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Forbes.com Top DVD Releases of 2005 - Serenity is #9

Friday 16 December 2005, by Webmaster

One fan’s picks for best 2005 DVD releases:

New movies:

1. "Sideways" - Paul Giamatti’s road trip of wine, women and whining goes down even better with deleted scenes and his commentary with co-star Thomas Haden Church.

2. "The Incredibles" - The family that super-heroes together gets incredible DVD backup, led by animation master Pixar’s delightful short cartoon "Boundin’."

3. "A Very Long Engagement" - Audrey Tautou takes her "Amelie" act to World War I, the love story fleshed out with a polished batch of deleted scenes.

4. "House of Flying Daggers" - A ballet of martial arts from Zhang Yimou, with a grand documentary on costumes, choreography and the eye-popping color schemes.

5. "The Motorcycle Diaries" - Young Che Guevara hits the road, his real-life traveling companion Alberto Granado offering touching recollections on the DVD.

6. "Million Dollar Baby" - The Academy Awards champ comes with a chatty session by Clint Eastwood, Hilary Swank and Morgan Freeman a day after their Oscar triumph.

7. "Star Wars: Episode III - Revenge of the Sith" - George Lucas finishes his space saga with another DVD stuffed to the skies with deleted scenes and making-of goodies.

8. "The 40-Year-Old Virgin" - "Now lasts 17 minutes longer," reads the clever tagline for the unrated DVD cut of first-timer Steve Carell’s sexual pursuits.

9. "Serenity" - "Give us more," pleaded fans of Joss Whedon’s failed sci-fi series "Firefly." He complied with a big-screen continuation, and now a nice batch of deleted scenes.

10. "The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou" - The two-disc set is the one to own, with excellent extras that help decode Wes Anderson and Bill Murray’s weird ocean voyage.

Reissued films:

1. "Ran" - Akira Kurosawa brushes up his Shakespeare one last time with a "King Lear" set in feudal Japan, his late masterpiece getting royal DVD treatment after shoddy previous releases.

2. "The Big Red One: The Reconstruction" - Samuel Fuller’s autobiographical dramatization of his World War II infantry days is magnificently expanded with 40 extra minutes.

3. "An Angel at My Table" - Jane Campion’s finest film is one of cinema’s great literary portraits, tracing the horrific hardships and eventual triumphs of author Janet Frame.

4. "Ninotchka" - The wacky side of Greta Garbo shines in Ernst Lubitsch’s comedy about a Russian ice queen’s romance with a Westerner.

5. "Jules and Jim" - Jeanne Moreau is the minx at the center of one of cinema’s great love triangles. Francois Truffaut’s classic gets a marvelous DVD update.

6. "King Kong" - Beauty killed the beast. And Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack’s tragic love story of star-crossed primates remains one of the movie world’s great wonders.

7. "The Sting" - Finally, we get to see Paul Newman and Robert Redford pick Robert Shaw clean in a widescreen DVD version of George Roy Hill’s con caper.

8. "Shoot the Piano Player" - Charles Aznavour is a master of droll world-weariness in Francois Truffaut’s gangster classic, which gets a terrific DVD overhaul.

9. "Bambi" - The circle-of-life tale that was sire to "The Lion King." When Disney condemns its best customers ("Man is in the forest"), you know a cartoon is truly special.

10. "Harry and Tonto" - A man and his cat. Art Carney deservedly won an Academy Award for this gem about an old man’s friendship with a little furball.

Boxed sets:

1. "La Dolce Vita" - The sweet life is even sweeter with a beautiful set that pays fitting tribute to Federico Fellini’s masterpiece of cultural commentary.

2. "The Harold Lloyd Comedy Collection" - Next to Charles Chaplin and Buster Keaton, he’s the forgotten comic of the silent era. This great set will jog memories.

3. "Ealing Studios Comedy Collection" - Five classic laugh fests from the esteemed British outfit, including the truly inspired "Whiskey Galore!" and "Passport to Pimlico."

4. "Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection" - Not all 14 films are masterpieces, and there are scant new DVD extras. But it’s "Psycho," "Vertigo," "Rear Window." Enough said.

