Sex And The City: Limited Edition Gift Box Set (Alliance, 2008) Rating: NN; DVD package: NNNN
All the Sex And The City a devoted fan could want: four discs, a hardcover book and a numbered certificate of authenticity.
An extended-version movie comes with commentary from director Michael Patrick King, a feature-length conversation with the director and star Sarah Jessica Parker, an 18-minute doc on the movie's fashions, a making-of doc, a doc on the wedding-dress sequence, coverage of the DVD launch party at the New York Public Library and more.
Disc four features eight songs inspired by the movie by Jennifer Hudson, Natasha Bedingfield and Alison Moorer, among others.
Finally, there's a hardbound photo album featuring shots of Parker, quotes from the script, including selections from the love letters of famous men - appropriate to the plot, which reunites the girls (Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis and Cynthia Nixon) to help Parker's Carrie through her big wedding.
The only downside is the movie. It's overlong, under-plotted and not nearly as funny as the series. Not that it matters. The fans like it anyway.
Available Tuesday, December 16th for $72.99 at HMV (333 Yonge and other locations), 416-586-9668.
The Bourne Trilogy (Universal, 2002, 04, 07) Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNNN
Smart action thrillers, the Jason Bourne movies offer tight plots, credible characters and edgy, original action with a strong feel of realism in exotic locations, all built on a simple, effective premise: a guy (Matt Damon) with amnesia keeps killing the CIA types sent to kill him while he tries to figure out who he is.
Damon plays the inexpressive Bourne to perfection, while his white-collar foes, among them Joan Allen and Brian Cox, convey a subtle corruption that sells the story and makes Bourne look like a saint by comparison.
The directors, Doug Liman for the Bourne Identity, Gregory Greengrass for the other two, keep us inside the action with open framing, moving cameras and an abrupt approach to violence.
The extras get better with each movie. Greengrass makes some interesting remarks about his style, and the car stunt docs reveal moviemaking creativity at its finest. $24.99 at HMV (333 Yonge and other locations), 416-586-9668.
Mystery Science Theater 3000: 20th Anniversary Edition (Shout Factory, 1988-99) Rating: NNN
Four new-to-DVD episodes of one of the smartest, silliest and funniest series ever to grace the small screen make this a good gift for established fans and newcomers alike.
Mystery Science Theater 3000 warps the venerable cheesy-host-with-bad-movies gimmick with two clever twists. First, he isn't a host. He's an ordinary guy trapped aboard a space ship with his robot pals and fed a diet of bad movies as part of an evil experiment. Second, and this is the genius part, the guy and the robots talk all through the movie, riffing on acting, plot, technical blunders and anything else they can think of. Obscure cultural references abound, and occasionally they burst into song. When they're on, they're hilarious.
The movies are crappy beyond belief, but Future War stands out as the most bizarre. Check the blurb: "See! Dinosaurs from outer space stalking the streets of Los Angeles!"
MST3K's homespun aesthetic is a triumph of creativity over cash. Creator Joel Hodgson and his cohorts explain how they did it in a funny three-part making-of doc and panel discussion.
The set comes in a tin box that includes a small Crow T. Robot figurine. $54.99 at HMV (333 Yonge and other locations), 416-586-9668.
Ray Harryhausen Collectible DVD Gift Set (Sony): It Came From Beneath The Sea (1955), Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers (1956), 20 Million Miles To Earth (1957) Rating: NNN
Here's fun for 50s sci-fi geeks and collectibles freaks, who should be thrilled by the 7-inch replica of 20 Million Miles To Earth's monster. It's a limited edition of 10,000. Master animator Ray Harryhausen supervised its creation from his original mould, and it's flawlessly detailed.
Harryhausen was the king of stop-motion animation, the art of creating small-scale monsters and bringing them to life one frame at a time. He inspired a generation of filmmakers; Steven Spielberg and Tim Burton paid tribute to Earth Vs. The Flying Saucers in Close Encounters and Mars Attacks.
All three movies are classic 50s sci-fi: low budgets and wooden heroes redeemed by Harryhausen's inventive effects work. Best is 20 Million Miles To Earth, whose tiny, aggressive alien keeps growing until it can take on an elephant and do serious damage to downtown Rome.
Flying Saucers lacks a monster, but the destruction is cool and it works as a fast-paced B movie. with some good dialogue courtesy of pseudonymous work by blacklisted writer Bernard Gordon. Check out the doc on the Communist witch hunt.
It Came From Beneath The Sea suffers from a shortage of monster. However, the giant octopus trashing San Francisco is an effects-lover's delight.
Harryhausen shares commentary on all movies with current effects artists. He's reluctant to reveal his secrets but highly enthused about the colourization, which definitely improves the movies. A toggle lets black-and-white purists watch the original versions.
The disc-two extras offer good appreciations, an enjoyable conversation between Tim Burton and Harryhausen, an interview with actress Joan Taylor and detailed docs on composer Mischa Bakaleinikoff, the Hollywood blacklist and the colourization process. $62.99 at HMV (333 Yonge and other locations), 416-586-9668.
Mad Men: Season 1 (Maple,2007) Rating: NNNN; DVD package: NNNNN
Mad Men stays hot even on second viewing thanks to smart writing and acting and the fascinating character of Don Draper (Jon Hamm), whose mysteries and moral murk only deepen as the show progresses.
Draper is the genius creative director of a successful ad agency in 1960 Manhattan. He's charming and smart and may have a conscience, but he's mired in adultery, secrecy and office politics. So is everyone else, and sooner or later it's all going to come crashing down.
The generous extras package includes commentary on 10 of the 13 episodes and a very good doc on costumes - a big part of the show's visual appeal. The disc-two doc on the ad business is worth checking out for useful historical context.
The season comes in a cool Zippo-lighter-shaped pack, and you can pick it up at HMV (333 Yonge and other locations), 416-586-9668, for $44.99.