Well, it’s that time of year. You’ve got a handful of people left to buy gifts for and you just don’t know what to get them. Have no fear, we’re here to bring you the best in movie and TV-related gifts for all kinds of discerning viewers!
This year, we’ve focused on the best and the brightest in new releases on home video. As always, we’ve focused mainly on releases from the fourth quarter, simply to avoid overloading you with options and to avoid buying presents that people may have already gotten because they’ve been out too long.
For Your Friend the Conspiracy Theorist –
The X-Files Collector’s Set – We all know The Truth is Out There. But now you can revisit the truth in its entirety in this beautiful (and huge!) box set
from Fox. Here’s the thing: not only does it include every episode of The X-Files (all nine seasons’ worth!), and not only does it include 23 hours of extra features, and not only does the box set leave room for the eventual release of January’s 6-episode X-Files series, BUT… it also marks the first time the show is on Blu-ray! Yep, that’s right, you can finally watch the exploits of Mulder and Scully in high definition, which is the real gift this set offers. Literally the only complaint I have about this set is that it doesn’t include the two movies, but really, most fans probably own them already so it’s not that big of a deal. This is a truly beautiful set.
For Your Friend Who Dresses All in Black –
The Walking Dead: Season Five Limited Edition – Does television get much better than The Walking Dead? I don’t think that it does. While the show certainly has its detractors, for my money, it just gets better and better with every episode. Each new season takes everything that was started in the previous seasons and builds upon it. With a couple of last minute shocks and some really great hints at what lies ahead, The Walking Dead is a show I can’t wait to watch every week. And Season Five introduced the Alexandria community storyline which I really enjoyed. At this point, I definitely like The Walking Dead TV series better than I like the comic books, and I’ve been reading them since the very first issue. Now, the fifth season is available on regular DVD and Blu-ray, but this limited edition box set includes a beautiful (and horrifying) sculpture of a decomposing, crawling walker. Perfect for your friend who painted their room black and has a fetish for Daryl Dixon.
For the Whole Family –
Home Alone: 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition – Now, I’m not personally a fan of Home Alone — or any of the movies in this franchise — but the original movie was a box office blockbuster (and the sequels were hits too), and I know there are a lot of people out there who love these films. Plus, with the Christmas themes of the film, they do make a great gift. This terrific new set includes all FIVE films (yep, there are five, including the recent direct-to-video sequel) in a Home Alone-themed Paint Can. The only downside to this set is that only the first two films are available on Blu-ray, the other three are presented on DVD. I wish Fox had gone the extra mile and put them all on DVD. Still, for the Home Alone fan, this is the first time to own the entire franchise in one complete collection. Plus, you can uuse the paint can to fend off any home intruders!
For Your Friend Who Knows That Die Hard is A Christmas Movie –
Die Hard: Nakatomi Plaza Collection – Okay, so obviously, this limited edition set includes all five films. It also includes a bonus disc of house of extra features. On top of that, you get a 32-page collector’s book and a five-card set of Villains Trading cards. And all of that is pretty cool. But what you’re really getting this set for is the scale-model replica of Nakatomi Tower it’s all housed in. Yep, for the — ahem — die hard fans of this franchise, you can now own Nakatomi Plaza, and let me tell you, it’s glorious. The Model stands over a foot tall, and it’s really something. You kind of have to see it in person to really get how cool it is. I love these movies, and even though I already own them all, THIS is the collection that’s earned a permanent spot on my shelf.
For Your Friend Who Still Dresses Like It’s The ’80s –
JEM – One of my secret shames when I was a kid was that I was a huge fan of Jem and the Holograms. Not that there’s anything wrong with Jem, but as a boy, it wasn’t exactly cool to like a cartoon about a pink-haired rock and roller. Now I’m proud that I loved the show, and I still really get a charge out of watching it. And while I don’t have the same crush on Kimber that I did when I was 12, the show is still kind of fun.I mean, it’s aged, there’s no doubt about that, but it certainly engenders some serious nostalgia. So cheers to Shout Factory for putting the entire series on DVD in this terrific box set for all the die-hard Jem fans out there!
