Wondering what to get your resident movie geek for the holidays? Film Threat is at your service providing a list of the best films to get for the movie geek you love! From the obscure, to the classics, to the pricey box sets, we have the guide for the discerning shopper looking for a special treasure trove for their loved one.
The Noah (Pathfinder Pictures)
Film Threat was responsible for unearthing this long-lost 1974 experimental feature, which had only been available as a bootleg but is now on DVD for the first time in a digitally remastered edition. Veteran character actor Robert Strauss plays an Army sergeant in a post-apocalyptic world. He finds himself alone on a deserted island, and his isolation begins to warp reality to the point of his conducting full conversations with phantom voices (Geoffrey Holder and Sally Kirkland provide the vocal input). With its stunning black-and-white cinematography, deeply textured soundtrack and Strauss’ riveting performance of a man losing the fight for sanity, “The Noah” is a harrowing and riveting triumph of underground filmmaking. Any cinephile with a taste for the very different will love this.
Godzilla vs. the Smog Monster (Cheezy Flicks Entertainment)
If Rachel Carson made Japanese monster movies, she might create something along the line of this 1971 mix of kaiju hijinks and ecological handwringing. The Big G saves the world (or at least suburban Tokyo) from Hedorah, a shape-shifting being that inhales smokestack exhausts. There might be a lesson on environmental abuse buried in here (the theme song “Save the Earth” certainly qualifies as an example of noise pollution!), but fans of the genre will enjoy the trademark knockabout and refugees from the 1970s will dig those wonderfully awful fashions and hairstyles.
Oldboy (Three-Disc Ultimate Collector’s Edition) (Tartan)
Park Chan-wook’s splendid tale of love and vengeance may very well be the best film of the decade so far and this recently released three-disc DVD set (complete with tin case) couldn’t be a better gift. Watch Min-sik Choi take on a hallway full of heavies with a hammer in one glorious shot. Marvel (and weep) at the beauty (and sadness) of Hye-jeong Kang as makeup runs down her face in tears. And smile at the slew of special features this set has, including a 212-minute video diary shot during the shoot, and the original graphic novel. What isn’t to like about this and why wouldn’t you want it?
Superman II: The Richard Donner Cut (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment)
No cellophane “S” that stops the villain for three seconds? You’re joshing us! But it’s true. Fans can sometimes make a difference. After endless petitioning, Superman fans can finally watch Richard Donner’s controversial new cut which is said to have new music, brand new sequences, and does away with a few of the annoying plot devices like the memory wipe kiss, and the tin foil S. It’s the film that caused Ilya Salkind to lash out during a press conference, and it’s basically re-united the surviving cast members of “Superman.” Superman fans were even treated to a scene that features Lois’ first suspicion of Clark as Superman that involves a fruit stand, and a ledge you have to see for yourself. See Also: Superman Ultimate Collector’s Edition.
Winter Soldier (New Yorker Video)
There’s nothing better than American history, and as much as our victories were our history, so were our disgraces. Faults make up a specimen as much as achievements do, and for our good country, it’s best to re-examine one of our biggest disgraces: The Vietnam War. “Winter Soldier” is a merciless account of the remaining soldiers who held a press conference in 1974 explaining their own stories and, without any discretion, told of the many war crimes and brutal atrocities that occurred during their service. From throwing big boulders at small kids, to raping little girls, it’s all here in a gritty black and white conference that will surely draw gasps and gleams of horror from those who thought they’d heard it all before; and oddly enough “Winter Soldier” has remained an utterly obscure film that hasn’t been viewed by most of the American public. And that’s a shame. Featured in the crisp screen transfer, are extras any sixties buff wouldn’t want to miss out on from “Oh! Camil” sung by Graham Nash, a compelling conversation with the filmmakers, two short films, and a downloadable DVD-Rom of the “Winter Soldier” files. Suffice it to say it’s an event that needs to be publicized, and it’s a film any “patriot” needs to explore.
The Seven Samurai (Criterion)
This three disc Criterion re-release could be called overkill but considering the impact the movie has had on scores of filmmakers and audiences since it’s release 52 years ago it should rightly be considered the prize jewel of any film aficionados DVD collection. Criterion has once again done a masterful job and pulled out the stops providing a beautifully re-mastered high-def transfer of the original film that is complemented by a whole host of top notch extras including commentary by David Desser, Tony Rayns, Joan Mellen, Donald Richie, Stephen Prince & Michael Jeck, the documentary, “Akira “Kurosawa: It Is Wonderful To Create,” “My Life in Cinema” a two hour conversation between Akira Kurosawa and Nagisa Oshima, a new documentary “Seven Samurai: Origins and Influences” and the obligatory theatrical trailers and teaser. There is also a rather hefty booklet included that contains essays by Peter Cowie, Philip Kemp, Kenneth Turan, Peggy Chiao, Alain Silver and Stewart Galbraith IV along with tributes by Sidney Lumet and Arthur Penn and a reminscence by Seven Samurai star Toshiro Mifune.

