Welcome to the Legion!

The holidays are here and you still need a few last-minute gifts! Well, have no fear, the 2017 Home Video Holiday Gift Guide is here! We’ve got all kinds of movie and TV gifts for the cinephile in your life, and the prices range from hefty all the way down to darn-near cheap! Read on to see what gifts the movie lover in your life will love this holiday season!

For the Science Fiction Fan:

Star Wars: The Force Awakens 3D – I don’t think The Force Awakens needed 3D to make it any more awesome than it already was, but if you want to relive it in three dimensions, now you can. (At least, assuming you have a 3D player at home.) Housed in a gorgeous box with a lenticular design, the film translates extremely well to 3D on home video. The imagery pops and the film looks terrific, really immersing you in a world that’s already visually sumptuous. There are also all of the extra features from the original release plus several NEW bonus features! Yay! Something to help hold us over until the next movie comes out! What else is there left to say about Star Wars: The Force Awakens? I mean, I can’t imagine you haven’t seen it by now and if you haven’t, I can’t imagine you’re that big of a Star Wars fan. For the record, I absolutely LOVE Star Wars: the Force Awakens. It’s utterly magical.

The Hunger Games Series in 4K Ultra HD – While the Hunger Games movies have already been available on DVD and Blu-ray, they now make their debut in Ultra 4K HD. The nice thing is that these versions also include the films on Blu-ray and DVD, so no matter what hardware you currently own, picking up these discs will have you covered, especially if you plan to upgrade in the near future. So, are they worth the upgrade to 4K Ultra HD? Well, yes and no. There’s no denying that the picture quality is outstanding, as is the surround sound. But of course, the original Blu-rays looked pretty fantastic as well. I guess it really depends on just how much of a picture/sound quality purist you really are. As for the films themselves, I enjoyed them quite a bit, even if I feel like the last two don’t live up to the promise of the first two. Still, it’s a pretty good franchise overall, and these are terrific versions of them.

Mad Max: Fury Road – Black & Chrome Edition – This new version of Mad Max Fury Road actually includes two versions of the film: the regular full-color version AND the new Black-and-Chrome version, as masterminded by director George Miller. Similar to how The Mist was re-released in Black-and-white a few years ago, this version of the film is both the same and different. In black and white, it’s somehow even more bleak and desolate than the color version. That said, I think it does take away some of the grandeur of the environments that are so memorable in the film. Either way, I love this movie, and it’s cool to be able to get the new version and have the original version included as well.

John Carpenter’s The Thing – It’s hard to categorize John Carpenter’s best film when he has a resume that includes Halloween, Big Trouble in Little China, The Fog, and, of course, The Thing. I’d be hard pressed to pick my absolute favorite, but I can say that The Thing is one of my favorite movies of all time. And while it’s been on home video in multiple iterations over the years, it’s never quite had the definitive version. Until now. Scream Factory’s new version of this classic film presents the film on Blu-ray with newly restored and remastered picture and sound, which in and of itself is pretty awesome. But then you get the extra features, which is the most comprehensive collection of extras on one disc yet. There was a DVD way back in the day that had many of these features, but then when the Blu-ray finally came out from its studio a few years ago, they were completely absent. Now they’ve been restored and added to with new extra features, meaning this is THE version of The Thing to own.

For the Entire Family:

The Iron Giant: Signature Edition – One of my favorite animated movies of all time FINALLY gets the Blu-ray treatment. We all know the story by now, how The Iron Giant tested off the charts and was supposed to be a major box office hit and then… wasn’t. It’s of course since become a beloved cult classic (and for good reason), and the love for the film continues to grow with releases like this. The film looks spectacular in high definition, and even as it comes close to being 20 years old, it’s still as fun and fresh and moving as the day it came out. Highest possible recommendation!

Kubo and the Two StringsWhen I first saw the trailer for Kubo and the Two Strings, I was blown away by it. I thought it looked epic and magical and filled with heart and character and humor, and I thought the computer generated animation looked amazing. Well, it turns out I was completely wrong: the animation isn’t computer generated. But on every other front I was dead on. The film is epic and magical and filled with heart and character and humor. And even more amazing, it’s done through stop-motion animation, but it looks so incredible that you’ll thing it’s CGI the entire time. Unbelievable. But besides the technical aspects, what really makes the movie work is just how alive all the characters are. You get wrapped up in the story and the characters from the very start and it doesn’t let up until the very end. This is a family movie that needs to be seen by all families; it’s terrific. While it might be a bit much for younger viewers, older kids and adults will love it.

