It’s that time of year again! We’re back to give you the breakdown on all of the best movie, home video, and pop culture gifts for the entertainment aficionados in your life! This is our biggest gift guide yet, with over 60 items in it, so there’s a little something for everyone in this year’s guide, including movies, video games, books, electronics, board games, toys, and more! So dig deep and have fun, and most importantly, happy holidays!
For the Home Theater Enthusiast:
Elf, A Christmas Story, The Polar Express, and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (4K Ultra HD) – Warner Brothers celebrates the holiday season with not one, not two, but four new classic catalogue titles making their 4K Ultra HD debuts this week. It’s hard to deny these are all well-loved Christmas classics, and I can see a lot of people just picking up all four. First of we have Elf, one of the greatest Christmas movies of all time. My family watches two movies every single year at Christmastime, and one of them is Elf (the other is It’s A Wonderful Life). It’s the funniest Christmas movie ever, and one of my all-time favorite comedies of any genre. Then there’s National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, one of the few sequels from the 80’s that rivals the original film in the franchise. There are so many classic moments in the film it’s hard to know where to start (the lights, the cat, Cousin Eddie?), but I think most people would consider themselves fans of Christmas Vacation, and rightly so. Next up is A Christmas Story (“You’ll shoot your eye out!”), which I’ll admit I’m not as big a fan of as most people, but there’s no denying that this is a truly beloved film by generations of people and it will continue to be so for generations more. Then there’s The Polar Express, the 2006 Tom Hanks-led animated film by Robert Zemeckis. Despite a slight creepiness to the characters (the uncanny valley is strong in this one), the film is still a fun and endearing family Christmas movie. Each film comes to 4K Ultra HD (with a Blu-ray and digital copy included), and you’ll see a nice A/V upgrade for each. None of the movies have been completely reinvented from a visual or audio standpoint, but you’ll notice brighter colors, clearer imagery, and stronger black levels and shadow delineation in each film. The surround soundtracks are all relatively good, as well; you don’t get as much surround activity from the older films like A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation, but Elf and The Polar Express give your speakers more to work with. Any of these films that you don’t already own would make a worthy addition to any collection.
Reservoir Dogs (4K Ultra HD) – I’m a bit surprised by how little fanfare Lionsgate gave their new 4K Ultra HD release of Reservoir Dogs. After all, this was the film that started Quentin Tarantino’s career, one of the most successful and influential filmmakers of the last 30 years. But here it is, a 4K version of the film with no special packaging, no new features, just the movie on 4K with a couple of bonus materials and a sharp-looking slipcover. Oh well. Regardless of the lack of pomp and circumstance the release got, Reservoir Dogs remains a cult classic film that spawned thousands of posters in college dorms across the country in the 1990s. Everyone saw Pulp Fiction; only the cool people also saw Reservoir Dogs, or at least that was the perception back in the day. While not my favorite of QT’s films, it remains a really strong crime suspense/drama film and a taut, tense viewing experience that features great Tarantino dialogue, a killer soundtrack and THAT scene with the ear. Still great stuff. The 4K Ultra HD release sees the film get a little bit of new life from an A/V perspective; it’s still a low-budget film from 30 years ago, so it’s not like it suddenly looks brand new, but you’ll notice brighter colors, a slightly sharper picture, and a relatively active soundtrack (mostly making sure the music sounds terrific), and it’s hard to complain about any of those things. And while there are only a few extra features, it does include a digital copy, which might make this version worth the purchase for some fans.
Starship Troopers (4K Ultra HD Steelbook) – While Starship Troopers was never the mega-box-office-smash it should have been, the film has long been a cult favorite of ‘90s cinema-goers and sci-fi geeks, and it’s one of my absolute favorite movies. Now, to celebrate the 25th anniversary of the film, we get a new version of it on 4K Ultra HD, wrapped up in a beautiful Steelbook case that features some really sharp, tonally unique artwork. Now, the film was released on 4K Ultra HD in 2017, but this version not only give you the awesome Steelbook case, it also includes a brand-new 25th Anniversary Cast Reunion as one of the bonus features, which is super cool. I feel like at this point there’s no real reason to tell you how great the film is; you either love it or you don’t by now. But on the off chance you haven’t seen it yet, you owe it to yourself to track it down and watch it ASAP, and this 4K releases is a great way to do that. The picture quality is terrific and the surround soundtrack will blow you away, plus you get a library of extra features. This one is simply a must have!
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (4K Ultra HD) – Paramount has a terrific new catalog release out with the John Hughes comedy classic Planes, Trains & Automobiles. While it seems like they repackage this one every year (largely because they do), this year we get the film on the premium 4K Ultra HD format for the first time. Now, I absolutely love Planes, Trains & Automobiles; I think it’s one of the only truly great Thanksgiving-themed movies, and Steve Martin and John Candy are absolutely terrific in it. Plus, it’s John Hughes, and he made some of the absolute best movies of the the’80s and ‘90s. While this new version doesn’t add anything new in terms of extra content or new features, it does get the 4K upgrade (and the release includes a digital copy as well!), which gives it a nice little audio/visual boost. The film is three decades old, so it’s not like it suddenly looks or sounds brand new, but I think you’ll notice the picture is a little sharper, the colors are a little brighter, and the overall look of the print is clean and crisp. Planes, Trains & Automobiles is a great, funny comedy, and it should be in your collection, and this is a great format to own it in.
Casablanca (4K Ultra HD) – I love so many movies that it’s hard to rank them in any meaningful way, but for many years now I’ve claimed Casablanca as my favorite film of all time. I always tell people that Casablanca isn’t what they expect it to be (because a surprising number of people have never seen it). I think most people expect an overwrought black-and-white melodrama, but what I think people don’t expect is how many elements it has to it: there’s a wicked funny streak in the film, more than a little suspense and tension, and, yes, of course, there is romance. Frankly, it’s as near to perfect as a movie gets. Now, we get Casblanca making its debut on 4K Ultra HD, and the film looks absolutely beautiful in the premium format. While it is black-and-white — so we don’t get the typical 4K color saturation bump — the tones of the film are sharply contrasted and nicely nuanced. Image clarity is razor sharp, and the film just seems to pop off the screen like never before. The soundtrack is working with limited means (the film is 80 years old, after all), but fidelity is high, dialogue is clear, and music never sounds shrill or tinny. There is also a nice collection of extra features, most all of which are ported over from previous releases. There are very few movies that are considered both genuine classics and crowd pleasers, but Casablanca has to rank as the best of them all. There’s a reason this film is still considered one of the most well-loved and well-respected movies of all time after 80 years and that’s because it is truly one of the greats.
Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection: Volume 3 – Columbia drops the third volume of a massive box series this week that will please cinema fans immensely: The Columbia Classics 4K Ultra HD Collection, Volume 3. This multi-disc beauty that includes new 4K Ultra HD versions of six classic films from the Columbia vaults, all making their 4K debuts. The films included are: It Happened One Night, From Here to Eternity, To Sir With Love, The Last Picture Show, Annie, and As Good As It Gets. The set includes a brand new 4K Ultra HD disc for each film, but also includes each film on Blu-ray, ensuring that all of the original extra features are included in this set. Each film has been restored and remastered in the Ultra HD format, and despite the age range of the films, by and large each one has been wonderfully revitalized in the new format. It Happened One Night, for example, looks better than I’ve ever seen it, and I’ve seen the film on both DVD and Blu-ray previously. Annie and As Good As It Gets both sparkle with bright new colors and improved clarity. From Here to Eternity is in black and white, but it showcases brilliant contrasts and excellent shadow delineation. Technically speaking, you can’t beat the job Sony has done with these transfers. I can understand the complaints some people have had about the movie selection for these sets (maybe Annie fans and The Last Picture Show fans don’t share much of a Venn diagram), but most of the choices were drawn from a poll Sony took of movie watchers, so it does reflect what people want to some extent. Ultimately, it’s a nice mix of stone-cold cinema classics and newer classics that deserve a place in the movie pantheon. This is a terrific set overall, and I hope we’ll see another excellent set like continuing this series in the near future. Oh yeah, and it’d make a heck of a great holiday gift!