Clearly a no-brainer Christmas gift for the film lover in you life.

Essential Art House – 50 Years of Janus Films (Image Entertainment)
While the price tag may be a touch hefty ($650 dollars), you can’t deny its value. It includes 50 films from the Criterion Collection (including such magnificent classics like “39 Steps,” “Ikiru,” “M,” “M. Hulot’s Holiday,” “Floating Weeds” and many more) as well as a comprehensive book about the films with an introduction by Martin Scorsese. It also comes in a wonderful display case which is sure to bring jealousy and envy out of your friends. What cinema snob wouldn’t want this?
James Bond Ultimate Editions (MGM)
While the U.K. got the better deal in packaging with a limited edition attache case holding all 20 James Bond films, we the people of the U.S. still get Bond the way he should have always been on DVD. The biggest coup is Roger Moore’s audio commentaries for all seven of his 007 adventures, with his leisurely paced observations good reasons for buying the four volumes (but what was George Lazenby so busy with that he couldn’t have sat down to record thoughts for “On Her Majesty’s Secret Service”?). A bevy of television specials (including 1965’s “The Incredible World of James Bond” which aired on NBC and is included in the second disc of “Thunderball”), featurettes (lots and lots of stunts), media doodads (press conferences, and a 1985 report from the BBC on location for “A View to a Kill”), deleted scenes (yes, deleted scenes; on “For Your Eyes Only,” “The Living Daylights,” “Licence to Kill,” “GoldenEye,” “Tomorrow Never Dies,” and “The World Is Not Enough”), and even an on-set

film shot by Ken Burns when he was an extra in “Octopussy” round out these exhaustively detailed sets, just enough to keep busy with until the DVD release of “Casino Royale.” The audio commentaries from the previous special editions are here as well as much of the other special features, except if you like “Die Another Day.” Keep the 2-disc set that came out in June of ’03, because the newest special edition doesn’t include half of what was previously available, such as all the business with the special effects of the film.

And if everything you’ve read wasn’t enough reason to switch, there’s an option on the second disc of each film that allows you to watch the main title sequences without the credits.

Videodrome – Criterion Collection DVD
Like most films of monumental influence, “Videodrome” has never fully gotten the respect it deserves. In part this is due to the fact that it is not accessible to the braindead public that makes up the majority (83% according to polls.) of filmgoers. The other reason that it is so anonymous is that it has a kind of eerie quality about itself that makes you forget you ever even watched the damn thing. As if the fiction it creates has creeped into reality. Personally, I went “Oh my god…” and freshly remembered what wowed me the first time I saw the film the minute I popped in the DVD and heard Howard Shore’s incredible soundtrack blasting through the speakers. “Videodrome” is one of those perfect movies that completely convinces you that it is real while you watch.

The new Criterion Collection DVD helps to remind us all just how creepy the new world of the mind we’ve now entered with 24 hour a day entertainment really is. It’s not just David Cronenberg’s best work, but a seminal film.

The commentary by Deborah Harry and James Woods is excellent, with Woods providing some extremely insightful ideas about what the film all means and showing himself to be quite intellectual. It also shows that he’s really proud to have been in this movie. Harry, for her part recalls quite a bit of fascinating information. Cronenberg and Mark Irwin provide the other track. It’s a bit more subdued, but just as interesting. There’s also trailers, documentaries, a 1982 roundtable interview with John Carpenter, John Landis and David Cronenberg as they talk about the films they made that year (“The Thing,” “American Werewolf in London” and “Videodrome” respectively), the entire Videodrome “signal” unedited and live, the soft core porn flick “Samourai Dreams” that Max Renn buys in the film, and an unrelated, but thematically similar, short called “Camera” that Cronenberg shot in 2000 with Leslie Carlson (the same guy who plays Barry Convex in “Videodrome”) that is really really REALLY creepy without ever seeming to be so, proving that Cronenberg still has a spooky horror movie in him somewhere.

If you’ve never seen it, buy this. If you have seen it, buy this. You’ll re-experience the movie anew. Long live the new flesh.

Film Threat DVD Collection
You didn’t think you’d get through a holiday gift guide without Film Threat pimping their own line of quality DVDs, did you? Swing by the Film Threat Shop now and check out the best of the almost lost, indie films that were on the verge of becoming cine-orphans who found themselves to our steps for a warm home.

Dig punk rock and monsters, check out “Jerkbeast.” Like your sci-fi flicks, check out “Ascension” or “The Removers.” Comedy? “Hacks,” “Moving,” “Living in Missouri”… we got it. And right now they’re all on sale for $9.99, so support independent film!