The Secret Life of Pets – Proof that not just Disney and Pixar know how to make successful animated movies, The Secret Life of Pets was one of the smash hits of the year. With a voice cast that includes Kevin Hart, Eric Stonestreet, and Louis CK, the film has a lot to offer. While the movie draws more than a few comparisons to Toy Story (it’s largely the same overall plot), switching things up to household pets gives the film a wide field of humor to draw from. There are so many funny moments that are relatable to anyone who’s ever had a dog or cat (or even a guinea pig.) The film opens up pretty quickly and gets the pets out of their homes, and the resulting adventure is a lot of fun. Like Zootopia, it’s easy to see why this one was such a big hit.

Beauty and the Beast: 25th Anniversary EditionBeauty and the Beast will always be remembered as two things: the first ever animated film nominated for Best Picture at the Academy Awards, and a captivating and beloved film in its own right. In fact, it’s one of my two favorite Disney movies (the other being The Lion King), and watching it now, 25 years since its release, the film still holds up as an animated masterpiece. The characters are memorable, funny, and touching; the animation, gorgeous. Even the songs, which can often be the weak spot in an animated musical, are some of the best Disney ever produced. This movie is, in short, as close to perfect as an animated film gets. Released once again on Blu-ray, Beauty and the Beast predictably looks and sounds amazing in high def. Even if you already own a previous edition of the film, this is a film worth owning in the best possible version, and that version is here.

The Legend of Korra: The Complete SeriesThe Legend of Korra is a sequel show (taking place many years later) to the popular Avatar: The Last Airbender cartoon. The show looks gorgeous: amazing designs, beautiful animation that combines traditional hand-drawn with CG!, and stunning color work. It helps if you’ve watched Avatar. While this is sort of a stand-alone show, there are definite connections to the original series. There is a lot of humor, and a lot of action, both of which are good things. I’d say the show is more for older kids, not the kindergarten-age set. Now the entire series has been collected on Blu-ray and it looks and sounds fantastic. The animation in this show is terrific, and the transfer really lets it shine. The show’s opening sequence in particular is a real stand-out. Overall, I like this show quite a bit. I don’t know if it’s quite as good as Avatar, but fans of that show will definitely enjoy this one.

Space Jam: 20th Anniversary EditionSpace Jam is an odd movie. On the one hand, Michael Jordan is not a movie star. Nor do I think most kids wanted to see a movie about a basketball game between Looney Tunes characters and space aliens. On the other hand, the movie has a lot of beloved characters in it and the crossover between the live action footage and the animation is pretty well done. The end result is something of a mixed bag, especially watching it twenty years on. There are parts that are quite dated, and there are parts that still work surprisingly well. However, the nice thing is that there’s a whole generation of kids out there who have never seen this movie and it’s fun enough that they will probably enjoy it, and anything that introduces them to classic Looney Tunes cartoons is a good thing.

Labyrinth: 30th Anniversary Edition – I’ve never been the fan of Labyrinth that a lot of other people are, and I think that’s because I never saw it until I was an adult. By the time I saw it, I was viewing it through different eyes than a lot of my peers did. I think David Bowie is great in it and of course it introduced the world to Jennifer Connolly. But I wanted to rewatch it because it has been quite some time since I saw it originally. And I can definitely say that I appreciated it more this time around, but I still don’t have the affinity for it that some people do. However, this new Blu-ray special edition features high def picture and some great extra features, so fans will be thrilled with it.

For the TV Junkie:

Downton Abbey: The Complete Series – The monster hit show returns to Blu-ray for (what is presumably) its final release, and it’s a bittersweet experience if ever there was one. While I’m sad to see one of the great TV shows leave us, I do like that they chose to go out on top, rather than stringing it along until the quality had suffered and nobody cared anymore. Downton has been one of the true television joys for the past six years, and I would have hated to get to the point where I just didn’t care about it anymore. For one last time, the cast is excellent, the writing is stellar, and the show remained one of the very best things on TV. This gorgeous collection features all six seasons of the smash hit. I don’t care what kind of television you think you like, if you haven’t watched Downton Abbey, you are missing out on some of the best TV around. Period. All that critical buzz and internet chatter you heard about the show? It’s all DEAD ON. The show is magnificent, dramatic, funny, heartfelt, moving, well-acted, and utterly fantastic in every single way. There are two kinds of people in the world: those who watch Downton Abbey and those who don’t. Make sure you fall into the right camp.

