2016 Blu-ray & DVD Holiday Gift Guide
By Bob Bloom
Whether you’re searching for gifts for that film buff or fan of classic or contemporary television shows, plenty of options are available in stores and online.
Below are just a smattering of products that may appeal to family members or friends on your holiday gift list.
The costs are either the list or suggested retail prices, which will most likely vary depending on whether you shop at a store or online.
• “Star Trek 50th Anniversary TV and Movie Collection” (Blu-ray) (1966-1991, CBS DVD-Paramount Home Entertainment, LP $208.99).
A 30-disc Blu-ray set featuring all three seasons of the original TV series that made William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy household names, but also “Star Trek: The Animated Series” and the first six “Star Trek” movies starring Shatner and Nimoy.
The set comes with the theatrical and director’s cut versions of “Star Trek: The Wrath of Khan,” plus more than 20 hours of behind-the-scenes extras on the TV show and movies, mini-posters for the films and a 50th anniversary Starfleet insignia pin.
Fans of this iconic franchise will not be disappointed in this luxurious box set.
• “The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series” (1959-1964, CBS DVD-Paramount Home Entertainment, LP $79.99).
This series, created by Rod Serling, who also wrote the bulk of the episodes, is continually ranked as one of the top television series ever created.
The show featured imaginative and thoughtful stories by such writers as Richard Matheson, Charles Beaumont and George Clayton Johnson.
This 25-disc set features all 156 episodes of the series, which featured such guest stars as Burgess Meredith, Agnes Moorehead, Leonard Nimoy, William Shatner, Charles Bronson, Elizabeth Montgomery, Buddy Ebsen, Burt Reynolds, Dennis Hopper, Robert Redford and future Academy Award-winners Robert Duvall, Art Carney, Martin Landau, Cliff Robertson, Lee Marvin and Martin Balsam.
Filmed in glorious black-and-white, the set features thought-provoking tales that will surprise, delight and, sometimes, confound you.
• “Perry Mason: The Complete Series” (1957-66, CBS DVD-Paramount Home Entertainment, LP $179.98).
If you needed a great defense attorney in the late 1950s through the mid-1960s, then Perry Mason was the lawyer to call.
For 271 episodes, Mason fought for his clients and, with the exception of one case, exonerated them of various felonies, mostly murder.
With the help of his secretary, Della Street, and crack investigator, Paul Drake, Mason outwitted prosecutor Hamilton Burger and police Lt. Arthur Tragg, to clear the innocent and exposed the guilty.
Sure, the series did not follow real courtroom procedures — all of the witnesses were in the courtroom following the case.
And the series was rather formulaic, as in the last reel, the guilty party broke down on the stand under Mason’s sharp cross-examination and confessed.
Still, this was a fun series to watch, and it was usually fun to try and guess the guilty culprit before Mason exposed him — or her.
• “The BBC’s 400th Anniversary Shakespeare Gift Set” (BBC Home Entertainment, LP $37.99).
A nine-disc set that fans of the Bard will find very entertaining.
The set includes a production of “Hamlet” starring David Tennant and Patrick Stewart.
“Shakespeare Retold” offers the reimagining of four plays in modern times: “Much Ado About Nothing,” “The Taming of the Shrew,” “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” and “Macbeth.”
Among the performers are James McAvoy, Billie Piper, Damian Lewis and Richard Armitage.
“An Age of Kings” was a 15-part BBC miniseries based on Shakespeare’s history plays from “Richard II” to “Richard III.” The casts included Judi Dench, Sean Connery, Robert Hardy, Julian Glover and Eileen Atkins.
If you love acting and anything British or Shakespeare, this set is right up your alley.
• “The Gregory Peck Centennial Collection” (Blu-ray + Ultraviolet) (1962, Universal Studios Home Entertainment, LP $29.98).
A two-disc set that features Gregory Peck in his most memorable role, that of lawyer Atticus Finch, in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Peck won the Academy Award for best actor for his performance as the compassionate Southern lawyer and father, raising two small children.
The American Film Institute has rated Peck’s Atticus Finch as its Greatest Movie Hero of All Time.
Peck also stars in “Cape Fear.” This time, he is a lawyer facing threats against himself and his family by a criminal, played by Robert Mitchum, seeking revenge.
The set comes with extras, including the documentary, “A Conversation with Gregory Peck.”
