It's time for the annual home-video gift guide. That means I am taking a break from throwing eggnog at people and singing Arbor Day tunes! (Yes, we celebrate the holidays in a very strange way at my place.)
I admit that after all of the national press coverage of mob scenes at Walmart, I'm a little afraid to venture out to go shopping. Therefore, the prices included with this list of Blu-rays and DVDs come from Amazon.com. They may have changed a bit since this writing, but you should find them generally in the ballpark.
Shopping online is quiet, convenient and far less likely to result in a face full of pepper spray. Unless, of course, you have some sort of crazy, self-aware computer equipped with arms and a bad temper, in which case you are on your own.
EPIC FILM FRANCHISES WITH EPIC PACKAGES
Star Wars: The Complete Saga
20th Century Fox
Yeah, George Lucas wrecked the end of Return of the Jedi with that repugnant Darth Vader "No!" scream, but this set is still something you must give any movie-lover who hasn't gotten it yet. The package includes the six Star Wars films and a bunch of terrific special features. Still, you don't get the films in their original, unaltered formats—just the ones with all the crazy added footage. Lucas ... I worry about you.
Jurassic Park Ultimate Trilogy
Blu-ray: $46.99; DVD: $29.49
It's amazing how well the CGI dinosaurs have stood the test of time, and it's amazing that they haven't made more of these movies, because they are cash cows. (Spielberg dropped hints this year that another may be on the way soon.) The first appearance of the Tyrannosaurus rex is the ultimate workout for your sound system, and liable to make the neighbors think there is some seriously crazy crap going on in your abode.
Harry Potter: Complete 8-Film Collection
Blu-ray: $79.99; DVD $48.99
Warner Bros. has put the word out that it won't ship any Potter home videos after this month, so this is a good chance to make sure the Harry Potter fan in your life is all hooked up.
The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition
Chances are, the Gollum-lover on your holiday list already owns the theatrical-version Blu-rays. Well, the extended versions are better, and the special features are far more extensive, so that Gollum-lover will need to own both.
GIVE THE GIFT OF SCARY, ICKY HORROR
Evil Dead 2 (25th Anniversary Edition)
Blu-ray $10.99; DVD $11.99
We Evil Dead 2 fans are diehards, and we will plunk down the cash for every damn home-video release of the movie. We will also feel a bit stupid and irresponsible about this. So make us Evil Dead 2 fans very happy by buying us the 25th anniversary edition of the film, saving us the embarrassment of laying out cash for the umpteenth time for Sam Raimi's horror classic.
The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season (3-Disc Special Edition)
Blu-ray $27.49; DVD $22.49
Two releases of The Walking Dead came out this year. The second release, which came out in October, is far superior, with many more special features. As for the show itself, it just had its midseason finale on AMC, and, boy, did they make up for some slow episodes in the closing moments. It's returning in February.
Tucker and Dale vs. Evil
Blu-ray $19.99; DVD $14.99
This makes my holiday list because it is one of the year's best films. Really. Twisted and funny in the tradition of Sam Raimi and Peter Jackson horror films, it features two of the year's funniest performances, from Tyler Labine and Alan Tudyk as two misunderstood rednecks simply trying to have a peaceful time in their new vacation home. Those damn college kids!
One of the year's great Blu-ray releases, it contains an invaluable special feature: John Travolta sitting down for a new interview and expressing his heartfelt gratitude to director Quentin Tarantino for giving him the role of Vincent Vega. It's great to see an actor being this honest and thankful. And the movie is awesome.
This has always been, and will always be, one of my favorite movies, featuring a Robert De Niro performance that is easily one of his best. There's not just a repackaging of old features for this one, either; Martin Scorsese's violent meditation on isolationism gets some nice, new special features for this release.
The Tree of Life
20th Century Fox
Blu-ray/DVD combo: $29.99
The year's best film (so far), from director Terrence Malick, is polarizing. If you have film-lovers on your list who like a good challenge, get them this one, and see whether they love it or hate it. Brad Pitt and Jessica Chastain deliver two of the year's best performances, and the editing is simply masterful. It's not easy to make a comprehensive film about everything, but Malick somehow does it.
Coen Brothers Collection
20th Century Fox
This is a screamingly good deal. You get Miller's Crossing, Raising Arizona, Fargo and Blood Simple on Blu-ray for a shockingly low price. This package here is a testament to how competitive studios are getting with their Blu-ray pricing. The whole format is now very affordable.
Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume One (Ultimate Collector's Edition)
Bugs Bunny, Daffy Duck, Yosemite Sam ... enough said. This package comes with a bunch of collector's stuff, like a glass and a tin sign. You can also get a streamlined version with just the discs and a collector's booklet for less than $40.
The Great Dictator
Blu-ray: $22.79; DVD: $17.94
One of the most amazing and important films ever made. A must have for Chaplin fans—and film buffs in general.
Citizen Kane (70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition)
Blu-ray: $47.49; DVD: $25.99
Do I really need to say why this one should be on any film-lover's gift list?
MAKE 'EM LAUGH
Louie: The Complete First Season
Blu-ray/DVD combo: $14.99
Louis C.K. has the funniest show on TV; it finished its second season on FX and has been renewed for a third. Give this one to the uninitiated, and while you're at it, throw in a DVD of his new concert film, Hilarious ($13.99).
THE PERFECT "I HATE YOU!" GIFT
Blu-ray: $14.99; DVD: $9.49
If you really hate someone, give him or her this piece of shit, and tell him or her that it is good. They will, in turn, hate you for polluting their entertainment system and outright lying.
IN LIEU OF HALLUCINOGENIC DRUGS
Enter the Void
Blu-ray: $20.49; DVD: $9.79
If you want to make a friend or loved one trip out, but want to forgo that inconvenient jail stay for drug-trafficking, this film is the perfect choice.