Click to viewHoliday shopping used to be a terrifying proposition, until the DVD box set came along. DVDs are pretty much always the best presents for anyone who likes watching stuff. And this holiday season sees a particularly awesome bounty of new releases, including complete TV series box sets and remastered classics. Here are the 20 recent DVD releases that are the best bets for holiday presents, including clips of DVD extras.
The Dark Knight just came out on DVD, and pretty much everybody who doesn't hate movies is going to want to own it. Our sister site Gizmodo just reviewed the BluRay version, and the picture quality on an HD screen is the next best thing to seeing it in actual Imax.
Extras: Nothing to write home about, sadly. No Christopher Nolan commentary track. No outtakes or gaffes, because Nolan doesn't believe in doing that to his actors. The second disc includes those "Gotham Tonight" faux news programs that were on the Internet a while back. Plus some featurettes, like this one:
Wanted is an unrated DVD, which means just a smidge more crazy violence and nudity in this story of a working stiff who discovers he's the super-powered heir to a society of mega-assassins.
Extras: There are tons and tons of featurettes, plus a music video to a song by Danny Elfman. I like this one, about how much fun it is to be beaten up by Angelina Jolie:
This one, about the special effects work behind the spinning train, is also pretty cool:
Wall-E is the best animated movie in years, and one of the best movies of the year. A lone trash-compacting robot is left behind on a destroyed Earth.
Extras: Two short films, Burn-E and the theatrically released Presto Amazing. Some deleted scenes, including this one:
And some featurettes, including this one about why Wall-E doesn't have elbows:
Hellboy 2: The Golden Army. One of the best directors working today, Guillermo Del Toro, takes on a second installment of this supernatural superhero story, featuring a deeper look at Hellboy's alienation and tangled relationships.
Extras: There are two commentaries, one by Del Toro and one by some of the actors. Plus tons of deleted scenes. But for my money, the features that make it most worthwhile are the looks inside the making of GDT's amazing creatures, and his personal tours of the movie's elaborate sets, like the troll market:
Plus there's a giant two-and-a-half-hour documentary, "Hellboy: In Services Of The Demon." And a look inside the puppet theater, and a glimpse of Del Toro's notebook.
The Incredible Hulk, Marvel's less appreciated superhero film of 2008, is still a pretty satisfying monster romp, and the DVD gives you more of a sense of how ambitious a project it really was.
Extras: There are featurettes, showing how Ed Norton became the Hulk and Tim Roth became the Abomination. There's the original opening sequence, in a snowy wasteland, where Bruce tries to kill himself and turns into the Hulk. You can see some deleted scenes, which give you a glimpse of the much longer, more introspective movie co-writer Edward Norton wanted you to see. Like this one, where Bruce cries over psycho-babble at dinnertime:
Or this one, where Bruce and Betty look at an orchid together:
Johnny Mnemonic/Omega Doom/Universal Soldier. Yes, you heard me right. Sony just collected all three of these awesome 1990s instant classics and put them onto one bargain-priced DVD set. (As cheap as $14 on one site.) This is a whole day's viewing. You can drink coffee and watch Mnemonic, then get stoned and watch Universal Soldier, and then drink Drano and watch Omega Doom. (You've never heard of Omega Doom? It's Rutger Hauer playing a post-apocalyptic robot who's lost his memory. Okay?)
Extras: Ummm... Thai subtitles. Could come in handy.
Thirteenth Floor/Screamers/Solo. And here's another one. I bet you have a friend who doesn't own any of these movies. Again, going as cheap as $14 on some sites. The Thirteenth Floor was actually a pretty okay movie, part of the cyberpunk mini-boom of the late 1990s. Solo is Mario Van Peebles as a super-cyborg.
Extras: Umm... If you get stoned enough, you can watch these movies more than once.
David Lynch: The Lime Green Set. The notoriously wacky director has just put out a box set, including a remastered Eraserhead, plus Elephant Man and Blue Velvet. It also includes some new-to-DVD apocrypha, such as Wild At Heart's "Industrial Symphony No. 1" and Dumbland. And there are some early short films, like "Six Men Getting Sick."
Extras: There are never-before-seen Elephant Man DVD extras, plus a fancy booklet and a new sound mix for Velvet.
TV box sets:
Lost: The complete fourth season. Relive the season when this island-castaway show started getting exciting again, thanks to the flash-forwards and the saga of the Oceanic Six getting off the island.
Extras: There's a pretty hilarious Oceanic Airlines safety card, plus two whole discs of bonus features. You've got that wacky feature about flash-forwards that we showed you recently, plus the mockumentary about the hoax of the Oceanic Six. Documentaries cover topics like filming on location, creating that massive freighter set, and all the guns that everyone carries. Plus bloopers, which are never as funny as you think they'll be. And deleted scenes, like this one:
Jericho: The Complete Series. For your friends who just don't get why you were so pissed off that CBS axed this series about the town in Kansas that survives a massive act of nuclear terrorism.
