Posted Mon Nov 18, 2013 at 03:40 PM PST by Kevin Yeoman
The holiday season is once again upon us. That means along with the cheer, the eggnog, and the painfully ironic ugly sweaters, it's time to break out High-Def Digest's Holiday Gift Guide 2013. We want to make sure everyone on your shopping list gets exactly what they want this year!
Every year seems to get better and better when it comes to Blu-ray releases, and 2013 is no different. This year has everything from some of the biggest blockbusters of the season, like 'Man of Steel,' 'Iron Man 3' and 'Pacific Rim,' to terrific catalogue releases like 'Assault on Precinct 13' and 'The Right Stuff.' But there are also plenty of stellar TV titles to choose from, like the spectacular 'Hannibal: Season One' and the continuing adventures of Don Draper in 'Mad Men: Season Six.' But that's not all the year had to offer, so lets dive in and take a look at what High-Def goodies everyone will be asking for this holiday season.
Blu-rays To Get You in the Holiday Spirit:
Because the rest of the year is pretty much chock-a-block with fun but clearly lesser holidays – since no one is just handing you awesome Blu-rays in the name of the spirit of giving on, say, 'Groundhog Day' – sometimes you need a little pick me up to get you in that holiday frame of mind. For some, that means keeping a bowl full of "special" eggnog out, while for others it simply means popping in a holiday classic on Blu-ray to get them in the mood. Here are some great holiday Blu-rays to help lift your holiday spirits.
A Charlie Brown Christmas
Nothing says Christmas quite like a prematurely bald child, his ragtag group of friends, and a pet beagle who sometimes fancies himself a fighter pilot. The classic 1965 animated special 'A Charlie Brown Christmas,' based on Charles Schultz' beloved comic strip 'Peanuts,' is the perfect way to get you in the holiday mood and serves as a terrific end to the Charlie Brown holiday trifecta that includes 'It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown' and 'A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving' all of which are guaranteed to leave you misty-eyed and wistfully remembering your childhood.
Mickey's Christmas Carol: 30th Anniversary Special Edition
For many, Disney's adaptation of Charles Dickens' classic 'A Christmas Carol' was their first real exposure to the story of Bob Cratchit, Tiny Tim and, of course, Ebenezer Scrooge. It's hard to believe, but that delightful holiday tale is now a great deal older than your average college freshmen. But despite turning 30, age hasn't limited the magic of 'Mickey's Christmas Carol: 30th Anniversary Special Edition.' Now you can relive one of your favorite childhood films again and again, or perhaps the time has come to share the story with young ones of your own.
Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
You have your choice when it comes to which Grinch you'd like to invite into your home every holiday season to delight in not only his cranky misanthropy, but also in his heart growing three sizes, thanks to the indomitable spirit of the Whos who live in Whoville, and their understanding of the real meaning of Christmas: Making someone feel bad for being different and eventually indoctrinating him in your belief system – or something like that. At any rate, if Chuck Jones' masterful animated effort is more your style then you've got 'Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas!' ready to pop into the ol' Blu-ray player and get yourself in the giving (or taking) mood.
Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
If, for some reason or another (we're not here to judge), you prefer Ron Howard and Jim Carrey making with the crazy to warm the cockles of your heart and make you see that Christmas is a truly wonderful time of year, then we here at High-Def Digest encourage you to let your freak flag fly and to add this version of 'How the Grinch Stole Christmas' to your Blu-ray collection. It may bring a…uh, different kind charm than the animated version, but Carrey more than makes up for it with a captivating performance that shines, even through several layers of green latex.
It's a Wonderful Life
Not a year goes by that audiences the world over (probably) don't marvel at what a wonderful, heartfelt holiday classic Frank Capra's 'It's a Wonderful Life' is, and how Jimmy Stewart will forever be remembered as George Bailey, the man who learns that "No man is a failure who has friends." If ever there was a time to let your cynical guard down to appreciate a heaping helping of sentimentality and good will towards men, it's during the holiday season; and no movie is better suited to helping you shed that guarded exterior and rejoice in just how wonderful life can be.
At the opposite end of the holiday spectrum is the non-holiday-but-holiday-by-default pseudo-Christmas classic 'Die Hard'. Sure, it's hard to imagine Bruce Willis, Alan Rickman, and director John McTiernan thought they'd be making an inadvertent holiday film when John McClane took on Hans Gruber and his merry band of thieves inside Nakatomi Plaza during a Christmas party gone horribly awry, but a quarter of a century later, it's hard not to see this action masterpiece on many best-of holiday lists. Nothing says bring on the Yuletide cheer quite like, "Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho."
Another deconstruction of a Christmas classic, this less-than-heartfelt take on Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' envisions Scrooge in the form of Bill Murray's ultra-cynical television executive Frank Cross as he is visited by three spirits, each with a unique spin on teaching the sarcastic and pessimistic Cross a thing or two about the meaning of Christmas. 'Scrooged' is a hilariously dark change of pace that still packs a pretty powerful holiday punch.
