First and foremost on any home-entertainment gift list this year should be a Blu-Ray player.
It's time to get with the format, folks. The players are cheaper these days, and most Blu-Ray discs don't cost much more than standard DVDs. In some cases, Blu-Ray discs even cost less.
This gift guide includes a lot of Blu-Ray, 'cause that's how I roll. The Amazon.com prices as of our deadline are listed here; prices in stores may vary.
Monsters, Inc. ($21.49)
Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs: Diamond Edition ($19.99)
Those of you who haven't made the jump to Blu-Ray yet, but intend to, are in luck, because Disney and Pixar have started offering standard-DVD and Blu-Ray combo packs at a reasonable price. This way, you don't have to decide on a format yet, and you'll have the Blu-Ray discs to enjoy whenever you make the upgrade!
Finally seeing the likes of Pinocchio and Snow White in glorious high definition offered one of the great pleasures in home entertainment this year. Disney did these packages right, with loads of extras that take hours to watch. The same goes for the Pixar packages for Up and Monsters Inc., movies that truly pop on home flatscreens.
All of these films represent your best argument for getting a Blu-Ray player now. Most of the disc packages are priced at less than $20, making them a great value.
Star Trek (J.J. Abrams version): Three-Disc Plus Digital Copy ($19.99), Limited-Edition Replica Gift Set ($97.49)
Star Trek Original Motion Picture Collection ($62.99)
Star Trek: The Original Series (all 3 seasons, $192.99)
The J.J. Abrams reboot of Star Trek is easily one of the year's best bits of entertainment, and the disc is an absolute winner. Abrams offers up a must-listen commentary; deleted scenes further flesh out the characters; and seeing Spock laugh in gag reels is priceless. You can get a true Trekkie the limited-edition gift set that comes with an Enterprise replica.
The Trek Blu-Ray parade doesn't stop there; the original motion pictures and the original series have also arrived on the format, and they kick ass.
The State: The Complete Series ($31.99)
For fans of Michael and Michael Have Issues, Stella, Wet Hot American Summer and Reno 911!, this here show is where it all started. It originally aired on MTV in the early '90s and was not available until now. Michael Ian Black, Michael Showalter, David Wain, Ken Marino and company were insane from the get-go. The set is loaded with extras, and the cast worked on this package for a long time. The hard work is more than obvious; it's one of the year's best DVDs.
It's Garry Shandling's Show: The Complete Series ($140.99)
While some parts of this show have not aged so well, this is still a trailblazing sitcom that provided much laughter and originality. Before Seinfeld and his own The Larry Sanders Show, Garry Shandling gave us this inside-out sitcom that skewered the format while excelling within it. Lots of cool guest stars, like Tom Petty, Gilda Radner and Dan Aykroyd, stop by. Shandling participates in all sorts of extras, including commentaries and interviews.
Fawlty Towers: The Complete Collection Remastered ($24.49)
Monty Python: Almost the Truth (Blu-Ray) ($24.99)
I've seen a lot of Python documentaries over the years, but the series Almost the Truth is easily the best, and any fan would cherish this in their stocking, under their pillow or just plain thrown at them on Christmas morning. There are six episodes, with all of the living members participating in interviews. (The late Graham Chapman appears in vintage interview footage.) Entire episodes are dedicated to The Holy Grail and Life of Brian.
That's not all: John Cleese got fully involved in a re-mastering of his Fawlty Towers series, including interviews and commentaries. Python fans, rejoice!
Do the Right Thing: 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-Ray) ($14.99)
Director Spike Lee put together an all-new documentary and commentary for this beautiful Blu-Ray. This is one of the best high-definition transfers I've seen so far. I find it remarkable how many people have not seen this film. See it now!
Watchmen: The Ultimate Cut ($26.99)
This set takes the recently released director's cut of The Watchmen and interweaves the animated Tales of the Black Freighter into the film. If that special someone is a graphic-novel geek, this is the gift to get them.
An American Werewolf in London (Blu-Ray) ($15.99)
When I popped this one into my player, I hadn't seen it in a long time. I'd forgotten how sick in the head writer-director John Landis is, and how funny/scary the movie was. Make this part of somebody's Blu-Ray introductory pack, and put those stupid werewolves in New Moon to shame.
The Wizard of Oz: 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector's Edition (Blu-Ray) ($54.49)
I've already given this one as a gift a couple of times. Not only do you get the beautiful movie on Blu-Ray; you also receive all sorts of neat goodies like a watch, a photo book and more, all in a nifty box. Easily one of the year's better values; also available in a standard-DVD edition.
Say Anything: 20th Anniversary Edition (Blu-Ray) ($19.49)
20th Century Fox
If your gift target graduated from high school in the '80s, give them this one, and make them feel old. It's not the nicest thing you could do, but they'll get over it once they revisit the charming story of Lloyd Dobler (John Cusack) and his pursuit of Ione Skye. It's still one of the weirdest, and greatest, love stories ever put on film.
Funny People: 2-Disc Unrated Collector's Edition (Blu-Ray) ($23.99)
Get this one not only for the very good movie, but also for the sheer volume of special features. There are lots of outtakes, deleted scenes and awesome vintage footage of Adam Sandler and Seth Rogen doing standup (including Rogen when he was 13). This film didn't get its due at the box office, which is a shame, because it is great.
Wings of Desire (Blu-Ray) ($23.99)
Do you have a lover of "art" films on your list? Just get them this one, and you are done. Wim Wenders made one of the most beautiful films ever with this tale of a bored angel (Bruno Ganz) who wants to become human. Peter Falk is awesome as a former angel turned actor. Filmed in both black-and-white and color, this classic is as lovely as cinema gets.
Fight Club: 10th Anniversary Edition (Blu-Ray) ($15.99)
20th Century Fox
Watching Jared Leto getting his teeth knocked out by Edward Norton on Blu-Ray is so choice. Norton and Brad Pitt have never been better than they were in this epic David Fincher tale about insanity and punching. Ring in the New Year while watching Pitt get hit in the ear!