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2010 - Holiday Gift Guide - Part III

December 9th, 2010

Christmas shopping season continues, as does our Holiday Gift Guide. We started with Part I, which talked about the big first run releases, while Part II dealt with box sets and TV on DVD releases. This week we look at limited releases, foreign releases, and some old time classics, starting with...

For those who want to emphasize the "Old" part of "Old Time classics"...
The Complete Metropolis - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: A German expressionist / Sci-Fi film set in a dystopian future. It looks at the conflict between the capitalists and the workers in the city of Metropolis and what happens when the son of the leader sees the conditions the workers toil under.
Pros: groundbreaking is an understatement. And this is the first time such a complete version of the film has been seen in maybe 80 years. Plus, for a film this old, it looks phenomenal on Blu-ray.
Cons: It is still missing about 8 minutes of footage and hopefully those 8 minutes will be found, eventually.

For those who want to emphasize the "Time" part of "Old Time classic"...
Cronos: The Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Get it? Cronos? Time? Never mind. Writer / director Guillermo Del Toro's feature-length debut is a Vampire film about an antique dealer that finds a device that restores his youth, but at a cost. He also has to deal with a rich old business man who wants this device and the immortality it grants, and his nephew, whom he sent to retrieve it.
Pros: Just an amazing debut for one of the most stylish filmmakers working today. Additionally, there are a number of excellent extras on the Blu-ray, including the short film Geometria.
Cons: It is a Criterion Release, which does mean it is a bit on the pricey side.

Speaking of the Criterion Collection, there have been numerous such releases that have come out in the past few months that are worth considering, including...

  • Videodrome: Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
    Long live the new flesh. Cronenberg's twisted tale of ... I don't know what. I've seen the movie a number of times and I'm still not 100% sure what it is about. That's part of what makes it so awesome.
  • Crumb - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
    Terry Zwigoff's documentary about underground comic artist Robert Crumb. It's an award-worthy film with plenty of extras. Also worth checking out is Louie Bluie on DVD.
  • Modern Times - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
    Charlie Chaplin's farewell to The Tramp, his most famous character. The movie is essentially a series of vignettes with The Tramp trying to find a better future in a time of limited economic opportunities. It is widely considered one of the greatest movies ever made, and for good reason.
  • The Night of the Hunter - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
    We move from one of the most beloved characters of all time to one of the most infamous villains: Robert Mitchum as Harry Powell, a demented traveling preacher. It's one of the best movies of his career, and he made a lot of great movies.
  • Seven Samurai - Blu-ray - Buy from Amazon
    Akira Kurosawa's masterpiece. A movie so good that certain plot elements it pioneered have become so commonplace that it is almost hard to believe someone had to come up with the first.
  • House - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
    A horror film from Japan that was developed in part when the director asked his pre-teen daughter what scared her. His reasoning was that true horror comes from the inexplicable, but adults can only draw ideas from what they know, while children are not so limited. The result is certainly inexplicable, but in a good way.

For those who want more inexplicable Japanese films...
RoboGeisha - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: RoboGeisha is from the director that brought us The Machine Girl, while Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl is made by the same team that previously created Tokyo Gore Police. That's about all I can say about the plots of these movies, as they are almost beyond description. RoboGeisha is about a mad scientist of sorts that turns beautiful women into weapons, but one of them turns on him. Vampire Girl vs. Frankenstein Girl is about a new girl in school who turns out to be a vampire. When she kills one of the popular girls, that girls father reanimates her as a Frankenstein's monster... then they fight.
Pros: Fans of B-movies from Japan should love these films.
Cons: They are not for everyone.

For those who want their B-movies locally produced...
Roger Corman Collection - Buy from Amazon:
Death Race 2000: DVD or Blu-ray
Rock 'N' Roll High School: DVD or Blu-ray
Piranha: DVD or Blu-ray
Galaxy of Terror: DVD or Blu-ray
Forbidden World: DVD or Blu-ray
Humanoids From The Deep: DVD or Blu-ray
Starcrash: DVD or Blu-ray
Not of this Earth: DVD
Description: Shout! Factory now has the rights to the Roger Corman library, and they've been putting out a ton of his films on DVD and Blu-ray in some cases.
Pros: The quality of films range from good movies that just happen to have a low budget (Death Race 2000 or Rock 'N' Roll High School) to movies that are good examples of B-movie entertainment (Piranha or Galaxy of Terror) to...
Cons: Movies that are only good if you are a fan of B-movies (Humanoids From The Deep or Starcrash). Also, because of their tiny budgets, it should come as no surprise that they don't shine on High Definition.

For those who want their B-movies with a Canadian touch...
Cannibal Girls: Buy from Amazon
Description: Starring Eugene Levy and Andrea Martin from SCTV and directed by Ivan Reitman of Ghostbusters fame. It's about a Bed and Breakfast run by three beautiful woman, who like to eat their guests.
Pros: A spoof of B-movie exploitation films of the era with a pretty fun gimmick (warning bells ring before the really gory parts). And compared to most B-movies, this movie actually has a lot more talent on both sides of the camera.
Cons: You still have to be a fan of B-movies, or of the cast and / or director, to really enjoy it.

For those wanting more Canadian horror comedy spoofs...
Suck - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: A Canadian rock band is sick of touring and playing small clubs. They are about to give up on their dream of landing a record deal when their bassist, Jessica Pare, is bitten by a vampire. Her new vampire powers help propel the band to stardom, but also attracts the attention of a vampire hunter.
Pros: A fun combination of a musical and vampires, there's also a great cast. However, you have to know going in that this is not the same type of horror comedy as the Evil Dead films are. It is more a comedy about a rock'n'roll band with a vampire twist, so don't expect a whole lot of gore.
Cons: There are some that have said that the music is better than the movie.

For those who want a timely documentary...
Restrepo - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: A documentary about the Restrepo foward operating base in Afghanistan and the people that fought there. Ot Takes a non-political view of a year in the life of the soldiers stationed at the outpost in the Korangal valley of eastern Afghanistan, which at the time was the most active part of the entire war.
Pros: There is an excellent chance this movie will earn an Oscar nomination while the DVD / Blu-ray adds some updates to the people profiled, as well as other extras.
Cons: It's more than a little on the depressing side.

For those who want a timely documentary, that's about the 1970s...
The Most Dangerous Man in America - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: A documentary about Daniel Ellsberg, who leak thousands of pages of Pentagon files to the press, that showed the American people were being lied to about the Vietnam War.
Pros: Earned an Oscar nomination and while it didn't win, it is still amazing. Also, with the attacks on WikiLeaks, it is very, very relevant today.
Cons: It came out on DVD / Blu-ray in July, so there's a greater chance that if someone is interested in the movie, they may have it already.

For those who know water doesn't burn...
GasLand - Buy from Amazon
Description: A documentary about hydraulic fracturing, which is a method of extracting natural gas from certain geological structures. This method is apparently increasing in popularity, but the heath concerns are only now starting to be understood.
Pros: This film also has an excellent shot at an Oscar nomination. In fact, its weak performance at the box office might be its biggest obstacle.
Cons: It doesn't come out till the 14th, so you are cutting it close as far as gift giving is concerned. (Either you are fighting with other shoppers for gifts, or you are cutting it close when it comes to shipping times.)

For those who want documentaries that won't depress them...
Oceans - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Crimson Wing - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Two nature documentaries from DisneyNature. The first, Oceans, takes a look at the amazing variety of life that is found in the Earth's oceans. We see some of the most well known species, as well as some that look truly alien. The second, Crimson Wing, looks at one species of one type of bird that live in just one location, Lesser Flamingos of Lake Natron. While Flamingos are instantly recognizable by most people, scientists know very little about them.
Pros: Unlike most documentaries, these really shine on High Definition. Fans of nature documentaries should absolutely love these.
Cons: On the other hand, while they are good, they are not Oscar-worthy like the previous documentaries on this list.

For those who want a different kind of love triangle...
Cyrus - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: John C. Reilly plays a divorced man looking to get back into relationships when he meets Marisa Tomei. They appear to be a perfect match, but there's a problem: her son, Jonah Hill, who really should have grown up and left the nest a long, long time ago, but just can't, or won't, learn to live on his own.
Pros: The amount of talent in this movie is incredible, and it didn't go to waste. It recently picked up an Independent Spirit Award nomination and it might pick up an Oscar and other nominations as well.
Cons: Doesn't come out till Tuesday, and that is cutting it close as far as gift giving goes.

For those who want a gift that with an apt name...
Please Give - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Catherine Keener stars as a woman living in New York City with her husband, Oliver Platt, and daughter. She tries to assuage her guilt over being well-to-do by doing charity work, to very mixed results.
Pros: It's called Please Give, it's the perfect gift. In all seriousness, it's an awesome movie that is filled with talented people on both sides of the camera, plus it was not able to break out of limited release, so your prospective recipient will likely not have seen it.
Cons: It was not able to break out of limited release, so the DVD / Blu-ray doesn't have a lot of extras.

For those who want a gift to go with the season...
Winter's Bone - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Jennifer Lawrence stars as Ree Dolly, the eldest daughter of a family that has been hit by hard times. Her mother's in a semi-catatonic state, while her father is looking at hard jail time, or at least he would be if he hadn't gone missing. Worse yet, he put the house up for collateral as bail, and if he doesn't show up for trial, they will be homeless. Unfortunately, the only people that might know where he is are the people that want him found the least.
Pros: This could possibly be the best limited release of the year along with incredible reviews, it is an early Awards Season player, picking up seven Independent Spirit Awards nominations.
Cons: It has a deliberate pace, which means it might be too slow for some. And it is a little depressing.

For those who want a gift that is more than just partially right...
The Kids Are All Right - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Julian Moore and Annette Bening star as a lesbian couple. whose two kids, Mia Wasikowska and Josh Hutcherson, go looking for their biological father, Mark Ruffalo.
Pros: Another film that could be considered the best limited release of the year. It already picked up five Independent Spirit Awards nominations and that won't be the last award nomination it earns.
Cons: I'm drawing a blank on this one.

Again, I let the list get out of hand, so I'm going to stop there. Next week we will get to everything I missed the first three tries, including books, CDs, toys, clothes, and who knows what else.


Filed under: Crumb, Videodrome, Metropolis, Cronos, Shichinin no samurai, Modern Times, The Crimson Wing: Mystery of the Flamingos, Please Give, Death Race 2000, Oceans, Cyrus, The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg and the Pentagon Papers, The Kids Are All Right, Restrepo, Winter's Bone, Suck, GasLand