Greetings, Programs! This year’s Geeks of Doom Holiday Geek Gift Guide: Blu-ray & DVD Edition is where you will find our picks for the best home video releases for TV and Movies for 2015 that are bound to make perfect presents for the action, horror, comedy, fantasy, and sci-fi fans in your family.
Recommendations by BAADASSSSS!
Avengers: Age of Ultron may have received the bulk of the hype (not to mention the box office), but it was Ant-Man that turned out to be the Marvel Studio summer release of 2015 that had audiences going back for second (and maybe third and fourth) helpings. I know I did. With an irresistible mix of smarts, charm, and thrills, it’s the perfect palette cleanser to wrap up Phase Two and get us primed for next year’s Captain America: Civil War. Both Blu-ray editions feature a commentary with director Peyton Reed and star Paul Rudd, featurettes, deleted scenes, and a gag reel.
Avengers: Age of Ultron
I may prefer Ant-Man, but Age of Ultron proved to be a rousing entertainment that delivered plenty of large-scale excitement, intimate character moments, and witty dialogue as only Joss Whedon could. Both Blu-ray editions include a commentary with Whedon as well as 45 minutes of exclusive content that will take viewers behind the scenes of the film’s epic international production, and devote some time discussing the ongoing Infinity Stones storyline that will conclude in the upcoming two-part Avengers: Infinity War.
Back to the Future Trilogy: 30th Anniversary Edition
The Back to the Future trilogy has been re-released on Blu-ray in celebration of its 30th anniversary with a Blu-ray box set that includes all three films, every bonus feature from the previous Blu-ray set, and a host of new bonuses. Among them will be some new shorts starring Christopher Lloyd as Doc Brown. If you don’t own the previous Blu-ray collection, this one will suit your needs just fine.
Bad Boys I & II
Love him madly, want to be his daddy, or hate his rotten guts and curse God for bringing him into this world, no one can orchestrate action sequences through a grimy yet glitzy aesthetic quite like the one and only Michael Bay. He made his feature directorial debut with the 1995 buddy cop comic-thriller Bad Boys, the film that also launched Will Smith and Martin Lawrence as bonafide movie stars, and eight years later reunited with his leads for a sequel that tops the original in every possible way and may just be one of the most excessive and deranged Hollywood action blockbusters of all time. Both films have been packaged together in one nifty Blu-ray set (with Bad Boys II making its Blu debut) loaded with hours of behind-the-scenes documentaries and boasting sparkling new 4K high-definition transfers. Fans of knowingly mindless excitement can’t afford to pass this set up.
The Fifth Element
Luc Besson‘s gonzo, Euro-flavored sci-fi adventure introduced the world to Milla Jovovich and gave Chris Tucker his showiest film role to date. Some of us are still not quite sure how to feel about that, but fans of The Fifth Element will find this new Blu-ray an irresistible purchase with a gorgeous 4K high-definition transfer that stands head and shoulders over previous HD releases and comes equipped with a plethora of behind-the-scenes documentaries covering the making of the film, the creation of the costumes and visual effects, and much more. Plus it stars Bruce Willis as a ex-soldier and cab driver unwittingly pulled into a mission to save the universe and Gary Oldman as one of the most over-the-top villains in the history of cinema.
That rarest of franchises that seems to improve and grow in scale and intensity with each entry brings forth its craziest sequel to date and sets the bar pretty high for future sequels to clear. Furious 7 will be a hard act to top as it features plenty of wild action, an inspired villain turn from Jason Statham, terrific cast chemistry, and provides the late Paul Walker with a dignified exit from this mortal coil that works within the confines of the narrative and serves as a wonderful tribute to an actor who was beloved by many. The Blu-ray features both the theatrical cut and an extended cut and both will give your home theater the workout of a lifetime. Supplements include behind-the-scenes featurettes, deleted scenes, and a music video.
