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Moviegoers' Last-Minute Gift-Giving Picks
Procrastinators, take note: These home entertainment picks should satisfy the film fan(s) in your life.

Last year with less than an hour to go before the Target on Brown Deer Road was due to close on Christmas Eve, a middle-aged man approached me for help about what he should get his teenage son and pre-teen daughter for Christmas in the home entertainment section of the store.

Thankfully, I was there to just pick up some batteries. I figured I would probably witness some last-minute hijinks; little did I know that my years of expertise would come in handy for a desperate dad looking to score brownie points with his kids.

Under the gun and with less than 30 minutes to go, I asked him some essential questions.

What kind of TV shows do your kids watch? Do they have any favorite actors or actresses? Are they fans of a particular film genre? Are they allowed to watch PG-13 and/or R-rated films? How much are you looking to spend maximum?

I remember his son was a big wrestling fan, and his daughter loved everything Disney and Tina Fey.

When everything was said and done, I helped him pick four films for them each, and a couple of age-appropriate TV series box sets with about 15 minutes to spare before the store officially closed.

We here at Moviegoers hope to be of help to any and all procrastinators who are at a loss as to what to buy for the film fan(s) in their life with less than two days to shop.


Ladies First

If you really want to impress the movie-loving females in your life, you can’t really go wrong with films starring women, like go-to classics such as Terms of Endearment (1983, Paramount Home Entertainment), Steel Magnolias (1989, Sony Pictures Home Entertainment) and Thelma & Louise (1991, MGM/FOX Home Entertainment), to name a few. Or men with strong female fan bases (Channing Tatum, George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Johnny Depp, and so on). And if you happen across a film that contains both, like say Love and Other Drugs (2010, FOX Home Entertainment) with Jake Gyllenhaal and Anne Hathaway, you’ll have a slam dunk on your hands.

Film titles recently released on DVD and/or Blu-ray that fit the bill include: the aforementioned Terms of Endearment which was recently issued on Blu-ray courtesy of Paramount Home Entertainment. The film stars Oscar winner Shirley MacLaine as the overbearing, tightly wound mother of a young, defiant daughter played by Debra Winger (who was Oscar-nominated for her performance). The film also stars Jack Nicholson (in an Oscar-winning performance as a washed up astronaut who romances MacLaine’s character), Jeff Daniels, Danny DeVito and John Lithgow.

Two-time Oscar nominee Jessica Chastain stars as a young CIA-operative who spends a decade fishing out the whereabouts of terrorist Osama bin Laden in Oscar-winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s Zero Dark Thirty (2012, Sony). Not only is it the best narrative-driven film of last year, it’s also that rare film to be centered around a female protagonists that deals with matters of war. And it’s a rather brilliant procedural sharply written by Oscar winner Mark Boal.

Despite the fact that some people (including myself) feel she was too young for the role, Jennifer Lawrence’s Oscar-winning turn opposite Bradley Cooper in writer-director David O’ Russell’s Silver Linings Playbook (2012, Paramount) is pretty remarkable. Sparks do indeed fly between her and Cooper, and she more than holds her own. 

You can NEVER go wrong with smartly written and observed romantic comedies like the Billy Crystal/Meg Ryan-led classic When Harry Met Sally…(1989, MGM/FOX), beautifully directed by Rob Reiner, and written to perfection by the late, great Nora Ephron. Somebody once described the film as “the best Woody Allen film Woody Allen had nothing to do with.” The film is about two polar opposites who drift in and out of one another’s lives over a 12-year period. At first, they sort of just tolerate each other, and then they eventually become friends after each suffers through a painful break up, and that’s when things really get interesting not to mention complicated. Carrie Fisher and the late Bruno Kirby co-star.

Additional options include:

The R-rated, female cop buddy comedy The Heat (2013, Warner Home Entertainment) starring Oscar winner Sandra Bullock and Oscar nominee Melissa McCarthy which is slapstick funny in the vein of Bridesmaids (2011, Universal Studios Home Entertainment) also starring McCarthy.

If you‘re looking for a more sophisticated female-driven comedy, take my word for it, you won’t go wrong with writer-director Noah Baumbach’s Frances Ha (2013, Criterion) starring the amazing Greta Gerwig, who co-wrote the script. The beautifully shot black and white film invokes comparisons to Woody Allen’s Manhattan (1979, MGM/FOX) and the works of members of the French New Wave from the 1960s. And if I’ve said it once, I’ll say it again, Gerwig is a performer seemingly incapable of being uninteresting onscreen. She enlivens whatever project she’s apart of. And in Frances Ha, audiences see her working at the top of her game delivering what is arguably the finest performance of the year.

