DVD, TV and Video Game Gift Suggestions


During the past two decades, the Mexican director Guillermo Del Toro has developed his own brand of adult — but not adult only — fairy tales. This deluxe box set packages his first feature, the poetic vampire film “Cronos” (1993), with his exercise in anti-fascist supernaturalism, “The Devil’s Backbone” (2001), and another rich, daring mix of fantasy and politics, “Pan’s Labyrinth” (2006), an endlessly watchable movie that bids to be a classic.

2016 Holiday Gift Guide

Present ideas, from technology to home goods, to make shopping easy this season.


‘THE T.A.M.I. SHOW/THE BIG T.N.T. SHOW [COLLECTOR’S EDITION]’ Shout! Factory; Blu-ray, $29.98; shoutfactory.com

These sensational mid-1960s all-star rock ’n’ roll revues, captured on video before a live audience, are packed with great acts. Performers include the Beach Boys, Bo Diddley, Marvin Gaye, Lesley Gore, Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, the Ronettes and the Supremes. The most remarkable is James Brown; the unluckiest is the Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger, who — however credible in his own right — has the impossible task of following the Brown explosion.

‘LONE WOLF AND CUB’ The Criterion Collection; DVD or Blu-ray, $99.95; criterion.com

Absurdly violent and much beloved by fans of chambara (sword-fighting films), the six “Lone Wolf and Cub” films — released in Japan from 1972 to 1974 — push the notion of a single father to the absolute limit, as a freelance assassin roams the Japanese countryside with his young son. The set includes all six films, as well as documentaries and “Shogun Assassin,” the 1980 English-language mash-up that kicked off the cycle here.

‘THE IRON GIANT: SIGNATURE EDITION’ By Brad Bird, Warner Bros.; Blu-ray, $14.97; amazon.com

Steeped in a mythos of Sputniks, spooks and classroom shelter drills, this cult film is an animated feature about a 9-year-old boy who finds, saves and protects the humongous robot that drops from the sky — educating him with his comic books. The Blu-ray contains the film’s 1999 theatrical release edition, an expanded version and a documentary; an Ultimate Collector’s Edition ($74.99) is augmented by a hardcover book, collectible cards, a four-inch plastic Iron Giant statue, and a letter from the director, Brad Bird.

‘MOBY DICK’ By John Huston, Twilight Time; Blu-ray, $29.95; twilighttimemovies.com

This 1956 adaptation of “Moby-Dick,” from a script by Ray Bradbury and John Huston, who also directed, not only popularized a literary masterpiece but added to it. To evoke the quality of 19th-century engravings, Huston tempered his Technicolor images with a monochromatic overlay. The film has been out on DVD, but, using material from the Library of Congress, this new Blu-ray restores the glory of the original desaturated color scheme.

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Kino Classics’ five-disc “Pioneers of African-American Cinema” surveys the race films, some silent and some with sound, produced mostly from 1915 through World War II.

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Kino Classics

‘PIONEERS OF AFRICAN-AMERICAN CINEMA’ Kino Classics; DVD, $79.95; Blu-ray, $99.95; kinolorber.com

A superb collection of historical significance, curated by the scholars Charles Musser and Jacqueline Najuma Stewart, “Pioneers” surveys America’s original independent cinema: the race films produced, often against great odds, mostly from 1915 through World War II. Besides Spencer Williams’s 1941 underground classic, “The Blood of Jesus,” are eight features, silent and sound, by Oscar Micheaux, who has yet to be fully appreciated. Some material is exclusive to the Blu-ray.

‘DR. MABUSE, THE GAMBLER’ By Fritz Lang, Kino Classics; DVD or Blu-ray, $39.95; kinolorber.com

This four-and-a-half-hour tale of the criminal genius and cosmic con man Dr. Mabuse is an exercise in political paranoia still relevant nearly a century after it first appeared in 1922. The restoration, by a consortium of European archives, is excellent.

TV

Mike Hale

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In foreground, Michelle Dockery and Hugh Bonneville in the final season of “Downton Abbey.”

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Nick Briggs/Carnival Film & Television for Masterpiece

‘DOWNTON ABBEY: THE COMPLETE LIMITED EDITION COLLECTOR’S SET’ PBS; DVD, $199.99; shoppbs.org

As we head into the first January in seven years without “Downton Abbey,” withdrawal can be treated with this 22-DVD, 3,000-minute-plus-set. If the six seasons and five hours of new bonus features don’t heal your pain, there’s the “Downton Abbey” coaster set, the “Costumes of Downton Abbey” photo book and — wait for it, like a footman with a breakfast tray — your very own pull-bell to summon your very own domestics, if you have any.

‘FREAKS AND GEEKS: THE COMPLETE SERIES’ Shout! Factory; Blu-ray, $119; shoutfactory.com

This latest repackaging of everyone’s favorite 18-episode comedy about the horrors of high school is the first complete set on Blu-ray. (This means the episodes are available in new wide-screen versions; if you care about the integrity of the image, the original pre-HD-ratio versions are here, too.) The show’s creator, Paul Feig, and executive producer, Judd Apatow, went on to bigger things, but found the time to sit for an interview for this set.

‘LOOKING: THE COMPLETE SERIES AND THE MOVIE’ HBO; DVD, $39.99; Blu-ray, $49.99; store.hbo.com/looking

HBO’s bittersweet and moving comedy about gay friends in the Bay Area wrapped up its short run — two seasons and a movie-length finale — in July, and all of it is here in time for holiday bingeing. Spike the eggnog and enjoy the performances of Jonathan Groff, Murray Bartlett, Frankie J. Alvarez and Raúl Castillo.