The most brutal and gripping World War II film since The Thin Red Line, Fury certainly lives up to its name and then some. Brad Pitt plays the leader of a ragtag tank crew battling the Nazis and trying to stay alive during the final days of the war. David Ayer‘s film refuses to play it safe with the violence and characterizations, giving us one of the most realistic combat epics ever funded by a major studio and a haunting drama about the lasting effects of war on the mind and soul. The Blu-ray impresses with an outstanding 4K high-definition transfer, behind-the-scenes documentaries, and some lengthy deleted scenes.
One of the best films of 2014, David Fincher“˜s sucker punch adaptation of Gillian Flynn“˜s best-selling novel – starring Ben Affleck and Rosamund Pike in revelatory performances – arrives on Blu-ray with a slim selection of extra features that include a commentary from Fincher and a 36-page reproduction of the “Amazing Amy Tattle Tale” book seen in the film.
Goodfellas: 25th Anniversary Edition
An all-time classic of gangster cinema that could have taken home more Oscars were it not for a squeamish Academy, Martin Scorsese“˜s visceral and darkly comical underworld masterpiece Goodfellas is returning to Blu-ray from Warner Bros. Home Entertainment in a two-disc 25th Anniversary Edition. The set will include bonus features from previous DVD and Blu-ray editions – commentary, documentaries, etc. – as well as a new documentary centered around Scorsese’s legacy as the greatest modern director of viscerally thrilling crime dramas featuring interviews with Goodfellas stars Robert DeNiro, Ray Liotta, and Joe Pesci among others. Best of all the film itself has been remastered for this edition from a 4K high-definition scan of the original camera negative, a process Scorsese supervised. A 36-page photo book that includes a letter from the filmmaker is also included.
The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies – Extended Edition
Peter Jackson“˜s unparalleled epic film adaptation of the beloved fantasy novels of J.R.R. Tolkien will be drawing to a close – for now – with the forthcoming home video release of the extended edition of The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies, which will come fully-loaded with the usual Rings-related goodies, including an audio commentary with Jackson and co-writer/producer Philippa Boyens, the extensive “Appendices” documentaries that will provide viewers with an intimate behind-the-scenes look at the film’s making, and much more. The movie itself has been extended to an R-rated 164 minutes. This could very well be our final cinematic journey to the enchanted land of Middle-Earth, so savor the moment.
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1
The first half of the epic concluding chapter of the dystopian sci-fi adventure saga that made a bonafide movie star out of Jennifer Lawrence comes to Blu-ray with a director/producer commentary, a feature-length documentary about the film’s making, additional featurettes (including a tribute to the late Philip Seymour Hoffman), deleted scenes, and a Lorde music video.
Christopher Nolan‘s handsome, ambitious adventure into the stars and beyond has narrative flaws that can’t be easily dismissed, but in terms of visuals and music it makes for an intoxicating watch on Blu-ray with a striking high-definition transfer and hours of documentaries exploring the making of the film, creating the visual effects, and the hard science that inspired it to be made in the first place.
Keanu Reeves absolutely kills it as a legendary assassin who comes out of self-imposed retirement to wage bloody, relentless war against his former masters in the underworld. The kind of straight-forward, unpretentious action we rarely see anymore, John Wick is a pure delight for lovers of the genre. Lionsgate’s Blu-ray features stunning picture and sound and supplements that include a directors’ commentary and behind-the-scenes featurettes.
The Jurassic Park franchise had been dormant for well over a decade before this dino-sized sequel that is short on sense and high on thrills blew up the international summer box office with a smile and reminded the world that an ill-tempered T-Rex will never not be cool and terrifying. A spectacular high-definition presentation is the centerpiece of this Blu-ray release that also comes with deleted scenes and various fan-pleasing featurettes.
Kingsman: The Secret Service
Matthew Vaughn‘s frothy, globe-trotting spy spoof was one of the most pleasant movie-going surprises of the year with its full-on assault of beautifully-orchestrated action and savage humor. A lot of people felt the same way and made Kingsman a big enough box office hit in the U.S. and abroad to guarantee a sequel, but until then you can whet your appetite for more ultra-violent British espionage thrills and laughs with this great Blu-ray release that features amazing picture and sound, a lengthy behind-the-scenes documentary, and more.
