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2013 - Holiday Gift Guide - Part I

November 24th, 2013

Thanksgiving is less than a week away and that means Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and a ton of shopping. It also means the first installment of our Holiday Gift Guide. Over the next month, we will talk about TV on DVD releases, independent releases, foreign language releases, classics, etc. but this week we start with Major Movie Releases. These are first run releases, franchise box sets, etc. However, this year seems weaker than years past. Last year the biggest new release was The Avengers, which was also one of the best reviewed wide releases of the year. This year the biggest release is Iron Man 3, which earned good reviews, but not great reviews. Last year there were a ton of franchise box sets. This year has been pretty barren. In fact, I think the only franchise box set that's truly new and really worth picking up is...

For those who think, "Better late than never"...
The Avengers - Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase One - Avengers Assembled - Buy from Amazon
Description: The Avengers was the biggest hit of last year and one of the biggest hits of all time. It was also the culmination of plan to introduce several of the biggest super heroes in solo movies before teaming them up in one massive movie. It was a risky plan, but it paid off, big time. This box set, which was delayed from last fall to this spring, has all six movies from the The Avengers franchise up to that point, plus extras.
Pros: Personally, I liked all of the movies that went into the the Creation of The Avengers. There are a ton of extras on the ten-disc set, including a bonus disc only found here, plus some physical extras that are fun to collect.
Cons: Personally, I own all of the movies that went into the the creation of The Avengers, so this 10-disc box set costs a lot compared to the small amount of new material in it. Also, it came out in spring, so fans of the franchise have had a long time to grab it if they want it.

For those who want every Bond Box Set...
James Bond: 50- Buy from Amazon
Description: It's Bond, James Bond. All movies from the official Bond franchise, so it doesn't include either Never Say Never Again or the original Casino Royale. (Not that either of those are a huge loss).
Pros: There is also a bonus disc with all new special features, as well as tons of extras on the other discs. I haven't seen all of the movies on Blu-ray yet, but the ones I did see looked and sounded awesome, especially for their age.
Cons: Let's face it, they release a new Bond box set nearly every year.

For those who want (possibly) the biggest wide release release of the year...
Iron Man 3 - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 3D Combo Pack
Description: A sequel to both Iron Man 2 and The Avengers. It shows Tony Stark as having PTSD after the battle in New York City. Meanwhile, he still has to try and save the world, this time from a terrorist organization led by The Mandarin.
Pros: I would consider this film to be the best action film from the summer. It works as a sequel to the biggest summer hits of all time, but doesn't try to top it in terms of action. Also, the two-disc Blu-ray combo pack is loaded with extras, while its techincal presentation is excellent.
Cons: Its reviews are a big step down from The Avengers's reviews. However, that is hardly a damning indictment.

For those who want the best reviewed summer blockbuster...
Star Trek Into Darkness- Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 3D Combo Pack
Description: A sequel to the 2009 reboot. This time around, the crew of the Enterprise has to stop a terrorist who might be trying to start a war between the Klingon Empire and the Federation.
Pros: This film is arguably the best of the summer blockbusters. (This film and The Conjuring earned virtually identical reviews.) Most critics loved the film. However...
Cons: I didn't love the movie. There are parts I really liked, but I liked the movie better back in 1982 when it first came out. (If you've seen the movie, you know what I'm talking about. If not, hopefully that's not too much of a spoiler.) Also, there are not a lot of extras on the DVD or Blu-ray.

For those who want the biggest summer blockbuster, in terms of gross tons...
Pacific Rim - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, 3D Combo Pack, or 3D Collector's Edition
Description: Set in the near future, a future where giant monsters (Kaiju) rise from the oceans and attack coastal cities. The countries of the world join forces to defeat these monsters by using giant two-person robots (Jaegers). However, the monsters continue to grow stronger and the Jaegers become ineffective. As the program is about to be shut down, they try for one last attempt to defeat their foe.
Pros: The idea of a movie about giant robots fighting giant Kaiju should get a lot of people really excited. Plus, this movie was directed by Guillermo Del Toro, who is known for creating visually interesting movies. Also, the two-disc DVD or Blu-ray are loaded with extras.
Cons: The reviews were only good and not great. Visually it is impressive, so is the world created by the filmmakers, but the story and the characters are less compelling. Also, there are an obnoxious number of Blu-ray releases so it is hard to tell which one is the best. (There are almost a dozen of them on

For those who want to think about school during the Christmas break...
Monsters University - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo pack, or 3D Combo Pack
Description: A prequel to Monsters, Inc. where we see Mike and Sullivan meet for the first time, start out as rivals, and become friends.
Pros: Arguably the best animated film of the summer. There is a lot very funny moments in the movie and the voice cast is excellent. If you are a fan of college movies, especially college underdog movies, you will likely enjoy this one as well. Or at the very least, you will enjoy watching this film with your kids. The extras are also good and like all Pixar releases, the technical presentation is amazing.
Cons: It isn't as good as Monsters, Inc. was. Also, one could argue Despicable Me 2 is the better movie. Speaking of which...

