To help you find the perfect Steelbook this Christmas we decided to get some steelbook enthusiasts to list their top ten.

Here is our guest post from Mark at www.steelbookbluray.com

Steelbook collectors can be an obsessive bunch. Some will buy every single release that comes along, regardless of the merits of the movies themselves, including multiple international copies of the same titles, just to get all the artwork variations available. Others are more choosey, perhaps sticking to just their favourite movies or genres, or just the artwork that catches their eye.

The near collapse of one major retailer earlier this year, which is a major UK source of steelbook exclusives, caused many fans to worry that future releases may be few and far between. Fortunately, Zavvi stepped into the breach with an ever-expanding collection of their own, covering both new and back catalogue titles, across all genres.

Below are my personal top 10 Zavvi exclusive steelbook releases. The list is in no particular order, but takes into account both the quality of the movies themselves, as well as the artwork used.

The Prestige

After successfully rebooting the Batman franchise with Batman Begins, Christopher Nolan turned his attention to this masterful – if very loose – adaptation of Christopher Priest’s novel, The Prestige. Using the basic story and themes of the novel as a starting point, Nolan and co-screenwriter & brother Jonathan weave an ultimately tragic tale of jealousy and rivalry as two 19th century magicians, Robert Angier (played by Hugh Jackman) and Alfred Borden (Christian Bale), battle to out-do each other. When Angier witnesses Borden’s seemingly impossible act, ‘The Transported Man’ he begins an obsessive search for the secret. Don’t expect a happy ending.

With career best performances from both Jackman and Bale, and an impressive supporting cast including Nolan stalwart Michael Caine, Scarlett Johansson, Rebeca Hall, David Bowie and Andy Serkis, The Prestige is my personal favourite of all Nolan’s movies. With a narrative structure that demands your attention, The Prestige is one of those rare movies that deserves, and improves on, repeat viewings.

For the steelbook release, Zavvi have selected some superb, appropriately mesmeric artwork that really does suit the tone of the film.

Iron Man 3

Marvel’s first ‘Phase 2’ movie after The Avengers was always going to be a risk – following on from the epic end to Phase 1, could their characters go back to smaller scale, solo films?

Thankfully, the answer was a resounding ‘yes’, thanks to another magnetic central performance by Robert Downey Jr.. As Tony Stark he has to rely on his brains instead of his armour following an attack on his home. Gwyneth Paltrow is finally given something to do, while Ben Kinglsey and Guy Pearce both get their fair share of scenery chewing opportunities.  Speaking of Kinglsey, his turn as The Mandarin is fantastic, and while his character arc had the potential to de-rail the entire movie, the script, by director Shane Black and Brit co-writer Drew Pearce, handles the twists and turns brilliantly.

As for the artwork on the Steelbook, we get a great looking close up of Stark’s arc reactor, surrounded by battered Iron Man armour, with no text – less really is more for this release.

The Wicker Man

The history of The Wicker Man is legendary. The original 99 minute cut of the film was lost, with the negative allegedly used for landfill during the M4 motorway.  A video copy of the print was found in the USA, owned by Roger Corman, and this was used to piece together a ‘Director’s Cut’ of the movie that was then released on DVD in 2001. While this release give us an almost complete version of the film, the presentation was a compromise, with notable dips in quality during the video-sourced restored footage.

Finally, in early 2013, current rights holders StudioCanal began a worldwide search for a film print of the original version. While that does still appear to be lost, StudioCanal did unearth a 92 minute print in the Harvard Film Archive, and this has allowed director Robin Hardy to piece together his own remastered ‘Final Cut’, which is included on this 40th Anniversary Zavvi release. This really is now the most complete version of the film available, and is a must see for any movie fan. The Wicker Man is an important piece of British movie history, and a standout, genuinely unsettling horror movie.

The artwork on this steelbook is very nice indeed, with a striking silhouette of Christopher Lee’s Lord Summerisle standing in front of the titular Wicker Man
prestigewickerman  ironman3

Toy Story

Toy Story quite simply belongs in every movie fan’s collection. A great script, fun performances, and ground breaking animation that still holds up today, Toy Story has enough to please viewers of all ages. While the sequels are even better, and you may have your own favourite Pixar movie, this is the one that started it all for the company.

While the artwork on the steelbook release doesn’t have quite the same visual impact as some of the other movies on this list, it suits the movie perfectly, and fits in well with the other releases in Zavvi’s Pixar collection.

The Game

David Fincher’s follow up to the incredible Se7en was always going to be weighed down by expectation. Often under-rated, The Game is nevertheless a great brain bender of a movie, as Nicholas Van Orton (Michael Douglass) is given an unusual birthday gift by brother Conrad (Sean Penn) – a voucher for a ‘game’ provided by the mysterious company CRS.

Despite CRS turning away Van Orten’s custom, his life is soon turned upside down, as his business collapses and his bank accounts are cleared. Is this all part of the ‘game’? Why are CRS’s offices suddenly empty and abandoned? And how the hell does he end up in Mexico?

