Another year, and just too many options for awesome gifts to include in only one gift guide. Do some last-minute shopping with some (mostly boxed set-centric) suggestions below, or just reflect on yet another great year of film.
Anniversary Editions and Classic Cinema
Just like for any other art form—or any other facet of life for that matter—anniversaries are important for film, whether we understand why we humans have decided that those anniversaries that end in a 5 or a 0 are more important that those that end in a 4 or, say, a 7. Either way, every year there are some milestones that must be marked, and this year is no exception. We’ve also included some classic collections which deserve a serious (or second) look.
My Fair Lady 50th Anniversary Edition (Paramount)
This is nothing short of an astonishing feat in modern film restoration. Preservationist Robert A. Harris has overseen a magnificent job on My Fair Lady, and watching it made me feel like I was at the Criterion Theatre in New York on October 21st, 1964. Restored from an 8K scan of the original negative, as well as other surviving 65mm elements, the 50th Anniversary Edition is presented in its original 2.20:1 ratio—for the first time ever on home video—and as shot by 17-time Oscar nominated (and two-time winner) Harry Stradling, it’s a marvel to behold (and to hear). The extras are copious, but they’re really all just gravy to the main feature. —Mark Rabinowitz
Dog Day Afternoon 40th Anniversary (Warner Home Video)
In just 10 years, Hollywood moved from the end of the studio system era, where four musicals (including the above-mentioned My Fair Lady) won best picture, to the grittier, director-driven films of the ’70s. The decade was owned by independent-minded filmmakers (often) making studio films, directors like Coppola, Scorsese, Altman, Friedkin and Pakula, among others—including this film’s master, Sidney J. Lumet. Based on a true story, Dog Day Afternoon was one in a long like of exceptional New York City-based dramas cranked out at the time, and it’s a beautiful piece of work, nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Picture, Actor (Al Pacino), Supporting Actor (Chris Sarandon) and Director, winning one (with Frank Pierson’s original screenplay). Which is all impressive, but the film’s real gem is the late, great John Cazale as Sal Naturile. Extras include an enlightening audio commentary with Lumet and a DVD copy of Richard Shepard’s HBO doc I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale. —M.R.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (40th Anniversary Edition) (20th Century Fox)
Were The Rocky Horror Picture Show less indebted to forgettable B-movie schlock and Hammer Pictures horror, would still be remembered all these years later? Would millions of people still have enjoyed dressing in drag and throwing TP around thousands of venues across the globe for the past 40 years?
Besides including both the American and British versions of the flick, the 40th Anniversary set features deleted scenes, an alternate opening and ending, and a commentary by Riff Raff and Magenta—er, actor and co-screenwriter Richard O’Brien and co-star Patricia Quinn. But the best part about this collection is the pair of fishnet stockings and some rubber gloves. If you have to ask why, maybe this set isn’t for you.
If it is, though, you might also want to get the new Rocky Horror toys from Funko, each an old school, articulated ReAction figures with the likes of Frank-N-Furter, Riff Raff, Magenta, Columbia, Brad and Janet ($9.99 each), not to mention the always adorable Funko POP! figures of the same characters (also $9.99 each). —Paul Semel
Goodfellas: 25th Anniversary Edition (Warner Home Video)
Of the maverick ’70s filmmakers mentioned above, Martin Scorsese is at—or at least near—the top of countless “Best Directors” lists of the last 40 or so years, and Goodfellas, being one of his very best, celebrates that reputation. This 4K transfer is gorgeous, and a whole second disc is loaded with extras, prominently including a new documentary featuring Scorsese and some of his greatest gangsters: Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Jack Nicholson and Joe Pesci. —M.R.
