2010 was a fantastic year in home video releases. Some of the most revered classics finally made their way to the Blu-ray format, while other titles were given a more in-depth re-release. Without question, 2010 was proof that Blu-ray is here to stay.
If you have a Blu-ray player or get one over the holidays, we’ve got a list of the titles that are must-haves for your home video collection. These Blu-rays make our list for a variety of reasons; Some are incomprehensibly comprehensive collections like Lost: The Complete Collection and The Alien Anthology. Others are beautifully remastered classics like Psycho and The Exorcist. There are even a few that needed no enhancement, but were given star treatment by the always impressive Criterion Collection, like The Thin Red Line and Seven Samurai.
We’ve ditched the ranking system for this list. It isn’t about which Blu-ray is better, although you may be able to tell by the descriptions. This year-end list is designed so you didn’t miss any of the year’s best.
Check out which Blu-rays we think are essential to your collection:
Alien Anthology (Oct. 26) – Four vastly different films share a few things in common besides a name – the four Alien films changed the way we see genre films. These weren’t just movies that cared about the sci-fi audience or the horror crowd – they captured everybody’s attention, no matter their genre preference.
If you are reading this section, you already know why you love all or some of the Alien movies. The difference between the first two films has always fascinated me. Ridley Scott’s horrific space venture has an entirely different dynamic than James Cameron’s epic sequel, but both films are now considered classics.
Sigourney Weaver’s star power as the Alien franchise’s lead rivals that of the iconic aliens the movies are titled after. Weaver has made plenty of top lists for her role as Ripley – she even topped our Female Expendables list earlier this year.
As the buzz surrounds this awesome anthology release of the Alien franchise, news of the future of the saga rages on. Ridley Scott continues to develop his Alien prequel and fans anxiously await more details. But for now, you’ll have to settle for the fantastic and heralded Blu-ray transfer of one of the most beloved sci-fi franchises of all time.
If reading makes you queasy, I suggest you do not continue below. The unbelievable list of Alien Anthology special features follows.
DISC ONE: ALIEN
- 1979 Theatrical Version
- 2003 Director’s Cut with Ridley Scott Introduction
- Audio Commentary by Director Ridley Scott, Writer Dan O’Bannon, Executive Producer Ronald Shusett, Editor Terry Rawlings, Actors Sigourney Weaver, Tom Skerritt, Veronica Cartwright, Harry Dean Stanton and John Hurt
- Audio Commentary (for Theatrical Cut only) by Ridley Scott
- Final Theatrical Isolated Score by Jerry Goldsmith
- Composer’s Original Isolated Score by Jerry Goldsmith
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience with Weyland-Yutani Datastream
DISC TWO: ALIENS
- 1986 Theatrical Version
- 1991 Special Edition with James Cameron Introduction
- Audio Commentary by Director James Cameron, Producer Gale Anne Hurd, Alien Effects Creator Stan Winston, Visual Effects Supervisors Robert Skotak and Dennis Skotak, Miniature Effects Supervisor Pat McClung, Actors Michael Biehn, Bill Paxton, Lance Henriksen, Jenette Goldstein, Carrie Henn and Christopher Henn
- Final Theatrical Isolated Score by James Horner
- Composer’s Original Isolated Score by James Horner
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience with Weyland-Yutani Datastream
DISC THREE: ALIEN3
- 1992 Theatrical Version
- 2003 Special Edition (Restored Workprint Version)
- Audio Commentary by Cinematographer Alex Thomson, B.S.C., Editor Terry Rawlings, Alien Effects Designers Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., Visual Effects Producer Richard Edlund, A.S.C., Actors Paul McGann and Lance Henriksen
- Final Theatrical Isolated Score by Elliot Goldenthal
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience with Weyland-Yutani Datastream
DISC FOUR: ALIEN RESURRECTION
- 1997 Theatrical Version
- 2003 Special Edition with Jean-Pierre Jeunet Introduction
- Audio Commentary by Director Jean-Pierre Jeunet, Editor Hervé Schneid, A.C.E., Alien Effects Creators Alec Gillis and Tom Woodruff, Jr., Visual Effects Supervisor Pitof, Conceptual Artist Sylvain Despretz, Actors Ron Perlman, Dominique Pinon and Leland Orser
- Final Theatrical Isolated Score by John Frizzell
- Deleted and Extended Scenes
- MU-TH-UR Mode Interactive Experience with Weyland-Yutani Datastream
The fifth and sixth discs contain even more in-depth coverage of the Alien saga. With an eye on every level of production, this is possibly the most comprehensive look at any production ever compiled. Pick up your copy today and try to beat the $140 retail price.
The Thin Red Line (Sept. 28) – Terrence Malick’s moody yet thoughtful film, The Thin Red Line, is one of the most beautiful movies ever shot. What better platform to display the raw beauty of his film than Blu-ray? Finally, the “other war movie” of 1998 (besides Saving Private Ryan) makes its way to BD in a stunning transfer by Criterion Collection.
With a cast as top-notch as The Thin Red Line boasts, it isn’t even surprising when you hear the laundry list of A-listers who didn’t make it past the cutting room floor. Ironically, the actors take a backseat to the gorgeous cinematography of John Toll. The performances are superb, but nothing beats the nature shots from Toll accompanied by the mesmerizing score from Hans Zimmer. The Thin Red Line is a masterpiece to many fans across the world who will benefit from the best home video format available – Blu-ray.