A Nightmare Before Christmas
Maybe it's a Halloween movie, maybe it's a Christmas movie – maybe it's both! At any rate, the terrific, imaginative, and sometimes ghastly 'A Nightmare Before Christmas' is a fantastic way to get yourself in the mood for a little holiday cheer with the help of Jack Skellington and the rest of Halloween Town, as they cross over into another world that's strange and delightful, but not quite ready for ghosts and goblins 365 days a year. It's an odd Christmas favorite to be sure, but it still has plenty of charm, goodnaturedness, and heart – even if the actual organ is likely to be on the outside of the body.
For Kids (or Just the Young at Heart):
You don't necessarily have to be a kid to look forward to receiving one of these titles this holiday season. We here and High-Def Digest like to think that when it comes to fun family movies, age is irrelevant. Besides, this time of year we're all just kids at heart; and with all the delightful, fun-filled movies that made their way to Blu-ray this year, there are plenty of great flicks for everyone to choose from, whether you're young, or just young at heart.
Despicable Me 2(December 10)
The second highest grossing film of the year didn't entirely get there by the charm of its main character Gru, the fact that he's voiced by Steve Carell, or its storyline that involves the Anti-Villain League recruiting a former villain to stop a new menace that's suddenly arisen. No, 'Despicable Me 2' likely rose to the top of the animation heap on the backs of the tiny anthropomorphized Nuprins running around doing Gru's bidding. The Minions were a hit back when the original came out, and the studio wisely put them front and center with this insanely kid-friendly sequel. It doesn't come out until December 10, so if you think your holiday shopping is done, think again; there's likely one person in every family that would be thrilled to receive this as a gift this year.
It's rare, but in the world of garden snails, sometimes freak accidents don't end with someone cackling while holding a salt shaker in their hand. In the case of Dreamwork's 'Turbo,' such an accident is a snail's ticket to living out his dream of becoming the fastest gastropod mollusk on the planet. With a host of recognizable voices that include Ryan Reynolds, Paul Giamatti, and Bill Hader (okay, maybe not so recognizable), 'Turbo' puts a whole new spin (sorry) on the old story of someone small who wasn't afraid to dream big. It may not have caused waves in theaters over the summer, but this one is sure to be a hit with families this holiday season.
Shrek: The Musical
Nothing helps ring in the holidays like the sound of people randomly breaking into song to bring attention to their hopes and dreams, or to just pass the time and melodically list off a whatever it is they happen to be doing at the moment. If you've got a love for Broadway musicals, or a child who just can't get enough of the loveable ogre Shrek, then you can't miss out on the Blu-ray release of 'Shrek: The Musical.' Filmed onstage to capture that magical Broadway experience, this is a unique departure from the CGI animated 'Shrek' movies of the past.
While it's more in the same boat critically as, say, 'Turbo', DreamWorks' loveable family of Neanderthals known as The Croods' stands a pretty good chance of passing your kids' test when it comes to a film that'll keep them entertained while you're wrapping presents, hiding from carolers, or just hanging with the family enjoying an evening of easy (if not crude) laughs wrapped up in a spectacular 3D image on this Blu-ray disc.
Rise of the Guardians
High-Def Digest's Aaron Peck found 'Rise of the Guardians' to be a fun family film with a terrific looking image. And since the movie has been out for a while (it was released near Easter) there is a new holiday edition that comes complete with a wind-up toy of everyone's favorite little elf, Dingle. Since this film pretty much runs through all the major holidays, it's the perfect disc to fire off whenever family is gathering to spend time with one another. Besides, who doesn't want to see a tatted-up Santa Claus and hear the Easter Bunny speak with an Australian accent?
The Little Mermaid: Diamond Edition
It’s a shame that Disney doesn't make classically drawn animated films like 'The Little Mermaid' anymore, but that shift to the style popularized by Pixar has only served to make once celebrated films like this feel even more deserving of praise. And now, the movie has been released on a spectacular-looking Blu-ray, so that you and your young ones can enjoy Ariel, Sebastian, and Flounder again and again. This new Diamond edition will also delight you with the film's original songs in a terrific DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 mix and give you the chance to see the film like never before: in eye-popping 3D. This is a classic animated film given a stupendous edition with the help of some serious technology.
While it's easy to bemoan the apparent death of hand drawn animation, when you see the gorgeous product that comes of Pixar's efforts in 'Monster's University,' it also becomes clear why this shift has occurred in the first place. In the rare prequel that actually works, 'Monsters University' steps into the way-back machine and shows us when Sully met Mike, and how the team that used to make 'em scream got their start. It may not be another classic in the making like Pixar used to churn out with unprecedented regularity and success, but it's a terrific animated movie that's perfect for the whole family and one that will likely become intimately acquainted with your Blu-ray player.
Like 'Cars' and 'Cars 2' before it, 'Planes' feels like a bit of an unimaginative cash-grab, but it's a movie centered on anthropomorphized flying vehicles, so what child isn't going to have at least a passing interest in seeing this? Besides, there are plenty of famous folk lending their voices to the film, including Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Val Kilmer, Teri Hatcher, and Pixar favorite Brad Garrett. So, while your kids are enjoying this brief animated aeronautic adventure (it's just 60 minutes long), you can try and discern which talking plane was once in a movie or TV show you used to watch.
Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United(December 3)
Marvel (and Disney) is still riding high on the smashing success of 'The Avengers' and despite the recent release of 'Thor: The Dark World,' there's still a lot of traction the company can get out of mixing and matching its heroes in slickly animated adventures that don't require massive budgets or much in the way of marketing. Enter 'Iron Man and Hulk: Heroes United,' a quick tale that brings two of the main Avengers together to fight against the likes of HYDRA, the Abomination, and a being of pure electricity known as Zzzax. There's no doubt if your kid is a comic book lover (and he or she should be), they'll love seeing ol' Shellhead and Jade Jaws together in this wild adventure.
Mary Poppins 50th Anniversary Edition(December 10)
It's hard for most movies to be remembered before they make it to the pay-cable networks, let alone be recalled fondly for half a century. But thanks to its enduring qualities, like Julie Andrews' superb performance, some clever animation mixed with live action dance routines and, of course, Dick Van Dyke's absolutely flawless (that should be in the as-yet not invented sarcasm font) Cockney accent, the 'Mary Poppins 50th Anniversary Edition' will likely be a highly sought after disc for you to enjoy with a whole new generation of kids just wishing they had a nanny like Mary Poppins.
For the Comic Book and Sci-Fi Fan:
Let's face it, in this current age of blockbuster-centric cinema, just about everyone is a bit of a comic book fan – otherwise, who's helping these films make so much money? But comic book films also appeal to audiences who generally like a little science with their fiction, or some fantasy thrown in for good measure. Because, if you're going to a world of make believe, you might as well go all out and really enjoy yourself, right? Here's a list of some great choices for the comic book, sci-fi, and fantasy lover on your shopping list.
The Wolverine(December 3)
He's the best there is at what he does, and from the looks of it, what he does is work out 16 hours a day. Aside from making everyone feel self conscious due to Hugh Jackman's physique, 'The Wolverine' also helps correct mistakes of the past; namely, 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine' ¬– which didn’t exactly live up to the standards many had thought the beer-swilling Canadian was worthy of. Sure, this isn't the sure-to-have-been-weird-as-hell Darren Aronofsky version that will never be, but James Mangold stepped in and certainly showed that the action chops he established on 'Knight and Day' weren't a one time deal.
Man of Steel
At one point thought to be a contender for the biggest movie of the year, Zack Snyder's somewhat contentious, flashy take on the Big Blue Boy Scout drew criticism for its depiction of superhero carnage and for its divisive ending. But, at the end of the day, 'Man of Steel' wound up being the starting point for the shared DC Universe Warner Bros. has been so desperate to make happen. In the end, it may not have been everyone's cup of tea, but for better or worse, this is the Superman the film world deserves right now, even if it may not be the Superman the world needs. Either way, the chances are pretty good you'll know someone who is crossing his or her fingers Kal-El crash lands in Blu-ray form at their house this holiday season.
Star Trek Into Darkness
J.J. Abrams' revisionist take on the 'Star Trek' franchise made for an incredibly light and enjoyable (if conflict-ridden) film in 2009, so it's not surprising to think that his long-awaited follow-up 'Star Trek Into Darkness' would manage to split 'Star Trek' fandom even further. As is normally the case, though, there are plenty of people who found a great deal to love about this Benedict Cumberbatch-centric Trek outing. So whether you're an Abrams convert and you're just trying to get someone onboard, or you have an old Trekkie at home who's been particularly good this year, then 'Star Trek Into Darkness' might be the perfect gift.
GI Joe: Retaliation
Sometimes, as with 'The Wolverine,' a sequel is less a sequel and more of a do-over. That certainly seems to be the case with 'G.I. Joe: Retaliation,' since it brought Dwayne Johnson to take over as leading man for Channing Tatum. While the results might have been mixed, 'Retaliation' certainly did its best to bring a more Joe-like feel to the movie, replacing super-suits with the more militarized action that the toy line and cartoon franchise is known for. Whether you know an old school fan of the cartoon and toys, or you've got a newcomer who loves all things 'G.I. Joe,' this film will likely be a must have for them.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition
It's a good bet that Peter Jackson's indulgent first installment of a new trilogy, 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition' will be on many a wish list this year. After the success of the 'Lord of the Rings Trilogy: Extended Editions' fans are eagerly anticipating some amazing additions to the fantastical early adventures of Bilbo Baggins and Gandalf the Grey. While many were split on the movie itself, 'The Hobbit' continues Peter Jackson's reputation as a visually gifted storyteller, with a unique knack for bringing the work of J.R.R. Tolkien to life (in extremely long films). This would make a tremendous addition to any Tolkien fan's Blu-ray library – whether they have the original edition or not.
Iron Man 3
The biggest film of 2013 is sure to be on plenty of people's holiday wish lists – and if it's not, then it should be added to them by default, as Shane Black's lively interpretation of the Armored Avenger with 'Iron Man 3' turned Tony Stark into the main attraction, while the suit that made him a superhero takes something of a back seat. At any rate, for those who don't already own a copy, there are plenty of versions to choose from, including 3D, and the limited edition steelbook (why is it not called "ironbook"?) version pictured above. With all those choices, and with Iron Man being hotter now than he ever was in his 40 years of existence, this one is going to be making its way into even more homes this holiday season.
