Make It A Blu Christmas With Our 2017 Movie Holiday Gift Guide
Shopping for movie fans in 2017 is no easy task. All we ever hear about is the decline of physical media, suggesting that the only way to watch a movie at home is via download or a streaming service. While those may be viable options, it should also be noted that hardcore movie buffs are enjoying a golden age of Blu-ray. Now that casual viewers have left the format behind, the emphasis has shifted to offer a more diverse and unusual selection of titles.
In other words, if you want to impress the movie fan in your life, there’s no better idea than a Blu-ray. With that in mind, here are some recent highlights that are unlikely to disappoint.
Remember the year in fear
2017 was a great year for movies, particularly unconventional audience dividers. A disturbing portrait of the Algiers Motel incident that took place during the 12th Street Riot in 1967, Detroit is simply too gruelling for some viewers, but this triumph of empathetic vérité confirms Kathryn Bigelow’s place as one of the world’s great visceral storytellers and a filmmaker of rare conscience—who also happens to be consistently misunderstood. The extras on this disc are brief, but the film itself is substantial, not to mention timely and infuriating.
Christopher Nolan’s Dunkirk may have its detractors, but this is a bold cinematic achievement, a fact that’s undeniable once you’ve seen the nearly two hours of Blu-ray extras detailing the writer-director’s exacting, uncompromising methods. While the merits of Darren Aronofsky’s mother! are more debatable—my personal review would fall somewhere between a pan and a rave—the 37 minutes of extras on this disc will put you in a far better position to appreciate the ambition of this seemingly minimal production.
If the surrealism of mother! is too restrained for your taste, you can push everything to the next level—and beyond—with David Lynch’s recent Twin Peaks revival. Offering all 18 episodes in hallucinogenic HD, this set (which we reviewed in more detail here) also comes equipped with a striking package design and roughly eight hours of bonus content. While Lynch didn’t create many of these extras himself, the skewed sensibilities of the series are apparent throughout. Of course, Twin Peaks isn’t really a movie, but that didn’t stop it from landing the number-one spot on Cahiers du Cinema’s prestigious year-end movie list, giving massive cinematic street cred to Lynch’s latest creation.
Make your friends Scream
Since launching in 2003, Shout! Factory has been a distinguished distributor of cult movies and TV, but the company really came into its own five years ago with its horror subsidiary Scream Factory. Continuing its reputation for extra-packed horror discs, Scream recently released new editions of George A. Romero’s Land of the Dead—which is notable for including four new featurettes and the superior theatrical cut missing from earlier discs—and James Gunn’s directorial debut Slither, which includes a new interview and commentary from the Guardians of the Galaxy auteur.
However, the most seasonally appropriate option is the company’s new special edition of Silent Night, Deadly Night. Attracting all kinds of parental outrage when it terrorized audiences in 1984, this deranged holiday classic will appeal most to cynics and/or anyone with a dark, gore-drenched sense of humour. In addition to 4K restorations of the theatrical and unrated cuts, this release includes a new commentary and nearly 90 minutes of new featurettes. Horror fans may struggle with Christmas, but if they get a copy of this Blu-ray, they just might survive.
Or make them Shout!
In the last year or so, Shout! Factory has come full circle, giving Scream-like treatment to the kinds of non-horror films that built the company’s reputation. From popular favourites to movies that are downright bizarre and/or esoteric, the Shout Select imprint offers something for just about everyone. Recent highlights include The Incredible Shrinking Woman—which features interviews with no less than two legends: Lily Tomlin and composer Suzanne Ciani—Alan Rudolph’s offbeat art world gem The Moderns, and John Landis’ genre-bending Into the Night.
In terms of extras, the latter is particularly impressive, as it includes new interviews with two of the best talkers in the business: Landis and star Jeff Goldblum. Rarely mentioned these days, Into the Night is notable for its countless cameos and the professed admiration of Baby Driver director Edgar Wright, who once placed it on a double bill with the likeminded Martin Scorsese sleeper After Hours.
Raid the archive
Disputing the argument that Blu-ray is a dying format, new distributors continue launching on a regular basis. One of the most idiosyncratic examples from 2017 is the American Genre Film Archive, which has released four discs to date. The most impressive of these is Effects, an inspired 1980 indie about a horror production that gets all too real. This disc features two shorts from the film’s creative team—who had a long history (and future) with George A. Romero— an old commentary, and Michael Felsher’s excellent retrospective documentary After Effects, which includes a commentary of its own. For horror buffs who think they’ve seen it all, this should make for a refreshing discovery.
Arriving by way of Something Weird, AGFA’s other releases are more problematic, but the worthwhile extras (including bonus feature films) make up for any shortcomings. A superhero parody for adults only, Bat Pussy is an endurance test that barely qualifies as a movie. (There’s little evidence that this improvised depravity was ever run through an editing suite.) The Zodiac Killer also has some shortcomings—including its obvious deviations from the case it shares with Zodiac—but it consistently grabs your attention, partly because it emerged from the same time and place as its title character. In fact, this threat was so clear and present during production that director Tom Hanson was forced to carry a gun on the set!
Take a chance on a classic
Over the last five years, Olive Films has become one of the most reliable distributors of classics and overlooked star vehicles on Blu-ray. While these discs are typically light on extras, the Olive Signature series offers supplement-heavy editions of masterpieces (Letter from an Unknown Woman) and forgotten oddities (Father Goose) alike. Other recent Olive highlights include Stay Hungry—a laid back ’70s gem featuring one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s first performances—and multiple Oscar winner The Miracle Worker.
Those feeling extra festive should also consider 1986’s Nutcracker: The Motion Picture, a little seen movie (filmed ballet really) from celebrated director Carroll Ballard (The Black Stallion). Blu-ray is a year-round obsession, but this disc is best served on December 25th.