The Best DVDs of 2009

Let's face it, when the content inside is less than meaningful, how better to market your particular movie than with plenty of digital packaging bells and whistles. Many of our 2009 choices reflect this strategy. Others are great all by themselves.

DVD: Crank 2: High Voltage

Film: Crank: High Voltage

Director: Neveldine/Taylor

Cast: Jason Statham, Amy Smart, Efren Ramirez, Dwight Yoakam, Reno Wilson, Clifton Collins, Jr.


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Crank 2: High Voltage

The pixie-stick cinematics of directing duo Neveldine/Taylor may cram in your craw like the nonstop ramblings of a skate rat adolescent with ADD, but when the results are as ridiculously resplendent as this demented sequel, who really care? Taking the 'should be dead' Chev Chelios (Jason Statham's best… role… ever) and giving him an artificial heart that needs jolting every few minutes is a masterstroke of narrative guise. It allows the pair to do anything, including riffs on Godzilla and public acts of pornography, to illustrate their volt quest strategies. In a different world, were outright chutzpah is championed over grace and subtlety, these two would be Kubrick, Hitchcock, and Spielberg combined. On our planet, they're just plain nuts! Bill Gibron


DVD: My Dinner with Jimi

Film: My Dinner with Jimi

Director: Bill Fishman

Cast: Justin Henry, Jason Boggs, Royale Watkins, John Corbett, George Wendt, Curtis Armstrong


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My Dinner with Jimi
Micro Werks

Though this film originally appeared a few years ago, it didn't see DVD release until mid 2009. I can't imagine why such a thoroughly entertaining, expertly cast and completely madcap re-enactment of a pivotal moment in music history was withheld from a wider audience for that long, but I'm so pleased we can have access to it now. My Dinner with Jimi is composed of Howard Kaylan’s memories from one spectacular summer night in the Swinging London of 1967, in which he met the Beatles, Donavan, Graham Nash, Brian Jones, and Hendrix himself. It's lovingly, endearingly told, but also authentically set in its time and place. And did I mention it's uproariously funny? It is. Hilarious! Wonderfully, gleefully, snorting-through-the-nose hilarious! Christel Loar


DVD: Jeeves and Wooster: The Complete Series

TV Show: Jeeves and Wooster

Network: BBC

Cast: Hugh Laurie, Stephen Fry


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Jeeves and Wooster: The Complete Series
A&E Home Video

P.G. Wodehouse’s fantastic characters, Jeeves and Wooster, plus Stephen Fry's and Hugh Laurie's fabulous characterizations of them, are what make Jeeves and Wooster episodes so entertaining, so enduring, so eminently re-watchable. Somehow, no matter how often you view them (and I do view them often), these stories never grow stale, the dialogue doesn't fall flat, the inherent joviality is evergreen... the mirth springs eternal. The fact that Jeeves and Wooster: The Complete Series provides almost 20 hours of preposterous predicaments, farcical faces and verbal volleys from these connoisseurs of comic form in one convenient DVD set is simply a tremendous bonus to what is already a treasure trove of comic gems. Christel Loar


DVD: The Last Horror Film: The Tromasterpiece Collection

Film: The Last Horror Film

Director: David Winters

Cast: Joe Spinell, Caroline Munro


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The Last Horror Film: The Tromasterpiece Collection

Had he lived to see the group grope perspective of the Internet, Joe Spinell would most likely have hundreds of fan pages dedicated to his brilliance, cinematic e-scholarship focused on finding ways of getting his name out among the new breed. In truth, he’s today nothing more than a relic of a twisted time in movie macabre, nothing more than your standard Maniac. Luckily Troma has salvaged his sensational turn in this amazing lost fright film oddity. Even though he’s no longer around to enjoy it, with this truly disturbing star turn, the man’s legitimacy and legacy are secured. Bill Gibron


DVD: Farscape: The Complete Series

TV Show: Farscape

Network: Sci-Fi Channel

Cast: Ben Browder, Claudia Black, Anthony Simcoe, Lani John Tupu


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Farscape: The Complete Series
A&E Home Video