The Last Dragon: 30th Anniversary Edition
The classification-defying cult hit that mashed up martial arts, hot music, garish fashions, and the beautiful Vanity makes its Blu-ray debut with a stunning new high-definition transfer, director’s commentary, and a retrospective documentary that reassembles most of the film’s cast and crew. After three decades, this wild and energetic action-fantasy still looks and sounds great, and fans will be mighty impressed by the improved video and audio quality and supplements.
Leon: The Professional
Luc Besson‘s character-driven thriller that introduced Natalie Portman to the world and reminded us all how cool Jean Reno is and how fearsome Gary Oldman can be when given free reign to craft a villainous performance has been granted a new 4K high-definition restoration for this updated Blu-ray release that also includes some retrospective interviews with Portman and Reno from an earlier DVD edition.
Mad Max: Fury Road
George Miller“˜s long-overdue (as in three decades overdue) post-apocalyptic adventure sequel Mad Max: Fury Road proved to be one of the best movies of the summer, if not the year. The Blu-ray editions of this spectacular widescreen rollercoaster ride of emotion and violence feature an arsenal of behind-the-scenes documentaries and deleted scenes.
Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation
Under the direction of Oscar-winner Christopher McQuarrie, the Mission: Impossible franchise gets one of its most twisty and entertaining entries to date as Tom Cruise‘s superspy Ethan Hunt and his intrepid IMF team pursue an elusive terrorist organization around the world through countless deadly encounters. The scripting is solid and smart, the cast (including newcomer to the series Rebecca Ferguson) is having a ball, and the practical stunt work continues to thrill. Extras on the Blu-ray include commentary with McQuarrie and Cruise and a host of behind-the-scenes featurettes.
Monty Python and the Holy Grail: 40th Anniversary Edition
If you love classic cinematic comedy and you don’t already own Monty Python and the Holy Grail, then I pity you as the village idiot and you should purchase this 40th Anniversary Edition Blu-ray that contains excellent picture and sound and hours of worthwhile bonus features, including an all-new Q&A with the British comedy troupe’s surviving members and recently unearthed animated sequences created by Terry Gilliam.
The supremely silly (and sometimes flat-out bizarre) superhero-porno spoof from South Park/Book of Mormon masterminds Trey Parker and Matt Stone that was originally released in theaters with an NC-17 rating comes to Blu-ray that contains all of the extra features from the overstuffed 2005 DVD, including multiple commentaries, a retrospective documentary, deleted scenes, bloopers, and tons more.
Possibly my all-time favorite western, Howard Hawks‘ Rio Bravo stars the legendary John Wayne as a small town sheriff forced to take on a group of armed gunmen hired to free a wealthy rancher’s brother from the local jail. Backing up Wayne is Dean Martin (in the best performance of his acting career), Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, and rascally ol’ Walter Brennan. Quentin Tarantino considers this a personal favorite film, and it was co-written by the great Leigh Brackett, who would later pen an early draft of The Empire Strikes Back. The Blu-ray boasts top-notch video and audio, a historians’ commentary, retrospective documentary, and more.
A timeless achievement in epic filmmaking, Stanley Kubrick‘s towering historical adventure about a slave uprising against the mighty of the Roman Empire featured silver screen icon Kirk Douglas in his most famous and accomplished performance in the title role, an intelligent and provocative screenplay by the blacklisted writer Dalton Trumbo that signaled the long-anticipated death of persecution against prominent entertainment industry professionals with liberal political leanings, and some glorious action sequences that have yet to be equaled or bettered. Spartacus returns to Blu-ray with a spectacular new high-definition transfer that improves greatly on previous releases and a smattering of enlightening supplements, including new and vintage interviews, deleted scenes, and a featurette focusing on the meticulous restoration.
This new Blu-ray release contains not a single extra feature, but who the hell cares? This is Stone Cold we’re talking about here! One of the greatest action films of the 1990’s, former professional gridiron giant Brian Bosworth headlines this full tilt boogie exploitation extravaganza as a cop who goes undercover in a biker gang lead by the always great Lance Henriksen and William Forsythe. Directed by Craig R. Baxley (I Come in Peace), Stone Cold is a deliriously thrilling flick that piles on the fist fights, car chases, and gun battles with apocalyptic aplomb. It’s a four-course buffet of B-movie insanity that would fit snugly inside the Christmas stocking of that special action cinema fan in your family.
