Holiday Geek Gift Guide 2011: DVDs & Blu-rays

I was about to start out this gift guide by writing some pretentious crap about the unifying power of cinema and television and how the greatest art form of the past century would make the perfect Christmas gift for that demanding loved one of yours, but then I put down the cough syrup and slapped some sense into myself.

But it is true that when you’re not sure what to buy someone as a present you can always surprise them with a fine movie or a boxed set of their favorite television series. Then as you sit back and watch their face light up with the joy of angels singing harmoniously in Heaven when they open the gift you can take a sip of spiked egg nog and let out a hearty Errol Flynn laugh because you are victorious and you didn’t even try.

That’s why we here at Geeks of Doom want to aid you in your soul-destroying quest to find that ideal DVD or Blu-ray if you’ve got the extra dough (and you drink silver chalices full of orphan tears), for that special someone in your life.

We wish we could give you a run down of every DVD and Blu-ray currently available for sale, but time is of the essence and I’m getting cross-eyed just writing this. So for this year’s Holiday Geek Gift Guide: DVD & Blu-ray Edition I’ve narrowed the list down to the true geek essentials of 2011, the biggest hits, the weirdest flicks, and the modern cathode classics that make getting up to turn the television on worth all the effort especially if you don’t even own a remote control (and if that’s true you have a real problem). I anxious await all the “Hey moron you forgot to mention….” responses in the comments section.

More Brains!: A Return to the Living Dead
It’s been more than a quarter of a century since Dan O’Bannon, the screenwriter of Alien, gave the zombie movie a fresh coat of paint and blasted some new wave punk in its decaying ears with the original Return of the Living Dead. Now the amped-up comic horror classic is being honored with this comprehensive retrospective documentary featuring new interviews with nearly every living (and undead) participant and loads of unearthed behind-the-scenes footage and production photographs. The DVD also features two hours of bonus content including mini-docs focusing on the first two Return of the Living Dead sequels, deleted scenes, and O’Bannon’s final interview. Essential viewing for the serious horror fan in your family.

Captain America: The First Avenger
DVD | Blu-ray | Blu-ray 3D
Marvel Comics’ Sentinel of Liberty is no stranger to film and television adaptations, but under the direction of former visual effects wizard Joe Johnston (The Rocketeer, Jurassic Park III) Captain America finally gets the big-screen adventure the character has so richly deserved since he first graced the pages of his own comic book series seventy years ago. Scrawny but good-hearted Steve Rogers (Chris Evans) is handpicked to become the first in a new breed of super-soldiers to combat the rising threat of the Nazis and quickly finds himself pitted against the ultimate evil of the Red Skull (Hugo Weaving) and the forces of Hydra. A stirring epic adventure and one of the finest superhero movies ever made. The DVD and Blu-ray include loads of special features including a director’s commentary, behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, and a Marvel One Shot short film that ties into the events of Thor. Speaking of which….

DVD | Blu-ray | Blu-ray 3D
The second of Marvel Comics’ classic roster of heroes to get their first cinematic treatment this year, the mighty Thor (Chris Hemsworth), the legendary Asgardian God of Thunder, is banished to Earth for his arrogance and foolishness by his father Odin (Anthony Hopkins). Now that he walks among humans Thor must learn humanity and become the great warrior king he was meant to be as his devious brother Loki (Tom Hiddleston) plots to take over Odin’s throne and bring war upon their peaceful realm. Natalie Portman, Kat Dennings, and Stellan Skarsgard co-star in Shakespearean actor/director Kenneth Branagh‘s soaring epic packed with wild digital spectacle and intimate human drama. The DVD and Blu-ray come with a vast assortment of extras including a commentary with Branagh, deleted scenes, featurettes, and another Marvel One Shot short film. Like Captain America, Thor is a grand comic book adventure that actually improves with subsequent viewings.

X-Men: First Class
DVD | Blu-ray
British producer-turned-filmmaker Matthew Vaughn (Kick-Ass) finally gets his chance to make an X-Men movie six years after he departed the troubled production of X-Men 3 only to be replaced by Brett “If you believe in the rehearsal process you must not enjoy the intimate company of the female persuasion” Ratner. The result is a cracking period adventure that takes Marvel’s uncanny mutants back to their origins and ends up as possibly the best X-film to date. Vaughn dodged any potential prequel pitfalls with shrewd casting, a witty and emotional screenplay (co-written with his wife Jane Goldman), and a slew of terrific action sequences. Set against the backdrop of the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis future Professor X Charles Xavier (James McAvoy) unites with Holocaust survivor and fellow mutant Erik Lensherr (Michael Fassbender) to create a new super-team to hopefully keep the U.S. and the Soviet Union from engaging in a potentially devastating nuclear war being provoked by evil mutant mastermind Sebastian Shaw (Kevin Bacon). The DVD and Blu-ray include deleted scenes, a comprehensive documentary on the film’s making, and an isolated music score track.