Farscape has had a tortured history on DVD, previously available on two different editions, the first among the most expensive DVD sets in the history of the format, the second slightly less costly, but available only briefly. One of the most critically adored sci-fi series ever, Farscape tells the story of American astronaut John Crichton, who becomes stranded on the other side of the galaxy on the living spaceship Moya, along with a small group of escaped prisoners, all of whom like Dorothy are trying to get back home. Although the show was a space opera in the grand tradition, the heart of the series was the epic love story between John and alien hottie Aeryn Sun. Season Three routinely makes lists of the greatest individual seasons in the history of television. Robert Moore


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Cover down, pray through: Bob Dylan's underrated, misunderstood "gospel years" are meticulously examined in this welcome new installment of his Bootleg series.

"How long can I listen to the lies of prejudice?
How long can I stay drunk on fear out in the wilderness?"
-- Bob Dylan, "When He Returns," 1979

Bob Dylan's career has been full of unpredictable left turns that have left fans confused, enthralled, enraged – sometimes all at once. At the 1965 Newport Folk Festival – accompanied by a pickup band featuring Mike Bloomfield and Al Kooper – he performed his first electric set, upsetting his folk base. His 1970 album Self Portrait is full of jazzy crooning and head-scratching covers. In 1978, his self-directed, four-hour film Renaldo and Clara was released, combining concert footage with surreal, often tedious dramatic scenes. Dylan seemed to thrive on testing the patience of his fans.

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Inane Political Discourse, or, Alan Partridge's Parody Politics

Publicity photo of Steve Coogan courtesy of Sky Consumer Comms

That the political class now finds itself relegated to accidental Alan Partridge territory along the with rest of the twits and twats that comprise English popular culture is meaningful, to say the least.

"I evolve, I don't…revolve."
-- Alan Partridge

Alan Partridge began as a gleeful media parody in the early '90s but thanks to Brexit he has evolved into a political one. In print and online, the hopelessly awkward radio DJ from Norwich, England, is used as an emblem for incompetent leadership and code word for inane political discourse.

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The show is called Crazy Ex-Girlfriend largely because it spends time dismantling the structure that finds it easier to write women off as "crazy" than to offer them help or understanding.

In the latest episode of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the CW networks' highly acclaimed musical drama, the shows protagonist, Rebecca Bunch (Rachel Bloom), is at an all time low. Within the course of five episodes she has been left at the altar, cruelly lashed out at her friends, abandoned a promising new relationship, walked out of her job, had her murky mental health history exposed, slept with her ex boyfriend's ill father, and been forced to retreat to her notoriously prickly mother's (Tovah Feldshuh) uncaring guardianship. It's to the show's credit that none of this feels remotely ridiculous or emotionally manipulative.

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If space is time—and space is literally time in the comics form—the world of the novel is a temporal cage. Manuele Fior pushes at the formal qualities of that cage to tell his story.

Manuele Fior's 5,000 Km Per Second was originally published in 2009 and, after winning the Angouléme and Lucca comics festivals awards in 2010 and 2011, was translated and published in English for the first time in 2016. As suggested by its title, the graphic novel explores the effects of distance across continents and decades. Its love triangle begins when the teenaged Piero and his best friend Nicola ogle Lucia as she moves into an apartment across the street and concludes 20 estranged years later on that same street. The intervening years include multiple heartbreaks and the one second phone delay Lucia in Norway and Piero in Egypt experience as they speak while 5,000 kilometers apart.

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Featuring a shining collaboration with Terry Riley, the Del Sol String Quartet have produced an excellent new music recording during their 25 years as an ensemble.

Dark Queen Mantra, both the composition and the album itself, represent a collaboration between the Del Sol String Quartet and legendary composer Terry Riley. Now in their 25th year, Del Sol have consistently championed modern music through their extensive recordings (11 to date), community and educational outreach efforts, and performances stretching from concert halls and the Library of Congress to San Francisco dance clubs. Riley, a defining figure of minimalist music, has continually infused his compositions with elements of jazz and traditional Indian elements such as raga melodies and rhythms. Featuring two contributions from Riley, as well as one from former Riley collaborator Stefano Scodanibbio, Dark Queen Mantra continues Del Sol's objective of exploring new avenues for the string quartet format.

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