For those who like minions more than monsters...
Despicable Me 2 - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 3D Combo Pack
Description: After learning to enjoy being a father, Gru has given up being a super villain. However, when another super villain begins causing trouble, Gru is brought in by the Anti-Villain League to figure out who is doing this and for what purpose. And in order to do that, he needs to go undercover... at the mall.
Pros: I haven't completely the full review yet. (It comes out on Video on Demand on Tuesday, but it doesn't come out on DVD or Blu-ray till the 10th.) With that in mind, this film earned some of the best reviews for any wide release that came out this summer. If you enjoyed the first film, you will likely enjoy this one as well.
Cons: Like most sequels that came out this summer, the film's reviews are down when compared its predecessor's reviews. Granted, it is only a 6-point decline and 75% positive is still better than most animated films earn.

For those who like the holidays to be scary...
The Conjuring - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: A family buys a house in the country, but they quickly learn there's something evil living in the house.
Pros: Like I previously mentioned, this is one of the best-reviewed wide releases of the year. It is also one of the scariest movies of the year... at least the parts I've seen. The cast is incredible with strong performances from all, including the adults and the five younger actresses who play the couple's daughters. The horror comes from the mood, not sadistic torture porn, and the characters are compelling in their own right.
Cons: It might be cursed. I've tried three times to watch this movie and each time I start it, before I can finish I'm flooded with work I need to finish on a deadline. The same thing kept happening with The Innkeepers, which is another horror movie that is worth owning.

For those who like their romance with a side of horror...
Warm Bodies - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Set in a world after the Zombie apocalypse, Nicholas Hoult plays R, a zombie. While he's hunting for food, he sees Teresa Palmer, Jules, and it is love as first sight. Except zombies aren't supposed to feel love. There's a bigger obstacle to their relationship, Jules father, John Malkovich, is the leader of the city and is fanatical about killing the zombies. (Which is sensible, given the situation.)
Pros: It's Romeo and Juliet, but with zombies. A lot of people wrote this film off as a Twilight rip-off, but this movie is actually really good. It's better than the summer's big zombie movie. Also, the DVD and the Blu-ray are loaded with extras.
Cons: The movie hit theaters in February and the DVD and Blu-ray have been out since June, so those interested in the movie are more likely to have it already.

For those who want the best wide release of the year, even if it wasn't a big hit......
The World's End - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-Ray
Description: Five friends try to relive their youth by doing the Golden Mile, a Pub Crawl involving 12 different pubs in one night. To be more accurate, one of the friends, Gary King, is trying to relive his youth, the others were just dragged along. However, partway through the night they realize their home town has changed and in a sinister way.
Pros: At 89% positive, this film has the best Tomatometer Score of any wide release this year. (Not counting the ones in theaters now, because you won't be able to buy those for a Christmas gift, at least not this year.) It is part of the Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, all three of which are must haves. The DVD and Blu-ray are loaded with extras and because of the Easter Eggs and foreshadowing in the movie, it has a lot of replay value.
Cons: It's British, it might be too British for an American audience, which would explain why it struggled in theaters.

That's pretty much it for this year's major releases. There are undoubtedly some I've forgotten, but that's why we split the Holiday Gift Guide into four parts. There are also several films that came out in theaters this time last year and came out on the home market earlier this year. Django Unchained, Skyfall, Silver Linings Playbook, Wreck-It Ralph, Argo, Zero Dark Thirty, etc. All would make terrific gifts, except they've been out on the home market so long that odds are if the person you are buying for wanted them, they probably already have them.

Next weekend the Holiday Gift Guide takes a holiday for the December Movie Preview, but the weekend after that we will have TV on DVD releases.


Filed under: The Avengers, Star Trek Into Darkness, Monsters University, Iron Man 3, The World's End, Despicable Me 2, Pacific Rim, Warm Bodies, The Conjuring, James Bond, Twilight, Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy, Steve Carell, Billy Crystal, Guillermo Del Toro, Robert Downey, Jr., John Goodman, Nicholas Hoult, Ben Kingsley, John Malkovich, Teresa Palmer, Simon Pegg