It wouldn’t be a Criterion release without an epic array of supplements. The Criterion crew has scrounged up over 2 hours of bonus features to enjoy after your jaw drops to the floor from the film that garnered seven Oscar nominations.
- A half-hour documentary in which actors Kirk Acevedo, Jim Caviezel, Tom Jane, Elias Koteas, Dash Mihok, and Sean Penn discuss the production history of The Thin Red Line as well as their work with director Malick.
- Casting director Dianne Critended discusses her work on the pre-production of The Thin Red Line. Also included in the featuerret is original footage from several casting sessions with actors Ben Chaplin, Tom Jane, Elias Koteas, Dash Mihok, John Savage, and Nick Stahl.
- Editors Leslie Jones, Saar Klein, and Billy Weber discuss how the final version of The Thin Red Line was put together.
- Oscar nominated composer Hans Zimmer discusses his work on The Thin Red Line and relationship with director Malick.
- Eight outtakes presented in rough form.
- Kaylie Jones, daughter of novelist James Jones (The Thin Red Line), discusses her father’s book and how its message was carried over to the film.
- A collection of archival newsreels, highlighting the successes of the troops but omitting the horrors an suffering the soldiers had to endure, which were shown in America during World War II.
- A selection of songs recorded in November 1997 on the South Pacific island of Guadalcanal, illustrated with photographs from the production of The Thin Red Line.
- An audio commentary with production designer Jack Fisk, producer Grant Hill, and cinematographer John Toll. The three recall their work with director Malick, and discuss the production history of The Thin Red Line, the unprecedented cast, the film’s powerful message, etc.
- A 36-page illustrated booklet containing David Sterritt’s essay “This Side of Paradise” (the author is chairman of the National Society of Film Critics, chief book critic at Film Quarterly, and an adjunct professor at Columbia University and the Maryland Institute College of Arts); and writer James Jones’ article “Phony War Films”, first published in the March 30, 1963 issue of the Saturday Evening Post.
Back to the Future Trilogy (Oct. 26) – It’s hard to imagine that it’s been 25 years since Marty McFly took the Delorean out for a spin through time. But now Marty (Michael J. Fox), Doc Brown (Chistopher Lloyd), George McFly (Crispin Glover), Biff Tannen (Thomas F. Wilson) and Marty’s mom, Lorraine (Lea Thompson), are all back in their various time-displaced forms. Pretty heavy.
From the 1980s back to the 1950s, then back again to the ’80s, then forward to 2015 and back yet again to 1885, Back to the Future remains one of the most funny, epic and downright fun cinematic adventures to ever spawn a franchise (thank god no one has tried to remake it… yet!). There are so many classic moments in these films (yes, even the third one) that not one single installment can be skipped over or ignored – and how many franchises can claim that?
Needless to say, this is a MUST OWN for any Blu-ray collector and film fan, so don’t commit the sin of rental – go out and buy this as soon as you can! There are a TON of special features included in this anniversary box set – special thanks to Blu-ray.com for taking the time to comb through them all:
- U Control. Mostly text based bonuses this time around with Universal’s “exclusive signature feature.” You can access “Setups and Payoffs,” which shows you how plot points are prepared and then referenced later down the line; “Storyboard Comparison,” which shows the original conception of several sequences; and “Trivia Track,” a host of factoids about various aspects of all three films.
- Tales From The Future is a phenomenal six part HD documentary that looks at all aspects of the film, from development through filming and release. These are:
“In the Beginning” (27:24), which looks at pre-production and the original casting snafus;
“Time to Go” (29:54), covering the production of the original film.
“Keeping Time” (5:43), devoted to Alan Silvestri’s score.
“Time Flies” (28:37), dealing with the second film and especially the convoluted effects sequences, as well as the decision to shoot the second and third films more or less in tandem.
“Third Time’s the Charm” (17:07), which focuses on the production design of the third film, as well as Christopher Lloyd’s Doc Brown as a romantic character.
“The Test of Time” (17:00) looks back at the cultural impact the trilogy has had.
- The Physics of ‘Back to the Future’ (HD; 8:25), an interesting, if too short, discussion with physicist Michio Kaku about how the films mostly get the science part right.
- Nuclear Test Site Ending Storyboard Sequence (HD;4:12), a nice look at the original ending of the film, with an optional commentary by Gale.
- Back to the Future Night (SD; 27:10), an archival featurette hosted by Leslie Nielsen which aired on NBC prior to the first televised broadcast of the initial film.
- Deleted Scenes (HD; 17:57 over three discs), 16 excised moments, some with some pretty bad print damage, all with optional Gale commentary.
- Michael J. Fox Q & A (SD; 10:20), where the star reminisces about the films.
- Q & A Commentaries with Zemeckis and Gale, a kind of weird but interesting set of sessions at USC after the films had been screened for an audience, hosted by the ubiquitous (and sometimes hard to understand) Laurent Bouzerau.
- Feature Commentaries with Gale and co-producer Neil Canton, a more nuts and bolts style set of commentaries which are interesting and very informative.
- Archival Featurettes, a compendium of older documentaries on the films, which includes:
Making of the Trilogy: Chapters One (SD; 15:30), Two (SD; 15:30) and Three (SD; 16:30), a 2002 documentary released with the DVD version of the films.
The Making of ‘Back to the Future’ Parts I (SD; 14:28), II (SD; 6:40) and III (SD; 7:32), another vintage set of documentaries.
The Secrets of the ‘Back to the Future’ Trilogy (SD; 20:41) a Kirk Cameron hosted tv special which answers fan questions about the series.
