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And so, at last, we arrive at my final Best of 2013 list!  I hope you all enjoyed the rest of my lists.  Click here for part one of The Top 15 Movies of 2013, and here for part two and here for part three.  Click here for part one of The Top 10 Episodes of TV of 2013, and here for part two.  Click here for part one of The Top 15 Comic Book Series of 2013, and here for part two.

And now, without any further delay, let’s dive into my list of the Top Ten DVDs/Blu-Rays of 2013:

10. The Perks of Being a Wallflower Had I seen this film in 2012 when it was released, it surely would have made it onto my Best Movies of 2012 list.  Since I missed including this touching, heartbreaking film on that list last year, I sort of had to find a way to cheat and include it on one of my Best of 2013 lists!  This film has stuck with me deeply since I saw it.  It’s surely one of the greatest coming-of-age stories I have ever seen, masterfully adapted for the screen by Steven Chbosky, based on his own novel of the same name (which I now desperately need to read).  Each one of the kids in the film is portrayed by a phenomenal actor/actress: Logan Lerman, Ezra Miller, Emma Watson, Mae Whitman, and a score of others, not to mention some great adults in supporting roles such as Paul Rudd, Joan Cusack, Dylan McDermott, and Kate Walsh.  No child should have to go through what Charlie has to go through in this story, but should god forbid that happen, I hope he/she is blessed with friends as wonderful as Sam, Patrick, and their gang.  And while I referred to “cheating” a moment ago by including this film on this DVD list, the blu-ray is in fact phenomenal, with some great behind-the-scenes stuff and two magnificent commentaries, one by Mr. Chbosky alone and one by Chbosky and all the kids.  (Click here for my original review.)

9. The Dark Knight Returns Part 2 & The Flashpoint Paradox These two direct-to-DVD animated DCU projects were both very strong.  At the start of the year we got the second half of the animated adaptation of Frank Miller’s Batman masterpiece, The Dark Knight Returns.  Published in 1986, this dark, psychological tale is the seminal “Last Batman Story,” in which an aged Bruce Wayne once again dons the cape and cowl in an attempt to reclaim a Gotham City without hope.  Mr. Miller’s work has been heavily mined for inspiration by … [continued]

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From the DVD Shelf: Josh Reviews Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story

April 28th, 2010
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The new documentary Believe: The Eddie Izzard Story tells two interwoven stories: one is an overview of British comedian Eddie Izzard’s life-story, while the other is a more detailed look at the process by which, in 2003, he crafted an entirely new stand-up routine (that would eventually become his world-wide Sexie tour) from scratch.

While fun and interesting, Believe is more the sort of thing that one might expect to see as a special feature on one of Mr. Izzard’s DVDs, as opposed to a documentary feature that stands on its own.  This isn’t really a warts-and-all sort of presentation — Mr. Izzard is presented in an almost uniformly positive light.  Although perhaps that was not the intention of the filmmakers, in the end the film functions more as a promotional piece for Mr. Izzard than it does as a true documentary.

Which is not to say that it’s not a worthwhile promotional piece!  I enjoyed the look at Mr. Izzard’s life — particularly his grueling efforts at creating a name for himself as a performer and, eventually, a stand-up comedian.  It’s an astonishing tale, frankly, of Mr. Izzard’s stubborn persistence in the face of overwhelming odds, and through an impressive array of recovered footage (of Mr. Izzard’s years performing on the street, as well as a number of his early days working the stand-up circuit) it is fascinating to see him slowly develop his comedic style and rock-star glam persona.  (It’s a hoot to watch his early break-out performance of the “wolves” sketch in plain men’s slacks and a garish baggy shift.)  These are the best aspects of the film.  When Mr. Izzard returns to his childhood home and gets teary-eyed reminiscing about his mother, I must confess that I checked out.

In the other half of the film, we see Mr. Izzard travel from gig to gig in small venues across England as he struggles to develop all-new material for his 2003 show (having committed to use NONE of his old jokes) before the launch of his scheduled world tour.  This part of the film is also wonderfully filled with actual footage (rather than talking-head reminisces).  Apparently Mr. Izzard had all of his workshop gigs recorded, and it’s neat to watch him struggle and stammer his way through those early gigs, slowly beating his material into a polished shape.

A similar story was told in the terrific documentary, Comedian, which chronicled Jerry Seinfeld’s efforts to create an entirely new act in the year after the end of his show (and his subsequent commitment to retire all of his old material).  Comedian is a much more polished film, and I think did a better job of showing how … [continued]

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Let the Best of 2009 lists continue!  I hope you all enjoyed my list of the Top 10 TV Episodes of 2009.

Now let’s dive into my list of the Top 10 DVDs (or Blu-Rays) released in 2009!

First, I’d like to give Honorable Mentions to the complete series sets of three amazing TV shows that I had just about given up all hope of ever seeing on DVD: It’s Garry Shandling’s Show, Andy Richter Controls the Universe, and Andy Barker, P.I. So why aren’t these shows on my list?  Because I can’t put anything on this list that I haven’t actually watched, and I’ve been way, way too busy to get through any of these sets.  Of the three, the only one I own is Andy Richter Controls the Universe.  (That one came out first, and I’m not going to purchase the other two sets until I actually have time to watch them.)  But I take great delight in knowing that these three DVD sets exist here on planet Earth, and I know that I’ll get to them all in good time.

10. Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut (Blu-ray) — I’ve seen Watchmen quite a few times since it was released early in 2009, and while the film certainly has some weaknesses, I remain overwhelmed by the enormity of its successes.  It’s hard to believe that Zach Snyder brought this seminal graphic novel by Alan Moore & Dave Gibbons, which long had been considered unadaptable, to life.  It thrills me to see such a faithful take on the material and that the filmmakers had the confidence to craft a super-hero film that was aimed squarely at adults.  The Ultimate Cut of the film is Zach Snyder’s longest version, stitching together his Director’s Cut with the animated Tales of the Black Freighter sequences.  It’s pretty astounding.  This Blu-Ray set would be much higher on this list were it not for the paltry special features.  Not only are the special features lame (this is a movie that cries out for a full-fledged making-of documentary), but this set just reproduces the special features that were already released on the Director’s Cut set.  (I guess I’ve been spoiled by the amazing extended editions of the Lord of the Rings films, which came not just with phenomenal extended versions of the films but with extraordinarily elaborate making-of documentaries that didn’t duplicate the special features on the theatrical version DVDs.)  (Read my review of the theatrical version of Watchmen here, and of the Director’s Cut here.)

9. Contact (Blu-Ray) — A beautiful film that manages to combine a serious, cerebral sci-fi tale with an effecting story of the personal journey … [continued]