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Curio curious: Classic catalog DVD and Blu-ray holiday gift guide

Curio curious: Classic catalog DVD and Blu-ray holiday gift guide (Photo: Criterion Collection, Shout! Factory, Well Go USA, Film Movement, Paramount, Cinedigm)

SALT LAKE CITY, UT (KUTV) Here's a look at some of the classic film titles that have recently been re-released in new 4K UHD and collector's editions If you're looking to gifting films that were recently in theaters, I recommend taking a look at my Sound and Vision: A DVD and Blu-ray holiday gift guide.

4K UHD

Technology is advancing quickly these days. I love having the ability to stream movies from my collection when I'm in my bedroom at home or while traveling. But, despite all the technical advancement, if you are looking for the best picture quality, physical discs are you best option and the leap to 4K has raised the bar even further as the new format offers a wider range of colors and a considerable uptick in video quality. Here's a look at some of the noteworthy 4K catalog titles that have come out over the past few months.

2001: A Space Odyssey: Released in 1968, director Stanley Kubrick and author Arthur C. Clarke teamed to create the sci-fi classic "2001: A Space Odyssey." The film explores the creation of mankind and tracks its evolution against that of artificial intelligence. Even if the story is too heady for you, the film's iconic visuals make this a must-own release for anyone with a passing interest in the history of cinema.

The Dark Crystal: “The Dark Crystal” was a landmark film for me as an audience member and for cinema in general as Jim Henson produced a film populated entirely by puppets. The story follows Jen, an elf-like creature known as a Gelfling, as he travels to complete a quest that he feels inadequate to complete. Like last year's 4K release of "Labyrinth," this release looks considerably better than the previous Blu-ray release with vastly improved color and detail.

Grease: 2018 marks the 40th anniversary of the popular film adaptation of “Grease,” the popular high school musical starring John Travolta and Olivia Newton-John. I've owned "Grease" on VHS, DVD and a previously released Blu-ray, but none of those versions look or sound as good as this new release. If you have a 4K television you're particularly in luck because the 4K presentation shows off the film's colors and adds a noticeable amount of detail to the proceedings.

Halloween: John Carpenter's classic horror film "Halloween" has had a long and troubled history on DVD and Blu-ray. This new 4K release is the tonic that film fans have been waiting for as it offers a high-resolution image with the proper color grading.

Jack Ryan: 5-Film Collection: This box set includes "The Hunt for Red October" featuring Sean Connery and Alec Baldwin, the two Harrison Ford movies "Patriot Games" and "Clear and Present Danger," Ben Affleck in"The Sum of All Fears" and the Chris Pine reboot "Jack Ryan: Shadow Recruit."

Jurassic World Collection: This set includes the three Jurassic Park films and the two Jurassic World films. The original "Jurassic Park" is due for some restoration work, but has never looked better on home video. The Jurassic World films are gorgeous, demo-worthy discs.

The Big Lebowski: 20th Anniversary Limited Edition: Joel and Ethan Coen's classic film starring Jeff Bridges in a tale of mistaken identity celebrates its 20th anniversary with a new 4K transfer. You might not expect a comedy like "The Big Lebowski" to look remarkably better than its Blu-ray counterpart, but what we have here is a phenomenal example of how much detail and color that can be found in a movie that was shot on film. The limited edition includes a miniature bowling ball, bag, sweater packaging for the 4K and a polishing cloth that closely resembles a particular carpet that plays an important role in the film.

The Matrix Trilogy: The home video history of "The Matrix" is a complicated one that involves a little revisionist history. When the Wachowskis made the film's sequels, "Reloaded" and "Revolutions," the scenes that took place within the computer generated world of the Matrix were bathed in a green tint and scenes in the real world were given a blue wash. This color scheme was applied to the first film on subsequent DVD and Blu-ray releases. It's the sort of thing that might have caused a massive uproar on the internet, but things were radically different in 2004. For the 4K re-release the original negative was rescanned and the color grading adjusted with high-dynamic-range in mind. The results are spectacular. The green and blue tints ares still there, but it as been applied in a less sloppy way that doesn't drown out the other colors completely. The same care has been given to the film's sequels.

First Blood: Before he was the central protagonist in a series of over-the-top action films, John Rambo (Sylvester Stallone) was a vagabond Vietnam vet suffering through PTSD and looking to reconnect with an old friend. When that friend turns out to have died from cancer caused by Agent Orange, Rambo wanders through Hope, Washington, where the small town's sheriff takes offense to presence and appearance. It is here that the nightmare for all involved begins. Underappreciated when it was released, "First Blood" was simply ahead of its time. The other films in the franchise haven't aged well, but the original feels as relevant today as it did in 1982.

