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2010 - Holiday Gift Guide - Part II

December 2nd, 2010

Christmas shopping season is in full swing and this week we have the second part of our Holiday Gift Guide. Last week, Part I talked about big first run releases, while this week we look at box sets and TV on DVD releases. When it comes to the latter, this list is limited to Full Series Megasets and the first season of shows that made their home market debut this year, mostly. This is because when it comes to full season sets from the middle of a show's run, they don't really make good gifts, unless the person is already collecting the series. "Here's season three of a great show. You'll have to buy the first two yourself and get caught up before watching this one." Anyhoo, there are still plenty of releases worth giving as gifts this season, starting with...

For those who think two out of four is good enough...
Alien Anthology - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Description: All four Alien movies on one six-disc collection. Alien is one of the best in the survival horror genre, while Aliens is more of an action film, but just as well done. Alien3 and Alien: Resurrection are a step down from the first, but not as bad as their reputation suggests.
Pros: Every film comes in two versions: The theatrical cut and the special edition. Plus there's interactive trivia tracks for all of the movies, as well as two discs of bonus features. In short, it's a fully loaded box set and should really please fans of the franchise.
Cons: It is a bit expensive, especially if the person you are giving it too is only interested in the first two movies. That said, the first two are so good, and the Blu-ray is so amazing, it is worth the price.

For those that can't wait five more years...
Back to the Future Trilogy - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: In 1985, Micheal J. Fox starred as Marty McFly in Back to the Future, which became the biggest hit of the year, as well as one of the best reviewed. Four years later, two sequels were made back-to-back, and while they were not as popular, they were still fun. Now all three movies are collected in a Blu-ray box set, which was released very recently.
Pros: Not only are the movies fun, the DVD is loaded with six audio commentary tracks and 8 hours of other extras. The Blu-ray has Picture-in-Picture tracks and is BD-Live enabled.
Cons: We only have five years till we reach the world of the future we saw in the movies, and while I don't think we will see floating skateboards by then, there will likely be something pretty major released on the home market. Although this 25th anniversary edition will be hard to beat.

For those that can't wait for the extended edition...
Lord of the Rings - Buy from Amazon: The Fellowship of the Ring, The Two Towers, and Return of the King
Description: For three years, these movies ruled the winter box office and not only did the trilogy earn more than $1 billion domestically (and nearly $3 billion worldwide) but it earned 30 Oscar nominations and won 17 of them. This is not surprising, as it is based on the novels by J. R. R. Tolkien, which are arguably the best, and best known, fantasy novels ever written.
Pros: It's Lord of the Rings on Blu-ray. What more do you want?
Cons: We want the extended edition, but it looks like we will have to wait another year for that.

For those that loved Burlesque...
Cher: The Film Collection - Buy from Amazon
Description: A six-disc collection that includes six films from Cher's filmography, including Silkwood, which earned her an Oscar nomination, and Moonstruck, which earned her an Oscar win. The other films are Mermaids and Tea With Mussolini, both of which earned good good reviews; Good Times, her only film with Sonny Bono; and Chastity, her first dramatic role.
Pros: A very good selection with two Oscar-worthy films, two films that are not quite as good, but still entertaining, and two films that are significant for historical reasons.
Cons: Those two that are historically significant are not good, but four out of six is still a good hit to miss ratio.

For those that are cultured, or want to appear to be...
James Levine: Celebrating 40 Years at the Met - Buy from Amazon
Description: A 21-disc set that contains 11 full operas featuring some of the masters at the art form, including Luciano Pavarotti, Plácido Domingo, and a lot of names I simply don't recognize. Okay, I'm a uncouth loser.
Pros: It's a huge amount of entertainment, at a respectable price.
Cons: The list price is $300, and even with Amazon's discount, it is still over $200, but that is for 21 discs.