Edward Scissorhands 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Commemorative Blu-ray Giftset (FOX)
We can always call on Tim Burton to deliver a slightly haunting tale that’ll also warm your soul for the holidays, but the world he created in Edward Scissorhands is truly unique, even for his repertoire. Burton raises the veil over civilized society and asks the ever-revelant question we all secretly know the answer to: Who are the real monsters in this world? (Answer: white boys from the suburbs who should have left Edward the hell alone, because he didn’t even want to wear that baseball cap and break into your Dad’s house.) Granted, you may have a different interpretation of the film, but that’s all the more reason to watch it again. And again. Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest and Alan Arkin remain a joy to watch all these years later—and special bonuses with this giftset include commentary from Burton himself and his genius composer, Danny Elfman. Me? I just got it for the gorgeous cover art. —Shannon M. Houston
Home Alone 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition (FOX)
Last week a video hit the Internet featuring an adult Macaulay Culkin as a grown-up, disturbed Kevin McCallister. But if you are a true Home Alone fan, there’s a good chance that you just couldn’t bring yourself to watch it, lest your fond memories of little Kevin ordering pizza and lighting criminals on fire be forever destroyed. In addition to boasting every single Home Alone movie (including the ones without Culkin), this set comes with some with some pretty sweet bonuses—you’ll have your very own pet tarantula (sort of), an ornament with Kevin’s adorable face and signature pose (palms slapped against cheeks), a Wanted poster for Harry and Marv, and a poster of Kevin’s official Battle Plan. The best part about this set is reliving the magic with your kids, and then being thoroughly disappointed in them when they say they prefer the Home Alones 3 or 4. —S.H.
Hammer Horror Classics: Volume One (Warner Home Video)
In the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, no movie studio scared the crap out of people like England’s Hammer Pictures. With a stable comprised of such iconic (and, sadly, late) actors as Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings) and Peter Cushing (Star Wars: Episode IV ), the studio produced some of the most raw and frightening horror movies all time—four of which, conveniently, are now available in this set: 1959’s The Mummy with Lee wearing the bandages; 1969’s Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, in which Lee dons the fangs for the third time; 1970’s Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, which has Cushing as the good doctor; and 1970’s Taste the Blood of Dracula, Lee’s fourth (but not final) stint as the dashing blood sucker. And while this collection doesn’t have any extras, save for the film’s original trailers, it’s still worth checking out just to see these classic movies in high definition. Well, that and the promise made by the “Volume One” in the title. —P.S.
Special Effects Collection (Blu-ray) (Warner Home Video)
If you’ve taken on any giant flies or mosquitoes in video game Fallout 4, then you know two things: First, they’re damn annoying, and second, that such ’50s sci-fi classics as 1954’s Them are still inspiring storytellers 60 years later. If you’re not familiar with that film, this new collection from Warner Home Video is a solid primer. Besides the aforementioned ant movie, in which radiation causes the picnic destroyers to grow as large as Buicks, the four-disc collection also wrangles 1953’s The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Fog Horn” which features the first stop-motion effects by the master of the form, Ray Harryhausen; 1933’s Son of Kong, a sequel to the classic King Kong in which we learn that the big guy was a single dad; and 1949’s Mighty Joe Young, about a woman who raises a big gorilla and then brings him to Hollywood so he can find fame and fortune. All four films make their high-def debut in this collection, but the best part about this set is that, along with the 2003 featurette “Harryhausen & Bradbury: An Fathomable Friendship,” in which the two reminiscence about their 50-year friendship, this also includes the original trailers for all four films. —P.S.
The Ultimate James Bond Collection (MGM)
Much like the Bond 50 collection of a few years ago, this Amazon exclusive includes every canon Bond film to date (Never say…the name of that other movie again), a disc of extras, a space for Spectre and a nifty mini-version of the 50 Years of Bond Posters book from 2012. Even without remastering, the films all look sterling, especially the older ones which were going threadbare in SD. Considering it’s selling for less than $150.00 on Amazon, $6 per film—at least for now—is a pretty damned good deal. Even for Moonraker. —M.R.