- Behind The Scenes, a series of archival material which includes:
Original Make-up Tests (SD; 2:17), where you can see Lloyd before his “Einstein-Stokowski” transformation;
Outtakes (SD; 5:23 over three discs), with gags and on set mishaps.
Production Design (SD; 2:55)
Storyboarding (SD; 1:29)
Designing the DeLorean (SD; 3:31)
Designing Time Travel (SD; 2:41)
Hoverboard Test (SD; :58)
Evolution of the Visual Effects Sequences (SD; 5:42)
Designing Hill Valley (SD; 1:08), more production design info.
Designing the Campaign (SD; 1:18), marketing info.
FAQs, text only questions about the series, with answers by Zemeckis and Gale.
Back to the Future: The Ride (SD; 31:06), with both the video components and actual ride footage from the theme park attraction.
- Music Videos of Huey Lewis and the News performing “Power of Love” (SD; 6:27) and ZZ Top performing “DoubleBack” (SD; 4:09).
- Photo Galleries, which include production art, storyboards, photos, marketing materials and character portraits.
- Theatrical Trailers and Teasers for all of the films.
- The BDs are also BD Live, D-Box and pocketBLU enabled.
Saving Private Ryan (May 4) – One of cinema’s most respected films gave us the action and horror of battle with the heart of men in the fight. Director Steven Spielberg had a tremendous vision to tell a compelling story of the people affected by the war who are still in the thick of it. You should know enough about the film and what makes it great, so what about the Blu-ray transfer?
The audio and video transfer are praised for their beauty and scope. Paramount continues to impress with their dedication to providing the most efficient video integration on Blu-ray and Saving Private Ryan deserves at least that much.
In the supplements is a 90-minute documentary, narrated by Tom Hanks, that explores World War II as seen through cameras and film from the field of battle. The beach charge, one of the most memorable scenes in movie history, is shown from a new perspective with the near-20-minute behind-the-scenes short of the filming process. This is a must-buy for anybody with even a faint love for movies. A 22-minute “making-of” documenting the creation of Saving Private Ryan sits alongside a handful of other worthy featurettes.
- An Introduction
- Re-Creating Omaha Beach
- Looking Into the Past
- Miller and His Platoon
- Boot Camp
- Making ‘Saving Private Ryan’
- Music and Sound
- Into the Breach: ‘Saving Private Ryan’
- Parting Thoughts
Lost: The Complete Collection (Aug. 24) – This should keep fans of the acclaimed TV series satisfied for quite some time. Even if you’ve got the first five seasons, there are plenty of new features in the collection to enjoy. And it comes in a very cool package!
While the folks behind Lost didn’t make any of our special features wishes come true, there is certainly enough here to keep viewers busy for several days. There are a few secrets and Easter Eggs to discover, some in the menus and some in the packaging (if you want the full experience). If you would like to stay in the dark regarding the secrets of the actual box set’s packaging, skip the next paragraph.
The shell box that looks like an ancient artifact houses quite a lot. But the naked eye alone will not uncover all of the box’s secrets. A Dharma brand black light (included) will give you the ability to spot a series of hidden symbols – that lead to a hidden compartment. That compartment is underneath the box top. Turn the map 90 degrees and then remove the covering. Underneath is a special bonus disc. Though, you won’t find the disc’s features listed on the outside – so you’ll just have to play it!
The bonus disc features a healthy number of supplements to really enhance the overall collection. While the Season 6 bonus features give you an inside look at the final season, this disc adds comprehensive features for the entire show.
LETTING GO (40 minutes): A walkthrough of the on-island filming locations with the actors providing an emotional montage of beautiful footage and memories. It is a unique behind-the-scenes look at the sets as well as Hawaii’s Diamond Head Studio. Emphasizing the importance of the locales, Lost showrunner Carlton Cuse asserts, “The show wouldn’t have been half of what it is if we didn’t shoot it here.”
The nostalgic tour travels from the various Hawaii locations in a helicopter with Daniel Dae Kim (Jin), in the valley with Jorge Garcia (Hurley) and Michael Emerson (Ben), by a fire on the beach with Matthew Fox (Jack), on the beach with Evangeline Lilly (Kate), in the forest with a bouncy Maggie Grace (Shannon) and Naveen Andrews (Sayid), as well as on a sailboat with Emilie de Ravin (Claire), Nestor Carbonell (Richard Alpert), and Jeff Fahey (Frank Lapidus).
Letting Go is a fitting tribute to the importance of the island locales as well as the show. The actors obviously have tremendous respect for their experience and their memories are coupled with footage from all six seasons, footage that despite being shot documentary style, will still move you. Of course, Michael Giacchino’s score is also present and will push you to tears.
ARTIFACTS OF THE ISLAND (14 minutes): Spend some time with the Prop Master, Robert Scott Kyker. In this interview, the actors reminisce over numerous memorable props. It’s a loose and fun recollection of the memories certain props gave the actors throughout production.
PLANET LOST (12 minutes): A look at the worldwide phenomenon of Lost, including a humorous segment on how the actors and showrunners feel about seeing the show dubbed in other languages. The feature also showcases Lost‘s honorable run at San Diego Comic-Con.
SWAN SONG (13 minutes): An inside look at the the scoring of the final moments of Lost. Michael Giacchino designs the music that shapes the tear-jerking emotions of the final scene. Giacchino and the orchestra are the true magicians of Lost.