Saving Private Ryan: Steven Spielberg's Academy Award winning “Saving Private Ryan" begins with an intense recreation of the assault on Omaha Beach during the Allied invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944. It is one of the most intense and purposefully disturbing slices of cinema ever shot. The previous Blu-ray release from 2010 was rather good, but this new 4K release improves upon that release not only in its additional detail, but also from a color grading that offers a deeper range of colors without upsetting the blown out look of the cinematography.

Transformer: 5-Movie Collection: "Transformers," "Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen," "Transformers: Dark Side of the Moon," "Transformers: Age of Extinction" and "Transformers: The Last Knight" all upgraded to 4K. Regardless of what you might think of the storylines, the Transformers franchise has featured its share of groundbreaking special effects.

Twilight: The first installment in the popular franchise makes the leap to 4K. Directed by Catherine Hardwicke ("Thirteen") introduced the world to Kristen Stewart and Robert Pattinson as the duo took on the roles of Bella Swan and Edward Cullen, star-crossed lovers in a tale of vampires and werewolves.

Walt Disney

Disney is celebrating the 90th anniversary of Mickey Mouse with a variety of goods and goodies including the expansive "Walt Disney's Mickey Mouse: The Ultimate History," a 500-page release from Tachen, the Blu-ray collection "Disney's Celebrating Mickey" and a variety of candies and treats from Sugarfina including a series of chocolate bars and two different and exclusive Mickey Mouse Bento Boxes filled with flavored gummies.

"Christopher Robin" was released earlier this year, but it leans heavily on the nostalgia of Disney's animated Winnie the Pooh films. This story focuses on a grown Christopher Robin who has lost connection with the magical friends he made in the Hundred Acre Wood. A mix of live-action and rumpled animated characters.

"Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas" is one of my favorite movies and Matthew Reinhart's pop-up book is a delightful way to experience the story in a new and unique way. Of course you could always pick up a copy of the "Sing-Along Edition" that was released earlier this year.

Classics

Ingmar Bergman's Cinema: This 39-film collection spans six decades as it brings together the bulk of the director's work. Among the many titles included are the classics "The Seventh Seal," "Persona," "Fanny and Alexander," "Dreams," "The Rite" and "Brink of Life." What's the best gift this holiday season for a cinema buff? This is.

12 Monkeys: Released in 1995, Terry Gilliam's "12 Monkeys" took inspiration from "La Jetée," a French short film from 1962, to create one of the best science-fiction films ever made. Well, its one of my favorites. The film finds Bruce Willis as reluctant time traveler James Cole. Sent back in time to stop a rogue group from unleashing a mysterious virus, Cole quickly discovers that time travel isn't an exact science. Arrow Film's new transfer is remarkably better than the Universal release from 2009. I had become accustomed to certain flaws that had everything to do with the transfer and nothing to do with the way the film was actually shot.

Loving Vincent: Special Edition: Hand painted frame by frame in the style of Vincent van Gogh, "Loving Vincent" follows a postman's son as he attempts to deliver a letter that the artist van Gogh written for his brother, Theo, before he took his own life. Of all the animated films released in 2018, this was one of my favorites.

The Great Silence: A Spaghetti Western from 1968 featuring the great Klaus Kinski, tells the story of a group of refugees who are tormented by a group of bounty hunters. "The Great Silence" is something of a legendary film in that its American release required director Sergio Corbucci to shoot an alternate ending that betrays the script's primary inspiration, the deaths of Che Guevara and Malcolm X. Previous releases featured the alternate ending without the audio, it was believed to be lost, but a new sources was found and the ending is presented with sound for the first time on this 50th Anniversary edition that also features a new 2K restoration.

Gosford Park: Director Robert Altman's mystery thriller is a star-studded affair with the likes of Michael Gambon, Richard E. Grant, Derek Jackobi, Kelly Macdonald, Helen Mirren, Clive Owen, Maggie Smith, Kristin Scott Thomas and Emily Watson. Written by Julian Fellows, you might know of his television series "Downton Abbey," the story finds William McCordle (Gambon), a generous gentleman, throwing a shooting party. However, it would seem that one of the guests or one of the servants is out to kill McCordle.

TKO Collection: This set includes three Tekeshi "Beat" Kitano titles "Violent Cop," "Boiling Point" and the classic "Hana-Bi (Fireworks)." Known for his gritty crime thrillers featuring yakuza, anti-heroes, corrupt police and, particularly in the case of "Hana-Bi," a real depth to the characters that traditionally aren't given a range of emotions.

