Movie gift ideas for the holidays, gifts for movie buffs, Bond 50, Alfred Hitchcock, Indiana Jones, Jaws
November 23, 2012
Stuff to Buy Channel / Bullz-Eye Home
The Blu-ray revolution kicked into full gear a few years ago and it hasn't stopped to look back, with a variety of classic films both old and new being offered in high definition for the first time ever. Although it would be impractical to list every single release that we think is worthy of being included on your holiday wish list this year, our guide has something for just about everyone in your life. If you can't find a gift idea here, then chances are, the person that you're buying for doesn't like movies.
Everyone has their favorite Bond – whether it’s Sean Connery, Roger Moore or Daniel Craig – but while many actors have come and gone over the years, the character has remained one of pop culture’s most famous icons, and what better way to celebrate five decades of 007’s cinematic adventures than with a box set containing all 22 movies on Blu-ray for the first time? Sadly, there aren’t any special goodies that come with the set (we were secretly hoping for a laser-cutting watch), but the movies are prize enough, especially presented in gorgeous high definition transfers that make some of the earlier installments look like they were made just yesterday. Packaged in two hardbound books (split between 1962-1981 and 1983-2012), each film gets its own slot, with one left blank for “Skyfall
” when it’s released sometime next year. There’s also a separate bonus disc that includes two new features – “The World of Bond” and the retrospective “Being Bond” – making this the ultimate James Bond
set for anyone who considers themselves a fan of the legendary British spy.
Until all the movie studios decide to play nice with one another and release a truly definitive Alfred Hitchcock box set, Universal’s new Masterpiece Collection is a worthy alternative, containing many of the best films from the director’s lengthy career. The 15-disc set contains every movie that Hitchcock made under the Universal banner, including “Vertigo,” “Psycho” and “The Birds,” as well as some of the classics made at MGM and Paramount, like “North by Northwest” and “Rear Window.” The movies themselves look great in high-def (although some titles have clearly received more attention than others), and the set contains a great supplemental guide that features artwork and trivia from each movie, including the various Hitchcock cameos. Though some fans have likely already purchased some of the bigger titles on Blu-ray, for the cinephile that can’t get enough of the Master of Suspense, you really can’t go wrong with the appropriately titled Masterpiece Collection.
There’s quite probably no set of movies that’s a safer gift-giving bet than the Harrison Ford-starring “Indiana Jones” series. Not James Bond, nor “Star Wars,” or Harry Potter, and certainly not “Twilight.” Everyone loves “Raiders of the Lost Ark,” and one or two of the others, and plenty of folks love all four installments. The quadrilogy (for the time being, anyway) is now available in this new Blu-ray set, in which “Raiders” has been given a sparkling new frame by frame digital restoration which makes it look as though it was lensed yesterday. As you can no doubt guess, George Lucas and Steven Spielberg don’t mess around when it comes to presenting their wares on home video, and this set is no exception, with gorgeous picture and thumping sound seeping off of every disc, through your flat screen and speakers, and into your eyes and ears. A fifth disc of bonus features such as making-of documentaries for each movie, and more than a dozen featurettes, does not disappoint; new to the table is an hour-long doc entitled “On Set with Raiders of the Lost Ark.”
Throughout the year, Universal has been celebrating their 100th Anniversary with a slew of re-released catalogue titles on Blu-ray and DVD. Many are fantastic, but “Jaws” is certainly one of the very best, and once again, Blu-ray proves that it’s the home video format the couch potato has been waiting for his whole life. The crystal clear HD picture and the 7.1 sound combine to bring Steven Spielberg’s terrifying masterpiece to a whole new generation. When people say “they don’t make ‘em like the used to,” “Jaws” is the sort of picture they’re talking about. Not only does film retain its chilling power to keep viewers out of the water, but it offers up a trio of genuinely complex central characters played by Roy Scheider (the heart), Richard Dreyfuss (the brains) and Robert Shaw (the muscle). Additionally, the set is jam packed with bonus features, including a new years-in-the-making feature-length documentary entitled “The Shark is Still Working: The Impact & Legacy of ‘Jaws’,” as well as a look at the extensive restoration work that went into the remastering.
