Zach Stetson ’16 / Emertainment Monthly Staff
With the growth of online streaming of films, physical media formats such as Blu-ray discs and DVDs are becoming less and less prevalent. This is incredibly unfortunate because a Blu-ray disc provides the highest quality visual entertainment experience you can have outside of a theater. To top that off home video releases often come with a slew of extra features that no other video outlet can provide you. They also make great gifts because the feeling of owning physical media is much more satisfying than having a file on your computer. Wondering what Blu-ray or DVD releases you should get for people on your holiday gift lists? Look no further; here are 10 excellent home video releases that make great gifts.
Beasts of the Southern Wild
Beasts of the Southern Wild was one of the best films of 2012. It tells the story of a little girl living in a very unique community on the bayou. While the DVD release only includes a making of featurette and a trailer as special features, the Blu-ray release contains a sizable helping of features including the director Ben Zeitlin’s short film, Glory at Sea which works as a sort of companion piece to the main feature.
Available for purchase on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Beasts-Southern-Blu-ray-Dwight-Henry/dp/B008220ALC.
Girls: The Complete First Season
Lena Dunham emerged as a major face in the independent film scene with her film, Tiny Furniture. After her film debuted she made an interesting career move as she decided to start an HBO television series with the help of producer Judd Apatow. The show, Girls went on to earn rave reviews and many fans. Half the episodes contain audio commentaries (with Dunham and Apatow as participants), a very exciting special feature for all the fans. This set would make a great gift to guys and girls alike.
Finding Nemo on Blu-ray
It is unbelievable that until this month, Finding Nemo was the only Pixar film not available on Blu-ray, especially considering it is the studio’s second highest grossing film. The recently released Blu-ray combo pack contains stellar video and audio quality and a new in-movie feature called a Cine-explore in which the filmmakers show concept-art and talk about the making of the film while the film is running. It is almost like an audio commentary except it has a video component (a type of feature only possible on Blu-ray).
The Criterion Collection is the best physical media production company in existence today. They curate mostly art-house and independent films into their collection. In recent years they have been upgrading their DVD releases to Blu-ray. Since I could make a list of 10 Criterion Collection releases, I will withhold and include one new Criterion release and one Blu-ray upgrade.
The Royal Tenenbaums: The Criterion Collection Blu-ray
The Blu-ray upgrade I recommend is The Royal Tenenbaums. The reason I chose this one was the amazing audio and video quality and the incredible amount of special features included. It is also a very well made film loved by many. In terms of extra features it includes, an audio commentary, interviews with the entire cast, two deleted scenes, a talk show segment pertaining to the film, a segment from a radio program, 5 still galleries, trailers, a booklet containing drawings and an essay, and a behind-the scenes featurette directed by the legendary filmmaker, Albert Maysles. This would make a wonderful gift for any fan of Wes Anderson. Note: A DVD counterpart of this set is also available with the same set of extras.
Available for purchase on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Royal-Tenenbaums-Criterion-Collection-Blu-ray/dp/B0083V2W4U.
Harold and Maude: The Criterion Collection Blu-ray/DVD
The Criterion Collection gave this wonderful Hal Ashby film an amazing home video release. The film looks worlds better than it did on the previous release and the cover-art is simply fantastic. The release also includes some interesting interviews, a commentary, and a sizable booklet. If you want to introduce someone to a new film, look no further than this release. The film is magical, beautiful, and tragic.
My next two picks will be Blu-ray boxed sets. These are more expensive than the other items on the list but they come with multiple films and make great gifts.
Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures on Blu-ray
All four films in the Indiana Jones series in glorious high definition and an entire disc full of special features, what more could you ask for this holiday season. While not all the films are classics (I’m looking at you Crystal Skull), the set still contains two of the most loved adventure films in recent memory, Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade in high definition for the first time ever. And the picture and audio quality is top notch. You can’t go wrong with this set.
Available for purchase on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Indiana-Jones-Complete-Adventures-Blu-ray/dp/B000NQRE9Q.
Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection on Blu-ray
James Bond is another one of cinema’s most respected franchises. The great advantage to owning a set like this is that you can really see how the series progressed and changed over time. The set is a lovely retrospective and for the amount of films you get, the price isn’t as steep as it seems. Note: The DVD version of this set contains no extra features whatsoever which is why I’m only recommending the Blu-ray version.
Available for purchase on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Bond-50-Complete-Collection-Blu-ray/dp/B006U1J5ZY.
The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy – Extended Edition Collectors Sets
While these sets did not come out this year they are a perfect gift this holiday season in conjunction with the upcoming film based on the prequel to Lord Of The Rings, The Hobbit. The DVD versions of these sets are out of print but you can get them at a slightly marked up price online. The Blu-ray versions are available as a boxed set or as 3 new separate releases. The A/V quality is all top notch and they all come with two discs of special features. The Blu-ray sets come with an additional disc containing another documentary.
Available for purchase on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Lord-Rings-Collectible-6-Character/dp/B0058JTHQ6.
Prometheus: 3D Blu-ray Combo Pack
I would not be one to normally recommend a 3D Blu-ray release of a film. I don’t even own a 3D TV. But if someone is even remotely interested in the film Prometheus this is the definitive edition to get. It includes a 3D Blu-ray of the film, a 2D Blu-ray of the film, a 2D extra features disc (exclusive to this specific set), a DVD copy of the film, and a digital copy. To start out, the picture and audio quality is top notch, but the main reason to buy this set is the extra features. Starting off on the 2D Blu-ray disc with the film on it there are two audio commentaries, 37 minutes of deleted scenes, and an internet video promotional campaign called “The Peter Weyland Files.” The real features begin on the exclusive features disc. There is a 3 hour and 40 minute documentary called The Furious Gods: Making Prometheus directed by Charles de Lauzirika. In addition there is an extra hour of “Enhancement Pods” that go even further into depth into the making of this film. On top of that there are picture galleries and another hour of promotional material on this disc. I’d recommend this release for the documentary alone. It is a good tool for anyone who wants to go know what goes into the making of a big Hollywood production.
Available for purchase on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Prometheus-Blu-ray-DVD-Digital-Copy/dp/B0085Z8F4A.
The Dark Knight Rises Blu-Ray & DVD Combo Pack
What person does not want this movie on home video? It is the #1 film to get someone this holiday season (that is unless someone already got it for them). The picture quality on the Blu-ray blows The Dark Knight out of the water and while the film may not be up to par for some, it is undeniably one of the best films of the year. The DVD edition comes with a single bonus feature but the Blu-ray edition is packed with 3 Hours of behind-the-scenes material. As one of the promotional ads for the Blu-ray said “I give you permission to buy.”
Available for purchase on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Knight-Rises-Blu-ray-UltraViolet-Digital/dp/B004LWZWGK.