By Stuart O'Connor
Got a fussy friend or partner, or a particularly choosy child? You can’t go wrong with a DVD or Blu-ray, so let Screenjabber help you to pick the perfect gift this Christmas. Whether they are fans of drama, comedy or love to binge-watch their favourite TV series, there's sure to be something here for everyone. And as the nights draw in and our thoughts turn to all things festive, shoot your way to the top of the Christmas card list by offering your friends and family the perfect night in …
Before getting into what Blu-rays and DVDs are worth taking a look at as potential gift ideas, have you considered giving someone a subscription to one of the streaming services? Both Amazon Instant Video and Netflix are affordable, at around £6 a month, and offer a selction of old and recent-release movies, classic TV series – and, more-and-more, some first-rate original new TV shows. Amazon has the likes of The Man in The High Castle, Red Oaks, Transparent, Into The Badlands, Mozart in the Jungle and Mr Robot, while Netflix has Marvel's Daredevil and the new Jessica Jones, Orange Is The New Black, Narcos, Sense8, Marco Polo, Grace and Frankie and House of Cards. Among classic shows from elsewhere on the services, Netflix has Arrested Development, Battlestar Galactica, Breaking Bad, Firefly and The Thick Of It, while Amazon's got Alias, Arrow, Mad Men, The Shield and The Walking Dead. Standard UK Netflix is £5.99 a month or £6.99 for high-definition if it's available). For Ultra HD/4K you'll pay £8.99 a month. If you're signed up to Amazon's Prime free-delivery service, then Instant Video is free. For Amazon Prime Instant Video without a Prime membership, the price is £5.99 per month. Both services are available for PC and Mac, Xbox 360 and Xbox One, PS3 and PS4, Nintendo Wii and Nintendo Wii U, iPhone, iPod Touch and iPad and the Kindle Fire family.
So onto the Blu-rays and DVDs. And with a new Star Wars film in cinemas this Christmas (yes, they kept that VERY quiet!) what better place to start than with the original trilogy – and, to a lesser extent, the not-quite-as-good prequels. If you want to introduce a whole new audience to the saga before they see The Force Awakens, then why not get them Star Wars: The Complete Saga on Blu-ray (20th Century Fox, $89.99). This nine-disc collection features all six films plus more than 40 hours of special features, including deleted, extended and alternate scenes, vintage documentaries, audio commentaries, behind-the-scenes moments, interviews, prop and costume turnarounds, retrospectives, new documentaries and some of the many Star Wars spoofs that have appeared over the years. You can also get the films on DVD, with two separate collections – Star Wars: The Original Trilogy and Star Wars: The Prequel Trilogy, both priced at £24.99
And speaking of Star Wars and the new film, how about a pair of Star Wars character socks for the sci-fi buff in your life? They can join the dark side of the sock drawer and wear these SockShop Disney Star Wars Villains Darth Vader, Boba Fett, Emperor and Stormtrooper Socks. Part of the official uniform of the Galactic Empire, these novelty socks must be worn by all true Sith or Stormtroopers. Made in a soft, cotton rich blend, these socks feature large, detailed woven character images, along with contrast colour bands around the toes and elasticated tops to keep them up and in place, because the Emperor doesn’t appreciate slovenly, sloppy sock-wearing!
This year is also a special one for another film trilogy – Back To The Future. And if Back To The Future is not the greatest film trilogy ever made, it's certainly the most fun, with the first film being, without a doubt, the greatest time travel comedy in the history of film. Hell, it's one of the best films of all time, period. Back To The Future is as close to entertainment perfection as you're ever likely to see. While superficially a science fiction story, it's also a family drama, a romance, a comedy and a period piece all rolled into one. This year sees Back To The Future celebrate its 30th Anniversary, and the new Blu-ray collection is the perfect way to enjoy these wonderful films at their best (and at around £15, will also make a perfect stocking stuffer).
Is the critically acclaimed Mad Max: Fury Road the best film of the year? Quite possibly, and it is also a great Christmas gift for the action-film fan in your family. Directed by George Miller, who made the original Mad Max trilogy, and starring Tom Hardy in the title role and Charlize Theron as Imperator Furiosa, Mad Max: Fury Road is a marvelous, adrenaline-fueled return to the Wasteland that sees Max team up with Furiosa to rescue women imprisoned as sex slaves by the tyrant Immortan Joe. Mad Max: Fury Road is available on 3D Blu-ray (£29.99), Blu-ray (£24.99) and DVD (£19.99), plus there is a Mad Max Anthology Blu-ray box set available for £34.99, featuring all four films. So when the gangs take over the highways, pray he's under the Christmas tree...
Seeing as it's Christmas, maybe a Christmas comedy is more to their liking? There are some terrific Christmas comedies around, with The Muppet Christmas Carol, Scrooged and Elf being three of our favourites. Another Christmas classic is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, which sees those wacky Griswolds staying home for a change and letting the rest of the family come to them. The usual chaos ensues. Clark has to have the biggest tree possible, he has to have the most Christmas lights covering his house and he has to have the most obnoxious relatives possible (and do keep your eyes open for the wonderful Julia Louis-Dreyfus as a psycho neighbour). For a little updated Griwsold action, join a grown-up son Rusty and HIS family in the latest film, Vacation. Following in his father’s footsteps, Rusty (Ed Helms) surprises his wife, Debbie (Christina Applegate), and their two sons with a cross-country road trip back to Walley World. What could go wrong?