Extras: Supposedly this set has everything the first and second season sets had, plus some bonus features. Including a wacky list of 100 reasons why you should watch Jericho, which include "Funny Arms Skeet." And a documentary showing a table-read for the script for season two, episode one.
The 4400: The complete series. This show about 4,400 people being abducted and given weird superpowers turned out to be a lot more bizarre and complicated than it looked at first, with a weird cult and Summer Glau as a psychopath with mind powers. And Jeffrey Combs as a mad scientist. Yay. And now here's the complete thing, for only about $66 on Amazon.
Extras: I think you basically get what you would have gotten with each of the separate season box sets.
Doctor Who: Series Four. In many ways, the end of an era for the BBC's time-travel action-comedy-soap. The last full season starring David Tennant and under the stewardship of Russell T. Davies, plus the final (probably) end of the story of Rose, the time-travelers most besotted companion. It's not the best season of the RTD years, but contains some real gems, like "FIres Of Pompeii," "Midnight" and "Turn Left."
Extras: I love the DVD menus, which feature the usual view of the TARDIS set, until you select something - then the Titanic crashes through the wall. There are the usual Doctor Who Confidential mini-documentaries for each episode. The "Time Crash" mini-episode, featuring two Doctors, is included, and there's also a David Tennant video diary. Plus commentary tracks. And deleted scenes, like this one:
And this alternate ending:
Mystery Science Theater 3000: 20th Anniversary. Has it really been twenty years of the guy on the space station watching bad movies with robots? Huh. In any case, this is a comemorative tin box set with four of the show's most popular movies: First Spaceship on Venus (1960), Laserblast (1978), Werewolf (1996), and Future War (1997).
Extras: The oral history of MST3K (sounds unhygienic.) A Comic-Con reunion panel. All six versions of the theme song. Four fancy lobby cards, plus a Crow T. Robot figurine.
Star Trek: Season Three remastered. Your friends may already have the seminal space opera on DVD, but do they have the fancy-schmancy remastered version? Now you can watch the show slide downhill into oblivion in better picture quality, with restored special effects.
Extras: There's a new version of the show's original pilot, "The Cage," with improved effects. And footage of the cast and crew goofing around, from home movies. And footage of makeup tests.
Transformers Energon: The Ultimate Collection If you're going to mess around with Transformers Energon, it might as well be the ultimate version, dammit. This was an animated series running from 2004-2005, most notable for featuring a lot of Unicron, the evil robo-planet formerly voiced by Orson Welles.
Extras: None that I can find out about.
Bubblegum Crisis 2040: Complete Collection. There's already been a "Perfect Collection," but now there's a "Complete Collection," which sounds even better. In the aftermath of a huge earthquake, an evil corporation wants to take over Tokyo using genetically engineered monsters. Oh noes! Luckily four super-powered women stand in their way, in this anime spinoff.
Extras: None that I can learn about.
Voltron Volume 6 A totally new Voltron is constructed to battle the Drule threat in this new DVD box set. This covers episodes 73-90 of the 1980s series.
Extras: Featurettes include "Vehicle Voltron Pilot," "Vehicle Voltron Fans Unite," "Vehicle Voltron Featurette," "Team Up Clips" and "Episode Synopses With Original Air Dates."
Wild Wild West: The Complete Series. If your own exposure to this weird steampunk excursion was the Will Smith movie, now's your chance to discover it in full.
Extras: It includes the two later TV movies, which weren't included with previous box sets. There are also audio interviews with creators like Fred Freiburger, John Kneibuhl, music composer Richard Markowitz, and special effects creator Tim Smyth. And you get to see one of star Robert Conrad's Everready battery commercials from the late 1970s, plus a network promo reel.
Thomas Pynchon - A Journey Into The Mind Of [P]. This 2002 documentary about the writer of The Crying Of Lot 49 and Mason & Dixon is finally out on DVD as of November. The Dubini brothers, Italian-German film-makers, try to unravel the mystery of the reclusive Pynchon through the use of photographs and archival films, plus tons of interviews with random Pynchon admirers and hangers on. Some reviewers have been a tad underwhelmed.
Extras: None that I'm aware of.
Timewave 2013: The Future Is Now Odyssey Two. Honestly, I would get this just for the title. Your friends will never look at you the same way again. It's the sequel to the acclaimed 2012 the Odyssey Armageddon Is Not What It Used To Be. Says the blurb:
This is definitely an adventure into the nature of time itself, with some of the world's foremost metaphysicians, sages and experts lending their wisdom. Buckle yourself in for a breathtaking ride! The experts in this film reinforce the notion of continual change, inner change and the amazing opportunities presented by the advent of the galactic alignment in December 2012.
Extras: You'll discover that the end of the Mayan calendar isn't really the end of time. Sort of.