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DVDTalk's 2010 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 top recent release, a fantastic TV series, a cool anime show, or a great movie that they might not have seen, we've got you covered.  Check out all of the cool gift ideas below.

An Unexpected Movie

Know a movie buff?  Need to get them a present this holiday season?  Look no further, DVDTalk is here to help.  Here's our list of the best and hottest Blu-ray and DVD releases of the past year that would make excellent presents.  We didn't go for the biggest titles, a film lover probably has those already.  Instead we came up with several top rated discs that they might have missed.  Any one of these releases is sure to bring a smile to their face.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World: This movie is a breathlessly infectious adrenaline rush. There's not a single wasted frame anywhere in here, and the movie is so densely packed with gags that you'll still be picking out new stuff in the background your eighth or ninth time through. A movie that is destined to be on a lot of 'best of 2010 lists, the Blu-ray disc also looks great and boasts an incredible seventeen hours worth of extras! [DVDTalk review]

Sherlock Jr. / Three Ages:  Nearly 90 years after their original release, these Buster Keaton silent comedies maintain much of their original charm and hilarity.  A truly hilarious pair of films, they look great on Blu-ray.  [DVDTalk review]

Never Sleep Again: The Elm Street Legacy:  This is a great documentary on the Nightmare on Elm Street series that flew under most people's radar.  Between the documentary itself, its audio commentary, and all of the other extras, this collection runs just shy of twelve hours... and not a moment is wasted. It is is exhaustive but never exhausting. With contributions from more than a hundred members of the cast and crew, no stone is left unturned. [DVDTalk review]

Moulin Rouge!:  From Baz Luhrmann's lurid style and the usage of popular songs to the dramatic and musical performances from Ewan McGregor and Nicole Kidman, this one's different from stock musicals because it's more of a blast of jaw-dropping creativity scattered atop a romantic story. Fox's Blu-ray takes the audiovisual potency of the film to a new level, presenting the bright cinematography and the bombastic songs damn near perfectly, while carrying over a near-endless slate of extras. [DVDTalk review]

Starcrash:  This a masterpiece of unintentionally bad filmmaking. Pounded out in about 18 months seemingly as an answer to Star Wars, Luigi Cozzi's knock-off buzzes around with giddy brio, mixing ridiculous characters with questionably broad acting, an incredibly simple yet still nonsensical plot, and budget special effects that transcend into the realm of real art. It's a completely ridiculous movie, that's great to watch with a few friends and a beer or two.  [DVDTalk review]

Breathless:  Any art house fan will love a copy of Criterion's release of Breathless.  The signature film that with François Truffaut's The 400 Blows and Alain Resnais's Hiroshima mon amour inaugurated the French New Wave, Jean-Luc Godard's 1960 feature debut was staggeringly influential in its day, debatably more so on an aesthetic level than any single postwar movie.  Criterion's gorgeous Blu-ray transfer and gobs of helpful, informative extra features make this one of the year's best releases. [DVDTalk review]

A Film from Columbia's Archives:  Sony, owner of Columbia's catalog, has recently started a Manufactured-on-Demand (MOD) DVD service where fans get obtain DVDs of movies that don't have the popularity or demand to warrant a full blown release.  The program currently has 100 titles available, and it's a wonderful mix of cult favorites (Crash Landing, The 27th Day, The Interns), forgotten epics (Genghis Khan), Columbia series films (four "Jungle Jim" adventures starring Johnny Weissmuller), intriguing but largely forgotten gems (Mickey One, 10 Rillington Place), foreign films (Les voleurs, a.k.a. Thieves), rarely sceen TV-movies (The Caine Mutiny Court-Martial, To Sir with Love II, Hart to Hart: Home Is Where the Hart Is) and bizarre, one-of-a-kind oddities (Birds Do It).   These are only available through Sony's web site, so there's even a chance you could totally surprise the film fan on your gift list with a favorite that they didn't even know was available.  [DVDTalk article on the program]

Amazingly Cool TV Shows
There's nothing that gets a fan's blood pumping like an extravagant boxed set of a great TV show.  Here are some of the best TV sets to hit store shelves recently. 

The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Series: Droll, sophisticated, intelligent, and edgy, The Larry Sanders Show remains one of television's most entertaining examples of artists ruthlessly biting the hand that feeds them, with scathing satire written from the inside out. But it is also a classically constructed workplace comedy filled with memorable characters, ingenious situations, and endlessly quotable dialogue. There were plenty of great television comedies in the 1990s. This was the best. [DVDTalk review

Slings & Arrows: The Complete Collection: Simply put, Slings and Arrows is one of the best shows to have graced TV screens.  Like the plays that the fiction troupe performs, the show is tightly written with a cast of wonderful characters that portray a depth of characterization that is rarely found outside of novels.  This show is dramatic with never becoming maudlin or over the top and features a healthy dose of comedy that will leave a smile on your face long after the episode is finished.  It is very smart, but not pretentious, and deserves to be seen by a wider audience.  A prefect holiday gift.