Real Genius (4K Ultra HD) – Sony Pictures brings a perennial favorite to the Ultra HD format this week with the inaugural 4K release of Real Genius, the classic ‘80s comedy that helped make Val Kilmer a household name. The story of a group of super smart college kids who discover their professor has them working on a weapon for the government, the film introduces us to Kilmer’s hard-partying Chris Knight, a genius who’s more interested in girls and parties than books and science. The film was never a huge box office smash, but it definitely developed a huge fan base on home video and is now considered one of THE defining cult classics of the ‘80s. This new 4K Ultra HD release gives us the best version of the film to hit home video yet, with upgraded sound and picture that helps the film shine. It doesn’t look brand new, as its age shows quite a bit, but it looks more bright and colorful than ever, and the surround soundtrack opens things up a bit to give the film more atmosphere. There are also a couple of new extra features, including the “long-requested balloon chair scene” as well as the TV cut of the film, which adds in some extra scenes (but cuts out the swearing and such). There’s also an archival director’s commentary as well. Real Genius is a great snapshot of the ‘80s and ‘80s cinema, and it’s a really fun time.
For the TV Binge Watcher:
The Offer – I really didn’t know what to expect from The Offer, Paramount+’s limited series about the making of The Godfather. It’s based on the experiences of Al Ruddy, the film’s producer, and he apparently had some interesting stories to tell. Based on the strength of the cast alone, I was intrigued to watch it; with Miles Teller, Colin Hanks, Juno Temple, Dan Fogler, and Matthew Goode on the screen, I figured it would at least be well-acted. Turns out, The Offer is absolutely fantastic. Tying in Ruddy’s experiences as a new producer, the mafia’s desire to shut the film down, the larger-than-life personality that is studio mogul Robert Evans, and the one-two punch of Mario Puzo and Francis Ford Coppola, it all adds up to a story that is utterly fascinating. Add in a sharp script that weaves all these elements together seamlessly, terrific performances, and tons of great guest stars and cameos, and the end result is a total hit. I can’t say that 100% of the show is the absolute truth, but it’s so much fun that I don’t care. Take note, Paramount: I would love to see more shows like this!
Seaquest DSV: The Complete Series – While it was never the ratings hit it could have been, ‘90s-era sci-fi show Seaquest DSV always had a devoted fan following. Effectively a Star Trek show set underwater on a submarine (or Deep Sea Vehicle) in the future, Seaquest first aired in 1993 and ran for three seasons. During those 57 episodes, we saw a terrific cast (including Roy Scheider, Jonathan Brandis, Peter and Michael Deluise, Ted Raimi, and, erm, Darwin the dolphin) fight to save the future of earth on a high tech submarine that didn’t feel unlike the USS Enterprise in some ways. Now, every single episode has been collected on Blu-ray for the first time thanks to Mill Creek, in the new 10-disc Seaquest DSV: The Complete Series box set. Even better, the set comes with some new extra features, including interviews with several cast and crew members. This is the kind of box set I love to see, rewarding loyal fans of a show that might not be mainstream anymore but remains well-loved by a devoted cadre of followers.
Ray Donavan: The Complete Series – I always wanted to like Ray Donovan, but I could never quite get there. I’m a big fan of Liev Schreiber, the lead actor in the show, and I think the concept of a show about a Hollywood-based “fixer” is interesting enough. And it’s not like I ever truly disliked the show, I just wished I liked it more. Yet, while it was never a true smash hit, it ran for seven seasons, so it’s obviously quite popular. Schreiber is intense and charismatic in the lead role, but the show as a whole just has a “feel” that isn’t for me. It definitely fits into the style of most pay-channel drama shows; it’s edgy and intense, and sometimes I feel like that’s a little forced. It’s well-made and well-acted, but the vibe just doesn’t gel for me. This is one of those shows that people definitely like, but it’s not quite my cup of tea. But obviously, a lot of people love the show, and so to reward the fans who watched this show for seven years, Showtime and CBS Home Video bring us Ray Donovan: The Complete Series, a massive 29-disc box set that includes all 82 episodes of the show along with over two hours of extra features. It’s all wrapped up in a sharp-looking box set that will make a nice display piece on your home video shelf. So whether I like the show or not, if you’re a fan, you’ll want to snag this sweet box set.
Dexter: The Complete Series + Dexter: New Blood – I have always absolutely loved Dexter. I’m a die-hard fan, no two ways about it. What makes the show so great is how it works on so many different levels. 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 try to watch just one episode and not end up sitting through an entire disc (or season). So now, to help you indulge on your Dexter obsession, we have Dexter: The Complete Series + Dexter: New Blood, which collects all eight seasons on Blu-ray (or DVD, if you prefer) and then adds on the single season of the new series that followed up on Dexter’s adventures eight years after the original show went off the air. And while follow-up series can be tricky, I felt like New Blood started a little slowly before quickly picking up steam and becoming quite engrossing. This massive 28-disc box set includes all eight seasons of there original show alongside all ten episodes of New Blood, along with some archival extra features. Sadly, there’s no digital copy included, but the box set is put together quite compactly and won’t take up too much space on your shelf. I’m a huge fan of this show and I’m a also a big fan of studios putting out comprehensive box sets that include the entirety of a franchise, and this one does that with style. Great stuff!
Melrose Place: The Complete Series – Massive box set alert! You know it’s the fourth quarter of the year (translation: holiday $$ for the studios) when the BIG box sets start hitting shelves. This week, Paramount/CBS gives us the whopping 54-disc behemoth Melrose Place: The Complete Series, which collects all seven seasons of the quintessential ‘90s primetime soap opera into one set. Spinning out of the success of Beverly Hills 90210, Melrose Place was kind of like the grown-up version of 90210, following a cast of characters who shared an apartment complex and the relationships and drama that came with them. The stellar cast over the years included Courtney Thorne-Smith, Heather Locklear, Grant Show, Andrew Shue, Josie Bissett, Doug Savant, Jack Wagner, Marcia Cross, Rob Estes, Lisa Ring, and so many other familiar faces. This box set gives fans all seven seasons in one box, with seasons 1-3 included one oversized case within the box and seasons 4-7 in another. There are also all of the original bonus features from the original seven box sets released in the 2000s, making this a one-stop shop for fans of soapy melodrama, pretty cast members, and steamy romance. Fun!
The Twilight Zone (Reboot): The Complete Series – Sadly, the CBS All Access original reboot of The Twilight Zone (the fourth iteration of the venerated series) only lasted two seasons, which at least now have been collected into a new box set featuring all 20 episodes on Blu-ray or DVD. Hosted by Jordan Peele, the show was an hour-long sci-fi/suspense/drama/thriller that carried on the traditions of the original series but updated it for modern audiences. Each season consisted of 10 episodes, and each episode featured different flavors of sci-fi, paranoia, tension, and uncertainty. CBS pulled out all the stops by making sure each episode included well-loved cast members: look for everyone from George Takei, Morena Baccarin, and Damon Wayans, Jr. to Topher Grace, David Krumholtz, and Ethan Embry to Adam Scott, Zazie Beetz, and Kumail Nanjiani. While it didn’t seem to make much of a splash with audiences, I found it to be a fun new take on one of the most beloved shows of all time. And, sure, the original Rod Serling series will still always be my favorite, but this was a highly enjoyable series to dive into.
The White Lotus: The Complete First Season – A fantastic cast anchors this unique show that got a decent amount of buzz last year when it debuted on HBO. A six-episode series, the show starts off by revealing that there is a mysterious death at the White Lotus resort in Hawaii. It then jumps back a week and we meet the main characters: the guests at the resort that week, and the staff who serve them; now we have to figure out what happened and why. With Jennifer Coolidge, Steve Zahn, Connie Britton, Alexandra D’Adddario, and Sydney Sweeney in the cast, there are a lot of familiar faces to drive the action, and they inhabit a coterie of characters who keep you guessing while also allowing you to delight in the interactions between them all. Created by Mike White — one of those filmmakers who’s made several great and critically acclaimed movies yet remains largely unknown to people outside of film critic circles — the show is intriguing, compelling, dramatic, and funny, all with a central mystery to tie it all together. A perfect gift now that the second season has come out.
For the Comic Book Aficionado:
Peacemaker: The Complete First Season – John Cena’s character from The Suicide Squad gets his own show in the HBO Max action/comedy series, Peacemaker, and it is a lot of fun. While I wasn’t a huge fan of The Suicide Squad (that’s the second movie, not the first), this show takes Cena’s will-kill-for-peace super hero and teams him up with a few of the behind-the-scenes support characters from the film to take on a new mission. The show absolutely nails the tone, with Cena as an earnest yet clueless (and utterly violent) hero, a strong supporting cast of characters, and a great mix of comedy (with some really great writing) and all-out action. I honestly didn’t know what to expect from this show, but I was pleasantly surprised by how much I enjoyed it. Cena is great, and he really gives the character his all; just watch the opening credits which sees the entire cast — including Cena — performing elaborate dance moves. Over the course of nine episodes, you’ll get laughs, you’ll get special effects, you’ll get drama, you’ll get action; the show has something for everyone. Definitely worth checking out!