Team America: World Police
Trey Parker and Matt Stone‘s gleefully raunchy and violent action-comedy-musical starring a cast of puppets crafted with brilliant precision has made it to Blu-ray. Can I get a “America, F*** Yeah”? Oh wait, the disc has no bonus features? Well, baby steps I suppose. The movie’s still a quotable comedy classic that riffs on mindless action flicks, blind patriotism, and celebrity egomania to memorable effect and it looks and sounds superb in high-definition. Maybe one day Team America will get the extras-loaded Blu it richly deserves. Yeah, and maybe one day we’ll be able to take Michael Bay seriously as a director.
Wet Hot American Summer
A raunchy spoof of summer camp comedies that became a cult favorite on home video due to its insanely quotable script and cast full of past and future superstars (including Janeane Garofalo, David Hyde Pierce, Molly Shannon, Paul Rudd, Amy Poehler, Elizabeth Banks, and Bradley Cooper), this beloved comic gem from the director of Role Models and Wanderlust retains all of the supplements from its previous DVD (commentary, deleted scenes, etc.) and adds a new 10th anniversary cast reunion feature filmed at SF Sketchfest.
X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut
The best X-Men feature to date unites the stars of returning director Bryan Singer‘s first two highly-successful entries in the Marvel-ous movie franchise with those of Matthew Vaughn‘s stylish and fun 2011 prequel/reboot X-Men: First Class for a witty and exciting adventure that constantly jumps in time between the cautiously optimistic yet chaotic 1970’s and a post-apocalyptic future where mutants are being hunted to extinction by the fearsome Sentinels. The Blu-ray release of The Rogue Cut reinstates Anna Paquin‘s role to the story, as well as including some other additions and scene extensions that create a more fleshed-out narrative and a richer viewing experience. Extra features include two commentaries with Singer and other participants, a lengthy documentary about the making of Days of Future Past, an enlightening discussion of the franchise and iconic superhero characters by the film’s cast, and much more.
Recommendations by Adam Frazier
The Phantom of the Opera
Kino Classics presents a digitally-restored, two-disc collection of this classic horror film from the silent era. This definitive release includes the 1929 theatrical version, presented at two historically-accurate projection speeds and restored from 35mm elements by Film Preservation Associates. The highlight of this version is the Technicolor Bal MasquÃ© sequence, in which the Phantom interrupts the masquerade ball as the Red Death.
Escape from New York
Finally, Escape from New York has the Blu-ray release it deserves. Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition Blu-ray is as definitive as it is beautiful. With a brand new 2K high definition scan of the inter-positive, struck from the original negative, this is the best this film has ever looked.
In addition to the jaw-dropping transfer, Scream Factory’s Collector’s Edition features an impressive amount of new special features, including interviews, deleted scenes, and making-of featurettes. Like Ridley Scott’s Alien, Escape from New York is a B movie with A+ execution. It’s a premise right out of a Paul Bartel/Roger Corman picture with the bravado of John Ford – and it’s a hell of a good time.
Gory, gruesome, and absolutely absurd, The Editor is a charming, stylish send-up of Bava, Argento, and Fulci. Complete with candy apple red blood, milky eyes, and bad dubbing, the film emulates the creepy (and sleazy) vibe of ’70s giallo perfectly while delivering more than a few inside jokes to fans of the genre.
The Larry Fessenden Collection
The Larry Fessenden Collection is a solid Blu-ray release from Scream Factory that includes four interesting indie horror films. Fessenden’s work is more psychological in nature, which may prove taxing for those looking for buckets of blood and guts. Still, for those who are looking for something different, these films are nothing less than intriguing.
That’s all she wrote for this year’s Holiday Geek Gift Guide: Blu-ray & DVD Edition. Remember, if all else fails, there’s also the Amazon.com Gift Card. You can have one 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.
Until the 2016 shopping season gets underway…. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year from all of us at Geeks of Doom!