What's this? You've waited until the very last second to get your holiday shopping done? No worries! Welcome to our ultra last-minute shopping guide, aimed at keeping you in the good graces of everyone on your lists this year. A quick trip to a nearby retailer, or a few clicks and some online shopping, and you should be right as rain. Or, alternatively, if you're stacking up the holiday loot and collecting a lot of gift cards and cash, you can happily spend them on the items in this list.
While this list tends to be fairly Blu-ray heavy, the standard definition of many movies and shows on this list will do you just fine if you haven't yet joined the ranks of the highly defined. Read on for our list of last minute ideas, broken down for you in seven handy categories.
For the Comedy Junkie
Everyone spent the summer talking about the sleeper comic hit The Hangover, and the Blu-ray that just came out delivers those laughs all over again. It has video commentary from director Todd Philips, and cast members Zach Galifianakis, Ed Helms, and Bradley Cooper, 100 more photos from the missing camera, a gag reel and more, but where it really delivers is the script and the acting. I have to wonder what this film would have been like without Galifianakis in it, and the only answer I can come up with is "direct to video bin." The guy is comedy gold, as can be seen in his "Between Two Ferns" talk show.
However, another set that's flown in under the radar is the incredible awesome Monty Python megadocumentary, Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer's Cut). It's six hours long, covers each member of the Python troupe from childhood and through the Python days, features new interviews with dozens of comedians on the influence of Monty Python, and of course interviews with all of the members (except Graham Chapman, obviously). As Terry Jones so eloquently put it, "This is the documentary I always hoped that would be made -- something so complete and so faithful to the truth that I don't need to watch it." Highly recommended.
For the Action Addict
Inglourious Basterds isn't quite the Nazi slaying, torture-pornfest that the trailers make it out to be. Instead it's a highly crafted, tightrope walk of a film that shows Tarantino is maturing. No more long, revolving dolly shots around a table in a cafe while characters swap stories and talk about pop culture. Instead, this movie has real guts, and that opening scene is one of the finest movie moments I've ever seen. However, it is also chock full of action, and culminates in a scene that condenses all of the death and destruction you'd expected into just a few minutes. It's also packed with extras, including the full Nation's Pride movie within the movie.
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly finally hit Blu-ray this year, and it was worth the wait. Leone's wide shots look like something you could step into, and the disc has a ton of extras about Leone's style and the "Man with No Name" trilogy. But the real crime here is that the spectacular Korean film loosely based on this movie, The Good, The Bad, and The Weird, still isn't available on Blu-ray in the States, despite being released in several other regions. It was my favorite movie from Fantastic Fest last year, and I'm dying for this to be released. If you live in the UK or elsewhere, you're in luck. Me and my region-locked PS3 have to wait.
For the Sci-Fi Lover
2009 was a great year for science fiction: J.J. Abrams' Star Trek reboot ended up surprising naysayers and wowing audiences, District 9 came out of left field and thoroughly impressed, and Duncan Jones' Moon showed everyone that low-budget sci-fi can trump everything with a great story. Unfortunately Moon isn't due out on disc until January 2010, but both Trek and District 9 are now available, and they look stellar, especially on Blu-ray. District 9 contains a slew of extras, including 23 deleted scenes and an interactive map, and Trek has an entire second disc full of goodies, including a look at the future-tech in the film. Both movies also come with digital copies for your gadgets and gizmos, which is a trend we hope continues.
Besides the new movies, there were also Blu-ray releases of older films, including Galaxy Quest and Logan's Run, both of which look fantastic in high definition, but Logan's Run tips the nostalgia scales. It includes a commentary track from Michael York, which is worth the price of the disc alone. Galaxy Quest ports over the same special features from the standard DVD release, including the Thermian language audio track. Both are worth adding to your collection unless you need to save your money for Moon.
For the Hopeless Romantic
There were several terrible romantic comedies out this year that just made you wince on the inside. The Ugly Truth and The Proposal were two examples of painful writing and cringe-inducing acting. Someone needs to tell Gerard Butler not to make another one of these. With that in mind, of of this year's best romance releases was ... the Diamond Edition Blu-ray of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. It's been digtally restored, pumped up to 7.1 sound, and looks fantastic. If your heartstrings aren't plucked when Snow White sings "Some Day My Prince Will Come," then you're made out of stone.
2009 also continued the rise of the Bromance movie, where two guys bond as best buddies. Star Trek was practically a bromance between Kirk and Spock, but I Love You, Man took things literally. It featured one man looking for a friend, and finding a soulmate who just happens to be the same sex. The commentary track with Jason Segel and Paul Rudd proves that their bromance lives offscreen as well, and you'll be wanting to be bromantic with them.
For the Kid in Everyone
There's no possible way to top Up this year. Pixar nailed it square on the head with a movie that kids and adults love, just like they always do. However, this time they made it poignant, sad, happy, swashbuckling, and triumphant. We live in a day and age of dysfunctional families, and thankfully Disney doesn't shy away from that. There are a ton of extras on here, including a new short film called Dug's Special Mission that hilariously adds to the movie and fills in some gaps. Somehow Pixar keeps churning these hits out, and Up proves that they're only getting better at it.
Sometimes Blu-ray and DVD releases go way above and beyond expectations, and The Wizard of Oz 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition takes the cake in this department. The whole set comes with a collectible book, a replica of the movie budget, and even a watch(!). The film has been painstakingly restored and looks better than it probably ever did in theaters. There are more features here than you'll be able to watch in one sitting, and if there's a Wizard of Oz fan in your house, this will knock there socks and ruby slippers off.
For the Television Buff
Television continues to pour into DVD and Blu-ray, and 2009 featured some definite must-purchase sets. The Shield: The Complete Series not only collects the entire show, it also features it in a massive coffee table book package that sets the bar for future complete series releases. The discs are also packed with extras, so you're getting seven seasons of a show, a massive book, and slew of special features for about a hundred bucks. That's not a bad deal at all.
Another complete series release in different (more "strange," this time) packaging is Battlestar Galactica: The Complete Series. This collects the miniseries and all four seasons of the show in cubical packaging that includes a Cylon action figure embedded in the top. However, if you want to complete your collection you have to separately pick up Battlestar Galactica: The Plan, which came out in November. It's a television movie that attempts to explain the Cylon's plan. It's not perfect, but you'll need it to fill that final hole.
For Person Who Has Everything
There's probably a high definition addict in your life somewhere, and chances are they own pretty much every Blu-ray ever released. They're addicted to the new-release rack, and they pre-order everything. So what do you get them? The answer is easy: The Living Fireplace, Volume 2. This turns their high def playground into a virtual fireplace, but not just any fireplace ... they get 22 different fireplaces. You can listen to the natural crackle and pop of a roaring fire, or choose from nine different soundscapes. Everything from holiday music to acoustic guitar. This has probably stayed completely off their radar, and is something they'd never buy for themselves, but they won't return it either. I'm watching this now and it's just perfect. You can almost feel the warmth rolling off the screen.