5. "The Man Who Fell to Earth" - Nice touch, packaging Walter Tevis’ novel along with this comprehensive update of Nicolas Roeg and David Bowie’s artsy sci-fi tale.

6. "Treasures From American Film Archives" - This reissue is a piece of film history in a box, presenting 50 choice selections from early U.S. cinema.

7. "The Martin Scorsese Film Collection" - Dramatic masterpiece ("Raging Bull"), rock doc ("The Last Waltz"), crime romp ("Boxcar Bertha"), musical ("New York, New York"). Can you say versatility?

8. "The Wizard of Oz" - There’s no place like home video. An over-the-rainbow assortment of keepsakes and documentaries accompany Dorothy and her little dog, too.

9. "The Lina Wertmuller Collection" - Five key films from the great Italian director, led by her modern classics "Swept Away" and "Seven Beauties."

10. "The Big Lebowski: Achiever’s Edition" - The comedy about life, love and bowling makes the list if only for the enclosed drink coaster bearing Jeff Bridges’ line, "Careful, man, there’s a beverage here!"

TV on DVD:

1. "Deadwood: The Complete First Season" - At last, a Western for our times. How the West was really won, through greed, opportunism and other time-tested American values.

2. "The Office: Season One" - Steve Carell is poster boy for every nincompoop boss whose picture hangs on a dart board in some lowly worker bee’s apartment.

3. "Scrubs" - In quick succession, years one and two of the medical sit-com. Don’t watch if you just had surgery. You might bust a stitch laughing.

4. "Sex and the City: The Complete Series" - A mammoth set packs all six seasons of love, lust and heartache for Carrie and her gal pals.

5. "Undeclared: The Complete Series" - After failing with his terrific teen tale "Freaks and Geeks," Judd Apatow went to college with this short-lived show, another glorious failure.

6. "SCTV" - Two more volumes of the comedy series arrive to remind us why John Candy, Catherine O’Hara, Eugene Levy and company were the funniest ensemble ever on late-night TV.

7. "Cheers" - Seasons four through seven came to DVD this past year. But years four and five are the gems, the last gasp of the Sam-and-Diane romance before Shelley Long insanely departed.

8. "Northern Exposure: The Complete Third Season" - The tale of a Manhattan doctor in indentured servitude in Alaska hit its whimsical stride in year three, its first full season.

9. "Moonlighting: Seasons One and Two" - Bruce Willis and Cybill Shepherd gave screwball romance a modern tweak with this detective story about an ex-cover girl and a wisecracker.

10. "Kolchak: The Night Stalker" - Darren McGavin’s short-lived series about a reporter chasing boogeymen was an inspiration for "The X-Files."

Overlooked films:

1. "Dear Frankie" - A little wonder of understated sentiment about a Scottish mom (Emily Mortimer) who concocts an elaborate ruse to protect her deaf son from the ugly truth about his dad.

2. "Look at Me" - Forget hugs. Everyone just wants to be noticed a little, according to Agnes Jauoi’s witty, perceptive tale of an overweight daughter seeking her dad’s affection.

3. "Grizzly Man" - Werner Herzog offers an unforgettable portrait of bear activist Timothy Treadwell, killed by one of the grizzlies he made it his mission to protect.

4. "Brothers" - Domestic obligations and crushing guilt lead to a strange role reversal for an upright family man and his black-sheep sibling in this searing Danish drama.

5. "Murderball" - A great documentary about some of the sporting world’s toughest competitors: Quadriplegics battling in wheelchair rugby championships.

6. "This Machine Kills Fascists" - Socially conscious folk-rocker Billy Bragg is host for a comprehensive chronicle of one of his musical forebears, Woody Guthrie.

7. "Bright Young Things" - Actor Stephen Fry directs a lively adaptation of Evelyn Waugh’s "Vile Bodies," about the last gasp of British hedonism before World War II.

8. "Lightning in a Bottle" - Antoine Fuqua directs and Martin Scorsese executive produces a blistering concert documentary that pays deepest respects to the blues.

9. "The Woodsman" - Kevin Bacon delivers a career performance as a child molester coping with temptation and suspicion as he tries to go straight.

10. "Criminal" - Even as a sleaze of a con man in this twisting comic shell game, John C. Reilly somehow manages to make himself lovable - at least a little.