Batman: The Long Halloween Deluxe Edition – The DC Animated Universe likes to alternate between more original animated movies starring well-loved characters and direct adaptations of iconic storylines. Over the last year, we saw Batman: The Long Halloween made into two movies that got released a few months apart. It’s based on a 13-issue miniseries by comics superstars Jeph Loeb and the late Tim Sale, and it’s an incredibly popular story in the Batman mythos. Now, the entire film has been collected into one extra-length movie that combines Part 1 and Part 2, giving us an epic three-hour film. First, the positives: the film has absolutely incredible cinematography. Not only is the animation beautifully stylized, but the actual cinematography is just terrific. Unique camera angles, the use of shadows, camera movement… it all just looks stunning. The animation is also styled after Tim Sale’s definitive art style, which keeps it true to the original comics. Now, the negatives: the film is long, and at times, it drags. There are parts where it is riveting, and there are parts that you wish they hadn’t split it into two parts and increased the running time to three hours. Overall I like it, but I wish it was a little more consistent. Batman: The Long Halloween Deluxe Edition is available on 4K Ultra HD (as well as Blu-ray), and it does look and sound terrific in the premium format. The animation works well with the deeper color saturation and inky black outlines, and the surround soundtrack offers up a robust sound field. It’s a very strong technical presentation and the film is definitely worth watching, even if it has its flaws.
Invincible Action Figures – Here’s the scoop: “From Diamond Select Toys comes Invincible (Mark Grayson) and Omni-Man (Nolan Grayson) from the hit Amazon series Invincible. Each figure comes with 16 points of articulation and interchangeable accessories, including a blazing fast baseball and baseball gloves for Invincible and a concrete block and Flaxan arm for Omni-Man. The exclusive Whatnot variant packaging features Tyler Kirkham’s gorgeous artwork.” Okay, so I’m as huge an Invincible fan as they come, and so these are an absolute must-have for me! Both figures are incredibly detailed and include tons of accessories so you can customize them way more than most action figures. But what really pushes them over the edge is the amazing packaging. I received the Whatnot exclusive packaging, which features stunning Tyler Kirkham artwork, and the both feature window boxes that can be opened up so you can display them and see the art and the figure without having to open the boxes (if you don’t want to). They’re quite large, and you can really feel the quality that went into making these. I only received these first two figures, but the second pair of figures (Atom Eve and Robot) are always available and I can guarantee you they will thrill any Invincible fan!
Invincible Atom Eve Gift Box – Also from Skybound (publishers of Invincible) is the Atom Eve Gift Box, a super-fun treat for the Atom Eve fan (and let’s be honest… who ISN’T an Atom Eve fan?) Inside this box are a number of Atom Eve-themed goodies. First up, you get an Atom Eve action figure. Now, this isn’t the same as the Diamond Select figures I talked about above, it’s a much smaller figure, but it’s still cool. Then there’s a sweet pair of bright pink socks featuring artwork of the matter-mutating superhero herself. That’s rounded out with a pair of metal/enamel pins, one of Atom Eve and one of the Invincible logo, and finally you get a terrific graphic novel, Invincible Universe: Atom Eve and Rexplode Vol. 1. Everything in the box is super high quality, and eve the box itself is decorated with Atom Eve artwork. Another great gift for any Invincible fans, especially those who love Atom Eve! (You can purchase these at skybound.com!)
Supergirl: The Complete Series – The CW has perfected its superhero television formula, so to see that Supergirl ran for six seasons is really no surprise. I always really enjoyed Supergirl; sure, like most CW shows, it had its cheesy moments. But it always had that one secret ingredient that very few shows have: Melissa Benoist. Benoist is so charming, so delightful, so effervescent, and so beautiful that it seems clear that nobody else could have played Supergirl but her. Add in a solid supporting cast and lots of characters from the DC comic book universe, and the show was never high art, but it was always fun. Now that the show has concluded its run, the tire series has been collected into a shiny new box set, comprising 126 episodes from all six seasons on 24 discs. It comes with all of the original extra features from the single season releases, and it’s a great way to revisit the show whenever you want. Supergirl fans will definitely want this terrific collection on their shelves!
Legends of Tomorrow: The Complete Series – Of all the DC Universe shows on the CW, I feel like Legends of Tomorrow was always the one you heard about the least. But here we are, the show now having finished after a very impressive seven-season run. And while it was never a ratings champ, the show always had a really die-hard fan base of viewers who enjoyed the show’s over-the-top storylines and variety of super hero and super villain characters. There was also plenty of time travel over the seven seasons, which took our various intrepid explorers all over the timeline, which always leads to some fun outings. For those who maybe never twigged onto this show during its run, now we have the new Legends of Tomorrow: The Complete Series box set, which collects all 110 episodes on 19 discs. There’s a ton of bonus materials as well, and that all adds up to make this a really fun show to dive into with open arms.
Last Man: Book 1 – The official synopsis read: “Kicking off the collection as a complete set in English for the first time, Last Man: Book 1 commences the complete series remastering of the critically acclaimed French fight comic by Balak, Michaël Sanlaville, and Bastien Vivès. Lastman Book One contains volumes 1 + 2 of the original French series and a new foreword by Robert Kirkman. Adrian Velba has trained all year to fight in the Valley of Kings’ legendary tournament. However, despite his ambition, he has no chance of winning. Not only is his partner unable to compete, but at 12 years old, Adrian is the longest of longshots. That is, until a mysterious, powerful stranger enters town, offering to join forces with Adrian. But who is Richard Aldana? And why in a world of magic does he rely solely on his fists?” So, I’ll admit that I had never heard of Last Man before I got my review copy, but I have to say that I started reading it and was quickly hooked. I’ve read a lot of European comics and this definitely fits in the mold of many of them, but it’s also better than a lot of the ones I’ve read. The story is fun, action-packed, and endearing, and the characters are what really keeps you glued to the page. And then there’s a bit of a twist that shakes things up in this medieval/magic fighting tale that really got me intrigued. I can’t wait for the next volume! This is perfect for the comics fan in your life because there’s a really strong chance they haven’t read it already, making it a safe buy!
Everyday Hero Machine Boy Graphic Novel – What a ton of fun this book is! Here’s the official scoop: “Rising stars Tri Vuong and Irma Kniivila create a funny and engaging all-ages adventure that asks-can you override your own programming? It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s… Machine Boy! When Machine Boy falls from the sky into the domed city of Mega 416, he leaves a wake of destruction in his path… until Karate Grandpa is able to turn on his heart. Now, Machine Boy wants nothing more than to become a hero! Whether he is fighting giant bugs in the school’s basement, rescuing cats from trees, or making the perfect spaghetti sauce, Machine Boy is always looking for the best way to help others. But when his heart begins to interact dangerously with other debris from space, Machine Boy wonders if he can be a power for good after all.” Now, Everyday Hero Machine Boy is described as an “all-ages adventure” and while that is accurate and I can see younger readers enjoying it quite a bit, I have to say that as an adult comic book reader, I absolutely loved it! The manga-inspired art style is simple but beautiful, the story is fantastic, and the characters are endearing. I’m not gonna lie, there are some truly great emotional moments in this book, alongside terrific action, sci-fi intrigue, and lots of humor. I’d recommend this one for any comics fans, no matter what their age is!
Clementine Graphic Novel – I’ve never played the Walking Dead video games, but I know how incredibly popular they are. So it’s no surprise that we eventually got an all-new graphic novel based on them with Clementine, by the ever-popular writer/artist Tillie Walden. Here’s the official scoop: “It’s a new beginning for Clementine, the star of the bestselling The Walking Dead video games, in Clementine: Book One, the Young Adult graphic novel from award-winning writer/artist Tillie Walden (Spinning, On A Sunbeam) that begins a trilogy set in the world of Robert Kirkman’s The Walking Dead. She’s back on the road, looking to put her traumatic past behind her and forge a new path all her own. But when she comes across an Amish teenager named Amos, the unlikely pair journeys north to an abandoned ski resort in Vermont, where they meet up with a small group of teenagers attempting to build a new, walker-free settlement. As friendship, rivalry, and romance begin to blossom amongst the group, the harsh winter soon reveals that the biggest threat to their survival…might be each other.” The best thing about this book is that I didn’t feel like I was missing any context by not being familiar with the games. Walden weaves a compelling tale, and while I personally occasionally found her artwork a bit obtuse, overall, it was still an engaging read. This is perfect for the YA reader in your life who also loves The Walking Dead.