For The Kids –
Original Christmas Classics Gift Set 2015 – This terrific box set — which is available on Blu-ray for the first time — includes no less than seven classic Christmas specials that you and your kids know and love (well, mostly): Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, Frosty the Snowman, Frosty Returns, Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, The Little Drummer Boy, and Cricket on the Hearth. While this set could have easily just included the Frosty and Rudolph movies, I like that kit included lesser known specials like Cricket on the Hearth and Little Drummer Boy. It’s nicely packaged, in high definition, and offers a lot of bang for its buck, making this a great one for kids and parents alike.
For Your Friend the Teacher –
History Channel Box Sets – The History Channel doesn’t mess around when it comes to gift sets. Their three newest box sets — Best of History 17-Disc Gift Set, War 17-Disc Gift Set, and The Bible Collection 16-Disc Gift Set — are behemoth bricks of programming, filled with hours and hours (and hours!) of content for anyone interested in the subject matter of each set. The Best of History includes six individual historically themed miniseries packaged together: WWII in HD, The Men Who Built America, The World Wars, America: the Story of Us, Mankind, and Vietnam in HD. War 17-Disc Set features numerous one-hour specials and other documentaries giving us in-depth looks at pretty much every major conflict of the past two centuries. It includes over 42 hours of programming in total. Finally, The Bible Collection compiles 7 miniseries, including Bible Stories from the Old Testament, Christianity: The First Two Thousand Years, Banned from the Bible, Mysteries of the Bible, Bible Secrets Revealed, Mary of Nazareth, Jesus: His Life, The Execution of Jesus and God vs. Satan: The Final Battle.
For Your Friend Who Always Makes You Laugh –
Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume 1 – Some of the earliest MST3K DVDs are long out of print, now fetching premium prices in online marketplaces, so Shout Factory has wisely gone back and started to re-issue those hard to find gems. Mystery Science Theater 3000: Volume 1 brings us four films from the vaults, all given the MST3K treatment: Catalina Caper, The Creeping Terror, Bloodlust, and The Skydivers. With everything from low-budget horror to a beach musical, this is a great set that offers up a variety of film genres and some of the MST3K crew’s finest work. Plus, Shout Factory has added extra features that weren’t on the original release, making this a must-have for fans of the show.
For Your Friend Who’s Obsessed With Serial –
The Jinx: The Life and Deaths of Robert Durst – One of the most fascinating TV shows I’ve seen in years, The Jinx is a true crime documentary that was too compelling and complex to fit into a regular-length film. Over the course of six episodes, we learn the bizarre history of millionaire Robert Durst, a real character of a man who is suspected of killing three people over the past 30 years. Playing out like a filmed version of the hit podcast Serial, this is riveting stuff. Every time you think you know where the story is going, another twist comes along. This is show you simply have to watch.
For Your Friend (or Their Kids) Who Loves Star Wars –
Lego Star Wars: The New Yoda Chronicles Complete Collection – The next iteration in the Lego Star Wars series is out, and this time, it’s a series of three episodes that aired on Disney XD. As with the previous Star Wars Lego mini-movies, these specials are out-and-out comedy. If goofy takes on the Star Wars universe make you cringe with fanboy dread, then these probably aren’t for you. If, however, you can appreciate a good parody once in a while, you’ll like these one a lot. There are a lot of in-jokes for Star Wars fans and a lot of broad hour for the kids. Plus, the animation and design of the Star Wars universe in Lego bricks are amazing. As long as they keep making these Lego Star Wars movies, I will keep watching them.
For Your Mom –
The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes – This is what classic television is all about. I grew up watching this show, as I’m sure many of you did, whether in re-runs or when it originally aired. And you know what, it’s still funny. The great thing about The Carol Burnett Show is that the humor never focused exclusively on topical situations, so the comedy isn’t all that dated. Sure, some of the sketches aren’t surefire hits, but by and large, this is comedy at its best. This new 6-disc collection collects 16 rare episodes that have purportedly never been seen since they first aired over 40 years ago. On top of that, there are over five hours of bonus features. It’s hard to argue with what a great package this is for fans of the show!