DVD | Blu-ray
The surprise comedy hit of the year not only goes down as another winner from producer Judd Apatow, but as a personal triumph for Saturday Night Live star Kristen Wiig, director Paul Feig (the creator of Freaks & Geeks), and a talented crew and supporting cast who ran circles around the bigger names at the multiplex this summer. Wiig plays a single woman whose personal and professional life are in severe disarray when she’s asked to be the maid of honor at her best friend’s (Maya Rudolph) wedding. Hilarity of all kinds obviously ensues, but the raunch doesn’t come without a wealth of priceless character moments and near-flawless writing. No wonder why this movie is actually being talked about as an Oscar contender; it’s just that good. The DVD and Blu-ray comes with hours of commentaries, featurettes, outtakes, deleted and alternate scenes, and special BR enabled features.

Battle Beyond the Stars
DVD | Blu-ray
The Roger Corman-produced outer space swashbuckler shares a lot of the same DNA as the infinitely more successful Star Wars, but Battle Beyond the Stars is probably best known for the vast amount of future filmmaking superstars it had working behind the scenes, such as screenwriter John Sayles (who also wrote Piranha for Corman), producer Gale Anne Hurd (The Walking Dead), and Aliens/Titanic director James Cameron, who worked in Corman’s special effects department. The movie itself is pure cinema cheddar most of the time but it’s also fantastic, unpretentious B-movie fun that make get dated but will never go out of style. The movie is available on both DVD and for the first time on Blu-ray and the disc feature some great new features mixed in with a few old favorites; you get commentaries, retrospective interviews, still galleries, and gloriously cheesy vintage trailers. Cult cinema at its finest.

Star Wars: The Complete Saga
The saga is complete and finally available in high-definition, and of course George Lucas wasn’t about to unleash his intergalactic epic on a new format without making a few more alterations. But those controversial changes aside the Skywalker Family adventures have never looked better for home viewing and the Star Wars: The Complete Saga set comes with untold hours of bonus features including multiple commentaries, documentaries, and never-before-seen deleted scenes from the original trilogy.

The Lord of the Rings: The Motion Picture Trilogy Extended Edition
The release of The Hobbit is now just a little over a year away so there’s no better time than to start immersing yourself in Peter Jackson‘s grand-standing, multiple Oscar-winning fantasy epic trilogy that became the new standard-bearer in genre cinema just as the Star Wars trilogy did back in the late 1970’s. Each film in this set is the extended edition specially created for the home entertainment market by Jackson and they are now much more fuller, enriching viewing experiences. You get nearly twelve hours of movie and all the extra features from the previous DVD releases of the Extended Edition trilogy are here as well, including hours of fully detailed documentaries, art and photo galleries, and audio commentary tracks from practically every major player in the production.

Superman: The Motion Picture Anthology 1978-2006
The Last Son of Krypton. The Man of Tomorrow. The Man of Steel. Superman, my friends. Before Batman took to the roofs of Gotham and Peter Parker met his first radioactive spider the alpha dog of cinematic superheroes was the first major post-Star Wars film franchise to send comic and movie geeks’ hearts into palpitations every few years. This set collects all five of Superman’s big screen adventures made over the course of nearly three decades along with several hours’ worth of special features including director and producer commentaries, new and vintage documentaries, deleted scenes, isolated music score tracks, classic Max Fleischer Superman cartoons from the 1940’s, and tons more surprises (just wait until you see the unsold Superpup pilot….ye gods). The best moments of the series are here in the highest of definitions, from the destruction of Krypton to the battle with General Zod in the streets of Metropolis. There’s Nuclear Man too, so be warned.

Jurassic Park: Ultimate Trilogy
One of the great summer blockbusters of the past three decades gets its long-awaited Blu-ray release along with its two sequels and a plethora of exemplary bonus features. Steven Spielberg teamed up with some of the finest visual effects technicians in the film industry to bring dinosaurs back to life for a few glorious hours. In the summer of 1993 Jurassic Park was the ultimate in big screen entertainment and nearly twenty years after its theatrical release it still remains an unbeatable adventure full of wonder and fear. This movie is a rollercoaster ride you will never want to get off of. The sequels are inferior to the original but both are fun flicks with as many virtues as glaring flaws. Among the extras you get in this box set are multiple commentaries, newly-produced documentaries, deleted scenes, still galleries, trailers, and featurettes that give you a detailed look at the creation of the film’s groundbreaking blending of digital and practical effects.

Rise of the Planet of the Apes
DVD | Blu-ray
A franchise that had long been considered out of date in the era of e-ticket blockbusters that valued hollow spectacle over fascinating ideas and thought-provoking plots got a new lease on life over the summer with the release of Rise of the Planet of the Apes, a prequel of sorts to the original Apes films that takes inspiration from past sequels but is charting a different course much like the 2009 Star Trek reboot. James Franco and John Lithgow headline the cast but the real star of the show is Andy Serkis as Caesar, the intelligent ape who leads his fellow primates in a revolution against their human oppressors. For the role Serkis’ performance was merged with cutting edge performance capture technology to create a truly unique character whose facial expressions speak volumes despite being unable to speak. The DVD and Blu-ray include director and screenwriter commentaries, deleted scenes, documentaries, trailers, and a conceptual art gallery.

