Father’s Day is Sunday, but this year, instead of — or in addition to — the usual gifts of a good book, tools or that tie Dad just loves to receive this time of year, a worthwhile gift might be one of several recommended movies or television series new to the market.
If you’re reading this on Saturday, this guide arrives at the last minute — just a day before the big day — which is fitting because, let’s face it, perhaps one day in your life your own father was there for you at the last minute. As a bonus, all of these titles can be found locally at far less than the retail prices listed below.
Chief among the best releases is HBO’s “Band of Brothers” ($79.98 DVD; $99.98 Blu-ray), the Emmy Award-winning, World War II series based on Stephen E. Ambrose’s best-selling book. Now available at a steeply discounted price, this set remains one of the most involving, well-acted examinations of war combat ever pro-duced specifically for television, with the men of the Easy Company given their due in a grueling series produced by Tom Hanks and Steven Spielberg.
Also high on the list are the History Channel’s “The Universe: Season Three” ($39.95); the comprehensive “Prehistoric Collection: From Dinosaurs to the Dawn of Man” ($59.95); the documentary “Stealing Lincoln’s Body” ($19.95); and “UFO Hunters: Season Two” ($39.95), which looks to the skies in an effort to find something — anything — to prove we’re not alone. Also new and recommended from the History Channel the 14 discs amassed in the “Military Combat” collection ($99.95), and “American Originals Megaset” ($99.95), which features content from such series as “Ice Road Truckers,” “Ax Men,” “Tougher in Alaska” and “Danger-ous Missions.”
Too much war, blood and violence? No problem. If Dad is a fan of the BBC, recommended titles include the five films (“Oliver Twist,” “The Old Curiosity Shop,” “Bleak House,” “Little Dorrit,” “Great Expectation” in “Charles Dickens Masterworks Collection” ($119.98), and the recently released remake of “Bleak House” ($39.98 DVD; $49.99 Blu-ray) with Gillian Anderson, Anna Maxwell Martin and Denis Lawson. Also from the BBC is terrific first season of “Torchwood” ($99.98), as well as “Robin Hood: Season One” ($99.98), each of which mark their Blu-ray debuts.
The latter series is especially good, a lively retelling of the tale that once again makes it hip to take from the rich and give to the poor. This promising first season stars Jonas Armstrong in the lead, with Hungary posing as 12th-century England and taxes against the poor an unacceptable proposition. Humor, romance and sword-play commingle amid the tomfoolery, with the script connecting more often than not.
As for other titles on Blu-ray, you’ll find a boon, with studios reaching deep into their archives and pulling out several solid films in high-definition transfers.
The Academy Award-nominated thriller “Fatal Attraction” ($29.99) is a must, with Glenn Close cooking rabbits, cruising married men and causing all sorts of sordid chaos while Michael Douglas and Anne Archer try to fend her and her butcher knife off, as is the salacious movie “Indecent Proposal” ($29.99), with Robert Red-ford willing to pay a very married Demi Moore $1 million to get her into bed. Woody Harrelson co-stars. Other Blu-ray titles include “Force 10 from Navarone” ($29.99), Kurt Russell in “Dark Blue” ($24.99), The Rock in “Walking Tall” ($24.99) and Steve Martin in “The Pink Panther 2” ($39.99).
Plenty of action and pin-up potential is to be had for Dad in several high-definition transfers from the James Bond franchise. The latest film, “Quantum of Solace” ($29.99), would make many fathers happy, as would four additional Bond throwbacks, each of which looks terrific on Blu-ray, particularly Guy Hamilton’s 1965 film “Goldfinger” ($34.99), from which “Solace” borrows a key scene not to be revealed here. Sean Connery stars as Bond in that film, as he does in 1983’s “Never Say Never Again” ($34.98), with its Tomahawk missiles, nuclear warheads and that other bombshell — Barbara Carrera as Fatima Bush.
The movie was Connery’s last performance as Bond. Four years earlier in 1979’s “Moonraker” ($34.99), Roger Moore already was deep into the role, having made three films before this one. In the film, the Space Shuttle is in danger, but Bond, along with Lois Chile’s Dr. Holly Goodhead, must bring down Hugo Drax (Michael Lonsdale) to save it. The movie is a jolt of camp, with the towering Richard Kiel, sporting an enormous mouth of metal, easily stealing the show.
