I'm a big proponent of giving DVD and Blu-ray sets for holiday gifts. I find it simplifies the gift buying process nicely.
For anyone on my list, I have a pretty good sense of their pop culture and entertainment predilections. For my dad, anything regarding motor sports or pre-1960 country music. For my sister, any movie where love is affirmed and/or you're crying at the end. For my kids, anything where cartoon animals drop anvils on the heads of other cartoon animals.
Below are ten suggestions for DVD/Blu-ray gift items this holiday season, across a variety of genres and prices.
Each of these selections features original material or bonus extras that you can't get online or via the various modes of digital distribution — Internet streaming, cable/satellite video-on-demand, etc. As we've discussed previously, DVD/Blu-ray still has a lot going for it, even as digital distribution threatens to do away with physical discs entirely. Listed prices are approximate retail costs, although you will find a wide range of prices online and in retail stores. With the bigger box sets especially, it pays to shop around.
(Blu-ray/DVD, $21.50, 3 discs; wbshop.com)
The enduring genius of classic Bugs Bunny cartoons continues to amaze. Whether you're eight or 88, the 50 animated shorts collected here are endless fun and represent choice selections from the Warner Bros. vaults. For the obsessive animation fan, Volume 2 is packed with expert commentaries, documentaries and rarities.
It's a can't-miss gift idea for anyone on your list: Who doesn't love Looney Tunes? Of particular note: Director Chuck Jones' immortal Duck Season trilogy, in which Bugs outwits both Daffy and Elmer during hunting season.
(Blu-ray, starting at $85.40 on Yahoo! Shopping, 10 discs)
For the discerning film geek on your list, this gorgeously packaged 8-film set gathers the seven feature-length films Tarantino has directed — Reservoir Dogs, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds — plus the underrated True Romance, based on Tarantino's screenplay.
Each of the individual films has its own slate of extras — deleted and alternate scenes, commentary tracks, pop-up trivia and interviews with collaborators like Brad Pitt, Sam Jackson, John Travolta and RZA. The two bonus discs feature retrospective docs and critics roundtable discussions. It's a generous set, and the behind-the-scenes details can be pretty juicy — Travolta in particular tells some good stories here.
(DVD, starting at $60; Yahoo! Shopping, 5 discs)
For the older comedy lover on your list — "veteran comedy scholar" is the polite term — this quirky Mel Brooks collection packages 65 years (!) of material across five discs: film clips, TV appearances, reunion specials, short films, tributes and other rare footage.
Brooks is one of only 11 people in history to earn an Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony Award, and his work literally spans every medium of entertainment. The included bonus CD includes Brooks' trademark musical numbers from The Producers, Blazing Saddles and High Anxiety.
(Blu-ray, starting at $65, 5 discs)
If you judge a film relatively — considering its genre, intent and what it accomplishes — Raiders of the Lost Ark is very nearly the Perfect Movie.
Watching it again, I was amazed at the clockwork precision of it all. (I was also reminded of my still-smoldering childhood crush on Karen Allen.) This set features the three terrific films of the original trilogy, plus the other one, with seven hours of extras and an all-new two part doc on Raiders. But the real selling point here is the meticulous digital restoration of the original film, which has been upgraded to high def with frame-by-frame clean-up and remastered sound.
(DVD, starting at $10; Yahoo! Shopping, 4 discs)
Winter is a cruel season for the hardcore baseball fan. I speak from experience. Fortunately, Major League Baseball and A&E Networks have been collaborating for years on these DVD sets, which dig deep into MLB's film vaults and provide hours of sepia-toned nostalgia.
This four-disc set, narrated by Bob Costas, chronicles baseball's World Series all the way back to its first year in 1903. You get more than 100 interviews with players and coaches, plus bonus extras like stills of historic programs and scorecards.
(DVD, starting at $25; Yahoo! Shopping, 3 discs)
Compiled in collaboration with the man himself, this 3-disc set is another comedy goldmine with wide appeal for all ages. The collection focuses on Martin's early years, when his unique style of stand-up was taking the biz by storm.
In addition to the five classic TV specials that Martin did for NBC and HBO in the '70s and '80s, you get assorted scripted bits and guest appearances from contemporaries like Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, David Letterman, Bill Murray and even Henny Youngman.
(DVD/Blu-ray combo pack, starting at $15; Yahoo! Shopping, 4 discs)
I've seen Titanic maybe a half-dozen times now, evaluating various home video packages, and I still cry a little at the end, every time. I'm not ashamed — it's testament to the film's old-fashioned epic drama approach and my weakness for tragic love stories.
Released to Blu-ray for the first time, with yet another helping of previously unreleased extras, this four-disc set includes high-def and standard copies of the film plus — deep breath — 60 behind-the-scenes features,30 deleted scenes, three different commentary tracks, two new documentaries plus an array of photos, storyboards and schematics. The set is also available in a four-disc Blu-ray 3D set, or two-disc DVD-only set.
DVD/Blu-ray, starting at $140; Yahoo! Shopping, 18 discs)
We're all familiar with the dilemma: With so many quality series on TV, it's impossible to keep up with all or even most of them. So you have to pick and choose.
For eight seasons, HBO's Entourage was a safe bet, providing vicarious thrills and laughs with its depiction of Hollywood fame and misfortune. This set collects all eight seasons with six hours of bonus content, including some remarkably candid interviews with the cast and creators. This is a good marathon-viewing choice for anyone willing to set aside the next several months.
(DVD/Blu-ray combo pack; starting at $18,; Yahoo! Shopping, 2 discs)
Released earlier this year to DVD and Blu-ray, Martin Scorsese's beautiful 3D family film looks surprisingly good scaled down to TV size and a meager two dimensions. This film is an ideal gift purely on its own merits — I suspect Hugo will be enshrined as one of the greats by future film scholars.
The DVD/Blu-ray combo pack includes five different featurettes on various aspects of the film, plus a fascinating mini-documentary on the films of Georges Melies.
(Blu-ray, starting at $10; Yahoo! Shopping, 1 disc)
Another terrific all-ages movie, The Princess Bride only gets better with repeat viewings. This densely-packed single-disc reissue features the usual assortment of bonus material, plus two audio commentary tracks and an all-new retrospective doc with director, writer, cast and crew.
The Princess Bride makes for a nice gift in that it's like an instant mood-improver, just sitting there on the shelf, waiting to be watched.
Note: This was written by Glenn McDonald, a Digital Crave contributor.
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