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DVDTalk Holiday Gift Guide
DVDTalk's Holiday Gift Guide

Looking for a gift for a movie fan?  Have no idea what to get them?  Not to worry!  DVDTalk is here to help.  We've polled our staff of writers and created a series of guides full of gift that are sure to please anyone on your list.  Whether you're lookfing for a an impressive boxed set, a fantastic TV series, the perfect disc to show off an HD system, or a great movie that they might not have seen, we've got you covered.  Check out all of the cool gift ideas below.

DVDTalk's Sponsor's Selection: Get A Signed Copy of The Incredible Mel Brooks - An Irresistible Collection Of Unhinged Comedy

The Incredible Mel Brooks - An Irresistible Collection Of Unhinged Comedy Few legends loom as large over the landscape of American comedy as Mel Brooks. For 65 years -- in every medium through which entertainment can possibly pass -- he has made people laugh all over the world. A celebrated director, actor, producer, composer and writer, Brooks is one of only 11 people in history to win an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award. With this unique, first-of-its-kind collection, fans of this ferociously gifted entertainer will fall joyfully down a rabbit hole into a wonderland of television appearances, short films, documentaries, tributes, songs and genuine rarities. Packaged in a deluxe 5-DVD/1-CD book-styled set. AND the first 300 purchasers get theirs signed. It's only while supplies last, so be sure to get yours fast!

Deluxe Boxed Sets

Wondering what to get that special film-lover in your life? How about an ultra-cool boxed set? There have been some excellent collections released recently, and you can't go wrong with any of these:

Universal 100th Anniversary Collection:  2012 marks the 100th Anniversary of Universal Studios, and they've celebrated by releasing some of their most notable catalog titles to date. Not merely content with slapping 25 classic titles in a single box, the studio has gone all out with sturdy package that sports a classy design, not to mention a 72 page booklet that outlines their history, a bonus disc with a stunning assortment of historical content, and a music CD that's home to 15 memorable themes. This set is well rounded and is illustrative of the studio's trendsetting reputation. This just might skyrocket to the top of your most wanted list.

Complete Red Green Show:  This is a hilarious show and getting the entire 15 years' worth of episodes in one bundle is a joy.  Filled with off the wall humor that guys will find particularly funny, it would make a great gift this holiday season. The packaging, a faux duct taped tool box, is an added bonus.

Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season (Collector's Edition):  HBO has, without question, outdone themselves with Game of Thrones. This series has everything it needs to be a continued success for the network - Immaculate writing, superb acting, direction that keeps the pace moving, and the money backing the production to bring the world of Westeros to life.  This collector's edition arrives in a decorative box and an exclusive dragon egg paperweight.

Cinderella Trilogy with Limited Edition Collectible Jewelry Box:  The perfect gift for that little princess in your life.  This set includes the three Cinderella movies on Blu-ray and DVD as well as a digital copy of the first film.  The discs are come in a book illustrated with images from the movies, but what's sure to make an impression is the jewelry box.  With three drawers, a lid with mirror, and a separate door for the movie book (with a hook for necklaces) it's a great package for the Disney Princess lover in your family.

Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection:  Breathtaking. The films in this set are considered classics for a reason. They're not just highly effective, palpably atmospheric genre flicks - They were also ahead of their time in many respects and served as the template for numerous films out of Hollywood ever since.  Presented on Blu-ray for the first time, the set boasts immaculate A/V presentations all around. Rounded out with a fantastic set of extras, this set easily earns its rank amongst the top gifts this holiday season.

RVBX: Ten Years of Red vs. Blue Box Set: Looking for something to impress the gamer in your life?  How about this 14-disc set that presents the first 10 seasons of Red Vs. Blue on Blu-ray.  This remarkable set is the definitive collection of the cartoon that is widely acknowledged to be the most watched web series in history.  It's 20 hours worth of hilarity that's sure to impress.

Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection:  Fifteen films from the Master of Suspense presented in high definition, 13 of them for the first time on Blu-ray.  Every one of these pictures deserves and demands to be seen multiple times and several are masterpieces.  Add to that over 15 hours of documentaries and a 60-page booklet and this is a set that will please the cinephile on your gift list.

Amazingly Cool TV Shows
  One of the strongest segments of the home video market are TV shows on DVD and Blu-ray and this year has seen some excellent titles released.  Here are some sets that will put a smile on the video-hound in your life.

