Another year, and just too many options for awesome gifts to include in only one gift guide. Do some last-minute shopping with some (mostly boxed set-centric) suggestions below, or just reflect on yet another great year of film.
Anniversary Editions and Classic Cinema
Just like for any other art form—or any other facet of life for that matter—anniversaries are important for film, whether we understand why we humans have decided that those anniversaries that end in a 5 or a 0 are more important that those that end in a 4 or, say, a 7. Either way, every year there are some milestones that must be marked, and this year is no exception. We’ve also included some classic collections which deserve a serious (or second) look.
My Fair Lady 50th Anniversary Edition (Paramount)
This is nothing short of an astonishing feat in modern film restoration. Preservationist Robert A. Harris has overseen a magnificent job on My Fair Lady, and watching it made me feel like I was at the Criterion Theatre in New York on October 21st, 1964. Restored from an 8K scan of the original negative, as well as other surviving 65mm elements, the 50th Anniversary Edition is presented in its original 2.20:1 ratio—for the first time ever on home video—and as shot by 17-time Oscar nominated (and two-time winner) Harry Stradling, it’s a marvel to behold (and to hear). The extras are copious, but they’re really all just gravy to the main feature. —Mark Rabinowitz
Dog Day Afternoon 40th Anniversary (Warner Home Video)
In just 10 years, Hollywood moved from the end of the studio system era, where four musicals (including the above-mentioned My Fair Lady) won best picture, to the grittier, director-driven films of the ’70s. The decade was owned by independent-minded filmmakers (often) making studio films, directors like Coppola, Scorsese, Altman, Friedkin and Pakula, among others—including this film’s master, Sidney J. Lumet. Based on a true story, Dog Day Afternoon was one in a long like of exceptional New York City-based dramas cranked out at the time, and it’s a beautiful piece of work, nominated for 6 Oscars, including Best Picture, Actor (Al Pacino), Supporting Actor (Chris Sarandon) and Director, winning one (with Frank Pierson’s original screenplay). Which is all impressive, but the film’s real gem is the late, great John Cazale as Sal Naturile. Extras include an enlightening audio commentary with Lumet and a DVD copy of Richard Shepard’s HBO doc I Knew It Was You: Rediscovering John Cazale. —M.R.
The Rocky Horror Picture Show
(40th Anniversary Edition) (20th Century Fox)
Were The Rocky Horror Picture Show less indebted to forgettable B-movie schlock and Hammer Pictures horror, would still be remembered all these years later? Would millions of people still have enjoyed dressing in drag and throwing TP around thousands of venues across the globe for the past 40 years?
Besides including both the American and British versions of the flick, the 40th Anniversary set features deleted scenes, an alternate opening and ending, and a commentary by Riff Raff and Magenta—er, actor and co-screenwriter Richard O’Brien and co-star Patricia Quinn. But the best part about this collection is the pair of fishnet stockings and some rubber gloves. If you have to ask why, maybe this set isn’t for you.
If it is, though, you might also want to get the new Rocky Horror toys from Funko, each an old school, articulated ReAction figures with the likes of Frank-N-Furter, Riff Raff, Magenta, Columbia, Brad and Janet ($9.99 each), not to mention the always adorable Funko POP! figures of the same characters (also $9.99 each). —Paul Semel
Goodfellas: 25th Anniversary Edition (Warner Home Video)
Of the maverick ’70s filmmakers mentioned above, Martin Scorsese is at—or at least near—the top of countless “Best Directors” lists of the last 40 or so years, and Goodfellas, being one of his very best, celebrates that reputation. This 4K transfer is gorgeous, and a whole second disc is loaded with extras, prominently including a new documentary featuring Scorsese and some of his greatest gangsters: Robert De Niro, Leonardo DiCaprio, Harvey Keitel, Ray Liotta, Jack Nicholson and Joe Pesci. —M.R.