The Sissi Collection: This set pulls together the three Austrian films starring Romny Schneider as Princess Elisabeth. Released between 1955 -1957. "Sissi," "The Young Empress" and "Fateful Years of an Empress" are also joined by 1954's "Victoria in Dover" which also features Schneider and director Ernst Marischka. All four films are very lighthearted and feel more akin to a fantasy than a biopic.

Time Regained: Marcel Proust's "Search of Lost Time"as adapted by director/writer Raúl Ruiz. This French drama finds Marcel Proust (Marcello Mazzarella) at the end of his life looking through a collection of photographs that trigger vivid memories from throughout his life. The iconic Catherine Deneuve and Emmanuelle Béart headline the all-star cast.

The Tree of Life: In 2011 Terrence Malick released the gorgeous experimental "The Tree of Life" starring Brad Pitt, Sean Penn, Hunter McCracken, Laramie Eppler, Jessica Chastain and Tye Sheridan. The film was warmly received by critics, but puzzled audiences who were expecting a far more traditional film from the likes of Pitt. Tracing the origins of the universe in a film that finds a man reflecting on his childhood isn't exactly standard programming.

For this Criterion Collection release, Malick returned to the miles of footage that he shot for the original release and constructed an entirely new cut of the film that runs for an additional 50 minutes. The original cut is also included with a new 4K transfer.

Wild at Heart: A road movie about star-crossed lovers Lula and Sailor (Laura Dern and Nicolas Cage) who passionately want to be together despite the efforts of Lula's mother who hires a hitman to take out Sailor. True to his reputation, Lynch offers up a film turned up to maximum volume with references to "The Wizard of Oz" and Cage channeling Elvis. It's pure madness, but somehow Lynch pulls all the threads together for an unforgettable cinematic experience.

The Magnificent Ambersons: Orson Welles envisioned a darker take on Booth Tarkington's Pulitzer Prize–winning 1918 novel about a wealthy Midwestern family that finds its value, both in money and social status, decline.. The version that exists exorcised 40 minutes from the director's original version and the happier-than-deserved ending was also mandated by RKO, the film's studio. I wish I could tell you that this Criterion release features both the studio's theatrical cut and the director's version. Sadly the unused footage was destroyed. There's still a great film to be found in "The Magnificent Ambersons," but the story of what might have been is equally interesting and that story is explored in this release's the bonus features.

A Raisin in the Sun: Lorraine Hansberry's landmark play saw Sidney Poitier and Ruby Dee starring in the story of an African American family desperately searching for life that the American dream promised them. The original Broadway cast returned for director Daniel Petrie's cinematic adaptation and the results are spectacular. This release features a beautiful 4K transfer, archival interviews featuring Hansberry, Dee, Ossie Davis andPetrie along with newly produced interviews with Hansberry historian Imani Perry and Poitier expert Mia Mask.

Some Like It Hot: Billy Wilder's comedy about to musicians Joe and Jerry (Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon) who are forced to flee Chicago after witnessing a mob hit. To escape Joe and Jerry dress in drag and join an all-female band fronted by Sugar Kane (Marilyn Monroe). I've owned a couple of different versions of the film over the years, but this new version from the Criterion version features a new transfer that looks considerably better than the Blu-ray that MGM released in 2011. There's a remarkable amount of archival interviews and behind-the-scenes footage that is included in the four or so hours of bonus features as well.

True Stories: Director David Byrne (famous for his music career that started with Talking Heads) described "True Stories" as "'60 Minutes' on acid.' He's not wrong. Pulling headlines out of tabloid newspapers, the film is composed of a series of vignettes connected by Byrne's unnamed narrator. The film was well received by critics, but failed to find an audience at the box office. The Blu-ray version of the film also includes a CD of the full original soundtrack, many of the tracks were previously unreleased or are appearing on CD for the very first time.

Valley Girl: The classic '80s story about a suburban teenager (Deborah Foreman) who falls for an urban punk (Nicholas Cage in his first film as Cage rather than Coppola). This new release features a new transfer as well as new and expanded features from the 2003 "20th Anniversary" release. It's hard, if not impossible, to talk about the teen sex comedies of the decade without bringing this film up at least once or twice.

The Virgin Suicides: Directed and adapted by Sofia Coppola from Jeffrey Eugenides' novel, "The Virgin Suicides" tells the story of five mysterious sisters who were locked away in their home by their religious parents after one of them attempts suicide. The story is told from the perspective of the young men who lived in the neighborhood. It's a haunting film made inviting by its cinematography and the beguiling talent of Kirsten Dunst.