For those that want music that's a little more current...
Ladies & Gentlemen: The Rolling Stones - Buy from Amazon
Description: This three disc set is a limited edition release of the classic concert film, Ladies & Gentlemen. The film was originally released in 1974 and was cut from four nights of the Exile On Main Street Rolling Stones tour. ... Which means this performance is actually older than most of the ones from the "Classic" Opera release above. That's kind of scary. Anyhoo, the collector's DVD includes the concert film, the recent documentary on the making of the album, and a bonus disc of other extras. It also includes a photobook, cells from the original movie, scarf, etc.
Pros: Many consider this concert to be the best Rolling Stones' concert ever filmed and the extras (both on the DVDs and the physical ones) are incredible.
Cons: It does come with a rather hefty price, plus if you want the film on Blu-ray, you only get the regular edition.

For those who are not quite sick of the show...
Glee: Season One - Gift Set - Buy from Amazon
Description: Glee is a high school hell show that focuses on the less than socially accepted members of the Glee Club, as well as the faculty fighting. It was a huge hit during the first season and its ratings were matched by its critical reception. (It was nominated 19 times, won 4 Emmys and was nominated for 4 Golden Globes winning once, and picked up numerous other nominations and awards.)
Pros: Not only is the show great, but the DVD is loaded with extras. The Giftset comes with a journal, which is not a whole lot more, but it only costs $2 more than the regular DVD.
Cons: This is the third time this season has been released on DVD, which is far too many. Also, you can't get the Blu-ray in Giftset form. Finally, the show has been pushed so far with so much merchandizing (mainly in the form of soundtracks) that there's a bit of a backlash growing.

For those who want the best new show of last season...
Modern Family: Season One - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: The lives of three families are examined in this pseudo-documentary like show. (There's "Couch Confessionals", hand-held camera style, etc.) Ed O'Neil stars as the patriarch of the Pritchett clan and his family includes his second wife and her son. His daughter, Claire, is married with three kids of her own, while his son, Mitchell, is gay and raising an adopted daughter with his husband.
Pros: While Glee might have grabbed more attention, I personally think Modern Family was the best new show of last season. The Blu-ray looks and sounds great, especially compared to most sitcoms, while the extras are good.
Cons: I would have loved some audio commentary tracks on the Blu-ray.

For those who want the best show that ended last season...
Lost: The Complete Collection - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: I don't think I'll be able to explain the plot of Lost in this little blurb. Short answer, a plane crashes on a mysterious island and over the next several years, the survivors meet about five million other people living on the island. This 36-disc Blu-ray has three-and-a-half days of episodes, plus countless extras, both on the discs, as well as a few physical extras.
Pros: The show immediately became a huge hit, both with viewers and with critics, and the many questions kept people coming back week after week. The amount of extras should please even the most hardcore fan, while the show is arguably the best looking TV on Blu-ray release I've seen.
Cons: It costs a lot, but you get what you pay for.

For those who don't want van candy, but do want some vans...
Scooby-Doo, Where Are You?: The Complete Collection - Buy from Amazon and The A-Team: The Complete Collection - Buy from Amazon
Description: These shows literally have no connection with each other, other than the fact that they are both being released on Full Season Megasets that look like vans. Scooby-Doo is about a group of three teens and a dog who investigate mysteries. It taught the important lesson that if you find yourself being chased by a ghost, it is always, and I mean always, a man in a mask. The A-Team taught the important lesson that if you can make explosive cannon balls by baking gun powder into biscuits. Also, if you are five feet away from a grenade when it goes off, you'll fly in the air, but will otherwise be unharmed. This sums up why I liked Scooby-Doo better; it was more realistic.
Pros: Scooby-Doo is a classic cartoon that started in the late 1960s and still runs to this day, and for good reason. Not only does the 8-disc set have plenty of extras, it has extras that are exclusive to the Megaset. It's exactly what you want for this type of release. Meanwhile, The A-Team is... well...
Cons: Okay, I admit I only mentioned The A-Team because it also comes in a van shaped box.

For those who are sick of the late night wars...
Tonight: 4 Decades of The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson - Buy from Amazon
Description: While Johnny Carson wasn't the first late night talk show host, he is practically synonymous with the genre. From practically the minute he first started the job untill the day he retired, he was considered the undisputed king of late night. This 15-disc Megaset includes 30 hours of episodes from his 40-year career, plus new interviews with some of his guests.
Pros: It's 30 hours of Johnny Carson. What more do you need to know?
Cons: There are a few problems. Firstly, they are not the original episodes, this is not the first collection to be released, and no matter how comprehensive the box set it, there will likely be a few interviews that you might want to see again that were not included. (Best Of is so subjective.)

For those who want more of the late night wars...
The Larry Sanders Show: The Complete Collection - Buy from Amazon
Description: Garry Shandling stars as the titular Larry Sanders, a late night talk show host heading up a dysfunctional show. The show not only shows him interviewing guests (real life celebrities playing themselves) but also the behind-the-scenes with Rip Torn, his producer, Jeffrey Tambor, his basketcase sidekick, as well as an assortment of writers.
Pros: Just an incredible show that won a number of awards during its run, although not as many as many people think it deserved. There are apparently a wide array of extras on the DVD; however...
Cons: I was supposed to review the DVD, but the screener never arrived, so I can't comment on the quality of the extras.

For those who want their dysfunction a little more Shakespearean...
Slings & Arrows: The Complete Collection - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Description: A Canadian show about a Shakespeare acting troupe trying to put on the New Burbage Festival, which is in serious trouble. It was created by Mark McKinney of The Kids in the Hall, among others, while Paul Gross of Due South leads the ensemble cast.
Pros: The show ran for just three seasons, but won more than a dozen Gemini Awards (the Canadian equivalent of the Emmy) and managed to get better and better each season. The six-disc Blu-ray as all 18 episodes plus plenty of extras.
Cons: There are only 18 episodes.

For those who want to see what it will be like 20 minutes from now...
Max Headroom: The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon
Description: Matt Frewer stars as both the ace reporter, Edison Carter, and his computer A.I. alter ego, Max Headroom, in this futuristic show that was ahead of its time. And more than 20 minutes ahead of its time. So far ahead of its time, that is was canceled after just 14 episodes. However, it developed a cult following.
Pros: Shout! Factory did the fans proud including a number of extras on this five-disc set. In fact, the fifth disc is nothing but extras with an hour-long making of featurette, interviews, etc.
Cons: They didn't include the original British TV movie, likely because they don't own the rights. Also, while the themes conveyed in the show are still very relevant today, other parts of the show haven't aged quite as well and it looks dated. (I also suspect the production budget was quite low.) Minor complaint compared to the overall quality of the show.

For those that like really big Roman Numerals...
MST3K - Buy from Amazon: Volume XVIII and Volume XIX
Description: In the past few months, a couple volumes of Mystery Science Theater 3000 were released on the home market. Volume XVIII has The Beast of Yucca Flats and Jack Frost, and two other movies, while Volume XIX contains Robot Monster and Bride of the Monster as the two highlight movies.
Pros: Both sets contain a couple great episodes and both have much better extras than the usual TV on DVD release. Volume XVIII has better episodes, while Volume XIX has better extras on the DVD, plus it comes with a cool Gypsy figure.
Cons: When it comes to TV on DVD, I vastly prefer full season sets, but that's not really possible with MST3K due to the copyright issues. This does mean the prices per minute is a little high compared to other TV on DVD releases on this list.

For those that want to give a little bit of holiday cheer...
Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection: Ultimate Collector's Edition - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
Description: A collection of three holiday TV specials with the Peanuts gang: It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown, A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, and A Charlie Brown Christmas. There are also making of featurettes, episodes from the show, as well as a snow-globe and window stickers.
Pros: The three specials will likely be in every fan's top five list, and there have been a lot of Peanuts TV specials released over the years. The physical extras add quite a bit of value to the set, which is substantially cheaper the buying the Blu-rays separately.
Cons: You can buy the Blu-ray without the Snow-globe for $11 less, so this set might not be worth the extra cash.

