It’s the holidays, a time for giving people movies, because you love movies, and you want them to love movies, too.
You are bullish and pushy by nature, and this needs to stop.
This guide assembles some of the best releases from the past year. Let it assist you in the art of handing over a film to a friend to cherish and enjoy, rather than having him use it as a coaster or squirrel-decapitator.
And if you have a friend who would indeed ferociously fling a Blu-ray at a squirrel with the intent of taking the poor thing’s head off … perhaps you should reconsider this friendship.
The prices listed are for Blu-ray, unless otherwise noted. These were <Amazon.com prices at press time, and they change frequently. There are bargains all over right now, so shop carefully.
Oh … the Spielberg fans had a good Blu-ray year. Oh, yes, they did. If I have a movie-lover on my list, and that movie-lover isn’t one of those lousy snobs who think Spielberg is a hack, I’ll just buy him two or three of these selections, and call it a day.
The greatest movie of all time is on Blu-ray, and it’s a winner. The transfer will bring tears to the eyes of those who were fortunate enough to see the film on the big screen in its heyday. It has some great documentaries on it, including The Shark Is Still Working.
Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures (Blu-ray)
This has all of the Indiana Jones movies on Blu-ray for the first time in one affordable package. It’s a perfect gift for that friend you sort of like, but not so much that you would fork over more than $100 for them. Not recommended for Secret Santa office parties. Way too extravagant.
E.T. The Extra-Terrestrial: Anniversary Edition (Blu-ray)
This is the old-school version of the movie, without the damned walkie-talkies replacing the shotguns.
AMAZING DIRECTORS, AMAZING PACKAGES!
Tarantino XX 8-Film Collection (Blu-ray)
This contains all of the films directed by Tarantino these past 20 years, plus True Romance, which he wrote. For less than $100, you can give that Tarantino fan every movie he has made, or piss off the Tarantino-hater for that same amount. You can’t lose!
Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection (Limited Edition) (Blu-ray)
This has 15 discs loaded with 15 Hitchcock movies and special features. You get Psycho, The Birds, Vertigo, North by Northwest and many others. This was my holiday present to myself.
TELEVISION: RETRO AND NEW
Steve Martin: The Television Stuff (DVD)
Shout! Factory, $34.93
This gathers many of Steve’s TV specials from the early days, along with music videos and more-recent awards-show appearances. This is bliss for any Steve Martin fan. It also includes new interviews, with the man addressing each special and appearance. This is one of my favorite DVDs of the year.
Get a Life: The Complete Series (DVD)
Shout! Factory, $30.49
The great Chris Elliott TV show features him as a grown-up paperboy living in his dad’s house and putting huge toy submarines in his bathtub. This show was really weird and always funny.
Louie: Season 2 (Blu-ray)
20th Century Fox, $21.99
Louis C.K.’s creation is the best thing on television, and the second season was as good as the first. The third season has aired, but doesn’t have a DVD or Blu-ray version yet (although you can watch it on iTunes). Give the gift of laughing so hard that socks go through one’s nose.
Metalocalypse: Season 4 (Blu-ray)
Cartoon Network, $21.83
You don’t have to be a fan of death metal to like this hilarious animated series (although the music is actually quite good). One of the year’s greatest special features has Dethklok’s lead singer reading Shakespeare’s A Comedy of Errors for 90 minutes or so. This continues the Metalocalypse home video tradition of Nathan sharing the Bard.
Marvel’s The Avengers (Blu-ray)
Walt Disney, $24.96
The Dark Knight Rises (Blu-ray)
The Amazing Spider-Man (Blu-ray)
For my money, The Avengers offered the best superhero ride this year, with The Dark Knight Rises coming in a distant but solid second. The Amazing Spider-Man was stupid, but I’m in the minority on that one, so I’m sure lots of folks would appreciate seeing it under the tree.
Yellow Submarine (Blu-ray)
Magical Mystery Tour (Blu-ray)
George Harrison: Living in the Material World (Blu-ray)
Chances are, you have a Beatles-lover on your list who would find great value in the titles listed above. Chances are, you also have a Beatles-hater on your list. If, deep down, you actually hate that person, give her these discs, and enjoy her “WTF?” face. Beatles-haters suck, so make them really angry.
<h/2>SHIPS DON’T SINK
A Night to Remember (Blu-ray)
Here are two awesome films about the same thing, coming to Blu-ray for the first time. One has Leonardo DiCaprio getting really cold in glorious color, while the other has a bunch of English actors going down with the ship. Both are pieces of incredible moviemaking, and worthy of your average stocking.
THE SINGLE COOLEST BLU-RAY THIS YEAR
Little Shop of Horrors: Director’s Cut (Blu-ray)
For the real collector, this Blu-ray has the best special feature of any disc this year: You get the original ending of this twisted musical, in color—a huge change. Instead of Rick Moranis triumphing over his evil plant, he is devoured by Audrey II, who then proceeds to eat New York City and hump the Brooklyn Bridge.
GREAT NEW MOVIES THEY PROBABLY HAVEN’T SEEN
Safety Not Guaranteed (Blu-ray)
Ruby Sparks (Blu-ray)
20th Century Fox, $11.93
These two gems didn’t light up the box office, but they have the capacity of lighting up the various holiday things people put gifts under or around. Lovers of independent, intelligent cinema will see two of the year’s best performances by actresses (Zoe Kazan in Ruby and Aubrey Plaza in Safety).
COMPLETE THEIR ALIEN COLLECTION
Prometheus (Blu-ray 3-D/Blu-ray)
20th Century Fox, $29.49
Ridley Scott’s return to his Alien universe was a stunner, and the Blu-ray is packed. Make sure to get 3-D Blu-ray, even if you don’t have 3-D capacity yet. That’s because there are many more bonus features on this disc, and they don’t require the glasses.
A REMINDER THAT LIAM NEESON ACTUALLY MADE A GOOD MOVIE THIS YEAR
The Grey (Blu-ray)
Open Road, $26.99
This one came out early in the year, and I’m afraid the great Liam Neeson performance will get ignored come awards time. Oh well … it does have lots of snow, which is sort of holiday-like. It also has lots of wolves eating people, which might put a damper on somebody’s holiday joy. Give this one to the person who doesn’t mind seeing people getting eaten by wolves while drinking his eggnog.
WES ANDERSON RULES
Moonrise Kingdom (Blu-ray)
While the Blu-ray itself doesn’t have nearly enough supplements, the movie is one of the year’s best, and is currently at the top of my list. It’s gift-worthy.