Edward Scissorhands 25th Anniversary Limited Edition Commemorative Blu-ray Giftset (FOX)
We can always call on Tim Burton to deliver a slightly haunting tale that’ll also warm your soul for the holidays, but the world he created in Edward Scissorhands is truly unique, even for his repertoire. Burton raises the veil over civilized society and asks the ever-revelant question we all secretly know the answer to: Who are the real monsters in this world? (Answer: white boys from the suburbs who should have left Edward the hell alone, because he didn’t even want to wear that baseball cap and break into your Dad’s house.) Granted, you may have a different interpretation of the film, but that’s all the more reason to watch it again. And again. Johnny Depp, Winona Ryder, Dianne Wiest and Alan Arkin remain a joy to watch all these years later—and special bonuses with this giftset include commentary from Burton himself and his genius composer, Danny Elfman. Me? I just got it for the gorgeous cover art. —Shannon M. Houston
Home Alone 25th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition (FOX)
Last week a video hit the Internet featuring an adult Macaulay Culkin as a grown-up, disturbed Kevin McCallister. But if you are a true Home Alone fan, there’s a good chance that you just couldn’t bring yourself to watch it, lest your fond memories of little Kevin ordering pizza and lighting criminals on fire be forever destroyed. In addition to boasting every single Home Alone movie (including the ones without Culkin), this set comes with some with some pretty sweet bonuses—you’ll have your very own pet tarantula (sort of), an ornament with Kevin’s adorable face and signature pose (palms slapped against cheeks), a Wanted poster for Harry and Marv, and a poster of Kevin’s official Battle Plan. The best part about this set is reliving the magic with your kids, and then being thoroughly disappointed in them when they say they prefer the Home Alones 3 or 4. —S.H.
Hammer Horror Classics: Volume One (Warner Home Video)
In the ’50s, ’60s and ’70s, no movie studio scared the crap out of people like England’s Hammer Pictures. With a stable comprised of such iconic (and, sadly, late) actors as Christopher Lee (The Lord of the Rings) and Peter Cushing (Star Wars: Episode IV ), the studio produced some of the most raw and frightening horror movies all time—four of which, conveniently, are now available in this set: 1959’s The Mummy with Lee wearing the bandages; 1969’s Dracula Has Risen from the Grave, in which Lee dons the fangs for the third time; 1970’s Frankenstein Must Be Destroyed, which has Cushing as the good doctor; and 1970’s Taste the Blood of Dracula, Lee’s fourth (but not final) stint as the dashing blood sucker. And while this collection doesn’t have any extras, save for the film’s original trailers, it’s still worth checking out just to see these classic movies in high definition. Well, that and the promise made by the “Volume One” in the title. —P.S.
Special Effects Collection (Blu-ray) (Warner Home Video)
If you’ve taken on any giant flies or mosquitoes in video game Fallout 4, then you know two things: First, they’re damn annoying, and second, that such ’50s sci-fi classics as 1954’s Them are still inspiring storytellers 60 years later. If you’re not familiar with that film, this new collection from Warner Home Video is a solid primer. Besides the aforementioned ant movie, in which radiation causes the picnic destroyers to grow as large as Buicks, the four-disc collection also wrangles 1953’s The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms, an adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s short story “The Fog Horn” which features the first stop-motion effects by the master of the form, Ray Harryhausen; 1933’s Son of Kong, a sequel to the classic King Kong in which we learn that the big guy was a single dad; and 1949’s Mighty Joe Young, about a woman who raises a big gorilla and then brings him to Hollywood so he can find fame and fortune. All four films make their high-def debut in this collection, but the best part about this set is that, along with the 2003 featurette “Harryhausen & Bradbury: An Fathomable Friendship,” in which the two reminiscence about their 50-year friendship, this also includes the original trailers for all four films. —P.S.
The Ultimate James Bond Collection (MGM)
Much like the Bond 50 collection of a few years ago, this Amazon exclusive includes every canon Bond film to date (Never say…the name of that other movie again), a disc of extras, a space for Spectre and a nifty mini-version of the 50 Years of Bond Posters book from 2012. Even without remastering, the films all look sterling, especially the older ones which were going threadbare in SD. Considering it’s selling for less than $150.00 on Amazon, $6 per film—at least for now—is a pretty damned good deal. Even for Moonraker. —M.R.
The Decline Of Western Civilization Collection (Shout! Factory)
There’s a fair chance you have some friends for whom Penelope Spheeris’s The Decline Of Western Civilization is one of those movies they’ve really wanted to see—that they know they will like. Or you may have a friend who loves the film, but wouldn’t it be nice to see it along with its two sequels in high-definition? Oh, and I know: How about some never-before-released footage, a 40-page booklet and some Dave Grohl commentary? Done! —Michael Burgin