Holidays 2009: Movie Gifts

Blu-Ray makes shopping easy.

By Sean Burns
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 0 | Posted Dec. 1, 2009

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When it comes to buying gifts, we movie geeks are sadly predictable. Holidays aren’t just a time for giving—they’re also the perfect opportunity for us to enforce our taste upon others. How do you make someone in your family finally sit down and check out that flick you’ve been nagging them to see for six months? Buy it for them, so they’ll feel obligated to watch it! Spending the holidays with a cineaste is sort of like letting your music-freak friend run the car stereo on a long car drive. It’s “a teachable moment.”

As everybody seems to be slowly switching to Blu-Ray, it only makes shopping easier. If a movie gift was a big hit with a special someone in previous years, now you can just buy it for them again—in HD, with fancier packaging! Sure it sounds lazy, but I bet they’ll be grateful. Technological change-overs are always annoyingly expensive, and to be honest, the No. 1 reason I haven’t upgraded my home viewing system is that when I look at my bookshelf containing more than 400 DVDs, all I can think is: “No way am I buying this shit all over again.”

If you have an angsty young man in your family, trying to find his place in the world while grumbling under his breath about Martha Stewart and IKEA, we’ve got good news. Fight Club has been re-released in a spiffy new 10th-anniversary “You Are Not Special” special edition. The original 2000 package was loaded with a bunch of goodies, and this set promises even more, like a five- minute HD video vignette on sound designing a punch to the ear. The big drawback to the re-release is that unlike the previous single and double-disc editions of Fight Club, this one does not feature a pull-quote from my PW review on the back cover. Boo.

Classic titles have been slower to roll out in the new format, but Gone With The Wind has made the leap to Blu-Ray, so you can buy that for mom again. And this time around it comes in a velvet keepsake box. It only took three or so years, but there’s finally an Alfred Hitchcock film on Blu-Ray. North By Northwest comes with commentary by the late screenwriter Ernest Lehman (it was recorded in 2000; this new technology isn’t that miraculous); a PBS American Masters doc on Cary Grant and video testimonials by directors as diverse as Curtis Hanson, William Friedkin and Guillermo del Toro.

Still the best movie I’ve seen all year, Up gets the usual Pixar royal treatment on DVD, available in single, double or quadruple disc editions, depending on your appetite for production minutiae and behind the scenes goodies. Some of the bonuses include a new animated short starring that chatty, adorable dog Dug and an alternate take on the film’s heartbreaking opening montage.

The perfect present for someone you hate, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen is also available in multiple formats and variations, though all are most assuredly terrible. Reviews indicate that the disc’s highlight is the audio commentary track by director Michael Bay, during which he rants against film critics, Oscar voters and his Hollywood peers. Be advised, there is also a Walmart-exclusive big screen edition, which contains the slightly longer IMAX cut of the movie. As if we already didn’t have enough reasons to believe that Walmart is evil, they’re selling a version of Transformers 2 that’s even longer.

You can’t talk about DVD without mentioning those fine folks at the Criterion Collection, and I’m most intrigued by their latest box set, The Golden Age of Television. The live television dramas of the 1950s are often discussed but rarely screened. Usually remade into feature films with different casts, here are the originals. Criterion’s box set of restored kinescopes kicks off with Paddy Chayefsky’s legendary Marty (with Rod Steiger instead of Ernest Borgnine!) They’ve also got Paul Newman in Bang the Drum Slowly, Andy Griffith’s first No Time for Sargeants, Jack Palance’s Requiem for a Heavyweight, and director John Frankenheimer’s take on Days of Wine and Roses, starring Cliff Robertson.

Speaking of television’s golden age, after many delays, Season One of The Sopranos is finally on Blu-Ray.

I’ve had a hunch for awhile that TV series box sets are turning into the coffee table books of our generation. After initially plowing through all the episodes for the first time and losing a perfectly good weekend, I always find myself flummoxed when I feel like revisiting. Does one start over from the beginning, or pick a disc at random? Should you watch an old favorite, or maybe take a second look at an episode you weren’t too thrilled with and see if it improves upon second viewing? (This is the kind of overwrought indecisiveness that finds me throwing up my hands and just watching The Sopranos reruns edited for A&E, even though all six seasons are sitting right there on my shelf.) The good news is that a Blu-Ray upgrade will at last correct HBO’s notoriously shitty DVD transfer of the first season, so your TV set won’t distort in rainbow pattern noise everytime Tony wears a loud print shirt.

Finally, the most disgusting movie-related gift idea was emailed to me a while back and is too good not to share. Proving that every pop-culture craze can be merchandized beyond all measure of good taste, TantusInc.com is now selling a Twilight -themed dildo. Pesky copyright restrictions and the Mormon mafia prohibit them from tying into the film directly, so they’re stuck just calling it the Vamp. But you’re in luck, ladies, as the silicone member does indeed sparkle in the sunlight. â– 

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