Die Hard / Planet of the Apes

"Die Hard" is the ultimate Christmas movie that isn't a Christmas movie, "Die Hard," the tale of John McClane (Bruce Willis), an office tower and the legendary terrorist Hans Gruber (the great Alan Rickman) The movie which looks marvelous in 4K as we see increased detail and improved color range. Keep in mind that visually "Die Hard" is a fairly dark film and as such the HDR upgrade won't be as pronounced as it would be in a film like "Gladiator" where much of the action takes place during the day, outside and under a bright sun. "Die Hard" looks spectacular and, while I never saw the film in theaters, I can't imagine that the film has ever looked any better.

If you've already picked up the movie, you could always wrap "Die Hard: The Ultimate Visual History" a with a bow. This glossy 240-page book features behind-the-scenes photos, stories and storyboards focuses mainly on the first film in the franchise, but includes the later films as well. Or, if you're shopping for a Funko collector a barefoot and bloody McClan and an over-confidant Gruber would look fantastic on a desk, a winter wreath, a shelf or high-rise display.

Over the past decade, Fox has released numerous Planet of the Apes collections. With the completion of the new trilogy we're presented with a nearly complete set (the single-season television series is sadly missing) that includes the five original films, Tim Burton's remake and the previously mentioned new trilogy. Devoted fans of the franchise, particularly of the first film, would also enjoy "The Making of Planet of the Apes," a 304-page behind-the-scenes exploration of the first film.

The Princess Bride: Released numerous times on Blu-ray, this new release features a new 4K scan of the original negative that greatly improves upon the transfer that MGM has been using for the past few years. They've also brought over the best of the vintage bonus features (including the audio commentary from the Criterion laserdisc release) from previous releases and a few newly produced features. It also includes the audiobook of William Goldman's novel "The Princess Bride," read by the film's director, Rob Reiner. I've owned numerous editions of this film over the years, this is the only version that I'll be keeping.

Coming to America: Eddie Murphy was at the height of his popularity when he teamed with John Landis for this comedy about an African prince who comes to America to find a wife. Murphy and co-star Arsenio Hall play numerous roles in the film.

Trading Places: Five years before "Coming to America", Eddie Murphy teamed up with director John Landis and Dan Aykroyd in "Trading Places." The story sees two wealthy and bored brothers who decide to ruin the life of a stockbroker (Aykroyd) and give his life of relative luxury to a homeless con man (Murphy) just to see what would happen. I was introduced to "Trading Places" via the edited-for-television version of the film. Needless to say, the theatrical version is not nearly as tame. Nonetheless, "Trading Places" is surprisingly relevant some 35 years after it was made. That can't be said for the majority of films to come out of the 1980s, let alone one that was released in 1983.

Get Shorty: Released in 1995 during John Travolta's renaissance and based on Elmore Leonard's novel, the film meanders its way into a story about a mobster with no previous understanding of Hollywood becomes entangled in the movie industry when it travels to collect a debt. The film was incredibly successful and spawned the less-successful sequel "Be Cool" a decade later. "Get Shorty" is a good, entertaining film that feels a bit like 1992's "The Player" with mobster elements thrown in for comedic relief.

City Slickers: Starring Billy Crystal in a story about a group of city men who sign on for a cattle drive. Featuring an Oscar-winning performance from Jack Palance, "City Slickers" is a beloved comedy from 1991. This release features a new 4K transfer that looks spectacular and carries over all the previously released bonus features.

Dragnet: Starring Dan Aykroyd and Tom Hanks, 1987's "Dragnet" was more of a loving parody of the original television series than an attempt to update the material for modern audiences. The film was well reviewed by critics and audiences alike. It's a little curious that a sequel was never made. This set features a new audio commentary and an interview with co-star Alexandra Paul.

Mystery Science Theater 3000: Last year "Mystery Science Theater 3000" was resurrected by a wildly successful crowdfunding campaign and landed on Netflix with creator Joel Hodgson casting Jonah Ray, Felicia Day and Patton Oswalt. The series finds a janitor aboard the Satellite of Love spacecraft who is forced to watch the worst films known to man. He's joined by handcrafted robots. The trio riff their way through the various films. Season 11 features 14 films and features guest stars Wil Wheaton, Erin Gray, Neil Patrick Harris, Jerry Seinfeld, Mark Hamill and Joel McHale. Shout! Factory also continue to release earlier episodes from the series. Volumes VI-VIII being the most recent.

Robin Williams: Comic Genius: You might have seen this 22-disc collection advertised on television. It contains all five HBO specials, numerous interviews with Williams (including the 90-minute "Inside the Actors Studio" episode) and friends 11 "Mork and Mindy" episodes, the 2018 HBO documentary "Come Inside My Mind," a collection of clips from his numerous USO tours and a 24-page booklet. Currently the set is only available via RobinWilliams.com.