Pulp Fiction
It’s the movie that ignited Quentin Tarantino‘s directing career, made movie stars out of Samuel L. Jackson and Uma Thurman, increased Bruce Willis‘ cool quotient, made people love surf music for the first time since LBJ was President, saved John Travolta from a career working for Delta Airline, and made modern Hollywood stand up and take notice of the growing independent film movement is finally available on Blu-ray and it has never looked better. Tarantino’s cinematic love letter to film noir, 1950’s theme restaurants, foot massages, and the nature of destiny has been given first class treatment in terms of picture and sound quality and bonus features. Although Tarantino still won’t record a director’s commentary there are still plenty of documentaries, deleted scenes, interviews, and a trivia track.

Jackie Brown
In the three years following the release of Pulp Fiction, the film that solidified his reputation as an audacious and brilliant filmmaking talent, Quentin Tarantino kept the world on edge as to what project he would choose to follow up his Oscar-winning sophomore feature with. He decided to take on his first adaptation of another writer’s work, the Elmore Leonard crime novel Rum Punch. Changing the book’s heroine last name and race and making a few smaller alterations in the plot Tarantino finally unveiled his long-awaited third film Jackie Brown in December 1997. The film was initially given a chilly reception from critics and fans hoping for Pulp Fiction Redux. Shame on them because in my opinion Jackie Brown is possibly the director’s best and most mature film, a kinetically funny and heartbreaking tale of an aging flight attendant (Blaxploitation icon Pam Grier) who teams up with a world-weary bail bondsman (Robert Forster) to relieve a flamboyant and dangerous gun runner (Samuel L. Jackson) of his ill-gotten gains before they both end up dead. Robert DeNiro, Bridget Fonda, and Michael Keaton co-star. The new Blu-ray of Jackie Brown features most of the extras on the 2002 Special Edition DVD including documentaries, interviews, deleted scenes, and a hearty assortment of trailers from the films of Pam Grier and Robert Forster.

DVD | Blu-ray
An perfectly unexpected surprise to emerge from the pre-summer movie season dregs this year, from a most unusual source. Joe Wright, the director of Pride & Prejudice and Atonement, delivered this stylish thriller with marvelous action sequences and a strong emotional core that makes Transformers: Dark of the Moon look like the hoary, overblown toy commercial it really is. Saoirse Ronan (The Lovely Bones) plays a young girl who has been trained from birth by her ex-secret agent father (Eric Bana) to take down the American agent (Cate Blanchett) responsible for the death of her mother. Techno music maestros the Chemical Brothers composed the score. This is the best film of its kind since Luc Besson’s Leon (released in the U.S. as The Professional). The DVD and Blu-ray includes a commentary by Wright, behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, and an alternate ending.

Tron: The Original Classic
Its neon-infused digitized visuals may look dated after more than three decades, but the impact that the original Tron had on the budding special effects industry can still be felt to this day. Not only that, but the movie is tremendous fun. Jeff Bridges plays a computer genius and avid gamer whose skills on the joystick come in handy when he is transported into the digital realm and forced to fight for his life to expose the illegal deeds of his sinister former employer (David Warner). Bruce Boxleitner, Cindy Morgan, Barnard Hughes, and Dan Shor co-star in Steven Lisberger‘s wonderous sci-fi fantasy that may not have the most challenging of plots but is packed to the gills with exciting action and iconic images that will live on long in the memory, such as the lightcycle chase. The brilliant electronic score was composed by Wendy Carlos (A Clockwork Orange). The Blu-ray contains enough bonus features to keep you awake and occupied for days, including a commentary with the director and select members of the crew, deleted scenes, in-depth documentaries, effects and animation tests, trailers, storyboard and design galleries, and much more.

Citizen Kane: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition
Whenever the title of Greatest Movie Ever Made comes up for debate it’s no surprise that the honor routinely goes to Citizen Kane. When the movie was first released in 1941 it was riding a tidal wave of controversy that the entertainment industry had never seen at the time and to this day remains unequaled. Orson Welles made what is possibly the greatest directorial debut in the history of cinema, whatever your opinion of its critical standing may be. Citizen Kane told the story of a man who rose from humble beginnings to become a powerful media tycoon but who died broken and alone with no company in his final days but the memories of simpler times, but most importantly it was a breakthrough in pioneering techniques in filmmaking that will impact how movies are made for all time. The classic film’s long-awaited bow on Blu-ray comes with enough extras to fill the halls of Xanadu: commentaries with filmmaker Peter Bogdanovich and film critic Roger Ebert; a PBS documentary about the making of the film and its ultimate reception; deleted scenes; interviews; Welles’ infamous 1938 radio broadcast of War of the Worlds; and the 1999 HBO film RKO 281, a dramatization of the making of the film starring Liev Schreiber, John Malkovich, James Cromwell, Melanie Griffith, and Roy Scheider.