The Pacific: This is a crowning achievement in television, proving once again that many current television series are rivaling big-screen cinema in terms of scope and depth of story. This show takes viewers on a 10-part journey through the campaign against Japan in World War II. The harsh conditions of combat are re-created in startling detail, illustrating the sacrifice of the men who fought on the beaches and in the jungles through a selection of intriguing, complex characters. This is as good as it gets, and whether you are a fan of war movies or just good drama, The Pacific offers many rewards for the time investment.  [DVDTalk reviews:  Blu-ray, DVD]

Lost: The Complete Collection:  One of the most popular and exciting shows to hit the small screen recently is now available in a very nice collection complete.  All six seasons arrive in a box that replicates the island in three dimensions and the package includes some awesome goodies including an Ankh with a secret message from Jacob, a  Senet game as featured in the sixth season, and 32 hours worth of bonus features.  This is the set you'd want with you if you were ever stranded on a desert island.

Midsomer Murders:  Acorn Media has been releasing impressive collections of this cozy British mystery.  Filled with odd and likeable characters, some crackin' mysteries, and a nice dollop of humor, mystery fans will have a great time watching this wonderful series. Get all three of the large collections, each of which contains 16 to 19 feature-length episodes:  Midsomer Murders: The Early Cases Collection [DVDTalk review], Midsomer Murders: Barnaby's Casebook [DVDTalk review], and the newly released Midsomer Murders: Village Case Files.  Each one offers hours of mystery and fun.

Prime Suspect Complete Collection:  The complex, dark character of Jane Tennison, as portrayed by the incomparable Helen Mirren, makes this show one of the finest detective dramas ever produced.  The show is an absolute must-see, and this entire collection is a great way to see it. [DVDTalk review]

Ellery Queen Mysteries: A unique and extremely enjoyable mystery series unaccountably canceled after just one short season on NBC, Ellery Queen (1975-76) was developed by writer-producers Richard Levinson and William Link, and is up to the same high standards of their greatest success, Columbo.  This show is a real delight, holding up extremely well today.  Not only that, but Entertainment One's release of the series offers excellent transfers, a useful booklet and a smattering of other extra features. Mystery fans would be delighted with this little-seen show.  [DVDTalk review]

Other recently released great TV on DVD gift ideas include: Tim & Eric Awesome Show Great Job: Season 4 [DVDTalk review, another rave review], Thriller - The Complete Series [DVDTalk review], and Bing Crosby - The Television Specials: Volume One [DVDTalk review].
Know someone who is always dropping strange names like "Evangelion" and talks about "mecha" and "Gundam" or someone who refers to themselves as an "otaku" whatever that may be?  Worry no more, they're just and anime fan and you've come to the right place!  The writers of DVDTalk's monthly anime column, Anime Talk, put their heads together and came up with a list of titles and anime fanatic would be happy to unwrap this holiday season.

Toradora!, Vol.1 (Premium Edition): Toradora! is one of the first two anime series released by NIS America (more known for its gaming releases). Why Toradora!? It's one of the best school romance series that has ever been made. The character relationships and the story development are both very well done. This is the first of two volumes. Both thinpak volumes (and color artbook) are housed inside a sturdy, stylish chipboard artbox. It's definitely one of the best anime release this year. Here is the Official Trailer.

Moribito - Guardian of the Spirit: Moribito is finally made available in a very economical boxset. The tale of Chagum's road to manhood and his hired female spear-wielding bodyguard Balsa. The series is filled with great animation along with supernatural elements. The storytelling and character development are both great as well. It's definitely an underrated series that people should take a look at. Here is the DVDTalk review.

Eden of the East: This is that rare series that does everything right and deserves to be seen by anyone who enjoys a great mystery--anime fan or non. If not for the quasi-cliffhanger ending that serves up some still-to-come movies, this would be the perfect set. This is a great gift to give someone that you want to convert to otakudom. One of us! One of us! [DVDTalk review of Eden of the East]

Lupin the 3rd Episode 0: First Contact: Does there seem to be something missing in your otaku's life that you can't quite put your finger on? Perhaps that something is a little Lupin. This movie is a prequel of sorts that describes how the gang all came together in an action-filled caper that could easily be translated into a Hollywood blockbuster film. The extras feature a unique commentary from Lupin superfan, Nelson Reed, who probably knows more about these characters than the actual writers and truly has the time of his life discussing them. [DVDTalk review of Lupin the 3rd Episode 0: First Contact]

Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood: No self-respecting anime fan can have a collection that does not prominently feature the next great series, Fullmetal Alchemist: Brotherhood. If your otaku somehow missed the original series, fear not, this is a complete reset of the franchise that closely mirrors the recently finished manga. There is a lot to love in this series with its gorgeous art, memorable characters, and ever-thickening plot. [DVDTalk review of Part 1, Part 2]

Dragon Ball Z: Dragon Box:  It's here at last:  The definitive edition of the world's most famous anime series. These sets are really devoted to the hardcore fan who wants to experience the show the way it was first broadcast, and they do everything they set out to do.  With the restored image, faithful reproduction of the original Japanese shows, original aspect ratio, and nice packaging, these collections will put any DBZ fan on Nimbus Cloud nine. [DVDTalk review of Box 1, Box 2, Box 3, Box 4]