Not many people would have been willing to wager before the start of the summer season that “The Avengers” would emerge as the year’s best superhero film (especially up against “The Dark Knight Rises
”), but Marvel’s big gamble proved everyone wrong, making beaucoup bucks at the box office on its way to becoming the third highest grossing movie of all-time. Director Joss Whedon deserves a lot of credit for not only balancing the film’s many tones, but the large cast as well, and although some actors fare better than others, the ensemble works together so well that you’d think it was part of the plan all along. Marvel has done an excellent job of creating a rich cinematic tapestry that’s almost interactive in the way that it feeds off the excitement of its fans, and “The Avengers” is the culmination of all that, a genuinely entertaining superhero flick that deserves a spot in everyone’s collection.
“The Hunger Games” is that rare case of a film being better than the book it’s based on, because for all the things that Suzanne Collins’ wildly popular novel does well, the movie improves upon it in almost every way – from the pacing, to the character development, to the execution of the Games itself. Part of that comes down to the smart and economic script, which doesn’t waste any time in getting to the titular event, but it’s the cast that really elevates the story beyond its mediocre source material. Jennifer Lawrence displays remarkable poise in the lead role, Josh Hutcherson shows signs that he’s maturing as a performer, and the adult actors (particularly Elizabeth Banks, Stanley Tucci and Lenny Kravitz) nail the essence of their larger than life characters in ways that fans of the book probably never imagined possible. Better yet, the Blu-ray features a host of awesome bonus material, including an audio commentary by director Gary Ross and a ridiculously in-depth making-of featurette that runs just over two hours long.
Leo vs. Hanks. This is such a fun movie, beginning with the animated opening credits, and DiCaprio and Hanks are at their best in this cat-and-mouse caper from Steven Spielberg. Based on a true story, "Catch Me If You Can" tells the story of Frank Abagnale, Jr. as he convinces everyone, including his would-be wife, that he's a pilot, a lawyer and a doctor. But Hanks' Carl Hanratty is wise to Frank's cons and devotes his life to tracking the 20 year old down. Featuring standout supporting performances from Christopher Walken, Amy Adams and Martin Sheen, "Catch Me If You Can" is an underrated classic that is even more enjoyable now that it's on Blu-ray. And be sure to check out the collection of great special features, including a look at the casting process and more info on the real-life Frank Abagnale.
For a movie that’s considered by many to be the best musical of all time, it’s surprising that Warner Bros. took so long to release it on Blu-ray. In celebration of its 60th anniversary (hardly an important milestone, but one that sounds impressive nonetheless), the studio has spared no expense for the film’s Blu-ray debut, which boasts a new 4k high definition video transfer that looks amazing. The story is admittedly a bit cheesy, but almost every song-and-dance number is memorable, and the main three actors are perfectly cast in their roles. In fact, although the film may be a Gene Kelly vehicle, it’s his two co-stars that steal the show. Donald O’Connor manages to keep up with the fleet-footed Kelly every step of the way (and makes you laugh while doing so), while Debbie Reynolds is so charming that you’d be crazy not to fall madly in love with her the minute she appears onscreen. The collector’s edition also comes with some cool swag, like a full-size umbrella and a 48-page production book filled with never-before-seen memos and photos that’s perfect for longtime fans.
People who love old movies love “Sunset Boulevard,” and with good reasons. The classic tale of crushed Hollywood dreams, as told to the audience by dead screenwriter Joe Gillis (William Holden), is as truthful today as it was upon release back in 1950. It’s also as witty, unsettling, moody and entertaining – and that list could go on. Hitting Blu-ray for the first time, the crisp black and white photography probably looks better here than it did upon its initial release, and the disc is loaded with all sorts of extras that have been ported over from the last DVD release. New to this disc, however, is a never before seen scene in which New Years Eve revelers sing an amusing, clever little tune called “The Paramount Don’t Want Me Blues.” But that’s hardly the star attraction. No, that honor goes to “Sunset Boulevard” itself, the granddaddy of all Hollywood insider stories, and the one that laid the groundwork for so many that have come since. Presented in 1080p, now the movie itself can proudly tell Mr. Demille that it, too, is ready for its close-up, while Gloria Swanson’s faded silent movie star Norma Desmond creeps right off the screen and into the imagination.
This is the kind of gift that tons of people want, but no one wants to buy, which makes it the perfect stocking stuffer. This set collects all of the films that appeared both in the theaters and on the video releases for 2007’s “Ratatouille
” up through this year’s “Brave
,” and several of them (“Your Friend the Rat,” “Presto” and “Partly Cloudy” in particular) are among the best work Pixar has ever done. The bonus materials are a great treat as well, as John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter include short films they made while they were in film school, and every clip in the set sports an audio commentary. Even if you have all of Pixar’s movies on video, this set is worth it for the bonus features and the sheer convenience of having all of the short films on one disc.