If you’re still wondering what to give your friends and family this holiday season, why not let Hollywood do some of the hard work for you?
Every year at Christmas time, the studios issue a blizzard of new releases from all different genres. There’s TV shows available in complete series box sets, beloved movies beefed up with lots of special features, and holiday classics in sparkling new transfers.
Below are ten suggestions that would make ideal stocking stuffers for your nearest and dearest.
Miracle on 34th Street: 70th Anniversary (1947, Fox, unrated, $15) Edmund Gwenn won an Oscar for his wonderful performance as Kris Kringle in this still-dazzling charmer. Natalie Wood co-stars as a youngster who’s been taught by her mom (Maureen O’Hara) not to believe in St. Nick. But Kris is willing to go to great lengths to prove that yes, Natalie, there is a Santa Claus. It’s one of the most endearing holiday movies of all time — and it looks better than ever on Blu-ray.
CSI: The Complete Series (2000-2015, Paramount, unrated, $199) No fan of crime-solving should be without this 93-disc set which serves up all sixteen seasons of the iconic investigative drama. The early episodes, which are fueled by the chemistry between William Petersen and Marg Helgenberger, are arguably the most exciting but even after the addition of Laurence Fishburne, Ted Danson and Elisabeth Shue, “CSI” still maintains its excellence by celebrating agents capable of solving crimes with both old-fashioned police work and cutting-edge science.
Brigadoon: (1954, Warner Archive, unrated, $20) One of several stunning musicals Vincente Minnelli directed for MGM, this romantic fantasy finds Gene Kelly and Van Johnson stumbling upon a magical village while vacationing in Scotland. It doesn’t take Kelly long to fall for a lovely young lass (Cyd Charisse) who, thanks to an ancient curse, can never leave the enchanted kingdom. Kelly does a superb job performing and choreographing the numbers, particularly “Almost Like Being In Love” and “Heather on the Hill.” Always underrated, this movie deserves to be re-discovered on Blu-ray.
The Fall: Complete Collection (2017, Acorn, unrated, $70) Long before he made audiences swoon in “Fifty Shades of Grey,” Jamie Dornan was killer good as a violent predator named Paul Spector in this engrossing thriller that ranks with TV’s best police procedurals. Gillian Anderson (“The X-Files”) stars as icy DSI Stella Gibson who is called to Belfast to investigate a string of murders. It doesn’t take Gibson long to close in on Spector but pinning the slayings on him is quite a challenge. Cat and mouse thrillers don’t come any more fascinating than this smart and stylish series.
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban: (2017, Warner, PG-13, $35) All of the “Potters,” including this series stand-out, receive 4K upgrades this season. While it’s only been six years since the original franchise came to a close, it’s still fun to revisit the adventures of Master Potter (Daniel Radcliffe) and his pals (Emma Watson, Rupert Grint). In the enthralling “Azkaban,” Harry must confront the soul-sucking Dementors, outsmart a werewolf and figure out the truth about Sirius Black (Gary Oldman).
The Godfather Trilogy: Omerta Edition (1972-1990, Paramount, R, $36) For its 45th anniversary, Paramount is making you an offer you can’t refuse with this gorgeous limited-edition set. Sure, the conclusion to the trilogy is enjoyable but it pales in comparison to the original film and its sequel, both of which are towering masterpieces as much about America as the mob. Themes of loyalty, honor and obedience are probed as Michael Corleone (Al Pacino) makes the devastating journey from affable college boy to stone cold killer. Essential – and then some.
The Three Stooges: Big Box of Nyuks (2017, Mill Creek, unrated, $45 ) For the comedy lover on your holiday list comes over 40 “poifect” hours of entertainment thanks to this budget-priced ten disc set. On tap are six feature films starring Moe, Shemp and Larry, 156 episodes of the “Three Stooges” animated series, seven shorts starring the original trio, TV pilots, a nine-part documentary about the comics and the 2000 biopic starring Evan Handler, Michael Chiklis and Paul Ben-Victor. For $45, that’s a lot of nyuks for your buck.
Charlotte’s Web: Limited Edition Gift Set (2006, Paramount, PG, $20) For the first time the delightful 2006 movie starring Dakota Fanning is paired with E.B. White’s beloved book. In addition to enjoying the saga of a tiny spider who spins a great tale of friendship and adventure, your kids can also dive into the special features which include deleted scenes, gag reel, featurettes and a music video by Sarah McLachlan.
George Romero: Between Night and Dawn (2017, Arrow, unrated, $99) Any fan of vintage horror will be tickled pink to receive this boxed set celebrating the Pittsburgh auteur. Included are three films – and a generous supply of extras – which showcase a different side of “the zombie guy.” There’s the supernatural thriller “Season of the Witch” (1972) and the bio-terror flick “The Crazies” both of which make great use of non-professional casts. Also included in the set is the oddball romantic comedy “There’s Always Vanilla” (1971), Romero’s change-of-pace follow-up to his first feature film “Night of the Living Dead.”
Mysteries of China: (2017, Shout Factory, unrated, $30) If you have a travel junkie on your holiday list, consider picking up this stunning documentary, filmed for IMAX theaters, about the discovery of China’s Terracotta Warriors and the Tomb of the First Emperor. Considered one of the most important archaeological events of the modern age, these unearthed time capsules set the stage for a deep dive into the history of China. Expect a visual adventure that makes use of cutting-edge time-lapse photography to reveal the backstory of a superpower.