- The Washington Times - Monday, December 5, 2016

Here’s a selection of top gift ideas for the Blu-ray-loving, cinema connoisseurs.

Mad Max High Octane Collection (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13 and R, $79.99) — Director George Miller’s cinematic chronicle of the post-apocalyptic Max Rockatansky gets compiled in an eight-disc set that is sure to overwhelm fans of the reluctant hero’s brand of machismo-dripping, vehicular-violent adventures.

The package includes the original film 1979 film “Mad Max,” and its sequels, the 1981 “Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior,” and the 1985 “Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome, (all starring Mel Gibson); and last year’s “Mad Max: Fury Road,” where actor Tom Hardy dons the leather jacket and sawed-off shotgun.

All films are in the high-definition format, and the set adds an additional version of “Mad Max: Fury Road” in stunning black and white (called the “Black and Chrome Edition”) as well as a 4K UHD copy of the “Fury Road” film for those with the ultra high-definition system upgrades.

The over five hours of extras are highlighted by a vintage, 1979, 2.5-hour documentary on the original film called “Madness of Max and a new 48-minute retrospective of the “The Road Warrior,” featuring current interviews with Mr. Miller, Mr. Gibson and screenwriter Terry Hayes.

Taxi Driver: 40th Anniversary Edition (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated R, $19.99) — Director Martin Scorsese and writer Paul Schrader’s exploration of a scorned and alienated New York City cab driver returns to Blu-ray in a two-disc set featuring a 4K restoration that was supervised by the director and cinematographer Michael Chapman.

The critically acclaimed, Academy Award-nominated effort featured strong performances by Robert De Niro as the Vietnam war veteran turned taxi driver Travis Bickle, Cybill Shepherd as Mr. Bickle’s unrequited love Betsy, a 12-year old Jodie Foster as prostitute Iris Steensma and Harvey Keitel as the pimp Sport.

However, the costar clearly outshining all of the actors is Mr. Chapman’s work in presenting a dreary and dangerous urban landscape of a 1970s Big Apple.

The fantastic amount of bonus content is nearly as significant as the film and first includes a new panel discussion at the 2016 Tribeca Film Festival with such principals as Mr. De Niro, Miss Foster, Miss Shepherd, Mr. Scorsese and Mr. Schrader.

Fans can then enjoy three optional commentary tracks (with film studies professor Robert Kolker’s movie deconstruction track really standing out); an additional three hours of documentaries and featurettes; and even a way to follow along with the script as the film plays.

As an affordable gift this year, “Taxi Driver” is easily one of the most important films to add to a movie historian’s Blu-ray collection.

The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Not Rated, $59.98) — Paramount Pictures legendary comedy team from the 1930s debuts on Blu-ray through a five-film collection housed on three discs that is sure to deliver an abundance of side-splitting laughs for the entire family.

Specifically, viewers get the always-brilliant brothers Groucho, Chico, Harpo and mildly amusing Zeppo starring in the hits “The Cocoanuts,” “Animal Crackers,” “Monkey Business,” “Horse Feathers” and “Duck Soup.”

Each digitally remastered and restored, black-and-white gem features absurdist entertainment at its finest with witty repartee, slapstick, pantomime and even wacky musical numbers.

The collection adds plenty of extras led by a 90-minute documentary on the brothers’ career and an optional commentary track for each movie that use film experts, and even the son of Harpo, Bill Marx. Best of the tracks is on “Duck Soup” with notable critic Leonard Maltin and Marx Brothers historian Robert S. Bader teaming up.

Also, toss in a 14-page, color booklet offering an essay by Mr. Bader on the team, and the package will captivate comedy connoisseurs.

Citizen Kane: 75th Anniversary Edition (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated PG, $19.98) — Auteur Orson Welles’ cinematic masterpiece returns to Blu-ray remastered and restored to a 4K resolution and makes the perfect affordable stocking stuffer for amateur film historians in the family.

Critically acclaimed and considered the greatest movie of all time by the American Film Institute, the complex black-and-white epic explores the life of megalomaniacal newspaper tycoon Charles Foster Kane and his rise to wealth and power.

It delivered potent acting performances from Mr. Welles in the lead role and Joseph Cotton as Mr. Kane’s best friend Jedediah Leland, as well as groundbreaking cinematography by Gregg Toland.

For those unaware, Mr. Welles also produced, co-wrote, and directed this 1941 classic, which was nominated for nine Academy Awards.

