DVD Drop: Holiday gift guide!
A look at all the holiday cheer available on video this year!
Heath Ledger stars in The Dark Knight (Warner Bros.)
Present season is upon us once again, and it’s my duty to sift through this year’s new releases to see what might make a suitable present for people I’ve never met. I’ve tried to be scientific about it this year. Let’s see if it works, shall we?
A lot of us balk at repurchasing movies we already own, even when they’re released in increasingly elaborate packages. Which makes receiving those packages as gifts all the more delightful, in my experience.
For your favourite fantasy nerd, consider Warner’s most insanely thorough boxed set to date, the Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection. Packaged in a massive chest of drawers (with a couple of secret folders), it’s a 31-disc package assembling all eight of the Harry Potter films on both Blu-ray and DVD, with all of the special features produced for the individual Ultimate Collector's Edition releases and a bonus disc of brand-new supplements. It ain’t cheap – the list price is $499.99 – but it sure is lovely.
Shopping for an older Anglophile? The Bond 50 set, released earlier this fall by Fox/MGM, assembles all 22 of 007’s official Eon Productions adventures from Dr. No to Quantum of Solace, with a disc of extras and an empty slot for next spring’s Skyfall disc. (The unlicensed productions of 1967’s Casino Royale and 1983’s Never Say Never Again are not included … though you can pick them up separately and glue them to the outside of the box, if you’re so inclined.) The DVD set lists for $199.99, but given that all of the films have been mastered in HD, you’re going to want to go with the Blu-ray on this one: $249.99 for just the movies, or $299.99 for a deluxe edition including a hardcover book.
As a run-up to the arrival of The Dark Knight Rises, Warner released a spiffy Christopher Nolan Director’s Collection boxed set, packaging Blu-ray editions of Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Dark Knight and Inception with a glossy companion book for just $50. Weirdly, there’s no room for The Dark Knight Rises … but you can buy that just-released disc in the limited-edition Dark Knight Trilogy gift set, which packages all three of Nolan’s Batman movies with a replica of the Caped Crusader’s cowl. Silly, sure, but chances are you know at least one Bat-fan who’ll be happy to have it. Suggested retail is $45.99.
Other creatures of the night are represented quite well in the Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection, a fine Blu-ray box that crept into stores just before Halloween. For a suggested $189.99, you get eight of the studio’s seminal horror films – Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Invisible Man, Creature from the Black Lagoon and the 1943 production of Phantom of the Opera – with a stately companion book, all the extras produced for their earlier DVD releases, the alternate Spanish production of Dracula and a 3D version of Creature from the Black Lagoon. (Or rather your favourite lover of black-and-white monster movies does, which is the whole point.)
TV pickings have been a little slim this year, but there are a few appropriately elaborate packages. HBO recently reissued the first season of Game of Thrones as a collector’s edition. Listing at $119.99, it packages both Blu-ray and standard DVD discs in a formidable box with a dragon-egg paperweight. Geeky, sure, but a lot less unnerving to look at than the bust of Gollum included in one of those Lord of the Rings sets a few years back.
Looking for something a little more old-school? Paramount has new complete-series sets of Mission: Impossible and JAG – each one holding 56 discs and listing at $394.99. Mission: Impossible set stuffs both the original 1966-1973 run and the 1988-1990 follow-up into a goofy but adorable oversized plug of dynamite, while the JAG collection takes the form of a briefcase, opening up to reveal all 10 seasons of the show, a booklet, collectible pin and a bonus disc of new extras. Hey, somebody’s gonna want them.
As always, there’s some great stuff from the TV archivists at Shout! Factory. The label released dozens of television shows this year (including a great complete-series set of Chris Elliott’s bizarre Get a Life), but two special collections stand out.
The Incredible Mel Brooks curates an 11-hour retrospective of Brooks’ television and film work on five DVDs – documentaries, talk-show appearances, episodes of Get Smart!, When Things Were Rotten and Mad About You and much, much more – with a bonus CD of assorted madness.
And Steve Martin: The Television Stuff is a treasure trove of conceptual comedy, most of it never before available on disc: Six television specials, including all four of Martin’s brilliant NBC collaborations with Saturday Night Live grand poobah Lorne Michaels – along with five decades worth of Martin’s appearances in other people’s shows and a new interview with Martin. The Brooks set (which lists for $89.99) is great; the Martin collection (just $34.99!) is essential. Whoever finds it in his or her stocking is going to be very, very happy.
Back to the movie options for a moment. If you know someone who appreciates the fine art of dance, find out if he or she owns Mongrel Media’s deluxe edition of Wim Wenders’ Pina, a documentary tribute to the work of revolutionary choreographer Pina Bausch. The elegant boxed set – which lists for $45.99 – includes DVD, Blu-ray and 3D BD discs and supplements the feature with an insightful production documentary and some very pretty art cards.
Speaking of dance, Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly’s magnificent Singin’ in the Rain was released on earlier this year in a 60th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition that combines a lovely new Ultra Resolution Blu-ray disc with a DVD of supplements (and a DVD of the feature, in case the recipient hasn’t yet upgraded to BD) and an impressive hardcover book. And it throws in an umbrella, just in case someone gets inspired.
Not new to Blu, but newly remastered in Ultra Resolution for its 70th anniversary, is Casablanca, which was reissued in a Limited Collector’s Edition earlier this year. This one includes both BD and DVD discs of the feature and a BD of extras, including two brand-new documentaries, and throws in a book of memorabilia, a replica of the original theatrical poster and four collectible coasters suitable for sorrow-drowning, should the need arise. (The Singin’ in the Rain UCE lists for $84.99; the Casablanca LCE for $64.99.)
And then there’s the year’s grandest single-title release, Sony’s Lawrence of Arabia. David Lean’s 1962 masterpiece came to Blu-ray in a glorious 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition earlier this fall – a massive, LP-sized box containing an incredible presentation of the restored director’s cut, two discs of special features, an expanded soundtrack CD, a 70mm film frame and a splendid hardcover book. List price is $95.99.
Given that Lawrence is one of the greatest movies ever made (if not the greatest), your chosen recipient may have picked up the regular BD release in October – but that’s just the movie and one disc of extras. The 50th anniversary set makes a great thing even better. And if he or she did go for the deluxe box, consider Criterion’s excellent David Lean Directs Noël Coward collection, which gathers the director’s early features In Which We Serve, This Happy Breed, Blithe Spirit and Brief Encounter – the first steps on the grand path of literate, moving filmmaking that would lead to him to make Lawrence. It lists for $134.99. It’s worth every penny.
Now, since Lawrence of Arabia is one of my two very favourite films, I’m morally obliged to mention the other one. Fortunately, Steven Spielberg’s Jaws (list price: $30.99) was also released on Blu-ray this year, in an excellent special edition from Universal. But it wasn’t the only Spielberg classic to make the jump to high-def: Universal also released a fine disc of E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial ($30.99) this fall, and Paramount gave us the wonderful Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures box ($74.99) as well as last week’s BD of Catch Me If You Can ($22.99). Any one of those would be a fine choice for gifting – or all of them, if you feel like making someone’s year. And if you happen to let that Kingdom of the Crystal Skull disc fall out of the box, well, so much the better.
E-mail Norman Wilner at firstname.lastname@example.org