For those waiting for full season sets...
Phineas & Ferb: Very Perry Christmas - Buy from Amazon: DVD and CD Sountrack
Description: The headliner here is the Christmas special, in which Phineas and Ferb get the whole town together to decorate Danville as a thank you card to Santa. However, Doofenshmirtz causes the entire town to register as Naughty, thus causing Christmas to be canceled. The DVD also includes Interview with a Platypus, in which Phineas and Ferb create a machine that translates animal to English; Oh, There You Are, Perry has Perry assigned to a new villain after Doofenshmirtz is downgraded, but this means changing families; Chez Platypus has Doofenshmirtz looking for love on a blind date, but if it doesn't work out, he's ruining it for everyone else; and finally, in Perry Lays an Egg Candace helps hatch an egg Phineas and Ferb think Perry laid, while Doofenshmirtz learns whale song, for reasons that are strange even for him.
"Thwart me, Perry the Platypus."
Pros: One of the best shows on TV, the Christmas special was very good, and the other four shorts are all hits. There are plenty of extras, including a bonus short, Easter Eggs, etc.
Cons: It's not a full season set. Hey Disney, put out full season sets. And while I'm making demands, someone sign Olivia Olson to a record deal.

For those who are happy the show is back...
Futurama: Volume Five - Buy from Amazon: DVD and Blu-ray
Description: I guess the movies sold well enough on the home market, as the show is back. Another 13 episodes of adventures with Fry, Leela, Bender, and the rest of Planet Express.
Pros: The gangs back. What more do you need to know? Seriously, this was one of the best shows when it was originally on the air, and a lot of reviews suggest it is just as good this time around. (I'll have to wait for the screener to arrive to confirm that.)
Cons: It doesn't come out till the 21st, which means two things. Firstly, I'm unsure as to the details of the DVD / Blu-ray release. Secondly, it's cutting it close as far as Christmas gifts are concerned.

For those who are fans of a different resurrected show...
Family Guy: Laugh it Up, Fuzzball - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Family Guy has made parodies of all three of the Star Wars original trilogy movies and released them individually. Now they are collected on a DVD / Blu-ray.
Pros: These episodes have been some of the funniest in the show's run and are sure to please fans of Family Guy and / or Star Wars, and there's a large crossover demographic there.
Cons: The price is very high on a per minute basis compared to most TV on DVD releases, while two of the three episodes have already been released on the home market. (The third, It's A Trap comes out on DVD and Blu-ray the same day this box set comes out.)

For those who will miss hearing those three goofballs talk about the bench of despair...
Wolverine and the X-Men: The Complete Series - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: As Wolverine prepares to leave Xavier's School for the Gifted, there's an explosion and both Professor X and Jean Grey are gone. Flash forward a year later and the X-Men have dissolved, but it is clear there are forces at work that they are uniquely suited to combat. So they must reform, but when Scott Summers is not interested, Wolverine must assume the mantle of leadership.
Pros: When this show was first announced, a lot of people were worried that they were making Wolverine the leader just to capitalize on the upsurge on popularity in the character since the movies came out. However, while that was obviously a factor, the writers made sure it made sense within the context of the story and in doing so created one of the best Marvel cartoons of all time. Plus, the DVD / Blu-ray is loaded with extras, including audio commentary tracks on every single episode.
Cons: The show ends on a cliffhanger. I hate that. I just hope the creative team works together again, and soon.

Wow... I should probably end the list there; in fact, I didn't want the list to get quite that out of hand. Next week we get to limited releases, foreign imports, and some classics.


Filed under: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King, The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers, The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Back to the Future, Back to the Future Part II, Back to the Future Part III, Aliens, Alien, Moonstruck, Alien 3, Alien: Resurrection, Silkwood, Mermaids, Tea with Mussolini