Evil Dead 2: 25th Anniversary Edition
Now here’s my choice for Greatest Movie Ever Made, back in a brand-new Blu-ray to celebrate its silver anniversary. Sam Raimi‘s sequel to the Ultimate Experience in Grueling Terror is a non-stop horror-comedy classic bursting with hilarious gags, visual inspiration, and a lead performance by Bruce Campbell that may be one of the finest achievements in the history of mankind. I may be spewing hyperbole but that’s only because I love this movie dearly and can watch it anytime without tiring of it. The new Blu-ray features a beautiful, spit-shined transfer and several new extras to go along with the features from previous DVD releases (of which there were many, thanks to the good mercenaries at Anchor Bay Entertainment) including an all-new retrospective documentary featuring interviews with many of the film’s participants, shorter featurettes about the production and fantastic make-up effects, raw video footage from the filming, still galleries, and trailers. My favorite extra is the audio commentary with Raimi, Campbell, co-writer Scott Spiegel, and make-up effects artist Greg Nicotero. It’s the best commentary ever recorded for a DVD.

Dazed & Confused: Criterion Collection
After making his directorial debut in 1991 with the indie film classic Slacker Richard Linklater was handed a bigger budget to make his first major studio film. Universal was hoping the Texas-born filmmaker would deliver them American Graffiti for Generation X, but instead Linklater made a funny, sprawling, and often brutally honest look at a night in the life of a group of Texas high school students enjoying the start of summer and all the rituals, embarrassments, and victories they endure. Future stars like Matthew McConaughey and Ben Affleck mix it up with indie film mainstays like Parkey Posey and Adam Goldberg with lesser-known but just as talented actors Wiley Wiggins and Michelle Burke. Much beer and pot are imbibed and the soundtrack is loaded with great 70’s rock. The Criterion Blu-ray comes fully stocked with extra features such as a Linklater commentary, deleted scenes, a new documentary, audition footage, footage from the film’s tenth anniversary celebration, and rare behind-the-scenes footage, all surrounding a brand-new high-definition of the film.

Super 8
DVD | Blu-ray
J.J. Abrams decided to follow the blockbuster success of his 2009 Star Trek reboot by making a feature-length homage to the family-friendly genre films of Steven Spielberg, who also produced. It even has the Amblin Entertainment logo on the credits. In 1979 a group of small town suburban kids are making their own zombie film when the homemade production is interrupted by a devastating train crash. Once the military descends on the town the kids realize that the train was carrying a deadly cargo not exactly of this world. The DVD and Blu-ray come with a filmmakers’ commentary, deleted scenes, behind-the-scenes featurettes, a deconstruction of the train crash sequence, and more.

Godzilla Vs. Megalon
DVD | Blu-ray
A Mystery Science Theater 3000 classic is finally available in the crystalline clarity of Blu-ray. This man-in-suit epic pits Japan’s legendary city-stomping giant lizard against the vicious onslaught of Megalon and Gigan. Fighting on the Big G’s side is the awesome Ultrama….I mean Jet Jaguar! Sing with me, “Jet Jaguar? Jet Jaguar! He mother no really love him!” So bad it’s positively amazing. Available for the first time in the U.S. uncut and in widescreen with optional English dubbing and the original Japanese audio, the DVD and Blu-ray will also include additional supplementary material to be named later.

Batman: Year One
Single-Disc Edition DVD | Two-Disc Special Edition DVD | Blu-ray
The latest direct-to-video feature from DC Animation adapts Frank Miller and David Mazzucchelli‘s four-part take on the origins of the Dark Knight first published in 1987 and was almost made into a film directed by Darren Aronofsky. Still haunted by the murder of his parents billionaire playboy Bruce Wayne has spent years traveling the world, training his body and mind for the relentless mission of bringing justice to the criminal element of Gotham City he is preparing to undertake. Now Wayne is home and ready to begin his crime-fighting campaign but he won’t be alone in the battle; idealistic Gotham cop James Gordon struggles every day against the lawless scum of the city and the rampant corruption that runs through his own department. Featuring the voices of Bryan Cranston, Benjamin McKenzie, Katie Sackhoff, and Eliza Dushku, Batman: Year One is a darker version of the iconic masked vigilante than we’re used to seeing in animated form. Extras on the DVD and Blu-ray include behind-the-scenes featurettes about the film and its comic source, interviews with the creative personnel, and an animated short film starring Catwoman.

All-Star Superman
Single-Disc Edition DVD | Two-Disc Special Edition DVD | Blu-ray
Another winner from DC Animation, All-Star Superman is based on the award-winning graphic novel series by Grant Morrison and finds the Man of Steel faced with the prospect of dying after being exposed to radiation by his arch-nemesis Lex Luthor. As Superman attempts to make his last days count he finds himself battling Luthor, Parasite, and the supercomputer Solaris. The film features the voice talents of James Denton, Christina Hendricks, Anthony LaPaglia, Frances Conroy, Ed Asner, and Arnold Vosloo. Extras on the DVD and Blu-ray include a behind-the-scenes featurette, an interview with Grant Morrison, a sneak preview of the animated film Green Lantern: Emerald Knights, two episodes of Superman: The Animated Series, and an audio commentary with Morrison and producer Bruce Timm.

