So it’s the day after Black Friday. You survived it without getting a black eye (or maybe didn’t, and we’re sorry to hear that), but you also know from the crush of today’s ads alone that deals are still out there. Big time. And so the game is still on. Nobody is resting. And nobody is taking a sale away from you today, baby. Forget yesterday. Get back into the ring. Strap on your gloves. You’ve still got your game on.
OK, so maybe you don’t.
For those who feel like paring down their list and getting through the melee that will be the weekend, the following are recommended DVDs and Blu-ray discs to get you into stores, and get you out of them without a visit to the emergency room.
High definition continues to soar, so we’ll start with the clarity it offers. As with all of the titles that follow, the retail prices are listed. You will be happy to know that each can be found locally and online at steep discounts.
One of the best choices on Blu-ray is the “BBC High Definition Natural History Collection” ($179.98), which is so good, it’s worth making the time to watch it twice. The set includes the BBC’s acclaimed series “Planet Earth,” as well as the documentaries “Galapagos,” “Wild China” and “Ganges.” The photography is as rich as anything you would expect from the BBC, which has some of the world’s finest cinematographers.
Also recommended on Blu-ray are “Mad Men: Second Season” ($49.99); “Scrubs: Complete Eighth Season” ($54.99); Warner’s comprehensive “Gone with the Wind: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition” ($84.99), which looks fantastic in high definition; the 25th anniversary edition of Stephen King’s “Cujo” ($19.99); “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas” ($29.99); and two children’s movies in “Shorts” ($35.99) and “Gremlins” ($28.99).
The complete series of Joss Whedon’s terrific sci-fi series “Firefly” ($89.98) is available on Blu-ray, as are Reese Witherspoon and Vince Vaughn in the comedy “Four Christmases” ($35.95); Ben Stiller in “Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian” ($39.99); “Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs” ($39.99); and four titles from the History Channel — “The Crusades” ($29.95), “Expedition Africa” ($39.95), “Life After People” ($29.95) and the fine documentary “Moonshot” ($24.95).
Rounding out recommended Blu-ray titles are four from Disney, with highest marks going to one of the year’s best animated films, “Up” ($29.99), as well as “Snow White and Seven Dwarfs” ($39.99), “Tinker Bell and the Lost Treasure” ($39.99) and the newly released “Santa Buddies” ($39.99).
Obviously, all of the Blu-ray titles mentioned above also are available on standard-definition DVD. They’re equally recommended and, as a bonus, all are less expensive than their Blu-ray counterparts. The downside? They won’t look or sound nearly as nice, so go ahead, think about getting that new Blu-ray player.
For children, it’s a grab bag of good choices as many solid titles now are available on standard DVD, such as “Bob the Builder: Call in the Crew” ($14.99), “Treasury of Classic Bedtime Stories” from Scholastic ($29.99), “Barney: Jungle Friends: The Movie” ($16.98) and “Superman: The Complete Animated Series” ($53.98).
Also recommended are “Speed Racer: The Next Generation — Comet Run” ($29.98), “Gotta Catch Santa Claus” ($19.98), “Frosty Friends” ($14.98), “A Christmas Story” ($19.98 DVD, $28.99 Blu-ray) and “Ben 10: Alien Swarm” ($19.97 DVD, $29.99 Blu-ray).
From the BBC comes a bounty, including the vast “Michael Palin Collection” ($249.98), which includes on 19 discs all of his previously released, globe-trotting adventures; the seriously good comedy series “Absolutely Fabulous: Absolutely Everything” ($129.98); “Blackadder Remastered: The Ultimate Edition” ($79.98); and “’Allo ’Allo! The Complete Collection” ($249.98), which is set during World War II and follows the carousing French cafe owner Rene Artois as he flirts with his waitresses while trying to handle a difficult wife and mother-in-law. He might not always succeed, but this show does.
Same goes for the five films (“Oliver Twist,” “The Old Curiosity Shop,” “Bleak House,” “Little Dorrit,” “Great Expectations”) included in “Charles Dickens Masterworks Collection” ($119.98); the smart Britcom “One Foot in the Grave: The Complete Series” ($179.98); and Ian McShane in “Lovejoy: The Complete Collection” ($299.98).
Among the best of the BBC lot is “Monarch of the Glen: The Complete Series” ($198.98), which takes place in the Scottish Highlands at the Glenbogle estate, which Archie MacDonald (Alistair Mackenzie) is charged to save from financial ruin. To do so, he will need to reconcile with his father, hardly an easy task, but as this engrossing series proves, nothing really is easy in the life of this young laird.
Joining that last title in being among the season’s best choices are the recently discounted “The Sopranos: Complete Series” ($299.98), which last year was offered at just under $600; “Mystery Science Theater 3000: XVI” ($64.99), “Dawson’s Creek: The Complete Series” ($119.95), and beautifully restored “The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition” ($69.92).
For those seeking boxed sets, the best come down to “Columbia Best Pictures Collection” ($135.95), which includes 11 films, all of which won the Academy Award for Best Picture. A broad range of movies are included, from 1934’s “It Happened One Night” and 1953’s “From Here to Eternity,” to 1954’s “On the Waterfront,” 1962’s “Lawrence of Arabia,” 1979’s “Kramer vs. Kramer” and 1982’s “Gandhi,” among others.
Another must is “Alfred Hitchcock: The Premiere Collection” ($119.99), which features eight key films, including “Lifeboat,” “Notorious,” “Sabotage” and “Rebecca.” Extras abound in each set. Also look for “Paul Newman: The Tribute Collection” ($89.98), “The Official World Series Film Collection” ($229.95) and “Schwarzenegger Collection” ($29.98), which includes “Terminator 2: Judgment Day,” “Total Recall,” “Red Heat” and “The Running Man.”
Though at least one other DVD gift guide will follow in these pages before the holidays strike, it would be a mistake not to recommend the three comedy boxed sets that best reflect the sort of lunacy you will need to get through the weekend: “The Complete Monty Python’s Flying Circus: Collectors Edition Megaset” ($159.95), which is a boon of hilarity on 21 discs; “Mr. Bean: The Ultimate Collection” ($69.95); and “Get Smart: The Complete Series Giftset” ($199.95), the latter of which hails from HBO and follows the loopy adventures of Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 in 138 episodes on 25 discs.
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.