Last-Minute DVD Gift Guide

12/20/2009 Posted by Admin

By Christopher Smith

So, you've put off the holiday shopping until the last minute--perfectly understandable. If things have to come to push and shove, which they will at this point, you might as well do it with the hardcore late shoppers.

At least they're in it for real.

Still, what to get now that you're in such a pinch? Socks? Frowns all around. Underwear? A bum gift--and that pun is intended. Tasers? Mace? Pepper spray? You might need them if your shopping really does begin today.

The good news is that a DVD always makes a swell gift--and a quick, no-stress, often low-cost purchase to boot. Since the options can be overwhelming this time of year, included here are many newer releases, all of which come recommended and all of which can be found at local retailers or online for much less than the official retail prices listed below.

Since it is the holiday season and time likely will be spent with family (whether you like it or not), try softening the blow by comparing your family against the sort of caustic bickering found in “Sanford and Son: The Complete Series ($59.95), or the high-strung, melodramatic fair found in “McLeod’s Daughters: Eighth Season” ($59.98). Either way, you’ll come out a winner--and you’re families might look sane in comparison.

Other recommended television series new to DVD include “Criss Angel Mindfreak: Collector’s Edition” ($99.95); Angel again in “The Five Lives of Criss Angel Mindfreak” ($24.98); John Houseman in the second season of “The Paper Chase” ($49.99); the third season of “The Tudors” ($42.99), with Jonathan Rhys Meyers; the fourth season of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” ($59.98); and the 10th season of “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” ($59.98), because apparently NBC can’t offer enough spin-offs of the popular franchise.

For a throwback, look to Paramount’s release of “Star Trek: The Original Series Season 3” on Blu-ray ($129.99). The show never gets old and now that it’s available in high-definition, Trekkies might faint at the quality of the crisp print. Also enhanced are the special effects, which have been updated, though not at the cost of the show’s tongue-in-cheek charm. The 1968-69 season was memorable, featuring such episodes as “Plato’s Stepchildren,” which is best known for featuring television’s first interracial kiss, as well as “Spock’s Brain” and “And the Children Shall Lead” to “The Lights of Zetar” and “All Our Yesterdays.” Set your phasers to stun, because that’s pretty much the effect these remastered episodes will have on fans.

As for Blu-ray, those who have made the switch to high-definition have a growing catalog from which to choose. Still, the question is which to choose? A good place to start is with HBO’s “Generation Kill” ($79.98), a seven-part mini-series about the first 40 days of combat in Iraq; one of the year’s funniest comedies in “The Hangover” ($34.95); Disney’s animated adventure “G-Force” ($44.99), which features an elite team of, uh, trained guinnea pigs; and the “Coraline Gift Set” ($69.98). That latter gem includes the movie as well as many extras, such as a limited-edition book, a digital copy for your computer, and features exclusive to Blu-ray, including Picture in Picture, in which those involved in the making of the film offer on-screen commentary while you watch. An Internet connection is required.

For those seeking comedies on Blu-ray, look to no further than the nine comedies included in the terrific “The Mel Brooks Collection” ($139.99), which features a book based on the director’s life as well as the following films: “Blazing Saddles,” “Spaceballs,” “Young Frankenstein,” “Silent Movie,” “Twelve Chairs,” “Robin Hood: Men in Tights,” “High Anxiety,” “History of the World: Part 1” and “To Be or Not to Be.” Tough to beat that.

Additional recommended titles on Blu-ray include “Family Guy: Something, Something, Something Darkside” ($29.99), which is an inspired spoof on “The Empire Strikes Back”; the thriller “Beyond a Reasonable Doubt” ($29.98) with Michael Douglas and Amber Tamblyn; Jet Li in the action film “Fearless” ($29.98); Luc Besson’s “The Messenger: The Story of Joan of Arc” ($28.95) and his gritty action movie “La Femme Nikita” ($28.95); and three nature-based documentaries from IMAX: “The Living Sea,” “The Coral Reef Adventure” and “Dolphins,” each retailing for $24.98.

When it comes to movies, obviously there is something for everyone out there, but three are a must-have on DVD, with each offered in two-disc centennial collections: Billy Wilder’s great 1950 noir classic “Sunset Boulevard,” with Gloria Swanson, William Holden and Erich von Stroheim wending through Hollywood’s seductive--and deadly--maze; William Wyler directing Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in “Roman Holiday”; and Hepburn again, this time opposite Humphrey Bogart and William Holden, in Billy Wilder’s 1954 film “Sabrina.” Each retails for $24.99 and is filled with extras.

Finally, since nobody likes an unhappy child during the holiday season, unless of course it's a cruel sibling with esteem issues, recommended titles to keep them smiling--at least for the moment--include two in the Walt Disney Treasures series: “Zorro: Complete First Season” and “Zorro: Complete Second Season” ($59.99 each). Also, look for Pixar’s “Up” ($29.99), “Treasury of 50 Storybook Classics: Animal Antics and More” ($49.95); “Abbot and Costello: The Complete Universal Picture Collection” ($119.98), which is perfect for kids, as is “Popeye the Sailor: 1941-1943, Vol. 3” ($34.98) and “Bear Snores On and More Beary Adorable Tales” ($14.95).

It's almost over. Just not quite. Good luck to all getting through these next harrowing few days.

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