Hello there! This time of year is a good chance to look back over 2016 and see what releases stand out from the crowd. I present to you my Top 10 Blu-ray releases of 2016. The only stipulations I put on my personal list is that the release had to be from the 2016 calendar year, and that I had to own a physical copy of the release. This basically limits my list to Region A releases, so hopefully you don’t mind that!
There are a ton of great films that were released this year. Obviously no top list can be comprehensive. I tried to have a sort of balance when picking my films for the list. There are so many great box sets and limited edition packaging in 2016. So for this list I tried to pick the releases that meant the most to me personally. Some have fantastic boxes and bonus items included, some have loads of special features and a couple are strictly remasters of the film without much else. So without further ado, and in no specific order, here are Garrett’s Top 10 Blu-ray releases of 2016!
The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension – Shout Select
Buckaroo Banzai is a weird little film that I saw a long time ago as a little kid. I picked it up because of the interesting name and the cover art at the video store. It has stuck with me in the back of my head, but I never got around to purchasing a physical copy before. When I heard that Shout Factory was releasing a new line called Shout Select and this special Collector’s Edition was to be released I ordered it up!
Why you should care: The transfer looks practically identical to Arrow’s Region B release (which is a good thing). You get a great 2 hour long documentary called Into the 8th Dimension, 2 audio commentaries, plus a DVD with an archival featurette, trailers, and some deleted scenes. If your collection contains fun cult films or oddball sci-fi stories you need to own it!
Chimes at Midnight – Criterion Collection
Orson Welles is one of my favorite directors and it is a shame that so many studios treated him poorly. Chimes at Midnight is one of Welles attempts to bring Shakespeare to a cinematic audience. In this film he takes a comical supporting character, Falstaff, and melds multiple stories together to tell an epic and philosophical character study.
Why you should care: It’s Criterion so you know what you are getting into visually with their new 4k restoration. There is a fantastic audio commentary by Welles author and film scholar James Naremore. Interviews with actors, Welles daughter (who was in the film at age 7), and film historian Joseph McBride. Plus an excerpt of a 1965 episode of The Merv Griffin Show interviewing Welles during the process of editing the film. In a technical, historical and acting standpoint it rarely gets better than Welles and this is a must own for fans of those things.
Chopping Mall – Vestron Video
Here is another memory for me of the days of VHS stores and renting things I knew nothing about and was not old enough to see. Of course it’s a silly film and ranks no where near the top of any list running around in my head. However I would have never guessed that a film like this would be remastered and put on a special edition Blu-ray in 2016. The fact that it is available for me to watch again as it was intended to be seen in the theater is amazing to me and I’m so happy boutique distributors such as Vestron exist for that very purpose.
Why you should care: Films in general deserve to be seen and enjoyed. Not everything can be an art film and get physical releases that treat it like such. However this release gets a very good remastered transfer and LOADS of special features: three audio commentaries, isolated score, a 20 minute retrospective, editor interview, robot creator interview, a vintage featurette, and more. I wish all B-movies got the love and care in their releases as this one did.
The Hills Have Eyes – Arrow Video
Arrow knocks it out of the park again. The Hills Have Eyes is one of those late night laugh with your buddies type movies. It is as iconic as cult films get. Obviously this film was made with a low budget and was originally shot on 16mm so no one would ever make a definitive release on Blu-ray right?
Why you should care: The box is great, the art is great, the booklet is great, the poster is great, the advertising cards are great, the transfer is great, and the special features are great. Are you getting the picture here? EVERYTHING you could possibly want in this release is here: audio commentaries, retrospectives, and even outtakes . Arrow proves once again that they are the king of the hill when it comes to putting out a quality package.
John Carpenter’s The Thing – Shout Factory
The Thing is one of my favorite sci-fi horror movies of all time. Carpenter really knows how to handle mood, and pacing. This is another film that I never saw a theatrical release (I was 3 when it came out) but found it later while browsing shelves of VHS. This seems to be a repeating theme for me this year.
Why you should care: This is a new scan and fantastic remaster. The color grading is different than the previous release and in my opinion much improved. There are three audio commentaries, trailers, still galleries, hours of interviews, in depth look at the production, and a handful of featurettes. This, to me, is the definitive release of a classic film. Shout Factory has had some stumbles this year (and in the past) but when they are really on there are few better production houses.
