Disc Deals and Steals: The Best Blu-rays of 2010

Here at Inside Pulse Movies, we compile all the best deals on new DVD and Blu-ray releases, as well as report on some that are so good they’re criminal. Brick-and-mortar stores include Target, Best Buy, etc. Amazon deals are also in the mix.

I reached a new milestone just the other day. I became part of the 600 club. As in, I own 600 different movies and TV shows on Blu-ray. Is it a lot of titles? Of course. Would I have it any other way? No way. I’ve been a collector all of my life. Beginning with baseball cards and comic books, most of my disposable income went to hobbies that involved collecting something. But with my fascination with cinema being greater than baseball or superheroes, I have no problems with allowing my DVD and Blu-ray collections to continue to grow. Especially if I can find a movie or TV show at an incredibly low price.

2010 was a strong year for those who still believe in the idea of wanting to hold on to shiny discs rather than strive for convenience and watch movies thanks to Netflix streaming. I don’t have any qualms with Netflix streaming, but I want to someday have a home theater with plenty of space for a video library so I can show off my movie collection as an avid reader would show off his library of hardback novels. There’s just something about having the satisfaction of holding a package in your hands, inspecting the lenticular covers (Inception) or cardboard packaging (Fight Club‘s original two-disc Special Edition DVD release), and then have the title sit on a shelf, organized alphabetically or grouped by genre.

For a format that’s been around for several years now, this year we got some major catalog titles, including a stretch in October that gave us some major titles released in successive weeks with Apocalypse Now followed a week later by Back to the Future and Alien. In addition to catalog titles, we also had new theatrical releases packed to the gills with special features that were pretty hard to ignore.

The year also saw smaller labels get into the Blu-ray game. Criterion, being the biggest small label, expanded its Blu-ray output with Terrence Malick’s The Thin Red Line, Kurosawa’s The Seven Samurai and many more great titles.

But enough with the small talk. So you want to know some of my favorite releases of the year? Check them out now!

10. Saving Private Ryan – Quite possibly the most visceral film about the Second World War, this Sapphire Series release of Steven Spielberg’s Oscar winner has superb audio and video elements to go along with a great film. The opening sequence (the Normandy invasion) is demo worthy. Add a second disc full of supplemental material (sadly most is presented in standard definition) and you have one can’t-miss package.

9. Inception – Saw this back in July and I was instantly hooked. Christopher Nolan’s follow-up to the mega-successful Batman sequel, The Dark Knight, was conceived as a small feature that became a $200 million juggernaut. People who complain that it lacks emotional resonance, I disagree. Love is central to the story, but it’s easy to overlook this aspect in favor of how the film astounds you on a technical level. A clever mind-trip involving dreams, the film was made for the Blu-ray format. So even if it doesn’t have the supplemental material that some of the other films on this list do, it warrants multiple replays just so you can draw your conclusions as you make your way through the film’s labyrinthine plot.

8. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World – Growing up in the ’80s I was weened on Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and Nintendo. So when the movie opened with the Universal Studios logo in 8-bit, childhood memories came flashing back. Lost in the summer shuffle of new releases, Edgar Wright’s ode to videogames deserved better. His adaptation of the comic series is a blast. The cast, the jokes, and the action had me wishing I had a controller so I could participate. Maybe enter the Contra Code for some extra power-ups. Wright does his fans a solid by delivering a feature-laden disc with commentaries, bloopers and many more extras that were exclusive to the Blu-ray release. Lots of extras + strong audio + okay picture = insert coins here.

7. The Twilight Zone: Seasons 1 & 2 – I’d like to thank my purchase of the entire definitive edition on DVD for speeding up the release window of The Twilight Zone on Blu-ray. Literally days after getting a great deal on the entire series through Target.com, I read that the first two seasons would be headed to Blu-ray in 2010. Oh well. Perhaps this information was lost in “a fifth dimension beyond that which is known to man.” This seminal anthology series by Rod Serling is a TV show must on Blu-ray. Be patient and you might be able to get each season for less than $50 each. And if that’s too much, well, just be aware of the gremlin on the airplane wing. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

6. The Bridge on the River Kwai – My introduction to this half of David Lean’s big “two” (the other is Lawrence of Arabia) came from an unexpected film – John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club. The kids in detention whistle “Colonel Bogey.” Years later I would make that connection when I saw the film. Music is like that. Watch any old Looney Tunes cartoon and you’re bound to come across a classic piece of music (see Rossini’s “William Tell Overture”). While we still await the arrival of Lean’s Arabia, Kwai is a strong catalog release at a very affordable price. With a new digital 4k restoration, this epic looks and sounds the best it ever has. And in a Collector’s Edition package with lobby cards and a small book, you would easily expect to pay two or three times as much. But Sony Pictures gave it a low MSRP making it more affordable to Blu-ray aficionados. You can whistle “Colonel Bogey” to your hearts content in 5.1 surround sound and only pay around $19.99 on Amazon.

