My Blu-ray heaven

The RN&R’s movie critic claims the most essential home entertainment gift this year is a Blu-ray player

Do you have a friend or loved one on your gift list who loves movies? Do you love movies and just want to buy the year’s best for yourself this holiday season, shunning everybody else with callous glee? Do you have digestive difficulties when you eat too much sugar?

Well, I can’t help you with the sugar thing—wait, yes I can, STOP EATING CHOCOLATE BARS AND MAPLE SYRUP!—but the following is a list of some of the better home movie releases from 2009.

First and foremost on any home entertainment list this year should be a Blu-ray player. It’s time to get with the format. Players are cheaper, and the discs almost cost the same as standard DVDs and, in many cases, less. Quit playing like the format is going away. It’s here to stay for at least the next four months, when the next hot gadget will come along and render my collection worthless. Oops, I’ve gone off track.

This gift guide includes a lot of Blu-ray, ’cause that’s how I roll.

DVD and Blu-ray Combo Packs from Disney and Pixar

• Up

• Monsters, Inc.

• Pinocchio

• Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Diamond Edition

For those of you out there who haven’t made the jump to Blu-ray yet but fully intend to, Disney and Pixar started offering DVD and Blu-ray combo packs at a reasonable price. This way you don’t have to decide on a format yet, and you can put that Blu-ray disc aside until players cost $50!

Seeing the likes of Pinocchio and Snow White in glorious high definition was one of the great pleasures in home entertainment this year. Disney did these packages up right with loads of extras that take hours to watch. The same goes for the Pixar packages for Up and Monster’s Inc., movies that truly pop on home flat screens. All of these films represent your best argument for getting a Blu-ray player now. Most of the disc packages are priced at less than 20 bucks, making them a great value.

Star Trek on Blu-ray

• Star Trek (J.J. Abrams version)

• Star Trek Original Motion Picture Collection

• Star Trek: The Original Series

Currently blessing my Blu-ray player, the J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek is easily one of the year’s best entertainments, and the disc is an absolute winner. Abrams offers up a must-listen commentary, deleted scenes further flesh out the characters, and seeing Spock laugh in gag reels is priceless. You can get a true Trekkie the limited edition gift set that comes with an Enterprise replica.

The Trek Blu-ray parade doesn’t stop there because the original motion pictures and series also arrived on the format, and they kick ass.

Great TV

• The State: The Complete Series

For fans of Michael and Michael Have Issues, Stella, Wet Hot American Summer and Reno 911, this here show is where it all started. Originally aired on MTV in the early ’90s and not available anywhere since until now, The State collection shows Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, David Wain, Ken Marino and company were insane from the get-go. The set is loaded with extras, and the cast worked on this package for a long time. The hard work is more than obvious because it’s one of the year’s best DVD sets.

• It’s Garry Shandling’s Show: The Complete Series

While some of the comedy hasn’t dated so well, this one is still a trailblazer that provided much laughter and originality. Before Seinfeld and his own The Larry Sanders Show, Garry Shandling gave us this inside-out sitcom that skewered the format while excelling within it. Lots of cool guest stars, like Tom Petty, Gilda Radner and Dan Aykroyd. Shandling participates in all sorts of extras, including commentaries and interviews.

• Fawlty Towers: The Complete Collection Remastered and Monty Python: Almost the Truth (Blu-ray)

I’ve seen a lot of Python documentaries over the years, but Almost the Truth is easily the best, and any fan would cherish this in their stocking, under their pillow, or just plain thrown at them on Christmas morning. There are six episodes of pure Python madness, with all of the living members participating in interviews. (The late Graham Chapman appears in vintage interview footage.) Entire episodes are dedicated to The Holy Grail and Life of Brian.

That’s not all. John Cleese got fully involved in a remastering of his Fawlty Towers series, including interviews and commentaries. Python fans rejoice!

Great Movies

• Do the Right Thing: 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)

Director Spike Lee put together an all new documentary and commentary for this beautiful Blu-ray. Honestly, one of the best high-definition transfers I’ve seen so far. I find it remarkable how many people have not seen this film. See it now!

• Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut

This set takes the recently released director’s cut of The Watchmen and interweaves the animated Tales of the Black Freighter into the running time. If your special someone is a graphic novel geek, this will be the gift to get them.

• An American Werewolf in London (Blu-ray)

When I popped this one into my player, I hadn’t seen it in a long time. I’d forgotten how sick in the head writer-director John Landis is and how funny/scary the movie is. Make this part of somebody’s Blu-ray introductory pack, and put those stupid werewolves in Twilight to shame. Seriously, they can suck it!

• The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition (Blu-ray)

I’ve already given this one as a gift a couple of times. Not only do you get the beautiful movie on Blu-ray, but also all sorts of neat goodies like a watch, a photo book and more, all in a nifty box. Easily one of the year’s better values and also available in a standard DVD edition.

• Say Anything: 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)

If your gift target graduated from high school around the time this one was released, give them this one and make them feel old. Yes, it’s not the nicest thing you could do, making somebody feel like an old fart. They’ll get over it once they revisit the charming story of Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and his pursuit of Diane Court (Ione Skye). Still one of the weirdest and greatest love stories ever put to film.

• Funny People (Blu-ray)

Get this one not only for the very good movie, but also for the sheer volume of special features contained therein. There are lots of outtakes, deleted scenes and awesome vintage footage of Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen doing standup (including Rogen when he was 13). This didn’t get its due at the box office, which is a shame because it is very good.

• Wings of Desire (Blu-ray)

Do you have a lover of art films on your list? Just get them this one and you are finished. Wim Wenders simply made one of the most beautiful films ever with this tale of a bored angel (Bruno Ganz) who wants to become human. Peter Falk is awesome as a former angel turned actor. Filmed in both black- and-white and color, it’s as lovely as cinema gets.

• Fight Club (10th Anniversary Edition) Blu-ray

Watching Jared Leto get his teeth knocked out of his face by Edward Norton on Blu-ray is so choice. Norton and Brad Pitt have never been better than they were in this David Fincher epic about insanity and punching each other in the face. Ring in the new year watching Pitt getting hit on the ear!