Written PostTop 10 DVDs of 2008!

Top 10 DVDs of 2008!

OK, here we are with my final “Best-of” list, the Top 10 DVDs of 2008!  To be included on this list, the DVD in question had to contain a high-quality TV show, movie, or special and also a great presentation on DVD, with lots of cool special features.  Behold my list:

10.  Mystery Science Theatre 3000:  20th Anniversary Edition — I adore this show, and this 20th anniversary celebration of its existence just rocked.  On this set, the gang haves fun with four great/terrible films: First Spaceship on Venus (1960), Laserblast (1978), Werewolf (1996) and Future War (1997).  Even better is the inclusion of an in-depth 3-part documentary on the making of the show, from its creation through to its end.  The icing on the cake was the neat tin case that included fun stuff like a little model of Crowe T. Robot, which now sits proudly on my desk.

9.  John, Paul, Tom & Ringo: The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder — This DVD contains three lengthy, rare interviews that Tom Synder conducted with Paul McCartney (in 1979), Ringo Starr (in 1981), and John Lennon (in 1975).  The Lennon interview is the last televised interview that John gave before his death.  Snyder is an engaging interviewer, and these lengthy conversations with 3 of the 4 Beatles are a real find.

8.  The Office: The Complete Fourth Season and 30 Rock: The Complete Second Season — Complete season sets of these two NBC shows at the top of their game were released in ’08, I can’t tell you how many hours of enjoyment I got out of these DVDs.  In the fourth season of The Office, Ryan the temp is promoted, moves to New York City, and falls to pieces; Andy begins dating Angela; Stanley finally loses it with Michael (“did I stutter?”), Michael is deposed in Jan’s case against Dunder Mifflin; the gang creates an ad to run on local television and participates in Michael’s “fun run” towards a cure for rabies; Toby finally leaves for Costa Rica; and of course Michael and Jan invite Jim and Pam over for a dinner party.  Over on 30 Rock, Jack launches a new reality series called  MILF Island; Tracy and Jenna feud over Liz’s attentions; Liz adopts a hippie writer (played by Carrie Fisher) as her mentor; Devon Banks (Arrested Development‘s Will Arnett) feuds with Jack over the top spot at GE; Jerry Seinfeld discovers Jack’s plan to digitally insert him into all of NBC’s new fall shows; Jack falls in love with a Democratic Congresswoman from Vermont (Edie Falco); and while Liz Lemon faces a pregnancy scare, Jack takes a job working in the Bush Administration along with a sad little man the President nicknamed “Cooter” (Matthew Broderick).  Both sets have extensive special features including lots of deleted scenes and commentaries.

7.  Sold Out: A Threevening With Kevin Smith — In celebration of his 37th birthday, Kevin Smith hosted a Q & A in his home-town of Redbank, NJ.  This almost 4-hour event is a hilarious (and VERY raunchy) tour through Smith’s brain, as he regales the crowd with stories covering everything from his experiences making Clerks II and Live Free or Die Hard to his day serving on a jury while stricken with an anal fissure.  This is the third DVD in the Evening with Kevin Smith series, and I treasure these even more than his actual films!  (Read my full review here.)

6.  Battlestar Galactica: Razor — We didn’t see an enormous amount of new Battlestar Galactica material in 2008, but possibly the best of what we did see was the direct-to-DVD movie Razor.  Razor follows the experiences of the ill-fated Battlestar Pegasus, which, like the Galactica, also survived the annihilation of the Twelve Colonies by the Cylons.  However, without the moderating influence of a civilian leader like Laura Roslin, we see how the Pegasus’ commander, Admiral Cain, responds to the tragedy in a much more brutal way than did the Galactica’s Captain Adama.  Razor serves as a compelling “what-if” tale, demonstrating what might have befallen our heroes on the Galactica had things unfolded just a tiny bit differently.   (It’s fascinating to see the way the movie weaves through and around the pieces of the Pegasus’ backstory that we’d already been given in the series.)  As usual with BSG, there is an enormous amount of intense action and stunning outer-space combat depicted with astounding special effects.  In particular, the visuals of the Cylons’ assault on the spacedock where the Pegasus was berthed are breathtaking in their beauty.  As if the movie needed anything else to recommend it, it also features an extended flashback in which we see young William “Husker” Adama taking on Original Series-looking Cylons in the last battle of the First Cylon War.  Great stuff, and a key piece in the over-all Battlestar Galactica story.

