DVDs: Sheldon’s Favorite Eleven For 2010

Earlier this month, Michelle posted her list of the best home video releases of 2010, but most of them were Blu-ray releases. Here’s a best of list for the majority of us who have yet to upgrade to high-def.

Considering how many DVDs I receive [and purchase] over the course of a year, you’d think that more than eleven would stand out. Sure, lots of them are really good in terms of the programming – Inception is a great movie, but the DVD package is just kinda ‘meh,’ and the season six set for Lost was a disappointment for many reasons [not the least of which was the failure to provide a commentary track for the SERIES FINALE!] – but only eleven really stood out enough for me to come up with as a genuinely reflexive response to the question of which DVDs  could I even think of in terms of favorites.

I guarantee that at least three will come as a complete surprise – which three may differ for each of you – so let’s get this done.

11. Fringe: The Complete Second Season [Fox Home Entertainment]: In season two, Fringe completed a seamless transition from standalone episodes with ongoing backstory to outright serialized series. With the need to achieve two different goals with each ep gone, the story picked up in its pace and delved more deeply into the characters. The result was simply the best science fiction series currently running on television. Features included: Four Audio Commentaries; The Unearthed episode; The Mythology of Fringe; Fringe: Analyzing Scene [Sidbars on six key episodes]; In The Lab With John Noble and Prop Master Rob Smith; Unusual side effects [Gag reel], and Dissected files [deleted scenes].

10. Let Right One In: Limited Edition [Mongrel]: The best vampire film in decades – and on many ten best lists in 2008 [including mine] – this stark, Swedish film aligns a supernatural little girl with a bullied boy in a tale of love, pain and aching beauty. With this edition, Mongrel rights a grievous wrong by including the theatrical subtitles which are more nuanced and poetic than the ones on the original DVD release [which caused an uproar among the film’s fans]. Features include a decent Behind the Scenes featurette; Deleted Scenes and a Photo Gallery.

9. Salt: Deluxe Unrated Edition [Sony Home Entertainment]: Angelina Jolie enjoyed some success in what could be described as her ‘James Bond role’ – and not as some bland Bond girl. The story of the married CIA agent who just might be a sleeper for the KGB is a thrilling, energetic film than – barring Inception – was the best action flick of 2010. What will come as a surprise to most people – and, by now everyone knows that Jolie does 90% of her own stunts – is how accurate the spycraft is.

What set this DVD apart from the masses of other action film DVD releases is that there are three versions of the film on the DVD: the theatrical release; an unrated cut that adds depth without sacrificing pace, and an unrated director’s cut that features an alternate ending [complete with insightful commentary track from director Philip Noyce – who goes into detail about the stunts and the spycraft]. There is also a featurette on Jolie’s stunt work, The Ultimate Female Action Hero and Spy disguise: The Looks of Evelyn Salt to go along with the three cuts of the film and Noyce’s commentary track.

8. Touching Evil: The Complete Collection [Acorn] – No bonus material; just eight one hundred minute movies covering three seasons. The series stars Robson Green as Detective Inspector Dave Creegan, the new guy on the Organized and Serial Crime Unit. He’s a bit of a maverick in that, while other members of the unit use ‘advanced police techniques,’ he’s a very instinctive investigator. His behavior is also frequently at odds with the expected – which might have something to do with having suffered a head wound to the head. As a result, his tolerance levels for incompetence and dithering are not only non-existent, he has no filters when it comes to expressing them.

Between Green and fellow series regulars Nicola Walker, Shaun Dingwall and Michael Feast, the core cast is brilliant – which is a good thing because the writing demands brilliance from them. The series is also practically littered with amazing guest stars – Ian McDiarmid [Star Wars], James Nesbitt [Jekyll], and Andy Serkis [Sex & Drugs & Rock & Roll, Lord of the Rings] among them.

The series has received glowing reviews [‘Fascinating,’The New York Times; ‘Cool, creepy stuff.’ Entertainment Weekly; ‘Riveting,’ The Boston Globe] and deservedly so. I would go so far as to describe it as enthralling. Once you start watching, you can’t look away.

7. Castle: The Complete Second Season [ABC Studios]: In its second season, Castle actually gained in the ratings and it’s easy to see why: the show is smart, funny, and features more than one really interesting relationship. Mystery writer Rick Castle [Nathan fillion] may have used connections to get himself partnered up with Detective Kate Beckett [Stana Katic], but their chemistry is obvious even to Beckett [however much it might be against her better judgment]. The mysteries they solve are intriguing and occasionally pretty wild, but they are always well developed.

What makes Castle really different, though, is the father/daughter relationship between Castle and his daughter, Alexis [Molly Quinn] – Castle, it turns out, is a pretty brilliant dad – none of that clichéd father-has-no-clue stuff here. The relationship between Castle and his mother, fading actress Martha Rodgers, [Susan Sullivan], is also worthy of note.

