The 20 Best DVDs of 2005

by PopMatters Staff

5 January 2006


The Outsiders: The Complete Novel
(Warner Home Video)

This year was an S.E. Hinton fan’s dream. The author released her first novel in 20-odd years, and the film versions of The Outsiders and Rumble Fish were given first-class DVD treatment. Francis Coppola’s extended Outsiders cut, with 22 extra minutes and restored Elvis-heavy soundtrack, has been a long time coming. And, finally, the film makes sense. Hinton’s beloved characters are brought to life exactly as intended, with the brotherhood theme central to the story’s effect on full display. This new film, unlike the old version, is not about boys on the lam, but the boys themselves. The DVD is excellent, complete with director and cast commentaries, making-of and looking-back documentaries, and an hilarious audition reel.
Nikki Tranter PopMatters review Amazon

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou: Criterion Collection

Bill Murray fans won’t be disappointed with Wes Anderson’s adventure film about an oceanographer’s quest to find the shark that killed his partner. Owen Wilson, Angelica Houston, and Cate Blanchett are among the dysfunctional and lovable characters along for the wacky ride undertaken by “Team Zissou”. It may be a bit more surreal than past Anderson films, but The Life Aquatic is by far the most interesting and visual of his creations. Murray’s deadpan disposition as Zissou and a score peppered with David Bowie tunes covered by Seu Jorge add to the film’s charm. Playful, clever, and odd, this movie is filled with moments of startling poignancy and hysterical weirdness. The 2-Disc Special Edition contains loads of extras including director commentary, cast and crew interviews, behind-the-scene footage, deleted scenes, and an intern video journal by actor and real life intern Matthew Gray Gubler.
Jennifer Makowsky PopMatters review Amazon

Buffy the Vampire Slayer: The Chosen Collection

Seven seasons. 40 discs. Six and a half thousand minutes. Do I have to say more? If anyone reading this really has been living in a box, underground, or on Mars, for the last decade or so, then they probably have more important things to be getting on with than shopping for TV on DVD — like joining the Church of Scientology, for example. Otherwise, all you need to know is that Buffy rocks, Willow rocks harder, and that no actor has ever played undead more convincingly than David Boreanaz. Ideally, of course, Alyson Hannigan (Willow), Iyari Limon (Kennedy) and James Marsters (Spike) would have got their own spin-off series in which the slayerific trio rented a Santa Monica apartment from an ill-matched married couple with hilarious consequences. But until that happens, if you happen to have $150 lying around the house, The Chosen Collection is just plain bufftastic. Except for “Once More, With Feeling”, that is.
Roger Holland PopMatters review Amazon

Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith

The last installment of the most popular film series in history, Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith shines on DVD. From a technical angle, the main disc is incredible: the Dolby 5.1 EX sound is magnificent, the picture — transferred directly from the digital source — is fantastic, and the added documentary bonuses and commentary track are a real treat. Lucas even speaks here, admitting that the film is political. It was influenced by Vietnam however, not the Bush administration. The main documentary on the second disc Within a Minute: The Making of Episode III, takes over an hour to deconstruct one 60 second segment of the film, an excerpt of the duel on the volcanic planet of Mustafar. The idea is to cover all the aspects that go into creating that moment, from writing to set construction to accounting. Two other featurettes — It’s All for Real: The Stunts of Episode III and The Chosen One — are equally compelling. While the journey was ultimately satisfying, albeit a little uneven in parts, all Star Wars fans will truly appreciate this definitive digital effort.
Courtney Young PopMatters review Amazon

The Fly: Special Edition

David Cronenberg’s clever parable on love in the era of AIDS has long been disrespected by the digital format. Fans of the film previously had to suffer through a barebones flip disc presentation that saw it purposefully joined by its less than stellar sequel. Thankfully, 20th Century Fox has given The Fly the deluxe special edition treatment it so richly deserves. Very few films from the ‘80s explored emotion as deeply — and as disturbingly — as this gore-covered horror allegory. Along with a cutting commentary by the director, there are nearly three hours of documentaries that cover all aspects of this production — from early rejected plotlines and F/X ideas to a horrible hackneyed “butterfly boy” alternate ending that was better left on the cutting room floor. Add in the gorgeous transfer and you’ve got a perfect package for a certified classic.
Bill Gibron PopMatters review Amazon

