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The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016
The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016

15

Raising Cain, Shout! Factory

This special edition of Raising Cain features what might be the coolest bonus feature of the year. In 2012, Dutch Britan De Palma fanatic and former 24LiesASecond contributor Peet Gelderblom “undid” the film and returned it to its original form. In its earlier days, Criterion likened the discs from their imposing collection to film schools in a box; this is one of the increasingly rare bonus features from other labels to actually approach that benchmark. It’s not that the changes are so completely radical to make Raising Cain an entirely new film, but you do get a better sense of De Palma’s impish wit and fondness for red herrings. Viewers will draw their own conclusions as to which version is a “better” film, but having the chance to compare and contrast strengthens the case for the project itself. Eric Henderson

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016

14

Tenebrae, Synapse

Synapse’s 4K transfer of Dario Argento’s twisty meta-giallo Tenebrae leaves all previous editions in the dust. The image is cleaner and clearer than it’s ever been, and evinces lovingly balanced grain levels, uncrushed blacks, and a riot of bold colors. The extras more than make up in quality what they may lack in quantity: Maitland McDonagh’s commentary track is an essential listen, unsurprising since she literally wrote the book on Argento (Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds). The feature-length documentary “Yellow Fever: The Rise and Fall of the Giallo” is the perfect primer on the genre, with extensive contributions from Argento, McDonagh, screenwriter Dardano Sacchetti, fellow director and frequent Argento AD Luigi Cozzi, and film writers Kim Newman, Alan Jones, and Mikel J. Koven. The limited-edition Steelbook adds a booklet with liner notes and further details on the restoration—and, more essentially, a CD of Goblin’s gloriously propulsive prog-rock soundtrack. Wilkins

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016

13

Arabian Nights, Kino Lorber

Cinematographer Sayombhu Mukdeeprom brings the same florid realism to Miguel Gomes’s Arabian Nights as he does to his collaborations with Apichatpong Weerasethakul, and Kino’s Blu-ray beautifully captures the tactile 16mm grain that infuses the trilogy’s rich colors. Even the least adorned compositions pop with the colors of costumes and backgrounds, which look vivid even in the most dilapidated and worn condition. Sound is equally impressive, reflecting an immersive use of background noise; in particular, the cawing of the rooster and the finches in volumes one and three, respectively, reaches an ear-splitting, deliberately unbearable decibel level usually reserved for blockbuster explosions. Extras are modest but include Gomes’s outstanding Redemption, a remarkably dense half-hour short that uses archival footage and recited letters to craft a narrative of personal and political dissociation from one’s past. All told, Kino’s Blu-ray excellently enshrines the director’s baffling, entrancing magnum opus. Jake Cole

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016

12

Lone Wolf and Cub, The Criterion Collection

Brimming over with the cynical ultraviolence and plentiful T&A found in the best exploitation filmmaking, the six Lone Wolf and Cub films can be said to have inaugurated a new genre: the pulp samurai. Criterion’s 2K transfer looks terrific overall, reveling in the bright, deeply saturated colors (including those perennial geysers of the red stuff), and faithfully rendered fine details of costume and décor. The HD upgrade does, however, reveal certain limitations in the original elements: some out of focus close-up inserts and the occasional softness in low-light settings. The biggest bonus here is a new HD transfer of Shogun Assassin, the English-language reedit of the first two films that turned most Western viewers on to the series in the first place. Shogun Assassin went on to become a bona fide cult item in its own right, largely on the strength of the original films’ insane action set pieces, but also owing to one doozy of a psychotronic synth score. Wilkins

The 20 Best DVDs and Blu-rays of 2016

11

The Thing, Shout! Factory

Shout! Factory’s Blu-ray marks a considerable leap forward from Universal’s previous high-definition release. Textures and grain retention look more detailed, black levels are more consistent, and there are no contrast issues or instances of banding. Color timing has also been refined to further bring out the film’s blue tints. The audio mixes are crisp and well-balanced, with dialogue clear in the front channel as the ominous strains of composer Ennio Morricone’s score fills in the spaces around the edges. The discs also come with three commentary tracks, as well as a plethora of extras, from new interviews to archival EPK featurettes on various aspects of the production, as well as a making-of documentary. The Thing has received enough releases to populate a landfill, but at long last, John Carpenter’s Lovecraftian masterpiece finally receives its home-video due. Cole

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