For Kids Who Love Star Wars But Have it All Already –
Avatar: The Last Airbender – The Complete Series – I’ve never really sat down to watch Avatar: The Last Airbender. The few discs I’ve reviewed in the past were from the middle of the saga, so I basically had no idea what was happening, and as a result I didn’t really understand what I was watching. But I’ve continually heard good things about the show, and it turns out that all of those good things are true. The Last Airbender is a cartoon that’s perfectly acceptable for kids, but is clearly not just for kids. I knew that this animated series took itself just a bit more seriously than your average cartoon when they mentioned a dead mother and used the word “sexist,” all in the first five minutes of the first episode. The show manages to really balance out a sense of drama with some fun and silly humor, and then it mixes it some great action and fantasy spectacle as well. The result is a cartoon that’s fun, exciting, engaging, and really fascinating to watch. This show has a mythology all its own, and it’s coupled with an amazing design sense that makes it a real pleasure to watch from a visual standpoint. The story is better watched than read, but it involves four warring factions and the “last airbender” or avatar, who may be the key to ending the war peacefully. It doesn’t sound all that interesting on paper, but trust me when I tell you it’s extremely cool on screen.
For Your Friend Who Insists The Turtles Aren’t As Good As They Used To Be –
Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: The Complete 1st & 2nd Seasons – I’ve been a fan of the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles since their early days as a black-and-white comic book aimed at adults, and I’ve never let go of that fandom. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: the current Nickelodeon show is the best version of the Turtles I’ve seen in over 20 years. It manages to find inspiration in the original comic books, infuse some flavor of the original cartoon, capture some of the feel of the movies, and even give it a bit of a video game flavor. It takes all of the best and various versions of the Turtles and mashes them up into one utterly terrific show, packed with action and filled with humor. Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles:The Complete 1st & 2nd Seasons collects the entire first two seasons into one budget-priced box set, which is fantastic. In short: I LOVE THIS SHOW!
For Your Friend Who Secretly Creeps You Out A Little –
Dexter: The Complete Series – I absolutely love this show. Love, love, love love. I love it. Sorry if I’m not being clear enough there, but Dexter works on so many different levels, you just can’t believe it. It’s intense and funny and thrilling and suspenseful and you cannot stop watching it the minute you start. You might sit down with the intentions of watching a single episode, but I dare you to sit down to watch just one episode and not end up watching an entire disc (or season). And how perfect, then, to have Dexter: The Complete Series, which collects all eight seasons on DVD? Granted, it’s been released before as a deluxe-packaging (read: more expensive) collector’s set, but this version pares it down and makes it more affordable. I watch — and love — a lot of different shows, but if I had to pick one to take with me to a desert island, Dexter might just be the one.
For Your Grandparents –
W.C. Fields Comedy Essentials Collection – This five disc set collects 18 comedy classics featuring the legendary W.C. Fields along with a new bonus documentary. Fields may not be as well-known today as he once was, but anybody who loves classic comedies will enjoy this set. The movies included are: Million Dollar Legs, Alice in Wonderland (1933), If I Had a Million, Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch, Mississippi, International House, It’s a Gift, You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man, My Little Chickadee, The Bank Dick, Man on the Flying Trapeze, Never Give a Sucker an Even Break, You’re Telling Me, The Old Fashioned Way, and Poppy. Many of these have been available before, but never in one comprehensive collection like this.
For Your Friend the War Buff –
The Civil War 25th Anniversary Edition – I can’t believe it’s been 25 years since Ken Burns’ game-changing documentary came out, but this new Anniversary Edition is the perfect time to jump into the world of documentaries like you never have before. What makes this set so good? Well, it’s Ken Burns. It’s a documentary. What else do you need to know? It’s a 6-disc, 11-hour documentary of the highest order, with Burns in fine form and bringing the Civil War to life in your living room, with a few new extra features along for the ride. Documentary viewing doesn’t get much better than this, and having the series on Blu-ray makes it even sweeter.