The Walking Dead: Negan Sweatshirt – “Show off your love for everyone’s favorite walker-bashing, Lucille-smashing bad boy with this hoodie that features a dual-sided design.” The front of this black hoodie sweatshirt features the phrase “Here’s Negan” in white print with an image of Lucille, while the back features a larger, vertical image of Lucille. It’s a sharp-looking shirt, but even better, it’s quite comfortable and fits well. I received one to try out and it kept me warm on an upstate New York winter day, so if it can stand up to that, it’ll keep you warm just about anywhere. Walking Dead fans will be thrilled to find this gift-wrapped for them this holiday season.
Titans: The Complete Third Season – DC’s Titans is not a show I loved at first, but over the course of three seasons, I’ve come to really enjoy it. Available originally only through the DC Universe app, Titans has now moved over to HBO Max. What I like about this show is that it draws a lot of inspiration from the comic books upon which it’s based, without feeling like it’s restricted to copying stories out of the comics. Titans definitely goes in its own direction, while still feeling like the Titans we know and love. The cast (which includes Brenton Thwaites, Ian Glenn, Minka Kelly, and Alan Ritchson) does a nice job of bringing the characters to life, and the show’s aesthetic – while occasionally veering slightly into cheesy territory – feels appropriately comic-booky. This Season Three collection sees the team in Gotham City and introduces the Red Hood to the proceedings, giving us all 13 episodes and a nice collection of extra features. It’s a nice pick-up for fans of the show or the comics.
Doom Patrol: The Complete Third Season – I’ll admit, I was more than a little surprised when DC went ahead with making Doom Patrol one of the flagship shows of their now-defunct DC Unlimited app (the show now airs exclusively on HBO Max). I’ve always enjoyed the Doom Patrol comics, but they’re hands down one of the weirdest superhero teams in existence, and I thought pulling it off as a TV show would be… challenging, to say the least. But somehow, DC has made it work. The show manages to capture the vibe of the comics, and if you’re wondering if the comic books are as weird as the show, I can assure you that they absolutely are. The show has really unique tone, a great cast, and it feels different from any other superhero show around. Heck, it feels different from any other TV show around, period. This third season collection is available on Blu-ray and DVD, and it contains all ten episodes. This chapter of the show sees the Season Two storyline of the Candlemaker wrap up, and it also brings the Brotherhood of Evil storyline to the forefront. There’s a truly standout episode featuring zombies, and I think if you’ve liked the show so far, this season won’t do anything to change how you feel about it. It’s a great way to get caught up before Season 4, which premiered on HBO Max on December 8th.
For the Fan of All Things Supernatural:
Charmed: The Complete Series – A year or so ago, Paramount/CBS released the original Charmed series’s first season on Blu-ray, which fans were very excited about (it had previously only been available on DVD). I’m not sure if it wasn’t a big enough seller or what, but we never got a follow up release… until now. Skipping releasing the seven seasons that followed, Paramount/CBS has now brought us Charmed: The Complete Series on Blu-ray, marking the first time that all eight seasons of the original CW (nee WB) supernatural drama have been collected on Blu-ray. The picture and sound quality get a nice upgrade on Blu-ray, and fans will be happy to have the whole series on a better format. What’s great is that the show really holds up; I mean, not the special effects, but watching it again now, some 20 years after it first debuted, the adventures of the Charmed Ones remain a fun and intriguing show filled with magic, romance, and danger. With Alyssa Milano, Shannen Doherty, Rose McGowan, and Holly Marie Combs filling the lead roles over the years, the show was a fan favorite and it’s been long enough that you can revisit it and feel like you’re watching it for the first time. This set also includes all of the original extra features plus a new interview with the show’s producer, making it a must-have for fans!
Charmed (2018): The Complete Series – The original Charmed show was a surprise hit for the WB (now The CW), running for eight seasons and gaining millions of fans in the process. When the new version of Charmed was announced in 2018, I thought it was odd that the show was being rebooted so soon, and then I looked it up and realized that the original series ended THIRTEEN years before that! Holy cow! With that in mind, it actually made sense to see the show rebooted, as it had a huge built-in fan base. The newer series followed the general storyline of the original show, with three sisters who also happen to be witches, only updated to a more modern sensibility. This time around, we joined Mel, Maggie, and Macy on their witchy adventures, and while the show didn’t find the same success as the original, I think it has its devoted fans and it still ran for four seasons, which Ian’t bad. It’s those fans who the new Charmed: The Complete Series Blu-ray box set is for, collecting all 72 episodes and a handful of previously released extra features into one nice, compact box set. While I was never personally blown away by the show, I found it to be enjoyable enough, with a likable cast, solid stories, and enough of a similar vibe to the original that I can see why it had its fans. And while it’s over now this terrific box set is a great way to relive the adventures of a new generation of witchy sisters.
A Discovery of Witches: The Complete Trilogy – Based on the bestselling All Souls novels by Agatha Harkness, A Discovery of Witches is a British television series starring Theresa Palmer and Matthew Goode, two actors I enjoy a great deal. Now, I’m not a hard sell to like a show like this; it features a witch and a vampire who embrace science and try to discover the reason for a decline in magical creatures in the world. And, oh yeah, there may be a little bit of romance in there as well, which is never a bad thing. So this show was right up my alley, to begin with, and I’ve really enjoyed it. This new Complete Trilogy collection includes all three seasons of the show in a nicely-designed case, and it includes a collectible bookmark as well. I dig the show, I like its compact season format (nine episodes per season) and I think it’s poised to be discovered by a larger audience worldwide. If you like Harry Potter or The X-Files, I think you’ll find this show right up your (Diagon) alley. if you haven’t checked it out yet, this is a great way to immerse yourself in the world of A Discovery of Witches.
For the Gaming Enthusiast:
Halo: Season One – It’s no secret that video game-based movies are often… well, not all that great. That’s changed a little in recent years, but there’s a long history of video game adaptations that range from disappointing to out-and-out disasters. So what happens when you take one of the most popular video games of all time and make it into a TV series instead? Well, you get Halo: Season One, a Paramount+-exclusive show that’s now making its debut on Blu-ray and DVD. I’ll be honest, I’ve never played a single second of a Halo game, and while the show seems to be adapting the games’ storylines for its own needs, I can’t say there weren’t times when I feel like having a better grip on the universe would have served me well. The show follows Master Chief (the main protagonist from the games; I know THAT much) as he deals with military command, conspiracies and, oh yeah, aliens. The show is a fairly uneven affair; on the one hand, there are some good action and sci-fi sequences, and on the other hand, the story often gets bogged down and there are some definite writing issues on the show. It might just be typical Season One finding-its-way woes, but I was hoping to be blown away by the show and, unfortunately, I wasn’t. I didn’t dislike it either, so I think it has room to grow and we’ll have to see what the inevitable second season brings.
Eastward (Nintendo Switch) – Okay, so Eastward is a different kind of video game than I usually play, so it was fun to dive into something different. Here’s the official synopsis: “Eastward is a pixel art adventure RPG, set in a society that is fast hurtling down the path of destruction, as an unknown and toxic presence begins to spread and poison the air. Those who could escape flocked to villages underground to start a new life, and as new generations were forged, they soon forgot all memories of the blue skies above. Sam and John, Eastward’s unlikely duo, join together as the hope of a thriving outside world beckons. The Eastward physical edition for Nintendo Switch is full of charisma and personality. Featuring an exclusive chibi sticker pack with art from the game along with a physical copy of the game.” What that all means is that the game has a cool throwback vibe that reminds me of 8-bit games I used to play on the Game Boy or my Nintendo NES, but of course, it’s more complex and more visually appealing than those. But this isn’t some high-res graphics adventure, it’s a true roleplaying game, and I found the adventure quite appealing. There are some slow stretches which might be more from my lack of experience with RPGs than anything else, but I think fans of the genre will really enjoy this one.
Cuphead (Available on PS4, Xbox One, and Nintendo Switch) – Hugely popular as a downloadable game, Cuphead has now been given a physical release for various platforms. Here’s the official scoop: “Since its release in 2017, Cuphead has become an indie phenomenon with a myriad of products and a more recently released animated Netflix series. The standard retail physical version of Cuphead will include The Delicious Last Course DLC expansion, six collectible Cuphead funnies cards, a Cuphead Club membership card and beautiful interior art in the case.” Now, I’ve played quite a bit of this game, and it is a lot of fun. It’s a fast-paced action fighting game with beautiful old-school animation styled art that hearkens back to the early 20th century. This physical edition adds new levels to play, so even if you’ve mastered the DLC version, there’s more Cuphead to be found. My only warning here is that this game is HARD, even on the easy settings. I don’t recommend it for super young players who might get frustrated easily. But for experienced gamers, man, this one is a lot of fun!