INSIDE LOST LIVE – THE FINAL CONCERT (9 minutes): If you want to find this secret feature on the menu, press left or right on your controller and a floating button will light up. The search is much better than the result, though. It is simply the introduction of the show’s entire cast by Carlton Cuse and Damon Lindelof on stage. The feature is somewhat pointless but enjoyable enough.
LOST ON LOCATION: Specific Hawaiian locations from Seasons 3-5 get a behind-the-scenes look – showing how the crew incorporated each locale into the series.
THE LOST SLAPDOWNS (45 minutes): An ABC promotional videos for the final season. Paul Scheer (superfan/comedian) and others explain their ridiculous thoughts and theories to Cuse and Lindelof. In one of the biggest wastes of space ever made, this extensive collection of short sketches rarely brings a laugh. If they wanted to promote a home video release, it may have been better to actually air these somewhere other than the home video.
DELETED SCENES: Unaired scenes from seasons 3 and 5.
MORE FROM THE SERIES: Essentially, these are video diaries from seasons 4 and 5 – not previously seen in the original box sets.
BEST OF THE LOST PODCASTS: The Lost Podcast archive is extensive, but this feature provides the best moments from seasons 2-6.
The sixth season has its own special features as well. There are some worthy supplements, but the one everybody wants to know about is the exclusive unaired series finale epilogue, The New Man In Charge. The 12-minute bonus acts as a shout out to the fans but was commonly seen as a wasted opportunity by the creators that didn’t answer all of the questions.
In the end, if you love Lost or if you’ve been dying to play catch-up with the series, you’ll love the Complete Collection. There are plenty of extra minutes of material and the behind-the-scenes featurettes are fantastic, truly extending the Lost experience. You can get the Blu-ray set for under $200, which is a darn good price for all six seasons. In addition to the features you already know about, like the games and special booklets, the Complete Collection is a trophy of sorts.
Make sure to check out our other Lost coverage: Lost Finale Explained: Answering the Unanswered Questions editorial, our series finale review and discussion, as well as our list of Five Lost DVD Special Features We’d Love to See.
Psycho (Oct. 19)- The #8 film on our 10 Movies That Need A Blu-ray Release is now available on the format. One of Alfred Hitchcock’s greatest films, and arguably his most iconic, will look and sound better than ever on Blu-ray this week in honor of its 50th anniversary.
The new 5.1 DTS-HD surround sound should bring an entirely new element to the amazing film. The mono track will be available for viewers who want to hear the film in its original form, but why would you with the new surround sound. This is a testament to the power of the Blu-ray transfer on every level.
Revisit the legendary shower scene with this Blu-ray re-release and explore the making of Psycho with over a dozen supplements.
- Feature-length audio commentary with Stephen Rebello (Author of Alfred Hitchcock and the making of Psycho)
- The Making of Psycho: A feature-length documentary on Hitchcock’s most shocking film
- In the Master’s Shadow – Hitchcock’s Legacy: Some of Hollywood’s top filmmakers discuss Hitchcock’s influence and why his movies continue to thrill audiences.
- Hitchcock/Truffaut Interviews: Excerpts from a 1962 audio interview with Alfred Hitchcock.
- Newsreel Footage: The Release of Psycho: Vintage newsreel on the unique policy Alfred Hitchcock insisted upon for the release of the film.
- The Shower Scene: A look at the impact of music on the infamous “shower scene.”
- The Shower Scene: Storyboards by Saul Bass: Original storyboard design.
- Production Notes: Read an essay on the making of the film.
- The Psycho Archives: See the gallery of on-set photo stills from the film’s production.
- Posters and Psycho Ads: See a gallery of original posters and ads from the theatrical campaign.
- Lobby Cards: View a gallery of promotional lobby cards from the film’s theatrical campaign.
- Behind-The-Scenes Photographs: View rare photos showing the cast and crew at work.
- Psycho Sound: A never-before-seen piece that looks at the re-mastering process required to create a 5.1 mix from the original mono elements using Audionamix technology.
- Theatrical Trailer: Watch the original promotional trailer from the film’s theatrical campaign.
- Re-Release Trailers: Watch the promotional trailer created for the re-release of the film.
The Exorcist (Oct. 5) – If The Exorcist was too scary for you to even think about again, this 2-disc Digibook release may not be for you. The special edition will provide unprecedented features and both the theatrical and extended cuts of the film. That’s enough to turn your head all the way around.
The real treat here is in the extensive special features. It’s easy to look forward to a great movie on Blu-ray, but a real treat when the studio gives you an all-access pass to the cinematic legend. Add to this a 40-page booklet with images and backstory on the film’s creation and this is the most comprehensive Exorcist release ever.
Disc 1: – Extended Director’s Cut (2000) plus Special Features
- Commentary by William Friedkin
- Raising Hell: Filming the Exorcist – set footage produced and photographed by Owen Roizman, camera and makeup tests, and interviews with director William Friedkin, actress Linda Blair, author/screenwriter/producer William Peter Blatty and Owen Roizman (new; Blu-ray exclusive)
- The Exorcist Locations: Georgetown Then and Now – Featuring a tour of the iconic locations where the film was shot (new; Blu-ray exclusive)
- Faces of Evil: The Different Versions of The Exorcist – with director William Friedkin and author/screenwriter/producer William Peter Blatty discussing the different versions of the film and featuring outtakes from the film (new; Blu-ray exclusive)
- Trailers, TV spots & radio spots from the film’s 2000 release
Disc 2 – Theatrical Cut (1973) plus Special Features
- Introduction by William Friedkin
- Commentaries by William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty with Special Sound Effects Tests
- The Fear of God: 25 Years of The Exorcist [1998 BBC documentary]
- Additional interviews with William Friedkin and William Peter Blatty:
- Original ending
- Sketches & storyboards
- Trailers & TV spots from the 1973 version
Apocalypse Now (Oct. 19) – Arguably the most epic production of all time, Apocalypse Now comes full-force, or should I say Full Disclosure, to the Blu-ray market. I begged for this in my 10 Movies That Need A Blu-ray Release article in April.
