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Box sets still big on holiday wish lists
Movies and music always make for a “reelin' and rockin'” holiday, to borrow a phrase from Chuck Berry, and here are a few boxes of eye and ear candy sure to please most everyone on your gift list.
For lovers of R-rated, off-the-hook action, load up and cut loose with “Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection” (Blu-ray), which covers the first two decades of the tightly wound auteur's hyperactive career from 1992's cops-and-robbers roller coaster “Reservoir Dogs” to 2009's wildly revisionist World War II epic “Inglourious Basterds.” Guaranteed to set the proper mood for the Christmas Day opening of Quentin Tarantino's tribute to “spaghetti” Westerns, “Django Unchained.” ($120)
If they're still hungry for heist action, there's “The Town” Ultimate Collector's Edition (Blu-ray), a 2010 crime thriller about professional bank robbers living and working in the crowded confines of Charlestown, Mass., a Boston district purported to be the bank- and armored car-robbery capital of the nation. Cowritten, directed by and starring Ben Affleck, this set is packed with a hardback book of production notes, photos and cast bios, decals, official-looking police mug shots, FBI investigation report and more, plus theatrical and director's-cut versions of the movie, and one with an alternate ending. Apparently this film has some dedicated fans. ($50)
For fans of serious comic book movies — make that, movies based on critically respected graphic novels — “Watchmen” Ultimate Cut + Graphic Novel (Blu-ray) arrives in a four-disc set complete with the hardback book, the movie in hi-def, integrating the animated “Tales of the Black Freighter” into director Zack Snyder's cut of the film, a disc that hands the fan more than two hours of bonus content, the theatrical version on DVD, and the entire novel in a 12-chapter motion comic. In this alternate 1985 world with its extremely flawed good guys and a lot of heavy handed but heartfelt politics, we also get some of the greatest music of the last 40-plus years. Jackie Earle Haley is outstanding as Rorschach. Superheroes drink, smoke, cuss and have sex. Rated R. ($75)
For viewing more suitable to family audiences, there's “Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows — Parts 1 and 2: Ultimate Edition” (Blu-ray), a six-disc Blu-ray/DVD/UltraViolet combo pack presenting the last two chapters of the world's No. 1 film franchise as a magical double feature. The package also contains more than six hours of special features and collectibles including a 48-page booklet with exclusive photos of cast and crew, concept sketches, behind-the-scenes revelations, four limited-edition character cards, a lenticular card and bonus UltraViolet theatrical versions of the films. ($65)
“Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection” (Blu-ray) contains 15 films from the portly prince of darkness, containing five of his greatest hits (“Rear Window,” “Vertigo,” “North by Northwest,” “Psycho” and “The Birds”), several that deserve more acclaim than they've received (“Shadow of a Doubt,” “Marnie”) and maybe one outright dud (“Torn Curtain”). Perhaps the scariest thing about this limited edition box set is the price. ($225)
On the small screen, sitcoms grew up in January 1971 when producer Norman Lear introduced us to Archie Bunker (the priceless Carroll O'Connor), a blatantly outspoken working class bigot who was the anti-Ward Cleaver that TV comedy so desperately needed. Here was a program that mirrored so much of what was wrong — and right — with America, and did it in hilarious and provocative fashion. Shout Factory has released “All in the Family: The Complete Series,” a 28-DVD box set containing the entire series, plus a 1979 three-part retrospective. Here's a true cultural treasure and anyone who disagrees can stifle! ($200)
Break out the party hats for Led Zeppelin's “Celebration Day.” Direct from its limited big-screen run, this 2007 reunion concert was a one-night only event celebrating the life and industry achievements of Ahmet Ertegun, founder of Atlantic Records and one of Zeppelin's great benefactors. It was filmed in London's O2 Arena with Jason Bonham ably filling the big shoes of his late father John, while Jimmy Page, Robert Plant and John Paul Jones rip through gargantuan classics such as “Black Dog,” “Nobody's Fault But Mine” and “Misty Mountain Hop” like it was still nineteen seventysomething. Deluxe edition includes two CDs, the concert DVD and a bonus DVD of the band in rehearsals. ($30)