Proceed with caution when buying a player. Last year's models don't play BD-Live, probably the greatest supplement Blu-Ray has to offer. (It allows your Blu-Ray player to download new content and features from the Internet.) A lot of the players don't play new discs at all, requiring all sorts of updates. My advice is to stiff that dude at the office you really couldn't give two shits about, take that saved gift money and spring for the latest Blu-Ray model. Trust me; you don't want the older-model headaches. They dampen spirits and threaten the spreading of holiday joy.
Geez, I sound like I'm bitching. Blu-Ray is total awesomeness, and many of the recommendations I am making this year are in that format.
The following is a list (prices are suggested retail; you can probably find everything listed here much cheaper) of DVD favorites from the last year--choices that would make great presents for somebody just like me. And, should you have somebody just like me on your holiday-shopping list, that person is a very strange individual, for sure.
The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration (Blu-Ray)Paramount, $124.99
Director Francis Ford Coppola personally supervised the digital restoration of his classic series, and the results are worthy of top billing in this here guide. The damn thing is so beautiful, you'll actually find yourself liking The Godfather: Part III! As for supplements, Coppola's commentaries are carried over from prior editions, but you do get some new documentaries and, of course, stunning picture and sound. Anybody with a Blu-Ray player will freak out (in a good way) if this ends up under the tree.
A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All!Comedy Central, $19.99
Stephen Colbert orchestrates perhaps the oddest Christmas special ever put on TV. After singing an original Christmas diddy in his log cabin, Colbert discovers that he is trapped in his abode by a large grizzly bear, meaning he won't be able to make it to New York for the taping of his special. Instead, the likes of Jon Stewart, Feist and Elvis Costello come to visit him and provide trippy Christmas cheer. The disc features a book-burning yule-log video, perfect for holiday parties.
The Complete Monty Python's Flying Circus (Collector's Edition)A&E, $159.95
This classic comedy series has been on DVD before, but this is the coolest package yet. It comes with every episode of the show, lots of live stuff (including the film Live at the Hollywood Bowl) and all of the "Personal Best" DVDs, in which each Python picks favorite sketches. You'll also find two new, extremely excellent documentaries featuring all of the surviving members reminiscing.
Tropic Thunder: Unrated Director's Cut (Blu-Ray)DreamWorks, $39.99
This film looks wonderful on Blu-Ray. Director Ben Stiller went all-out on his Hollywood spoof, employing a crew that knew how to make a movie look good. Tropic Thunder features some of the year's best comic performances, and this edition throws in some extra scenes for good measure. The DVD has two commentaries: one with Stiller and his crew, and the other with Stiller and his cast. One of the year's best supplemental features would be Rain of Madness, an insanely funny mockumentary on the making of Thunder.
The Little Rascals: The Complete CollectionGenius, $89.95
This is some hard-core, funny shit. The short film that introduced Spanky McFarland to the world is a classic; Jackie Cooper was one of the funniest child actors ever; and Stymie ruled all creation. This collection gathers all of the "talkie" shorts from yesteryear. They are unedited, so you will see some racist stuff that will make you cringe. Still, The Little Rascals was one of the first productions to show white and African-American kids playing together and being friends, so it all sort of balances out.
Abbott and Costello: The Complete Universal Pictures CollectionUniversal, $119.98
Too cool for words--28 movies, all in one place for you to peruse and cherish. You get all of those awesome A&C monster movies, Abbott and Costello Go to Mars and many other fine films. You also get a nice collectible book and hours of bonus features. Universal went all-out on this one.
In BrugesUniversal, $29.98
One of the year's finest films is on DVD and needs to be seen. Colin Farrell makes up for all of his missteps with his performance here as a hitman with a guilty conscience. Ralph Fiennes turns in one of the year's funniest supporting performances as a crime lord who hates to do his own dirty work. The special features are OK, but I'm putting this in here for the sheer quality of the flick.
The Dark Knight: Two-Disc Special Edition (Blu-Ray)Warner, $35.99
This one is a no-brainer; one of the year's finest and best-looking movies suffers no Blu-Ray letdown. Those action scenes that director Christopher Nolan shot in IMAX will make you more than happy about the tons of cash you've been spilling into your entertainment system.
WALL-E: Two-Disc Set (Blu-Ray)Disney, $35.99
Pixar served up another classic with this tale of a garbage robot cleaning up the planet long after humans have abandoned it. Pixar movies give your hi-def equipment a wonderful workout, and this is one of those films you can't take your eyes off of. It's also one of the strangest G-rated movies ever made--pretty dark for a children's movie.
30 Rock: Season TwoUniversal, $39.98
If you stumble upon somebody who never watches network television, get them this, and force them to watch it. Tina Fey's show displays the type of consistent brilliance that you rarely see in a sitcom. It's even funnier than Seinfeld. (Jerry actually stops by for a hilarious cameo.) Alec Baldwin is perfectly sinister as the network head; Fey is a total delight; and Tracy Morgan is warped on too many levels. Every episode is funny.
Spaced: The Complete SeriesBBC Warner, $59.98
Here's another television treat that is sure to please those fond of British humor. Simon Pegg basically got his start with this show, featuring two roommates pretending to be a couple so they can rent an apartment. The show has a great geek sensibility, with lots of humor about Star Wars and pop culture. The package contains a huge documentary on the show and commentaries from the likes of Kevin Smith, Bill Hader and Quentin Tarantino.
Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! (Season One)Warner, $19.97
If you have a Mr. Show fan on your gift-giving list, don't hesitate to buy them this one. Tim and Eric are totally nuts, and their show comes off as something like Mr. Show on 'shrooms. Mr. Show's Bob Odenkirk is a creative consultant on the series, and thankfully, he makes plenty of appearances. It's worth the price of the disc for John C. Reilly's Dr. Steve Brule segments. This is undoubtedly one of the most bizarre shows you will ever see.
High School Flashback Collection (The Breakfast Club, Sixteen Candles, Weird Science)Universal, $39.98
Getting all of these great John Hughes films in one collection is bliss, and they come in a nice high school locker tin, perfect for gift-giving. Anthony Michael Hall and Judd Nelson do a commentary on Breakfast Club that is one of the year's best.