The Apocalypse Now Full Disclosure Edition features the 1979 theatrical cut, the Redux cut and the greatest behind-the-scenes documentary ever made, Hearts of Darkness.
Francis Ford Coppola’s brilliantly constructed retelling of the Joseph Conrad novella Heart of Darkness puts the tale in the middle of the Vietnam War. Be sure and get the edition with the Hearts of Darkness documentary attached – one of the most detailed documentaries of all time, in my opinion. This is one of the better releases I’ve ever seen on Blu-ray.
- “A Conversation with Martin Sheen” interview by Francis Ford Coppola
- “An Interview with John Milius” interview by Francis Ford Coppola
- Complete Francis Ford Coppola interview with Roger Ebert at the 2001 Cannes Film Festival
- Monkey Sampan “lost scene”
- Additional Scenes
- “Destruction of the Kurtz Compound” end credits with audio commentary by Francis Ford Coppola
- “The Hollow Men,” video of Marlon Brando reading T.S. Eliot’s poem
- The Birth of 5.1 Sound
- Ghost Helicopter Flyover sound effects demonstration
- A Million Feet of Film: The Editing of Apocalypse Now
- The Music of Apocalypse Now
- Heard Any Good Movies Lately? The Sound Design of Apocalypse Now
- The Final Mix
- Apocalypse Then and Now
- The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now
- PBR Streetgang
- The Color Palette of Apocalypse Now
- The Synthesizer Soundtrack” article by music synthesizer inventor Bob Moog
Full Disclosure Edition Also Includes:
- Hearts of Darkness: A Filmmaker’s Apocalypse — Optional audio commentary with Eleanor and Francis Ford Coppola
- 48-page collectible printed booklet with special note from Francis Ford Coppola, never-before-seen archives from the set, behind the scenes photos and more
- John Milius Script Excerpt with Francis Ford Coppola Notes
- Storyboard Gallery
- Photo Gallery, including images from photographer Mary Ellen Mark
- Marketing Archive
Sound of Music (Nov. 2)- The 1965 musical that won five Oscars finally heads to Blu-ray. Brush off your vocal chords and get ready to sing along to Robert Wise’s classic.
20th Century Fox worked hard on this re-release for the 45th anniversary. The three-disc set features 7.1 DTS-HD Master Audio for you surround sound buffs. The special features are extensive, with plenty of chances to interact with the movie.
- Audio commentaries with Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer and director Robert Wise
- Your Favorite Things: An Interactive Celebration — all-new immersive viewing experience with behind-the-scenes images, on-screen lyrics, trivia track and location quiz
- Music Machine Sing-Along
- Musical Stages: Creating The Sound of Music — all-new interactive “backlot tour” with in-depth featurettes on the songs, the stage show & movie, the film and sound restoration and the real-life von Trapp family
- A City of Song — virtual map of filming locations in Salzburg, Austria
- Vintage Rodgers & Hammerstein and The Sound of Music programs, including a parody with Carol Burnett and Julie Andrews, and an interview with the real Maria von Trapp on The Julie Andrews Hour
- Rodgers & Hammerstein: The Sound of American Music, hosted by Mary Martin
- Screen tests, rare treasures, interviews, photo galleries and more
The Limited Collector’s set adds the following:
- 45th Anniversary soundtrack
- 100-Page “My Favorite Things” scrapbook
- Snapshots from Salzburg
- Reproduction of the original 1965 Souvenir program
- Exclusive “My Favorite Things” Music Box with letter of authenticity
Avatar Extended Collector’s Edition – You may remember the initial bare-bones home video release of Avatar in April. The second coming has arrived with the Extended Collector’s Edition. The new release brings hours of additional footage and enough behind-the-scenes featurettes to make your friends turn green blue with envy. Capture a piece of cinematic history and take the last step in the Avatar journey – until the release of the 3D edition, of course. This is a must buy.
If you have not seen Avatar, you missed quite the show. The massive 3D production not only shattered the box office record for highest grossing movie, but revolutionized the way we make and watch 3D cinema. If the $2.7 billion worldwide box office wasn’t enough for James Cameron, he’ll likely pass the $3 billion mark with the latest home video version of his biggest film to date.
The endless features on Avatar Extended Collector’s Edition may cost you a few extra bucks, but rarely do new releases provide this much coverage of a production. Our own Roth Cornet covers the entirety of the release, but check out some of the details below.
- 3 versions of the film
- An alternate opening depicting life on Earth
- Capturing Avatar – a documentary on the making of the film, as well as several other support pieces on the filmmaking process itself
- 45 minutes of deleted scenes
- An “Interactive Scene Deconstruction” option, in which viewers can experience the various stages of production through 3 different viewing modes
Beauty and the Beast (Oct. 5) – One of the most cherished animated films of all time hits the Blu-ray format in a comprehensive look back at the box office smash hit. The financial success of Beauty and the Beast really was profound – on just a $25 million budget, it made $377 million worldwide.