5.  Futurama: The Beast with a Billion Backs and Bender’s Game —  Not only has DVD helped with the preservation of a lot of obscure TV and movie content (I am SO excited, for example, at the recent announcement that Andy Richter Controls the Universe is finally getting a DVD release!!), but it has also helped resuscitate once-cancelled programs.  Exhibit A: the cut-down-before-its-time Futurama, which has returned in four direct-to-DVD movies, the middle two of which were released in 2008.  The Beast with a Billion Backs is probably the strongest of the two, but both contain all of the amazing animation and obscure sci-fi references that fans of the show have come to expect and love.  I hope the final DVD, Into the Wild Green Yonder (coming out next month) isn’t the last Futurama adventure that we’ll ever see!

4.  Robot Chicken: Star Wars and Family Guy: Blue Harvest — These two Star Wars parodies both aired on TV within just a few weeks of one another; both featured the work of a lot of the same talented writers and performers; and both have been in REGULAR rotation in my home since their DVDs were released.  In very different ways, both specials mercilessly mock the silliness of the various Star Wars films.  But there is so much love on display, too, along with a wonderfully geeky focus on obscure details of the films, that the mockery never becomes mean-spirited.  They are both just absolutely hilarious, with one of the highest jokes-per-second ratios of anything I’ve seen this year.  Both DVDs were also filled to the brim with special features — and the deluxe edition of the Family Guy set even came with a Family Guy Star Wars t-shirt!  (Read my full review of the Robot Chicken Star Wars Special here.)

3.  Touch of Evil: 50th Anniversary Edition — A beautiful presentation of this amazing film from 1958.  Orson Welles directed and stars as corrupt cop Hank Quinlan, who winds up tangling with Mexican narcotics official Mike Vargas, played by Charlton Heston.  Gorgeous cinematography and Welles’ incredible direction (the film is known for a series of extraordinary tracking shots, including the opening sequence and a dynamic interrogation scene in the house of a Mexican suspect) combine with a tough, surprisingly brutal story to create a film classic.  In addition to the restored film, the DVD is (like most of the other DVDs on this list) loaded with fascinating behind-the-scenes features.  (Read my full review of the film here.)

2.  Blade Runner: Ultimate Edition — I still remember the first time I ever saw Blade Runner, on VHS back in High School — I didn’t quite know what to make of it!  It was only in college, when I had an opportunity to see the film on the big screen, that I began to realize what a masterpiece it was, and with each subsequent viewing I have come to love the film more and more.  Famously, director Ridley Scott had to bow to some studio-requested changes to the final film.  A “Director’s Cut” released in the early days of DVD attempted to restore the film to Ridley’s original intention, but it was long hoped that Scott would some-day create a true director’s cut.  Finally, those requests have been answered.  This exhaustive DVD set contains a variety of different versions of the film, including Ridley’s newly-produced “ultimate” cut, as well as an astounding amount of behind-the-scenes special features headlined by the feature length making-of documentary entitled Dangerous Days.  You could spend weeks (and I did!) exploring all that this set has to offer, but of course what it all comes down to is the beautiful presentation of this astounding, ground-breaking film.  (Please note that I am cheating a little bit by including this on my list, as this set was actually released in late December, 2007.  But since I spent so much time in early 2008 enjoying it, I felt it proper to include it here.)

1.  Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog — I wrote about this quite extensively just the other week here on the site, so I won’t repeat myself.  Suffice it to say, this DVD presentation of Joss Whedon’s 3-part web-series about a beat-down supervillain (Neil Patrick Harris as the titular Dr. Horrible)’s attempts to woe a girl he met at the laundromat and defeat his nemesis (Nathan Fillion as Captain Hammer) has quickly become one of my very favorite things on my DVD shelf.  If you haven’t seen it yet, you need to remedy that ASAP.

And with that, we bit a fond farewell and adieu to 2008!  See you all right back here on Monday, as we start getting caught up with all of the fun stuff I’ve seen so far in 2009…