The Decline Of Western Civilization Collection (Shout! Factory)
There’s a fair chance you have some friends for whom Penelope Spheeris’s The Decline Of Western Civilization is one of those movies they’ve really wanted to see—that they know they will like. Or you may have a friend who loves the film, but wouldn’t it be nice to see it along with its two sequels in high-definition? Oh, and I know: How about some never-before-released footage, a 40-page booklet and some Dave Grohl commentary? Done! —Michael Burgin
This Year’s Best of the Rest
While our main guide for movie lovers came out a few weeks ago, there were far too many exceptional collections released this year to include all of them there, so we’re going in deep once more.
The Hobbit Extended Edition Trilogy (New Line Home Video)
While, yes, Peter Jackson has admitted that he was not at his best when making these films, and, yes, perhaps two films would have been better that three, this trilogy is still a pretty amazing achievement and, for the fan of the Lord of the Rings films, required viewing. The roughly 14,000 hours of extras should make any fantasy geek (myself, included) deliriously happy. Now bring on The Silmarillion! —MR
Jurassic World (Limited Edition Gift Set) (Universal)
While none of the sequels have lived up to the pure excitement and craft of 1993’s original Jurassic Park, 2015’s Jurassic World is arguably the closest we’ll get to the real thing. While much of the appeal of the first in the series was based on the audience being just as amazed as the characters at what they were witnessing, the next two installments failed, in part because that sense of awe was lost. Not the issue with this one: It wisely and strongly re-enters the “is this a smart idea” territory to expectedly exciting results. And: The set comes with two dinosaur figurines! —M.R.
Fast & Furious
1-7 Collection – Limited Edition (Universal)
Many years from now, people will look back on the first seven Fast & Furious movies as “The Paul Walker” era (sans Tokyo Drift that is). But you don’t have to wait 15-20 years for the commemorative boxed set, as Universal Home Video has already put one together inside a big rubber tire. This set has all seven movies—plus the extended editions of Fast Five, Fast & Furious 6 and Furious 7, as well as all respective extras. But the best part is the set’s eighth disc, with an international TV special about the series, and a section in which the cast talks about their favorite cars, fights, locations and more from the films. —P.S.
Mission: Impossible The 5-Movie Collection (Paramount)
I’m going to go on record and say this is the only franchise in film history where each film is actually better than the preceding one—and the first one was pretty damned good. Just think about that, for a minute: Rogue Nation was easily the best film in an already great collection, and you’re not going to go wrong with the other four, either. —M.R.
Mad Max Anthology (Warner Home Video)
George Miller’s Mad Max franchise is another rarity, in that there’s a 30-year gap between the third and fourth entries in the franchise. Not for lack of trying, however, as the film was in pre-production several times between 1997 and 2003—and while it was officially announced that filming would begin in 2010, it didn’t actually get going until 2012. Growing up in the late ’70s and ’80s, cult films like Alex Cox’s Repo Man and Penelope Spheeris’ Suburbia were regular weekend viewing among my friends, and Mad Max and Road Warrior were in regular rotation. While I can take or leave Beyond Thunderdome, Fury Road makes up for that film’s minor misstep, and, to the surprise of almost everyone, is now a favorite to land several Oscar nods. It’s an incredible film and fully deserving of the accolades. (This set also includes The Madness of Max, a feature-length doc on the making of the original Mad Max.) —M.R.
Stocking Stuffers for Mom and Dad (OK, and the kids, too)
Four from the Criterion Collection: Dont Look Back; In Cold Blood; Downhill Racer; Mulholland Drive
Four decidedly different films from the greatest archival home video company on earth. A seminal doc, Dont Look Back is an intimate glimpse of one of the greatest songwriters of the 20th century as he toured England in 1965, on the cusp of “going electric”; In Cold Blood is Richard Brooks’ classic and chilling adaptation of Truman Capote’s non-fiction account of the 1959 quadruple murder of the Herbert Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas; Roger Ebert called Downhill Racer “the best movie ever made about sports—without really being about sports at all”; and David Lynch’s Mulholland Drive is Lynch at his unhinged, surreal, creepy best, keeping you constantly on your toes about what’s real, what’s imagined and how you feel about the difference.