Got all the films you could ever want, but unsure as to what TV-DVDs are worth snagging this holiday season? Film Threat can help you out there, with the following prime TV series-on-DVD worth checking out:
Battlestar Galactica: Seasons 1, 2.0 and 2.5
It doesn’t get much better than “Battlestar Galactica,” a weekly sci-fi drama that exhibits more craft and overall film chops than most films that hit the big-screen. What was once a campy 70’s show is now one of the most topically relevant shows out there, a show dealing with the possible extinction of the human race, genocide, terrorism, religion and what it really means to be a human.

After setting the bar high during Season One, “Battlestar…” seemed poised for a letdown come Season Two, but instead only excelled, offering even more to chew on than the previous season, and making the pit the human race was hiding in that much deeper. And now with Season Three about to go into its midseason hiatus, it’s the perfect time to immerse yourself in the first two seasons so you can ride the wave with the rest of your sci-fi / film geek buddies.

The West Wing: The Complete Series (Warner Home Video)
If not for the abominations of the fifth and sixth seasons sans creator Aaron Sorkin and co-executive producer and director Thomas Schlamme (at least it all ended well with a seventh and final season that recalled Sorkin’s triumphs through the efforts of others), the “Complete Series” package of The West Wing would be prime, but for a dignified blue case, supposedly it’s necessary to have everything there.

The seasons each come in file folders that spread out to reveal all the discs and of course it wouldn’t be “The West Wing” without having the script from the pilot episode included. And for all the hours to spend watching this show, except for the aforementioned two seasons which caused loss of time with the Bartlet administration while sole executive producer John Wells and others tried to find new footing that they couldn’t reach right then and there, it’s a fond wish of what politics should be, that civil servants are this dedicated, this driven, this funny, and definitely this smart.

In the course of this series, watch for the episodes directed by Jessica Yu (who employs more stylized and emotional-based lighting than any other director): “Somebody’s Going to Emergency, Somebody’s Going to Jail,” from season 2, “Angel Maintenance” from season 4 which finds Air Force One with a possible mid-air mechanical problem, though it doesn’t nettle Bartlet (Martin Sheen), who continues work on legislative issues on board; and “The Supremes” from season 5, which is the starting point for the gradual improvement of the series, which finds Glenn Close and William Fichtner as two potential Supreme Court nominees who disagree on many issues, but have such a rapport with each other on debating those issues, that the level of law debate and analysis would rise in this country if they were real nominees.

And of course there’s also the assassination attempt on Bartlet at the end of season 1; the disclosure to the country of him having multiple sclerosis which becomes even more intriguing by whom is eventually told on his staff (“17 People” in season 2 is the nexus of this); his re-election campaign, his debate with Florida Governor Robert Ritchie (guest star James Brolin), who so obviously resembles Bush II in his manners of speech, the stunning resignation of Vice President John Hoynes (Tim Matheson), the even more stunning act of Bartlet stepping aside when his daughter Zoey (Elisabeth Moss) is kidnapped, giving the executive branch over to Speaker of the House Glenallen Walken (John Goodman, powerful in the last few moments of the fourth season finale), and of course the dueling campaigns of Congressman Matthew Santos (Jimmy Smits) and Senator Arnold Vinick (Alan Alda, whose seventh-season episode, “The Last Hurrah,” shows why he won his Emmy) to replace the outgoing Bartlet, which are debatable among the fan base for leaving us with considerably less time watching the winding down of the Bartlet administration. And this time, with these campaigns, the debate episode between the two candidates was aired live.

And the cast exudes so much talent, including the late John Spencer, that the prestige of drama on network television has risen because of it, though special mention must be made of Timothy Busfield (who now co-stars on Sorkin’s “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” along with Bradley Whitford, formerly of this show) as White House reporter Danny Concannon, who makes journalism an equally inspiring profession, on par with the White House staff.

The Wire: Seasons One, Two, Three (HBO Home Video)
“The best damn show on television!” is how some television critic once referred to NBCs long since cancelled “Homicide: Life on the Streets,” Barry Levinson’s loosely fictionalized adaptation of Baltimore Sun crime reporter David Simon’s excellent non-fiction novel “Homicide: A Year on the Killing Streets.” Nine years after the final season of “H: LotS” and we find the fourth season of David Simon and Ed Burns follow-up series “The Wire” finishing it’s fourth season on HBO with no guarantee of a fifth season to follow which is a crying shame because right now “The Wire” is the best damned show on television, par none.

You will not find a more intelligent, gritty and human exploration of the lives of cops, criminals and the innocents caught between the two anywhere on television today. This is television well worth supporting any way possible.

For the completist who may desire the total David Simon/Baltimore experience you may want to consider the collected seven seasons “Homicide: Life on the Streets” and follow that up with HBO’s mini-series adaptation of David Simon and Ed Burns “The Corner,” directed by Charles Dutton, another gritty examination of life on Baltimore’s mean streets.

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