The Best DVDs of 2010

by PopMatters Staff

5 January 2011


15 - 11

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(BBC America)


BBC Warners

The BBC’s Luther is the kind of crime show that comes along every once in a while and immediately surprises with its intelligence and sophistication. It’s a layered and excellently plotted six episodes that leave the viewer alternately shocked and troubled, yet satisfied. The strength of the series lies in its ability to create and maintain suspense even when the identity of the killer is apparent early on. There is a sense of unpredictability to the show and its lead that sets it apart right away. In only six episodes it quickly establishes Luther as compelling and original, making Luther that rare series that manages to skillfully bring together story, character, and tension. J.M. Suarez



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The T.A.M.I. Show: Collector’s Edition

Director: Steve Binder
Cast: The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, James Brown and The Flames, Chuck Berry, Marvin Gaye


The T.A.M.I. Show: Collector’s Edition
Shout! Factory

It’s hard to write about The T.A.M.I. Show and not lapse into overenthusiastic, Kandy-Kolored-era Tom Wolfe gibberish. A concert shot in California in 1964, it evokes an American pop culture utopia, a musical mélange of teen-attractive genres from Motown (Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Marvin Gaye, the Supremes), soul (James Brown and the Flames), surf rock (Jan and Dean, the Beach Boys), British rock (Gerry and the Pacemakers, the Rolling Stones, Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas), teen anthems (Lesley Gore), and garage rock (the Barbarians). The racially integrated acts are united by boundless energy, overenthusiastic talent, a wicked back-beat, and the overly polished performance style one gets from an entertainment industry predicated on social Darwinism. The tumult of the ‘60s has been documented to death. Knowing what was and would go on outside the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium doors, however, only heightens the sense of a plastic paradise lost, of a perfectly optimistic union of commerce and art driven by the wide-eyed potential of youth. Michael Buening



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The African Queen (Blu-ray)

Director: John Huston
Cast: Katharine Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, Robert Morley


The African Queen (Blu-ray)

Sometimes, it is worth it. The wait, that horrible expanse of passing time that seems to purposefully thwart your best intentions, often ends up delivering nothing but disappointment, or worse, the prospect of what could have been vs. the undeniable junk you wind up with in the end. But in this case, the inexplicable lack of reasonable excuse, the seeming decades of rumor and regret, the notion that somewhere, in a studio substrata somewhere, a bean counter and a preservationist were battling for future release supremacy, has truly made it all the more worthwhile. After persistent hints at a possible remaster and release, The African Queen is finally available in a pristine new DVD and Blu-ray release and, as suggested, the end result more than makes up for the years of delay. Bill Gibron



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Black Narcissus: Criterion Collection

Director: Michael Powel and Emeric Pressburger
Cast: Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron, David Farrar, Jean Simmons, Sabu, Flora Robson, Esmond Knight


Black Narcissus: The Criterion Collection
The Criterion Collection

Described by Martin Scorsese as, “a cross between Disney and a horror film”, the curious, tempestuous and affecting Black Narcissus is one of cinema’s greatest deceptions. Near fantastical, it is a fine example of the medium’s ability to conjure foreign lands on studio soil, to fabricate exotic locations; mountain ranges with the flick of a brush, tropical downpours with the spurt of a hose. Although set in the Himalayas, astonishingly it was filmed almost entirely at Pinewood Studios, England, with only one day of exterior shots, captured at the sub-tropical gardens in Horsham, West Sussex. Its awesome facade marks it out as a marvel of filmic ingenuity, and great British craft(iness). In Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger’s admirable output, it sits chronologically between A Matter of Life and Death and The Red Shoes, and thus forms part of a magnificent, aesthetically adventurous, Technicolor trio; beacons of British cinema at its very finest Emma Simmonds



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A Prophet

Director: Jacques Audiard
Cast: Tahar Rahim, Niels Arestrup, Adel Bencherif, Reda Kateb,  Hichem Yacoubi,  Jean-Philippe Ricci, Gilles Cohen, Antoine Basler


A Prophet
Sony Pictures Classics

When 19-year-old Malik (Tahar Rahim) finds himself doing hard time in a French prison, he keeps to himself, trying to fly below the radar of the more veteran convicts. However, the leader of the gang of Corsican who runs the yard takes an interest in the young Arab, taking him under his wing. It turns out Malik has a natural aptitude for organized crime, and because he belongs to no specific world (he is Arab, but not Muslim; he works for the Corsicans, but is not one of them), he is able to float from group to group, navigating the treacherous waters of prison politics. By turns bleak and optimistic, A Prophet follows Malik’s meteoric rise from peon to boss in a manner similar to, and equally as powerful as, Goodfellas and Scarface, using crime and the quest for power as an allegory for daily life. Brent McKnight


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