For Your Friend Who Loves Martinis –
The Saint: Seasons One & Two – A pre-Bond Roger Moore stars in this excellent adventures series about debonair modern-day Robin Hood Simon Templar. Over the course of 118 episodes and seven seasons, Roger Moore’s Templar would help anyone he saw fit, in any way he saw fit, and wasn’t above helping himself to some treasures along the way. The show was a terrific precursor to Moore’s role as Bond, as he’s all charm, dashing, and derring-do in this show. This set features the first two seasons in black & white. I love this show, and while it has been on DVD before, this is a good box set for new collectors. It’s well worth owning.
For Your Friend Who’s Always Wanted A Hoverboard Since They Were A Kid –
Back to the Future: 30th Anniversary Edition – One of the greatest movie trilogies of all time gets a shiny new re-release just in time for its 30th Anniversary, with no less than three new releases. First off, the Back to the Future: 30th Anniversary Edition collects all three movies and adds a new bonus disc with over two hours of extra features. Then, for the first time ever on DVD, we get Back to the Future: The Complete Animated series, which features all 26 episodes of the short lived show. Finally, the Back to the Future: The Complete Adventures collects all of the above into limited edition, light-up Flux Capacitor packing. How cool is that? I’m as big a fan of the Back to the Future movies as they come, and I think these releases are outstanding.
For Your Friend Who You Think Might Secretly Be From Another Planet –
My Favorite Martian: The Complete Series – The great Ray Walston stars (alongside Bill Bixby, no less) in this classic sitcom from the mid-1960s, which is now collected in giant box set that contains all 107 episodes of the series. It’s a pretty traditional fish-out-of-water formula, but it pioneered the alien-posing-as-human story as a comedy goldmine. This is one of those shows that stands the test of time, and watching it now it doesn’t feel dated, just timeless. With a sterling collection of bonus features and more famous guest stars than you can shake a stick at, this is an amazing collection for fans.
For Your Friend Who Owns a Broadsword (We All Have One) –
Game of Thrones: Season 1 & 2 (Steelbook) – Look, by now, you know if you’e a Game of Thrones fan or not. Either you’ve been sucked in by it, or you haven’t. For my money, the show is simply amazing. If it were a feature film, it would have been a whole trilogy and taken a decade to get to screen. As it is, we get amazing storylines, memorable characters, unyielding action, surprise plot twists, and much, much more. But, for those people out there who still haven’t journeyed to Westeros (or those who have but are fanatics/completists), HBO has re-released the first two seasons in gorgeous new packaging that includes Steelbook cases and huge, weighty sigil magnets that you can adorn your refrigerator or file cabinet with. I expect to see these on a lot of Christmas lists this year.
For Your Other Friend Who Owns a Broadsword –
The Hobbit: The Battle of Five Armies Extended Edition – As with the previous Exteneded Edition releases, this new version of THTBOTFA boasts about 20 minutes of new and unseen footage added back into the film. Is it a necessary addition? No. Does it hurt the film? No. Frankly, The Hobbit films have gotten a bit of a short shrift from fans of the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, but I’ve really enjoyed all of the films so far. The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies is easily my favorite of the three. Fans who complained that the first film was an hour of singing will be rewarded this go around, as this one is a non-stop action roller coaster, especially the last 45 minutes or so, when the titular battle occurs. What makes it so great is that — despite there being hundreds if not thousands of creatures battling it out — Peter Jackson manages to make each fight important and have consequences for our characters, in addition to being viscerally exciting. I was really impressed with the battle scenes; a lot of today’s directors could learn how to stage a fight sequence you can actually follow from this movie. Thumbs up all around.
For Your Dad –
McHale’s Navy: The Complete Series – Packaged in a hefty military-style locker and boasting 60 hours of content (with 138 complete episodes), McHale’s Navy: The Complete Series is a comedy juggernaut, and it’s one that I expect to see under a lot of Christmas trees this year. Running from 1962-1966, this show featured Ernest Borgnine and Tim Conway as part of a crew of misfit navy seamen who were constantly trying to stay one step ahead of the commander who wanted them out of the navy. It’s classic sitcom stuff, and it fits alongside other brilliant sitcoms of the era like I Dream of Jeannie, Gilligan’s Island, and Hogan’s Heroes.