DCU: Batman: The Dark Knight Returns Deluxe Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack
Previously released in two separate editions: 'Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Part 1' and 'Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Part 2,' but months apart, you can now own the whole animated Dark Knight Saga in one hand-dandy collectors edition that's a little like skipping monthly titles to wait for the inevitable trade paperback or omnibus. And now, for those of you who were patient enough (or don't mind double-dipping as long as it's a gift) the 'Batman: The Dark Knight Returns – Deluxe Edition' combines both animated movies adapting Frank Miller's classic take on a aged Batman taking back the Gotham he fought to protect years ago, while also putting a spiked boot into the face of his old pal Superman. This deluxe edition will perfectly suit all of your grim and gritty crime fighting needs in the year to come.
Director Joseph Kosinski may be one of the most visually interesting directors working today, and with his follow-up to 'TRON Legacy,' he joined forces with Tom Cruise for 'Oblivion,' a spectacular-looking science fiction romp across a desolate earth. With its lush visuals and sumptuous soundtrack from M83, this was a surprising early entry to the summer movie season that cemented Kosinski as a filmmaker to keep an eye on, and proved that Cruise didn't need a franchise to make an action movie successful. Leaning a little more to the heavier science fiction side of things, this one will no doubt make it to many a sci-fi fans' must-have list. Besides, with near perfect picture and sound, 'Oblivion' is practically a must own for any HD enthusiast anyway.
The highest grossing live-action film of 2013 based on an original intellectual property, 'Pacific Rim' is Guillermo Del Toro's love letter to the mechs vs. monsters slugfest subgenre that's seemingly popular everywhere but the United States (maybe 'Pacific Rim' is an unintentional metaphor for soccer?). While it took some effort to convince people that big robots fighting huge, Godzilla like monsters would be a good time and well worth their hard earned cash, this international blockbuster seems to have found an even larger following now that it's out on home video. So do the film lover in your family a favor and gift them a marvelously fun and enjoyable movie, and help broaden someone's science fiction horizons.
Arrow: The Complete First Season
Not many people thought that The CW's newest foray into the world of superheroes would yield positive results, so when 'Arrow' came along and gave the network its biggest hit in years, many were taken aback. Now that the series is entering its second season – which is airing right now – fans of the show can pick up 'Arrow: The Complete First Season' and check out how Oliver Queen got his start as the would-be savior of Starling City. This set includes both Blu-ray and DVD discs containing all 23 episodes, plus a handful of extras like deleted scenes and some featurettes on the many stunts depicted in the show. This great set would be the perfect gift for someone who has just gotten into 'Arrow' or has been a longtime fans of the Green Arrow character.
One of the things science fiction has typically done very well is bring to light certain social issues, and as his follow-up to the socially-minded hit 'District 9,' director Neill Blomkamp has chosen to tackle similar issues with regard to race, class, and economics in 'Elysium.' This time around, Blomkamp has invited Jason Bourne himself, Matt Damon, to the party as an unlikely working-class hero named Max who undertakes an impossible mission to bring real change to a world literally divided into the haves and the have nots. This one will be arriving just before the Christmas holiday, on December 17, so pre-order now, or save this one for any last minute shopping you have to do. It'll make a great gift for the hard-to-please sci-fi fan on your shopping list.
For People Who Want More than Just a Movie:
…and of course, by that we mean people who like to get a little collectible action going with their Blu-ray purchase. You know, something to put on the mantle, or the bookshelf that will really tie the place together and give you something to look at in between marathon viewings of 'The Hobbit' or every single 'Star Trek' film ever made. Some of these are film's that are likely already on many people's wish lists, but it's not too late to get really specific to make sure you get the version everyone else is going to be really envious about.
Pacific Rim: Limited Collector's Edition 3D Blu-ray
Some people just can't get enough Kaiju. So for those people, let us prescribe the 'Pacific Rim: Limited Collector's Edition.' This set includes the Blu-ray 3D + Blu-ray + DVD +UltraViolet Combo Pack and a collectible figure/statue of the Jaeger piloted by Charlie Hunnam in the film. If you have a person on your list who doesn't already own 'Pacific Rim' and was a huge fan, this is the edition you'll want to make sure they get.
Star Trek: The Stardate Collection(all films on Blu-ray)
This amazing 12-disc set brings all of the 'Star Trek' films together in one box set known as 'Star Trek: The Stardate Collection.' This is the perfect gift for the lifelong Trekkie who hasn't made the upgrade to Blu-ray, or for the novice, who needs to be educated as to the ways of 'Star Trek,' and its storied, multi-picture saga that has spanned several decades and several different incarnations and casts. There's no better way to get all these films together in one place, and to set up that New Year's Eve movie marathon that will have you setting your phasers to stunned.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition with Limited Edition Amazon Exclusive Bilbo/Gollum Statue
This edition is an Amazon exclusive that contains 'The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey Extended Edition' (3D + Blu-ray), as well as a statue depicting Gollum and Bilbo from Weta Workshop sculptor Gary Hunt titled: 'Riddles in the Dark.' This is a must have for anyone who is a fan of The Hobbit and The Lord of the Rings books or movies, and who wants to show their fandom off with a little something extra from the world famous Weta Workshop.