Hotel Rwanda

Dark, moving, and above all, important, Hotel Rwanda is the true story of the horrific events that shook the African nation over a decade ago, something virtually ignored by the rest of the planet. The tagline of the film says it all: “When the world closed its eyes, he opened his arms.” Don Cheadle is outstanding as Paul Rusesabagina, a hotel manager who takes in hundreds of Tutsis refugees hiding from Hutu death squads. Infused by the love of his family, the courage and humanity shown by Rusesabagina in the face of shocking human brutality is inspiring. Remarkable performances by Cheadle and Sophie Okonedo, as well as the focus on compassion give what could have been a grim cinematic experience and uplifting and heart-stirring spirit. This is one of those films that haunts you long after the credits roll.
Jennifer Makowsky PopMatters review Amazon

Raging Bull

“I remember those cheers / They still ring in my ears / After years, they remain in my thoughts. / Go to one night / I took off my robe, and what’d I do? I forgot to wear shorts” are the first words uttered by Raging Bull‘s Jake La Motta (played by the unparalleled Robert de Niro). One of my favorite films of all time, 2005 saw two DVD releases of Martin Scorsese’s brutal black-and-white biography of the self-destructive boxer and nearly 25 years later, it is still a cinematic masterpiece. The difference between the deluxe two disc edition and the standard single disc version of Raging Bull comes down to the bare commentary tracks and the added additions of featurettes and a documentary. Whichever one you decide on, you won’t be disappointed. The presentation of the movie in its original 1.85:1 aspect ratio really enhances the shadows, and the monochrome cinematography that helped create the film’s magnificence is beautifully rendered. An absolute gem by any standards, Raging Bull would make a distinguished entry in any DVD collection.
Courtney Young Amazon

Bob Dylan - No Direction Home

For Dylan fans only, I suspect. But, for Dylan fans, absolutely the DVD of the year. Thirty years after he directed The Last Waltz, flushed with the success of his study of the blues, Martin Scorsese plunged enthusiastically back into the career of America’s greatest songwriter. He produced a marvelous new PBS documentary that boasted extensive interview footage with the elusive Dylan himself, along with dozens of key figures from his life and career, including Allen Ginsberg and Dave Van Ronk — both of whom are now deceased. No Direction Home also includes vintage film clips, concert footage, and still photography; while the DVD package also features full-song versions of concert songs that were not screened on PBS.
Roger Holland PopMatters review Amazon

(Palm Pictures)

In a year of remarkable music documentaries, DiG! reigns supreme for what it doesn’t do. Instead of focusing on how fucked up the music business is — exploiting talent for the sake of a corrupt corporate buck — it highlights how musicians delude themselves into believing their own hopeless hype. In this case, The Dandy Warhols and The Brian Jonestown Massacre really thought they were the next big post-grunge thing. Instead, they were just egotistical dreamers who had to come to terms with the way the business of show is managed. Warhols’ leader Courtney Taylor-Taylor took it all in sell-out stride, and found his group on a major label, making videos and touring the world. BJM mastermind Anton Newcombe decided to continue the fight, and ended up a damaged junkie locked in deep self-denial. Watching both men attempt to emerge from their own private party is just part of what makes Ondi Timoner’s stellar documentary so incredible. The men at the center — and the marvelous music they make — complete the penetrating, poignant portrait.
Bill Gibron PopMatters review Amazon

The Incredibles: Widescreen 2-Disc Collector’s Edition
(Buena Vista Home Entertainment)

Arguably the best movie of 2004, The Incredibles yielded indisputably the best movie DVD of 2005. The quality of the transfer to the little shiny medium is… pardon me… incredible. The commentaries and “making of” features are genuinely instructive and fun. And the two additional shorts, Boundin’ and Jack-Jack Attack are also of the highest quality. Boundin’, which was shown before The Incredibles in theatres, achieves an aged feel and offers lots of rich visual detail, while Jack-Jack Attack is all new and tells the tale of exactly what went on Chez Incredible when Mom and the Kids went off to save Dad. As Valiant and Chicken Little have proved conclusively, it takes more than mere money and technology to do this stuff this well.
Roger Holland PopMatters review Amazon

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