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Off the Radar - The Top 30 DVDs of 2008

DVD: Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead Director: Lloyd Kaufman Film: Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead Studio: Troma Entertainment Cast: Jason Yachanin, Kate Graham, Allyson Sereboff, Robin Watkins, Lloyd Kaufman, Ron Jeremy Website: http://www.poultrygeistmovie.com/ MPAA rating: N/A First date: 2006 Distributor: Troma Entertainment US DVD Release Date: 2008-10-28 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/p/poultrygeistdvd.jpg

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List number: 10

Poutrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead

Troma Entertainment

If Poultrygeist is a certified ‘Tromasterpiece’ -- and it most certainly is -- then the stunning three disc DVD treatment of the title is its Hearts of Darkness. Like that memorable documentary of Frances Ford Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, there is an accompanying Making-of featurette entitled Poultry in Motion: Truth Is Stranger Than Chicken. In it, we witness nearly 90 minutes of infighting, exasperation, and the well-plucked perfection that comes from such a meeting of fertile, often unhinged minds. All the problems Kaufman and crew face on the film, from reluctant DP divadom to abject naked actress angst, are captured. As with other Troma projects, the onset mayhem sometimes threatens to undermine the entire enterprise. Here, it makes the good great, and the special something spectacular. Bill Gibron

Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead

Director: Ken Russell DVD: Ken Russell at the BBC Director website: http://www.iainfisher.com/russell.html Studio: BBC Cast: Oliver Reed, David Collings, Christopher Gable, Don Black, Kirsty Wark MPAA rating: N/A Distributor: Warner Brothers US Release Date: 2008-09-23 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/k/kenrusselldvd.jpg

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List number: 9

Ken Russell at the BBC

BBC

Before he became the "bad boy" of British cinema, middle aged maverick Russell was making amazing musical biographies for UK television. This masterful boxset contains six of his best: Elgar, The Debussy Film, Always on Sunday, Isadora Duncan: The Biggest Dancer in the World, Dante's Inferno, and Summer of Song. Sadly, his slam on Richard Strauss, The Dance of the Seven Veils, was pulled at the last minute. Still, with famous faces like Oliver Reed and Vivian Pickles along for the ride, this collection is a revelation, and a testament to one of the most criminally underrated directors of all time. Bill GibronKen Russell at the BBC

DVD: Iron Man Director: Jon Favreau Film: Iron Man Subtitle: Two-Disc Special Collector's Edition Studio: Paramount Cast: Robert Downey Jr., Jeff Bridges, Terrence Howard, Gwyneth Paltrow Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Iron-Man-Two-Disc-Special-Collectors/dp/B00005JPS8/ref=sr_1_2?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1222870318&sr=1-2 MPAA rating: PG-13 First date: 2008 Length: 125 Distributor: Paramount US DVD Release Date: 2008-09-30 UK DVD Release Date: 2008-10-27 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/i/ironman-dvdcover.jpg

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List number: 8

Iron Man: 2-Disc Special Edition

Paramount

Just as impressive in resolution on DVD as it was in theatres, Iron Man manages to be vivid, colorful, and highly realistic while still staying true to the spirit of the long-running Marvel comic title. A natural fit for the complex title character, Robert Downey Jr. brings both depth and snark to Tony Stark, the multibillionaire playboy/inventor behind the Iron Man mask. The two-disc special edition DVD boasts an enormous wealth of bonus features (clocking in at around 300 minutes). Behind-the-scenes footage and screen tests offer a comprehensive look at the production and the painstaking detail used to create Iron Man's special effects and elaborate suits of armor. The off-screen camaraderie between Downey, director Jon Favreau, and the rest of the cast make these extensive documentaries more fun to watch than your average set of bonus features. Lana Cooper

Iron Man

DVD: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Director: Tim Burton Film: Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street Studio: Paramount Pictures Cast: Johnny Depp, Helena Bonham Carter, Alan Rickman, Timothy Spall, Sacha Baron Cohen, Christopher Lee, Jamie Campbell Bowen, Jayne Wisener Website: http://www.sweeneytoddmovie.com/ MPAA rating: R Trailer: http://www.apple.com/trailers/dreamworks/sweeneytodd/ First date: 2007 Distributor: Dreamworks US DVD Release Date: 2008-04-01 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/s/sweeney-todd-poster.jpg

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List number: 7

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

Paramount/Dreamworks

What was it about Sweeney Todd that first grabbed my attention? The fabulous acting? The revelation that Johnny Depp can actually, you know, sing? Stephen Sondheim's masterful -- as always -- soundtrack, that complement of black humor and macabre? No, it was the colors -- bleak, joyless, grey on grey, hints of light blue, splashes of deep, violent red -- that exude, more than any character or accent, that damp, dreary 19th century London atmosphere (and the "vermin of the world [that] inhabit it"). Whether it's the crown jewel of Burton's career, or just an impeccable return to form, the film remains a stunningly rendered achievement, in theaters or on disc. Zach Schonfeld

Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street

DVD: Brand Upon the Brain! Director: Guy Maddin Film: Brand Upon the Brain! Subtitle: Criterion Collection Studio: The Film Company Cast: Erik Steffen Maahs, Gretchen Krich, Sullivan Brown, Clayton Corzatte Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Brand-Upon-Brain-Criterion-Collection/dp/B0019X4008/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&s=dvd&qid=1223477652&sr=1-1 Website: http://www.branduponthebrain.com MPAA rating: Unrated First date: 2006 Length: 99 Distributor: Criterion Collection US DVD Release Date: 2008-08-12 UK DVD Release Date: Available as import Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/b/branduponthebrain-dvd.jpg

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List number: 6

Brand Upon the Brain!: Criterion Collection

Criterion Collection

Criterion has been criticized in the past for ignoring certain genres and films over their years of distribution, but Brand Upon the Brain! is evidence that they are a commodity in the film world -- not only releasing important films in cinematic history, but also those with artistic integrity and cult status. Canadian filmmaker Guy Maddin created this near comic book science-fiction world… in silence… let alone in 2006. Originally set to be strictly theatrical, this complete disregard for current cinematic form is homage to the days of primitive, gritty filmmaking where hard labored technique was championed. John Bohannon

Brand Upon the Brain!

Director: Various DVD: The Sopranos: The Complete Series Studio: HBO Cast: James Gandolfini, Edie Falco, Michael Imperioli, Dominic Chianese, Steven Van Zandt, Tony Sirico, Robert Iler, Lorraine Bracco Website: http://www.hbo.com/sopranos/ MPAA rating: N/A Distributor: HBO Home Video US Release Date: 2008-11-11 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/s/sopranoscomplete.jpg

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List number: 5

The Sopranos: The Complete Series

HBO Home Video

At this point, you'll find little resistance in citing The Sopranos as the best drama television has yet produced. The stunning plunge into both Tony Soprano's psyche and his world continued to wow right up until the finale which had people either declaring it a masterpiece or crying foul at the lack of closure. Chase's remarkable material was filled out by many great actors, but none did as good a job as Gandolfini and Falco, both of whom will go down as all time greats right alongside the show. This series set should be an offer no one can refuse. Aaron Marsh

The Sopranos: The Complete Series

Director: Francis Ford Coppola DVD: The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration Giftset Director website: http://www.zoetrope.com/ Studio: Paramount Pictures Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton MPAA rating: N/A Distributor: Paramount Pictures US Release Date: 2008-09-23 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/g/godfatherrestoration.jpg

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List number: 4

The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration

Paramount

While few can argue over the place these films hold in motion picture history (well, the third one not so much), most have agreed on one thing, The Godfather trilogy has been underserved by the digital format. Even when Paramount went back to the vault and "remastered" the original prints for a supposedly definitive DVD, purists were not impressed. One in particular, a certain film legend named Francis Coppola, decided it was time to remedy the situation once and for all. Painstakingly restruck for high-definition, these new versions of the Oscar winners (and also ran) have never looked better -- NEVER. Aside from the dramatic power they pack, these '70s classics reveal a striking amount of visual artistry, something lost in previous pressings. Bill Gibron

The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration Giftset

DVD: Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom Director: Pier Paolo Pasolini Film: Salo, or the 120 Days of Sodom Cast: Paolo Bonacelli, Giorgio Cataldi, Umberto P. Quintavalle, Aldo Valletti, Caterina Boratto, Elsa De Giorgi, Helene Surgere, Sonia Saviange MPAA rating: Unrated First date: 1975 Distributor: Criteron US DVD Release Date: 2008-08-26 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/s/salo.jpg

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List number: 3

Salo: Or the 120 Days of Sodom - Criterion Collection

Criterion Collection

Whether you’ve heard myth, been disgusted, intrigued, upset, or mystified by Pier Paolo Pasolini’s final film, its incredibly important for it to still be in print. Originally released to overbearing controversy, Pasolini had warned the public that, “artists must create, critics defend, and democratic people support... works so extreme that they become unacceptable even to the broadest minds of the new State". Some people call works of pure conventional disregard ineffectual, but Pasolini not only challenged the boundaries of filmmaking, but challenged the world we live in both on detached political levels, as well as intimate sexual levels. John BohannonSalo, or the 120 Days of Sodom

Director: David Lynch DVD: David Lynch Lime Green Set Director website: http://www.davidlynch.com Studio: Absurda Cast: Jack Nance, Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern, Isabella Rosalinni, Kyle McLaughlin MPAA rating: N/A Distributor: Absurda US Release Date: 2008-11-25 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/blog_art/d/davidlynchlimegreen.jpg

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List number: 2

David Lynch Lime Green Set

Absurda

He's a madman and a genius, someone who in this day and age of commercial bankability and narrative simplicity still believes in artistic expression and rationale defying dream logic. But the big surprise here -- a collection of previously available films and outside efforts -- is the scope of Lynch's vision. This is a man who can mock The Wizard of Oz (Wild at Heart) while uncovering the seediness in a quite little town (Blue Velvet). Featuring such fine efforts as Eraserhead, The Elephant Man, and the previously unreleased Industrial Symphony No. 1, this is a must for any movie lover. And if the titles don't tempt you, the hour-plus "mystery disc" should do the job. Bill Gibron

David Lynch Lime Green Set

DVD: Wall-E Director: Andrew Stanton Film: Wall-E Studio: Pixar Cast: Ben Burtt, Elissa Knight, Jeff Garlin, Fred Willard, MacIn Talk, John Ratzenberger, Kathy Najimy, Sigourney Weaver Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Wall-E-Two-Disc-BD-Live-Blu-ray/dp/B001EOQWF8 Website: http://disney.go.com/disneypictures/wall-e/ MPAA rating: G Trailer: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5e16U8UsT4I First date: 2008 Length: 98 Distributor: Walt Disney Home Videos US DVD Release Date: 2008-11-18 UK DVD Release Date: 2008-11-24 Image: http://images.popmatters.com/film_art/w/wall-e-cover1.jpg

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List number: 1

WALL-E: 3 Disc Special Edition

Disney/Pixar

WALL-E is open to so many divergent interpretations -- ecological allegory, slam against consumerism, sci-fi love story, cutesy family comedy -- that you'd think Pixar purposefully stacked the imagination deck. But to hear director Andrew Stanton tell it (as part of the commentary track on the amazing three-disc special DVD edition), all he really wanted to do was tell a good story. Sure, the Buy and Large conglomerate angle seemed like a specific attack on Wal-Mart. Yes, there are nods to 2001 and other famed future shock parables. True, the company best known for creating classics like Ratatouille, Toy Story, and Finding Nemo was worried that the darkness of the first act wouldn't match the retro robot antics toward the end. But if all Stanton wanted to do was forward a ripping yarn, he managed to do just that. In a year filled with fascinating tall tales, WALL-E stood well above many. Bill Gibron

Wall-E

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