The Diamond Edition Blu-ray release is getting all kinds of buzz for its all-inclusive features and beautiful audio and video transfer. There is so much to offer with Disney providing two 50 GB discs to fit it all in. Enjoy reading all of the features the two-disc Diamond Edition has to offer.
(Special thanks to Blu-ray for providing the extensive information on the special features.)
- Special Extended and Original Theatrical Editions: Two versions of Beauty and the Beast are available from the outset. A 92-minute “Special Extended Edition” and the film’s 85-minute theatrical cut.
- Storyreel Picture-in-Picture Experience: Fans can view the theatrical cut alongside the filmmakers’ original storyreel, an incredibly early version of the film that features rough animation, hand-drawn storyboards and other preproduction artwork.
- Audio Commentary: Producer Don Hahn and co-directors Kirk Wise and Gary Trousdale discuss the Special Extended Edition of Beauty and the Beast and waste little time doing so. The trio dissect the story and characters, the animation techniques utilized throughout the film, its place in Disney history, the dialogue and songs, casting and the voice recording sessions, the challenges they faced during its long and complex production and much, much more. It’s a thoroughly engaging and informative track that should not be missed.
- Sing Along Track: The Special Extended cut even offers a text-based “Sing Along Mode” for anyone interested in belting out a Disney tune or two in the privacy of their own home.
- Fast Play: Looking for yet another way to watch Beauty and the Beast? In a fit of overkill, the BD wizards at Disney have also devised a “Fast Play Mode” that allows users to customize and automate their viewing experience based on time and specific interests. It’s rather extraneous, but I’m sure someone will enjoy it. Don’t like it? Move along then, there’s plenty of other content on tap.
- Beyond Beauty (HD, 157 minutes): An interactive, feature-length behind-the-scenes documentary teeming with worthwhile bonus content all its own (simply press “enter” when the on-screen icons appear to extend the experience further). A handy pop-up menu even keeps track of which sub-featurettes and branching segments you have and haven’t watched, making the whole of the documentary as effortless as it is extensive.
- Deleted Scenes (HD, 28 minutes): Former Walt Disney Studios chairman Peter Schneider introduces a sprawling alternate opening (pieced together from a studio storyreel created before the official voice actors were cast) and story supervisor Roger Allers does the same for a deleted scene (composed of storyboards) involving Belle’s exploration of the Beast’s library.
- Classic DVD Bonus Features (SD, 62 minutes): The previously released DVD’s high quality materials are included as well, albeit in standard definition. “The Story Behind the Story” digs into seven separate Disney films; Hahn presides over an early presentation reel and an alternate version of “Be Our Guest;” Menken unveils an alternate score for “The Transformation;” Hahn and Menken introduce “Human Again,” a deleted song comprised of storyboards; a collection of “Animation Tests, Roughs & Clean-Ups” proves to be an all-too-short treat; a “Camera Move Test” provides a glimpse at the virtual sets created for the film’s most complex shots; a “Music Video” features Celine Dion performing “Beauty and the Beast;” and a series of trailers and TV spots will satisfy completists.
- Composing a Classic (HD, 20 minutes): Composer Alan Menken, music agent and Disney historian Richard Kraft, and producer Don Hahn chat at length about the film’s rousing songs and musical score, as well as the art of furthering a story through music.
- Broadway Beginnings (HD, 13 minutes): A string of name-that-face celebrities, production team members and stage actors wax poetic about the Broadway adaptation of the film.
- Music Video (HD, 3 minutes): Jordin Sparks performs “Beauty and the Beast.”
- Bonjour – Who Is This? (HD): An interactive game for 2-8 players that, strangely enough, requires each player to use either their home or cell phone. Frankly, I can’t imagine anyone going to so much trouble for so little. But I’m sure someone out there will try to assemble their friends to play.
- Enchanted Musical Challenge (HD): A more accessible game in which players have to search the Beast’s castle and answer trivia questions to find four of Belle’s friends.
- Sneak Peeks (HD, 15 minutes): Among the disc’s Blu-ray sneak peeks? Toy Story 3, The Lion King, Alice in Wonderland: Special 60th Anniversary Edition (coming in 2011), Dumbo, A Christmas Carol, Tangled Bambi, Fantasia and Fantasia 2000.
- Screen Saver, Adaptive Menus and BD-Live Functionality: A screen saver, another smartly designed Disney Smart Menu and a BD-Live Access Portal round out the supplemental package.
Seven Samurai (Oct. 19) – One of the most influential and beloved films ever made has been finally released on Blu-ray in yet another stunning transfer by Criterion Collection.
In a unique way, Akira Kurosawa’s classic set the standard for many of the westerns we see today. Films such as ‘The Magnificent Seven’ and Roger Corman’s 1980 version of ‘Battle Beyond the Stars’ were inspired by the epic tale. Unfortunately (or fortunately) they never replaced the Kurosawa classic about a town of besieged villagers pushed to their limit. Those villagers resort to hiring seven strongmen to protect them from the evil bandits who are wreaking havoc on their homes.
The special features on this historic Blu-ray take up two discs. If you have even the slightest love for Akira Kurosawa’s work, these supplements will be a welcome addition.
- Scholars’ Roundtable – a fascinating commentary with popular scholars and critics David Desser, Joan Mellen, Stephen Prince, Tony Rayns, and Donald Richie discussing the history of Seven Samurai, its landmark status, the impact the film and Mr. Kurosawa’s work have had on generations of different filmmakers, etc. The comments provided by the scholars and critics were recorded between 2005 and 2006. In English, not subtitled.
