Our film critic presents his annual gift guide for movie lovers
I always like getting movies as gifts during the holidays. The way I see it, getting something like Iron Man 2 on Blu-ray is huge, because that movie cost hundreds of millions to make, and it’s all packed into that little disc. If you get me a pair of shoes that cost $150 bucks, they only cost something like five bucks to make.
Blu-ray took another big step this year, with more studios releasing “combo packs,” where you get a Blu-ray, a DVD and a digital copy with your reasonably priced purchase. You can even get a combo pack that includes a 3-D Blu-ray if you intend to buy into that particular home technology anytime soon.
Here’s a rundown of Blu-rays and DVDs that I think will make film and TV lovers happy. I’ve posted the Amazon prices, but please keep in mind that those can change at any time, and store prices may vary.
Big fat movie series collections
20th Century Fox
Unquestionably, this is the best Blu-ray release so far when it comes to special features. Each film in the Alien series gets documentaries and commentaries, and those documentaries have excellent production quality. Not simply a repackaging of the DVDs that came out about seven years ago. When you consider what you’re getting, you can’t beat the price.
Back to the Future 25th Anniversary Trilogy
If your gift target already owns the previously released DVD trilogy, and they don’t have a Blu-ray player, there’s no major need to get this one. (Although the new documentaries for each of the films are quite good.) If said target does have a Blu-ray player, load them up with some major hi-def Marty McFly action.
The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy
This one is a bit high-priced considering that the extras aren’t that amazing, and the superior extended versions are nowhere to be found. But it’s the only way to get the LOTR films on Blu-ray right now, and the films do look spectacular. Still, you can get somebody the far superior Alien package for a lot less.
The Man With No Name Trilogy
Warner Home Video
Clint Eastwood’s first big character gets a nice package at an extremely reasonable price, with a decent assortment of extras. This one was already out on DVD, but those getting the films for the first time will love this Blu-ray. That is, if they like Clint. If not, there’s a chance they will throw this at you after unwrapping so, for God’s sake, please be careful.
Toy Story Trilogy
10-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $64.99
Another one of the gift-giving season’s great bargains, you get all of the Toy Story films on both Blu-ray and DVD, so all the bases are covered. And nothing looks cooler than Pixar films in high definition.
I still think it stinks, but the Blu-ray is awesome
Avatar (Three Disc Collector’s Edition)
20th Century Fox
All hope is lost for me liking this one. I watched it again, and the experience gets worse for me with each viewing. I think it’s a moronic film.
But I stand alone in the corner, drinking a beer, on this one. Lots of people love it, and there is no denying that this is a terrific home entertainment package. Bucket-loads of extras, three versions of the film, and a pretty case make me think this will be the season’s biggest stocking stuffer.
Put some war epics under the tree
DVD: $44.99; Blu-ray: $66.99
The World at War
The Thin Red Line
DVD: $23.99; Blu-ray: $29.99
Paths of Glory
DVD: $23.99; Blu-ray: $29.99
Apocalypse Now: Three-Disc Full Disclosure
The HBO miniseries is a real winner and a nice companion piece to Band of Brothers, while The World at War remains one of the better documentaries on World War II ever made and includes more than 36 hours of film and features. The Criterion collection’s release of The Thin Red Line is a visual stunner packed with typically good features, and their release for Stanley Kubrick’s World War I drama Paths of Glory is also solid.
However, nothing in this group compares to the awesomeness of the Apocalypse Now: Three-Disc Full Disclosure Blu-ray. The movie was made for Blu-ray, and the package includes the hypnotic documentary Hearts of Darkness.
Nothing says “I hate you!” like this film
The Human Centipede
DVD: $15.99, Blu-ray: $9.99! (A bargain!)
Give the gift of ass-to-mouth this holiday season. Use this one as a litmus test, and give it to somebody you despise. If they come back and say, “Hey man, I loved that movie! Thank you! You’re the best!” you’ve probably made the right call in hating them. If they come back and call you a rude and disgusting pigface for inflicting this monstrosity upon them, perhaps they are a good person after all, and you should seriously consider taking back those nasty feelings.
Three-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo: $19.99
One of the year’s better Blu-rays, priced under 20 bucks for both the Blu-ray and DVD. Chloe Moretz, a.k.a. Hit Girl, is the breakout star of the year.
Rush: Beyond the Lighted Stage
This qualifies as one of the year’s best documentaries. If you’re a Rush fan, and you have a special someone that isn’t a Rush fan, give him or her this one. They might not like Rush music in the end, but they might think the band members are a bunch of swell guys.
Another Criterion gem, this one is dedicated to one of the more groundbreaking films of all time. Chaplin’s Little Tramp talks—well, sort of—for the first time in this classic look at technology and its effect on the workingman.
The Twilight Zone: First and Second Season
Blu-ray: $70 each
Rod Serling’s classic series has never looked better, and those who love their Zone will delight in the bountiful extras.
Give this nightmarish horror film to the snowboarder or skier in the family. Then get them drunk and take them on an all-expenses-paid nighttime skiing trip. Pay the guy who runs the lift to stop the thing and turn out the lights for 15 minutes or so. Your gift recipient will shit their pants and freak out, begging for the wolves to stay away, only to find great relief when the lift operator turns things back on. You’ll all have a good laugh! You’ll ruin some pants, but you’ll have a good laugh!