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2014 - Holiday Gift Guide - Part III

December 13th, 2014

The third installment of our annual Holiday Gift Guide involves limited releases, including foreign films and documentaries; classics hitting DVD or Blu-ray for the first time; and of course Canadian films. There were better choices for the limited releases than there were for big releases and TV on DVD releases, which is good news, because this Holiday Gift Guide feels that it ahs been lackluster so far. There have been many great limited releases to come out this year, including several foreign-language films to find some measure of mainstream success. On the downside, every year a lot of these movies hit theaters in the fall, so they won't hit the home market for months. That said, there are still some real highlights among the limited releases, classics, and Canadian films. In fact, we start off with the highest of the highlights for the entire year.

For those who want their documentaries compleat... with as many falsehoods as possible...
The Compleat Al - Buy from Amazon: DVD
Description: Borrowing its name from The Compleat Beatles, this film is a mockumentary about Weird Al Yankovic from his early childhood to his international fame.
Pros: This is the first time this film has been released on DVD ever, so fans of the Weird Al have been waiting a long, long time to see this movie again. I hadn't seen it in nearly 20 years since my VHS tape was eaten by my VCR. I've watched the DVD three times already, so there's lots of replay value. There are plenty of funny bits and nearly a dozen songs in the movie.
Cons: It is only coming out on DVD and there are no real extras on the DVD. (It does have the trailer and an extended trailer.) That said, it was originally a direct-to-VHS film that even most Weird Al fans probably have never heard of, so I'm not surprised the distributor didn't spend extra money on extras. Just be glad it came out at all.
Notes: If you are shopping for a Weird Al fan, grabbing UHF on Blu-ray would also be an ideal gift.

For those who want more music for the holidays...
We Are the Best! - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: A Swedish film about three preteen girls who decide to start a punk band in 1982, despite not having any musical talent, or even instruments. Also, punk is not exactly popular, so the three girls become outcasts.
Pros: One of the best films of the year and moviegoers who like coming of age movies, foreign films, and / or punk music should love this movie.
Cons: Neither the DVD nor the Blu-ray have any extras. Then again, it is a foreign language import, so this is not uncommon.

For those who want a black and white film about non-black and white issues...
Ida - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: A Polish film starring Agata Trzebuchowska as Anna, a new nun in the 1960s. She discovers family secrets that trace back to World War II and the Nazis.
Pros: The film has earned some of the best reviews of the year and has already picked up a couple of major nominations. The extras on the DVD and Blu-ray are on par with most foreign-language releases.
Cons: It is black and white and some people don't like black and white films. I would argue those people likely also don't like foreign-language films, so its probably not an issue.

For those who want a foreign-language film with a large Hollywood crossover...
Snowpiercer - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: A South Korean film made by Joon-ho Bong, who previously made Mother and The Host. This film has a more Hollywood cast and was mostly in English.
Pros: The film's reviews are 95% positive and many critics praised the message of the movie. The DVD and Blu-ray have an audio commentary track plus nearly two hours of featurettes and interviews.
Cons: Some people complained that the politics were a little heavy-handed.

For those who like their foreign-language films a little more animated...
Ernest & Celestine - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: An animated film set in the world of bears and mice. The two groups live separately and hate each other. The mice steal the teeth from bears and use them to replace the teeth of mice, because without teeth they can't chew and tunnel. The bears, in return, eat the mice, if they catch them.
Pros: This film earned near perfect reviews and even picked up an Oscar nomination. Extras are better than most limited releases, but neither the DVD nor the Blu-ray are fully loaded.
Cons: The film was nominated last year for an Oscar and it has been out on the home market for six months. If the person you are buying for liked it, there is a higher chance that they own it.

For those who want the swan song of one of the greatest animators of all time...
The Wind Rises - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: Possibly Hayao Miyazaki last film. It tells the mostly real life story of Jiro Horikoshi, who dreamed of being a pilot, but bad eyesight ended that dream. So instead he becomes a plane designer, but the people most interested in advanced plane designs are the military.
Pros: One of the best animated films films of the year. It tells a touching story of a man chasing his dream. The extras on the DVD and Blu-ray are better than most foreign-language imports.
Cons: This film isn't among the best from Hayao Miyazaki's career. That said, the average Hayao Miyazaki film is better than 90% of other movies.
Notes: Kiki's Delivery Service and Princess Mononoke both made their Blu-ray debuts this year and would also make great gifts.

For those who want the biggest limited release of the year...
The Grand Budapest Hotel - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Wes Anderson's latest film is about the Grand Budapest Hotel and crazy people who worked there and holidayed there. It specifically focuses on the concierge, Monsieur Gustave H..
Pros: If you like Wes Anderson's films, you will likely love this movie. It is arguably his best film. I would put it third, but that's still fantastic considering the number of excellent movies he's made.
Cons: There are not a lot of extras on the DVD or the Blu-ray.

For those who want a movie that will leave them hungry...
Chef - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: Jon Favreau wrote, directed, and stars as Chef Carl Casper, a chef who loses his job and can't get another due to a viral video showing him berating a critic. He decides to get a food truck and drive it across country with his line chef, John Leguizamo, and his son, Emjay Anthony.
Pros: This is an incredible movie, largely because it was clearly a passion project for Jon Favreau. The chemistry of the cast is fantastic.
Cons: The extras are limited to an audio commentary track and some deleted scenes. That's about on par with most limited releases, but considering how well it performed in theaters, I was expecting more.