All four films are a cinephile’s dream: recently restored and loaded with the extras that Criterion Collection fans have come to expect. You really can’t go wrong with this ongoing series of magnificent films. —M.R. and Michael Dunaway
Aladdin Diamond Edition (Disney)
In a world dominated by DreamWorks and Pixar, it can be easy to forget that, once upon a time, all a good kids’ movie needed was a genie in a lamp. And a flying carpet. And the incredible composition of “A Whole New World.” And the incomparable Robin Williams. All of that to say, Aladdin—the story of one diamond in the rough and his quest out of street-rathood—remains a classic. Any DVD collection, for children or adults, is rendered incomplete without it. Plus we get fun bonus features like a featurette on the Broadway production (“Aladdin: Creating Broadway Magic”) and a breakdown on some of the film’s coolest easter eggs (“Unboxing Aladdin”). —S.H.
Cinderella Diamond Edition (Disney)
We’ve come a long way from princesses, evil stepmothers and Prince Charmings, and by “come a long way,” I mean “Mad Max: Fury Road and Ex Machina are everything.” But you can’t appreciate these flicks without a classic like Cinderella. And, of course, Disney’s 1950 animated rags-to-riches tale had far more to it than frilly dresses and magical evenings on the dance floor—like those adorable mice (mainly Gus), and the fairy godmother who brings Cinderella all the confidence she needs to boss up. All these years later and nearly every facet of this story remains imprinted in a culture obsessed with good vs. evil and underdogs. With Cinderella remakes cranking out every few years (like the most recent foray starring Cate Blanchett and Lily James), you’ll want to have this original on hand, if only because there will never be another Gus. Bonus features on this include Behind the Magic: A New Disney Princess Fantasyland and the delightful animated short Tangled Ever After. —S.H.
Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400 Plus with Built-In Touchpad for Internet-Connected TVs
The Logitech Wireless Touch Keyboard K400 Plus won’t change your life, but it is a handy little device for two kinds of people: those with smart TVs and those building a PC-driven media center. For the latter, it will be an inexpensive keyboard option, but for the former, it may just be a huge timesaver. The Achilles heel of the smart TV setup is text entry: Even on remotes that have a dedicated keyboard, it’s a royal, clunky pain to type. The K400 Plus makes it a breeze—plus it’s small enough and cheap enough to be worthwhile as a single-function tool sitting by the couch. —M.D.
Logitech Harmony Elite Remote Control
It seems a bit silly that a remote control, of all things, would cause a reviewer to swoon, but the Logitech Harmony Elite is capable of such a feat. Universal remotes have been around for decades, of course, but Logitech remotes are something different altogether: They are so brilliant at stringing together actions and commands, you can change an entire environment with the click of a button. Want to watch a movie? You can customize the one-touch action to turn off the lights, turn on the TV, turn on the surround sound, select Blu-ray input, set to cinema mode, turn on the Blu-ray player, and start the disc—all with a single button. Cocktail party? Dim the lights, turn off the TV, play the Miles Davis station on Pandora at half volume. Sports lover just waking up? How about all the lights at full brightness, and turn on the TV to ESPN SportsCenter—all with a single button.
The touchscreen is the most luxurious selection available on the market, and the number of devices once can control is ludicrous, with the number of programmable actions literally endless. Other than including a smart popcorn popper to automatically switch on when you start a movie (which, hey, BUSINESS IDEA SOMEONE!), it’s hard to imagine anything more you’d want out of a remote control. If you don’t mind paying a premium, the Harmony Elite is certainly the Jaguar of its kind. —M.D.
Firefly Serenity Plush
Haven’t you always wanted your very own 18-inch plush spaceship to hug when you run into a pack of Wei Shian Dohn Woo, or when you’re riding in something with a Capissen 38 engine? I mean, anyone can have a stuffed Dire Wolf or Stitch, but if you want a really shiny cuddly buddy, what’s better than your very own Firefly class transport ship? —M.R.