This is a set in which movie buffs can see the tender and tough sides of this very fine actor.
• “The Marx Brothers: Silver Screen Collection” (Blu-ray) (1929-33, Paramount Home Entertainment, LP $59.98).
Before they revitalized their careers by joining MGM studio in the mid-1930s, the four Marx Brothers — Groucho, Chico, Harpo and Zeppo — made five movies for Paramount Pictures.
The first two films, “The Coconuts” (1929) and “Animal Crackers” (1930), were adaptations of Broadway vehicles starring the brothers.
The three other movies in the set are “Monkey Business” (1931), “Horse Feathers” (1932) and “Duck Soup” (1933).
The movies highlight the anarchy of the brothers’ vaudeville and Broadway personas, which, while popular with audiences did not translate that well to movie audiences.
Yet, for many fans of the Marxes, these are their best vehicles, working outside the constraints of MGM’s more traditional studio politics.
The films include footage not seen since they were edited to meet the production code standards for reissue in 1936.
The set includes hours of extras including featurettes, commentaries and interviews.
• “Lone Wolf and Cub: Special Edition” (Blu-ray) (The Criterion Collection, LP $99.95)
This three-disc set features six Japanese cult favorites, produced between 1972 and 1974, that center on the shogun’s former executioner, Itto Ogami, who now roams the countryside as an assassin, along with his infant son whom he pushes along in a seemingly infinitely weaponized perambulator.
Ogami’s quest is to help those he encounters as well as seek vengeance for his murdered wife.
These movies deliver great action, lots of blood and a mammoth body count.
The set includes “Sword of Vengeance” (1972), “Baby Cart at the River Styx” (1972), “Baby Cart to Hades” (1972), “Baby Cart in Peril” (1972), “Baby Cart in the Land of Demons” (1973) and “White Heaven in Hell” (1974).
The set contains extras, including interviews and documentaries as well as a booklet with essays and synopses.
• “T.A.M.I. Show” / “The Big T.N.T. Show) (Blu-ray) (Shout! Factory, LP $29.98)
A two-disc set featuring a pair of rock films from the mid-1960s that spotlight several hit groups and rock legends.
“T.A.M.I. Show” (1964) was a hit concert film that showcased such acts as future Rock and Roll Hall of Famers as James Brown, The Rolling Stones, The Beach Boys, Chuck Berry and Smokey Robinson & the Miracles.
The show, filmed at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium in California on Oct. 29, 1964, also included Jan and Dean, Lesley Gore, Gerry and the Pacemakers and Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas.
“The Big T.N.T. Show” (1966), was a concert filmed in Los Angeles in November, 1965, and included such acts as The Byrds, David Crosby, Ray Charles, Petula Clark, John Sebastian, Bo Diddley, Joan Baez, Roger Miller, Donovan, The Lovin’ Spoonful, The Ronettes and The Ike & Tina Turner Revue.
Both films are time capsules of a golden age of rock ‘n’ roll, rhythm & blues, folk and soul music that galvanized a generation.
The set comes with a 32-page booklet with essays and photos from the concerts, interviews with performers and a commentary track on “The T.A.M.I. Show.”
This is a gift idea for a music-loving baby boomer that will satisfy a musical itch.
• “Dekalog: Special Edition” (Blu-ray) (The Criterion Collection, LP $99.95).
This Polish import from acclaimed filmmaker Krzysztof Kieslowski was produced in 1988 for Polish television.
It centers on the residents of a housing complex in late-Communist Poland whose lives are intertwined as they face various challenges — personal and universally human.
The set is comprised of 10 hour-long movies that draw from the Ten Commandments for inspiration. The stories confront moral and existential questions about life, death, love, hate, truth, responsibility and time.
The set also features the longer theatrical versions of the fifth and sixth films in the series.
All the films are in Polish with English subtitles.
The set includes interviews, documentaries and a booklet about the series and Kieslowski.
Movie buffs who enjoy foreign films will find this set probing and impressive.
• “Trilogía de Guillermo del Toro; Special Edition” (Blu-ray) (The Criterion Collection, LP $99.95).
Guillermo del Toro is one of cinema’s most imaginative filmmakers. This set features three movies that spotlight the director’s talent and vision.
Included are “Cronos” (1993), “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001) and “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006). The three are in Spanish with English subtitles, which should not detract from the power of any of these features.
