D.J. Nock's Top DVDs of 2004


Choosing “Best Of” lists has always been controversial. After all, everyone is different. One critic’s passion, is another critic’s scorn. So, it comes with great difficulty when picking 2004’s greatest titles. Then again, it’s even harder when 2004 happens to be the formats best year to date. Titles like Star Wars are obvious, so it would be ridiculous to ignore the many releases that have matched it for quality, and in some cases, exceeded George’s magnum opus. Yep, this year has been rather special, and the power of shiny disc continues to grow stronger. Which brings us, inevitably, to the point - what discs have I recommended for your Yuletide pleasure? Read on my pretties, read on...

The Best of the Best

Hellraiser: Lament Configuration Box Set

What would Christmas be without demons and the worst evil Hell ever spat out? Of course, the pleasures of Hellraiser work all year round, which makes Anchor Bay’s limited edition box set all the better. A genuine work of art, it would be hard for any fan of the macabre not to want this. The ‘Bay has always catered to cult aficionados, and this collection of the first three Hellraiser films, is certainly a contender for the years best box set. Clive Barker’s truly horrifying horror film is a genre landmark; with lots of barf-worthy gore to match its deep intellectual core. Part II, the aptly-titled Hellbound, isn’t quite as special; yet it’s no Freddy’s Revenge either. Which leaves us with the woeful Hell on Earth - one chapter too many, but certainly worth a reappraisal. Any horror fan should have this in their collection.

Anchor Bay’s work on the Hellraiser trinity continues to raise the bar for competitors, with a set boasting remastered transfers, several audio options a piece, and plenty of bonus material. After all, what fan would complain about two Barker commentaries for his classic original? For that matter, who doesn’t rejoice at Doug Bradley’s collaboration throughout? The set is stuffed, and the inclusion of Barker’s “lost” short films is the cherry on top. A work of demonic brilliance.

Kevin Gilvear's review

Friday the 13th: From Crystal Lake to Manhattan DVD

This is what I’ve been waiting for - a definitive collection of all things Friday the 13th. While “definitive” may be too strong a word for Paramount’s box set, it was certainly worth the wait. Comprising the first eight films (before “The Mountain” sold their rights to New Line), this is a fun trawl through 80’s splatter culture; and a novel way to witness the highest body count in franchise history. The quality is variable depending on which film you watch, but can you deny the sheer entertainment value these films possess? Bad movie-making has never been so compulsively enjoyable. Put on your hockey masks, grab a cold one, and sit through the slasher genre at its most iconic...

The Region 1 box set is actually hit-and-miss, but horror fans will find it hard to resist. The transfers are good for the most part (appearing to be similar in quality to their previous incarnations), and only the sound truly irritates (only Part VII: The New Blood gets 5.1; the rest are mono or 2.0). If you can get past the controversy of these films being cut, this is a very entertaining box set. With commentaries for 4 of the films, and several hours of featurettes, this is definitely the best treatment of the franchise to date. It’s doubtful we’ll get this collection in Europe, so for fans with multi-region players, this is the only way to go. Jason Vorhees would be proud!

My review @ DVD Maniacs

Slacker (Criterion Collection)

From the woods of Crystal Lake, to the suburban pastures of Texas. Richard Linklater’s seminal work is one of the key independent features of modern cinema. Usually dismissed as “the film that inspired Clerks”, it has slowly matured into a cult classic, and gave birth to a promising new talent; a talent cemented with Linklater’s mainstream hit School of Rock. Shot for way under $30,000, the picture is a strange one, but also clever and full of memorable moments. Slacker doesn’t possess a narrative really - it’s a patchwork of many different stories, with the camera following the inhabitants of a Texan town. We’ll linger with a person or group for several moments, before following someone else. And so on. The amount of personalities introduced is relentless, and always involving. If someone bores you, just wait for the camera to peel off, and follow their story instead. Most called this device “ingenious”, and with Linklater’s sure-handed direction, it is largely successful. A bona-fide gem, every enthusiast of indie cinema should check-out Slacker.

