2002 was a good year year for theatrical film releases. With fantastic home entertainment centers available for the masses, it is almost preferable to watch a movie in the comfort of your home than at the local multiplex. No cells phones, screaming kids, bores talking in the row behind you! DVD technology continued to advance with the introduction of SONY’s “Superbit” technology. “Superbit” produces a picture and sound that is rivaled only by viewing the film in a THX equipped theater. The following TOP 10, and honorable mention list was culled by EI’s Stephen Wong, Ken Miyamota, Jonathan Hickman and myself, based on the DVDs we viewed this year. While EI did not view every single DVD released this year, we believe that this list represents the best of the best. This list is limited to single movie DVDs. Boxed sets such as “The Sopranos: Season Three” or “Band of Brothers” are in a class by themselves.
1. Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring: Platinum Extended Edition
Stephen Wong’s calls this “the best DVD ever made.” Independent filmmaker Jeremy Benson said, “it is a better paced version of the movie. It makes “The Two Towers” more understandable.” Anyway you look at it, New Line’s four- disk DVD is incredible. Fantastic movie (which should have been released theatrically), fantastic picture, sound and extras. A must have DVD for every library.
2. Beauty and the Beast: Platinum Edition and Monster’s Inc.
Disney sets the mark for family film DVDs with these two great releases. With “Beauty and the Beast” Disney includes three versions of the Oscar nominated film in this wonderful two-disk DVD. In addition to the theatrical version, there is the New York Film Festival “Work in Progress” version and the Platinum Edition which includes new material and songs. The extras are excellent, as are the picture and sound. “Monster’s Inc.” is another two-disk DVD crammed full of great extras and games for the kids.
3. Amelie: Special Edition
Stephen Wong and I both fell in love with this DVD. An enchanting movie. Great menu design. Wonderful picture, sound and extras. A chick flick that guys who love “The Dirty Dozen” will like. Stephen Wong said “By far the best comedy of 2001. Directed by visionary French filmmaker Jean-Pierre Jeunet (he helmed the visual feasts Delicatessen and The City of Lost Children), “Amélie” is as magical, mysterious and infectiously funny as any film I’ve seen in recent memory. The film revolves around adorable prankster Amélie Poulain (the wonderfully captivating Audrey Tautou), who manipulates the fates of her friends and neighbors for the better (and sometimes worse), in the name of goodwill, and at the unfortunate neglect of her own strangely troubled life.”
4. The Last Waltz: 25th Anniversary Edition
MGM’s two-disk DVD is the greatest Rock DVD ever put out. Martin Scorsese’s “The Last Waltz” is the perfect fusion of music and film. This is the greatest rock film ever made. I said that when I first saw the movie on the big-screen back in 78, and I say it today. Never before has such a convergence of talent descended on one place as did on the Winterland Ballroom Thanksgiving night 1976. This DVD is a must have for music and film lovers of all generations. The DVD’s two commentary tracks include opinions from some of the biggest names in music and fimmaking from the last 30 years.
5. ET: 2 Disk Limited Collector’s Edition
I was out-voted on this one. There is no doubt that the disc includes one great film (the original, politically incorrect version) and great extras. I also regret that Steven Speilberg refuses to do commentary tracks. Those points aside; the two-disk set does have great picture, sound and extras. EI’s Ken Miyamoto loved this set. “E.T. should be in the Top 10 for sure. Mainly because Spielberg was smart enough to have BOTH versions on the discs.” Whether you love the original version or Speilberg’s revised edition, “E.T.” is one of the best family films ever made. This limited edition DVD is the best way to view it outside of a theater.
6. Reservoir Dogs: 10th Anniversary Edition and Jackie Brown: Collector’s Edition
This was a great year for Tarantino fans. 2002 saw the release of special editions of Tarantino’s three best films. It’s a toss up as to which DVD is the best. Both Artisan’s “Reservoir Dogs” and Miramax’s “Jackie Brown” include two-disks crammed full of great extras, commentary tracks, DVD-ROM features, not to mention great films. The picture quality of “Pulp Fiction” keeps Tarantino’s masterpiece from becoming a great DVD.
7. A Hard Day’s Night
Miramax scores again with this great homage to the Fab Four. The picture looks as good as it did back in the day. The sound is better than it ever was! A full movie all around. The extras are outstanding. Many interviews with the surviving members of the filmmaking crew including George Martin. Whether you are a baby-boomer remembering the old days, or a young film fan, Richard Lester’s “A Hard Day’s Night” is a classic of world cinema. It captured the Beatles in their prime; the madness of an era and it advanced the language of film. This is a must have DVD. One of the best I’ve ever seen. Thanks MIRAMAX!
8: Snatch: Superbit Special Edition
SONY’s Superbit technology has revolutionized the picture and sound quality on DVDs. SONY has begun to re-release many films on Superbit. “Superbit” is a high bit rate digital transfer. More surface space is used to encode movies at nearly double the normal DVD bit rate. The result is a picture of noticeably superior resolution than anything that you have seen on DVD before. “Snatch” is one of those films re-released in Superbit Special Edition. The extras on this DVD are the same as those found on the “Snatch: Special Edition.” What makes this a Top 10 DVD is the Superbit Technology used on the movie itself.
9. Now Chinatown
Jonathan Hickman was completely Wowed by this independent DVD. Director Steve Dunning produced many of the extras found on this DVD. The romance film rates high as do the picture, sound and extras. This DVD shows just how well an independent filmmaker can produce his own DVD extras if he (or she) takes the time. To quote Mr. Hickman, “Now Chinatown,” the DVD, takes advantage of a great amount of unconventional material for its extras making it one of the best independently made DVDs of 2002. Wonderful independent touches like inclusion of audition tapes showing the actors reading for different roles and a lot of footage from the various film festivals all over the world.
10. The Royal Tenenbaums: The Criterion Collection Edition
Stephen Wong said that “”The Royal Tenenbaums” was “without a doubt the most inventive comedy of 1998, Wes Anderson’s “Rushmore” was shamefully was overlooked by the Academy Awards. In his latest, “The Royal Tenenbaums,” Anderson has remarkably sharpened his filmmaking skills in a masterful comedy that is both more refined and more entertaining than his two previous films “Bottle Rocket” and “Rushmore.”” I agree with Mr. Wong’s assessment. Wonderfully quirky movie. Loads of great extras. The Criterion Collection is one of the best lines of DVDs. These sets are aimed at serious film students. “Tenenbaums” was their best effort in 2002.
Paring this list down to 10 DVDs was a difficult task. There were many DVDs that just missed the mark in our eyes. Ken Miyamota felt “Star Wars: Episode II” belonged in the Top 10. I felt the film looked fake. Even more so than in the theater. Stephen Wong felt that “Y Tu Mama Tambien” also belonged on the Top 10 list. I loved the movie, but I hated that the commentary track was in Spanish, without English subtitles. There were other differences of opinion. The following list of also rans still represent some of the best of 2002: