DVD GIFT GUIDE 2008
Haven’t done one of these in a while so I thought I’d keep it simple. But then again is here anything simple about Collecting DVDs? Does any movie not get a special box set deluxe multi disc release, rerelease, rererelease at this time of year? I waded through as much of it as I could get my hands on and present it here to you faithful fellow traveller toward Christmas morning geek heaven. The only thing that killed me was not being able to get that spiffy Man from U.N.C.L.E. briefcase 41 disc set. These are all standard US releases that you should be able to get in time for the holidays if you let your fingers do the walking soon. The portrait of yours truly btw is a work in progress by noted artist Jason Seiler who is not only a great artist but a great guy. He always makes me give off just the right amount of creepy old man vibe!! Check out his site.
I hate the format wars. I long ago committed to DVD and Blu-Ray to me is just another suckers bet for those who don’t hear the online revolution coming. And when that revolution does come I want to be sitting on a lot of hard copies of titles and extras that help me do my job as a film critic. Bottom line is I just don’t trust the powers that be to keep making archival material available to the average person. Mark my words. A whole lot of folks are going to wake up one day and find out they have to pay every single time they want to watch Casablanca or Superbad and pay per extra- just like they do for those cheap pizzas that get delivered to their house. And when that day comes my friend expect the level of discourse in this country regarding culture to take an even deeper tailspin into fragmentation and general....
Hey! Where’s my holiday spirit?! I picked these out special for you goons cuz I love yer Twitch readin’ hides. These are all in my collection and they range from the artsy to the fartsy to the downright embarrassingly geeky. What they all have in common is they would make a dream gift for an awful lot of us.
STAR TREK:THE ORIGINAL SERIES (REMASTERED)- THREE SEASON PACK
This is so cool. Why? Because it does right what George Lucas did so badly in the reissues of the original Star Wars movies. Without screwing up the narrative the newly added special effects and sound actually improve the experience of watching Star Trek The Original Series. I’ll always love the original presentation but the end result here is nothing less than fascinating. Tons of extras, fun packaging. The immanent approach of a retooled Enter[rise is more than enough reason to revisit the one and only original Trek but Christmas sealed the deal for me. That and the fact that this is a serious nod of appreciation to those in the effects industry who've labored to tell stories and not just provide spectacle.
JOHN CASSAVETES FIVE FILMS BOX SET
The Criterion Collection
John Cassavetes is a legend not because he made perfect movies but because he made gloriously flawed ones. His characters always threaten to break the rules of cinema by dissolving into decidedly uncinematic excesses of emotion, reaction and action. They couldn’t care less about us the audience they are on their own often epic journeys and the light they throw onto the screen isn’t just a reflection of themselves but of the deeper things they embody. We are lucky to see them at all, graced to have an opportunity to empathize with them. They are everything and nothing that cinema is about and a box set full of them is one of the great gifts you can give anyone who enjoys great movies.
This box set contains Shadows, Faces, Killing of a Chinese Bookie, A Woman Under the Influence, and Opening Night as well as a documentary about Cassavettes career and creative process. There are commentaries and a host of other supplements that make this the definitive video reference on a curiously neglected master.
MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000
20th Anniversary Edition
I read a great article about MST3K that played off the irony the show thrived on. It questioned the health of a film going culture that comes dangerously close to sneering at everything it sees. Like a mother who warns us that our face will stay that way if we aren’t careful the point of the article would have been somewhat dubious if MSTK hadn’t just ravaged one of the truly good science fiction films of the fifties as the platen for the movie version of their show. Yeah This Island Earth was silly at times but it was also a better movie than MST3K was a TV show. Still when the bots were hot.... this collects four of the most requested episodes. Werewolf has the virtue of being one of the funniest episodes ever and it stars B movie vet Richard Lynch. The other three films are Laserblast, and Future War- true gems, and lastly, First Spaceship on Venus which would be pretty forgettable if it wasn’t a peak back into early MST3K history. You also get some historical featurettes and a panel discussion from a reunion.
Besides the truly nifty hinged tin the dvd set comes packaged in you get a groovy mini Crow figurine and some collectible mini lobby “cards” printed on awfully thin paper. At this point the only way to get this is on the secondary market but it’s definitely worth if you’re a fan.
FREAKS AND GEEKS YEARBOOK EDITION
I’ve always wanted to give this show a go and so was intrigued enough to ask for a review copy. I’m glad I did. Freaks and Geeks really does join a short of shows that unequivocally ended too soon.
The cast of this show was amazing tapping neglected talent and introducing new stars that have gone to big things. Unlike other shows of its kind Freaks and Geeks didn’t water down the high school experience for television ratings offering instead an almost hyper version of reality
The packaging here gives the nifty Heathers SE locker set a run for its money. You get a green faux leather yearbook embossed with a gold seal of the shows high school mascot. The inside covers are completely filled with messages written by the cast members and characters to each other and the pages that don’t contain the eight dvds that make up the show and the hours and hours and hours of extras feature an extensive look into the inner workings of one of TV’s most cult driven series.
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS ULTIMATE COLLECTOR’S DVD SET
Walt Disney Studios Home Entertainment
You could literally decorate a mansion with the Nightmare Before Christmas brand. Does that mean Jack and Sally and company aren’t cool anymore? Far from it. Said mansion could only exist in a world savvy enough to embrace the mainstream goth aesthetic that Burton and Selik tapped into when they created their incredibly detailed holiday universe. In short despite being barely long enough to qualify as a feature film NBC is probably better described as the epitome of that timelessly popular format known as the Holiday Special. For those of us who grew up on Charlie Brown and Rankin and Bass NBC sprang like a vengeance reminding the world that when it comes to celebrations Halloween has as much to do with joy and playfulness as the American version of Christmas ever did.
Of course one of the big proofs of this are the phenomenal songs that make up this Christmas/Halloween classic.
You get a big ole hand painted Jack head that sings and says phrases from the film and three DVD’s one of which is a Digital copy of the film you can download onto your computer or handheld device to watch whenever you want. You also get a booklet with the original poem. And it’s all delivered in an oversize coffin shaped box. The DVD’s rest in a drawer in the back of the bust and are packaged in a Santa like purse. The set also comes with a Santa beard and hat for Jack.
THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS COMPLETE COLLECTION
I could barely believe my eyes when I got this email. They were actually willing to send me this? 25 discs in five steel book cases containing every single episode from what I remembered as a funny very fun animated series. We’re talking 145 episodes folks and over twelve hours of extras. The case the whole thing comes in is a mockup of the GB Headquarters with a pair of motion windows featuring Slimer. These are going for big bucks on Ebay and my advice is to get yours while you still can because this is going to become a serious collectible. We don’t have an affiliate with Time Life but...
THE COMPLETE MONTY PYTHON'S FLYING CIRCUS COLLECTOR'S EDITION.
I ignored this until I realized what a great idea it was. Yes Python has been available before. But you should see how much shelf space you’ll save. This thing is tiny and has hours of new extras on it. If you or someone you love doesn’t have the complete Monty Python you need to ask yourself why.
So good luck with the last minute pickings and try to remember that no matter what or what isn't under the tree or in the DVD player it never hurts to check out those post Christmas sales.