Is it any wonder that Criterion’s two-disc set is crammed with bonus material? A hallmark for quality, the determined team have given this little-seen opus the royal treatment. The Region 1 disc includes several commentaries with Linklater, cast and crew. There’s a retrospective documentary, an essay, photo galleries, and best of all, Linklater’s first full-length film - It’s Impossible to Learn How to Plough By Reading Books. If you haven’t guessed from that wacky title, it’s an existential slice of weirdness, that is for determined cinephiles only. Topping it all off, is Criterion’s work on the main feature itself. Miraculously, they’ve made an ultra-low budget film made over ten years ago look brand new. A truly fabulous package.

Spider-Man 2

I love this film. Anyone who read my geek-ridden review will know this. Sam Raimi’s blockbuster has taken its place in the lonely “best sequels” category, and according to most of us, is the best comic book adaptation to date. Spidey wears that title with pride, in a film that beats its predecessor to a bloody pulp. Throw in a diabolical villain, some breathtaking action, and touching performances, and you have this years most successful popcorn thrill-ride. Hollywood filmmakers are advised to learn from Spider-Man 2’s example. A modern classic.

The 2-disc “Special Edition” is hardly the most comprehensive release of 2004, but it still comes with must-own status. The movie itself looks and sounds pretty spectacular, with one of the better 5.1 tracks in recent memory. The extras are no kick in the Spider-Pants either. Two commentaries, a two-hour documentary, several featurettes, and a fine assortment of trailers. Not only that, you can purchase the limited edition gift set, which exudes comic book cool. Shazam!!

My review

Hellboy: Director’s Cut

Guillermo del Toro is very underrated as a filmmaker. Blade II, in my opinion, is a work of art, and he keeps the comic mojo going strong with the quirky fantasy gem Hellboy. Dismissed by many who didn’t “get” its peculiar charms, it’s a darkly funny and exciting slice of exuberant fiction. Ron Perlman’s performance will linger in the memory, and del Toro’s razzle-dazzle makes the film breathtaking in its beauty. Hardly perfect, but certainly different. With this longer cut, can you really turn it down?

Columbia’s 3-disc “Director’s Cut” takes the level of extras to new extremes. In fact, there’s probably too much here for one film. Many, many hours of documentary material collide with plenty of photo galleries, trailers, a new commentary by del Toro, the theatrical cut on disc 3 (with cast “video commentary”), and yet more fact-based content. If Hellboy gets you hot, then this’ll give you a fever...

Kevin Gilvear's review

The Contenders

What didn’t make the grade, but are still worth owning?

-- Clerks - 10th Anniversary Edition - My favourite comedy film of all time, is given this packed 3-disc set. Kevin Smith’s classic has never looked or sounded better.

-- Star Wars Trilogy - A little-seen trilogy about some farm boy saving the galaxy. For some reason, it’s a must-own DVD. Can’t think why.

-- Return of the King: Extended Edition - The end of the road for Peter Jackson’s wondrous achievement. Now 48 minutes longer, and more lavish, it really does impress. I might finish my review before New Years.

-- Firefly: The Complete Series - Joss Whedon is a genius. Every geek knows this, and his aborted sci-fi series is an outstanding achievement. A great box set too.

-- Quantum Leap: The Complete First Season - Oh boy! One of the most memorable sci-fi TV shows, this fan favourite has finally made the leap to DVD. The box set isn’t perfect, but it was great to see these episodes again.

-- The Ultimate Matrix Collection - Three doses of Wachowski mayhem, and Keanu Reeves looking constipated. Warner Brother’s get credit for making this box set the most detailed yet.

So what now? 2005 promises a lot for the format, and I can’t wait to see what gems are in the pipeline. That said, this year has left me skint. Until next time readers - I’m off to sell dodgy bootlegs from the back of a 3-wheel van...

Last updated: 19/04/2018 10:44:22

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