Each movie tells a tale about childhood in a troubled time in Spain, using the horror genre to explore personal observations about monsters and myths.
The set comes with extras that enhance the viewing and understanding of the films and its director, including featurettes, commentaries, Del Toro’s sketches, interviews with filmmakers and cast members and a book with essays, production notes and sketches.
Del Toro fans will embrace this set as a cherished holiday gift.
• “Ip Man Trilogy: The Complete Collection” (Blu-ray) (Mandarin Films, LP $34.98).
A four-disc set spotlighting the martial arts talents of Donnie Yen, Sammo Hung and other Asian stars as they trace the life of the fighting master, Ip Man (Yen).
The set features “Ip Man” (2008), “Ip Man: Legend of the Grandmaster” (2010) and “Ip Man 3” (2015).
The three movies are in Cantonese, but easy-to-read English subtitles make it easy to follow the stories.
The films include a lot of hand-to-hand fighting and martial arts stunts that will please fans of the genre.
A fourth disc, a DVD, features more than two hours of extras, including interviews.
• “Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby: Big Hairy American Winning 10th Anniversary Edition” (Blu-ray + Ultraviolet) (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, LP $19.99).
Will Ferrell, along with John C. Reilly and Sacha Baron Cohen, star in this comedy of NASCAR and its drivers, most of whom probably were not amused by the portrayal of their brethren when the film was first released.
Still, fans of Ferrell will find much to enjoy in this loud and laugh-filled two-set that, which features the PG-13 theatrical as well as the unrated version of the movie.
The set is loaded with bonus material, including deleted and extended scenes, lino-o-ramas, interviews and behind-the-scenes featurettes, fake commercials and bonus race footage.
• “Looking: The Complete Series and Movie” (Blu-ray + Ultraviolet) (HBO Home Entertainment, LP $42.99)
This HBO series, which aired for two seasons, focused on contemporary gay life in the San Francisco Bay area.
It features themes that everyone — gay and straight — could appreciate, such as love, loyalty, identity, professional fulfillment and the search for true happiness.
The five-disc set revolves around a trio of 30-something gay friends, their relationships, hopes and dreams.
The movie picks up after the series and involves one of the friends, who had moved to Denver, returning to San Francisco to celebrate the wedding of some old friends, and in the process, he must face the unresolved relationships he fled.
The set features bonus materials, including 16 commentary tracks and a featurette on the movie’s cast.
• “Better Call Saul: Season Two (Blu-ray + Ultraviolet) (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, LP $55.99).
Bob Odenkirk returns as small-time lawyer Jimmy McGill in the second season of this prequel to “Breaking Bad.”
The set features all 10 episodes as viewers watch Jimmy facing challenges in his professional and personal lives.
The series is smart and witty, with Odenkirk giving a bravura performance.
The set features hours of extras, including a gag reel, commentaries and interviews.
• “Wallender: The Complete Collection” (BBC Home Entertainment, LP $99.99)
Kenneth Branagh stars as Swedish detective Kurt Wallender in this series based on the popular books by Henning Mankell.
The mysteries are interesting, but it is Branagh’s performance and his process of solving his cases that grab you.
Genre fans will be highly satisfied with these features.
• “Doctor Who: Monsters Gift Set” (BBC Home Entertainment, LP $24.98).
Doctor Who is an iconic character with a worldwide following. These sets focus on two of the Doctor’s most feared and popular adversaries — the Daleks and the Cybermen.
The adventures cover many of the various Doctors who battled these menaces throughout time and space.
The set features such extras as a Tenth Doctor Sonic Screwdriver, a UV-ink Pen, a slide-out sonic emitter with four sound effects and documentaries about these monsters.
• “Dexter: The Complete Series” (Blu-ray) (CBS Blu-ray-Showtime Entertainment-Paramount Home Entertainment, LP $135.99).
This 24-disc set features all eight seasons of the series that aired from 2006 to 2013 on Showtime.
Michael C. Hall starred as Dexter Morgan, who, by day, worked for the police department, but had a hidden life as a serial killer with his own unique sense of justice.
The series is fascinating the watch as Dexter works hard to manipulate everyone around him and keep his demons in check.
The set comes with extras, including various featurettes, cast interviews and commentary tracks.