Doctor Who: Series 1-7 Limited Edition Blu-ray Giftset
Steady yourself Who fans, the ultimate 'Doctor Who: Series 1-7 Limited Edition Blu-ray Giftset' has arrived on Blu-ray. This insane giftset contains all of the recent 'Doctor Who' seasons (1-7, or the Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, and Matt Smith years, respectively). Making it an even dreamier proposition is the revelation that series 1-4 have been completely remastered at full 1080p resolution. Included in the hefty giftset is also a replica of the good Doctor's trusty Sonic Screwdriver. Now you can ring in the 50th anniversary of 'Doctor Who' with this ultimate collection on Blu-ray.
X-Men: Adamantium Collection(December 3)
This special edition contains all six X-Men films on Blu-ray: 'X-Men,' 'X2,' 'X-Men: The Last Stand,' 'X-Men Origins: Wolverine,' 'X-Men: First Class,' and 'The Wolverine.' But best of all, the discs come with and exclusive "claw" packaging that would make a delightful edition atop anyone's stack of X-Men comic books or to claim the top spot on your bookshelf full of Blu-rays and DVDs.
The Walking Dead: Season 3 Limited Edition
People love AMC's 'The Walking Dead' so much they've made it one of the highest rated programs on television. In fact, it regularly beats out Sunday Night Football in terms of viewership. To upset America's obsession with the ol' pigskin is something remarkable indeed, and to commemorate that ratings triumph, AMC and Anchor Bay have teamed with McFarlane Toys to produce this limited edition box set depicting the Governor's collection of heads floating in two stacked aquariums. Sure, it's not exactly holiday friendly, but in keeping with the spirit of things, it's the thought that counts. And thinking this will make someone very happy is probably spot on.
To Keep Away the Holiday Blues:
The holidays are generally a time of joy and merriment, but they can also be a little stressful – especially if you have family visiting, or are doing the visiting yourself. But what better way to make sure you keep a smile on your face through all the forced caroling, the awkward hugs with distant relatives, or that aunt that never misses an opportunity to tell you how much weight you've gained, than to pop in a comedy on Blu-ray and let actual funny people brighten your celebration? Here are some of the movies that will provide you with your recommended dose of the giggles when you need them the most.
If anything, 'The Heat' proved two things: That R-rated comedies are still a viable option for studios and should be made more often, and that comedies don't need a man in the lead role to be a huge success. Director Paul Feig has come a long way since 'Freaks and Geeks' broke everyone's heart with its endearing storylines, and then broke everyone's heart again when it was unceremoniously dumped by NBC. But he's risen to the top in recent years with the success of 'Bridesmaids' and his follow-up 'The Heat,' starring Melissa McCarthy and Academy Award-winning actress Sandra Bullock. This twist on the typical action-buddy comedy will bring plenty of laughs and will brighten any holiday gathering (provided the kids are already in bed).
Modern Family: The Complete Fourth Season
The Emmy juggernaut 'Modern Family' is not only a winner of awards and ratings, it's also a genuinely funny sitcom that eschews a studio audience for the single-camera experience with terrific results. And now, with 'Modern Family: The Complete Fourth Season' you can make someone's holidays a little cheerier as they watch and compare their own eccentric family foibles to the ones being depicted onscreen. The show has already entered its fifth season and shows no sign of slowing down. This will be the perfect gift for longtime fans of the series, or newbies as well.
Despite the fact that Vince Vaughn has made about a dozen movies where he essentially plays Vince Vaughn in different "wacky" scenarios, he seems to have an ability to make people laugh…well, some people. 'The Internship' didn't turn out to be the mega-hit in the vein of 'The Wedding Crashers' many in the biz were likely hoping it would be, but if you're looking for a Blu-ray that will make you crack a smile here and there, or at least forget the world for about two hours then you could do worse. Get this for any recently-graduated college student and congratulate then on their job at Starbucks.
Anchorman: The Rich Mahogany Edition(December 3)
Reminding people everywhere the film that is sure to be the toast of the holiday comedy season, 'Anchorman 2: The Legend Continues' was spawned from a small comedy that believed in itself called 'Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy,' comes a new special edition just in time for the gift-giving called, 'Anchorman: The Rich Mahogany Edition.' This special edition includes both rated and unrated versions of the film, plus a collectible booklet, 'The Many Months of Ron Burgundy,' and trading cards of all the characters of the film. If you're excited for the sequel, or know someone who is, this special edition will become a must-have for the holidays.
We're the Millers(November 19)
Jason Sudeikis is the latest member of SNL to leave the relatively safe confines of the show to explore new opportunities in the world of feature films. One of the first films he's starred in was 'We're the Millers' – the first film to be produced by CollegeHumor – and he's brought along Jennifer Aniston, Emma Roberts, and Will Poulter to help him sneak two metric tons of marijuana from Mexico to Colorado in an RV. Sure sounds like laughs will abound, as the film also includes appearances from Ed Helms, Nick Offerman and Kathryn Hahn. It's full of R-rated (or, in the case of the Blu-ray, unrated) madcap, drug-related hilarity for the whole family to enjoy (just kidding; it's probably just going to be one for the college student on your list).