The Crow
Released in the year of Forrest Gump and The Lion King, Alex Proyas‘ Stateside directorial bow adapted an classic underground comic miniseries and would have made star Brandon Lee a household name had an on-set accident with a malfunctioning prop gun not taken Lee’s life at such a young age. Despite the tragic circumstances of the production The Crow was completed and released to stellar reviews and excellent box office and spawned a franchise of sequels and a short-lived television series. A remake is currently in the works. The Crow tells the story of a murdered rock guitarist who rises from the grave to avenge the death of himself and his girlfriend with the help of supernatural powers granted him by a mysterious crow. One of the most underrated comic-based films ever made is now available on Blu-ray and the extra features are mostly ported over from previous DVD releases. The bonuses include a commentary with director Proyas, deleted and extended scenes, a behind-the-scenes featurette, and photo and storyboard galleries.

Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
DVD | Blu-ray | Blu-ray 3D
Jack Sparrow…I mean, Captain Jack Sparrow is back in yet another sea-faring supernatural summer swashbuckler. This time around the mascara-wearing rogue of the seven seas is involved in an epic adventure involving old friends, new enemies, uneasy alliances, and otherworldly adversaries including zombies and mermaids. Back for the fun is Johnny Depp in the role that made him a global box office star as well as Geoffrey Rush, Kevin McNally, and an encore from Keith Richards as Jack’s pirate pop Captain Teague. New to the cast are Penelope Cruz as an old flame of Sparrow’s and Ian McShane as the fearsome buccaneer Blackbeard. The DVD and Blu-ray feature a commentary with director Rob Marshall and behind-the-scenes featurettes.

Attack the Block
DVD | Blu-ray
When a South London housing development comes under attack by carnivorous extraterrestrials a group of thieving hooligans must band together with other residents of the block to repel the threat and save the world. Joe Cornish, a collaborator of Edgar Wright (who also produced this movie), made his directorial debut with this low-budget sci-fi horror comedy featuring outstanding performances from a young cast of newcomers (along with a hilarious supporting character played by the priceless Nick Frost), inventive effects and action sequences, and a propulsive score by Basement Jaxx. The DVD and Blu-ray feature multiple audio commentaries with the director and cast and several behind-the-scenes featurettes.

The People Vs. George Lucas
Regardless of how you feel about the direction Star Wars overlord George Lucas has taken his space saga on the screen and off, Alexandre O. Philippe‘s labor-of-love documentary makes for a sobering watch. Compiled from over 600 hours of interview footage with fans of the series, experts, people close to the production of the films, and some archival comments from Lucas himself intercut with animated cutaways and scene analyses, The People Vs. George Lucas takes a long, hard look at how far fan devotion will go before we start taking things like the alterations Lucas has made to his blockbuster franchise over the years personally. More than a series of embittered Star Wars nerds sniping endlessly about the most meaningless of changes, Philippe’s film is also a loving tribute to the universe Lucas built and the impact it has had on the lives of all who still enjoy journeying to that galaxy far, far away. Extras on the DVD include a filmmaker’s commentary, an interview with Star Wars producer Gary Kurtz, poetry slam selections, a music video, and a video devoted to fans sounding off on the Star Wars films being converted to 3-D.

Back to the Future: 25th Anniversary Trilogy
DVD | Blu-ray
Hard to believe it but back in the early 1980’s Robert Zemeckis and Bob Gale couldn’t sell any of the major Hollywood studios on their script about a teenager who travels back in time to 1955 and must ensure that his parents, in high school at the time, get together so that he and his siblings will be born. Steven Spielberg, whose 1979 comedy epic 1941 was based on a script by the duo and who also produced Zemeckis’ first two films I Wanna Hold Your Hand and Used Cars, bought Back to the Future and had the film produced at Universal Pictures. Michael J. Fox, then a television star thanks to the hit sitcom Family Ties, was cast in as hero Marty McFly as after original lead Eric Stoltz was dismissed. The resulting feature became the biggest hit of 1985 and spawned a franchise including two sequels and a short-lived Saturday morning cartoon. All three films in the series are included in this special box set released to mark the original’s silver anniversary and features sparkling new transfers of the trilogy along with copious extras including filmmakers’ commentaries, new documentaries, snippets of never-before-seen footage from the Stolz shoot, deleted scenes, outtakes, vintage featurettes, interviews, trailers, and the Blu-ray includes special interactive features.

Beauty and the Beast
Blu-ray | Blu-ray 3D
It was the first animated feature to be nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. It was also transformed into a long-running blockbuster Broadway musical. Beauty and the Beast was one of the greatest triumphs of the modern age of Disney animation as it had successfully merged traditional animation techniques with cutting edge CGI to tell a beloved fairy tale people could relate to on more than one level. The animation is gorgeous, the songs infectious, and the romance is sweet and haunting. The recent released of the 3-D converted version was given a rapturous reception and is now available in a fully stocked 5-disc Blu-ray/DVD combo pack that includes three versions of the film, documentaries, audio commentary, music videos, deleted scenes, a sing-along mode, and interactive games.

Harry Potter: The Complete 8-Film Collection
DVD | Blu-ray
The Harry Potter films have finally concluded but Warner Bros. is taking the movies off the shelves for the time being at the end of the year, so this collection may be your last chance to enjoy the magic and majesty of J.K. Rowling‘s literary universe brought to celluloid life. Get all the spells, battles, villains, talking hats, letter-delivering owls, and awkward adolescent encounters in one essential box set. The only downside is the lack of extras in this set, unusual given that the previous releases were overflowing with all sorts of supplemental material, but if you’re a hardcore owning the series for the first time you might look past all of that.

Farscape: The Complete Series
Four seasons. 88 episodes. An ambitious and essential melding of live-action, CGI, prosthetic make-up effects, and delightful and malevolent creatures brought to life by the artisans at Jim Henson’s Creature Shop that resulted in a imaginative television classic beloved even more now than when it was first aired. An astronaut gets sucked through a wormhole and finds himself on an epic adventure through an universe filled with mystery, wonder, and terror. Starring Ben Browder and Claudia Black, every episode of Farscape has been remastered and are now available in an essential Blu-ray set loaded with special features including multiple audio commentaries, documentaries, deleted and alternate scenes, an alternate version of the season 2 premiere episode, video profiles, interviews, and a rarely-seen behind-the-scenes special.

Red State
DVD | Blu-ray
Kevin Smith has been attempting to evolve as a filmmaker for most of the past decade and prove that he’s more than a endless well of dick and fart jokes and geek-friendly pop culture references. With Red State he finally silenced the haters (well, most of them) and delivered one of his best films by far. A trio of horny high school students arrange a rendezvous with a woman who promises them serious sexual healing, but instead they end up the prisoners of a group of radical fundamentalist psychos preparing to spread their message of salvation by whatever violent means necessary. When the teenagers’ disappearance reaches the authorities the ATF heads out to engage the fundamentalists in a bloody battle. Featuring a career best performance from veteran character actor Michael Parks, Red State attracted controversy when Smith decided to forgo the traditional theatrical release plan and instead took the film out on a nationwide tour. Smith’s films are well known for having top-notch DVD presentations and Red State is no exception; despite the absence of a commentary from the director the extra features include a comprehensive behind-the-scenes documentary, deleted scenes, trailers, “SModcasts”, and a poster gallery, all featuring introductions from the director.

Green Lantern: Extended Cut
The past few years have not been kind to DC Comics’ cinematic output: while The Dark Knight was a massive hit Superman Returns failed to live up to inflated expectations, and most recently their long-in-development Green Lantern flopped hard at the box office and cost Warner Bros. untold millions of dollars in production and marketing costs. Despite the film’s less than stellar reception from critics and audiences it’s actually a pretty good film, maybe not at the level of The Dark Knight or the first two Superman movies but still a worthwhile effort. Hotshot test pilot Hal Jordan is chosen by a dying alien to become the ring-bearing cosmic protector of Earth and is immediately thrown into battle with the universe-threatening entity Parralax. Starring Ryan Reynolds, Blake Lively, Peter Skarsgard, Tim Robbins, Mark Strong, Angela Bassett, and the vocal talents of Geoffrey Rush and Michael Clarke Duncan, Green Lantern is a thrilling comic book adventure that works splendidly when it’s embracing its operatic, comic-inspired nature, but falls flat when it tries to bring the story’s over-the-top aspects down to Earth. The narrative might be wafer-thin but the cast and the effects more than compensate. The Blu-ray features an vastly superior extended cut of the film as well as behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, and a digital comic book.

Horrible Bosses
DVD | Blu-ray
Another surprise summer comedy hit featuring a flawless ensemble of gifted comic actors having a field day with a dark and juicy that finds three working stiffs who reluctantly plan to murder their respective employers. Horrible Bosses is loaded with priceless work from actors Jason Bateman, Charlie Day, Jason Sudeikis, Jennifer Aniston, Colin Farrell, Kevin Spacey, and Jamie Foxx (as the brilliantly named Motherfucker Jones). The DVD and Blu-ray feature theatrical and extended cuts of the film, deleted scenes, and interviews with the cast and crew.

