Doctor Who to Dick Tracy: A Geek's Guide to Blu-ray/DVD Sets
Heat Vision presents eight gifts for that special someone on your Christmas list.
The holiday season brings a deluge of Blu-rays. There are gigantic elaborate box sets that seemingly come with everything - including jetpacks; movies timed just for the awards race; and packages that just want to plunder your bank account.
So as a service, Heat Vision is singling out the heroes from the villains:
1) The Doctor is In: The time travel sci-fi show Doctor Who is the highest-rated program on BBC America. The show’s panels at comic conventions rival those of the big movie presentations. And since its rebirth in 2005, the show has won awards, launched careers, and generated spin-offs.
Now, the BBC has released Doctor Who: Limited Edition Gift Set. But this isn't just a Christmas present; it’s a present for the whole year.
It has all six seasons of the show (in five- or six-disc sets, featuring the Doctors played by Christopher Eccleston, David Tenant and the current Doctor, Matt Smith) totaling to 70 hours of television. On top of that are hours of extras. Then there are the specials (TV movies) and their extras, and three original specials seen on DVD for the first time.
Yes I said DVD, not Blu-ray. That’s the one of two cons about this set; the second is the flimsy box it comes in. The set also comes with a Doctor Who Comic-Con comic, three art cards, and a replica of a Sonic Screwdriver, the Doctor’s handy tool.
This set is great for Whovians looking to get everything in one shot, new fans wanting to get caught up, and the uninitiated who need to be inducted. Be prepared to spend $249.95, though.
2) Double Oh Heaven: Could this be one of the best sets ever assembled? All 22 James Bond movies on Blu-ray for the first time, with nine of them making their high-def Blu-ray debut: Goldeneye, Octopussy, The Spy Who Loved Me, You Only Live Twice, The Living Daylights, Tomorrow Never Dies, Diamonds are Forever, A View to a Kill and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service.
Ultra-completists may note that not included are Never Say Never Again and the David Niven spoof Casino Royale. But if you can get beyond that, you can immerse yourself in 130 hours (yes, you read that right) of bonus features -- although most of those had been previously available.
There are two new documentaries, timed for the 50th anniversary of 007. The World of Bond, which looks at the cars, women, villains and music of the movies, and Being Bond, profiling the six actors who’ve played the secret agent to end all secret agents. There is also a Skyfall making of. All are on the 23 disc.
Cost: $299.99, although you can find deals.
3) Watching Watchmen: Watchmen, the seminal comics work by Alan Moore and Dave Gibbons, came back to the spotlight this year when DC Entertainment launched its controversial Before Watchmen line of comics.
The line is about halfway through its run, so what better time to revisit the work than with the Zack Snyder film adaptation AND graphic novel all in one package?
Warner Home Video’s Watchmen Ultimate Cut + Graphic Novel comes with three Blu-rays, including Snyder’s director’s cut, with the animated film Tales of the Black Freighter woven in. Also in the package is a hardcover edition of the graphic novel. (Among other things is the original theatrical cut on DVD.)
One big plus of the set, which costs $74.98, is the Ultimate Cut, which WHV released in 2009 and is now out of print, and selling for beaucoup bucks on eBay.
4) On the Q.T.: Need to prime yourself for Quentin Tarantino’s Django Unchained? Maybe you want a QT marathon but don’t have all the movies? Or perhaps you have a friend that tragically hasn’t seen some of these?
Then be sure to ask Santa for Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection from Lionsgate/Miramax. Every single Tarantino movie is here: Reservoir Dogs, True Romance, Pulp Fiction, Jackie Brown, Kill Bill Vol. 1, Kill Bill Vol. 2, Death Proof and Inglourious Basterds.
That’s all seven of the movies he’s directed -- with True Romance, directed by Tony Scott but written by Tarantino, thrown in for good measure. It’s only too bad that Natural Born Killers (on which he’s got a "story by" credit) and From Dusk Til Dawn (which he wrote) aren’t in this collection.
The movies come with special features but there’s also two discs packed with special features. And in keeping with the hip Tarantino vibe, there’s the great interior fold out artwork by Mondo artist Ken Taylor.
5) The Bat-Trilogy: Well, it’s finally over. Christopher Nolan’s vision for Batman has concluded -- and who would have thought it would end this way, with the final movie dividing fanboys?
Nolan’s trilogy remains an incredibly high benchmark in what superhero movies can be, and with The Dark Knight Trilogy Limited Edition Gift Set, hitting December 7, it’s the perfect time to watch them all in one shot.
The set comes with the three movies, with Dark Knight and Dark Knight Rises getting their own special feature discs. And the set also features Ultraviolet, so you can download and stream the content.
Also included is an excerpted, 64-page version of the coffee table book The Art and Making of The Dark Knight.
The value level on this set is high. Chances are you’re going to get Dark Knight Rises anyway so for a few Batbucks more, you get all three movies and a nice book.
6) Tracy, Tracy, Tracy: More of a stocking stuffer, but what a gift to receive: The sure-to-be-controversial Blu-ray debut of Dick Tracy, Warren Beatty’s 1990 adaptation of the classic comic strip.
The movie made impressions on people for its strong use of primary colors, its art deco design and its music (by co-star Madonna) and score.
Film fans have been waiting for this to hit Blu-ray ($26.50, by the way) for a long time. However, this edition has no extras, which will drive some folks nuts. And some of us are still waiting to see Beatty’s director's cut of the film, which would add more than 10 minutes and maybe, according to rumor, make it R-rated.
Even so - how can you resist it on Blu-ray?
7) A New Empire Strikes Back: Also a good stocking stuffer: Empire of the Sun.
With Lincoln earning Steven Spielberg some of his best accolades in years, this is good chance to check out one of his earliest attempts to be more than just a popcorn movie director.
The movie, an adaptation of J.G. Ballard’s coming-of-age novel about a boy’s life Shanghai during the Japanese invasion, is making its Blu-ray debut on its 25th anniversary.
Technically called Empire of the Sun Blu-ray Book ($34.99), the movie features the studio debut of one Christian Bale, then only 13 years old (with Batman voice still a puberty away).
The book itself is kind of redundant -- do we need quotes from critics saying what a triumph the movie is? We are, after all, watching it – but the set also comes with the DVD Warner at War, a Spielberg-narrated documentary about Warner Bros. and how its movies affected the war effort.
8) Back in Black: Why is the Men in Black Gift Set here? Many geeks gave the latest entry into this franchise a pass. And who can blame them? The second MiB was widely panned as a bloated, lifeless carcass. And with so much time between that 2002 sequel and this one, the prospect of a third Will Smith undercover-alien-fighter movie was all shrugs, no hugs.
Imagine, then, the surprise: the movie was a delight, capturing the spritely feel of the first movie, featuring a couple of good action sequences (love the Chinese restaurant piece), and an unexpectedly poignant climax. The movie also has one of my favorite characters of the year, a humanoid alien played by Michael Stuhlbarg who can see all past and future possibilities at the same time.
Do you really need the gift set box? No -- but it does come with a nifty alien figurine.
Cost: $56.96 on Amazon.