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2015 - Holiday Gift Guide - Part I

November 27th, 2015

MCU Phase 2

It's Thanksgiving weekend, which means Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and of course the first installment of our Holiday Gift Guide. This week we will tackle first run releases, as well as franchise box sets. I'm going to try to keep it to a dozen or so releases, as these columns are notorious for getting out of hand. Also, while there were a record number of $1 billion box office hits, there were not as many first run releases that earned stellar reviews this year.


For those who can't wait till Phase Three...
Marvel Cinematic Universe: Phase 2 Collection - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray
Description: All six movies from the second phase of the Marvel Cinematic Universe from Iron Man 3 through to Ant-Man. Plus, a bonus disc of extras, Prop Replica of the Morag Orb, and more.
Pros: All six movies were box office hits and earned at least 66% positive reviews. There are plenty of extras on the regular edition of these Blu-rays and even more here.
Cons: Fans of the franchise likely have most, if not all of these releases already, so there are plenty of double-dips. Additionally, $200 for six movies isn't a low asking price. It might be better to grab the two releases from this year, The Avengers: Age of Ultron (3D Blu-ray) and Ant-Man (3D Blu-ray).


For those who want to get a little emotional...
Inside Out - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: The latest Pixar film focuses on Reilly, or more specifically, the emotions inside her mind that influence her behaviors.
Pros: This is the best movie I've seen this year and its reviews are among the best of the year. I would be shocked if it doesn't win the Oscar for Best Feature-Length Animated Film, while it could pick up a handful of other nominations, including Best Picture. The extras on the Blu-ray are amazing, while this is one of the best-looking Blu-rays I've ever seen.
Cons: ... I'm coming up blank here. It really is a must have for kids and adults. Even if you don't really like animation, the story has so much emotional depth that it will draw in adults as well.


For those who like their animation a little less deep...
Shaun the Sheep - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: The latest from Aardman Animations. This film is an adaptation of the TV show of the same name, which in turn is a spin-off of the Wallace and Gromit franchise.
Pros: This film earned some of the best reviews of the past decade and it is a must have for fans of Aardman Animations.
Cons: It's aimed at a younger target demographic than Inside Out [Copy Ed:Unless you are English then even grannies enjoy it]. Also, it bombed in theaters, so the extras are a little weak.


For those who like their holidays to be a little angry...
Mad Max: Fury Road - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: The first Mad Max installment in almost exactly 30 years. Going that long between installments can be the death of a franchise; however...
Pros: the reboot was well-received by both critics and moviegoers with Imperator Furiosa being heralded as one of the best new characters of the summer. The DVD / Blu-ray has about 90 minutes of bonus features, which further raises its value.
Cons: It's an R-rated action film, which does limit its target audience somewhat.


For those who like some intrigue in their holidays...
Spy - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: This is the third collaboration between Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy. In it, Melissa McCarthy stars as a CIA analyst who has to go into the field for the first time ever when a portable nuclear weapon goes on the blackmarket and they have to find it before it winds up in some terrorist's hands.
Pros: Paul Feig and Melissa McCarthy have made three movies together. All three movies have earned critical praise and all three movies have been box office hits. Extras include an audio commentary track, making of featurette, a ton of deleted / alternative / extended scenes, as well as outtakes.
Cons: It's an R-rated action comedy. I have no problem with this genre, but even I thought there were too many shots of that prosthetic penis.


For those who like their R-rated comedies a little messy...
Trainwreck - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: Amy Schumer's first starring role in a movie. Here she plays a woman whose opinions on relationships were shaped due to her parents divorce. Now in her 30s, she meets a doctor and they have so much chemistry that she has to rethink her position on romance.
Pros: This film earned excellent reviews thanks in part to Judd Apatow's direction. (This isn't the first time he's made a movie in this genre.) However, a lot of it has to do with Amy Schumer's script. Extras on the DVD / Blu-ray include audio commentary track, deleted / extended / alternative scenes, behind-the-scenes, outtakes, and more.
Cons: Again, it's an R-rated comedy. There were a lot of good R-rated movies that came out in wide release this year. That's not usually the case.


For those who liked this movie more than I did...
Furious 7 - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: The seventh installment in the Fast and the Furious franchise. It has a plot, but the plot doesn't matter.
Pros: It became the biggest hit in the franchise and one of the biggest worldwide hits of all time, so clearly it has a lot of fans. The extras on the Blu-ray are good and it is definitely worth it for fans of the franchise.
Cons: I didn't like it nearly as much as most critics did. Some of the action scenes were repetitive or entered the realm of self-parody. Also, there wasn't enough Dwayne Johnson.


