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IFC.com’s 2012 Blu-Ray Gift Guide

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In many ways, 2012 was a banner year for great high definition home entertainment releases. Film fans were treated to some of the very best box sets, long-awaited catalog titles, and new releases to ever hit Blu-ray. The only problem with so many great movies being released every week is that it’s often hard to remember the best and brightest of the Blu-ray bunch when holiday shopping season rolls around. That’s where we come in! We’ve put together a list of twenty of the most amazing Blu-ray releases of 2012. It’s certainly not a complete list of everything 2012 had to offer, but it’s a fantastic start for the cinephile on your shopping list. Happy holidays!


Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection: Limited Edition (Universal)

Fifteen of Hitchcock’s greatest films, with brand new high definition transfers, and a wealth of great bonus material – all in one big box set? Yes, please! Quite possibly the release of the year, this box set is every serious film fan’s dream come true. The films, including “Psycho,” “Rear Window,” “The Birds,” and many more, have never looked better and the care with which Universal has treated this release is apparent from the insightful extras all the way down the box design. We loved it so much, we even dedicated an entire article just to where you can find Hitchcock’s cameos in the films in this box set.


Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection (Fox)

Easily one of the largest, and most comprehensive, Blu-ray box sets of 2012, Fox’s Bond 50: The Complete 22 Film Collection is a must-have for any fan of 007. This massive 23-disc set includes all 22 James Bond films from 1962’s “Dr. No” to 2008’s “Quantum of Solace,” and there’s even a placeholder for your “Skyfall” Blu-ray when you eventually purchase it. Packed with excellent bonus features that will even give you a new appreciation for the lesser Bond films, this is one of the year’s best Blu-ray boxes.


Universal Classic Monsters: The Essential Collection (Universal)

If you’re a classic horror film fan, this is the Blu-ray box set that you’ve been waiting for. This eight-disc features all eight Universal classic monster movies from 1931’s “Dracula” and “Frankenstein” to 1954’s “Creature from the Black Lagoon” (in both 2D and 3D, no less). If you add the Spanish-language version of “Drácula” that’s also included, you actually get nine of the finest fright films of all time in one convenient and beautiful box set. Painstakingly restored in stunning high-definition, you can be sure that you’ve never seen these films look this great. For a horror junkie like me, this is actually my favorite box set release of the year.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KIKKj7wLEiM


Jaws (Universal)

Arguably the greatest film of all time, “Jaws” finally gets a worthy Blu-ray upgrade with what is easily one of the greatest high definition restorations of all time. To say the transfer on Universal’s “Jaws” Blu-ray is beautiful is an enormous understatement; this visual presentation is what every single Blu-ray release of a classic film should aspire to. It not only maintains the integrity, tone, and film of the original release, but it does so with stunning clarity, unparalleled detail, and a soothingly warm color palette. It’s a revelation and, although there is also some wonderful bonus material included on the release, the restored high definition transfer is easily worth the price of admission for this disc.


Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures (Paramount)

This Blu-ray box set from Paramount includes three awesome “Indiana Jones” films and one really shiny drink coaster. Okay, we’re kidding. That fourth disc is “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull,” but no one is buying Indiana Jones: The Complete Adventures for that film. What you will get in this set, however is a beloved franchise that’s been handled with loving care. The audio-visual presentations are top notch (“Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom” is particularly vibrant), the bonus features are engaging, and the film, well, they speak for themselves. Now if it only came with a fedora and bullwhip…


Rosemary’s Baby: Criterion Collection (Criterion)

One of the most important and influential horror films of all time, Roman Polanski’s 1968 classic “Rosemary’s Baby” made genre fans jump for joy when they heard the announcement that The Criterion Collection would be handling the film’s high definition release. We certainly don’t blame them as Criterion has not only lived up to their mighty expectations, but may have even exceeded them with this gorgeous Blu-ray release. Insightful new interviews, beautiful use of the original poster art on the Blu-ray cover, and a spot-on high definition transfer make this a must-have release for any serious cinephile.


The Dark Knight Trilogy: Limited Edition Giftset (Warner Bros.)

Sure, the critical reaction to Christopher Nolan’s third entry in his “Dark Knight” series “The Dark Knight Rises” might not be up to par with his previous two entries, but you can’t deny the fact that the master director has still crafted one of the finest film trilogies in a long time. What better way to pick up all three films than to grab them in this excellent Limited Edition Giftset. It includes all the bonus material from the standalone releases, plus the shortened version of “The Art and Making of The Dark Knight Trilogy” book, all for less than you’d pay if you bought the Blu-rays separately. We call that a steal.


21 Jump Street (Sony)

There were a lot of really good comedies released in 2012, but none were as genuinely laugh-out-loud funny as the Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum television-series reboot “21 Jump Street.” The film had all the makings of a complete disaster, but it beat the odds and became a hilarious update of a not-so-great TV show. In addition to the film itself, you also get a lively audio commentary, nearly thirty minutes of deleted scenes, a hilarious gag reel, and much more. If you’re looking for a good laugh, “21 Jump Street” has got you covered.


Little Shop of Horrors: The Director’s Cut (Warner Bros.)

Finally fans of Frank Oz’s modern musical classic “Little Shop of Horrors” get a chance to see the director’s original apocalyptic ending for the film with this beautifully restored Blu-ray release of the film’s Director’s Cut. Previously only available in grainy black and white on a DVD that was promptly pulled from release (only to make it an eBay cash cow for years), the original vision of Howard Ashman, Alan Menken, and Frank Oz has been given the full high definition treatment with new effects, a bright and colorful transfer, and a lavish overall presentation. Go out and grab this Blu-ray, but be warned: You’ll be singing “Suddenly, Seymour” on repeat for about two weeks after you watch it.


Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection (Lionsgate)

With Quentin Tarantino’s latest epic film, “Django Unchained,” hitting theaters on Christmas Day here in the US, it’s a real treat to get this eight-film Blu-ray collection that traces the director’s filmmaking career from 1992’s “Reservoir Dogs” to 2009’s “Inglourious Basterds,” and even includes the 1993 film “True Romance,” which Tarantino wrote but the late Tony Scott directed. While most of the films included in Tarantino XX are simply re-packaged versions of their standalone Blu-ray releases, the real treat in this set is both the Mondo box art created by artist Ken Taylor and the two bonus discs that feature some very lengthy extra material. You get nearly five-hour “Critic’s Corner” featurette one disc and a two-hour retrospective feature on Tarantino on the other disc, along with a few other items including an assortment of trailers for “Django Unchained.” Put it all together and it’s better than a five-dollar shake!

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Soap tv show

As the Spoof Turns

15 Hilarious Soap Opera Parodies

Catch the classic sitcom Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Columbia Pictures Television

The soap opera is the indestructible core of television fandom. We celebrate modern series like The Wire and Breaking Bad with their ongoing storylines, but soap operas have been tangling more plot threads than a quilt for decades. Which is why pop culture enjoys parodying them so much.

Check out some of the funniest soap opera parodies below, and be sure to catch Soap Saturday mornings on IFC.

1. Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman

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Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman was a cult hit soap parody from the mind of Norman Lear that poked daily fun at the genre with epic twists and WTF moments. The first season culminated in a perfect satire of ratings stunts, with Mary being both confined to a psychiatric facility and chosen to be part of a Nielsen ratings family.


2. IKEA Heights

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IKEA Heights proves that the soap opera is alive and well, even if it has to be filmed undercover at a ready-to-assemble furniture store totally unaware of what’s happening. This unique webseries brought the classic formula to a new medium. Even IKEA saw the funny side — but has asked that future filmmakers apply through proper channels.


3. Fresno

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When you’re parodying ’80s nighttime soaps like Dallas and Dynasty , everything about your show has to equally sumptuous. The 1986 CBS miniseries Fresno delivered with a high-powered cast (Carol Burnett, Teri Garr and more in haute couture clothes!) locked in the struggle for the survival of a raisin cartel.


4. Soap

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Soap was the nighttime response to daytime soap operas: a primetime skewering of everything both silly and satisfying about the source material. Plots including demonic possession and alien abduction made it a cult favorite, and necessitated the first televised “viewer discretion” disclaimer. It also broke ground for featuring one of the first gay characters on television in the form of Billy Crystal’s Jodie Dallas. Revisit (or discover for the first time) this classic sitcom every Saturday morning on IFC.


5. Too Many Cooks

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Possibly the most perfect viral video ever made, Too Many Cooks distilled almost every style of television in a single intro sequence. The soap opera elements are maybe the most hilarious, with more characters and sudden shocking twists in an intro than most TV scribes manage in an entire season.


6. Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace

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Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace was more mockery than any one medium could handle. The endless complications of Darkplace Hospital are presented as an ongoing horror soap opera with behind-the-scenes anecdotes from writer, director, star, and self-described “dreamweaver visionary” Garth Marenghi and astoundingly incompetent actor/producer Dean Learner.


7. “Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive,” MadTV

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Soap opera connoisseurs know that the most melodramatic plots are found in Korea. MADtv‘s parody Tae Do  (translation: Attitudes and Feelings, Both Desirable and Sometimes Secretive) features the struggles of mild-mannered characters with far more feelings than their souls, or subtitles, could ever cope with.


8. Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks, the twisted parody of small town soaps like Peyton Place whose own creator repeatedly insists is not a parody, has endured through pop culture since it changed television forever when it debuted in 1990. The show even had it’s own soap within in a soap called…


9. “Invitation to Love,” Twin Peaks

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Twin Peaks didn’t just parody soap operas — it parodied itself parodying soap operas with the in-universe show Invitation to Love. That’s more layers of deceit and drama than most televised love triangles.


10. “As The Stomach Turns,” The Carol Burnett Show

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The Carol Burnett Show poked fun at soaps with this enduring take on As The World Turns. In a case of life imitating art, one story involving demonic possession would go on to happen for “real” on Days of Our Lives.


11. Days of our Lives (Friends Edition)

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Still airing today, Days of Our Lives is one of the most famous soap operas of all time. They’re also excellent sports, as they allowed Friends star Joey Tribbiani to star as Dr Drake Ramoray, the only doctor to date his own stalker (while pretending to be his own evil twin). And then return after a brain-transplant.

And let’s not forget the greatest soap opera parody line ever written: “Come on Joey, you’re going up against a guy who survived his own cremation!”


12. Acorn Antiques

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First appearing on the BBC sketch comedy series Victoria Wood As Seen on TV, Acorn Antiques combines almost every low-budget soap opera trope into one amazing whole. The staff of a small town antique store suffer a disproportional number of amnesiac love-triangles, while entire storylines suddenly appear and disappear without warning or resolution. Acorn Antiques was so popular, it went on to become a hit West End musical.


13. “Point Place,” That 70s Show

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In a memorable That ’70s Show episode, an unemployed Red is reduced to watching soaps all day. He becomes obsessed despite the usual Red common-sense objections (like complaining that it’s impossible to fall in love with someone in a coma). His dreams render his own life as Point Place, a melodramatic nightmare where Kitty leaves him because he’s unemployed. (Click here to see all airings of That ’70s Show on IFC.)


14. The Spoils of Babylon

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Bursting from the minds of Will Ferrell and creators Andrew Steele and Matt Piedmont, The Spoils of Babylon was a spectacular parody of soap operas and epic mini-series like The Thorn Birds. