New video: top DVD and video releases of 2016
Is the age of the Blu-ray ending?
This year saw companies like Shout! Factory and Kino produce their usual healthy output of special edition, high-definition movie and TV sets. But there were also a few developments in 2016 that could be considered concerning for those who value physical media.
One of the biggest pieces of news in the home video market was the arrival of FilmStruck, a subscription streaming service created by Turner Classic Movies, featuring a healthy chunk of the Criterion Collection —including the bonus features that previously made Criterion’s Blu-rays must-buys.
While there’s no reason to worry (yet) that the streaming business will replace the manufacturing of discs, each new move into “the cloud” can eventually mean a decline in product that consumers hold in their hands. The convenience of streaming is welcome, sure. But it’s also nice to be able to watch classic films even when the Internet is down.
This will be something to keep an eye on over the coming year. The major studios and indies continue to release their biggest movies on Blu-ray (and 4K), but it’s no longer guaranteed that they’ll follow suit with their more niche titles. In other words, those who like to fill their shelves with a library of their favorite films may want to start stockpiling. The days when buffs could expect to drop a few hundred bucks a year on box sets may be passing quickly.
Until that happens though, there’s still plenty out there worth buying. Start with everything on this list of the year’s best home releases:
1. “Trilogia de Guillermo del Toro” (Criterion)
One of this era’s smartest and most creative genre filmmakers gets the full Criterion treatment in an elegantly designed box set that contains his alt-horror classics “Cronos,” “The Devil’s Backbone” and “Pan’s Labyrinth,” plus documentaries and interviews that help explain how Del Toro has turned stories about vampires and demons into personal, political statements.
2. “Pioneers of African American Cinema” (Kino Lorber)
To document the proliferation of “race films” produced and distributed in black communities across the country between the ’20s and ’40s, this set collects nearly 20 hours of shorts and features, telling the story of this country that Hollywood at the time largely ignored.
3. “The Thing” / “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” (Scream! Factory)
Shout! Factory’s “Scream!” imprint has proved repeatedly that it can deliver comprehensive special editions of even the cheesiest B-horror, and this year the company did similarly stellar work with two classic remakes, surrounding John Carpenter’s 1982 “The Thing” and Philip Kaufman’s 1978 “Invasion of the Body Snatchers” with enough special features to keep genre connoisseurs occupied for days.
4. “The Best of Cinerama” (Flicker Alley)
From travelogues to sensational spectacles, the superwide-screen Cinerama format tried to make moviegoing more special in the ’50s and ’60s, as documented in this terrific collection of shorts, accompanied by scholarly commentary.
5. “The James Bond Collection” (MGM)
It’s hard to quibble with either the budget price or the compact packaging for this latest 007 set, which adds last year’s “Spectre” to 23 other films, collecting a series of spy adventures that now span decades, styles and stars.
6. “Crime Story: The Complete Series” (RLJ Entertainment)
On the road toward more novelistic, mature TV storytelling, one of the big signposts was this short-lived NBC series, which told the story of an early ’60s anti-gang police unit across two seasons and featured early TV appearances from the likes of Kevin Spacey, Julia Roberts and Gary Sinise.
7. “Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders” / “Batman: The Killing Joke” (Warner Bros.)
Warner’s direct-to-video DC Comics superhero movies catered to two kinds of caped crusader fans this year, first faithfully adapting the grim-’n’-gritty R-rated graphic novella “The Killing Joke” and then appealing to fans of the campy ’60s TV version by bringing back Adam West and Burt Ward to voice Batman and Robin in a delightfully cartoony throwback.
8. “The Kennedy Films of Robert Drew & Associates” (Criterion)
The rise of verité-style documentaries in the ’60s can be traced in part to the movies in this set, which intimately captured the election, presidency and funeral of John F. Kennedy in ways that captivated viewers —and other filmmakers.
9. “The Iron Giant: Signature Collection” (Warner Bros.)
Though animator Brad Bird’s debut feature was a disappointment at the box office in 1999, it became a cult favorite among fans of the medium and now is available again on a suitably special edition Blu-ray, which puts this touching story of a boy and his robot in the context of Bird’s later Pixar smashes “The Incredibles” and “Ratatouille.”
10. “T.A.M.I. Show” / “The Big T.N.T. Show” (Shout! Factory)
Long before fans of rock, pop and R&B artists could call up any performance clip at any time on YouTube, they had to wait for TV networks to broadcast specials like these two mid-’60s classics, which recorded the likes of the Rolling Stones, James Brown, the Byrds, the Beach Boys and Tina Turner in their prime.
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