The Twilight Zone: The Complete Series – There were pros and cons to the previously released Twilight Zone: Complete Series set, which hit streets in October but came out on DVD only. On the plus side, obviously, it included every single episode of the classic television anthology and at a lower price than ever before. On the minus side, the set was only released on DVD, and it was completely devoid of extra features. Now, this might not be so bad if Image Entertainment hadn’t released the entire series season by season a few years ago on Blu-ray, and each release came with a copious amount of extra features. Well, this Blu-ray set corrects that mistake. Once again, ti collects all five seasons of the iconic show, but this time not only is it in high definition, but it also includes tons of extra features, which is what you’d want. Featurettes, commentaries, you name it, this set is loaded. It’s a real treat for fans, and it’s definitely the best version of this show to own.

Twin Peaks: The Original Series, Fire Walk With Me & The Missing Pieces – This gorgeous box set is a real gift for fans of the groundbreaking series. That said, however, be aware that it is virtually the same as the box set that came out a couple of years ago, just in shelf-friendlier packaging. Regardless of that, however, there’s no denying what a fascinating and engrossing series Twin Peaks is. The nice thing is that this set includes the complete series, pilot and all, so you can watch the entire show from start to finish with this one release, including the prequel film Fire Walk With Me. There is also a wealth of really great new bonus materials, including dozens of deleted scenes that have never been seen before. It’s hard to say what made Twin Peaks so special: the quirky characters, the overarching mystery, the terrific cast, the soundtrack, the cherry pie. I think it was a combination of all those things and more, and now you have the best possible way to revisit them all.

Game of Thrones: The Complete Sixth Season – It’s easy to feel like you’re sick of hearing about Game of Thrones, especially if you’ve ever been on the internet. But it’s hard to deny that the show is extremely impressive. It’s like a big-budget fantasy epic film that happens to be split up into hour-long chapters. After a season-long wait, Season Six has finally been released on Blu-ray. As I only watch this show on disc and have to avoid spoilers all year long, it was nice to go in and find some surprises and still enjoy watching the show. Of course, the season-end cliffhangers (no spoilers here) were hard to avoid hearing about (but soooo worth watching), but there are still some nice twists and turns along the way. While I’m not the massively obsessed fan that some people are, there’s no doubt that I really enjoy Game of Thrones.

Outlander: Season 2 – I’ve never read the Outlander series of books that Starz’s hit show is based on, but from hearing every blow-by-blow detail of them from my wife (who’s a huge fan) I feel like I have. That said, regardless of whether you’ve read the books or not, you’ll be hard pressed not to fall in love with Outlander. The story follows a World War II nurse who gets mystically transported back in time to the 1700s in the Scottish highlands. There she meets a man and falls in love with him, but what of her husband waiting back in the 20th century? While this sounds like it could be weepy melodrama, it’s anything but, filled with action, humor, romance, drama, and mystery. And with lavish production values, the show looks like a feature film. No wonder this is such a big hit for Starz. I have to say, I liked the first season better on the whole, but Season two did have some standout moments and was still pretty terrific overall.

Batman: Return of the Caped Crusaders – This is fantastic. I generally like DC’s Animated Universe movies, but the last handful of them haven’t done too much for me. I like the ones that tackle a unique storyline – like the excellent Dark Knight Returns movie – but most of the Batman ones of late (especially those with the Damian character) have been just more of the same to me. All action, no story. This newest film is basically an animated version of the 1966 Batman TV series, and it’s magical. With Adam West, Burt Ward, and Julie Newmar reprising their roles as Batman, Robin, and Catwoman, respectively, the film is just a blast. It really captures the feel of the original show and it is so much more enjoyable than just another episode of Batman beating people up with no heart and no plot. Definitely check this one out.