Dark Shadows:  One of the most impressive releases on the year. The program itself is oddly addictive, with a gothic atmosphere that works better than it should and some intriguing mysteries the like of which daytime television had never seen before and hasn't since.  The set itself is spectacular:  131 DVDs housed in a coffin shaped box with copious interviews and extras as well as a nice program guide.  Forget the recently released movie... this is the real deal.  

Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Complete Series:  At last, the original Mighty Morphin Power Rangers are out on DVD! Time Life and Shout! Factory have teamed up to present the show that started a craze in the US nearly 20 years ago.    This deluxe complete series collection presents the entire original show, where five "teenagers with attitudes" are chosen to protect the world from a witch living on the moon, Rita Repulsa (seasons 1-3) as well seasons 4-7 which are made up of Power Rangers Zeo, Power Rangers Turbo, Power Rangers in Space, and Power Rangers Lost Galaxy. If you'd rather just have the original show, that's available seperately too in a 17-DVD set. Both options are loaded with bonus features, either is a great choice!

Downton Abbey Seasons 1 & 2 Limited Edition Set:  The popular PBS show as it was intended to be seen, uncut as it was broadcast in the UK.  It's a program that fully deserves its high reputation.  The first season is written, performed, and made with enough artistic skill, flair, and genuine sophistication that viewers will find themselves immediately drawn into the story.  The second season is filled with more intrigue, broken hearts, and social foibles, but with the added element of a World War.  Excellent viewing.

Desperate Housewives: The Complete Collection Deluxe Edition:  The entire run of 179 episodes from all eight seasons of the hit series arrives in an impressive 46 disc set.  Housed in a replica of Mary Alice's steamer trunk, the entire saga of Wisteria Lane's housewives is here, along with an exclusive bonus disc.  It is an altogether wonderful package.

Route 66: The Complete Series:  One of the most highly rated drama series from the 60's, all 116 episodes from the four seasons of the show are available in one exciting collection.  When existential wanderers Tod and Buz climb into that sweet, Chevy 'Vette and blast down the American highway in search of...of whatever, a compassionate view of quintessentially America emerges.  Great stuff!

Joseph Campbell: Mythos (The Complete Series):  Over the course of its 15-hour runtime, Joseph Campbell imparts a wealth of information on both Western and Eastern traditions after providing viewers with an extensive background presentation on the nature of myth and tradition itself.  A fascinating documentary, this series is a must-own.

Overlooked Gems
Some movies simply fly under the radar. Perhaps it's because of low exposure and meager theater locations out of the reach of indie or off-the-beaten-path film fans, those forced to travel long distances to see smaller pictures that only occupy a handful of screens among the mass-consumption fare. Or, perhaps it's because the content itself doesn't sound appealing enough to venture to the cinema in order to see it. Either way, truly compelling pieces of work are given a second life in the home-video market, where the admission price for the theater has, by and large, come face-to-face with the price of simply purchasing the Blu-ray for a near-theatrical screening experience. What we've put together is a list of some of the hidden gems to come out this year that might have flown under your radar, all of which are at least worth the price of the Blu-ray for a viewing.

50/50: Cancer is a bitch -- full of confusion, frustration, the sickening sterility of hospitals and some pondering on mortality that cannot really be avoided. Writer Will Reiser has been there, and it really shows in 50/50; he knows the beats where lighthearted comedy exists and feels natural in those situations, but at the same time he underscores the pain that persists there, too. Joseph Gordon-Levitt was robbed of an Oscar nomination as Adam, the twenty-something radio writer who is diagnosed with a rare type of spinal cancer, as his performance in the film deftly communicates the fatigue and short-fused struggle of a person who simply can't control what's wrong with them. But as serious-minded as the content remains, it's galvanized by the relationships Adam shares with those around him, namely his scattered psychiatrist / grief counselor and the friend who suggests they use his condition to get girls. It's a film about life going on post-illness, and Reiser's authentic and deeply-felt execution nails it. [DVDTalk Review]