• “Texas Rising/Sons of Liberty” double feature (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, SRP $29.98).
This set features two made-for-TV History channel miniseries that look at two key events in American history.
“Texas Rising” follows the struggle of the Lone Star State to break from Mexico and join the United States.
It also chronicles the rise of the famed Texas Rangers, who protected the state and its citizens from outlaws, rustlers and threats of various kinds.
“Sons of Liberty” takes viewers from the Boston Tea Party to Paul Revere’s ride, the Battle of Lexington and a look at how 13 divergent colonies joined forces to create a single nation.
History buffs will enjoy both features.
• “Death of a Salesman” (Blu-ray) (Shout! Factory, LP $34.93).
Dustin Hoffman stars as Willy Loman in this filmed version of the Broadway revival of Arthur Miller’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic drama.
Hoffman’s performance is more feisty than Lee J. Cobb’s in the original production, which gives the play an added poignancy.
The drama features John Malkovich and Stephen Lang as Willy’s sons.
This is a powerful production, which I had the pleasure to see live on Broadway several years ago.
And while the film lacks the intimacy of the live stage, it still is a masterful and timeless piece of American art.
• “We Are Twisted F***ing Sister!” (Music Box Films, SRP $19.62).
A documentary that looks at this heavy metal group that burst onto the music scene in the early 1980s.
The group was a crossing-dressing, foul-mouthed conglomeration of rabble rousers whose live shows drew sell-out crowds and whose music videos helped make MTV a household word.
This documentary relates the band’s slow, 10-year climb to success as the group played suburban bars and nightclubs on Long Island and around the Tri-State area.
The film recounts Twisted Sister’s breakout with interviews with band members, record executives, fans and rival bands.
The two-disc set includes stories about the band’s early years and appearances as well as a commentary track.
Fans of Twisted Sisters will definitely enjoy this DVD, not only for the music, but for the behind-the-scenes looks at what made the band unique.
• “Trane 90 — John Coltrane” (CD) (Acrobat Music, SRP $24.99).
This four-CD anthology set, which will be released on Dec. 9 in time for the holidays, features 34 tracks of Coltrane, who died at 40 in 1967, performing solo as well as with The Miles Davis Quintet, the Thelonious Monk Trio, Johnny Hodges and his Orchestra, The Dizzy Gillespie Septet and with his own John Coltrane Quintet.
For anyone unfamiliar with Coltrane’s music and sound, this set will be an exciting and entertaining introduction to an influential and singular musical giant.
• “Sony Pictures Animation Gift Set (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, LP $75.99)
If you are looking for some family-friendly animated movies that you can snuggle up with your kids during snow days or cold winter evenings, this set will suffice.
The 10 movies in this set come in a usable lunchbox, which should also impress the youngsters.
All the films in the set are rated PG. The featured titles are “Surfs Up,” “The Smurfs,” “The Smurfs 2,” “Open Season,” “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs,” “Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs 2,” “Hotel Transylvania,” “Hotel Transylvania 2,” “Arthur Christmas” and “The Pirates! Band of Misfits!”
This is a gift that can be enjoyed over and over, with a variety of fun and clever animation.
• “Paw Patrol: Pups Save Christmas” (Nickelodeon-Paramount Home Entertainment, SRP $14.99)
This holiday-themed DVD would make a perfect stocking stuffer for the little ones. It contains six episodes of this fun and educational series as the pups help save Christmas, return penguins to their frozen home and perform some snowy rescues.
The DVD would make an attention-grabbing diversion while the adults are busy Christmas day with preparing a meal or packing for a holiday trip or simply needing some quiet time to relax.”
• “Nickelodeon Favorites: A Very Nick Jr. Christmas” (Nickelodeon-Paramount Home Entertainment, SRP $14.99).
A DVD featuring holiday-related episodes from such Nick Jr. shows as “Blaze and the Monster Machines,” “Bubble Guppies,” “Wallykazam!,” “Shimmer and Shine” and “Dora and Friends.”
The youngsters will enjoy these animated adventures that combine fun and positive life lessons.
The stories cover such issues as patience, being helpful and friendship.
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. He reviews movies, Blu-rays and DVDs for ReelBob (ReelBob.com), The Film Yap and other print and online publications. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow Bloom on Twitter @ReelBobBloom and on Facebook. Movie reviews by Bloom also can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.