Got a James Bond fan in your life? Then the James Bond 23 Film Collection (20th Century Fox, £109.99 on Blu-ray, £59.99 on DVD) is just the present for them. This all new box set contains every Bond film from Dr No to Skyfall (minus the spoof Casino Royale from 1967 and the Sean Connery comeback Never Say Never Again from 1983) with a space reserved for Spectre, which is coming in 2016. Whoever their favorite Bond is – from Connery, Lazenby and Moore through to brosnan and Craig – this collection will keep the happy recipient shaken AND stirred for hours.
Warner Bros has quite a few decent new releases on offer this festive season, with Hot Pursuit, The Man From UNCLE, Magic Mike XXL, The Exorcist Complete Anthology and The Hobbit Extended Edition all available now. And from the vaults, there is plenty of Christmas fun to be had with The Polar Express and Gremlins, too. In fact, Gremlins is right up there with Die Hard as one of the best Christmas films ever. And from 20th Century Fox, you are sure to make a pal's Christmas wish comes true when they unwrap Paper Towns, Kingsman: The Secret Service, Far From The Madding Crowd, Modern Family Seasons 1-6, Family Guy Seasons 1-14, The Rocky Heavyweight Collection and The X-Files: The Collector's Set. For the first time on Blu-ray, the original nine groundbreaking seasons of The X-Files, along with loads of special features, is available to own. Although they begin as reluctant partners, FBI special agents Fox Mulder and Dana Scully (David Duchovny and Gillian Anderson) ultimately form a powerful bond as they struggle to unravel deadly conspiracies and solve paranormal mysteries. With more than 23 hours of extras, including documentaries, and commentary by creator Chris Carter and the production team — as well as special effects sequences and deleted scenes — this collection, which includes space for the upcoming The X-Files Event Series in 2016, is a must-have for any fan.
Know someone who is a bit of a Sherlock buff? Well, keeping them happy this Christmas is elementary – BBC Worldwide has a range of Sherlock-themed gifts, kicking off with a set of Blu-ray steelbooks of Sherlock series 1, 2 and 3. Each contains its own exclusive material including episodic commentary from both key cast and writers, "making of" documentaries and the Exclusive Pilot Episode: Sherlock – A Study in Pink on Series 1. These will retail at £19.99 each, and are exclusive to HMV in the UK. Underground Toys’ Sherlock Pop! Vinyl Figure collection is also out in time for Christmas. Measuring approximately 2.75in, the collection includes consulting detective Sherlock Holmes, his trusty companion John Watson, Sherlock’s arch-enemy Jim Moriarty and the mysterious Irene Adler. The highly-anticipated and intricately detailed new 5in Sherlock action figure from Underground Toys is available for Christmas. This detailed recreation of Benedict Cumberbatch as the legendary sleuth comes complete with character specific accessories such as Sherlock’s mobile phone, his violin and the skull, and retails for around £14.99.
Finally, here are three terrific DVDs for the kids. First up is On Angel Wings, a magical reworking of the nativity story based on the book by acclaimed author Michael Morpurgo and from the executive producer of The Snowman and the director of Father Christmas. The short enchanted families when it aired on BBC One last Christmas and now this delightful animation is available on DVD and Digital Download. On Angel Wings features an all-star voice cast including Sir Michael Gambon, Juliet Stevenson, Dominic Cooper, Colin McFarlane and Maya Gerber.
For the pre-schoolers, take a trip down to Salty Cove this Christmas and join the festive fun as Pip, Alba and Skipper decorate the lighthouse with Pip Ahoy: Christmas Ahoy! The series features Sir David Jason as the voice of Pip’s caring uncle, Skipper, along with Stacey Solomon who recorded the theme song and is the voice of the pink flamingo, Fuchsia. Both Skipper and Fuschia are residents of the idyllic Salty Cove with lead character, Pip, a young spirited puppy that loves adventure. With a Christmas special full of merry mischief and four bonus episodes, this year the festive feeling has well and truly arrived! Pip, Alba and Skipper are busy decorating and Alan the Penguin receives a special Christmas snowball but all is not perfect in Salty Cove… Alan realises that he will not be seeing his uncle or cousins this Christmas as they are all in the South Pole – but Pip has an idea! With the help of Esme, a friendly whale, the penguin family comes to stay in Salty Cove. Amongst the excitement, however, their iceberg floats away, along with their way of getting home. How will the little penguins get back to the South Pole? Have no fear; a special Christmas visitor may arrive just in time to save the day!
Last but not least comes The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm, a new, star-studded adaptation of the classic children’s book series. Adapted by comedian and author Charlie Higson, and starring Harry Hill, Ben Miller, David Mitchell and Miranda Richardson, The Incredible Adventures of Professor Branestawm is sure to entertain the young and the young at heart. Professor Branestawm (Hill) is the original mad professor, an absent-minded inventor who is oblivious to the chaos his hare-brained creations cause when they go wrong, which they always do. If it weren't for the efforts of his long suffering housekeeper, Mrs Flittersnoop (Vicki Pepperdine), and his dim but loyal best friend, Colonel Dedshott (Simon Day), the professor would long ago have blown himself to smithereens. In this adventure, the professor’s friends and his young apprentice Connie (Madeline Holliday), join forces when evil businessman Mr Bullimore (Miller) and officious local councillor Harold Haggerstone (Mitchell) plan to have Branestawn branded a danger to the community so that they can bulldoze his workshop and make way for a giant munitions factory in the middle of town.
So there you have it, some great home entertainment Christmas gift ideas for yourr friends and family. We hope it has been some help to you, and from all of us here at Screenjabber, have a very Merry Christmas.