The Rocketeer: 20th Anniversary Edition
Before he took the helm of Jurassic Park III and Captain America: The First Avenger, Joe Johnston was given the task of mounting a big-budget production of a film based on a little-known independent comic book series from the early 1980’s that took its inspiration from the comic books and movie serials of the 30’s and 40’s. The Rocketeer tanked at the box office because it came out against the might of James Cameron’s Terminator 2: Judgment Day, but over the years it has gained a sizable cult following and become one of the more beloved live-action Disney flicks of recent decades. A cocky pilot finds an experimental rocket base in his plane and must use it to battle mobsters and Nazi agents hiding out in Tinseltown. Bill Campbell, Jennifer Connelly, Alan Arkin, Timothy Dalton, and Paul Sorvino star in this rousing period adventure that was one of the last major studio blockbusters to be made completely without the advances in CGI. The 20th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray is expected to have sterling picture and sound quality, but if the disc is going to include any extra features they have not yet been announced.

Band of Brothers/The Pacific: Special Edition Gift Set
DVD | Blu-ray
Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks teamed up to produce these two expensive, epic miniseries for HBO that aired more than a decade apart and explored life for the fighting men of the U.S. Armed Forces during World War II. Band of Brothers follows the men of Easy Company fighting in Nazi-occupied nations throughout Europe, while The Pacific depicts the agonizing battle against the Japanese forces. Real life events are combined with moments created for dramatic effect in giving us a ground-level look at the unflinching reality of combat and the effect it has on those who must adapt it as a way of life. A first-rate cast and the superb behind-the-scenes work of some of the best technicians in the entertainment industry make these series essential viewing. The DVD and Blu-ray sets include hours of bonus features including making-of documentaries, interactive features, and profiles of the real men who participated in the events portrayed in the series.

Neverwhere: 15th Anniversary Edition
An ordinary office worker in London gets ripped from his mundane existence in an underground fantasy world where he must help one of its inhabitants solve the mystery of her parents’ murder. Co-created by comic book visionary Neil Gaiman and British comedian Lenny Henry, Neverwhere takes viewers on a journey into a strange and beautiful world that dwells literally right beneath our feet. Originally aired on BBC in England and A&E in the U.S. in 1996, Neverwhere is being reissued on DVD to coincide with its 15th anniversary and features a brand new audio commentary with Gaiman, Henry, and producer Clive Brill, a commentary with Gaiman from the original DVD release, an interview with Gaiman, and other assorted extras.

Community: The Complete Second Season
With this critically-adored but ratings-deprived television comedy being put on hiatus in the middle of its third season now would be the perfect to delve into the comic misadventures of the coolest (and often the most screwed up) study group at Greendale Community College. Epic paintball games, encounters with batty anthropology professors, a search for an elusive pen, a mock space shuttle designed by Kentucky Fried Chicken, a birthday celebration in a seedy bar, and a classic Christmas episode done almost entirely in the style of the Rankin-Bass holiday specials of the 1960’s are just a few of the highlights contained within this collection of Community‘s sophomore season. My personal favorite sitcom since the demise of Everybody Loves Raymond, Community is a hilarious and imaginative comic gem powered by witty writing and a flawless ensemble cast. Extras in this set include multiple episode commentaries with the creator, cast, and crew, featurettes, and outtakes.

Doctor Who: The Complete Sixth Series
DVD | Blu-ray
Matt Smith is back for his second season as the last of the Time Lords with Karen Gillen as his faithful companion. Cruising space and time in the T.A.R.D.I.S. the Doctor engages in many spectacular adventures and encounters otherworldly beings both benevolent and vicious. Extras on this set include episode commentaries, “Doctor Who Confidential” featurettes on the making of each episode, scenes filmed exclusively for the DVD, Comic Relief sketches, and the 2010 Christmas special.

Doctor Who: The David Tennant Years
My personal favorite Doctor Who David Tennant, the man known in Mexico as El Décimo Doctor, gets a box set collection of every episode he appeared in. Spread across a mammoth 26 discs, Doctor Who: The David Tennant Years features all three seasons of Doctor Who along with the live-action and animated specials and enough bonus features to bust out the windows of the T.A.R.D.I.S. including episode commentaries, “Doctor Who Confidential” episode featurettes, deleted scenes, video diaries, outtakes, and episode teasers.

The Office: 10th Anniversary Special Edition
You can keep the Americanized version of The Office; Ricky Gervais is a comic genius and the mock-documentary comedy series he created with Stephen Merchant is a master class at milking the bleakest humor from the everyday working world with all the awkward glances and uncomfortable silences therein. This set collects both seasons of the British Office along with the Christmas special and tons of bonus features including episode introductions, the original pilot, two BBC specials about the show and Gervais, a commentary on the special, outtakes, deleted scenes, and the original DVD documentaries. The set doesn’t include the handbags and the glad rags that your granddad had to sweat so you could buy, but it’s still worth a purchase.

