2013 has delivered an enormous variety of high-scoring Blu-ray releases, from sucessful billon-dollar box office blockbusters like Iron Man 3 and Skyfall, to lesser known obscurities like Upstream Color and Holy Motors, to many golden and silver age cinema classics like Nosferatu, Badlands and The Right Stuff. Once again, the Blu-ray.com reviewers have compiled individual lists of their personal favorite film, television and 3D releases of the year and, once again, their favorites run the gamut. 2013 proved to be another difficult for those crafting their lists. Perhaps the most difficult yet.
We're also offering a new feature this year; one that involves all of our members. We've added support that allows you to create your own "Top Titles" list, and we'll be publishing the best member lists for 2013. To create your list, go to your community profile and click "Lists" on the menu. You
can "like" other members' lists, and you'll soon be able to comment on those lists as well.
Click on any one of the following quick-link categories to jump to the corresponding list. Keep in mind that reviewers weren't limited to titles they personally reviewed, weren't required to consider overall review scores, and weren't asked to focus on mainstream or best-selling titles.
Coming up with a definitive "Best of" is impossible, so this is just a list of some of my own favorite releases from 2013, films old and new that made me laugh or think or tear-up or just plain marvel at how they were made. I could've just as easily chosen a different ten—or populated the list solely with titles from The Criterion Collection, which received some killer additions this year—but these are the releases that leap immediately to mind. In no particular order:
1. Pierre Etaix: I had never seen any of the films in this two-disc, five-movie set from Criterion—actually, I can't say I knew much about French comedian/filmmaker Pierre Etaix at all—which made this collection my biggest surprise of the year. Etaix has Jacques Tati's sense of social satire, Fellini's large-scale flourish, and Buster Keaton's deadpan wit and eye for a good gag. If you liked 2011's The Artist, Etaix' Yoyo is the real deal.
2. Nosferatu: "Nosferatu. Does this word not sound like the death-bird calling your name at midnight?" Indeed it does. F.W. Murnau's pioneering silent horror masterpiece is every bit as eerie today as it was in 1922, and Kino-Lorber's Blu-ray release is by far the best the film has ever looked on home video.
3. To the Wonder: Cineaste magazine ran a feature article a few months back called "What the Hell Happened with Terrence Malick?," and sure, I can understand why some find To the Wonder, his latest, unbearable. (The philosophical pontificating, the whispery voiceovers, the swirling-through-a-field-backlit-at-golden-hour gushiness, all Malick at his most Malick-y.) But damn if this film doesn't get me every time. Beautiful.
4. Badlands: To the Wonder may be a love it or hate it affair, but Badlands—Malick's 1973 debut feature—is an undisputed masterpiece of the lovers-on-the-lam genre, starring a young Martin Sheen and an even younger Sissy Spacek. For years, fans have speculated on whether Badlands would ever get the Criterion treatment, and they couldn't have asked for better than spine #651, which includes a fantastic new documentary about the making of the film.
5. The Master: Paul Thomas Anderson continues his long-running cinematic winning streak with The Master, a film that, yes, draws inspiration from L. Ron Hubbard and the founding of Scientology, but is so much more than a mere skewering of a sham religion. Anderson uses the cult-of-personality concept to probe the post-WWII collective psyche, finding it aimless and uncertain and easily manipulated. He also draws out career-best performances from Joaquin Phoenix and Philip Seymour Hoffman.
6. Spring Breakers: Like P.T. Anderson, director Harmony Korine also sets out to poke around inside our national brain, but in Spring Breakers he finds it completely empty. The film is a nihilistic ode to vacuous pop-culture, satirizing and celebrating all-American excess. It's the kind of movie the Jean-Luc Godard of the late 1960s might've made if he were magically transported to present-day St. Petersburg, Florida to witness the annual migration of college drunks.
7. Holy Motors: Leos Carax' return to feature filmmaking—after a thirteen-year absence—is, bar none, the weirdest movie of the year. Talking limousines? A sewer troll who kidnaps a fashion model? Doppelgänger stabbing? A motion-capture green-screened sex scene? And that's not the half of it. Holy Motors is unlike anything you've ever seen.
8. Tokyo Story: Yasujiro Ozu's tender classic—rightfully regarded as one of the best films ever made—is an unsentimental but deeply moving story of parents and children, the busyness of adulthood and the loneliness of old age. It's hard to think of a more simple, human, perfect film.
9. Samsara: The filmmakers behind Baraka—Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson—are back with another transcendental, transcontinental documentary, a guided meditation of sorts that wordlessly explores the beauty and terror of life on Earth. Shot in 70mm, scanned at 8K, and mastered at 4K, it's also one of the most gorgeous Blu-ray experiences available.
10. Before Midnight: Richard Linklater is one of America's most undervalued directors. His Before trilogy is an unparalleled feat, following two characters—and two actors, Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy—across three decades of life and love and the uncertainty of both. Before Midnight is more bittersweet than its predecessors—and more bitter than sweet—but I have a feeling this isn't the last we'll see of Jesse and Céline.
Jeffrey Kauffman: Best Blu-ray Releases
2013 turned out to be another stellar year for Blu-ray, despite occasional Chicken Little-esque claims that the sky was falling and physical media would soon be a thing of the past. Not only were major studios releasing tons of blockbusters and even flops on Blu-ray, even more encouragingly most of the majors were still delving into their deep catalogs and releasing product, either themselves or courtesy of an increasing number of licensing deals. As has been my custom over the past few years, I'm not going to concentrate exclusively on a "best" list, but instead will try to highlight interesting and perhaps underappreciated titles that the more adventurous of you may want to consider for yourselves or as gifts for discerning friends and relatives. Due to the huge bulk of catalog releases this past year, a genre that appeals to me personally a great deal, I'm going to cheat (probably more than a little) by choosing three labels rather than individual products for three of my personal "bests", followed by three standalone titles. To make things a bit fairer, I'll therefore only post a top six:
1. Olive Films: Olive continues to be a major player for such a supposedly "minor" label, releasing a huge array of cult items, many of which few would probably have ever even hoped would be released in any format, let alone Blu-ray. Olive's 2013 slate saw everything from Jean-Luc Godard (Keep Your Right Up, Comment ça va) to Betty Boop. There is no other niche label that offers this kind of variety, and even better, Olive doesn't artificially inflate prices by following the "limited edition" model and offering their product only at boutique retailers without the discounts that larger sites like Amazon regularly offer. Olive's release schedule has slowed somewhat over the past couple of months, but it looks like another nice group of releases is due in Spring 2014.