Horror / Thrillers

Universal Classic Monsters: Complete 30-Film Collection:This box set is a release that I’ve been waiting to make its way to Blu-ray for a number of years. In 2012 Universal released a “Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection,” but that release only featured 8 films. This set finally brings all the classic from 1931-1956 including numerous films featuring films from the Dracula, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, Frankenstein, Wolf Man and the Creature from the Black Lagoon franchises.

Phantasm (Steelbook): While the Phantasm franchise might not be nearly as infamous as the Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm Street series, it has been an influential favorite for many fans and filmmakers. Directed, written, photographed, and edited by Don Coscarelli, the series introduced the world to Angus Scrimm as The Tall Man, a former mortician armed with metallic silver spheres.

Sisters: Brian De Palma's "Sisters" is a slasher film heavily influenced by the films of Alfred Hitchcock. The story follows two separated conjoined twins. One sister is talkative, personable. The other, a bit unhinged with a penchant for violence.

Zombie: 40th Anniversary Limited Edition: Lucio Fulci's 1979 horror release has played around the world (where it wasn't banned) under a variety of monikers. In Italy it was released as a quasi sequel to "Zombi," the Italian version of George A. Romero's "Dawn of the Dead." Fulci's film is set on a Caribbean island where a voodoo curse makes the dead rise. This limited edition features a new 4K restoration from the uncut original camera negative. Longtime fans will be shocked by how good this version of the film looks. The set also includes a CD copy of Fabio Frizzi's score and a bevy of bonus features.

Deep Red: Dario Argento’s classic 1975 Italian giallo about a musician who witnesses a murder and becomes the ax-wielding killer’s next target.

Suspiria: Another Dario Argento classic. This film was released in 1977 and follows a young American dancer as she joins a prestigious German dance company that harbors a diabolical secret.

The Critters Collection: With a script that apparently was rewritten to avoid comparison to "Gremlins" (it didn't work) , 1986's "Critters" mixed horror with science fiction and a bit of comedy in a narrative that saw hedgehog-like aliens pursued by bounty hunters in a small American town. The formula was used for the film's first sequel. The third film in the series shifted the action to a city (and features Leonardo DiCaprio). I didn't realize there was a fourth film. General reaction suggests the franchise should have been content to be a trilogy.

Train to Busdan (Steelbook): Set on a fast train between Soel and Busan, Sang-ho Yeon's thriller sees the passengers on the train witnessing the zombie apocalypse happen around them. The film was incredibly popular in South Korea and found a cult audience around the world. An English remake is in the works, but the original isgreat just as it is.

Candyman: Based on Clive Barker's "The Forbidden," "Candyman" stars Tony Todd as the titular character, the subject of a urbanlegend about a vengeful being with a hook for a hand that returns from the netherworld whenyou say his name five times. It's smarter than your traditional horror film (Philip Glass did the score) and its exploration of race. Jordan Peel is making a "spiritual sequel" due in June of 2020. This edition is stacked with bonus features and two versions of the film.

Creepshow: An anthology horror film released in 1982 featuring the talents of writer Stephen King and director George A. Romero. It features five short films that play homage to the horror comics of the 1950s.

It's Alive Trilogy: Writer/director Larry Cohen's trilogy about a mutant babies with ravenous appetites for gore was dismissed as lowbrow horror, but the presence of composer Bernard Herrmann (worked with Alfred Hitchcock on numerous films) and the talents of makeup and puppet effects of Rick Baker suggests a contemporary reassessment is in order. Each film features a new transfer from a 2K scan.

The [Rec] Collection: This box set features all four of the Spanish horror series (the American remake "Quarantine" and its sequel are not included). The original 2007 film is highly regarded, particularly when it comes to the found-footage horror sub-genre. The story follows a reporter working on a story about overnight firefighters as they attempt to help an elderly woman who becomes violent when approached. She attacks a police officer and the violence spreads like a virus. The third film in the franchise is awkwardly out of place as it adapts a more comedic tone, but if you watch the first, second and fourth films back-to-back-to-back you get a non-stop story.

Additional gift guides:

Aparecium: A muggle's reading guide to the Wizarding World

Atlantis ascending: A DC Comics holiday gift guide

Binge worthy: A television series holiday gift guide

Beloved bibliophile: A book lover's holiday guide to The Folio Society

Sound and vision: A DVD and Blu-ray holiday gift guide

Rebel Stories: A Star Wars holiday gift guide

Button mashing: A holiday video game gift guide



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