This is The End
One of the funniest films to be released in 2013, is also one of the only films ever that's made by, about, and primarily for its own cast. 'This is the End' takes a stoner's look at the apocalypse and combines it with a heavy helping of inside-showbiz jokes that are certainly not for everyone, but chances are there's someone on your list who will enjoy the self-deprecating, back-slapping humor of Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jay Baruchel, Danny McBride, and Craig Robinson. Besides, there are plenty of (brief) celebrity cameos to enjoy while taking a ride through the end of the world with the sinners who were left behind. With a ton of special features, including commentary by Rogen, 'This is the End' would make a great gift for someone on your list – and an even better gift for those who actually appeared in the movie.
The World's End(November 19)
Wrapping up their 'Three Flavours Cornetto Trilogy,' director Edgar Wright, his co-writer/actor Simon Pegg, and the hilarious Nick Frost get together again for 'The World's End.' This Blu-ray not only boasts one the best comedies of the year, it also comes jam packed with hours of special features, celebrating the film itself, as well as the collaboration between the three men, which has brought audiences so much enjoyment. If you have fans of 'Shaun of the Dead' or 'Hot Fuzz' on your list, then this will be a wonderful treat to make sure they get this holiday season.
For the Horror Aficionado:
Although the season for horror has come and gone, there's no time like the present (i.e., holidays) to get stocked up on plenty of spooky, gory, and down-right wicked horror titles to get ready for next Halloween. Besides, if the thought of a big fat guy in a red suit breaking into everyone's homes via the chimney isn't the stuff nightmares are made of, I don't know what is. Maybe the holidays are the perfect time to enjoy some horror flicks on Blu-ray after all.
Fright Night 2
The 'Fright Night' remake starring Colin Farrell ignited a sequel, apparently, and they brought along 'Defiance' star Jaime Murray to help make things a little more interesting. This direct-to-video sequel may not have attracted legions of fans, but it does have the benefit of a recognizable title that will likely pique the interest of anyone remotely interested in the non-romantic side of bloodsuckers. So, while 'Fright Night 2' may have flown under the radar of many, there's a good chance it'll wind up putting a blood curdling smile on some horror fan's face this holiday season.
World War Z
The little zombie movie that could, 'World War Z' overcame mountains of bad press, re-shoots, massive rewrites, and rumors of behind-the-scenes quarrelling, to become an international hit that will likely spawn a sequel. Surprisingly, though it bears little resemblance to the novel from which it derives its title, the film actually wound up being a fairly solid zombie apocalypse adventure that gave us a globe-hopping Brad Pitt, some exciting action set pieces and the appearance of future Doctor Who, Peter Cullen, as a character prophetically named 'W.H.O. Doctor.' Available in a 3D version, too, this unlikely zombie hit will be a welcome addition to any horror or zombie buff's Blu-ray collection.
Eyes Without a Face
We would be remiss if we didn't included Criterion's incredible Blu-ray release of Georges Franju's disturbing 'Eyes Without a Face,' a film that still manages to pack a wallop 43 years after its release. Remastered in HD to highlight the gorgeous black and white cinematography, and complete with all the supplements we've come to know and appreciate Criterion for, this 1960 French horror film is a must-have for anyone interested in seeing a captivating take on the genre that is generationally and culturally different. As an added bonus, this disc included Franju's disturbingly graphic documentary 'Blood of the Beasts,' which gives viewers a sublimely horrific inside look at a working abattoir.
Home invasion has essentially become another subgenre in the horror field, and 'The Purge,' a home invasion flick with a twist that stars Ethan Hawke, became a decent hit in theaters this year. With its compelling dystopian storyline that sees a society allowing all crime to be legal one night a year, the film does it's best to offer a little more commentary on things than your average horror film. This dark ride is certainly not going to be for everyone, but if you know a horror fan, who also likes 'The Strangers,' or just can't get enough of Ethan Hawke or Lena Headey (and really, who among us can say that they can?), then this will make the perfect addition to anyone's holiday treats.
This spine-tingler from 'Saw' and 'Insidious' director James Wan was a hit with both audiences and critics this year, and now that it's out on Blu-ray, it will make the perfect gift this holiday season. 'The Conjuring' is a rare film that will genuinely give the audience goosebumps and make them jump out of their seat, but it also offers a compelling story and terrific acting from Patrick Wilson, Vera Farmiga, and Lili Taylor. It's the kind of horror movie most fans wished Hollywood made more of, making it an even more coveted gift this year, as it will likely be one disc that gets played time and time again.
American Horror Story: Asylum
Sure, we could have put this in the TV section of this list, but considering the disturbing lengths that Ryan Murphy and Brad Falchuk went to in creating the second season of their horror anthology series with < 'American Horror Story: Asylum,' we figured it had certainly earned its place in the horror category. Besides, your average horror junkie is more likely to want this come the holidays than anyone else, so why not give them 13 episodes of insanity, aliens, demons, Nazis, and murderous Santa Clauses to help make their season bright?