2. Cohen Film Collection: Cohen has two imprints, Cohen Media Group, which tends to release more contemporary offerings (The Other Son), and Cohen Film Collection, which has released some spectacular older films this year, including what is arguably the standout silent release of the year, D.W. Griffith's epochal Intolerance. Also on tap from this great label (which many are referring to as "Criterion, Jr.") were Douglas Fairbanks' The Thief of Bagdad and a contemporary film which seems like an oldie, the charming quasi-silent Blancanieves, which revisits the legend of Snow White in the unusual world of bullfighting.
3. Fox Studio Classics: While Fox has been in the habit of licensing some of its catalog offerings to various niche labels like Shout! Factory, the studio has also been releasing quite a few great films on its own, often (but not always) under the Fox Studio Classics banner. These have included everything from Carmen Jones to The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, and they almost always feature great transfers and at least a few interesting supplements.
4. Oka!: This charming and offbeat film completely took me by surprise and remains one of my favorite viewing experiences of the year. As I mentioned in my review, Oka! plays a little like Local Hero, with an outsider becoming indoctrinated in the ways of a strange land. In this case, the fact that it happens to be a Pygmy tribe that makes absolutely incredible music is simply a fantastic bonus. If you like whimsical films strong on character and place, I urge you to check out this wonderful little film, which also features stunning cinematography by Conrad Hall's son.
5. Cleopatra: I could have included this in the Fox listing above, but have broken it out simply because the film is so amazingly gargantuan, and its importance in Fox's history looms so large, that it really deserves separate consideration. A lot of people hate this film, which has always surprised me. Yes, it's sometimes slow and bloated, but it also contains a typically literate Joseph L. Mankiewicz script, and it is buoyed by some of the most impressive production design in the history of film. Alex North's score is certainly one of the greatest achievements of 20th century film music and sounds impeccable on this Blu-ray.
6. Upstream Color: And now for something completely different. This is arguably the single oddest film released on Blu-ray in 2013. Discursive, haunting, almost tantalizingly opaque, Upstream Color invites analysis, but always seems to defy it at the same time. A completely unique and unsettling viewing experience, and one which makes the transition to Blu-ray very well.
Kenneth Brown: Best Blu-ray Releases
Putting a "Top Ten" list together seems to get harder and harder each year, and I had to cast aside more must-own titles in 2013 than ever before. As is my typical approach, the titles I chose to leave behind are those that appear on other reviewers' lists. In some cases, the titles I left off my list are more deserving than those I made room for. However, in the interest of highlighting as many releases as possible, I tried to focus -- operative word, tried -- on Blu-rays that don't appear elsewhere in our "Best of 2013" feature. So, in alphabetical order:
1. The 2013 Best Picture Winner & Nominees: Several other reviewers cheated a bit, so here's my not-so-veiled attempt to expand my list with a few extra films. It seems every time we compile this annual feature, the Best Picture nominees from the previous awards season are largely forgotten; the curse of being released early in the year, I suppose. But lest we forget, Argo took home Best Picture honors, while deserving nominees like Amour, Django Unchained, Life of Pi, Lincoln, Les Miserables, Silver Linings Playbook and Zero Dark Thirty were viable contenders. Seeing as each of these films is available via highly rated, top quality Blu-rays, each one warrants recognition. If only there were more room!
2. The Conjuring: James Wan's expertly crafted genre pic crept up on me, pounced on the timid little boy still kicking around inside my head, and tore the poor kid to pieces. Had The Conjuring been released in the '70s, we'd still be talking about it alongside the likes of The Exorcist and other classics of the era. Warner's Blu-ray release is a godsend too, making Wan's frights that much more frightening with a terrific video transfer and first class DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track. The disc is light on supplemental material unfortunately, but don't let that scare you away. The Conjuring is one of the finest horror films in recent memory.
3. Mud: Although my list is arranged in alphabetical order, Mud is hands down my favorite film of the year, and by extension, my favorite Blu-ray of the year. Having debuted at Cannes in 2012, it finally saw limited release stateside in April 2013; a limited release most people missed entirely. Wonderfully penned and magnificently shot, with fantastic performances from McConaughey and his young co-stars, it took me by complete surprise, and has brought me back several times since.
4. Only God Forgives: While I'd wager Holy Motors is the most divisive film to arrive on Blu-ray this year, Nicolas Winding Refn's Only God Forgives comes awfully close. Criticized mainly for not being Drive, it received a lukewarm reception from critics and continues to garner outright hostility from filmfans. And yet those who appreciate its dark artistry and ambiguity will discover a movie more inexhaustible, perplexing and unsettling (though not better) than Drive. The Blu-ray looks gorgeous and sounds amazing too, and has a more extensive supplemental package than I was anticipating.
5. Pacific Rim: American audiences may not have flocked to Pacific Rim in theaters, but it's a blast, pure and simple. Guillermo del Toro throws down the gauntlet, delivering a thoroughly entertaining genre pic that boasts off-the-charts size, scale and spectacle. Warner's Blu-ray release makes that little sentiment that much more literal with a stunning video presentation, thrilling 3D experience (for those who nab the 3D version) and thunderous DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track. Both the 2D and 3D editions are also armed with a director's commentary, more than a dozen Focus Point featurettes, and an entire second Blu-ray disc of additional high definition bonus content.
6. The Place Beyond the Pines: The Place Beyond the Pines is a powerful ensemble drama; one that's grown on me more and more in the weeks and months since I reviewed it. With outstanding performances and a carefully structured trio of riveting stories, the sins of the father are revisited upon the sons several times over in spectacularly minimalistic fashion. Universal's Blu-ray release is worth owning, thanks to an excellent AV presentation and a nice selection of extras.
7. Schindler's List: Schindler's List is as moving and impactful an experience as the movie itself is masterfully constructed and intimately made. Its direction, performances, cinematography and unflinching portrayal of the horrors of the Holocaust so demand personal investment that it transcends entertainment and becomes something else entirely. Universal has responded in kind, delivering a Blu-ray release befitting a film of its caliber and legacy. With a wonderful restoration supervised by Spielberg himself and a top tier AV presentation, Schindler's List is a must-own release that belongs in every collection.
8. Skyfall: The best of the new Bond films finally capitalizes on the rebooted series' potential and almost, almost stands amongst the finest entries in the 50-year franchise. Pair that with flawless video and audio, a great selection of special features, and a disc that's priced to sell and you have one of the top releases of the year.
9. Upstream Color: Of all the films I've revisited multiple times this year, Upstream Color is the most rewarding. Unpack it shot by shot, scene by scene, and you still won't be completely finished with it. A breathtaking film in every regard, it's available via Cinedigm as a breathtaking Blu-ray release. There's not a special feature to speak of, which is a shame, but it would be a greater shame to deprive yourself of one of the year's best simply because it doesn't offer as much supplemental content as a summer blockbuster.
10. The World's End: Wright further establishes himself as one of the preeminent comedy directors working today. The presence of Pegg and Frost only ups the ante, and their smartly cast co-stars certainly help. The final(?) entry in the trio's unofficial Cornetto series is a blast from start to finish; a wee bit better than Hot Fuzz by my estimation, and nearly as perfect as Shaun of the Dead. Universal's Blu-ray release arguably tops the feature film, with a striking video presentation, explosive DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track and hours upon hours of special features, including three audio commentaries, two high definition production documentaries and much, much more. The year's best comedy paired with one of the year's best Blu-rays.
I normally put together a separate TV-titles list because television releases are so easily pushed aside come "Best of the Year" season. This year, though, more television titles have popped up in this feature than ever before. Still, I'm a TV junkie, and there were a variety of great television releases this year, including The Walking Dead: The Complete Third Season (which didn't make my list solely because Marty already added it to his, allowing me to squeeze in one more title). Here are ten of my favorites, in alphabetical order:
1. Breaking Bad: The Complete Series: The best television series in recent memory; the year's best box (barrel) set, TV or otherwise. It not only includes the complete series, a near-perfect show that somehow improved with each passing season, the barrel packaging is fun and the exclusive two-hour documentary is too tempting to pass up. This one will be sitting beneath a lot of Christmas trees this year. Maybe even yours...
2. Doctor Who: Series 1-7 Limited Edition Giftset: I've gone from skeptic to Whovian in a little under two years, and BBC's giftset gave me the perfect excuse to restart the Russell T. Davies' relaunch of the 50-year series from its first season. The box set features all seven seasons and every special in 1080p and DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround (previous releases were presented in 1080i with a DTS-HD High Resolution 5.1 mix), a top-shelf Sonic Screwdriver toy... er, universal remote, and enough supplemental content to keep any fan busy through the new year and beyond.
3. The Day of the Doctor: And the Doctor keeps on rolling. As if the Limited Edition Giftset weren't enough Who for one year, along comes the series' 50th Anniversary Special, which just so happens to be one of the relaunch's best episodes/specials to date. The 3D Blu-ray is a treat too, with gorgeous video, an able-bodied 3D presentation (bonus: the special was filmed in native 3D) and terrific audio. The only downside is the relatively slim supplemental package, not that it should stop anyone.
4. Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season: The second season isn't quite as strong as the first, or as jaw-dropping or definitive as the third (which arrives on Blu-ray in February 2014), but HBO's 5-disc set couldn't offer much more. With a stunning video presentation, powerful DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and enough extras to keep series fans busy for weeks -- among them twelve audio commentaries, in-episode guides, a production documentary, a roundtable discussion and much, much more -- this one comes highly recommended.
5. Hannibal: Season One: What could have easily been a gimmick, cash-in or opportunistic series all too eager to trample on the books and films that came before it, Hannibal proved itself a uniquely capable killer in the broadcast network fray. Unnerving and surreal, its game of cannibal-and-mouse is devilishly delicious, culminating in a rather bold finale that could make for an even more engrossing second season. It managed to pull off everything Bates Motel tried -- and failed -- to do, and more. The Season One Blu-ray doesn't disappoint either, although, in what seems to be a trend this year, the set's supplemental content is a bit light for my tastes.
6. Homeland: The Complete Second Season: Critics be damned. Homeland continues to be one of the most addicting series on television, regardless of how often it strays from the quote-unquote realism second and third season detractors suggest dominates the first season. (Because nothing screams believable military drama like a marine turned brain-washed terrorist.) I'm along for the ride, and more than happy to be on board. The second season's Blu-ray is one to pick up; its AV presentation is a winner and its anemic extras are the only caveat to another excellent Homeland release.
7. The Legend of Korra: Book One, Air: It may not be the continuation of Aang's story we all wanted, but The Legend of Korra is a talented new fighter with a strong story, charming characters, pitch-perfect voicework, fierce bending action, enthralling music and sharp scripting. It's almost the complete package, and only suffers when compared to the original series. The next three seasons may change that, of course -- the second was fantastic -- but even if The Last Airbender triumphs, Korra needn't be ashamed at all. The 2-disc Blu-ray release of Book One: Air features vibrant video, enveloping DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround and a generous supplemental package, which includes twelve BD exclusive audio commentaries. Now if only Nickelodeon and Paramount would finally release all three seasons of The Last Airbender on Blu-ray...
8. Newsroom: The Complete First Season: The lengths to which Sorkin and company go to inspire thoughtful debate, rather than push or preach (too much), all while pulling off an entertaining ensemble drama, makes this HBO series one of the best new shows on televsion. HBO's Blu-ray release of The Complete First Season impresses too, with a top tier TV video presentation, a reliable DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and a welcome spread of special features. Regardless of your political affiliation, the series will generate reflection and discussion, and reflection and discussion -- contrary to what extremists tend to insist -- are noble pursuits. They were once American pursuits. Perhaps, as The Newsroom dares to hope, they will be again one day.
9. Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season 3, 4 & 5: The finest stretch of Star Trek: The Next Generation might just be the best the entire Trek television franchise has to offer, and all three seasons arrived on Blu-ray this year. And what an arrival it's been. Dazzling remasters, precise and proficient video, revelatory audio and extras, new and old, heaped atop more extras. I can't wait to have all seven seasons sitting on my shelves. Two more to go; presumably two of the best Blu-ray releases of 2014.
10. South Park: The Complete Sixteenth Season: How Trey Parker and Matt Stone continue to keep South Park fresh and funny all these years later is a mystery to me. And yet they do it, season in and season out. The foul-mouthed series' sixteenth season has memorable episodes by the dozen, and you'll be hard pressed to make it through without laughing yourself into a frenzy several times over. There are a few duds -- ironically, the juvenille humor that sneaks in now and again is beneath the writing and wit that dominates the show's exceedingly smart satire -- but it hardly matters.
Martin Liebman: Best Blu-ray Releases
One unfortunate drawback of being a full-time Blu-ray disc reviewer is that there just aren't enough hours in the day to enjoy all that many releases outside the demanding schedule of the weekly review grind. As such, it's particularly challenging to personally keep up with the best of the releases handled by Blu-ray.com's entire review team, so with that in mind, the following "Top Ten" list for 2013 consists only of discs I've been privileged to review and spend the proper amount of time with to adequately and, hopefully, correctly judge. Needless to say, and as there always are, there are more than ten deserving releases even amongst the rather limited subset of candidates, and narrowing the field down from a list of around twenty titles -- comprised of epic box sets, huge new releases, big catalogue titles, and personal favorites both from years past and seen for the first time on Blu-ray alike -- proved no easy task. The following list, in numerical order, was created based not only on the video and audio qualities of the disc, the amount of extras offered, and the release's place in Blu-ray history, but also -- and most importantly -- on the quality of the film and any number of personal preferences that make this list unique:
1. Breaking Bad: The Complete Series: What a series, what a set. It's a shame Walter and Jesse couldn't cook forever, but Creator Vince Gilligan knew the story of a cancer-stricken chemistry teacher-turned-meth cook and his addict and former student partner had run its course, won its awards, and won the hearts and minds of fans all over the world. This mega-box-set features every episode and every supplement from the individual season Blu-ray sets, and it comes with a terrific new supplement disc as well as pretty cool Los Pollos Hermanos cooking apron. Toss in collectible casing and this is easily the year's finest -- and biggest -- release.
2. Star Trek: The Next Generation: Season Five: Paramount/CBS have not simply impressed with these remastered seasons but completely blown away any and all reasonable expectations for Blu-ray greatness. Releasing regularly, packed with supplements both new and old, and offering the best video and audio qualities this side of the Neutral Zone, Star Trek fans have enjoyed the best of both worlds every time, combining an old favorite with a new presentation. Season five packs in plenty of enjoyable and unforgettable episodes, perhaps more than any other. Hopefully the powers-that-be are fervently working behind-the-scenes on Deep Space Nine and Voyager.
3. The Walking Dead: The Complete Third Season: The Governor's Aquarium set. A twisted fetish turned into one of the coolest collectibles of the year. Only Anchor Bay and The Walking Dead could pull it off, and only zombie fans could love a lit box filled with water, decayed heads, and bits of floating flesh. Oh, the show is pretty great, too.
4. Sony 4K Releases: These things might not actually be in "4K," but that doesn't mean they don't look terrific in "mastered in 4K" 1080p. Whether revitalizing old favorites like Glory and Ghosbusters, showing off the real muscle of the process in Spider-Man 2 and Godzilla, or making brand-new releases like The Smurfs 2 and Elysium look marvelous, Sony has given videophiles the gift of the year across a broad spectrum of top-tier titles. One can only imagine how great these, and other, films will look in true 4K down the road.
5. Star Trek Into Darkness: JJ Abrams has done it again, besting even his marvelous 2009 Star Trek film in every way. The cast, the sets, the special effects, the music, the style, it's everything a reboot should be, and Abrams even managed to take the series' best film and most memorable villain and rework them in a way no Trekkie can truly dislike. Were it not for the unfortunate lack of special features, this would have easily topped the list.
6. Flight: Denzel Washington probably should have won Best Actor for his incredible portrayal of a drunken, dysfunctional pilot. A terrific screenplay, an engrossing human drama, and an all-around rock-solid technical Blu-ray earn Robert Zemeckis' picture a spot on the list.
7. The Intouchables: The feel-good movie of the year. The Intouchables has it all: two terrific leads, a touching story, heartfelt craftsmanship, and an honest simplicity that's sorely lacking in today's cinema. Sony, as usual, delivers perfect picture and sound. It's a crying shame more extras aren't included, but the disc earns perfect scores everywhere else.
8. Turbo 3D: What a fun movie, what a touching movie, what an uplifting movie, what a fast movie. Yup, that snail is fast, and his Blu-ray is tight. Marvelous picture, dizzying sound, and some good special features make this the best animated release of 2013.
9. Hawaii Five-0: The Third Season: There might not be a better all-around show on network television. The series looks terrific but isn't defined by its setting or its classic predecessor. Instead, it's built on great characters, honest drama, and rapid-fire action. The Blu-ray set looks and sounds terrific and is overloaded with supplemental content.
10. Zero Dark Thirty: One of the favorites during awards season was also one of the year's best Blu-ray releases. Though it, like Star Trek Into Darkness, came up short in the number of included supplements, the picture and sound quality are impeccable and the movie is terrific. Controversy only makes it all the more fun to discuss.
Michael Reuben: Best Blu-ray Releases
No one can see every Blu-ray released during the year. I have stacks of discs I wish I had time to watch, and a list of more I would like to acquire. The following ten, in alphabetical order, come from those I reviewed, and there are nine "Honorable Mentions" that could easily have been swapped for any on the list.
Despite recurring claims that Warner Home Video doesn't release catalog titles, six of my Top Ten and three of my Honorable Mentions were major Warner catalog releases. Add Paramount titles that would not have made it to Blu-ray without the Warner/Paramount licensing deal, and those numbers increase to eight of the Top Ten and five of the Honorable Mention. No studio has done more than Warner to bring classics to Blu-ray.
1. The Big Parade: King Vidor's silent epic of war and romance is thoroughly modern in its cool appraisal of the realities of combat. Warner's presentation is one of the best ever accorded a silent film, and the accompanying DigiBook is superb.
2. Cabaret: The movie musical for people who hate musicals, director Bob Fosse's reinvention of the Kander & Ebb stage show opened it out into the surrounding world of pre-Nazi Germany for a close examination of a world hurtling toward its own destruction. Warner has given this classic a truly film-like presentation on Blu-ray that may be a shock to eyes conditioned by digital cinema but is a thrillingly accurate representation of the film's original cinematography. The DigiBook and supplements (old and new) are first-rate.
3. James Dean Ultimate Collector's Edition & DigiBooks: Whether one acquires these three films—East of Eden, Rebel Without a Cause or Giant—in the box set or as individual DigiBook releases, these are major films, and not just because they are the only ones featuring a legendary star whose career was cut short by a fatal car crash. Each is the product of a major director and has stood the test of time. Warner's restorations are true to the originals, and the collection of supplemental materials is exceptional.
4. Mrs. Miniver: William Wyler won the first of his three Best Director Oscars for this emotional rallying cry against the Nazi war machine. The brilliance of the film is its focus on an ordinary middle class English household and the community around it, as the war against Germany changes everything they know. The Blu-ray is somewhat light on extras, but the superb video and audio treatment more than make up for it.
5. Murdoch Mysteries: Season 2, 5 & 6: Acorn Media brought one of Canada's most original creations, and one of the best shows on television anywhere, up to date this year, with its two most recently completed seasons and an earlier one missing from Blu-ray. Murdoch's combination of police procedural, history, science fiction, comedy and romance is, like the nation that produced it, unique.
6. An Officer and a Gentleman: No one wanted to make the film, and even the film's star didn't want to shoot the ending as scripted—but it gets 'em every time. Taylor Hackford's tale of a sailor's kid looking for self-respect by enrolling in naval flight school and coming up against the twin obstacles of a tough drill sergeant and a woman who penetrates his armor was a surprise hit in 1982. Warner's Blu-ray (from a Paramount transfer) is a textbook example of how to do a catalog title, and the generous helping of extras doesn't hurt.
7. The Right Stuff: Philip Kaufman's account (based on the Tom Wolfe book) of the Mercury space program and its test pilot precursors looks and sounds better than ever, despite the absence of the promised 96kHz track. The extras are the same as with previous releases, but they were already good.
8. Shane: George Stevens' classic—no, archetypal—Western, restored in its original Academy ratio, with extraordinary detail and color. There is only one Shane, and this is it.
9. Skyfall: Whatever one may think of Skyfall as a Bond film, it's a great action adventure and spectacular Blu-ray on the audio and video front. The supplements are informative, and the soundtrack alone is worth the price.
Dr. Svet Atanasov: Best North American Blu-ray Releases
For the first time in many years I had a very difficult time keeping up with the amount of terrific releases the studios produced on a regular basis. I think that this was clearly Criterion's best year to date, but I was also very impressed with the wonderful films Cohen Media Group, Kino Video, and especially Olive Films brought to Blu-ray. Unsurprisingly, my favorite releases come primarily from these three studios:
1. On the Waterfront: A perfect presentation of one of American Cinema's greatest masterpieces, Elia Kazan's On the Waterfront. I sincerely hope that sooner rather than later we will also see director Kazan's America America treated with a similar respect.
2. 3 Films by Roberto Rossellini Starring Ingrid Bergman: I was secretly hoping that one day these three very beautiful and thought-provoking films will be released by Criterion. When they were finally announced, I could not be happier. As far as I am concerned, this is one of the year's must-own releases.
3. Tristana: Cohen Media Group has emerged as one of the top labels in the United States. The folks there do fantastic work. I like the films they select, the technical presentations, the elegant cases and stylish covers. I could list 4 or 5 different releases that I really liked, but the one I enjoyed the most was Luis Bunuel's Tristana. This is a release that should be in every serious collection.
4. Nosferatu: Restored and reconstructed, F.W. Murnau's legendary horror film looks simply incredible on Blu-ray. Kino's release contains the English and German versions of the film.
5. Les Misérables: The best film adaptation of Victor Hugo's legendary novel with a legendary cast. Another very special treat from the folks at Olive Films. Simply unmissable.
6. Medium Cool: This is American Cinema at its very best - powerful, thought-provoking, incredibly original. While revisiting the film, now beautifully restored in 4K, I kept thinking about many of Jean-Luc Godard's most radical films. As impressive as many of them are, I dare say not a single one matches the brilliance of Medium Cool. Structurally, it is a flawless film. And regardless of whether one agrees or disagrees with its message, it is an indisputable fact that it is very much relevant today. Top treatment from Criterion yet again.
7. The Big Combo: One of this year's very best additions to Olive Films' terrific catalog. Together with John H. Auer's films, this classic noir film directed by Joseph H. Lewis' should have a reserved spot in every serious collection.
8. Cabaret: One of the most exciting releases produced by a major U.S. studio this year. The wait was most definitely worth it. Cabaret looks very good in high-definition and Warner's digibook is appropriately elegant. A must-own release.
9. Marketa Lazarova: This outstanding release of Frantisek Vlacil's Marketa Lazarova, voted the best Czech film ever made, is a prime example why Criterion are the best in the business - no other label would have treated this important European film with so much care and attention. Restored in 4K, Marketa Lazarova looks simply astonishing in high-definition.
10. Kon-Tiki: I had a very difficult time deciding whether my last 'best release' should be the Norwegian Oscar entry Kon-Tiki or the Spanish Oscar entry Blancanieves. I loved both films and Anchor Bay and Cohen Media's technical presentations are simply terrific. Kon-Tiki won, but only because I already have Cohen Media's Tristana on my list. If you do not have these releases in your collection, place your orders now. These are magical films.
Dr. Svet Atanasov: Best United Kingdom Blu-ray Releases
There were so many special international releases this year. Needless to say, there are more than ten releases that deserve to be mentioned. Note there are two lists, the first for United Kingdom titles and the second for BDs released elsewhere around the world, excluding North America. First, the UK:
1. Title: Holy Motors was the best film I saw in 2012. Artificial Eye's Blu-ray release is my top pick in 2013. Let's hope that in 2014 we will also see on Blu-ray Leos Carax's legendary film Les amants du Pont-Neuf (Lovers on the Bridge).
2. Beyond the Hills: Romanian director Cristian Mungiu's Beyond the Hills is as emotionally devastating and hauntingly beautiful as Andrey Zvyagintsev's The Banishment and as thought-provoking as Pavel Lungin's The Island>. A fabulous release from one of the top labels in the United Kingdom, Artificial Eye.
3. The Naked Island: Kaneto Shindo's The Naked Island might be one of the purest and most beautiful Japanese films ever made. Its poetic freedom and elegance are as striking as those witnessed in the films of Michelangelo Antonioni, Mikhail Kalatozov, and Miklos Jancso.
4. In the Fog: Sergei Loznitsa's latest film is a masterpiece. Unfortunately, it was not released on Blu-ray in the United States. If you can play Region-B discs, I urge you to add New Wave Films' release to your collection as soon as possible.
5. The Servant: StudioCanal's 50th anniversary Blu-ray release of director Joseph Losey's masterful film The Servant is a thing of beauty. Recently restored, the film looks absolutely spectacular, without a shadow of a doubt the best it ever has.
6. Le Pont du Nord: As a big admirer of Bulle Ogier and her work, I couldn't be happier with Eureka Entertainment's decision to bring Jacques Rivette's Le Pont du Nord to Blu-ray. The film has been virtually impossible to track down on DVD in English-friendly territories, so to have it on Blu-ray is a very, very special treat. This beautiful release gives me hope that eventually we could also see an English-friendly release of another elusive film with Ogier, Alain Tanner's terrific The Salamander.
7. Calendar: I cannot recommend Atom Egoyan's Calendar highly enough. It is brilliantly structured and executed, absolutely marvelous film. Kudos to Artificial Eye for bringing the Canadian director's early films to Blu-ray. As far as I am concerned, they are some of this year's most exciting releases.
8. The Hunt: A flawless film directed by Danish helmer Thomas Vinterberg. And what a performance by Mads Mikkelsen. His success at the Cannes Film Festival is well deserved.
9. Tabu: I loved every single minute of Portuguese director Miguel Gomes' Tabu. It is an incredibly poetic, masterfully lensed and terrifically acted film. And to see it on Blu-ray, looking so good, was a very special treat. Another must-own release from New Wave Films.
10. Title: The Fury isn't one of my favorite Brian De Palma films, but Arrow Video's technical presentation is mighty impressive. Kudos to everyone that contributed to this special release.
Dr. Svet Atanasov: Best Blu-ray Releases from the Rest of the World
There were so many special international releases this year. Needless to say, there are more than ten releases that deserve to be mentioned. My next list represents titles from the rest of the world, excluding North America and the United Kingdom:
1. Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion (Lucky Red, Italy): Italian distributors Lucky Red were the first to release on Blu-ray the new 4K restoration of director Elio Petri's masterpiece. A stunning presentation of a stunning film. (In the United States, Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion is available on Blu-ray courtesy of Criterion).
2. Heaven's Gate (Carlotta Films, France): The new box set French label Carlotta Films produced for Michael Cimino's masterpiece is one of the most elegant releases I have seen since the high-definition format was launched. If you reside in a Region-B territory and could not take advantage of Criterion's release, this is the Region-B release you want to have in your collection. It also comes with an exclusive new video interview with the American director.
3. The Cardinal (Concorde Home Entertainment, Germany): I have never owned a good home video release of Otto Preminger's classic film. Featuring a brand new restoration of the complete English-language version of the film, this new release of The Cardinal from Concorde Home Entertainment is an unexpected gift for fans of director Preminger and the great Romy Schneider.
4. We Won't Grow Old Together (Gaumont, France): Another fabulous restoration of a classic Maurice Pialat film. A very special treat for Marlene Jobert fans.
5. Passion (ARP Selection, France): Passion is an impressive return to form for Brian De Palma. Ultra-stylish, deceivingly simple and expertly directed, it is one of the year's best films. A must-see for fans of the American master. (Passion is also available on Blu-ray in the United States, courtesy of Entertainment One).
6. Under the Sun of Satan (Gaumont, France): Top-notch restoration from French label Gaumont for what is arguably Maurice Pialat's best film. If you don't have this release in your collection, then you don't have one of the year's very best releases.
7. Malena (GreenNarae, South Korea): This fabulous film from Italian director Giuseppe Tornatore has never been released uncut in the United States. This is the version of the film to see and own. Currently available on Blu-ray only in South Korea.
8. Perfect Mothers (Gaumont, France): Anne Fontaine's first English-language film was one of the very best films I saw in 2013. In a perfect world, Perfect Mothers would have earned at least two Oscar nominations. Superb presentation from Gaumont.
9. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Cine-Tamaris Video/Arte Video, France): The new 2K restoration of Jacques Demy's classic film is astonishing. Let's hope that the same team that produced it will also work on Bay of Angels.
10. Fever Mounts at El Pao (Pathe, France): I have never owned a good release of this little seen on this side of the Atlantic film directed by the great Luis Bunuel. Pathe's Blu-ray release was a pleasant surprise.
Brian Orndorf: Best Theatrical Releases - Coming Soon!
Staff reviewer Brian Orndorf thought it best to hold back his Top Ten list until the end of the year, after all theatrical releases and Oscar contenders have made their way to the big screen. Check back for his list in late December.
Blu-ray.com Reviewers: Best 3D Blu-ray Releases
When it comes to 3D aficionados, there's something out there for cinephiles of all ages. The following is a list of some of the best 3D releases of 2013, as seen by various reviewers. We couldn't squeeze in every notable 3D title, but these are ten of our favorites:
1. The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey - Extended Edition (Kenneth Brown): Say what you will about the fun but flawed first entry in filmmaker Peter Jackson's expanded, now extended Hobbit Trilogy. Warner's 3D Extended Edition set is one of the most impressive 3D releases of the year, with stunning video, sweeping 3D, powerful DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround and an exhaustive selection of masterfully produced high definition special features.
2. Life of Pi (Casey Broadwater): After scoring four Academy Awards last month, Life of Pi continues to attract lots of attention on home video, and it deserves it. While it may not be the life-changing experience it wants to be, it is at least thought-provoking and sure to generate some post-viewing discussion, particularly if you watch it with others of differing worldviews. Besides that, it's simply gorgeous to behold and probably the best adaptation we could've asked for from a book previously considered "unfilmable." 20th Century Fox's Blu-ray release does justice to the film's eye-candy visuals—particularly if you go for the 3D version—and the disc includes a wealth of special features, including a terrific hour-long making-of documentary.
3. Monsters, Inc. 3D (Kenneth Brown): Disney's 5-disc Blu-ray release of Monsters, Inc. 3D is worth serious consideration, and offers quite a bit more than just a new 3D presentation of the film, stunning as it is. Both the 3D and 2D versions of the film feature a Dolby TrueHD 7.1 surround track (upgraded from the 2009 BD's DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix) and a handful of exclusive extras. Granted, those without love for 3D, a 7.1 setup or any interest in extras should pass and stick with the 2009 release. 3D fans and 7.1 junkies, though, can unite under one banner: classic Pixar in 3D.
4. Pacific Rim (Kenneth Brown): American audiences may not have flocked to Pacific Rim in theaters, but it's a blast nonetheless. Guillermo del Toro throws down the gauntlet, delivering a thoroughly entertaining genre pic that boasts off-the-charts size, scale and spectacle. Warner's Blu-ray release makes that little sentiment that much more literal with a stunning video presentation, thrilling 3D experience and thunderous DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track. The 4-disc set is also armed with more than four hours of extensive special features, including a director's commentary, more than a dozen excellent Focus Point featurettes, and an entire second Blu-ray disc of additional high definition bonus content.
5. Pina (Dr. Svet Atanasov): From all of the 3D films that I have seen to date, Wim Wenders' Pina is undoubtedly the most impressive one. After spending a couple of days looking at how different dances in it were shot, I am convinced that it makes a big difference when a director understands the technology's advantages and limitations. Pina truly is an extraordinary film that does justice to Pina Bausch's genius and her art.
6. Rise of the Guardians (Martin Liebman): Rise of the Guardians is an imperfect movie, but its imperfections pale compared to what the movie does so well. It's a real pleasure of a movie, a worthy picture and one kids and adults both will want to watch time and again. DreamWorks' Blu-ray 3D release features great 3D video and audio, and a nice array of extras. 3D TV owners will definitely want to choose this version over the basic 2D-only set.
7. Star Trek Into Darkness (Kenneth Brown): Marty already mentioned Stark Trek Into Darkness in his Top Ten list, so I thought I'd jump in and cover its entry here. As much a fan as my colleague, I thoroughly enjoyed JJ Abrams' sequel, which delivers a kinetic blend of action, drama, laughs and Trek fundamentals. Yeah, it isn't perfect. It isn't better than 2009's Star Trek either. But count me among those who don't care. Its 3D Blu-ray release is terrific, with an outstanding AV presentation and decidedly good 3D. Paramount's retailer exclusives snafu still haunts Paramount, and rightfully so. Be that as it may, this one is still sitting proudly on my shelf.
8. Turbo 3D (Martin Liebman): What a fun movie, what a touching movie, what an uplifting movie, what a fast movie. Yup, that snail is fast, and his Blu-ray is tight. Marvelous picture, dizzying sound, and some good special features make this the best animated release of 2013.
9. Wizard of Oz 3D (Kenneth Brown): Prepare yourself for a magnificent new restoration and surprisingly effective 3D experience, an excellent DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 surround track, and a sprawling series of special features, chief among them the new documentary Warner has wisely seen fit to include with both the 75th Anniversary Collector's Edition and standard 2-disc version.
10. Wreck-It Ralph (Kenneth Brown): Wreck-It Ralph doesn't quite achieve a flawless victory. No matter. It achieves just about everything else, from its loving, gloriously referential satirization of videogames to its story, characters, voice casting, cameos and good humor. Disney's Blu-ray release almost pulls off a flawless victory too, and only comes close to forfeiting the honor because of its slim supplemental package. Otherwise, it's all golden, with an impeccable video presentation, a standout 3D experience and a first-rate DTS-HD Master Audio 7.1 surround track. Don't miss out. It won't be very long before Ralph is crashing and smashing his way into theaters again.
"Criticized mainly for not being Drive..." - No, 'Only God Forgives' was criticized for some god-awful dialogue, a happenstance plot (talk about a haven for internal inconsistency), and some just plain vapid characters, some of whom are only there for the sake of the script and only come off as cheap, obvious plot devices. While many responded positively to the Cinematography of Larry Smith and Cliff Martinez's score, regarding the rest of the picture, much was just plain derided.
Because it sure isn't trying to bridge the two, is the film an Art Film or a hardboiled morality play? Is Vithaya Pansingram acting or is he just that terrible of an actor? Is the film trying to come off as unhinged with a directorial style that is so obviously directed? Why/How is Ryan Gosling having visions? What in the hell was going through Ryan Gosling's mind when he went up to that dude and challenged him to a fight? Why are all the characters (save for Kristin Scott Thomas) INCAPABLE of emoting? What was the point?
There's many questions and much to discuss, but unlike Drive and Valhalla Rising (which 'OGF' is much closer to) not all that much is positive.
Well these lists and the reviews themselves frankly show why they all should stick to the technical details in their reviews. I find the video and audio reviews very accurate and extremely helpful. The movie reviews are generally more amusing than anything else but I suppose it gives them something to do. Ranking Pacific Rim above The Right Stuff says it all to me.
@double_l4488 Martin is my favorite of all the reviewers- spot on with my tastes. Also- he did mention his top 10 list would be different but he is only listing those he reviewed. Regardless- this group of reviewers is awesome and way better than anyone over at rotten tomatoes- Great job Blu-Ray.com
I'd like to take the chance to send out a truly heart-felt 'thank you' to the entire Blu-ray.com staff. Since I began visiting this site regularly (nay, daily!) more than two years ago, I've come to realize that the quality of Blu-ray.com is truly second to none.
From the superb site layout, the exacting attention to technical detail, the comprehensive release cataloguing, the exemplary writing of the entire review staff, the forum packed with passionate enthusiasts, the baked-in personalization/collection tools, and even the graciously unobtrusive yet wallet-friendly advertising ... Blu-ray.com sets a standard that not only other physical media review sites, but all film & movie sites in general, should aspire to equal.
Thank you all for your efforts, guys. Here's to a razor-sharp, deep-black, 7.1 explosion-filled and extras-laden 2014!
@MichaelR: "The list is in alphabetical order." Fair enough but then my observation would be putting Pacific Rim on the list at all. As I said, I do very much appreciate the video and audio observations.
@Spitfrnd...I think there's a misunderstanding. Pacific Rim selected by the reviewers in the category "Best 3D Releases" as the 3D effects in the film are great. Ken B also has it in his top ten due to the cumulative merits of the release. Not sure if it is fair to infer that the reviewers rate Pacific Rim (the movie itself) higher than The Right Stuff .
@Spitfrnd & Blu Titan: Yes, I would certainly put 'The Right Stuff' as a better film than 'Pacific Rim.' In my intro, I had actually hoped to clarify these sorts of things when I wrote: "As is my typical approach, the titles I chose to leave behind are those that appear on other reviewers' lists. In some cases, the titles I left off my list are more deserving than those I made room for. However, in the interest of highlighting as many releases as possible, I tried to focus on Blu-rays that don't appear elsewhere in our "Best of 2013" feature."
Since 'The Right Stuff' earned a top spot in Michael's list, I wanted to highlight another disc, one as Blu Titan mentions, is based quite a bit on the full package of the disc. I also always try to choose one or two quote-unquote fun films; the sorts of movies that provide that blast-in-the-theater movie experience. This year it was The World's End and Pacific Rim. While not the most revolutionary films, they were, to their respective genres, a breath of fresh air
I understand the frustration, though. The reviewers all skim each other's lists and often have the same "wait, why?" reaction to some choices you did. That's one of the reasons I love reading and contributing to these sorts of things - just to see what assortment of top films different people from different walks of life respond to. No matter the opinion, thanks for posting!
@Dr. Svet Atanasov
In your review of the Criterion release of 'Investigation of a Citizen Above Suspicion' you say "As far as I am concerned, this is one of the year's top five Region-A Blu-ray releases". If that's the case then why is it not included in your 'North American Releases' list?
The Criterion release is still mentioned, but in the top spot of "Releases From the Rest of the World". I thought that Italian distributors Lucky Red should be mentioned as they were the first to release the new resto of Mr. Petri's masterpiece on Blu-ray.
Ken Brown and Blu Titan: Just for the record, I like "fun" films just fine, even those that require (as most do) a healthy dose of suspended disbelief. However, while admittedly a fine example of technical achievement, the story of Pacific Rim (alien monsters that can only be defeated by giant two person controlled mechanical bipeds) is simply so ludicrous that it renders the movie effectively unwatchable for me for any reason other than a "music video" experience. Of course it is not alone in that category (Transformers anyone, anyone?) as it seems to be a continuation of a sadly popular trend of boosting the "wow" factor beyond all proportion while ignoring all the other things that make movies worthwhile. I find that trend particularly frustrating since it seems such a waste of excellent resources. Sorry for the sermon.
"JJ Abrams has done it again, besting even his marvelous 2009 Star Trek film in every way. The cast, the sets, the special effects, the music, the style, it's everything a reboot should be, and Abrams even managed to take the series' best film and most memorable villain and rework them in a way no Trekkie can truly dislike" — Martin Liebman
What is this guy on? Into Darkness was another Abrams disaster. Some of the sets are just weird. The bridge has lights all over, including places no one in his right mind would put lights because they'd be shining in people's eyes as they watch display monitors. Parts of engineering looks like a brewer, probably because parts of it were shot in a brewery. The list of problems with this movie is long and deep. Someone needs to tell Martin to read reviews of this movie on Amazon, where he will see that a lot of long-time Star Trek fans despise this movie.
Star Trek Into Darkness was another Abrams disaster? Really @skytag ? I don't agree Star Trek Into Darkness was a good film plot holes in all. Was their issues yes but a bad film not sir it is not. Your just rambling on and on about how bad the film is. So please next time you complain about a film give some reasons why instead of saying it's bad. And I don't pay attention to the Amazon reviews most do not.
I agree. Criterion, Olive and Cohen -- not too mention Fox and Warner -- have had a really great 2013. I think most everyone is getting on the same page now. Hi-rez Blu-ray customers want the studios to take good care and release great titles. The Blu-Ray market is here, and it has reached its glory days.
Thanks, enjoy the lists and the efforts put forth for them as well as what you do all year long.
As with previous years, these still come off as best films released lists, not the best all around releases. Though I have to say this year I see more of an attempt to list the overall best releases based on visual/sound quality, packaging, and supplemental quantity and quality, not just singularly based on the film. I go to movie sites for movie reviews, I'm not coming here for that. Here, I enjoy the time and care taken to review the whole release.
For me and I bet many others, whether or not I am going to spend money on a disk release of a film I like rather than other media, or waiting for a better future release, is influenced by the excellent reviews you guys do here of the complete release.
Don't mean to critique the critics and like I said, your efforts are much appreciated. I just would like to see these year end lists stick to what you do best rather than be ANOTHER best film listing
@WileyWyler: "Not one mention of the Fox blu ray set, supervised by Martin Scorsese, of all of Elia Kazan's films... " If you're referring to "Kazan at Fox", that was a 2012 release. Some titles from the set have been released individually this year, but "A Tree Grows in Brooklyn" isn't among them.
Really looking forward to Orndorf's top films. The theatrical releases on this site rarely get high scores (The Hunt was the only thing to get a 10 this year if I'm not mistaken) so I'm very interested to see what is chosen.
I will show a BR list or whatever list, but it won't be like a top 10( choke on it!) or what ever it will be. It will be random. I know everyone has his favourites me too, but that is not where it is all about. Always these list and many look a like. So you become the same and you love it. Don't be. Most of all don't rated the films just put a couple of them down in writting that you have enjoyed in 2013 on BR or Theater and want to watch them again in the near future, maybe in 2014 that could be very close.
Long time Trek fan of 46 years right back to the NBC premiere of the Original Series and I think Abrams take on the subject is dreadfully childish and not a worthy successor to Roddenberry. That's not just a shot at the director. Today's cast of actors doesn't know how to act.