By Ryan Michael Painter
(KUTV) From James Bond to Harry Potter it was a very good year to pick up a collector's set, particularly if you've got a Blu-ray player. Here are my favorite box sets from 2012.
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Blu-ray)
This collection culls together 15 of Hitchcock’s most popular films from his Hollywood era including “Rear Window,” “Vertigo,” “North By Northwest,” “Psycho,” “The Birds” and “The Rope.” The films are classics, the majority of the new transfers are pleasing (we’ll try to look past the atrocious “Family Plot”), the audio is solid and the selection of bonus features will keep you busy for weeks.
The Ancient Egypt Collection (DVD)
HISTORY’s all encompassing collection of documentaries on the Ancient Egyptian civilization. The collection includes episodes from “Planet Egypt,” “Modern Marvels,” “In Search of History,” “Engineering an Empire,” “Lost Worlds” and “Egypt: Beyond the Pyramids.” There is some overlap here and there, but because the material is being approached from so many different angles it never feels redundant. If you really want to confuse history with speculation you could also pick up the “Ancient Aliens” box set that includes 4 seasons worth of episodes and ample theories about how the Egyptians might have actually been aliens.
The Ancient Rome Collection (DVD)
Like “The Ancient Egypt Collection,” this set pulls a variety of episodes from HISTORY’s vast catalogue of series including “In Search of History,” “Cities of the Underworld,” “Engineering an Empire,” “Ancient Mysteries,” “Decisive Battles” and “Rome: Rise and Fall of an Empire.” Whereas ancient Egypt is known for its architecture and religion, Rome, which has its share of beautiful buildings, was at the heart of many wars. Consequently this collection divides its time mostly between buildings and battles.
Blade Runner: 30th Anniversary (Blu-ray)
Yes, this “30th Anniversary” set is essentially a repackage of the 5-disc collection that was released five years ago with the addition of a 72-page book, a toy Concept Spinner and a 3D lenticular image, but that doesn’t diminish the fact that it’s still one of finest collections in terms of content and audio/video quality. Those who don’t own the previous Blu-ray release will want to pick this, or its 3-disc Digibook version that lacks the toy, lenticular image and includes only 36 pages of the book, up. Both sets include five versions of the film and a wealth of bonus features.
Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection (DVD and Blu-ray)
James Bond celebrates 50 years of films with the bestselling box set of 2012. This massive 22-film collection (9 titles appearing on Blu-ray for the first time) is the first box set to contain all the official Bond releases in one place and features a bonus disc with previously an hour of previously unreleased footage on top of the previously available bonus features. Of course complete in this case doesn’t include “Never Say Never Again,” but it does leave a space for “Skyfall.”
Casablanca: 70th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Warner Brothers originally released “Casablanca” on Blu-ray in 2008. The release was warmly received, but the studio thought they could improve upon the image quality and the results of their work can be seen in the “70th Anniversary Edition” of the film. The new transfer is a step above the previous release and has been packaged with a coffee table book, coasters and a re-print of a theatrical poster. Those who already own 2008’s “Ultimate Edition” might have a hard time justifying the upgrade, but those who don’t own the film in high definition yet shouldn’t hesitate to pick up this set.
The Dark Knight Trilogy (DVD and Blu-ray)
All Three of Christopher Nolan's critically acclaimed Batman films packaged together with a 64-page excerpt from the book "The Art and Making of The Dark Knight Trilogy."
Entourage: The Complete Series (DVD and Blu-ray)
All eight seasons of HBO’s award winning series about Vincent Chase (Adrian Grenier), a star on the rise, and his three friends who are more than happy to bask in his fame. The Blu-ray box includes the first five seasons in high definition for the very first time.
Forever Marilyn (Blu-ray)
This Marilyn Monroe collection includes “Gentlemen Prefer Blondes,” “How to Marry a Millionaire,” “River of No Return,” “There’s No Business Like Show Business,” “The Seven Year Itch,” “Some Like It Hot,” and “The Misfits.” This set might be lacking in bonus material, but the films themselves look and sound great. You’d be gravely mistaken to believe that Monroe was all looks and no talent.
Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season – Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
The award for most glamorous collection goes to HBO’s “Collector’s Edition” of the first season of “Game of Thrones.” The set includes the first season on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital Copy as well as a finely crafted Dragon Egg paperweight. It’s overkill for casual fans, but will hold the diehard fans over until the second season comes out in February.
Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection (Blu-ray)
This mammoth set includes all eight Harry Potter films on DVD, Blu-ray and Digital Copy, the bonus features from the “Ultimate Edition” box sets an exclusive disc of exclusive material, a label collection, Blueprint of Hogwarts Castle, a cloth map of Hogwarts, a Horocrux locket, all housed in a box that looks like Professor Lupin’s traveling trunk. It’s definitely not practical in any regard, but for obsessive fans it’s like owning a piece of the Holy Grail.
Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures (Blu-ray)
The fact that this set includes “Raiders of the Last Ark,” “Temple of Doom” and “Last Crusade” on Blu-ray for the first time is enough to make this set a “must own.” Thankfully they’ve also done a nice job of bringing the films to high definition (oddly enough “Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” despite being the newest film, ends up looking the worst of the lot).
Lawrence of Arabia: Fiftieth Anniversary Collector’s Editon (Blu-ray)
David Lean’s adaptation of T. E. Lawrence’s “Lawrence of Arabia” starring Peter O’Toole makes its way to Blu-ray after a full restoration and the results are simply breathtaking. The collector’s set includes an 88-page book, a 70mm film frame as well as a CD featuring the original score and two previously unreleased tracks. Those looking for a more streamlined package should consider the 2-disc version.
Magic School Bus: The Complete Series (DVD)
Scholastic Studio’s cartoon adaptation of the educational book series by Bruce Degen and Joanna Cole made its debut just as I was entering college. So I missed out on “The Magic School Bus.” I had always heard good things about it, but it wasn’t until this set was released that I was able to sit down and see what all the hype was all about. Fortunately the series lives up to its reputation as a fun way to learn about science and technology. If you’re kids are going to be planted in front of a television they might as well be educated as well as entertained.
Paradise Lost Trilogy: Collector’s Edition (DVD)
The landmark documentary films from Joe Berlinger and Bruce Sinofsky about the West Memphis Three, a trio of teens that were charged and convicted in connection with the murder of three young boys despite a complete lack of evidence, make their way to DVD in this collector’s set that includes bonus materials not included on the stand-alone editions.
Singin’ in the Rain: 60th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Warner Bros. did a wonderful job of bringing 1952’s musical masterpiece “Singin’ in the Rain” to Blu-ray. The Technicoclor presentation really comes alive in high definition. Not only is there more detail to be seen, but there is also a hefty boost in color. The box set version comes with a 48-page book, an umbrella and a collection of theatrical posters. There’s also plenty of bonus features ranging from a PBS program on producer Arthur Freed and “What a Glorious Feeling,” a newly produced documentary on the making of “Singin’ in the Rain.”
Tarantino XX (Blu-ray)
Considering the success of his latest film, “Django Unchained,” I imagine there are quite a few people out there who would be interested in picking up this 8-film collection that culls together the director/writer’s most famous films and throws in two bonus discs of all-new bonus material.
Tim Burton Collection (Blu-ray)
This set features seven of Tim Burton’s films made for Warner Bros. and a hardcover book. The included films are: “Pee Wee’s Big Adventure,” “Beetlejuice,” “Batman,” “Batman Returns,” “Mars Attacks!,” “Corpse Bride” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory.”
Universal Studios: 100th Anniversary Collection (DVD and Blu-ray)
To celebrate their 100th anniversary Universal Pictures released a plethora of classic titles in 2012. This set contains 25 of the studios biggest releases including a bit of everything including “Jurassic Park,” “To Kill a Mockingbird,” “Scarface,” “Despicable Me,” “The Bourne Identity” and “All Quiet on the Western Front.” It’s an eclectic mix of films, but they’re all classics in their own genres so it’s hard to fault the variety.
Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection (Blu-ray)
As a fan of classic horror films I was more than happy to add this set to my collection. It features 8 of Universal’s most celebrated horror films including “Dracula,” “Frankenstein,” “The Bride of Frankenstein,” “The Wolf Man,” “The Mummy,” “The Phantom of the Opera,” “The Invisible Man” and “The Creature from the Black Lagoon.” The packaging is excellent, the bonus features are extensive and the films look marvelous.
(Copyright 2012 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)