My Favorite Blu-ray Releases of 2021 | Opinion

JANUARY 8 Long after being declared “dead” years ago, the physical media market, especially niche media, has never been healthier in recent years.

If you’re a fan of the more mainstream stuff then yes, maybe physical media isn’t relevant when it comes to your media consumption choices, thanks to the wide availability of this type of content on stores. streaming services.

But if your tastes are more of the more specialized genre, like arthouse movies, older movies from before the 1980s and of course the myriad of genre movies (from B-level movies all the way to Z level shot on video offers) which are almost lost or forgotten over time, physical media, in particular those published by specialty store labels, remain the only way to go.

Being based in Malaysia and of course also having to take the exchange rate into consideration, I clearly couldn’t get everything my heart wanted last year, but I think I managed to acquire enough of the good stuff to compile a exciting and varied content. personal favorites list, with more than enough room for 10 more titles as honorable mentions.

Check out these versions (and labels) if you have the time and extra funds to do so!

New York Ninja (vinegar syndrome)

I think a lot of the movie fandom has now more or less recognized the fact that The vinegar Syndrome is Criterion’s collection of trashy and cheesy B movies, giving the same respect and care in their restorations (and bonuses) to these movies that Criterion does for the classics of Bergman, Fellini, Godard or Tarkovsky.

But their release from New York Ninja, an unfinished, long-never-released and long-forgotten film from 1984, simply goes beyond any previously established call of duty.

Restoring a finished and already released movie is one thing, but restoring (and rebuilding) an unfinished movie, without script / notes to guide the editing process, and without sound elements (using lip readers to understand the dialogue being said in the film). film reels found), having to redouble it all and scoring it from scratch, with results as paltry and entertaining as this one, is simply phenomenal.

The river (BFI)

Even after considering established classics like The game’s rules, Grandiose illusion, Boudou Checked in Drowning and Toni, the river is probably my favorite Jean Renoir movie, so even after owning the old Criterion DVD and upgrading to the beautiful Criterion Blu-ray release in 2015, this new 2 disc limited edition by the British Film Institute is a must see. instant thanks to the inclusion of India Matri Bhumi as one of his many supplements, a 90 minute film by Roberto Rossellini that most of us have probably only read before.

An almost legendary film for Rossellini fans like me, thanks to legends like Godard and the Cahiers du Cinéma gang who praised it from the sky in the 1950s, it has long been a difficult film to watch, and now thanks to its inclusion here we can finally see what it is about, and yes, it is magnificent.

As for River itself, if you already have the Criterion Blu-ray, I suggest you hang on to this version, because the transfer of this version is still the best looking yet. But when it comes to crucial bonus features, this one wins hands down.

Southland Tales (Video Arrow)

Just like the above River, this is another Blu-ray release that is hugely improved by its additional features, this time with the inclusion of another mythical beast, the original version by much misunderstood director Richard Kelly Southern countries Tales which was screened at the Cannes Film Festival in 2006, which underwent quite a few readjustments (as requested by the film’s distributors) before hitting theaters the same year.

The Cannes Cut is a good 15 minutes longer than the Theatrical Cut, but the difference in terms of smoothness and clarity is quite huge, which makes it a shame that this awesome original version never got the chance it deserved with the audience at the time. Well here is his chance now!

Unlucky Stars (Gold Ninja Video)

As a fan of lo-fi, DIY fight movies, it’s very rare that these very cheap (and often homemade) movies receive a properly curated physical release.

Aside from the impressive and fairly comprehensive original DVD release of Contour, most physical releases of movies like these (which include movies like Contracts, On the ropes and Death Grab) are pretty straightforward DVD releases, so having Canadian label Gold Ninja Video poured so much love into this release (although on BD-R they’re still a great little label) of Unlucky Stars, one of my all-time favorite DIY fight movies, just sent the skies over to me.

If names like Dennis Ruel, Vlad Rimburg, Eric Jacobus, and Ken Quitugua mean anything to you, you need to look up this one, now!

Day of the Beast (Severin Films)

Alex De La Iglesia has long been one of my favorite Spanish directors, probably even my number 1 favorite, and The day of the beast has long been my most beloved of his many crazy movies.

After having to live with only the English British VHS and Spanish DVD versions for so many years, the brave folks at Severin Films have finally released a definitive English Blu-ray (also available on 4K UHD) of this savage and dark comedy. hilarious and blasphemous.

This is the best I’ve seen this movie, and with a supporting documentary that’s almost as long as the movie itself, covering the production of the movie and its legacy, this is a great release that is totally worth your time. silver.