For those who want the biggest movie of the year...
Jurassic World - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: The latest installment in the Jurassic Park franchise became the third highest grossing film both domestically and worldwide. It's about a new dinosaur attraction in the park that goes on a rampage, because people are stupid.
Pros: It became the biggest hit in the franchise and one of the biggest worldwide hits of all time, so clearly it has a lot of fans. The extras on the Blu-ray are good and it is definitely worth it for fans of the franchise.
Cons: I didn't like it at all. I kept screaming at the TV while watching it, because the plot only gets started because of complete stupidity on the part of the characters. On the other hand, I am in the minority here.


For those who want every $1 billion hit of the year...
Minions - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 3D Combo Pack
Description: The Spin-Off of the Despicable Me franchise. This time focusing on the Minions as they try to find the perfect villain to follow and "help".
Pros: It became the biggest hit in the franchise and one of the biggest worldwide hits of all time, so clearly it has a lot of fans. The extras on the Blu-ray are good and it is definitely worth it for fans of the franchise. (That's the final time I will need to type that.)
Cons: For adults, a little bit of the Minions goes a long way. While I'm sure most kids who loved the first two Despicable Me movies will love this one as well, adults will likely not feel the same.


For those who want their little yellow animated pals to be more absorbant...
The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge Out of Water - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 3D Combo Pack
Description: The long-awaited sequel to SpongeBob SquarePants, which in turn was an adaptation of the long-running cartoon. The film starts with the secret recipe for the Krabby Patty disappearing and SpongeBob and Plankton try to get it back.
Pros: The film beat its predecessor at the box office and with critics. There are also lots of fun extras on the DVD and Blu-ray. The first has great crossover appeal for an animated film.
Cons: That crossover appeal is mostly in the form of inebriated college students.

That's enough of the major releases for the year. Let's look at some franchise box sets, starting with...


For those who want a Christmas collection...
Home Alone - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 3D Combo Pack
Description: All five films in the Home Alone franchise in a paint can with several physical extras. The first two come on Blu-ray and DVD, the final three are only on DVD.
Pros: Home Alone is widely considered a Christmas classic, even if critics at the time didn't agree. The second isn't as well liked, but still has its supporters. The packaging is fun, while the physical extras include a Christmas tree ornament.
Cons: This is basically a two-movie box set and I think the studio knows that. Not only are the final three films only on DVD, number three is presented in non-anamorphic widescreen, while number four is on a flipper disc. It has been a while since I've seen either of those. The Holiday Heist is an improvement over the previous two installments, but not by a lot.


For those who like movies with short leads and long running times...
The Hobbit - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 3D Combo Pack
Description: All three films in The Hobbit franchise in their extended formats, which explains the 15-disc size of the box set.
Pros: The story is an epic and the trilogy pulled in nearly $3 billion worldwide. The DVDs and Blu-rays are loaded with extras and there's hours and hours of entertainment here.
Cons: There are hours and hours of running time here based on a story that isn't that long. There's a lot of padding here and that hurt the three films' reviews. The three films ranged from good to very good, but they are not classics like the first trilogy was.


For those who are still sore that we don't have hoverboards...
Back to the Future - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: All three films in the Back to the Future franchise, plus two bonus discs of extras, including one that is new to this set.
Pros: The first film is an absolute classic. If it is not in your collection, it needs to be there. The second one has a very, very confused timeline, but personally, I think that's part of the charm. The third film isn't a classic like the first, but it is still very good.
Cons: You might think just getting the first film on Blu-ray is the better idea. I think the two bonus discs are worth it.

There are other franchise box sets that are worth picking up, like the Die Hard Nakatomi Plaza Collection. However, there are a couple of others that come with a warning. I think Fast and the Furious has more box sets than there are movies, so the most recent Box Set won't be the last. Same is true of the Jurassic Park Box Set.

That's it for the first-run releases. Up next are the TV on DVD releases in a couple of weeks. Then we have classics, limited releases, etc., before finishing off with miscellaneous releases and anything I forgot.


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Filed under: Holiday Gift Guide, Jurassic Park, Home Alone, Back to the Future, Die Hard, Mad Max, Fast and the Furious, Wallace and Gromit, Peter Jackson's Lord of the Rings, Marvel Cinematic Universe, Despicable Me, The Hobbit, SpongeBob SquarePants, Charlize Theron, Judd Apatow, Dwayne Johnson, Tom Kenny, Melissa McCarthy, Paul Feig, Amy Schumer, Mr. Lawrence, Kaitlyn Dias