Miami Vice: The Complete Series & Knight Rider: The Complete Series – Mill Creek Home Entertainment specializes in bringing out affordable television and movies, many of which have been available before in more expensive or more expansive editions. Now they’ve released two new DVD collections that are much more affordable (and shelf-friendly) for fans of classic ‘80s television: Miami Vice: The Complete Series and Knight Rider: The Complete Series. Now, these are both shows that I grew up watching, and I’ve always loved them both. Do they hold up? Not at all! I can’t imagine modern audiences watching them for the first time and thinking these are great shows (well, maybe more Miami Vice than Knight Rider.) But that’s not who these sets are for. Do they hold up for people who watched them back in the day? Absolutely! Miami Vice was one of the most iconic and culturally influencing shows of the 80’s. It made Don Johnson a household name, it completely changed the fashion industry, and it was the most popular show on television. And it only lasted five seasons? That’s an amazingly fast turnaround for a show that exploded into mega-success. In the end, Miami Vice flared extremely brightly, but faded out as almost everything inevitably does. Still, this collection is a nice tribute to that series. Knight Rider was a much more family-friendly show, and who didn’t love KITT, the coolest car in the world? Like Miami Vice, Knight Rider exploded in popularity and then faded out quickly, but it’s still such a relevant part of pop culture. There’s a reason for that. Both of these box sets are a real treat for fans.

Time Life’s Golden Age of Television: Classic TV Shows from Five Decades – At first I thought this was a collection of documentaries about classic television, but it turns out it’s actually a massive 11-disc collection collecting episodes of some of the most beloved television shows in history. You get two discs each of the following shows: The Carol Burnett Show, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson, The Bob Hope Specials, and The Andy Williams Show, plus a bonus eleventh disc with extra features such as interviews with Jerry Lewis and Don Rickles, among other great entertainers. There’s also a 44-page collectible book, which I’m a huge fan of, as I think the DVD booklet is a lost art. Now, the collection’s a little pricy, but if you want to get a wide smattering of some of the biggest hit shows of the 1950s, 60s and 70s, you can’t get much better than this set.

Perry Mason: The Complete Series – Without a doubt, Perry Mason was not only a popular television show, it was also a groundbreaking one. Raymond Burr’s defense attorney drama not only ran for an astounding nine seasons, but it set the precedent for courtroom dramas that continue even to this day. Every time I sit down to write a Perry Mason review, that theme song music instantly plays in my head. It doesn’t matter how many months pass between the DVD set releases, the minute I see Raymond Burr’s imposing figure on the cover I can hear it instantly: Duh nuh nuh nuuuuh nuh NUH, duh nuh nuh nuuuuh nuh NUH, duh nuh nuh nuh nu nu nu nu nu nu nu nu nu nuuuuuh! You either know exactly what I’m talking about or you think I’m a complete idiot.Now, there’s no denying that the show was formulaic. Every week, Mason would defend a seemingly guilty client with the help of his faithful secretary, Della Street, and private investigator Paul Drake. At the last minute, when all usually seemed lost, Mason would pull the rug out from under his prosecutor rival Hamilton Burger with either surprise evidence or a confession drawn out in typical Perry Mason style (“Isn’t it true? ISN’T it TRUE?”). You can see the effects of the House That Perry Mason Built in every courtroom drama since. This massive (and I do mean MASSIVE) box set collects every single episode of the entire series, and it’s a real treat for fans of the show.

For Your Friends Who Like to Laugh:

Bill & Ted’s Most Excellent Collection – Bill & Ted only starred in two movies (with a third on the way) and one of them was a total flop at the box office. Yet they’ve managed to remain relevant in the pop culture consciousness for 30 years. And there’s a reason for that. The first Bill & Ted’s is a classic comedy that has time-travel, rock n roll, and two endearing goofballs. The second film actually ups the ante (and is my favorite of the two) and takes things in a deliciously twisted direction. This new collection includes both films in high definition and a ton of bonus features, all wrapped up in some gorgeous packaging. In short, it’s a must have. Excellent!

The IT Crowd: The Complete Series – It’s no secret that I’m a fan of many British television shows. While I lean more towards their dramas and crime thrillers, I do enjoy the occasional comedies from across the pond as well. The IT Crowd – while not a household name in the US – was an extremely popular sitcom about IT employees that helped launch the careers of Chris O’Dowd and Richard Ayouade. This set includes all four six-episode seasons, plus a one-hour special that wraps everything up. The show is very funny in a wry way, and it reminds me in a way of The Office (you know, the good British version). They aren’t exactly the same, but I could see The IT Crowd characters working for the same company that David Brent does. If you’ve never seen the show, this is a great way to check it out.

For the Classic Hollywood Fan:

Gregory Peck Centennial Collection – Remember how I said I don’t always love these actor-centric collections? This one is a perfect example of why. Now, to be fair, this is a very nice Blu-ray release which includes two of Gregory Peck’s signature movies into one nice package: To Kill a Mockingbird and Cape Fear. My big problem with it is that those are the only two movies in the set. So to call it a “collection” (as opposed to, let’s face it, a double feature) is just a bit of marketing spin as far as I’m concerned. That said, this is a great and affordable way to own two of Peck’s bona fide masterpieces in high def, so it’s hard to complain too much.