5. Toy Story 3 – The answer is no. The question is, has Pixar ever produced a Blu-ray that isn’t worth owning? It seems that Pixar can do no wrong. The studio has yet to release a dud in theaters and Blu-rays for individual releases feature some of the best visuals and audio you’re likely to find on the format. Take the quality of the audio/video, special features designed for both kids and parents and a great film and you have a winning package. This year Pixar released one of its most poignant films to date in Toy Story 3, that will make even the most staunchest of critics well up a little.

4. Apocalypse Now – Some may like the smell of napalm of the morning, but I prefer seeing it in the comfort of my own living room. Played to Vagner’s “Ride of the Valkyries” the scene looks fantastic on Blu-ray. While the set itself is a little pricey (though I found it for less than $30 at Barnes & Noble’s website) the set is more than worth it. If you get the “Three Discs Full Disclosure Edition” you get three discs containing both the original, theatrical edition and Coppola’s Redux cut, plus one of the best making-of documentaries in Hearts of Darkness. The HD transfers were personally supervised by Coppola, so of course they look exquisite.

3. Back to the Future – Eric Stolz in Blu-ray! This is heavy. Still, it may not be enough of a selling point for some people. Okay, how about just owning a fun trilogy in HD? Back to the Future has never looked better and this is coming from someone who watched it many times over as a kid. Besides the few snippets we get to see of Eric Stoltz as Marty McFly, the trilogy includes many new extras including a new six-part retrospective doc. Who says you can’t go back in time?

2. Alien Anthology – Surprisingly not my number one choice of the year, this box set shows 20th Century Fox’s A-game as far bells and whistles go. Instead of just porting over all the extras found on the original DVD Quadrilogy set, the studio offers hours of new information in a feature known as Enhancement Pods that play through a Data Stream, a streaming information track for all the movies. Viewers have the option of watching all four movies in both their theatrical and special edition versions. The HD remastering of all films is flat-out awesome, and you will definitely notice a difference should you decide to do a comparison between the original DVDs and this new Blu-ray set. (See some image comparisons for Aliens here.)

1. The Night of the Hunter – I could have put any number of classic titles as my top pick of the year, but there was one release I felt benefited the most by getting the proper treatment. The Criterion Collection’s release of Charles Laughton’s singular film is definitely worth the double dip. The original DVD came out in 2000. Ten years later it gets the Criterion touch. Instead of just improving the audio and video and throwing in the theatrical trailer and calling it a day, the little independent went all out and made it a two-disc set with an audio commentary, interviews with the film’s cinematographer as well as Laughton’s biographer, plus includes a two-and-a-half-hour film that acts as both a behind-the-scenes doc and a short career retrospective for actor/director Charles Laughton. The film is a Southern Gothic masterwork and its look and style would influence such directors as David Lynch, Martin Scorsese, Terrence Malick, and the Coen brothers. Not to be missed. If and when Barnes & Noble has its bi-annual 50% off Criterion sale again, definitely seek it out.

So there you go, some of my favorites of the year! Some close runners up were Universal’s Psycho, Kino’s Metropolis, Disney’s Beauty and the Beast, Kick-Ass and the two Sevens – Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai and Fincher’s Seven. If you think I missed anything, let your comments be known below.