The Game is a great paranoid thriller, and while it’s not my favourite of Fincher’s movies (that would be Alien 3, but that’s another story) it stands as a worthy successor to Se7en, and deserves much more recognition than it gets.

Zavvi’s steelbook artwork is spot on for this movie – a puppet on a string sums it up perfectly.

Zatoichi

This updating of the long-running Japanese movie and TV character Zatoichi, The Blind Swordsman, is typical of what we’d expect from writer/director Takeshi Kitano – gorgeous cinematography, eruptions of violence, and comedy. Oh, and tap dancing.

In the finest tradition of lone warrior movies, Zatoichi arrives in a new town, and is thrust in to the middle of a gang war. It goes without saying that he soon agrees to help the beleaguered townspeople, paving the way for an impressive series of showdowns with various disposable henchmen. And some top quality tap dancing.

Zatoichi is great, if slightly bonkers, fun, and may not be to everyone’s taste, but the artwork on the steelbook really is fantastic, and one of Zavvi’s best so far, with a great hand-painted, and blood-splattered look.

 

toystory thegame Zatoichi

Byzantium

Returning to the genre for the first time since his 1994 adaptation of Interview With The Vampire, director Neil Jordan brings us a modern tale of a vampire mother and daughter, played by Gemma Arterton and the always fantastic Saoirse Ronan respectively, as their relatively peaceful existence in an English sea-side town is threatened, as their long past catches up with them.

This is a great film, with strong performances and visuals that are both bleak and beautiful. If you’ve been put off the thought of vampires on film following the simply dreadful Twilight series, then you really should give this a go. There’s plenty of blood and gore, of course, but the tone and setting give the film a really fresh feel, setting it apart from what you may have seen before.

I love the artwork for this steelbook release, a striking image showing the two leads bathed in the neon glow from the sign of the hotel from which the movie takes its name.

Withnail and I

This is a movie that will never get old. Fantastic central performances, including a career best from Richard E Grant, the film follows struggling actors Withnail (Grant) and Marwood (Paul McGann) as they ‘accidentally’ go on holiday.

Their idyllic getaway soon goes sour, thanks to a lack of alcohol and food (apart from a live chicken), non-stop rain and a visit from the … insistent… Uncle Monty, played with relish by the late Richard Griffiths. Throw in Ralph Brown’s hilarious drug dealer Danny, and you have a classic British comedy, full of endlessly quotable lines, many of them unsuitable for repetition here.

Once again the artwork choice is top notch, featuring Ralph Steadman’s fantastic poster art

Wreck It Ralph

This is a rare beast – an animation from Disney that is easily a match for the quality, imagination and invention normally associated with their Pixar subsidiary.

Wreck It Ralph follows the ‘bad guy’ from video game Fix It Felix, as he tires of his role and heads into other games in the arcade in order to become a hero. Yes it’s all about self-discovery, and there’s the usual touchy-feely warm glow stuff, but the film is a real blast, and often laugh out loaf funny, as we encounter classic video game characters and situations.

A highlight is Ralph’s stint in an intense and action packed Sci-Fi first person shooter, which looks incredible. We also get classic platform action, Mario-Kart style wacky races and more. The film-makers’ attention to detail is incredible, with blink-and-you’ll miss them video game cameos and references. This movie is a wonderful high-tech love letter to classic video games, but there’s enough here to appeal to non-gamers as well.

The artwork on the Steelbook is great, with an old school pixelated close up of Ralph’s face.

 

Byzantium Withnail Wreck

The Rocketeer

While this is now sold out and no available at the moment, I’ve included it as it was my most eagerly awaited of all Zavvi’s steelbook releases.

The film itself is a blast, based on the comic books by writer Dave Stevens, and is a great tribute to the old US movie serials. Stunt pilot Cliff Secord finds a top secret prototype rocket pack and sets off to become a hero for the age of aviation, The Rocketeer, battling gangsters, the authorities and Nazis along the way.

While Bill Campbell makes for a likeable hero, it’s Timothy Dalton who steals the show as the Erol Flynn-esque Neville Sinclair, Hollywood leading man and moustache twirling Nazi spy. Throw in support from Alan Arkin as Cliff’s machanic  Peevy and Jennifer Connelly as sweetheart Jenny, along with a supporting cast of recognisable faces including Terry O’Quinn and Paul Sorvino, and you get a great adventure romp, that really did deserve to be a much bigger hit than it was.

Director Joe Johnston cut his teeth working on special effects at ILM, including a stint on Raiders of the Lost Ark, and his eye for period detail here is spot on. Of course, he also went on to direct the mainly World War 2-based Captain America for Marvel. The lesson here? If you need a film set in the 1930s, Johnston is your man.

As much fun as the film is though, it’s the artwork that drew me to this particular release. Using the fantastic original art deco poster art – a full sized version of which adorned my bedroom wall as a youngster – this is – in my opinion – the nicest looking steelbook that Zavvi have released.

 

Rocketeer

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