- Michael Jeck – an audio commentary with Japanese film expert Michael Jack, which was recorded exclusively for Criterion in 1988. Most viewers are probably already familiar with it since it appeared on Criterion’s SDVD release of Seven Samurai. In English, not subtitled.
- Akira Kurosawa – It Is Wonderful to Create – a documentary on the making of Seven Samurai, part of the Toho Masterworks series Akira Kurosawa: It is Wonderful to Create, featuring interviews with various Kurosawa collaborators, including writer Masayuki Yui, screenwriter Shinobu Hashimoto, director Hiromichi Horikawa, set decorator Koichi Hamamura, script supervisor Teruyo Nogami, lighting technician Mitsuo Kaneko, actors Seiki Miyaguchi and Yoshio Tsuchiya. In Japanese, with optional English subtitles. (50 min, 1080i).
- My Life in Cinema: Akira Kurosawa – a lengthy video interview, filmed for the Directors Guild of Japan in 1993, featuring Akira Kurosawa and Nagisa Oshima. The two legendary directors discuss Kurosawa’s life, career and legacy. In Japanese, with optional English subtitles. (116 min, 1080i).
- Seven Samurai: Origins and Influences – a very good documentary, recorded exclusively for Criterion, focusing on the important role the samurai occupy in Japanese history, art, and cinema. With comments by various scholars and critics, including Tony Rayns, Donald Richie, and David Desser. In English and Japanese, with optional English subtitles. (56 min, 1080i).
- Three Trailers and a Teaser – In Japanese, with optional English subtitles.
- Behind the scenes – (B&W, 1080p).
- Posters – Japanese, Polish, British, U.S., Argentine. (Color, 1080p).
- Booklet – 60-page illustrated booklet containing Kenneth Turan’s essay “The Hours and Times”; Peter Cowie’s essay “Seven Rode Together”; Philip Kemp’s essay “A Time of Honor”; Peggy Chiao’s essay “Kurosawa’s Early Influences”; Alain Silver’s essay “The Rains Came”; Stuart Galbraith’s essay “A Magnificent Year”; a tribute from Arthur Penn; a tribute from Sidney Lumet; and Toshiro Mifune: In His Own Words.
King Kong (1933) (Sept. 28) – One of the most famous films of all-time finally reaches the Blu-ray format with a DigiBook edition. It is difficult to make a case for any film of 1933 quality on the illustrious Blu-ray, but as collections grow with more classics every day, it is a nice addition.
There is no 5.1 surround sound audio and the digital restoration can only go so far, but does a decent job of improving the quality. Some may refuse to even watch the Blu-ray without superior and updated sound design, but who could deny a must-own like King Kong?
- Audio Commentary: While it doesn’t actually begin until the film’s Overture is completed, animation icon Ray Harryhausen, effects master Ken Ralston, actress Fay Wray and producer Merian C. Cooper headline this piecemeal track comprised of Harryhausen and Ralston commentary and archive interviews with Wray and Cooper. Even though they weren’t involved in the production of King Kong (Harryhausen was only thirteen when it hit theaters and Ralston wasn’t born until 1954), the two men are infectious hosts, delivering a grounded yet passionate dissection of the film and its groundbreaking special effects. Meanwhile, the interview segments with Wray and Cooper help fill in some of the track’s gaps and provide a more hands-on perspective of the production. All in all, it’s an easy one to recommend. Cinefiles and students of film history should make a beeline for the disc’s commentary.
- RKO Production 601: The Making of Kong, The Eighth Wonder of the World (SD, 159 minutes): A candid, comprehensive, refreshingly thoughtful seven-part documentary that touches on everything from King Kong’s development to its impact on cinema at large, including its then-revolutionary special effects, the film’s grand scale, its Depression-era allure, casting and performances, central themes and much, much more. Worth the price of admission alone, it digs into “The Origins of King Kong,” “Willis O’Brien and Creation,” “Cameras Roll on Kong, The Eighth Wonder,” “A Milestone in Visual Effects,” “Passion, Sound and Fury,” “The Mystery of the Lost Spider Pit Sequence,” and “King Kong’s Legacy.” Set aside some quality time for this one. You won’t regret it.
- The Lost Spider Pit Sequence: Dinosaurs, Kong, rolling logs, several surprisingly gruesome deaths, plus a variety of giant crabs, lizards and spiders… Peter Jackson and crew pay loving tribute to Kong.
- Creation Test Footage with Commentary by Ray Harryhausen: Animation test footage created by Willis O’Brien in which the visual effects pioneer pairs animated dinosaurs with live actors and other real-world elements.
- I’m King Kong! The Exploits of Merian C. Cooper: Cooper was far more than a filmmaker and producer, as revealed at length in this fascinating biography narrated by Alec Baldwin. As James D’Arc puts it, “Merian C. Cooper was unbelievable, if it weren’t all true.”
The Complete Metropolis (Nov. 23) – For years, film historians have attempted to find the complete Metropolis movie that was shortened for American audiences in the late 1920s. A number of editions have claimed to be the most comprehensive but apparently, the entire film has finally been found and is now available on Blu-ray.
The silent epic is one of cinema’s most revered works of all time. The new release is a collaborative collection from dedicated filmmakers across the world. While this won’t be a perfect transfer, even the tremendously damaged reels that have been salvaged look as good as ever. Those of you who claim old movies cannot be any better on Blu-ray should check out this release. It’s the best example of bringing decaying history to life.
