2012 is in the rear view and my wallet couldn’t be happier; the last 12 months gave me a swift kick in the financial nuts thanks to the weekly releases that demanded a spot in my collection. It seemed like it was particularly good year for boxed sets and collections. Usually we just do a generic Blu-ray/DVD Top 10 but that shit wasn’t going to fly this time around. You can’t have Bond and Jones rolling out in big chunky collections and put that on the regular list. So without further to do, here are the collections I dug the most in 2012.
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I was new to this series. Sure, I heard about these films but just never got around to watching them. After reading several reviews of this set I decided to pick it up and I can now report that everything you’ve heard is true; these are epic and incredibly important films. Godfrey Reggio’s films are about the intrusion of technology onto nature; though they can be occasionally preachy and lack any kind of subtlety, they are also too unique to deny. This is not only one of my favorite Sets of the year but it’s also one of my favorite discoveries.
This is a love letter to chaos, Lord of the Flies with a loaded clip and other crafty weapons of death. Simply put, BATTLE ROYALE is a masterpiece, a near flawless exercise in the type of visceral filmmaking that is just as revolutionariy now as it was when it debuted in 2001. The second one isn’t as good as the first, director Kenji Fukasaku died of prostate cancer after shooting one scene. The film was completed by his son (who also wrote the screenplay for both films) and while far from the masterpiece of the first it’s still tougher than most of the studio trash that hits the screens today.
If you consider yourself a fan of exploitation cinema, and if you’re here then odds are you’re just that, you need to grab this good shit now. HOUSE OF WHIPCORD represents some of his best work but the others in this collection are fun as hell. Pete Walker was largely ignored and tossed aside by critics and he certainly deserved more. His films pack a punch of blood and breasts and are often more clever than their grindhouse counterparts. These films look flat out stunning considering their age, certainly the best release they have ever seen.
This year we saw the beginning of a career and the fruits of what the love and passion for cinema would yield. David Lean is one of the more important filmmakers to come out of Britain and thankfully Criterion saw fit to honor him and his partnership with Noel Coward. These films run the emotional gamete but are equally fascinating. You contrast those four films with the 50th anniversary release of LAWRENCE OF ARABIA (from Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) which is a masterpiece in the truest sense of the word and you can see how stunning Lean’s career was.
Despite the misleading title of the collection (these are hardly horror), I love the giant balls on display from Criterion with this release. These are all odd films but each one has developed its own twisted little following. At the time these were made, Shochiku was home to directors like Yasujiro Ozu and left this kind of genre film to TOHO. As a result they were kind of flash in the pans before the studio decided to correct course and saw limited or no release. THIS is one of the many reasons Criterion remains the best label on the block; finding rare gems like these and dishing them up to the masses.
Sharpen the blades, toss the kid in the cart, and get ready for six films of pure revenge, because LONE WOLF AND CUB: THE COMPLETE FILM SERIES is kicking all kinds of Blu-ray ass in its original form from AnimEigo. Though the the SHOGUN ASSASSIN Blu-ray box-set was released back in April, I have a serious love/hate relationship with that film, in the end it’s a gateway drug to a bigger universe. However, until now that universe was available only on DVD. Fans have been waiting a long time for this, and they got their wish. Each film is now in HD resolution with re-synced and enhanced subtitles. I would have liked to have seen some special features produced for this but I’ll take Ogami Itto and his sidekick anyway I can.
My favorite film of all-time is RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK. It just perfectly embodies everything I love about films and how they can transport you to another place. I was actually nervous when I started to break open this set. It needed to be flawless. Outside of the shit-fest called CRYSTAL SKULL which continues to piss me off, it is. The audio/video presentation is the best on this list (though the 2 spot comes close). It almost felt like this set was made by fans for the fans; the special features are just that deep.
Hitchcock has been like the holy grail to Blu-ray fans since the format began. I think you would be hard pressed to decide which was more heavily sought after: the Bond series or Hitchcock. Well, we finally got it, Bastards. An incredible collection of films from one of the greatest directors cinema has ever known. You could argue which films should have been included over the ones that were ultimately selected but as a slightly more than casual fan of Al, this collection was perfect for my taste. I linked to the Amazon UK site where you can buy this set for far less than you can here in the states and it’s region-free so order-up.
Bond on Blu. All of them. All you poor suckers that bought these on DVD (me) are going to see a lot of duplication but these films look amazing. If you were dying to see A VIEW TO A KILL on Blu-ray, now you can see all the nearly naked Grace Jones you desire. I’ve had this set for about two months and I am still working my way through the extras and probably will be for the foreseeable future.
8 Blu-rays. 8 classic films. This is what perfection looks like. This is the way each of you should be kicking off the New Year; getting schooled by the original creators of nightmares and wonderment. These monsters speak to who we are and each represent something more than the make-up and effects they are known for. These films mean a lot to most of the DG crew; I have stacks of books that talk about these films or reference them as a key to the power of cinema. To see them here on Blu-ray is a fucking religious experience. This is a package that is just as regal as the history of these films. Like the Hitchock set, I linked to the UK region free version which you can buy and have shipped to your house for almost half the price as ordering from Amazon stateside.
Here’s to 2013 being another good year of titles and collections. Time to buy another shelf… fuck.
SEE YOU ON FORTY DEUCE,
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