Holiday DVD Buyers Guide

written by Mike Shea on 20 November 2000

It's that time of year again! That time where all the suits and establishments get together and wring all the money out of us on crap, all in the name of religion. Time to sit in front of the television and watch "It's a Wonderful Life" about a million times in between commercials for SUVs that will cause our gas prices to multiply by ten every year and ads by the Back Street Boys for food that will kill us.

Yep, I hate the holidays except for the fact that I get to spend my own vacation time in line at the airport in front of an old lady who has four hundred pounds of luggage and doesn't believe in checking in. I have also realized that in the last five years I have never received a good gift that I haven't bought myself. So in order to save you from this horrible way of life, I am putting together a list of all the ideal DVDs you might want to hand to your mother, father, wife or whomever buys you crap at this, the busiest marketing season of the year since Hallmark invented Valentines Day.

The following are the top DVDs available before Christmas. These are all from my personal collection and represent not only the greatest in quality reproductions, but also the highest quality of film entertainment. You won't find any ID4 or Tarzan on this list just because they have thick shiny boxes. Only good content as well as presentation will make it on the list.

Gladiator: While I haven't even had a chance to review the DVD yet, you can be sure that it will be the one to get. Not only do we have a very good solid story with tons of carnage, but also a DTS ES 6.1. And Dolby Digital EX soundtrack in one box. All the required features are there, and everything I have read says it is the next benchmark in DVDs from both a quality, content and presentation perspective.

Fight Club: We all know I have started the Tyler Durdon training program after reading my review of Reindeer Games, and this movie is the good book I follow. A lot of folks see this movie as either entertaining, mysterious, shocking and sometimes dangerous, but I see a different message it makes a lot of sense. So ditch your $1000 watch, your Swedish furniture and your baskets from Martha Stewart and buy this movie. Remember, Tyler Durdon says "use soap".

American Beauty: I like movies about the breakdown of the normal status quo. This movie captures the breakdown perfectly. You don't like the main character much, but you learn to respect him and the direction he goes. All the actors in this movie do an absolutely fabulous job, and the story will have you laughing for days. The DVD includes both a DTS and Dolby Digital soundtrack as well as all the extras save a directors commentary.

Das Boot: This one usually doesn't make it onto people's wish list because they are afraid they might accidentally learn something instead of enjoying themselves, but Das Boot is probably one of the best DVDs out there and has been for almost two years. The remastered soundtrack almost got me evicted with the depth charge blasting and 40 foot waves. A directors commentary and choice between dubbed and subtitles with original German let you choose whether you want to be an idiot or a moron. I like both!

Go: this one I threw on here because it matches all the requirements, but it is also a nice Christmas tale. Sure it is about drug deals and raves, but still, there is a Santa in it. The movie is a top notch example of how to do non-sequential stories (like Pulp Fiction) and the DVD is a reference disc representation of the film.

Being John Malcovich: I like weird movies and this one is a definitive example. Most don't like movies they can't completely understand, but I find it very relaxing to find a movie that turns anyone into an idiot. BJM is another testament that weird movies really are better than the crap we normally get out of Hollywood. The DVD lacks a commentary, but the rest is there.

Edward Scissorhands: Another Christmas movie makes it onto the list. I am a sucker for Wynonna Ryder, but stalker fetishes aside, this really is a top notch movie. The excellent visuals are done great justice with its 16x9 enhanced picture. A strange but still enveloping 4 channel surround track does a fine job as well. Also a directors commentary, but it doesn't include the lead actress (pout).

Rushmore: Something about the style of this movie, the music and the story just grab me. It failed under the horrible marketing, but still holds it's own as a movie that cannot be defined as a comedy or a drama. It is strange, but extremely good. The Criterion version of this disc shot the rating through the roof with a directors commentary, 16x9 enhanced picture and a full Dolby Digital 5.1 soundtrack.

Jaws DTS (also available in Dolby Digital): The movie has kicked more ass than Mr. T for the last 20 years, and this DVD proves it once again. The 16x9 enhanced remasterd picture does full justice to the movie and while the remastered DTS track really doesn't add much, it surly cannot be complained about. The only thing I could ask for is a DD and DTS version in one box. Let the consumer decide after they have bought it, not before.

The Matrix: This was last year's benchmark, but still holds its own with todays movies. Here is the perfect blend of science fiction and action with the perfect DVD reproduction. The only thing I think is missing would be a DTS version, but the Dolby Digital version holds up very well. Don't let this one slip by.

So there you have it. Hopefully with this list there might be a little joy this holiday season instead of having to lie to your mom and tell her you really love the dishes she got you "because you need them". If you are so lucky, stick one of these beauties in and forget all about the fact that a billion dollars a year are spent powering those little flashing lights while people starve to death in countries we don't even know about yet.

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