You’ll even find a 5.1 surround sound track in addition to the stereo track. One of the earliest behemoths of cinema is truly available for the most advanced home video systems in the world. It’s a wonder to behold.
The special features are small, but worth an extra look. It took enough effort just to get the entire movie on Blu-ray, but there are a few nice supplements:
- Voyage to Metropolis, a 50-minute documentary on the making and restoration of the film (in HD)
- Interview with Paula Felix-Didier, curator of the Museo del Cine, Buenos Aires, where the missing footage was discovered
- 2010 re-release trailer
Fantasia Collection (Nov. 30) – Released in line with The Sorcerer’s Apprentice on home video, Disney has re-released the animated classic that inspired the blockbuster, along with its followup film. Now on Blu-ray, you can watch the famous broom scene and listen to “A Night on Bald Mountain” in style.
While the two Fantasia movies are visually spectacular, they thrive on sound. Disney has done their homework and released the collection in DTS-HD 7.1 surround sound. Let’s just say that if you want to wake the neighbors, this is the Blu-ray to do it. It won’t just wake them, you may even leave them hard of hearing as well. My suggestion is to pump up the volume and let one of the better audio transfers in recent memory wash over you.
The four-disc collection has everything you need to travel back in time to the creation of Walt Disney’s vision. When you get done with all the supplements, you’ll wonder where that time actually went. I am most excited for Destino, the unfinished collaboration between Disney and Salvador Dali.
- Fantasia Audio Commentaries: Fantasia includes three audio commentaries. The first, helmed by eloquent Disney historian Brian Sibley, offers a veritable treasure trove of information on the development, design, production and legacy of the film. Sibley not only details and dissects each animated segment and its creation, he weaves a compelling history of Disney’s grand design. The second, introduced by Roy Disney and hosted by historian John Canemaker, features archive interviews, audio recordings, story note recreations and meeting transcript readings. The result? An invaluable posthumous Walt Disney commentary; one that, to its editors great credit, could only be bested if Disney were still alive. Finally, a third commentary with Roy E. Disney, conductor James Levine, animation historian John Canemaker and film restoration manager Scott MacQueen do a fine job filling in whatever blanks remain. Their track suffers from some inherent repetition, but it simply offers too much worthwhile insight to pass up. Together, Fantasia’s three commentaries are an excellent addition to an already strong release.
- Fantasia DisneyView Presentation (HD): Viewers can watch Fantasia in its original 4:3 presentation or with optional DisneyView, a feature that fills the black bars on either side of the image with custom paintings by visual-effects artists and designer Harrison Ellenshaw.
- The Schultheis Notebook: A Disney Treasure (HD, 14 minutes): Diane Disney Miller and a variety of notable filmmakers discuss Herman Schultheis’ recently discovered production notebook: a coveted tome that reveals Disney’s secret animation and special effects techniques, knowledge which had been lost for decades.
Interactive Art Galleries (HD): Two sprawling galleries of concept art, storyboards, original paintings and other production materials are on hand for Fantasia and Fantasia 2000.
- Disney Family Museum (HD, 4 minutes): A brief promo for the Disney Family Museum in San Francisco.
- Fantasia 2000 Audio Commentaries: Two tracks are available. First up, the directors and art directors of each animated segment are given the opportunity to discuss their contributions to the sequel. And because each group of commentators only has a limited amount of time to speak, gaps of silence and rambling tangents are nowhere to be found, and the whole of the track is breezy, high-spirited and much easier to digest and enjoy. The second finds Roy Disney, James Levine and producer Donald W. Ernst tackling the entire film, digging into the genesis of the project, Walt Disney’s original intentions, the sequel’s individual shorts and the differences and similarities between Fantasia and Fantasia 2000. Though not as essential as the Fantasia commentaries, both are worth a listen.
- Destino (HD, 7 minutes): In 1946, Walt Disney and Salvador Dali began work on a short film they never finished. The recently completed short is presented here in all its weird, wonderful, animated glory. Just be warned: parents of younger children may want to screen this one ahead of time.
- Dali & Disney: A Date with Destino (SD, 82 minutes): A lengthy documentary about the strangest collaboration most of you never knew occurred.
- Musicana (HD, 9 minutes): A look at the long development of a potential Fantasia sequel that never came to fruition, Musicana.
- Disney’s Virtual Vault (SD, 304 minutes): And what of all the missing supplemental content from the previously released DVD editions of Fantasia and Fantasia 2000? All of it can be found and viewed via this handy BD-Live portal, primed for fans and aimed at completists. In it, you’ll find five hours of documentaries, featurettes and other making-of materials that are well worth perusing. (For those keeping track, that amounts to 125 minutes of additional Fantasia features and 178 minutes of Fantasia 2000 goodies).
The switch from DVD to Blu-ray is not an easy one – it costs money and many feel their DVDs are wasted. If you have hundreds of DVDs, you should know they will only be enhanced by the technical aspect of the Blu-ray player. Moreover, the future is Blu-ray and we should all prepare – Best Buy already has. If you followed our guide to understanding Blu-rays, this list is a great starting point for your collection.
There are still plenty of brilliant titles awaiting a worthy Blu-ray transfer. Check out our list of 10 Movies That Need A Blu-ray Release to find out what remains. For now, the 15 above will have to do and they should keep you busy during the cold nights of winter.
What Blu-rays do you own that you can’t live without? Talk Blu-ray in the comments section below.