The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection – Universal
I love the Marx Brothers. They are like a live action Looney Tunes. They are probably one of the most recognized early comedy troupes in film and for good reason as they are pretty damn funny. I owned the previous DVD box set but I just had to get the remastered versions (once they dipped down to a reasonable price). I’m very glad to have them in my collection and hope their later movies follow soon.
Why you should care: Considering when these films came out (1929-1933) they look really great. Animal Crackers appears here in it’s unedited form for the first time in the U.S. Each film has a commentary track (Monkey Business even has Harpo’s son doing the commentary!) and there is also a hour long documentary, and archival interviews. This is a must buy for fans of classic comedy or historically significant film.
Pieces – Grindhouse Releasing
I never really heard much about Pieces until I started hanging out with the Nerd Mentality crew. It is a fun ridiculous Spanish horror movie that more people need to watch. I would say more but we will be having a Just the Slips Podcast round table featuring this movie soon in 2017!
Why you should care: Grindhouse did an utterly fantastic job with the transfer of this film. The cost of purchase is worth the effort alone. However instead of simply doing a great transfer and leaving it at that we also get a great box set with booklet, soundtrack and loads of special features. These include: Audio commentary, photo gallery, interviews, and the fantastic 42nd Street Memories documentary which is possibly the best individual special feature of 2016. Nude puzzles were available to the first few thousand copies but I did not get one. Cult horror fans need this in their collection.
Private Property – Cinelicious Pics
The interesting thing about Private Property is that it was a movie that was basically lost for 50 years. You can read more about it in my review here.
Why you should care: Cinelicious Pics (the folks behind the transfer of Christopher Nolan’s the Following Criterion Blu-ray) did another fantastic job with the transfer of Private Property. Granted the special features are not hefty with only an 18 minute interview and a essay leaflet. I think it’s good to remember that even though the bells and whistles of “special features” are cool what is most important is the film itself. This is an interesting addition to my knowledge of 60’s Hollywood counter-culture cinema and I’m very happy to have it in my collection. I eagerly look forward to more releases from Cinelicious.
Rod Serling’s Patterns – The Film Detective
Hopefully you know the name Rod Serling. He is one of my favorite writers and I really appreciate his style. I also did a review of this release here if you want more information about the film itself.
Why you should care: You are probably thinking the same thing I was thinking when I first heard about this release. Bare bones release on BD-R of a public domain film? PASS! Some strongly dislike the Film Detective for that very reason. Don’t get me wrong, I would love to have a packed release from Criterion or Arrow talking about how Serling redefined the 50’s and how influential his writing style still is, but alas it’s not to be. So rather than calling out the company for not unloading buckets of money on this release I will say how appreciative I am of having this film in my possession. The transfer is probably the best one I’ve seen on the Film Detective and the movie itself is worth owning. Film is important, the secondary features are … well, secondary.
Tenebrae – Synapse Films
No, I didn’t buy the steelbook version of Tenebrae. However you have to love the Argento resurgence (still waiting on Suspira) of late and the amount of remastered horror releases on Blu-ray we are getting now. We had a really fun podcast about the film recently that is worth checking out.
Why you should care: There have been quite a few sub-par releases of this film floating around so it is very nice that we get an excellent transfer from Synapse on Blu-ray. Some of the most important parts of an Argento film are the visuals and they really pop on this release (which is the same disc as the steelbook released in Feb 2016). We get a great audio commentary from film critic Maitland McDonagh, trailers, alternate titles, and the super educational documentary Yellow Fever: The Rise and Fall of the Giallo.
With so many great 2016 releases and only 10 on my list I couldn’t help but miss some fantastic ones. So my honorable mention goes out to every Blu-ray released in 2016. That may seem ridiculous to you but hear me out. I understand that movies are a business and studios are in the game generally to make money. There aren’t too many benevolent billionaires out there in the film industry losing money each year so that they can put out quality art for people. So every time a Blu-ray sells it is one more argument to the positive for a company to continue releasing physical media.
I recognize and understand the complaints about the 15th version of Batman V Spiderman or Star Wars: the Search for More Money. However every time I read about them making dump trucks full of cash on those releases I can feel more confident that I could get another Warner Archive or Fox Searchlight or Sony Pictures Classic release. Let’s let the mainstream love of popcorn film fund the deep cuts and definitive releases that we all enjoy. If 2016 taught us anything it’s that some companies still respect the hardcore fan. I applaud those companies and I eagerly await what they have in store for us in 2017.