ET: Light Years From Home – It’s no secret that I’m a board game fanatic, and I’ll be honest, when I first heard this game announced, I wasn’t sure how well E.T. would translate to a board game. But, getting to play it myself, I found myself quite impressed. Here’s the official breakdown: “Light Years From Home is a cooperative board game where players work together, taking on the roles of Elliot, Michael, Greg and Gertie and racing against time to gather parts for E.T. to make a communicator to signal his home planet. The kids must avoid federal agents who are chasing them, find all the parts for the communicator and get E.T. to the forest clearing in time to meet the mothership – before his heart light fades!” I think what I really like about the game is that it is cooperative; sure, I like beating my friends in a rousing game as much as the next guy, but I love a good co-op game, and this one takes a familiar film and its characters and gives us a simple but enjoyable gameplay mechanic that looks great and the player pieces of the characters on their bikes (and an E.T. figure) look fantastic! This is a terrific game from Funko!
E.T.: Bitty Boomers Mini Bluetooth Speaker – This ultra-portable rechargeable Bluetooth speaker is shaped like E.T. and is just two inches tall, giving you wireless sound in your pocket that also looks great displayed on your desk or patio table. I love this because I’m always struggling to find good speakers to connect y phone to when I’m outside or having some friends over on the back patio. This tiny little speaker gives you four hours of battery life and will connect with. Your phone from up to 30 feet away. Even better? It actually sounds quite good and has surprisingly robust volume for such a small speaker. Why throw another bland cube speaker out when you can have a little E.T. In your pocket?
For the Discerning Film Fan:
Universal Classic Monsters: Icons of Horror Collection (2022 Set) – So, at this point, getting a new Universal Classic Monsters Collection on home video has become sort of an annual event. In the last decade, we’ve had two different collections on DVD, two different collections on Blu-ray, and two Ultra HD collections. This is the second offering in Universal’s more streamlined four-film sets, featuring four of the most popular and well-loved of Universal’s classic monster films: The Mummy, The Bride of Frankenstein, Phantom of the Opera and Creature from the Black Lagoon. Each film has been remastered in 4K, and they’ve all been packaged together in a gorgeous box set with a wealth of extra features. It’s an 8-disc set that includes each movie both on a 4K disc as well as a Blu-ray Disc, and you also get digital copies of each movie. The 4K Upgrade definitely makes a difference in the visual presentation of each film. While the films are in black and white so you don’t get the extra pop of colors, the grey tones are more subtle, the blacks are deeper, the shadow delineation is much stronger, and the overall image clarity is sharper than previous home video editions. The soundtracks are working with limited fidelity due to the age of the films, but I certainly don’t hear anything to complain about. If you’re a fan of the classic Universal monster series and don’t already own the Blu-ray collections (or want to have the films in your digital library), this set is a must-have!
Infernal Affairs Trilogy – The Criterion Collection specializes in bringing important and critically acclaimed films to home video, which – much as I hate to admit it – means it also exposes gaps in my film history knowledge, as very often a new Criterion release is of a film I’ve never seen or even ever heard of. However, I was pretty darn excited when they announced the Infernal Affairs Trilogy was joining their hallowed halls. For those of you unfamiliar with it, Infernal Affairs is the 2002 Hong Kong film that was remade by Martin Scorsese in 2006 as The Departed. I saw Infernal Affairs back in 2002 and it not only spawned a renaissance in Asian action/crime films at the time, but it also opened my eyes up to Asian cinema in a new way and led to two decades of seeking out great Asian films. For my money, Infernal Affairs has always been better than The Departed; sure, I know the major Hollywood cast will skew more people to prefer Scorsese’s joint, but Infernal Affairs is a much more streamlined film, and I think blow for blow, it’s the better movie. It remains one of my favorite films of the early 2000s, even 20 years after I first saw it. This new Criterion release is a three-disc box set that also includes Infernal Affairs II and III, a pair of prequel/sequel films that tried to capitalize on the success of the original to mixed results. The end of the first film makes it hard to do a true sequel, so the filmmakers took things to the past and future to continue the saga. While I enjoy the sequels, they don’t compare to the original. Still, this new collection offers up all three films in one terrific package, with the usual Criterion collection of excellent features and an in-depth essay and photo booklet. This one is definitely worth tracking down.
To Kill A Mockingbird: 60 The Anniversary Edition (4K Ultra HD) – I feel like there isn’t much I need to say about To Kill a Mockingbird at this point; not only is the book widely considered one of the greatest novels of all time, but the film adaptation is also considered a stone-cold classic. There’s a reason no one’s tried to remake To Kill a Mockingbird, and that’s because it’s already perfect as it is. Gregory Peck’s signature role as Atticus Finch simply can’t be bested. That doesn’t mean the film has been forgotten, though. Universal brings us the film’s debut on 4K Ultra HD this year, and it’s a real nice release. The film looks crisp and clear in the premium Ultra 4K format, and while it’s in black-and-white so you don’t get a color bump, the gray tones are subtle and nuanced, and the print is exceptionally clean. You get a nice collection of extra features and you get a digital copy of the film, which is a huge bonus. Simply put, this is a movie that belongs in everyone’s collection.
E.T.: The Ultimate Visual History – I love these Ultimate Visual History Books. They’re huge and gorgeous and filled with tons of photos. It’s effectively like a making-of documentary on that you can read. Here’s the official scoop: “Documenting the complete history of E.T., the book explores Spielberg’s initial inspiration for the story, the challenging shoot, and the record-breaking success, as well as the film’s endurance, examining the merchandising it inspired and the reasons E.T. holds a permanent place in the hearts of movie fans the world over. The book features exclusive interviews with key members of the creative team, including cast and crew. Filled with visual treasures, the book also includes rare and never-before-seen imagery from the Amblin Entertainment archives, including on-set photography, concept art, and storyboards, plus a wealth of removable insert items, such as annotated script pages, studio memos, preliminary sketches, and more.” I can vouch for the fact that this book delivers all of that and more; it’s a treasure trove of behind-the-scenes material for one of the most-loved films of all time. Great stuff, and not makes for a hefty gift for any film fan!
Drive (4K Ultra HD) – Not to be confused with the overrated Ryan Gosling vehicle from 2011, this Drive is a 1997 sci-fi actioner starring Mark Dacascos, Brittany Murphy and — of all people — Kadeem Hardison. The film is basically Rush Hour if Jackie Chan’s character was an enhanced super soldier and Chris Tucker’s character was a dreadlocked average joe. In this case, Dacascos is the super-soldier, who goes on the run from the corporation that created him and meets up with Hardison’s Malik, giving the film a frenetic, action-never-lets-up aesthetic with a dose of buddy film humor. Now, I love chase films and I love ‘90s action movies, so this chase-film action movie from the ‘90s was a lot of fun for me. It’s a direct-to-video offering and it gets a little silly at times, but I have to say, it’s fun in a way that a lot of action movies today aren’t. MVD released the film a year or two ago as part of their excellent MVD Marquee Collection, and it must have been popular because now it’s being rereleased in the premium 4K Ultra HD format. With new high def scans of the film, it can’t quite overcome its low-budget origins, but it still looks and sounds better than any previous home video version of the film. There’s also terrific collection of extra features including an audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, and more, but the most exciting addition is the restored Director’s Cut of the film, which fans should enjoy. For any ‘90s action junkies like me, this one is definitely worth tracking down!
For the Person Who Never Wants Christmas To End:
Lifetime 12-Movie Set: A Very Merry Christmas Collection Volumes 3 & 4 – The world of seasonally-popular Lifetime and Hallmark Christmas movies has expanded beyond just the holiday season. I know more than a few people who like watching these holiday-themed romances all year round. Regardless of if you want to watch them in during the holidays or in the middle of the summer, Lifetime has two massive new collections (both packaged in a single DVD-sized case) that will keep you busy for days. Following up on last year’s popular sets, we have two new releases this week: Lifetime 12-Movie Set: A Very Merry Christmas Collection Volumes 3 & 4. As the titles indicate, each of these Wal-Mart exclusive releases includes a dozen holiday romances, giving you about 18 hours of entertainment each. Now, I’ve been vocal in the past that I unironically love these movies; the combination of predictable romance, attractive leads, and a holiday setting make them enjoyable and irresistible to me, so I love these sets. Volume 3 includes A Fiancé for Christmas, A Picture Perfect Holiday, Baking Spirits Bright, Holiday in Santa Fe, Merry Liddle Christmas Baby, Miracle in Motor City, Mistletoe in Montana, Under the Christmas Tree, Welcome to the Christmas Family Reunion, Writing Around the Christmas Tree, An Ice Wine Christmas, and Candy Cane Candidate, while Volume 4 includes Match Made In Mistletoe, Rebuilding a Dream Christmas, Saying Yes to Christmas, The Holiday Fix Up, Toying With the Holidays, You Make It Feel Like Christmas, A Christmas Dance Reunion, Christmas Movie Magic, Dancing Through the Snow, My Favorite Christmas Melody, and Reba McEntire’s Christmas In Tune. Whew! That’s a lot of holiday romance, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!