Bedevilled: As the South Korean revenge-thriller/horror genre continues to thrive on forceful plotting and white-knuckle violence, the directors and writers behind them almost appear to be competing to see who can upstage the other in brutality and dramatic button-pushing. Director Jang Chul-soo's Bedevilled is the latest of those contenders, a thick piece of emotional provocation and moral ambiguity that plummets into desperation-driven violence, steeped in an abused mother's wrath as an underscore to burgeoning emotional catharsis. While occasionally overwrought and too thematically similar to its contemporaries, the brazen tragedy it depicts is heightened by a defining, disconcerting trait: what it says about the apathy and warped perception of onlookers who could've prevented it from happening. This is provocative, occasionally indulgent cinema that telegraphs a compelling and volatile blow once it reaches its nerve-racked destination. [DVDTalk Review]

Certified Copy: Long, meaningful conversations can, and should, be sparked by Abbas Kiarostami's Certified Copy, about the nature of art and the human condition being valid or invalid based on whether it's a fabrication. The central part of the story focuses on an author (William Shimell) and a mother / antique shop owner (masterfully played by Juliette Binoche) traveling in and around Tuscany on a sort of tourist journey, while the woman picks the brain of the man who wrote a book about counterfeits -- of both tangible and intangible types. It evolves into a delightfully philosophical range of conversations as they weave through beautifully quaint Italian locations, yet there's also a veil of mystery draped over the picture once they undertake an experiment: they decide to pose as husband and wife during their travels, yet it's left to interpretation whether an actual connection exists between them. It's not about the puzzle, though, but what the puzzle itself has to say about the topic. [DVDTalk Review]

The Flowers of War: In The Flowers of War, director Zhang Yimou turns his attention to late-1930s China during the Nanjing Massacre: a six-week stretch during the Second Sino-Japanese War, made notorious for the bountiful slaughter and violation of China's populace. Naturally, this isn't a topic that's easy to watch -- explosions, dilapidation, and fear of a fate worse than death -- and it's difficult for beauty to emerge from those conditions. With his visually robust aesthetic and persuasive dramatic perspective in-tow, director Zhang shoulders the challenge and takes the audience into a situation that finds intimate, fraught beauty within the hopeless bunkered strain of war, one that successfully trundles between schmaltz and deep-rooted historical drama in its tale of hope. [DVDTalk Review]

Goon: There are two sides to the world of hockey: the skate-and-shoot side seen in ESPN sports reels, and the slam-'n-brawl side that lets the more ... uh, graceful part happen. Goon, an eccentric, vulgar, and totally lovable comedy / sports flick, glorifies that bloodier side while emphasizing a neatly-handled point about team camaraderie and everyone, even the "dumb" ones, playing a part as an important cog in the machine. The story of Doug Glatt, the unexpected and somewhat doltish muscle of a semi-pro hockey club, stirs together a traditional sports movie -- with an undercurrent of boxing suspense -- with equal parts Rocky-level romance and not-so-unintelligent drama, about a tough ex-bouncer who finds his place in a profession that needs a guy who'll spill blood on the ice for his team. Quite funny at times, regularly brutal, and sporting an empathetic, self-aware performance from Seann William Scott, it's a great little movie. [DVDTalk Review]

Safety Not Guaranteed: Time-travel movies almost always find a spot in contemporary cinema. However, they've recently seen a real surge in popularity, and they aren't purely using time-travel as some perfunctory plot device. Instead, they're exploring the evolving mental state of the believers, as well as the cynics who don't buy into the fantastical ideas of time-travel being capable. One of the best as of late is Safety Not Guaranteed, an indie comedy-drama about a group of Seattle reporters -- actually, a reporter and his two interns -- who answer an ad someone placed in the newspaper for a partner to travel back in time. One of the interns, played by up-and-comer Aubrey Plaza, builds a kinship with the guy preparing for his time-travel voyage, creating this involving relationship between melancholy souls who really do want to go back on a mission to make things better. Cleverly written and organically funny, and not without a few tried-and-true surprises, it's an affective, idiosyncratic, and exceptionally put-together gem. [DVDTalk Review]

Take Shelter: Everything I have to say about Jeff Nichols' Take Shelter sounds an awful lot like hyperbole, but it's meant with the utmost sincerity. This is a masterstroke exploration of paranoia in the mind of a commonplace construction worker who doesn't want to believe he has a mental condition, a man whose fear and belief that the end of days is coming dismantles his family, his job, his entire livelihood. Michael Shannon has played several forms of "crazy" over the years that have felt distinct, and his performance as Curtis -- bolstered by re-pairing with his Shotgun Stories director -- creates yet another multi-dimensional, compelling entity that commands fear and garners empathy in the same breath. The crescendo of suspense and psychosis Nichols creates is staggering, building to a fraught, thought-provoking climax that's wholly in control of itself and its alternate interpretations. [DVDTalk Review]

HD Upgrades

Know someone who recently purchased a high definition set up? Want to get them a movie that will really show off their equipment and one that's a significant improvement over the DVD version? Have no fear, DVDTalk is here to help! The list below contains Blu-ray movies that are great upgrades. Any one of them is sure to please the HD buff on your list.

