- The Washington Times - Thursday, November 26, 2015

Here’s a selection of top gift ideas for the movie watcher in the family.

Nakatomi Plaza Die Hard Collection (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Not Rated, $129.99) — 20th Century Fox celebrates the noncompliant and indestructible John McClain (Bruce Willis) with a Blu-ray collection featuring each of his onscreen adventures and bundled inside a scaled replica of a skyscraper.

Fans open a package containing a 15-inch-tall, plastic version of the Los Angeles’ skyscraper Nakatomi Plaza and pop open a rear cover on its base to find six discs — five of which contain high-definition versions of the movies “Die Hard” (1988), “Die Hard 2” (1990), “Die Hard With a Vengeance” (1995), “Live Free or Die Hard” (2007) and “A Good Day to Die Hard” (2013).

Each movie has a steady supply of extras ranging from optional commentary tracks with the directors (Bruce Willis even pops in for “Live Free or Die Hard”) to lengthy featurettes on the production.

Better yet, the sixth disc offers the fantastic documentary “Decoding Die-Hard,” a 7-part, nearly 2-hour look at the history of the franchise.

Lucky owners can check inside the base for a 32-page, full-color compact booklet offering an overview of the production and some fun facts; and five, 4.5-inch by 5.5-inch, double-sided cards paying homage to Mr. McClain’s primary adversaries.

Back to the Future Trilogy: 30th Anniversary Trilogy (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, rated PG, $49.98) — With all of the hubbub that a 26-year movie might have actually predicted the Chicago Cubs winning the World Series this year, it’s time to take a deep breath (Cubs fans yawn now) and truly appreciate a film franchise compiled in a new Blu-ray set.

Director Robert Zemeckis chronicles the time-traveling exploits of Doc Brown (Christopher Lloyd) and Marty McFly (Michael J. Fox), chronicled in a trio of “Back to the Future” movies, with the second movie foreseeing the Cubs win. The three movies arrive in a pristine high-definition, digital transfer.

Extras are mainly complied for the 25th anniversary release of the movies on Blu-ray highlighted by hours of featurettes, optional commentary tracks for each film and the interactive U-Control.

This slick feature allows viewers to watch facts about the production, storyboard comparison and foreshadowing clues to events of each film, all popping up on the screen depending on the settings selected.

However, a fourth Blu-ray disc contains over two hours more of new extras such as Christopher Lloyd donning the Doc Brown persona to not only stop a nuclear holocaust but offer an encouraging message to humans, a look at restoring the famed DeLorean, a nine-part retrospective on the franchise and two episodes from the Back to the Future” animated show.

Gift ideas for movie connoisseurs include the Star Wars Limited Edition Steelbook collection on Blu-ray.
Gift ideas for movie connoisseurs include the Star Wars Limited Edition Steelbook … more >

Star Wars Limited Edition Steelbook collection (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13, $14.99 to $24.99 each) — One of the most successful film franchise in the history of the pop-culture medium returns to the Blu-ray format for binge-watching Padawans in the family to appreciate George Lucas’ epic Skywalker saga.

Each high-definition transfer features DTS-HD Master Audio 6.1 surround sound (John William’s score booms) and arrives on a single Blu-ray disc housed in an embossed metal case. The case features a character collage on its back and a mug shot of a decidedly, almost all, evil legend on the cover.

Specifically, Darth Maul on “Episode I: The Phantom Menace”; Yoda on “Episode II: Attack of the Clones”; General Grievous on “Episode III: Revenge of the Sith”; Darth Vader on “Episode IV: A New Hope”; an Imperial Stormtrooper on “Episode V: The Empire Strikes Back”; and Emperor Palpatine on “Episode VI: Return of the Jedi.”

In addition to the slick steelbook packaging, each movie includes a pair of optional commentary tracks culled from the 2011 Blu-ray releases.

The tracks include comments from many of the key production personnel offering behind-the-scenes challenges, movie magic facts, the genesis of the stories and fun memories.

The “Star Wars” dignitaries speaking include Mr. Lucas (on most of the track for all of the films), producer Rick McCallum, director Irvin Kershner, sound maestro Ben Burtt, special effects legend Denis Muren, composer John Williams, artist Ralph McQuarrie, and actors Carrie Fisher (Princess Leia), Harrison Ford (Han Solo), Mark Hamill (Luke Skywalker), Frank Oz (voice of Yoda), Christopher Lee (Count Dooku), Natalie Portman (Padme Amidala) and Hayden Christensen (Anakin Skywalker).

Full disclosure here, purist alerts: The versions of the original trilogy of films offer George Lucas revisionist digital tinkering (of course, Greedo shot at Han Solo first) and not the theatrical cuts. However, for a new generation of fans, this is the perfect chance to watch the entire collection before going to theaters to enjoy director J.J. Abrams new live-action continuation of the franchise, “Star Wars: The Force Awakens.”

My Fair Lady: 50th Anniversary Edition (Paramount Home Entertainment), Rated G, $49.99)  — Film historian and preservationist Robert A. Harris celebrates director George Cukor’s 1964 adaptation of the famed Broadway musical with an immaculate version of his Academy Award-winning film delivering a 4Krestoration from an 8K scan of the original 65mm negatives and newly restored Dolby TrueHD 7.1 sound.

The story of a Cockney flower girl Eliza Doolittle learning to become part of the socially elite with help from Professor Henry Higgins comes to wonderful melodic life thanks to lead performances by Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison (winning the Oscar for best male lead). The movie features memorable songs such as “Get Me to the Church on Time,” “The Rain in Spain” and “I Could Have Danced All Night.”

Extras contained on a second Blu-ray disc explores the production through an hourlong, vintage documentary from 1994 focused on the 30th anniversary restoration; footage of a 1963 kick-off dinner; Academy Award highlights from 1965; a short retrospective on the story adaptation; and a new look at the production design, just to name a few of the nostalgic nuggets.


SPECIAL COVERAGE: Zadzooks 2017 Holiday Gift Guide


Special Effects Collection(Warner Home Video, Not Rated, $54.96) — The perfect gift for the monster movie magic connoisseur in the family, this collection upgrades a quartet of classic black-and-white, creature-heavy horror films from the early days in special-effects cinema to the high-definition format.

Specifically, the Blu-ray set stars a really big ape in “The Son of Kong” (1933); a kind of large ape in “Mighty Joe Young” (1949); a fictional, giant rhedosaurus in “The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms” (1953); and really big ants in “Them!” (1954).

More importantly, the first three films feature the work of stop-motion pioneers Willis O’Brien and Ray Harryhausen as they meticulously, shot by shot, brought to life some fantastic behemoths.

Extras are just as tempting as the movies, especially for fans of Mr. Harryhausen. The extras range from a 16-minute roundtable from 2003 with his good buddy, sci-fi author Ray Bradbury; an optional commentary with Mr. Harryhausen; visual effects artist Ken Ralston and actress Terry Moore (discussing “Mighty Joe Young); and a 23-minute conversation between the master and the Chiodo Brothers (modern-day, stop-motion artists).

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