For Her (Moms, Wives, Sisters, etc.):
Whether you're shopping for your wife, your girlfriend, your sister, or good ol' mom, you want to make sure you're picking up something that speaks to her, and isn't just a copy of something you might not mind watching also. There are plenty of great Blu-rays out this year that are guaranteed to be the perfect gift for the lady on your list.
The Guilt Trip
It's called 'The Guilt Trip' because once all moms reach a certain age, they develop a preternatural ability to make their children (and sometimes everyone else in the world) feel guilty about anything and everything imaginable. Barbara Streisand and Seth Rogen may seem like an odd pairing for a mother-son road trip movie, but there's plenty on this Blu-ray to keep someone entertained for hours. Besides, you actually went out and bought something for the holidays, so that's got to count for something, right?
James Dean Ultimate Collector’s Edition
Who wouldn't appreciate three unforgettable films from legendary actor James Dean? This incredible 7-Disc set (3 Blu-rays, 4 DVDs) includes 'East of Eden', 'Rebel Without a Cause,' and 'Giant,' all on Blu-ray. But 'The Ultimate James Dean Collection' also comes with a commemorative 40-page hardcover book, three mini reproductions of the original theatrical movie posters, authentic production memos from 'East of Eden' and 'Rebel Without a Cause,' and a collection of behind-the-scenes photos. This collection is perfect for any James Dean fan on your shopping list.
Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Edition
It's incredibly hard to believe the film that we all grew up watching is celebrating its 75th anniversary. To help commemorate the occasion, Warner Bros. has released this amazing 'Wizard of Oz 75th Anniversary Edition' with your choice of regular high-def or 3D. Either way, whoever is lucky enough to get this for the holidays will also be treated to an all-new documentary on the making of 'The Wizard of Oz,' plus some brand new memorabilia, which includes a 75th anniversary journal, Sparkle Ruby Slippers snow globe, Noble Collection 3-piece enamel pin set, a map of Oz, and a 48-page hardcover book.
The To Do List
'The To Do List' is not only a nostalgic look back at the '90s, it's also a woman-centric twist on the popular teen sex comedies of the '80s. Written and directed by Maggie Carey, this comedy starring Aubrey Plaza could be the out-of-left-field Blu-ray gift someone on your shopping list didn’t know they were hoping for. With it's terrific HD picture and supplements that include commentary from the director and one of the stars of the film, Bill Hader, this little movie might make someone very happy this season.
Twilight Forever: The Complete Saga Box Set
Whether you love it or hate it, 'The Twilight Saga' was a cultural phenomenon that spawned five movies and made stars of Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson. No matter how much you may have tried to avoid it, there's bound to be someone you know who would love to get this incredible 10-disc Blu-ray set from you for the holidays. Show someone how much you care by giving 'Twilight Forever: The Complete Saga' to a good and loving home. In addition to all five movies and a load of special features, this set also includes a special hardcover book filled with photos and information from the making of the series.
For Him (Dads, Husbands, Brothers, etc.):
Despite the belief that men are pretty easy to shop for – especially when it concerns entertainment – there's more to what a guy wants out of movies than explosions, car chases, and the kind of fisticuffs Jason Bourne dreams about nightly. Actually, who are we kidding? – guys of all ages eat that kind of stuff up, and here's a list of great titles that'll make any guy's holidays bright.
Jack Ryan Collection(December 3)
Middle-aged dads everywhere lost a hero this year when Tom Clancy passed away suddenly at the age of 66. The world lost an entertaining writer and creator that day, and while his Jack Ryan character will live on in theaters next year, someone on your shopping list can relive all of his previous adventures when 'The Jack Ryan Collection' hits Blu-ray on December 3. Collecting 'The Hunt for Red October,' 'Patriot Games,' 'Clear and Present Danger,' and 'The Sum of All Fears,' this four disc box set will put a smile on any red-blooded American male's face this holiday season.
Raiders of the Lost Ark(December 17)
Hard as it may be to believe, some people may prefer to own just one Indiana Jones movie over the entire 'Indiana Jones Collection.' If there's a person like that on your shopping list (or you're just too cheap to plunk down for the entire box set), now they (and you) have a choice – on December 17 that is. That's when you can get single discs of every movie in the Indiana Jones series, so this holiday season, why not get someone you know the movie that started it all, with 'Raiders of the Lost Ark,' and show them just how amazing that movie can look in HD? It may not be the whole series, but if you know a guy who found a little less to love in each installment, the first is always the best.
Pain & Gain: Collector's Edition(December 3)
Michael Bay's ripped-from-the-headlines comedy 'Pain & Gain' starring Mark Whalberg and Dwayne Johnson is getting the Collector's Edition treatment in early December, which is the perfect time to pick this up for anyone who's either a fan of Bay's movies, or has an interest in bodybuilding or even grand larceny. This 2-disc edition comes with a new cover box, and is loaded with special features that the original release was lacking. Whether this is a double-dip for the owner who was left wanting more from the previous release, or a gift for someone who's never seen it, but is likely love Bay's take on some real-life criminal antics, this collector's edition will make the perfect gift.