The world comes together in as a flurry of whacky characters that pick on each other, hang out, and try to win World War II. Hetalia: Axis Powers is one of the most twisted anime franchises to come along in quite some time. The show is infectiously entertaining and is an instant win for FUNimation. The first two seasons are available on DVD. [DVDTalk reviews of the first and second seasons]

Granted it's not the kind of anime you'd ask your parents for, but Rin: Daughters of Mnemosyne is one fantastic show that's worth getting. This is a story about immortal women in the future and their mortal, hungry, male counterparts. It's dark, violent, and rather erotic, but the story, characters, and presentation of the show totally sell the package. [DVDTalk reviews of Blu-ray and DVD releases]

Death runs a school for soul hunting in Soul Eater. This shonen series follows the exploits of kids from the school as they harvest souls, hunt monsters, and help save the world. It's full of style, action, awesome animation, and personality. Four volumes of the show are available and definitely something that could be considered "epic". [DVDTalk Reviews for Parts 1, 2, 3, and 4]

Overlooked Films
Every so often, a film slips under the radar for one reason or another that deserves to be seen by a wider audience. Now for the hardcore film fan, the following list might feature some well-known titles, but to the average filmgoer, these are likely some undiscovered surprises waiting to be seen. They run the gamut from a biting satirical comedy to a World War II film that forces two adversaries to rely on each other to survive. They're all definitely worth your time if their plots tickle your fancy.

Election: Alexander Payne be more noted for his films "About Schmidt" and "Sideways," but a few years prior to both of those, he unleashed a cutting satirical comedy set in a Midwestern high school. "Election" benefits from a sharp script and great leading performances by Matthew Broderick and Reese Witherspoon. Don't let the MTV Films backing fool you, this is as strong as Payne's other work and still holds up just as well today and one of the most accurate (and in turn sad) portrayals of high school life from both the student and teacher perspective. [DVD Talk Review]

Gangster No. 1: A very solid, but overlooked entry into the modern British crime genre, "Gangster No. 1" chronicles the rise of a nameless, unhinged, psychopath played for the majority of the movie by Paul Bettany. The heavily stylized character study rarely pulls punches and Bettany is mesmerizing. David Thewlis turns up as the young gangster's mentor and friend, while Malcolm McDowell plays the older gangster in bookend sequences. [DVD Talk Review]

Hell in the Pacific: John Boorman's World War II film features two of the biggest stars of it's time, Lee Marvin and Toshiro Mifune alone on an island, enemies by circumstance forced to depend on one another to survive. "Hell in the Pacific" makes the bold choice of only allowing English speaking viewers to understand Marvin as Mifune speaks in his native Japanese. Although the DVD does feature subtitles for the hearing impaired that actually do reveal what Mifune's character is saying, the strength of both performances makes it so the viewer has no real need for them. A powerful and criminally forgotten film. [DVD Talk Review]

State of the Union: It may not be the best work of all the parties involved, but "State of the Union" is still a very good film that I never knew existed until I spotted it on DVD. A Frank Capra film featuring the classic silver screen duo of Spencer Tracy and Katherine Hepburn as the President and First Lady respectively, Hollywood heavyweights Angela Lansbury, Adolphe Menjou, and Van Johnson all show up in great supporting roles. Based on the 1946 Pulitzer Prize winning play of the same name, Hepburn & Tracy fans will definitely want to add this one to their collection and aficionados of good old-fashioned filmmaking won't be let down either. [DVD Talk Review]

Dead Man: Johnny Depp gives one of the strongest performances of his career in Jim Jarmusch's 1995, black-and-white Western. A surreal film to say the least, featuring bizarre cameos from Billy Bob Thornton and Iggy Pop, along with a haunting, guitar driven soundtrack by Neil Young, "Dead Man" is one of the few Westerns to break the stereotypical treatment of Native Americans. As solid as Depp is, Gary Farmer steals the show as Nobody, a Native American stolen from his people, educated with whites, before eventually returning to his roots. A magnificent, bizarre, unforgettable film.

The Candidate: Michael Ritchie's "The Candidate" is one of the finest political films ever made. A character study of an idealistic politician, Bill McKay on a quest for a seat in the Senate is eye opening and grueling as we slowly see good intentions unravel in the face of the cold truth that politics isn't so much about being the right man for the job, but more about having the right image for the job. Robert Redford delivers a very natural, lived in performance as McKay and the character transformation showcases Redford's everyman quality. Although the DVD is full-frame, it is an open-matte transfer, and still well worth picking up.

Murphy's Romance: While James Garner may have secured a Best Actor Oscar nomination for his role as the titular Murphy Jones, time has seem to have passed this wonderful movie by. Set in a small southwestern town, "Murphy's Romance" is a romantic dramedy between a 30-something single mother played by Sally Field, and the town pharmacist, Murphy, who, as he puts it "is old enough to know better." Martin Ritt's direction lets the actors play off of each other verbally, trusting the script, which has some very sharp dialogue between the two, to deliver a romance that harkens back to films of the 30s or 40s. If romantic films are your cup of tea, this is a must purchase title that will even appeal to the biggest cynic of the genre.


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