Barbarella: Why, of why did I pick Barbarella as a worthy upgrade? It's a bad film in every perceivable way, but that's exactly where it gets its charm. The concept driving the story is laughable to the point you'll be in tears. The costumes and set designs are so cheap, they could have been scrapped from an episode of Star Trek. The acting is so over the top, the guy who made "Garbage Day" famous (from Silent Night, Deadly Night Par 2) looks like a seasoned thespian by comparison. Surprisingly though, the end result is a film that's so damn hokey, you can't help but laugh your way through it. It sounds hard to believe, but this is one of the most entertaining films I've had the pleasure of upgrading in 2012, and its top notch video presentation was a welcome surprise. Jane Fonda in all the costumes she wishes you'd forget, and in glorious HD to boot! The supplements are practically non-existent, but the slipcover is simply to die for.

Jaws: This was easily one of the most highly anticipated titles of the year, so an 'upgrade' list wouldn't be complete without it, right? Right. Simply put, Jaws is a masterpiece. Funny thing is, some of the creative decisions were forced upon Spielberg due to difficult shooting conditions, since he insisted they film on open water (something Universal made sure to never do again). Originally, the shark was to be featured a bit more than it was, but thanks to some mechanical troubles, it doesn't make its appearance until halfway through the film. This is one of the more notable facts in the history of cinema, because these series of unforeseen events are directly responsible for the film's immaculate, tension-building pace. Some of the film's success can be attributed to chance, but Spielberg was able to create something that would resonate with audiences for decades to come. Hell, Jaws still has people afraid to go in the water. The audio and video on this release is stellar, and if you can get your hands on it, can be had in a gorgeous digibook that's worthy of prominent display in your collection.

Star Trek - The Next Generation - Season 1: This gets my vote as one of the years finest releases, and not just because it's ST: TNG. It's an amazing show, for sure, but the real draw is the massive restoration process the series has to undergo to be fit for a high-def presentation. Originally shot on film but edited on videotape, they had to go back to the source and re-edit the episodes together from scratch. The sound effects had to be reinserted, and the special effects had to be recreated and rendered in HD. This means a lot of time and a lot of money, probably more money than has ever been spent to bring something to home video, had to be spent in order to make this happen. This may just mark the beginning of a new revolution in home video, as it was recently announced that Fox was going to provide the same treatment for The X-Files. Warp drive, engage, indeed!

The Ring: This film was given a release under the radar as a Best Buy exclusive, and as a result, it hasn't been given the love it deserves. The Ring may have been responsible for starting the 'Japanese horror remake' craze (which brought with it a truly terrible horde of films), but it's a masterfully haunting chiller that earned a respectable reputation for a reason - Although most subsequent Japanese horror remakes relied on a combination of 'boo' scares and gore, The Ring seeps into your mind with an effective story and unnerving cinematography. What really surprised me was just how stellar this transfer was for a catalog title - The video is practically reference while the audio will undoubtedly do a number on your psyche. This is a vast upgrade over the DVD, and if you love to sit alone or with a loved one in the dark being spooked, then this really is one of the finest upgrades you can spend your hard earned coin on.

Casablanca: You must remember this - If you've been waiting years on end for Warner to give one of their most beloved classics a proper restoration, then consider your wait over. The new 4k scan looks absolutely pristine in this AVC encoded transfer, and for the first time ever, Warner has provided Casablanca fans with a lossless mono track that's faithful to the source. Previous DVD and Blu-ray releases suffered from boosted contrast, which completely annihilated the dark and moody atmosphere of Rick's Cafe. That's been corrected on this release however, so now all of the precise work done in lighting (or lack thereof, I suppose) makes the cafe almost as mysterious as Humphrey Bogart's 'Rick'. What more could you ask for? Oh, a classy boxed set and hours upon hours of extras? Warner has you covered.


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