Believe it or not, it’s been a decade since British writer-director Richard Curtis’ all-star romantic comedy Love Actually (2003, Universal) played theaters, featuring the likes of Oscar nominees Liam Neeson and Keira Knightley, and Oscar winners Emma Thompson and Colin Firth. Curtis, who also penned the scripts for three other well-received modern-day romantic comedies Four Weddings and a Funeral (1994, MGM/FOX), Notting Hill (1999, Universal) and Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001, Miramax Home Entertainment), the former made a star of then-little known British actor Hugh Grant stateside and the latter launched then-rising star Renée Zellweger into the Hollywood leading lady echelon.

Now, for the Fellas

You can’t go wrong with the Fast and the Furious franchise.

I’ve been a fan of the Fast and the Furious franchise since the first film, The Fast and the Furious, was released in theaters in the summer of 2001 and no one knew it would spawn a $2.5 billion (and counting) franchise. That first film quietly made history for arguably being the first Hollywood-produced action film to feature a racially diverse cast in which the only race relations that mattered where of the burning rubber variety. And every film that has followed that first in the franchise has adhered to the formula that has made the subsequent films better than the last (with the curious third film in the franchise, The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006), being the notable exception).

The recent home entertainment release of Fast & Furious 6 (2013, Universal) comes less than three weeks after franchise star Paul Walker, who played former LAPD officer Brian O‘Connor in all of the films with the exception of Tokyo Drift  died in a fiery car chase during a break from filming the upcoming Fast and Furious 7.

In the sixth installment  the second best film in the franchise to date, Fast Five (2011) still holds the crown  federal agent Hobbs (played by Dwayne Johnson) whom Dom (Vin Diesel) and Brian (the late Paul Walker) and their crew got the better of in Fast Five recruits them to help take down a powerful mercenary (Luke Evans) who has attacked a military convoy – and whose own crew includes Dom’s thought-to-be-dead girlfriend, Letty (Michelle Rodriguez). Jordana Brewster, Tyrese Gibson, Chris "Ludacris" Bridges, Gal Gadot, Sung Kang and Elsa Pataky all return from the fifth film, and are joined by MMA star Gina Carano and The Raid: Redemption’s Joe Taslim.

An unspecified portion of the proceeds from DVD and Blu-ray sales of Fast & Furious 6 will be donated to Walker’s charity, Reach Out Worldwide.

Last year Paramount Home Entertainment released all four Indiana Jones films starring Harrison Ford on Blu-ray for the first time in a box set. This year, they released the first three films on Blu-ray in their own separate packaging for the first time so we can all forget how ill-advised the fourth film was despite the welcome return of Karen Allen as Indy’s ideal love match. Relive the awesomeness of Raiders of the Los Ark (1981), the madcap thrill ride that was Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (1984), which is often referred to as a sequel to Raiders when in actuality it’s a prequel (Temple of Doom is set a year earlier than the events in Raiders), and the wild escapades of Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (1989).

Just about any film starring Oscar winner Tom Hanks would fit the bill, but you’d be hard pressed to top Big (1988, FOX), the film that made Hanks a huge star and landed him his first Oscar nomination for best actor a quarter century ago. When 12-year-old Josh Baskin (David Moscow) makes a wish to be big while attending a traveling carnival with his parents and baby sister one night, little could he have known that his wish would come true. Exemplifying the tried and true adage of being careful what you wish for, Josh goes to sleep and awakes the next morning in the body of a 30-year-old man (Hanks). Funny, insightful and ever-so-imaginative, Big is the sort of film that you’ll never grow tired of watching. FOX Home Entertainment just released a 25th Anniversary Edition of the film on Blu-ray that’s loaded with special features.

Additional options include:

Oscar nominee Hugh Jackman’s 2013 films  The Wolverine and Prisoners  have both recently debuted on DVD and Blu-ray from Warner Home Entertainment and FOX Home Entertainment, respectively. Word to the wise, fellas: She’ll say she bought them for you when in actuality she bought them for herself, especially the former title. However, the latter about a man who takes matters into his own hands when his young daughter and his neighbors’ daughter both go missing, is a real nailbiter and features a stellar ensemble cast including Oscar nominees Jake Gyllenhaal, Viola Davis and Terrence Howard; Oscar winner Melissa Leo; Maria Bello and Paul Dano.

And you really can’t go wrong with Christopher Nolan’s Dark Knight Trilogy consisting of Batman Begins (2005), The Dark Knight (2008) and The Dark Knight Rises (2012) all three of which star Oscar winner Christian Bale as the Caped Crusader. And it can’t be said enough, the late Heath Ledger’s turn as the Joker in The Dark Knight is the thing of legend. It’s a performance for the ages. All three films are available on DVD and Blu-ray from Warner Home Entertainment.





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