For Your Friend Who Only Listens to Vinyl –
Midnight Special – Okay, so the seventies isn’t exactly my favorite era of music. In fact, it’s probably my least favorite. But even I have to admit that Midnight Special is chock full of awesome! This massive box set includes more music than you can shake a record player at, and the collection of talent here is astounding. And while there are some lesser-know artists in here, you’d be surprised how many of the artists in this set have stood the test of time. While previous versions of this release have come in three, six, and seven disc iterations, this is the ultimate version, with ELEVEN discs of classic music. Who’s not going to love finding this under the tree on Christmas morning? This really is a must have for fans of any music, but especially music from the ’70s.
For Your Other Friend Who Only Listens to Vinyl –
Don’t Look Back – The seminal music documentary, Don’t Look Back is D.A Pennebaker’s early career exploration of Bob Dylan’s music and soul. Filmed in 1965 on the cusp of Dylan’s last acoustic tour, the film mixes candid Dylan footage with some truly amazing performances. I’m not even a Dylan fan, and I found this film truly engrossing. Since this is a Criterion Collection release, the film has been restored and remastered in high definition, and it also comes with a huge amount of extra features, including an additional documentary and three short films by Pennebaker. Needless to say, if you are a Dylan fan, this is a must-have.
For Your Friend Who’s Planning For the Real Zombie Apocalypse –
Fear the Walking Dead: Season 1 – I would not want to be Fear the Walking Dead. I mean, after five seasons of The Walking Dead being the most popular show in the world, the pressure to live up to unreal expectations must have been insane. Frankly, I think this show could have been the second coming of television and it still would have met with mostly disappointment. Unfortunately, it’s not the second coming of television, and I was somewhat disappointed with it, although ultimately I do like the show. I think my biggest problem with it is the fact that so many of the characters are whiny, annoying, or stupid that I WANT them to get eaten by walkers. I can count on one finger the number of characters who didn’t annoy me throughout the entire season and that’s a problem. But even over the course of just six episodes, the series improves from show to show, and I thought the end got pretty good. So there is hope for this show in the future. Just don’t compare it to The Walking Dead.
For Your Friend Who’s Too Beautiful To Be Friends With –
Zoolander: Blue Steel Edition – By now, you’ve probably seen Ben Stiller’s absurd and absurdly funny comedy about male supermodels. Well, just in case it’s been a while since you’ve watched it (and to cash in on the upcoming Zoolander 2), Paramount has released a new collector’s edition of the film on Blu-ray. This nice package comes with a Steelbook-case version of the film, an AWESOME Zoolander headband (with Zoolander hair!), and a free ticket to see Zoolander 2 in theaters. Pretty cool!
For Kids Who Are On the Nice List –
Beginner’s Bible: Complete Collection – This four volume set includes a number of short animated stories that tell the tales of the bible in animated form, meant for young kids. It’s sort of like a PBS cartoon meets Sunday School. Through tales like The Creation, The Nativity, Easter, and things like that, kids can get a better understanding of the stories of the bible in an easy-to-digest, fun to watch format. You get four discs with three to four animated tales on each one, making a fun gift for youngsters.
For Your Friend the Anglophile –
Mrs. Brown’s Boys: Complete Series – I had only heard of Mrs. Brown’s Boys from listening to Mark Kermode, my favorite film critic who hosts a massively popular movie podcast. It’s one of those weird British shows where an older male comedian dresses up as an even older white woman and plays an Irish matriarch seeing over her clan of, you know, boys. It’s a massive success in the UK and Europe, and there was a movie made of it last year. I don’t know how many fans there are for it on this side of the pond, but for those who like the show, this is the set to own. This eight-disc box set includes all three seasons of the show plus a bunch of extra features, meaning you don’t have to scour your TV’s 500 channels trying to find episodes at 3 AM anymore.