Smallville: The Complete Series
Next to the original Superman movie the best interpretation of the Man of Steel in film and television was the series Smallville that ran for ten seasons and depicted the teenage years of Kal-El, the Last Son of Krypton who was raised on Earth as Clark Kent and who would one day assume the mantle of protector of his adopted homeworld. The first season did a fine job at establishing Clark’s dilemma in how he must deal with his emerging superpowers, the acceptance of his alien heritage, and burgeoning hormones to boot. But despite the producer’s infuriating insistence on utilizing the “freak of the week” syndrome to give the future Superman a frequent adversary (as if high school wasn’t enough) the show proved to be a success with critics and skeptical fans of the character who still had the horrifying residue of Lois & Clark lingering in their minds. Smallville became better adept at blending credible youth drama with comic book action in later seasons, and although the latter had overtaken the former by the end of the series there’s no denying the show’s infinite appeal. This set collects all ten seasons of the series and spreads the episodes out over 60 discs with an additional two discs of bonus content including a 90-minute series retrospective, the never-before-seen 1961 Superboy pilot, and San Diego Comic-Con footage.

The Walking Dead: The Complete First Season Special Edition
DVD | Blu-ray
The first season of the smash hit action-horror drama series was issued early this year in a two-disc set, but to coincide with the premiere of the second season Anchor Bay Entertainment put out a special edition of the first season set with many more special features including audio commentaries, a black & white version of the pilot episode, featurettes on the creation of the show’s zombies and its cultural impact, interviews with executive producer Frank Darabont and FX master Greg Nicotero, and much more. With the show recently wrapping up the first half of its second season now’s a good time to start getting caught up on the show if you’ve never given it a watch before it returns in February.

The Simpsons: The 14th Season
DVD | Blu-ray
As much as a lot of people wish Fox would put out full season DVD sets of The Simpsons with greater frequency, it’s hard to fault the studio for the stellar effort they put into the creation of these sets. After all, The Simpsons is one of the greatest television series of all time so naturally the DVD box sets should reflect the wit, craft, and talent that go into the making of the show. For the 14th season, the first to get the show nominated for the Golden Globe Award for Best Musical or Comedy Series, the extras include audio commentaries on each episode, deleted scenes, featurettes, sketches, a multi-angle animation showcase, and a lot more. Plus the cover art features one of those cackling, one-eyed slime creatures from outer space who show up in every Halloween episode. I can’t tell if it’s Kang or Kodos. Does it really matter? A Limited Collector’s Edition with molded head is also available.

Contributed by PS Hayes

The Six Million Dollar Man: Season One
Previously only available as part of Time-Life’s mega collection, the first season of this classic television series is finally being released by season sets! This set includes the first 3 made for TV movies, all 13 first season episodes uncut and over 2 hours of bonus material about the making of the series. Whether someone is seeing this for the first time or reliving this groundbreaking 1970’s show, it’s a perfect gift for anyone who enjoys action, espionage, sci-fi, and just plain awesomeness.

Conan the Barbarian 2011
3-Disc Blu-ray | Blu-ray | DVD
This movie was pure action from start to finish and features MANY of the classic Conan signature moments from both the novels and the comic series. The Blu-Ray version features two serperate commentary tracks, one by director Marcus Nispel and another by actors Jason Momoa and Rose McGowan. Also included are 4 behind the scenes featurettes that will please any Conan fan.

That’s all for this year’s Holiday Geek Gift Guide: DVD & Blu-ray Edition. Now if you’ll excuse me I’m going to go do bong hits in my reindeer’s face and ruin a nice family’s annual holiday viewing of It’s a Wonderful Life by telling the kids Zuzu’s petals are made of crack cocaine. And to all a good night!


If you’re ordering through Amazon.com in the United States, here’s their ordering deadlines for delivery on or before Christmas Eve (12/24) for items in-stock shipped to physical addresses within the United States and marked “Ships from and sold by Amazon.com” or “Fulfilled by Amazon.com.”

December 15th – FREE Super Saver Shipping* [Last full day to order]
December 19th – Standard Shipping [Last full day to order]
December 20th – Two-Day Shipping (FREE with Amazon Prime), Last full day to order
December 21st – Two-Day Shipping (FREE with Amazon Prime) – Order as late as 8pm PST (varies by item); One-Day Shipping ($3.99 with Amazon Prime) Last full day to order
December 22nd – One-Day Shipping ($3.99 per item with Amazon Prime). Order as late as 4:30pm PST [varies by item]
December 23rd – Last-Minute Christmas Delivery ($9.99/item with Amazon Prime) While available (varies by item)
December 24th – ($3.99/item with Amazon Prime) While available (select cities, varies by item)
December 25th – Christmas Day: Email and printable gift cards can be sent immediately, at any time.

For more details about local delivery, see the Christmas Ordering Deadlines For U.S. Shipments page.

*Super Saver Shipping is FREE on orders $25 and over.

Remember, if all else fails, there’s also the Amazon.com Gift Card, you can have emailed to the recipient (arrives immediately) or you can print out the gift card at home and give it to the intended that way. If you order in enough time, you can get the physical gift card sent to you.

Here’s the list of our 2011 Guides:

Comic Books (Part 1)

Comic Books (Part 2)

Video Games

DVDs & Blu-rays

Batman Edition

More Guides to come this week.

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