I know what your problem is, you don't have to say it. You got a gift card or two over the holiday season and you don't know how to spend it. So let me help you out with a few suggestions.
Now, as you all know, most of the quality DVDs are reissues. Sometimes it takes a while for these things to get done right (or for the more cynical, it takes a while for the studios to make enough money on the bare-bones versions before they are satisfied). But these are no mere "double-dips." I'm talking classy reissues that make you more than happy for having bought the title twice. Let's take a look at the Top Ten Reissued DVDs of 2006. Enjoy.
This is one of my all-time favorite films, and the original Criterion release has always been one of my most prized DVDs in the library. Now it feels like a bastard child because this is one of the finest sets I own. Practically everything that was available on the original release can be found here, including Michael Jeck's scholarly commentary. There's an additional commentary track by a slew of film experts that is jam-packed with info, but my favorite aspect of this set is a 1993 interview with Kurosawa that offers tons of insight into his career. There are a few documentaries on hand, focusing on Kurosawa and his finest masterpiece, but for die-hard fans of the film, the real reason to pick up this DVD is the gorgeous, remastered transfer. It's the cleanest I've ever seen the film ... you will be amazed.
I actually had never seen Warren Beatty's film until recently and was quite impressed. I've seen two Russian Revolution films this year (the other was David Lean's beautiful but seriously flawed Doctor Zhivago), and I am surprised to say that Reds was the far superior film. There is no director's commentary with Beatty, which is a major shame because the guy is uber intelligent, but he does make an appearance on the DVD's seven-part documentary, which is pretty fantastic.
Boy oh boy, this is a film geek's dream set. The original DVD release had a commentary track featuring Park Chan-wook and cinematographer Chung Chung-hoon. This set features two additional tracks: a solo commentary track with Chan-wook and another with Chan-wook and actors Choi Min-sik, Yoo Ji-tae, Gang Hye-jung. The seriously long production diary that is attached, called "The Autobiography of Oldboy," is not for the casual fan. It's not particularly well edited (it's 212 minutes long), but hard-core fans are sure to pick up a few interesting tidbits. This package features all the other extras (deleted scenes with optional commentary, interviews with the cast and crew) available on Tartan's original DVD release as well. If the original 35mm film cell that comes with it doesn't interest you, then perhaps the first volume of the Oldboy manga (which inspired the film) will. You might even find yourself ordering the rest of the series here.
Whenever I think about this movie, I think about the times I actually liked Matthew McConaughey as an actor. I guess the nostalgia is appropriate when you consider this is writer-director Richard Linklater's semi-autobiographical love letter to '70s adolescence. The almost hour-long documentary, loads of interviews and deleted scenes, and surfer-dude Linklater's entertaining commentary make this one of the must-haves of 2006.
One of the greatest (and most surreal) war films ever made got its third release this year in some pretty nifty packaging that makes it look like, well, a dossier. I wasn't a huge fan of the Apocalypse Now Redux edition released back in 2001, but the good news is this dossier contains both the original theatrical cut and the new 2001 edit on its two discs. The Francis Ford Coppola commentary on both cuts of the film is the cat's pajamas (both versions contain the same commentary, though Redux's is naturally longer). There is a 17-minute segment of Marlon Brando reading T.S. Elliot's "The Hollow Men," 12 additional scenes never officially released before ... you get the idea. It's the Mecca.
Frank Darabont's faithful adaptation of Stephen King's installment series is near-perfect storytelling, and it finally gets the DVD treatment it deserves. Some of the features include a 90-minute behind-the-scenes documentary, Michael Clarke Duncan's screen test, two deleted scenes with optional director's commentary, and a feature-length commentary track with Darabont. Break out your hankies, because this is a good crier.
If you were one of the ungodly souls who thought Peter Jackson's epic film was too long when it hit theatres last year, this probably isn't the DVD for you. Yes, this is an extended version, and it is glorious! The bulk of the extra 13 minutes are two action sequences, one of which is pretty killer. Peter Jackson and Philippa Boyens give good commentary, and there's an eight-part documentary that is tremendous. I purposely held off buying the original King Kong DVD when it was first released, and it was well worth the wait.
Okay, this is the one DVD on this list I did not go through, but I just had to include it for the Narnia fans. This set is loaded. The film itself is extended by seven minutes which include two extra minutes of battle footage. There's a 75-minute documentary on C.S. Lewis and a 140-minute documentary on the film's production. I never had much of an interest in catching this movie, but when I finally watched it on the film's original DVD release, I was impressed. It's a fine children's film, and the specs on this set have encouraged me to pick it up.
One of the best films of the '70s got its proper treatment this year with a nice assortment of featurettes, documentaries, interviews and a Robert Redford commentary. The Redford commentary is pretty enlightening, and there are three very solid documentaries that cover the film, the reporting duo, and Deep Throat himself, Mark Felt. None of the documentaries is very long, but they are more than informative.
This is my personal pick for the DVD of the year, be it a reissue or original release. Why? I saw Kingdom of Heaven in the theatres and thought it was an interesting failure. It felt half-baked, unfocused but intelligent and detailed. The extended director's cut that appears on this DVD, however, is about ten times better. It's longer, but it's more entertaining. You understand the relationships more, you become more involved in the story. If you've seen the original release, you will not believe the amount of important information that was gutted from Ridley Scott's film. For example, remember that priest Balian (Orlando Bloom) kills in the first ten minutes of the film? Well, that happens a little later here, and you know a lot earlier on that that is actually his brother.
And that's not all.
There's a lot that was cut out of Scott's film. I'm talking about major subplots that put a seriously needed perspective on several aspects of the movie. I won't spoil any more of them here because you need to experience this film for yourself. If you didn't see this movie because you heard it wasn't that good, check out this DVD. If you saw the original studio cut in theatres or on DVD ... whether you liked it or hated it, you owe it to yourself to check this baby out.
In addition to the terrific extended cut, there are three commentary tracks that are all excellent. The many-chaptered documentaries are a movie addict's crack, covering the film from pre-production to the release of the director's cut.
That about does her. My apologies to the many other worthy DVD reissues of 2006. Just remember that just because you didn't crack the top ten, you're not a loser ... you're just not a winner. Okay, people, break out those holiday gift cards and get cracking!
Want more of the Best of 2006? See our Year in Review.
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Dre writes five times a week for Film.com, covering Movies and DVD with his Floridian flare. E-mail him!