Brothers. Marked by stunning performances, and a clever storyline, the only question is whether you will enjoy the polarizing ending, which people either love or hate.
The Dark Knight
While much has been said about Heath Ledger’s final performance of his life, director Christopher Nolan and actors Christian Bale and Aaron Eckhart don’t get nearly enough respect for this action/thriller hybrid that shifts the Batman franchise into new ground. The special features are not as spectacular as those included on Batman Begins, but this is still a must-see, and possibly must-own film.
Disney finally delivered something special with this tongue-in-cheek send-up of the House of Mouse’s classic princess tales. The lovely Amy Adams, alongside Patrick Dempsey, make this an unforgettable feel-good film for a new era.
Two hours of Robert Downey Jr. doing his thing, hamming it up and lightly nibbling the scenery? That can’t be a bad thing, and as Tony Stark, Downey plays the perfect eccentric billionaire, trying to find a new reason to live. The DVD also features some of the best extras of the year, including a making-of featurette that follows the entire production of the film from concept to red carpet.
Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe share the screen for what was one of the better dramas of 2007. As much as I enjoyed the DVD extras, I’m including American Gangster mainly because I think it’s a film that is well worth seeing for the sheer weight of the story. It’s gripping stuff, and with some of the historical fact and context, it makes for an interesting lesson from the streets of Harlem.
I have said it before and I’ll say it again – Pixar is one of the best things to happen to North American filmmaking in a long time. Their films bring intelligence to children’s films, which is rare enough, but they also make deeply engrossing, and carefully crafted masterpieces. Look no further than the stunning visuals and sweet emotions of Wall-E for proof of that.
Offering a freshly restored version of this 1959 classic means that a whole new generation of children can enjoy one of the greatest animated films ever made. Disney went all out with this release, with loads of extras on the special edition, and best of all, more of the film to enjoy with an enhanced aspect ratio that was cut off in previous versions of the film.
And finally, this may not be the best film of the year, but it is highly entertaining fun. With the songs of Abba rendered in all their glory by the likes of Meryl Streep, Pierce Brosnan, Colin Firth, and Julie Walters. The basic version of the film comes with a sing-along option, but true fans should spring for the special edition which includes loads of extras.
While these films failed to offer great DVD features, here are a few of my favorite releases from the year that still deserve some attention. Since most of us don’t watch the features on DVDs more than once, these are just a few of the great movies worth a look if you missed them this year (in alphabetical order).
NEW THIS WEEK
Last of all, please note that a couple of new releases sneak onto home video this week, including Joss Whedon‘s genius short comedy series, Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog. Starring Neil Patrick Harris as Dr. Horrible, a villain trying to make a name for himself, even as his nemesis Captain Hammer keeps ruining his day. This hilarious show was originally only released online, but is well worth a look on DVD.
Also arriving, Whedon’s space-cowboy series, Serenity, on Blu-ray, and Nip/Tuck season five.