Features: include On Set with Seamus & Joe; On Location with Nathan; Manhattan’s Most Unusual Murders; Deleted Scenes; Misdemeanors, Bloopers & Outtakes.

6. Prime Suspect: The Complete Collection [Acorn]: Jane Tennison may be the role for which Helen Mirren is best remembered. Over seven seasons/series, the blunt, hard-nosed, brilliant detective has – despite all efforts by the male hierarchy to prevent her – become one of the best detectives of Britain’s Metropolitan Police. She drinks as hard as the men; chain-smokes, and is smarter, quicker witted and more devious than her male colleagues. No wonder they loathe her – though they eventually come to, however grudgingly, respect [and maybe even admire] her.

The seven cases that comprises the show’s seven seasons/series have won multiple international awards – a case where quality has definitely been rewarded. Prime Suspect raised the bar for police dramas and is still pretty much the best cop show ever made.

The DVD set is weak on bonus features, but the show is so good that it just doesn’t matter.

Features: Season 6 Behind The Scenes featurette; Season 7 Behind The Scenes featurette; Photo Gallery & Cast Filmographies.

5. Waking Sleeping Beauty [Buena Vista Home Entertainment]: It’s pretty hard to believe, now, that Disney Animation was ever in danger of being deleted from the Disney empire, but in 1985, that was the case – about two hundred animators didn’t know if they’d have a job the next day. Between then and 1995, not only did the situation resolve itself for the better, but new classics – The Little Mermaid, Aladdin, Beauty and the Beast – firmly entrenched the studio back in to its rightful place in the world.

Waking Beauty is the story of how Disney Animation went from one foot in the grave to exuberant full health. It’s a warts-and-all documentary from director Don Hahn and producer Peter Schneider – who have the benefit of having been there. They story they tell is remarkable, both for their willingness to tell it like it was, and for many of the key figures being willing to be interviewed even after they were told Waking sleeping Beauty would be no promotional puff piece.

Features include: Audio commentary by Hahn and Schneider; Why Wake Sleeping Beauty? [featurette explaining the necessity of the film]; Deleted Scenes; The ailor, The Mountaineer, The Artist And The Poet [the film is dedicated to four special figures in the story]; Studio Tours [home movies of the studio in three different years]; A Reunion, and Walt.

4. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World [Lionsgate]: Edward Wright’s Scott Pilgrim vs. The World tells a typical tale of young love in a totally atypical manner. Using the conventions of video games and comics, as well as tweaking cinematic conventions, Wright follows the titular slacker’s quest for true love with Ramona of the changing hair colors. One of the year’s best films, the DVD includes a wealth of extras – there are four [4] Audio Commentary tracks, for example; twelve Photo Galleries; Deleted Scenes [with optional commentary by Wright; Scott Pilgrim vs. The Bloopers [Gag Reel], and a pop-up Trivia Track.

It’s very impressive for a single disc DVD release – especially when you consider how many films get extensive features on their Blu-ray release and mere crumbs for the standard DVD.

3. Toy Story 3 [Disney DVD]: This film not only didn’t feel like a threequel, it was easily as good as the first two. The tale of Woody, Buzz Lightyear and the gang facing an uncertain future as Andy prepares to head off to college merged several genres – including a jailbreak film – in a manner that felt fresh and resonant throughout.

 Toy Story 3 is one of the five best films of 2010 and Disney keeps that in mind for the DVD release. Features include: Audio Commentary track by director Lee Unkrich and producer Darlene Anderson; the Day and Night short that accompanied the film in its theatrical release; Buzz Lightyear Mission Logs: The Science of Adventure; Paths to Pixar: Editorial [the importance of editing to storytelling – and as an entry level position in animation production]; three Studio Stories [animated recollections of cool events at Pixar]: Where’s Gordon?, Cereal Bar, and Clean Start; Toys; A Toy’s Eye View: Creating A Whole New Land, and Learn How To Take Your Favorite Movies On The Go.

2. Avatar: Extended Collector’s Edition [Fox Home Entertainment: This three-disc set includes four versions of the James Cameron event movie on the first two discs: the Original Theatrical Release; Collector’s Extended Cut [with 16 additional minutes]; Special edition Re-Release [with 8 Additional Minutes]; Optional family Audio Track [all objectionable language removed], plus A Message From Pandora. The third disc includes three features: Direct Access to New/Additional Scenes; Deleted Scenes: Never Before Seen [Includes User’s guide For Viewing avatar Scenes With Unfinished Shots; 28 Segments – 1 hour, 7 minutes]; Capturing Avatar [98-minute making of documentary].

1. The Six Million Dollar Man: The Complete Collection [TimeLife]: One of the most loved and most requested TV series of all time finally makes its way to DVD with a 40-disc set that included all four seasons; the original pilot movies and reunion movies and seventeen hours of bonus material. The set could’ve used more commentary tracks, but is otherwise pretty stellar. A best of recap can’t possible cover this set, so follow the link to my original review here: