Discs Deluxe

The best DVDs of 2002

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9. Die Nibelungen Speaking of Lang, the great director's monumental silent epic has finally been restored to its full, five-hour glory (nearly 100 minutes longer than any previously seen version!). Besides the sparkling, uncut version of Lang's saga of dragon slayers and blood oaths, Kino's magnificent two-disc set includes the original 1924 score performed by the Munich Radio Orchestra, footage of Lang on the set, stunning production design sketches, essays, photo galleries and much more.

10. Monterey Pop Criterion's lavishly produced 3-disc set transports you right back to 1967 via stunning digital transfers of D.A. Pennebaker's original film, complete sets by Jimi Hendrix and Otis Redding, and a final disc of two hours of outtake performances. The extras are just as spectacular on this landmark package.

11. Spaghetti Western Collection Four of the more interesting Italian oat-operas all assembled in one incredible box set: the groundbreaking Django (looking much improved over Anchor Bay's previous release), A Man Called Blade, the brutally funny Run, Man, Run!, and the thoroughly surreal Django Kill (If You Live... Shoot!). All of the movies are presented in sharp, colorful widescreen anamorphic transfers with a choice of English or Italian soundtracks, and abundant extras including interviews, documentaries, still galleries and fantastic featurettes on each film.

12. Memento If you can figure it out, the year's most confusing menu is your entry to a splendid looking version of Christopher Nolan's acclaimed neo-noir and an amazing array of extras. Included is the entire shooting script, Nolan's incisive commentary, and the ability to play the entire film in reverse (which is to say, in the order in which events actually occur).

13. Down By Law Jim Jarmusch's droll minimalism has never been so appealing as on this beautifully produced two-disc set. Robbie Muller's rich, silvery, black-and-white imagery fairly leaps off the screen, and Criterion pulls out all the stops with hours of fascinating supplemental material. There are great outtakes, Jarmusch sounding off on everything under the sun, and even a collection of recorded phone calls between the director and stars Tom Waits, John Lurie and Roberto Benigni.

14. Near Dark Kathryn Bigelow's loopy vampire flick gets the respect it deserves on Anchor Bay's spiffy THX-approved edition. Tangerine Dream's score sounds amazing remixed for 5.1 Dolby digital sound, and the excellent making-of documentary more than compensates for Bigelow's somewhat flat commentary.

15. The Adventures of Prince Achmed More than 75 years later, Lotte Reiniger's silhouette animations are as dazzling and distinctive as ever. This Milestone/Image disc presents Reiniger's enchanting take on The Arabian Nights, along with a rare 1921 short and an hour-long homage to this filmmaking legend. Sheer magic.

16. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest Milos Forman's best Hollywood movie, Jack Nicholson's breakout role, and one of the best big-screen adaptations ever of an "unadaptable" book. Warner Brothers' elegant Special Edition of this American classic includes a sleek, pristine picture, Forman's remarkable commentary, a good making-0f, and eight deleted scenes.

17. The Devil's Backbone/Blade 2 Two very different but, each in its own way, very good films by director Guillermo Del Toro, both done right by DVD. With a full disc of deleted scenes, interactive documentaries and production notebooks, New Line's Platinum Series DVD of Blade 2 is by far the more extravagant edition, but both titles feature Del Toro's extraordinary commentary tracks — wry, witty and always engaging.

18. Giants and Toys One of the greatest things about DVD is its ability to shed light on films and filmmakers previously unknown to us — and Fantoma's DVD editions of films by Yasuzo Masumura has been nothing short of a revelation. The best of the lot is probably Giants and Toys, a subversive, borderline surreal satire of Japanese consumer culture, in which a candy company spokesmodel with very bad teeth finds love in a kitschy modern world.

19. The Blood Collection Kudos to Image Entertainment for unearthing these wonderfully bizarre, low-budget horror films from the Philippines. The movies in The Blood Collection — Brides of Blood, Mad Doctor of Blood Island and The Blood Drinkers — are sleazy, scary, unhinged, atmospheric, oddly poetic and always addictively entertaining.

20. Metropolis Osamu Tezuka's elaborate anime is an epic of unparalleled visual imagination, and the Columbia TriStar DVD does it full justice. You can watch the film in its original Japanese language version or as an English dub (great for just soaking in the images without the distraction of subtitles). Then there's that cool little mini-disc full of extras, including an animation demo with a choice of no less than nine angles. By the way, don't mistake Tezuka's film with Fritz Lang's landmark sci-fi of the same name; that one's coming out next month, and already looks like a contender for the Best of 2003.

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