Rankin Bass: Classic Christmas Specials Collection (4K Ultra HD) – With the fourth quarter upon us, the holiday offerings are hitting shelves, and this one is a perennial favorite. Now, the Rankin-Bass Christmas Specials get repackaged pretty much every year or two, but this latest collection is one of the best. This time around, we get the Rankin Bass Classic Christmas Specials Collection on 4K Ultra HD in a six-disc set. This set includes the three most popular and perennial Rankin-Bass Christmas Specials on 4K (as well as each film on Blu-ray): Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ To Town, and Frosty the Snowman. Now, each film still shows its age, but the 4K upgrade is pretty cool; the films have always all had that slightly faded look of shows that are 50 years old but the 4K HDR color saturation really gives each show new life thanks to much more vibrant colors. Image clarity is sharp and the prints are clean, too. The soundtracks don’t fill your speakers with sound, but everything sounds clean and clear, which is nice. With Rudolph and Santa Claus is Coming to Town being stone-cold stop-motion animation classics and Frosty the Snowman a 2-D animation favorite, it’s hard to argue with the quality of these specials from yesteryear.The set also includes a nice handful of extra features such as making-of featurettes, animation tests, and commentary tracks. A perfect gift for the holiday season!
For the Family and Younger Viewers:
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial: 40th Anniversary Edition – Obviously, this isn’t the first time that E.T. has been released on home video, as it gets a re-release every few years or so. This new 40th Anniversary Edition mostly recycles previous content, but it is released in the 4K Ultra HD format and includes a few new extra features, including a new 40th Anniversary Retrospective Documentary and a new conversation with Steven Spielberg, who reflects on the making of the film and its enduring legacy. There are also a ton of archival extra features included. This is the first time I’ve gotten to look at E.T. on 4K; the previous 35th Anniversary Edition was released on 4K but I only received the Blu-ray to review at the time. For a film that’s 40 years old, I have to say it looks and sounds terrific. Sure, at 40 years old it doesn’t look brand new, but image clarity is super sharp, colors pop nicely, and shadow delineation is strong. The surround soundtrack won’t blow you away, but it does give you some nice ambient surround effects when the action in the film picks up. As for the movie itself, I mean, what do I really need to say about it? It’s a true classic, a great family film, and one of Spielberg’s best works, even after four decades. This is a terrific edition if you don’t already own the film.
Coraline & Paranorman (4K Ultra HD Steelbooks) – I’m a huge fan of Laika Studios, and so I’m thrilled they’ve chosen to release two of their best films as Limited Edition Steelbook editions. Coraline and Paranormal come to home video once again in the premium 4K Ultra HD format (with Blu-rays included in each release as well) that are both packaged in separate Steelbook cases that feature absolutely gorgeous artwork. Seriously, even if you already own the films, the Steelbooks are so pretty that you’ll want them again just for the collectibility. Now, Paranorman didn’t generate much buzz at the box office, but critics were kind to it and it’s easy to see why. It’s clever and charming, and of course the animation is gorgeous. It’s a shame that it fell under the radar. Coraline, though… Coraline is a masterpiece. Based on a kids’ book by Neil Gaiman, the film is an adventure story that also serves as a meditation on childhood and parenting, and it’s equally fun, scary, emotional, and thrilling. I absolutely love Coraline and will recommend it to anyone I can whenever I get the chance. Both of these terrific new Steelbook editions are worthy additions to any movie fan’s collection!
Ed, Edd, & Eddy: The Complete Series and Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends: The Complete Series – New from the now-sadly-defunct Cartoon Network are two fantastic animated series collections: Ed, Edd, & Eddy: The Complete Series (a 10-disc set) and Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends: The Complete Series (an 11-disc set). These long overdue collections take two popular series from the early 2000s and compile their entire runs into two compact box sets. Ed, Edd and Eddy ran for six seasons (totaling 80 episodes), while Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends ran for 82 episodes (also six seasons). Both shows are comedies, with Ed, Edd and Eddy focusing on a trio of friends getting into mischief and scheming to make money to buy jawbreakers with, while Foster’s Home For Imaginary Friends follows 8-year-old Mac who takes his imaginary friend to a sort of hallway house for imaginary friends whose children have outgrown them. I never really watched either show when they were on (I wasn’t a kid at that point and wasn’t watching a lot of cartoons at the time), but I’ve come across them both since then and getting to sit down and dig into them with these two excellent collections has been a lot of fun. I probably lean more toward Foster’s, but both shows are endearing and I can see why kids liked them so much. I’m sure there are a lot of people who are now teens and twentysomethings who will be very excited to go back and revisit some favorites from their childhood.
Krypto the Superdog: The Complete Series – Predating streaming services, where content is king, the Cartoon Network brought us two seasons of animated adventures of Superman’s dog way back in 2005. Traditionally animated, Krypto the Superdog was an action-adventure comedy series that was effectively superheroics with superpets, so it’s no surprise that the entire series is being rereleased to coincide with the big screen offering DC League of Superpets (also starring Krypto) hitting home video screens. I have fond memories of this series, watching it on DVD with my kids, who were born after the show had already left airwaves. The show focuses on Krypto and his human friend Kevin, and we get appearances by other superpets like Streaky the Supercat. The show had a fun vibe, with adventure and villains and comedy and cute characters, and I found it a lot of fun. Now, you can relive the show in its entirety with Krypto the Superdog: The Complete Series, a 5-disc set that collects all 39 episodes from the shows too-short two seasons. Definitely worth a revisit for fans, and a great way to introduce younger kids to more Krypto fun.
Disney Princess: Beyond the Tiara – Chances are good that parents who have seen Frozen a hundred times will probably glaze over when they see yet another piece of Disney Princess merchandise. But Disney Princess: Beyond the Tiara isn’t a book for the kids; instead, it’s a lovely coffee table book for the adult Disney fan who wants to take a peek behind the scenes. Part history, part art book, Disney Princess takes us through the legacy of the Disney princesses, tracing their origins through interviews with animators, voiceover actors, and creators, as well as concept art, memorabilia, and more. It’s a fascinating history lesson that is also vibrant, colorful, and well-designed. Any Disney fan will find a lot to like in this gorgeous tome.
For the Comedy Fan:
Def Comedy Jam: All Stars Volumes 1 & 2 – Russell Simmons’ long-running stand-up comedy show was a Friday night staple on HBO back in the 90s and now it gets a new collection. A really fantastic new set, this 12-disc box collects some of the best All-Star episodes of Def Comedy Jam, giving us live stand-up sets from beloved comedians such as, Dave Chappelle, Tiffany Haddish, Kevin Hart, Martin Lawrence, Tracy Morgan, Chris Rock, Chris Tucker, Cedric the Entertainer, Bernie Mac, Bill Bellamy, D.L. Hughley, Queen Latifah, and many others. Now, these aren’t full episodes; they are the “All Star” collections, meaning it’s kind of a “greatest hits” approach, giving us the best of each comedian’s routines. This allows the set to jam-pack a lot of content into each episode, most of which range from 20-30 minutes. But it’s great to see all these established and superstar comics (many of whom have gone on to become major movie and TV stars) on their way up, when they were still making a name for themselves as stand-up comics. This set gives us 11 discs of episodes, plus a bonus disc that features Shaq & Cedric the Entertainer Present: All Star Comedy Jam, a comedy special hosted by Cedric the Entertainer and featuring sets by Kevin Hart, Tommy Davidson, Aries Spears and DeRay Davis. There’s also a nice, full-color booklet included in the box, which is just the cherry on top of the nearly 24 hours of comedy material you get on the discs. This one is a slam dunk for fans of stand-up comedy.