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“The Monkees: The Complete Series,” a boxed set on Blu-ray.

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Rhino Entertainment

‘THE MONKEES: THE COMPLETE SERIES’ Rhino; Blu-ray, $199.98; monkeesstore.warnermusic.com

You’ll be too busy watching to put anybody down. This newly remastered Blu-ray set includes the full run (58 episodes) of the ahead-of-its-time 1966-68 sitcom, whose DNA can be seen in shows from reality boy-band series to “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt.” Extras include the Monkees movie, “Head,” and the wonderfully titled television special “33⅓ Revolutions per Monkee.”

‘THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON: THE VAULT SERIES’ Time Life; DVD, $94.99; johnnycarson.myshopify.com

Remember when there was only one late-night show that mattered? More than 4,500 episodes of “The Tonight Show” were produced during Carson’s 30-year run, so don’t look for a full set anytime soon. (Maybe when the “Silicon Valley” boys perfect that compression algorithm.) This 12-DVD set gives you 24 full episodes, including commercials, with the likes of Bob Hope, Charles Nelson Reilly, Buddy Hackett, Joey Bishop, Don Rickles and others. It’s like 1975 never ended.

Gilbert Cruz

ACORN TV $49.99 a year, gift membership; store.acorn.tv/#give

A perfect streaming service for the Anglophile in your life, Acorn features TV shows from Britain, Australia and other Commonwealth nations. It has more than a few light and comforting mystery series as well as two of the better police dramas ever produced by Britain: “Prime Suspect,” starring Helen Mirren, and “Cracker,” starring Robbie Coltrane.

MUBI $47.88 a year, gift membership; mubi.com/gifts

This supercurated streaming service, which features “cult, classic, independent and award-winning movies,” allows you only 30 titles a month. Every day, a new movie is added and one falls out of the catalog. It’s an ingenious attempt to solve the problem of there being too many movies to choose from.

SEESO $3.99 a month; seeso.com

The streaming revolution has resulted in services both broad (Netflix, Hulu, Amazon Prime) and niche. Take Seeso. Please! But seriously, Seeso is for comedy nerds. It has original series and stand-up specials, some funny movies (like the Monty Python films) and, perhaps most impressive, every single episode of “Saturday Night Live.”

‘TV (THE BOOK)’ By Alan Sepinwall and Matt Zoller Seitz, Grand Central Publishing, $19.99; tvthebook.com

There’s more TV to watch than ever before. And every season, month and week offers new series to sample and binge on. But the TV critics Matt Zoller Seitz and Alan Sepinwall would like to take your attention off the shiny new shows and direct it toward the old, the classic, the best. They offer their picks for the best 100 American TV dramas and comedies of all time. Will you disagree with some of their picks? Certainly. Is that part of the fun? Definitely.

Video Games

Chris Suellentrop

PLAYSTATION VR Sony, $399.99; playstation.com

Sony’s headset is the simplest way to check out high-end virtual reality, especially if you own a PlayStation 4. Even so, it isn’t as technically impressive as the pricier HTC Vive or Oculus Rift, nor is it as inexpensive as the mobile-phone headsets from Google, Samsung and others. For an extra $100, you can get a bundle that includes optional motion controllers, a required camera to detect the headset and a game.

NES CLASSIC EDITION Nintendo, $59.99; nintendo.com

Nintendo’s new console, the Switch, is scheduled for release in March. This miniature version of the 1980s system that introduced Super Mario Bros. to our living rooms can help you get through the winter. It contains 30 classic games, including The Legend of Zelda, Metroid, Punch-Out!, Tecmo Bowl and three Super Mario titles. (A second controller costs $9.99.)

INSIDE Playdead, $19.99; playdead.com

If you crossed Super Mario Bros. with Cormac McCarthy’s “The Road” you would get something like this quiet, wordless, beautiful and disturbing game from the Danish studio Playdead.

THE LAST GUARDIAN Sony, $59.99; playstation.com

The Japanese designer Fumito Ueda directed two games, Ico and Shadow of the Colossus, whose emotional power relies on interaction and play, rather than filmlike scenes and dialogue. He has been working on the third one for 11 years. (It will be available for PlayStation Dec. 6.) Whether it’s another masterpiece, a disaster or something in between, The Last Guardian, about the relationship between a boy and a mysterious creature, is sure to be one of the year’s most interesting games.

FIREWATCH Campo Santo, $19.99; firewatchgame.com

The year’s most important game might be That Dragon, Cancer, an interactive memoir by a husband and wife about the death of their young son. If you want to expose someone to a less powerfully sad game that still demonstrates the medium’s ability to tell grown-up stories without elves or space marines or gangsters, try Firewatch, an interactive drama about a lonely fire lookout in Wyoming.

UNCHARTED 4: A THIEF’S END Naughty Dog, $59.99; unchartedthegame.com

Nathan Drake, the charming rogue of the Uncharted games, is often compared to Indiana Jones. But his video-game mother is surely Tomb Raider’s Lara Croft, another globe-trotting, puzzle-solving treasure hunter with guns. A new creative team has taken over the fourth game in this highly cinematic series, and has kept the exhilarating action set pieces while adding quieter moments about aging, family and marriage.

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