Retailer Specials

Black Hawk Down – (BD, $7.99)
Leon: The Professional – (BD, $7.99)
Kung Fu Hustle – (BD, $7.99)
Nick & Norah’s Infinite Playlist – (BD, $7.99)
Moon – (BD, $8.99)
The Pink Panther (Sellers) – (BD, $8.99)
Reign of Fire – (BD, $9.99)
Mad Max – (BD+DVD, $12.49)
The Expendables – (BD+DVD, $12.99)
The A-Team – (BD, $12.99)
Breaking Bad: Season 1 – (BD, $13.99)
Roger Corman Cult Classics: Starcrash – (BD, $14.99)
Chuck: Season 1 – (BD, $21.99)
Chuck: Season 3 – (BD, $22.99)
Chuck: Season 2 – (BD, $27.99)

BB Exclusive: Resident Evil Blu-ray set with all four films – $69.99

New Releases
The American – (DVD, $14.99 – BD, $22.99)
Resident Evil: Afterlife – (DVD, $16.99 – BD, $21.99 – BD 3D, $34.99)
Twelve – (DVD, $17.99)
Jersey Shore: Seasons 1 & 2 – (DVD, $21.99)
Archer: Season 1 – (DVD, $22.99)

The A-Team – $12.99
The Other Guys (single disc) – $12.99
The Expendables (BD+DVD) – $12.99
Inception (BD+DVD) – $19.99
The Town (BD+DVD) – $19.99
The Last Airbender (BD+DVD) – $19.99
The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole (BD+DVD) – $19.99
Sex and the City 2 (BD+DVD) – $19.99
Iron Man 2 (single disc) – $19.99
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice (BD+DVD) – $24.99
Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 (BD+DVD) – $27.99
Alice in Wonderland (BD 3D+BD+DVD+DC) – $27.99
A Christmas Carol (BD 3D+BD+DVD+DC) – $27.99
Alien Anthology – $74.99

Inception – $9.99
Toy Story 3 – $9.99
The Expendables – $9.99
The Town – $12.99
The Last Airbender – $13.99
The Legend of the Guardians: The Owls of Ga’Hoole – $14.99
Sex and the City 2 – $14.99
Alice in Wonderland – $15.99
A Christmas Carol – $15.99
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – $15.99
Fantasia/Fantasia 2000 – $24.99

TV on DVD and Blu-ray
Supernatural: Season 5 – $14.99
The Office: Season 6 – $14.99
Weeds: Season 5 – $16.99
Family Guy: Volume 8 – $19.99
The Simpsons: Season 13 – $19.99
Burn Notice: Season 3 – $19.99
Mad Men: Season 3 – $19.99
Terminator: The Sarah Conner Chronicles – Season 2 – $19.99
Fringe: Season 1 – $19.99
Heroes: Season 4 – $19.99
Chuck: Season 3 – (DVD, $14.99 – BD, $22.99)
House: Season 6 – (DVD, $19.99 – BD, $29.99)
Spartacus: Season 1 – (DVD, $26.99 – BD, $32.99)
True Blood: Season 2 – (DVD, $24.99 – BD, $24.99)

New Releases
Jersey Shore: Season 2 – $16.99
Resident Evil: Afterlife – (BD, $19.99 – DVD, $16.99 – BD 3D, $29.99)

The A-Team – $14.99
Knight and Day – $14.99
Beauty and the Beast – $14.99
The Karate Kid (2010) – $14.99
The Sorcerer’s Apprentice – $14.99
Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time – $14.99

The Bounty Hunter – $5.99
The Blind Side – $5.99
Death at a Funeral (2010) – $5.99
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs – $5.99
Knight and Day – $9.99
The A-Team – $9.99

Weeds: Seasons 3-5 – $9.99 ea.
Entourage: Seasons 1-6 – $9.99 ea.
Sex and the City: Seasons 1-6 – $9.99 ea.
Parenthood: Season 1 – $9.99
Eastbound and Down: Season 1 – $9.99
It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: Season 5 – $9.99
House: Seasons 5-6 – $14.99 ea.
Psych: Seasons 3-4 – $14.99 ea.
Castle: Seasons 1-2 – $14.99 ea.
The Office: Season 2-6 – $14.99 ea.
The Tudors: Seasons 3-4 – $14.99 ea.
Mad Men: Seasons 1-3 – $14.99 ea.
How I Met Your Mother: Seasons 3-5 – $14.99 ea.
Family Guy: Vol. 8 – $14.99
Glee: Season 1 – $14.99
Dexter: Season 4 – $14.99
True Blood: Season 2 – $14.99
Jersey Shore: Season 2 – $16.99
Lost: Season 6 – $19.99
Grey’s Anatomy: Season 6 – $19.99
Modern Family: Season 1 – $19.99
True Blood: Season 1 – $19.99

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