That ‘70s Show: The Complete Series – This new 16-Disc collection from Mill Creek boasts that it’s the “best DVD version” of That ‘70s Show ever, featuring remastered widescreen picture and surround sound. And honestly, the show does look and sound pretty good. Why, then, is it being released on DVD and not Blu-ray, the format that would allow us to really take advantage of that remastered picture quality? I don’t know, but I do know this: That ‘70s Show was an absolutely fantastic sitcom and you can now own all eight seasons of it in one compact box set for somewhere in the neighborhood of 20 bucks. Collecting all 200 episodes over 16 discs, this new set takes us to Wisconsin in the 1970s and lets us watch the teenage years of Eric Foreman, his on-again/off-again girlfriend Donna, and his friends Kelso, Jackie, Hyde, and Fez, plus of course, his parents Kitty and Red. Honestly, I always loved this show, and going back and revisiting it with this set reminded me just how much fun it was. There’s no shortage of previous versions of the show on home video, but if you don’t have it already or are looking for a good holiday gift, this one is a winner.
Aqua Teen Hunger Force: The Complete Collection – I’ll be honest, Aqua Teen Hunger Force was never quite my thing. The adventures of Frylock, Meatwad and Master Shake interacting with their crazy neighbor as well as various bad guys, celebrities, and such has its fun moments, but I never got caught up in the fandom of it all. It’s not that I dislike the show per se, it’s just always been kind of a limited dose thing for me; I find bits and pieces of it funny, but sitting and watching multiple episodes was never particularly appealing. Still, the show ran for eleven seasons and 139 episodes (plus a spin-off movie) so it’s hard to deny that it has its die-hard fans. Now, for the first time, the entire kit-and-caboodle has been collected into one massive 20-disc box set. It includes all 139 episodes, Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film for Theaters (the theatrical film released in 2007), a few off-shoot show episodes (like a “prequel” special and the like), as well as a ton of extra features, including featurettes, audio commentaries, deleted scenes, and much more. It really is a great collection for fans of the show!
For the Sports & Music Fans:
Winning Time: Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, The Complete First Season – HBO’s hit drama series tells the true story of the L.A. Lakers rise from a bottom-of-the-league team to an NBA powerhouse, and how their doing so helped revitalize basketball as a sport with the whole country. The show focuses on Magic Johnson (a huge part of the proceedings) and Dr. Jerry Buss, as well as coach Jerry West and Buss’s daughter Jeanie (who is now the owner of the Lakers, if I’m not mistaken). There’s also a huge supporting character group of basketball players, office personnel, millionaires, and others who round out the roster of people who made this dynasty happen. The cast is terrific, with John C. Reilly and Jason Clarke surrounded by a bunch of less-well-known but equally talented co-stars. I have to say, I liked the show, but I didn’t fully love it. And it’s hard to explain why; I like the show’s breaking-the-fourth-wall conceit, and it doesn’t rely on a ton of basketball to keep it interesting. It’s more of just a vibe or a tone kind of thing. I enjoyed the show, but it feels weirdly polished and a little lifeless, even though it’s clear everyone involved is having a good time. Still, it’s worth watching as a good dramedy, and even more so if you happen to be a basketball fan. This three-disc set (available on Blu-ray or DVD) contains all 10 episodes from the first season.
Ed Sullivan’s Rock ‘n’ Roll Classics – Time Life has regularly put out some of the most comprehensive and amazing music-themed DVD box sets I’ve ever seen. This time, they put one out that is not only utterly fantastic, it’s one that really speaks directly to me and my love of rock n’ roll music. This new 10-disc set from Time-Life revisits one of the greatest talk shows of all time, The Ed Sullivan Show, and cultivates some of the biggest names in music history to give us rare live performances that haven’t been seen in decades. Here’s just a taste of the acts that are included here (and most of whom have several songs): The Beatles, Elvis Presley, The Beach Boys, The Rolling Stones, Buddy Holly, The Supremes, Stevie Wonder, Janis Joplin, the Jackson 5, Neil Diamond, and so many others. There are also a number of interviews from the History of Rock n’ Roll program alongside the whopping 128 uncut and rarely seen performances — over 16 hours worth of music! As a bonus, there’s even a comedy disc featuring well-loved comic legends on The Ed Sullivan Show, including George Carlin, Rodney Dangerfield, Phyllis Diller, Richard Pryor, and Joan Rivers, among others. With a 36-page booklet included in the set, this really is one of the best Time-Life sets I’ve seen yet. If you love music of any kind this is a set unlike anything else available on the market. I absolutely love it!
Amazing Grace: Country Stars Sing Songs of Faith and Hope – The latest Time-Life music-themed megaset is a terrific 10-disc box set that sees some of the biggest country music stars of all time giving performances of classic gospel songs, faith-based pop songs, and songs with a message of hope and inspiration. Now, I’ll admit I’m not really a country or gospel music fan, so while this wasn’t a set I got personally invested in, I don’t need to be in order to tell you what a great quality set it is for fans of those genres. With over 150 inspirational live performances from the likes of Reba McEntire, Alan Jackson, Dolly Parton, George Jones, Johnny Cash, Vince Gill, Barbara Mandrell, The Oak Ridge Boys, Randy Travis, Willie Nelson, and so many more, this is a who’s who of country music. But the twist is that it’s not just a collection of them performing their hit songs, which are probably available dozens of other places. Instead, we get songs like Wings of a Dove, Amazing Grace, How Great Thou Art, I Saw The Light, Daddy Sang Bass, Love Lifted Me, He Touched Me, and more. You get 10 discs of performances, plus a full-color booklet that serves as a guide to the music and the artists, plus the venues they performed at, which includes none other than the Grand Ol’ Opry. If you’re into country music and faith-based songs, you’d be hard pressed not to be blown away by this set.
For the Horror Fan in Your Life:
Army of Darkness (4K Ultra HD Steelbook) – Over the years, I had long considered myself a big Evil Dead franchise fan. And while I do enjoy all of the films in the franchise, I had an epiphany a few years back: really, more than anything else, I’m an Army of Darkness fan. This was the first movie I saw in the trilogy, and it’s a movie I’ve watched over and over again in the years since. And while I do enjoy the original Evil Dead and Evil Dead II, it’s Army of Darkness that really brings me joy and is my go-to watch when I’m in the mood for something Evil Dead-related. It’s a near-perfect horror comedy, and while it has always been a cult classic like the first two and never broke through to mainstream success, it’s a film I really love. Now it comes to home video on 4K Ultra HD for the first time, and as a bonus, it comes in a great-looking Steelbook case. Army of Darkness is easily the highest-budgeted of the three Evil Dead movies, but it’s still a low-budget film and the 4K Ultra HD upgrade doesn’t change that. However, the film looks and sounds better than ever, with brighter colors, deeper blacks, better shadow delineation, and some solid discrete sound effects in your speakers. Now, there is no shortage of Army of Darkness releases from Shout Factory over the last several years, but with the 4K upgrade, some of the best artwork I’ve ever seen on a steelbook, and copious extra features, this is a great release for fans.
I Know What You Did Last Summer: 25th Anniversary (4K Ultra HD) – I Know What You Did Last Summer was the first major post-Scream horror movie, and while that might not resonate as much 25 years later, it was a really big deal at the time. When Scream came out in 1996, the slasher genre was all but dead, and Scream completely reinvigorated it. 1997’s I Know What You Did Last Summer was not only the first slasher film released after Scream, it was made in the wake of Scream’s success, so it brought a lot of the same qualities to the screen: a popular and pretty young cast, a dash of humor, and some good kills that weren’t overly gory. With Jennifer Love Hewitt, Sarah Michelle Gellar, Ryan Phillippe, and Freddie Prinze Jr. in the cast, it was a lot of fun, mixing some post-Scream sensibilities with good old-fashioned slasher tropes. I love this movie; it’s one of those slasher films that you can watch again and again and have a great time with every time. Now, on its 25th Anniversary, the film is being released on 4K Ultra HD for the first time. The audiovisual upgrade is definitely noticeable, even if the film does show its age a little bit. Imagery is super clear with excellent shadow delineation (a must-have for a film where large portions of it occur at night), while colors are strong and clarity is terrific. The surround soundtrack won’t win any awards, but it does create a nice, tense atmosphere throughout the film. As a bonus, the release includes some new extra features, like never-before-seen deleted scenes, an alternate ending, and a digital copy. This one’s a must for my collection!
The Lost Boys (4K Ultra HD) – The Lost Boys is one of the classic films of the ‘80s, a stylistic vampire action/comedy hybrid directed by Joel Schumacher that gave vampires a punk rock update and turned a generation of ‘80s kids into vampire fans. With a great cast including Keifer Sutherland, Jamie Gertz, Jason Patric, Corey Feldman, and Corey Haim, the film has never been a masterpiece, but it remains well-loved with a generation of people who grew up in the ‘80s. You can’t walk into a pop-culture-fueled shop in the mall like Hot Topic or FYE without seeing The Lost Boys on a poster, t-shirt, or Funko Pop. The 4K Ultra HD release sees the film get a solid audiovisual upgrade. As is usually the case, since the film is over 30 years old, it’s not like the conversion to 4K turns into a brand new, sparkling high def masterpiece. However, colors are a little more vibrant, imagery is a little more sharp, and most importantly, shadow delineation sees a big improvement, which is helpful since so much of the movie takes place at night. The surround soundtrack offers up some nice ambience and directionality, while also giving the soundtrack a nice energetic boost. The release also includes a number of extra features and a digital copy, which is excellent. I think I own three or four versions of the film but I didn’t have it in my digital library until now. This one is a must have for fans.