For those who want a message with their meal...
The Lunchbox - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: A woman sends a lunchbox with a note in it to her husbands work, but it arrives at the wrong man's desk. When it happens again, the man responds to the note. This is the beginning of an unusual friendship.
Pros: An amazing movie that was praised for its writing and acting. It is an emotionally touching film, but one that never feels emotionally manipulative.
Cons: The only extra on the DVD or Blu-ray is an audio commentary track. Then again, a lot of limited releases don't even have that.

For those who want to remember when he made good movies...
Joe - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Nicolas Cage stars as the titular Joe, an ex-con trying to stay out of trouble, but who meets a teenage boy who might need his help.
Pros: This is the best-reviewed Nicolas Cage movie in the past decade. Only Bad Lieutenant has earned as strong reviews as this film did. Extras are good for a limited release with an audio commentary track, two making of featurettes, and two deleted scenes.
Cons: It has been so long since Nicolas Cage has consistently made good movies, the person you are buying for might think this is a gag gift.

For those who want movies about movies...
Jodorowsky's Dune - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: This is a documentary about a movie that was never made. In the 1970s, Alejandro Jodorowsky was working on an adaptation of Frank Herbert's Sci-fi novel, Dune. It was never made, but the story of how it nearly got made is worth telling.
Pros: One of the best documentaries of the year and a must have for fans of Jodorowsky, fans of the novel, or fans of filmmaking in general. If you like watching the Making Of featurettes on movies, but wish they were feature-length, then this is the movie for you. Extras include more than 45 minutes of deleted scenes, which is a lot for a documentary.
Cons: It might be frustrating to watch the movie knowing this film was never made.

Oh my...
To Be Takei - Buy from Amazon: DVD
Description: A documentary about George Takei, who became famous playing Sulu in the Star Trek movies and TV show. Now he's known more as a social activist and social media star.
Pros: George Takei's resurgence in popularity during the age of social media is no fluke. He is witty and charming and that is evident in this movie. There are 30 minutes of deleted scenes, which isn't bad for a documentary.
Cons: It is only out on DVD.

For those who want to be infuriated for Christmas...
Kids for Cash - Buy from Amazon: DVD
Description: A documentary about the cash for kids scandal, in which juveniles were given very harsh sentences and sent to a privately run detention center, a center two judges had financial ties to.
Pros: This is a very powerful story and the documentary does it justice, for lack of a better term. The only extras are 16 minutes on deleted scenes, which is fine for this type of release.
Cons: It is a frustrating movie to watch, because of all of the injustice.

For those who want a bit of inspiration after the last movie...
Next Goal Wins - Buy from Amazon: DVD
Description: A documentary about the American Samoa soccer team, which had never won an international game and in fact held the record for the worst loss in World Cup qualifying history. The film looks at the team's attempt to turn things around.
Pros: This is an inspirational sports story that is inspiring. There are many interesting people involved in the team and that helps makes the movie engaging, even if you are not interested in soccer.
Cons: There are no extras on the DVD.

For those who want to be seduced by what Canada has to offer...
The Grand Seduction - Buy from Amazon: DVD
Description: A small town in Newfoundland needs a doctor, so when a young doctor comes to visit, they are determined to make him stay, no matter what lies they have to say.
Pros: This is a charming Canadian movie that is perhaps not as good as some of the other films on this list, but if you are looking for lighthearted charm, this film has it. Also, the Blu-ray has an audio commentary track, interviews, and a featurette on its red carpet premiere.
Cons: You can only buy the Blu-ray in Canada, although it might be worth importing.

Speaking of lying to get a job...
No Clue - Buy from Amazon: DVD
Description: Brent Butt plays an everyday man who is mistaken for a private eye and suddenly gets sucked into a film noir mystery.
Pros: If you like Brent Butt's sense of humor and enjoy film noir as a genre, then you will probably love this movie. It takes the genre tropes, adds enough of a twist, and includes a better than expected mystery. There are also enough extras to not add value to the DVD.
Cons: Brent Butt's sense of humor isn't for everyone.
Notes: If you do like Brent Butt, you might want to import Corner Gas: The Movie.

For those who want to revisit the best Werewolf movie of the past two decades...
Ginger Snaps - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: Katharine Isabelle and Emily Perkins plays two sisters who are outcasts in their high school and each others only real friends. That changes when one of them is bitten by a werewolf and gains confidence along with her new found powers.
Pros: This film is a classic of the genre and the special edition Blu-ray has plenty of extras, two audio commentary tracks and more than two hours of featurettes. The two biggest featurettes are new for the Blu-ray.
Cons: I'm drawing a blank here. Obviously this won't appeal to those who don't like horror, but even if the person you are shopping for has the DVD, the Blu-ray is worth the upgrade.

This is definitely the longest of the three installments so far and I'm sure I missed something. Next week is the fourth and final installment and will include some books, games, and whatever I forgot in the first three installments.


Filed under: Star Trek, Nicolas Cage, Wes Anderson, Brent Butt, Jon Favreau, Ralph Fiennes, Katharine Isabelle, John Leguizamo, Hayao Miyazaki, Emily Perkins, George Takei, Weird Al Yankovic, Joon-ho Bong, Alejandro Jodorowsky, Emjay Anthony, Agata Trzebuchowska