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2016 - Holiday Gift Guide - Part III - Limited Releases, Classics, Foreign Imports

December 14th, 2016

Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro

After dealing with first-run releases and TV on DVD releases, we come to the instalment of our Holiday Gift Guide that deals with limited releases, classics, and foreign imports. This list should be longer than last week, but hopefully I won’t go overboard.

For those who like Del Toro’s earliest work...
Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro (The Criterion Collection) - No Reviews - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Three early films from Guillermo Del Toro: Cronos, The Devil’s Backbone, and Pan’s Labyrinth. All three are given the Criterion touch in this three-disc box set.
Pros: All three are absolute classics and Criterion Collection releases tend to be top-notch.
Cons: It’s not exactly a real bargain, as you can get all three films separately for only about $10 more. Plus there’s the problem with all box sets: double-dips.

For those who wished there was a box set to buy...
Bogart and Bacall Quadruple Shot
To Have and Have Not - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray
The Big Sleep - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray
Dark Passage - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray
Key Largo - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray
Description: All four films that Humphrey Bogart and Lauren Bacall made together were released on Blu-ray this year. Three of them are Film Noir titles, while the earliest is a World War II romance / adventure.
Pros: They range in quality from absolute classic to genre-defining. Every single one of these movies deserves to be in everyone’s Blu-ray libraries.
Cons: There are not a lot of extras here. Considering how amazing these movies are, they should have been loaded with extras. I’m sure it wouldn’t have been too hard to get a film historian or two to talk about the movies in an audio commentary track / featurettes.
Notes: There were some other Bogart movies released on Blu-ray this year, like Deadline-U.S.A. and Passage Marseille.

For those who think talkies are overrated...
City Lights: Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Arguably Charlie Chaplin’s most famous movie. In it, he stars as the Tramp, who falls in love with a blind woman. He also befriends an alcoholic millionaire, but the millionaire can never remember the Tramp when he sobers up in the morning.
Pros: This is one of the best movies ever made and it is a movie that everyone needs to see. The two-disc set is loaded with extras, including behind-the-scenes footage and a short Chaplin made in 1915 that influenced a scene in this film.
Cons: It is a silent film and that might limit the audience.

For those who like their classics shorter...
Buster Keaton: The Shorts Collection 1917-1923 - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray
Description: This four-disc set includes all 32 shorts from Buster Keaton remastered in 2K. This includes about a dozen that were collaborations with other comedic titans of the era.
Pros: This five-disc set is historically important, as it preserves some of the earliest Hollywood short films, some of which turn 100 years old next year.
Cons: The extras are kind of light. I would have loved a short documentary on Buster Keaton to go with the shorts and maybe give some historical perspective for those who are new to his works.

For those still upset about the live-action movies...
The Transformers: The Movie - Buy from Amazon: Blu-ray
Description: A continuation of the TV series follows the Autobots dealing a major blow to the Decepticons, but at a major loss. Worse still, this results in Starscream accidentally awakening the biggest bad buy the Transformers have ever encountered.
Pros: This is a great movie, no matter what the critics have to say. Also, the film has never looked better than on this Blu-ray and there are a lot of extras for a film that bombed in theaters in the 1980s.
Cons: “Never looked better” doesn’t mean it looks great. It is a cheap animated film from the 1980s and you can only do so much with the material.

For those who prefer their robots to not transformer...
The Iron Giant - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Brad Bird’s directorial debut. It is about an alien robot that lands on Earth and is found by a nine-year old boy. The robot and the boy become friends, but the military sees the robot as a threat.
Pros: While the film bombed in theaters, it is widely considered a classic. The Blu-ray includes both the theatrical releases and the newer director’s cut, as well as lots of extras. Also, it’s only $10, which is super cheap.
Cons: ... I’m drawing a blank here. It really is wonderful.

For those who want animation aimed at adults...
Belladonna of Sadness - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: Jean and Jeanne get married and travel to the Baron’s palace to give him a gift for allowing them to get married. The gift isn’t enough to him and his court rape Jeanne instead. Shortly afterward, a spirit offers Jeanne power in exchange for her soul.
Pros: This film is not for everyone, but it has a cult following for a reason. Extras are good, for a film that is decidedly non-mainstream.
Cons: It’s not for everyone. It is certainly not for kids. I can’t emphasize that enough.

For those who like their classic animated movies not quite that adult...
Fantastic Planet: Criterion Collection - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: This film takes place on an alien planet where giant aliens keep humans as pets, not realizing they are sentient. There are enough that have escaped and are feral that the aliens have to keep their population in check. The story focuses on one human who goes from a pet to the leader of a feral tribe.
Pros: This is yet another Criterion Collection release on this list and there’s a reason for that. They’ve done a great job and while there isn’t a ton of extras, the movie hasn’t looked better.
Cons: It’s a strange film and one that won’t appeal to everyone.

Let’s take a look at some more recent films...

For those who haven’t thought once...
Don’t Think Twice - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: A group of friends at an improv troupe celebrate when one of their own lands a role in a TV show. However, this makes them realize that not all of them will make it big.
Pros: 99% positive reviews. Do I need to say anymore? This film has one of the best ensemble casts of the year, even if it is being ignored by Awards Season voters.
Cons: It’s a limited release, so there’s not a lot of extras on the DVD / Blu-ray.

For those who think they don’t make them like this anymore...
Hell or High Water - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray
Description: A Neo-Western focusing on a pair of brothers, Toby and Tanner, who rob banks and launder the money to cover the debt on their ranch. Meanwhile, a pair of Texas Rangers, Hamilton and Alberto, try to figure out their next target and catch them.
Pros: 98% positive reviews! The film became one of the biggest limited release hits of the year and there are better extras than most limited releases.
Cons: There are better extras, but not a ton of extras.

For those who want an Awards Season dark horse...
Captain Fantastic - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: A couple raise their five kids in the wilderness away from civilization, but when the mother dies, they have to travel to the city for the funeral and her parents want to take custody of the kids.
Pros: The film’s reviews are not among the best on this list, but it has been doing surprisingly well during Awards Season.
Cons: There is only one featurette on the DVD / Blu-ray, which is low, even for a limited release.

For those who still haven’t got over Lily Tomlin being snubbed last year...
Hello, My Name is Doris - Buy from Amazon: DVD or Blu-ray Combo Pack
Description: Sally Field plays a 63-year old office work who becomes infatuated with her new, much younger co-worker, played by Max Greenfield.
Pros: Sally Field gives an amazing performance, even if Awards Season voters don’t see it that way.
Cons: Extras include an audio commentary track and some deleted / alternative scenes. That’s not a lot. Then again, it’s not bad compared to most limited releases.

We should wrap it up there, lest the list gets out of hand. Next week we will talk about some books, music, and whatever else I missed from the first three parts.


Filed under: Holiday Gift Guide, Lauren Bacall, Humphrey Bogart, Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton, Sally Field, Brad Bird, Gil Birmingham, Jeff Bridges, Guillermo del Toro, Ben Foster, Chris Pine, Lily Tomlin, Max Greenfield