The most impressive of the extras offers a pair of analytical, optional commentary tracks — one with the late, revered critic Roger Ebert and the other with legendary director Peter Bogdanovich.

The Bourne Ultimate Collection (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Not Rated, $89.98) — All five cinematic adventures of author Robert Ludlum’s amnesia-riddled, CIA assassin are now in one collection for fans of blockbuster action films.

Actor Matt Damon delivers his best impression of Mr. Bourne in four films — “The Bourne Identity” (2002), “The Bourne Supremacy” (2004), “The Bourne Ultimatum” (2007) and “Jason Bourne” (2016) — while Jeremy Renner dons an unassuming hero named Aaron Cross in “The Bourne Legacy” (2012).

The six-disc set showcases the $1.6 billion-box-office-busting film franchise through pristine high-definition while delivering over six hours of extras.

Favorite bonus content includes an optional director commentary track for the first four films; a multiple-choice quiz; and the U-Control initiative that offers supplemental picture-in-picture information, trivia and fact tracks while watching the first three movies.

The sixth disc is loaded with more extras concentrating on “The Bourne Ultimatum” and “The Bourne Legacy,” highlighted by a 30-minute segment on shooting a film in New York.

Gregory Peck Centennial Collection (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, Not Rated, $22.99) — A pair of Blu-ray discs offers just a snippet into the acting prowess of legendary actor Gregory Peck and highlights two of his most famous roles.

In both black-and-white films, Peck portrays an attorney. In his Academy Award-winning portrayal of Atticus Finch in “To Kill a Mockingbird” (1962), he defends a black man accused of raping a white girl. In “Cape Fear” (1961), as Sam Bowden, he defends his family against a crazed criminal (Robert Mitchum) out for revenge.

Vintage extras will make amateur film historians giggle with delight. “To Kill a Mockingbird” features two 90-minute documentaries — one on the movie and another following Peck around with his family while on a speaking tour — as well as an optional commentary track with director Robert Mulligan and producer Alan Pakula. “Cape Fear” offers a 30-minute making of documentary.

Additionally, the package also includes a pair of mini-theatrical poster reproductions; four behind-the-scenes, postcard-sized photographs; and an introduction to the films by Peck’s daughter, Cecilia.

Labyrinth: 30th Anniversary Edition (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, Rated PG, $19.99) — Fans of the 1986 musical fantasy film directed by Jim Henson, executive-produced by George Lucas and written by Monty Python’s Terry Jones can now re-appreciate the bizarre Wonderland-style adventure with a 4K digitally remastered and restored edition that delivers a visually stunning masterpiece.

The story tells of a 15-year-old girl Sarah (Jennifer Connelly) who travels to a far away Goblin kingdom and must navigate through a massive labyrinth to get her baby brother back from an evil king (David Bowie). The tale mixes fabulous Muppetized creatures with a scene-munching Bowie singing with his minions and becoming good buddies with a toddler.

Younger viewers will be mesmerized by the enchanting tale infused with puppetry, while older viewers will fondly remember the creative might of Henson and Bowie with even the rock star contributing five songs to the movie.

The disc offers an optional commentary track with fantasy illustrator Brian Fround (concept designer for “Labyrinth”) and over three hours of featurettes, led by a 2009 making of documentary and a new panel discussion with a group of Henson’s puppeteers who talk about their work for the film.

The Blu-ray also comes packaged in a Digibook format offering 28 full-color and glossy pages about the movie, with biographies, essays, concept art and anecdotes.

Prince Movie Collection (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment, Rated PG-13 and R, $24.98) — Fans of one of the most eclectic and innovative creators and performer in the history of music can now appreciate his entire dramatic body of film work with this three-disc Blu-ray set.

The trio of movies, newly remastered for high-definition with a 2K scan, include the Academy Award-winning “Purple Rain” (Best Original Musical in 1984); its 1990 sequel “Graffiti Bridge”; and the 1986 black-and-white “Under the Cherry Moon” (shot by legendary German cinematographer Michael Ballhaus).

Of course, “Purple Rain” is the anchor to the set and offers the bulk of the extras including an optional commentary track-featuring director Albert Magnoli, and cinematographer Don Thorin, a 12-minute look at the First Avenue club where Prince built his career and a 30-minute, making-of segment (unfortunately, devoid of the Purple One).

Better yet, the disc also delivers Prince in action through the music videos “Let’s Go Crazy,” “Take Me With You,” “When Doves Cry,” “I Would Die 4 You / Baby I’m a Star,” and “Purple Rain,” to further help celebrate the too-short life of this musical dynamo.


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