Also on Blu-ray is 1999’s “The World is Not Enough” ($34.99), the 19th movie in the franchise and Pierce Brosnan’s best outing as Bond. In the movie, Electra (Sophie Marceau), the daughter of a recently assassinated tycoon, is building a pipeline across Central Asia to Turkey, something her deranged former kidnapper Re-nard (Robert Carlyle) will stop at any cost. When M (Judi Dench) sends Bond to the Caspian oil town of Baku to protect Electra, the film — literally and figuratively — finds its legs.
As Bond girls go, Marceau’s Electra won’t disappoint, but Denise Richards’ Dr. Christmas Jones, a nuclear scientist (ha!), is one of the worst. Unlike Ursula Andress’ Honey Ryder and Honor Blackman’s Pussy Galore, Richards doesn’t have the shrewd intelligence the role demands. Still, that’s a quibble. Brosnan and Dench were more than enough to rocket this series straight into the present.
Additional titles on Blu-ray include Jean-Claude Van Damme in the action movie “Kickboxer” ($19.99); the “Star Wars” spoof, “Spaceballs” ($29.99) from MGM; Shia LaBeouf in the golf-themed “The Greatest Game Ever Played” ($34.99); Brendan Fraser, Paul Bettany, Helen Mirren and Jim Broadbent in the fantasy “Ink-heart” ($35.99); and Ivan Reitman’s defining 1984 comedy, “Ghostbusters” ($28.95). If your father is into horror movies, look for “The Cell 2” ($35.99), the 2009 Killer Cut edition of “Friday the 13th” ($35.99), and from Paramount, the original “Friday the 13th Part 2” ($29.99) and “Friday the 13th Part 3 in 3-D” ($29.99).
Among the best offerings on Blu-ray is “Children of Men” ($29.98). From P.D. James’ novel, this dark, superb thriller is a tour-de-force whose hellish sink into dystopia made for one of 2006’s more unforgettable trips. The film opens in the year 2027, we’re in London and the situation is chaos, though hardly only in Britain. The world has collapsed into ruin and the human race is facing its end. Women no longer are able to conceive children — for the past 18 years, they’ve been infertile. So, when one woman (Claire-Hope Ashitey) reveals that she is pregnant, an explosive situation ignites, with several special interest groups wanting control of her. A fantastic Clive Owen, Julianne Moore and Michael Caine star.
For those seeking television series, several affordable offerings are worth noting, including Benjamin Bratt in the first season of “The Cleaner” ($49.99), the first season of HBO’s terrific vampire series “True Blood” ($59.99), the fifth season of that same network’s buddy drama “Entourage,” and the Emmy Award-winning HBO miniseries “John Adams” on Blu-ray ($79.98), which stars Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney in an adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book. If you want to go retro on Dad, you can’t go wrong with “Get Smart: The Complete Series Gift Set” ($199.95), which includes every episode of the show on 25 discs.
For sports collections, you know your father best, so pick your poison. Here is what’s new to market: “NFL: Arizona Cardinals: 2008 NFC Champs” ($19.98), “NFL Super Bowl XLIII: Blu-ray” ($34.99), “NFL: Pittsburgh Steelers — Road to the Super Bowl XLIII Blu-ray” ($49.99) and “The New York Yankees: Essential Games of Yankee Stadium — Perfect Games and No Hitters” ($49.95).
Did that last title cause you to pause? Perhaps to gag? Maybe … and maybe not. Still, if it did, younger, local fathers might want to share their love of the Red Sox with their own children in “Red Sox Baby: 2007 World Series Edition” ($19.98). That’s a tonic some won’t want to miss.
WeekinRewind.com is the site for Bangor Daily News film critic Christopher Smith’s blog, DVD giveaways and movie reviews. Smith’s reviews appear Fridays and weekends in Lifestyle, as well as on bangordailynews.com. He may be reached at Christopher@weekinrewind.com.