As 2016 comes to a close, the writing staff at ReDVDit thought it would be great to include our favorite Blu-ray releases from the past year. We hope these can serve as a guide for collectors and maybe offer up a few suggestions that you may have not seen before. Let us know what you think, and keep an eye out for everyone’s lists that will be posted here in the coming days and weeks!
Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece Dr. Strangelove received the Criterion Collection treatment in 2016, and upgrading from the previous Blu-ray releases to this newly remastered 4K transfer was a no-brainer for me. The film looks amazing in black and white, and the remaster is by far the nicest that this excellent movie has ever looked on home media. With current events that are taking place all over the world, the film’s message is more relevant than ever, and the Criterion release of Dr. Strangelove is an essential addition to any serious collection.
Wes Craven’s cult horror classic, The Hills Have Eyes, was released in a limited edition package by boutique label Arrow Video in 2016. This new Blu-ray release featured a much improved 4K scan, directly sourced from what was available of the remaining 16mm prints, and it was a much cleaner and consistent transfer than the previous Blu-ray release. Where this release really grabbed me was the packaging, with the clear Arrow Blu-ray case which comes in a very sturdy digipack, with a nice-sized poster and smaller postcards, and nearly two hours of bonus material. For horror fans, this is one of 2016’s best releases, and one of the finest Arrow Video has produced as a label.
One of the most unique, and possibly weirdest films to ever be picked up by a mainstream label (in this case, Lionsgate), Swiss Army Man was an easy choice for my favorites from 2016. The story is so incredibly funny and warm, and it truly is a treat to watch. If you are offended easily by gross humor, it won’t work for you, but at its core it is a pretty charming film. Daniel Radcliffe is excellent, and Paul Dano carries the story with ease, even in the strangest moments. The Blu-ray release was very high quality, but I recommend this one more for the story than the transfer.
I am a massive John Carpenter fan, and so when I heard that Scream Factory would be releasing a Collector’s Edition for Carpenter’s classic horror film The Thing, I knew that it would be a Day One purchase. I had seen the film many times, even on the previously release Blu-ray, so I had a good idea of how this new 2K transfer stacked up to previous versions. Scream Factory nailed the transfer, and it looks much better than the previous Blu-ray in many ways. Since I pre-ordered, I did get one of the fantastic posters that featured the cover art, which will hang proudly near my collection. For those who missed the poster, this two-disc set is still chock full of special features, with two new commentary tracks, a new 4.1 audio mix, documentaries, featurettes totaling over three hours, and the network TV version of the film, which is always a nice nostalgic throwback. The Thing is one of my favorite films, and was Scream Factory’s best release of 2016. I highly recommend it.
As Disney continues to make live-action versions of their animated classics, I am not sure that they will be able to top the excellence of The Jungle Book from a technological and visual standpoint. The film itself is a pretty standard re-telling of the animated film (which is a re-telling of the Rudyard Kipling novel), but the work that went into the CGI and visual effects is what stood out to me. The animals in this film look amazing, as do the environments and surroundings, and it is simply a visual marvel of innovation and technology. The Blu-ray for this release was superb, with possibly the best looking transfer of 2016, and the audio was also a highlight, as the songs and jungle action never let up. I watched this with kids, expecting to not get much out of it, but I was completely wrong. It is a perfect family movie, but also one that anyone can enjoy immensely. In my eyes, this is Disney’s best Blu-ray release of the year.
Drafthouse Films had a great year in 2016, with Blu-ray releases like Raiders!, Tribe, and Dangerous Men all being some of my favorites this year. However, the one that stands out above the rest was the horror/thriller The Invitation. While the movie could be a bit slow for less attentive viewers, it is the slow, sinister climb to the climax that makes the movie work so well. There is something so unnerving about the entire film, right from the get go, and even when you think you have it figured out, it does a 360 and you start thinking all over again. The ending was one of the most chilling scenes in any horror movie this year, and I highly recommend grabbing the Blu-ray release from Drafthouse, as the packaging and audio/visual merits were all excellent.
I’m not sure how a film from the great Richard Linklater could fly under the radar, almost entirely hidden from the mainstream media, but somehow his latest effort, Everybody Wants Some!!, did just that. If you have ever wanted a sequel to Dazed and Confused this is as close as you will ever get. Rather than focusing on the last day of school in 1976, this movie focuses on the first few days of school in 1980 at a Texas college, where a young baseball player is moving onto campus for his freshman year. The cast is excellent, although largely unknown, and the movie is very funny and has some excellent characters, but still tells the “Coming of Age” story that Linklater does so well. The Blu-ray release was also excellent, and the soundtrack is a lot of fun. If you missed this one during its extremely limited theatrical run, it is well worth grabbing on Blu-ray, especially if you are already a fan of Linklater’s work.
Of all the movies I reviewed this year, 13 Hours was by far the most impressive audio experience on Blu-ray in 2016. I distinctly remember hearing Black Hawk Down on a surround sound system for the first time in the late 90s when it released on DVD, and the awe of that experience was very similar to the experience of 13 Hours. The Dolby Atmos track included on the Blu-ray is amazing, as the constant gunfights totally immerse you in the horror of that night in Benghazi and what the brave group of soldiers had to do in order to save the American embassy. The video is also exceptionally strong, as most of the film takes place in the middle of the night, but the transfer left nothing to be desired and handled the darker sequences perfectly. If you like war movies, 13 Hours should be an immediate purchase, and is a great disc to demo a new Dolby Atmos capable home theater.
Arrow Video’s Limited Edition releases are some of the best in the industry, and so it should be no surprise that they show up twice on my list of top Blu-ray releases in 2016. Bride of Re-Animator was released to Blu-ray with a new 2K transfer, and featured both the R-rated version of the film, as well as the Unrated version. The extras that came with this release are extensive, and the bonus pieces like a reprint of the 1992 comic book, and a book featuring essays from film critics and historians. While Arrow’s Limited Edition release of Bride of Re-Animator quickly went OOP with a limited run of only 5,000 copies, the same discs are still available as a standard Arrow release without all of the extras and special packaging. The transfer is well-worth at least the $25 for the standard packaging, but if you can find the Limited Edition packaging for around $40, that would be a great deal for a horror fan, as this is a must-have release from Arrow Video.
Brooklyn was easy Oscar-bait, released right in the sweet spot last year and featuring an incredible lead performance from Saoirse Ronan. Thankfully, I did not dismiss it as nothing but an awards film, as it was truly an enjoyable experience, which surprised me, as I am not one for a romantic-comedy of any sorts. However, Brooklyn tells a much deeper story, diving into the immigration of the Irish to America in the early 20th Century and exploring the interesting dynamic of New York during that time period. The visuals are excellent; the ride on the boat over from Ireland, the Irish hillsides and fields, and the dramatic landscape of New York City all look great on Blu-ray. Ronan is a huge star in the making, and her performance in this film is magnificent. I highly recommend it, even for those who may typically stray from this genre (as you can see from my prior choices, I am one of those), and it rounds out my list of favorite Blu-ray releases in 2016.
So, that is it for me! Each writer here at ReDVDit will be supplying their own personal lists and recommendations for 2016 in the coming days, so keep a look out for those! Leave me a comment if you think of any I missed, have any recommendations for me, or want to argue any of my choices! I am always up for a good debate! Happy Holidays to all, and thank you for reading ReDVDit in 2016; we are looking forward to the New Year and reviewing many more Blu-rays and 4K UHD releases for our great community.