Seriously: I thank you for the thought, but, please, don't buy me DVDs. I have a couple thousand of the things, and while I do love them so, I don't need anymore right now.
However, if you give me fruitcake instead, I will be pissed and will mock you at holiday gatherings.
Wait a minute! This isn't supposed to be about me--it's about you, and I want to help you with the whole shopping thing, what with this being one of them newfangled last-minute gift guides and all. Therefore, here's a summary of the DVDs that made me go "Yah!" this past year. Use this guide wisely, for if it is misused, dire consequences await: Big DVD-store employees will curse you and may even beat you with sticks.
Here's the list of gifts you might want to buy for others, but not me, because I obviously have them. In some cases, I have them in doubles. If I can give you some HD-DVD guidance on some of these titles, I happily will.
Stanley Kubrick: Warner Home Video Director's SeriesWarner Home Video, $79.98
The films of Stanley Kubrick have been out on DVD before, but these releases are, by far, the best editions yet of his work. This set includes freshly transferred versions of 2001: A Space Odyssey, Eyes Wide Shut, Full Metal Jacket, The Shining and A Clockwork Orange. In some cases (especially The Shining and Clockwork), there are all-new bonus features. And, damn, the movies look and sound great. Beyond how good they look in the standard DVD format, I've seen The Shining and 2001 in HD-DVD. It was a religious experience. If you don't have a hi-def TV and some form of a higher-definition DVD player yet, 'tis the season to get cracking. All titles can be purchased individually, and HD-DVD and Blu-Ray versions can only be purchased as single discs.
The McCartney YearsRhino Records, $34.99
Damn, I had a ton of fun with this set, featuring Sir Paul's solo and Wings videos--pretty much all of them--on two highly entertaining discs, with a third containing great live stuff. Paul provides commentaries for many of the videos, and he's a terrific tour guide. McCartney has had a good year (his new album, Memory Almost Full, is one of his best), and this is a great capper for any fan. Now that I mention it, this set doesn't include the videos from Memory Almost Full, but it has plenty of great older stuff. This will give you a renewed appreciation for "Say Say Say," which is somewhat disturbing, because that song sucks.
Twin Peaks: Definitive Gold Box EditionParamount Home Video, $99.99
Pretty much anytime somebody releases a DVD that's Twin Peaks-related, you'll find it among my list of favorites. As for this set, it is the absolute-must way to go for fans and the uninitiated alike. The entire series, with two versions of the pilot available on DVD for the first time, is included. There are also some great features, including director David Lynch conducting a funny interview with some cast members. If you have never seen it, buy this for somebody, and make them pledge access to their home-video system for nightly viewings. And, for crying out loud, don't tell them who killed Laura Palmer. Wait a minute. I have a better idea: Buy somebody you don't like all that much this set, then promptly tell them who killed Laura Palmer. They will become enraged and throw the set at you. Then, brush off whatever injuries you might incur, pick the damn thing up, run home and experience the greatness that is Lynch television while your ex-friend pouts.
Knocked Up (Unrated): 2-Disc Collector's EditionUniversal Studios, $30.98
Mother of God, these discs are loaded. You get the movie with a few new, extra dirty jokes thrown in. You also get tons, and I mean tons, of deleted scenes and outtakes that are as funny as the movie. Other special features include director Judd Apatow's fake documentary about other actors who tried out for the part played by Seth Rogen. Hours and hours of worthwhile viewing.
Planet Earth: The Complete SeriesBBC Warner, $79.98
Mind-blowingly cool documentaries about Mother Earth, containing among its treasures that amazing footage of a great white shark grabbing a seal in midair. This is nice enough in standard DVD formats. If you can watch this in hi-definition ($99.98), you will never leave the house, become alienated and be spurned by pets. Trust me; it's worth it.
The Larry Sanders Show: Not Just the Best OfSony Pictures, $49.95
Garry Shandling's groundbreaking series gets an awesome home-video treatment, with a selection of the best episodes and more than eight hours of new stuff. New stuff includes a feature-length documentary on the show, audio commentaries and recent footage of Shandling visiting the likes of Sharon Stone. There's footage of the late Bruno Kirby performing one last gag with pal Shandling before leaving the planet. A fantastic TV show gets a fantastic DVD treatment.
The Graduate: 40th Anniversary EditionMGM, $24.98
This edition of one of the first true American "art" films is worth the price for the full feature commentary with stars Dustin Hoffman and Katharine Ross. That The Graduate is a great, great movie only sweetens the pot.
The Natural: The Director's CutSony Pictures, $24.94
Barry Levinson put about 15 minutes back into his classic baseball movie and actually made it better. Robert Redford is too cool for words as an aging ballplayer who can blow up light towers with his home runs. Documentaries revealing how Redford was an athletic badass during filming--smacking balls out of the park for real--are perfectly suited to the baseball fan.
Tom Goes to the Mayor: The Complete SeriesTurner Home Entertainment, $34.98
The creative forces behind this show (affectionately known as Tim and Eric) are definitely an acquired taste. If they make you, or the potential owner of this set, laugh, you can't go wrong here. This set includes all of the bizarre animated episodes, with worthwhile special features. Tim and Eric now have a live-action show, Tim and Eric Awesome Show: Great Job! which got renewed for a second season. If your gift recipient likes humor that frightens with its weirdness, you must buy, wrap and give.
Taxi Driver: Collector's EditionSony Pictures, $24.96
A great treatment of a great film. Robert De Niro delivered his best-ever performance in this, the story of Travis Bickle, sociopath taxi driver. Lots of interesting documentaries are included, with participation from director Martin Scorsese and De Niro. This will always be one of the greatest films ever made.