DVD gift sets for every taste
From Abbott & Costello to "The Godfather" on Blu-ray, a spread of collectors' editions to appeal to all generations.
DISNEY TREASURES: WAVE 8 (Walt Disney)
Worshipers at the House of Mouse go extra giddy around this time of year when the vault doors are opened and a handful of long-lost goodies like these limited edition, two-disc collectors' sets (in spiffy aluminum boxes) emerge. This volley features the tantrum parade "The Chronological Donald, Vol. 4 – 1951-1961" ($32.99), the slightly fetishistic "The Mickey Mouse Club Presents: Annette – 1957-1958 Season" ($32.99), and the way-cool precursor to the vengeance yarn "V For Vendetta" titled "Dr. Syn: The Scarecrow of Romney Marsh" ($64.98).
FREAKS AND GEEKS: YEARBOOK EDITION (Shout! Factory, $169.98)
In the center of the modern comedy universe of Judd Apatow's one-season 1999 fan favorite, you can see the likes of Seth Rogen ("Knocked Up") and Jason Segel ("Forgetting Sarah Marshall") even fresher-faced during various auditions, table readings, and delightful behind-the-scenes featurettes. Pair that with 18 episodes and the 80-page print retrospective (which is presented like a high school yearbook), and the list price is nowhere near as painful as the high school experience that this brilliant, tragically short-lived gem portrays.
ABBOTT & COSTELLO: THE COMPLETE UNIVERSAL PICTURES COLLECTION (Universal, $119.98)
The only thing not whopping about this 15-disc, 28-film (plus exclusive book) collection detailing the entire Universal Studios film output of the most popular comedy duo of all time, is the price, which is a bargain. There are big titles, like their second film, "Buck Privates" (1941), and their best film, "Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein" (1948), and not-so-big ones, such as "Ride 'Em Cowboy" (1942) and "It Ain't Hay" (1943), the only film not previously released on DVD.
THE ULTIMATE MATRIX [Blu-ray] (Warner Home Video, $129.95)
Anyone who makes it through all 35 hours of extras on this six-disc, four-movie set – the 1999 original, the muddy 2003 sequel, its stillborn 2003 wrap-up, plus the animated omnibus "The Animatrix" – should be eminently qualified to teach a college course on the Wachowski Brothers' sci-fi universe. The picture and sound on this reference quality set are nigh-superb, and its meticulous presentation is sure to spark many a late-night discussion as to the trilogy that could have been.
THE GODFATHER: THE COPPOLA RESTORATION [Blu-ray] (Paramount, $124.99)
Director Francis Ford Coppola supervised the restorations of all three films in this set, and the brilliant job he and his team did, paired with an impressive collection of supplements, makes this the film buff's must-have Blu-ray set. Each film not only looks better than it has since its original theatrical release, but the new Dolby 5.1 audio remaster actually makes them sound better than they ever did. Hands down, his set takes the cake – and the cannoli.
A CHRISTMAS STORY: ULTIMATE COLLECTOR'S EDITION [Blu-ray] (Warner Home Video), $49.99)
Lovers of the late Bob Clark's scrappy 1983 adaptation of Jean Shepherd's holiday memoir about a boy obsessed with a Red Ryder BB gun will thrill to not only how good the movie looks in hi-def, but will also delight in the generous supplements, including a smart (and now slightly spooky) commentary by Clark. The bonus goodies are nice, too – a cookie tin in which comes the disc, cookie cutters, an apron, a 48-page cookbook ... and a strand of leg-lamp lights.