The Marx Brothers Silver Screen CollectionRestored Collection (The Cocoanuts/Animal Crackers/Monkey Business/Horse Feathers/Duck Soup) – I generally don’t love collections like this, which puts five Marx Brothers films (out of the dozens they made) into one collection. Usually it’s because they leave out some seminal film or another, and the sets never quite feel complete. This new box set, however, does things right. Rather than trying to package every Marx Brothers film or just pick a few of the best, it collects the only five Marx Brothers films that include all four Marx Brothers, giving the set a nice cohesion. Luckily, that also includes a few of their best: namely, Duck Soup, Monkey Business, and Animal Crackers. You also get The Cocoanuts and Horse Feathers, which are worthy entries as well. Plus, you get some terrific new extra features and a booklet with an essay about the Marx Brothers, making this a really terrific package for fans of classic comedy.

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town – Gary Cooper and Jean Arthur are not quite the household names they once were (although I think most film fans still know who Cooper is; less so, Arthur) star in this classic Hollywood masterpiece that celebrates its 70th anniversary with a gorgeous new Blu-ray edition packaged in terrific hardcover book packaging. Cooper (who honestly has never been one of my favorites, although I do like him) and Arthur (long a favorite of mine) are terrific together. This is as classic a film as they come, and it’s great to see it restored and remastered in high definition, and I can’t get enough of the hardcover book format; I wish every DVD was packaged like this. I love this release!

The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson: The Vault SeriesArchive Classics – I have always loved Johnny Carson. I’m old enough to remember when he retired and to have watched The Tonight Show on occasion, but also young enough to where the show was on too late for me to watch most nights because of school. As such, I’m always super excited when I get to watch any Johnny Carson programming, because he was just so fantastic and I’ve never seen most of it. This amazing six-disc set includes a ton of awesome guest stars, including Bob Hope, Muhammed Ali and Paul Freaking McCartney!! How cool is that? Packed with original sketches, interviews, and tons of extra features, this is a must have for any fans of the original King of Late Night.

For Everyone Else:

Soundbreaking: Stories from the Cutting Edge of Recorded Music – Acorn Media is largely known for their releases of British mystery television shows, as well as documentaries about history and science. I’m not sure how Soundbreaking ended up in their slate, but man, did they land a winner! This eight-part documentary series explores pretty much the entire history of recorded music, and it looks at everything from Motown classics to electronic music, and everything in between. Executive produced by the late George Martin, the series includes tons of interviews with musical luminaries. Just a few names you might recognize include Paul McCartney, Ringo Starr, Eric Clapton, Joni Mitchell, Dave Grohl, Tom Petty, Smokey Robinson, Quincy Jones, Rick Rubin, Bonnie Raitt, Roger Waters, Questlove, Beck, and so many more. Simply put, this release is utterly fantastic.

Motown 25: Yesterday Today Forever – This brilliant box set is actually available in a couple of iterations (including a 3-disc set and a single disc release), but this six-disc box set is the real deal. Packed with extra features and a collectible book (which is a lost art these days), the set also includes some of the biggest names in music performing live. You’ll know so many of the songs, and you’ll recognize so many of the performers as well: Michael Jackson, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson, Stevie Wonder, Diana Ross, The Supremes, The Jackson 5, The Miracles, The Temptations, Four Tops, Linda Ronstadt, Smokey Robinson, and Adam Ant, with a ton more. And there are hours of extra features that include interviews and documentaries, plus numerous featurettes. In short, this is a must-have for music lovers.

The TAMI Show/The Big TNT Show – This music release is a BIG deal for fans of… well, music. I mean, between these two monumental music events, you have the likes of The Rolling Stones, James Brown, Chuck Berry, The Beach Boys, Marvin Gaye, Smokey Robinson And The Miracles, Bo Diddley, The Supremes, Ike and Tina Turner, The Ronettes, The Byrds, Ray Charles, and so many more. The TAMI Show was the first televised music concert of its time, bringing rock and roll to the masses in a way we’d never seen before. The follow up, The TNT Show aired two years later and continued to bring some of the best acts in music to television audiences. Honestly, it’s an embarrassment of riches. And while the footage is dated, the Blu-ray high def presentation does a nice job of presenting both shows in the best possible format. A must have for fans of music and music history.

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Mike Spring

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