Poltergeist (4K Ultra HD) – I don’t know that any other movie has ever scarred me as much as the original Poltergeist, which I watched when I was probably just a little too young to see it. (And yes, I said ‘scarred,’ not ‘scared,’ although it did that too.) To this day, just the thought of maggots violently turns my stomach, and it goes directly back to that fried chicken scene in Poltergeist (and if you don’t know what I’m talking about, go back and watch the movie, now available in 4K!) And honestly, I haven’t seen it since then because I know I have such a visceral reaction to it. But with the 4K Ultra HD release, I decided it was time to finally sit down and conquer my fears. And while I still can’t handle the thought of maggots, it was good to revisit the film, which was directed by the Texas Chainsaw Massacre’s Tobe Hooper. (At least on paper; many accounts report that Steven Spielberg took over the production from Hooper and actually directed much of the film itself.) Much like The Lost Boys above, the film gets a nice upgrade on 4K that won’t blow you away, but certainly looks and sounds impressive overall. You get a few extra features and a digital copy, making it a nice pick-up for fans of the franchise.
Black Christmas (4K Ultra HD) – Although Black Christmas predates the original Halloween by four years (it came out in 1974 whereas Halloween hit in 1978), it’s considered more of a proto-slasher film than the first true slasher movie. I don’t know if that’s because it’s not quite as good or as popular as John Carpenter’s film or the fact that you rarely even see the killer in the film, but Halloween still gets credit for launching the slasher craze. Personally, I enjoy Black Christmas, although I’ve never found it particularly scary. Until the end at least; I will admit that the last 15 minutes of the film has a nice intensity that did give me butterflies in my stomach. I’ll also give the film credit for having a black sense of humor that ensures it doesn’t take itself too seriously. With a pre-Superman Margot Kidder as well as Olivia Hussey and John Saxon in the cast, Black Christmas isn’t bad at all for a 1970’s horror flick. Now it’s been released as a new Special Edition 4K Ultra HD release from Scream Factory, which is basically a port of the previous Blu-ray Collector’s Edition but with an audiovisual upgrade. Now, the film is a 50-year-old low-budget flick, so the 4K transfer only has so much to work with, but the film looks a little sharper, a little clearer, and features slightly brighter colors and deeper black levels. It’s not a complete transformation, but this is the best I’ve seen the film look on home video so far. You also get a bunch of great extra features and nice new packaging, so this one is worth a pick-up if you don’t already own the film.
The Return Of The Living Dead: Collector’s Edition (4K Ultra HD) – The Return of the Living Dead movies are sort of the red-headed stepchild of the zombie genre. Because the zombies in the movies can kind of rudimentarily talk — and they often talk about eating brains — the films are considered horror comedies and maybe dismissed a little too easily by genre fans. Rewatching Return of the Living Dead for the first time in many years, I was surprised by what a good zombie movie it really is. Yes, the zombies talk, and it doesn’t try to work in any kind of social commentary like George Romero’s films do, but it does give you some great zombie scenes, a lot of suspenseful moments, and a classic zombie formula with a group of characters getting whittled down as the living dead feast upon them. Honestly, I enjoyed it way more than I remembered. Now, fans can revisit the original movie with The Return Of The Living Dead: Collector’s Edition on 4K Ultra HD, a three-disc set that includes the film itself on 4K Ultra HD as well as two Blu-ray discs with the film and a ton of extra features. The set comes with no less than four audio commentaries, plus a feature-length documentary, a half dozen featurettes, and a workprint version of the film with some 20 minutes of deleted footage edited back in (sadly in standard definition only.) It’s an outstanding set that I can’t see any fans wanting to pass up.
Paranormal Activity: The Ultimate Chills Collection – Say what you will about the Paranormal Activity films, the franchise was incredibly profitable for Paramount Pictures. Starting off with an ultra-low-budget standalone film, the studio widely capitalized on its breakout success by creating multiple sequels, but the true brilliance was that they retained the aesthetic and budget of the original film, making each one a massive profit-maker for them. Now, personally, I quite enjoy the franchise, especially the first four films. They’re effectively creepy found footage films about a house and a family being plagued by a vengeful ghostly/demonic spirit. This new eight-disc box set collects all seven films, including the home video debut of Paranormal Activity: Next of Kin, the 2021 entry that has been a Paramount+ exclusive up until now (and which I’m sure will be released as a solo title eventually.) There’s also an eighth disc with a feature-length documentary called Unknown Dimension: The Story of Paranormal Activity, which gives us a nice look at the creation of the original film and the follow ups. Additionally, the box set gives you theatrical and unrated cuts for each film in the series (except the latest one), digital copies of each movie, the Blu-ray 3D version of PA: The Ghost Dimension, plus a sticker, all in one cool box set, that is being listed as a limited-edition release. A great binge watch for the horror fan!
For the Anime/Manga Fan:
My Hero Academia: World Heroes’ Mission — Okay, admittedly, I knew very little about My Hero Academia before I received this Blu-ray for review. I mean, I know it’s a huge phenomenon and is incredibly popular, but I’ve seen pretty much none of it. Here’s the synopsis: “When a sinister organization threatens to wipe out superhuman powers worldwide, Deku, Bakugo, and Todoroki have two hours to stop civilization’s collapse. But there’s still one problem: Deku’s on the nation’s most wanted list.” The good news for me is that even though I don’t quite know who the characters are or the entire MHA world. This 1 hour and 40 minute movie is pretty cohesive in its own right. I dien’t get every beat of it, but I didn’t need to. The animation is cool, the action is fun, and I can see why people like it so much. Fans of My Hero Academia will definitely want to have this movie in their collection. The My Hero Academia Blu-ray and other related merchandise is available at www.crunchyroll.com.
Kamen Rider Kuuga: The Complete Series – This new seven-disc Blu-ray set from Shout Factory brings us a Japanese TV show that will please fans of shows like Kamen Rider Zero One or franchises like Ultraman. In the show, archeologists accidentally unleash monsters called Grongi on the earth. An average Joe named Yusuke has a connection to an archeological artifact that transforms him onto an armored, motorcycle-riding warrior who fights these monsters. This series debuted in 2000, and it fits squarely into the genre of “armored heroes fighting monsters” television that Japan has the market cornered on. It has some fun action scenes, some cheesy moments, lots of monsters, some humor, some drama, and it can be a lot of fun if you’re not looking for cinematic genius. It’s the kind of show where I can watch a handful of episodes, then I need a break for something a little weightier, and then a week later, I can crush another handful of episodes. This box set collects all 40+ episodes, and fans of Japanese genre television and shows like Ultraman and Power Rangers will enjoy it for sure.
For Grandma & Grandpa:
The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet: Seasons 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, & 8 – Because the show aired over half a century ago, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet is not exactly a big part of the pop culture conversation today, so it’s easy to forget what a huge part of early American television the series was. Starting in 1952 and running for a whopping 14 seasons (with over 400 episodes!), the show was a prototypical family comedy with parents Ozzie and Harriet raising their two young sons, David and Ricky. The twist here was that the family on screen was played by the real life Nelson family. America got to watch the boys grow up, and Ricky Nelson became one of the first teen heartthrobs of the television generation. While there have been a smattering of home video releases over the years, most of them were just random collections of episodes with no semblance of order to them. A few months back, MPI Video finally answered fans’ requests with the first two official releases of the show, followed up with the next four seasons, and now we have two more seasons! Wow! MPI is clearly fast tracking the releases to try to get the whole series into fans’ hands without a giant wait in between each release. So this year delivered The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet: The Complete Seasons 1, 2, 3 4, 5, 6 ,7 and 8, all eight seasons released as their own complete season set. Both of these sets includes all of the episodes from their respective seasons, and while the shows have some various minor video issues here and there, I was surprised by the high audiovisual quality of most of the episodes, especially for a show that premiered 70 years ago. The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet is a fun and wholesome family comedy that is a nice snapshot of a different time in America’s history, and I’m glad to see MPI Video finally giving this touchstone of American pop culture the release it deserves.