Possession (Umbrella Entertainment)

Having missed out on Mondo Vision’s rather expensive limited edition release in 2014, it’s just wonderful to be lucky enough to own this stacked but much more affordable version of this gonzo classic from director Andrzej Zulawski of Australian label Umbrella Entertainment, under their Beyond Gender Footprint.

Obviously missing the enormous 84-page booklet and multiple lobby cards and goodies of the Mondo Vision version, this Umbrella version makes up for it with almost four hours of bonus, including the American cut of the film and several interviews and audio commentary, offering fans of the film get all kinds of information, both new and old, about this much revered 1981 horror classic.

Primetime Panic (Fun City editions)

One of the great joys of the current boutique brand gold rush is the potential for new discoveries. As more and more new labels emerge, each dedicated to different nooks and crannies of cinema history, Fun City Editions, a partner label of Vinegar Syndrome, is becoming one of my new ones. favorites.

Having released some forgotten / neglected gems from the 70s and 80s like Smile (one of Michael Ritchie’s best movies), Jeremy and Walk on the edge, they took it one step further in releasing this Primetime Panic box set, a collection of 1980s TV movies that I would never have heard of before, but which turned out to be such hidden gems.

Starring actors like Jennifer Jason Leigh, Mare Winningham, Jennifer Warren and directors like Jonathan Kaplan and Joseph Sargent, the three films included here will deeply surprise you with their quality, with Dreams don’t die and Death Ride in Osaka very likely to win your heart (like they did mine) instantly.

The World of Wong Kar Wai (The Criterion Collection)

If you are a huge Wong Kar Wai fan like me, chances are you already have some of the movies included in this wonderful box set in your collection.

If you already own those old Kino DVDs and Blu-rays, I suggest you keep some of them, especially Fallen angels, although the transfers and presentation of this new version of Criterion are for the most part the best you will ever see.

Here there are “updated” versions of beloved classics like Chungking Express, Fallen angels, happy Together and Love mood that go beyond remastering, which some might even call these new “director’s cuts”.

The most drastic (and most entertaining) difference is Fallen angels, in which the aspect ratio is totally changed from the original 1.85: 1 to an overwritten 2.35: 1, which results in a large part of the image being cropped.

It’s now radically different from the original, so don’t get rid of your old DVDs just yet if you want to review this again. There are a few cut parts from Happy Together, and there’s a strong green tint in the new color timing for In The Mood For Love, but still, just to have these movies (especially the first ones like As Tears Go By and Days Of Being Wild) which looks so clean, is more than enough reason to own this set.

Duel to the Death (Eureka Classics)

In a year rich in restorations and releases of so many Hong Kong classics, Category III legends like Ebola Syndrome, Erotic ghost story and Riki Oh: Ricky’s Story to the classic films of Sammo Hung and Ringo Lam, it’s very easy to forget the fact that another HK classic from the 80s Duel to the death received a stunning Blu-ray release by the cool folks at UK label Eureka Classics.

A great box office success in 1983 but rather forgotten over time, this feature film making the debut of Ching Siu-Tung (which would make the much appreciated A Chinese ghost story) is surprisingly all kinds of awesomeness in one kinetic wu xia movie.

Featuring some of the most mind-boggling and absurd sword, kung fu, and ninja games you’ve ever seen, backed up by a gorgeous new transfer (especially in the outdoor panoramic scenes), it’s a long-forgotten martial arts gem that is ripe for rediscovery.

Two films by Pietro Marcello (Grasshopper Film)

The year Martin Eden announced to the world the arrival of Italian writer-director Pietro Marcello as a major new talent in international cinema, it is simply wonderful that the discerning folks at Grasshopper Film have given us this Blu-ray. release, an introduction to Pietro Marcello which includes two of his previous films – The mouth of the wolf and Lost and beautiful – covering the moment when his documentary instincts begin to give way to more preoccupations with making fictional films, and where the hybrid results, particularly in Lost And Beautiful, begin to bear truly delightful fruits.

Favorite 2021 Blu-ray releases. Photo by Aidil Rusli

Certainly not for everyone, but if you’re already won over by its adaptation of Martin Eden, then this collection of two films is nothing less than the required viewing material.

Honorable mentions: A Serbian film, Drive, Time and Tide, Deep Cover, Home Grown Horrors Vol. 1, Liberty, Bad Boy Bubby, Retribution, Johnny Guitar, Riki-Oh: Ricky’s Story

* This is the personal opinion of the columnist.

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