Argo: The Declassified Extended Edition(December 3)
Before he was Batman, Ben Affleck was the director and star of the Academy Award-winning drama 'Argo' and on December 3 the highly-anticipated 'Argo: The Declassified Exented Edition' will be released. The special edition comes jam packed with exclusive HD features like the extended 129-minute cut of the film, an in-depth 64-page book with behind-the-scenes photographs, a movie poster reproduction of the film's unproduced sci-fi film, and a map of Argo movie locations. This is a must-have for anyone interested in the true story of 'Argo' or is just a fan of the film itself.
The Lone Ranger(December 17)
Disney's attempt at launching a new Johnny Depp-led franchise was halted this summer with the poor box-office reception of Gore Verbinski's big budget spectacle 'The Lone Ranger.' And while the film earned a bad reputation while it was in theaters, now is the opportunity to pass the film along to someone who might have an appreciation for The Lone Ranger from when they were a kid, or, in an effort to stop the bandwagoning going on with regard to the perception of the film, you can help give this film the second chance that maybe it deserves. It certainly isn't going to be for everyone, but there's no doubt someone on your list who will get a kick out of this wild, indulgent western-fantasy.
For the TV Lover:
Whether he or she is always nestled in front of the tube, has a DVR that's constantly full of TV shows, or just likes the more deliberate pace that television can sometimes offer, there are plenty of great shows on Blu-ray just waiting to make it into someone's collection this holiday season. From single seasons, to sixth seasons, and even box sets of entire series, TV lovers will have a lot to look forward to this year.
Mad Men: Season 6
Arguably the most uneven and messy (perhaps deliberately?) season of Matthew Weiner's magnificent television series yet, 'Mad Men: Season 6' brings the ins and outs of Don Draper and the rest of the SCDP crew to the year 1968, and the results, we'll just say, are as tumultuous as the year itself. This set includes all 13 episodes of the season in stunning HD, with a spectacular sounding DTS-HD Master Audio soundtrack, to capture all of David Carbonara's brilliant score. Also included are a handful of informative and enlightening special features that don't quite make up for the lack of commentary, but are a nice addition nonetheless. This season is a must-own for anyone who's a fan of the series, or just wants to keep their 'Mad Men' collection up to date.
Breaking Bad: The Complete Series(November 26)
2013 saw one of the most highly regarded series ever to grace the small screen come to an end with the final season of Vince Gilligan's masterful crime saga 'Breaking Bad.' While the lack of Walter White on our televisions for a few Sunday nights a year is a hard pill to swallow, we can now relive his story anytime we like with 'Breaking Bad: The Complete Series.' This special box set includes all 62 episodes of the series, plus hours of special bonus features, including a two-hour documentary that chronicles the making of the last eight episodes in the series. The set also features a replica barrel that houses all 16 discs, as well as a Los Pollos Hermanos apron, a collectible booklet and a commemorative Breaking Bad challenge coin. There will likely be someone on your shopping list who wants this amazing collection, so preorder now.
Hannibal: Season 1
Taking many people by surprise, Bryan Fuller's sumptuously detailed 'Hannibal: Season 1' not only gave TV fans a gorgeous-looking new series to fawn over, but he also rescued Dr. Hannibal Lecter from being forever thought of as some bug-eyed boogeyman and quasi-antihero. Instead, the series puts Lecter back on the fringe of things; it's where he belongs and where he can manipulate those around him with his superior intellect and, uh, culinary tastes. This Blu-ray release of the first season includes commentary on select episodes, storyboards, and a gag reel (which takes on a whole new meaning when a cannibal is involved). This was certainly one of the best new shows of 2013, and it shouldn't be missed this holiday season.
Homeland: The Complete Second Season
For anyone sitting through season 3 right now, you can look back on 'Homeland: The Complete Second Season' to see the last time the series seemed to have a clear storyline, as well as the threads of the narrative that got them to the less-than-stellar point it's at right now. With this superb Blu-ray, you can relive all the crying, the assassinations, and the bombings that made the season such a water cooler topic for the second year in a row. With excellent picture and sound, 'Homeland: The Complete Second Season' is a must own for fans of the show, and it will make a pretty good gift for anyone who has been looking to discover a new series, but is behind because they don't have Showtime.
Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season
HBO has a true phenomenon on its hands when you consider the type of world-building that's being done on a weekly basis with 'Game of Thrones,' and that world of Westeros only expanded with the release of 'Game of Thrones: The Complete Second Season' on Blu-ray. True, this title, and the one above it have been out for several months, but no one can deny that seeing this incredible adaptation of George R.R. Martin's fantasy novels on Blu-ray wouldn't put a smile on nearly anyone's face. Collecting all 10 episodes of season 2, this edition includes a complete guide to Westeros, seven audio commentaries, several behind-the-scenes featurettes, and hidden dragon eggs that contain never-before-seen footage. Come the holidays, this Blu-ray disc set will be as highly sought after as the Iron Throne itself.
Well, that's the end of the High-Def Digest 2013 Holiday Gift Guide. It's been a busy year for Blu-rays and there's more than we can possibly hope to list here. Be sure to check out our reviews between now and the end of the year to see if any other great titles deserve to be on your shopping list. As always, from all of us here at High-Def Digest to all of our loyal readers, thank you for your support, and Happy Holidays!
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