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2016 - Holiday Gift Guide - Part I - First-Run Releases and Franchise Box Sets

November 22nd, 2016

Finding Dory

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, although there aren’t many of the latter to talk about. In fact, the best movie box set of the year includes more TV shows than movies in its running time and I’ve decided to include it in our second part, which deals with TV on DVD releases. There are still a number of big first-run releases this year that are definitely worthy gifts. We are going to start with the biggest domestic hit of the year...

For those who found Finding Nemo their kettle of fish…
Finding Dory - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: The delayed sequel to Finding Nemo has Dory remembering her family and dragging Marlin and Nemo on an adventure to find them. They get separated and meet interesting characters like Hank, the septopus.
Pros: This is one of the best movies of the year and it is practically guaranteed to pick up an Oscar nomination for Best Feature-Length Animated Film. The two-disc set is loaded with extras, which adds to the already high replay value.
Cons: One could argue that it is not quite as good as the original movie. Even if it is not, it comes close.

For those who prefer original animated films...
Zootopia - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: Judy Hops is a bunny who wants to move to the big city and become the first bunny cop. She isn’t treated seriously by her commander or fellow officers, but gets a chance to prove herself by cracking a missing person case. Along the way, she teams up with Nick Wilde, a fox conman.
Pros: Possibly the best wide release movie of the year. I don’t mean the best animated movie of the year, I mean best movie.
Cons: The extras are not quite as strong as they were with Finding Dory

For those who want the best super hero movie of the year...
Captain America: Civil War - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 3D Combo Pack
Description: In the aftermath of Age of Ultron, the world decides super heroes need to be restricted and create the Sokovian Accords. However, not everyone on the Avengers agrees with them and Captain America and Iron Man find themselves on opposite ends of the disagreement. Personality conflicts that have been simmering since the first Avengers movie come to the surface and the team could tear itself apart. However, is this the natural result of so many different personalities, or is someone pulling their strings behind the scenes?
Pros: This is the best super hero movie of the year, which is impressive, as there were six major super hero releases this year. (Three different studios each released two super hero films this year.) The extras are on par with most monster hits and add replay value to the DVD / Blu-ray.
Cons: If the person you are buying for is a big fan of D.C., then this could come across as insulting.
Note: I got a chance to see Doctor Strange and it is almost as good as Civil War. The visuals rock in 3D, but I really wish they spent more time with Dr. Strange learning how to use magic. It was a fun part of the movie, but it felt compressed.

For those who want the most entertaining super hero movie of the year...
Deadpool - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 4k Combo Pack
Description: Ryan Reynolds plays Wade Wilson, a mercenary who falls in love with a woman, Vanessa, but when he develops cancer, he turns to an organization that promises to cure her cancer and give him powers. It turns him into Deadpool, but also covers him in scars so he can’t return to Vanessa. He then plans to find the man who did this to him and get him to turn him back.
Pros: While I think Captain America: Civil War is the best super hero movie of the year, Deadpool is the most entertaining. It doesn’t have the emotional depth or scope, but it has the best humor of all of the super heroes films released this year and humor is needed. Additionally, the DVD / Blu-ray are loaded with extras.
Cons: It is R-rated in the States (it’s 14a in Canada) so don’t buy it for younger kids.

For those who like their Star Trek to feel old school, even if it is brand new...
Star Trek Beyond - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 4k Combo Pack
Description: The Enterprise’s mission has become routine in the mind of Captain Kirk. While at the Federation’s latest and most technologically advanced space station, they get a distress call and the crew of the Enterprise is sent in to rescue them. Turns out “routine” isn’t that bad compared to what happens next.
Pros: I’m not a big fan of the first two installments in the Star Trek reboot franchise. I thought the movies tried to mimic The Original Series without truly understanding what made them work. This movie, which was co-written by Simon Pegg and directed by Justin Lin, really gets it. For the first time, I believed that the crew of the Enterprise were a real crew. The camaraderie was there.
Cons: The extras are okay, but not great for a first-run release. Also, the first two films did better with audiences, so perhaps my opinion is in the minority here.

For those who want the best comedy of the summer...
Ghostbusters - Buy from Amazon: DVD, Blu-ray Combo Pack, or 4k Combo Pack
Description: It’s a remake of Ghostbusters, but with a female main cast: Melissa McCarthy, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, and Kate McKinnon.
Pros: Ignore the trailer. The trailer it crap. The movie is very funny. Fandango had a survey to find out which summer films were the most anticipated and Ghostbusters was the top comedy. I was confused at that, but it turned out to be the best of a relatively good crop of comedies. Also, the extras on the DVD / Blu-ray are excellent.
Cons: The original movie is an all-time classic and there are some who are committed to that film to the point where the mere existence of this film makes them angry.
Notes: Other comedies that are worthy gifts include Central Intelligence (Buy from Amazon); Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising (Buy from Amazon); and Bad Moms (Buy from Amazon). There’s one notable film missing from that list, but that’s because...

For those who like their comedy a little meaner... okay, a lot meaner...
The Nice Guys - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: This film is a dark comedy about a private eye and an enforcer who team up to solve a crime. Also, lots of people die.
Pros: I didn’t put this with the other comedies, because it is a dark comedy and those are a different genre. That said, it is the funniest movie of the summer, assuming you like dark comedy.
Cons: The film struggled in theaters and therefore the DVD and Blu-ray are not loaded with extras.

For those who like to be scared on Christmas...
The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Don’t Breathe - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Lights Out - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
The Shallows - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: It was a good year for horror films with four major releases this summer alone. The biggest of these was The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist, the sequel to what is arguably the biggest horror franchise currently active. (This is the third installment and there are at least three more in the works.) Don’t Breathe is a home invasion horror film, but from the point of view of the thieves, thieves who target the wrong house. Lights Out is a supernatural horror film about a being that can only be seen in the dark. The Shallows is a woman vs. nature horror film with Blake Lively taking on a shark. ... You are more likely to die eating shark than being eaten by a shark. I have to mention that every time I talk about killer shark movies, because shark are apex predators and killing them out of fear takes a huge toll on our biodiversity.
Pros: Not only did all of these movies earn excellent reviews, they are vastly different, so if you have a horror buff to buy for, you should be able to get them something.
Cons: It is almost impossible for a horror film to please all horror fans, because the demands of different groups are diametrically opposed. Therefore, getting the wrong horror movie is a bigger deal than getting the wrong comedy, for example. Getting a psychological horror fan a gory splatterfest is a bad idea.

One last note, I didn’t include The Jungle Book on this list, because I really didn’t like it as much as the average critic did. It looked amazing, but I vastly preferred the original cartoon in nearly every other way.

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


It has been a really bad year for franchise box sets. There’s an X-Men Box Set, but it is $200 for nine films and most of those films are not that good. If we stretch the definition of franchise box set, we can include...

For those who like stop-motion animation...
The Ultimate Laika Collection - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: All four films from made and produced by Laika, starting with Coraline through to the recently released Kubo and the Two Strings.
Pros: Even the weakest movie of the four was great and earned its Oscar nomination. They also tend to have good extras on the DVDs / Blu-rays.
Cons: Stop-Motion animation is still a niche market and these films almost never become more than midlevel hits.

One last note, electronic manufactures and studios are starting to push 4K TVs and movies really hard. However, for most people, they would have to sit too close to their TV to be able to tell the difference between 1080p high definition and 4K ultra high definition and they would risk neck strain. That said, the prices of these TVs are dropping and within a year or two, it might be harder to find TVs that are 55" or bigger that are not 4K. On the other hand, 4K computer monitors make sense, if you really want the best quality graphics. For that reason, I’m not recommending any 4K titles this year.

That’s it for the first-run releases. Next week is actually the December monthly preview, but the week after that, it is the gift guide for TV on DVD releases. Hopefully they will be better than the first-run releases. Then we have classics, limited releases, etc., before finishing off with miscellaneous releases and anything I forgot.


Filed under: Video Releases, Central Intelligence, Ghostbusters, Finding Dory, Captain America: Civil War, The Conjuring 2: The Enfield Poltergeist, Neighbors 2: Sorority Rising, Lights Out, Kubo and the Two Strings, Star Trek Beyond, Bad Moms, Don’t Breathe, The Shallows, Star Trek, X-Men, Finding Nemo, The Conjuring, Morena Baccarin, Jason Bateman, Albert Brooks, Ellen DeGeneres, Robert Downey, Jr., Chris Evans, Ginnifer Goodwin, Justin Lin, Blake Lively, Melissa McCarthy, Ed O'Neill, Simon Pegg, Chris Pine, Ryan Reynolds, Kristen Wiig, Leslie Jones, Kate McKinnon, Hayden Rolence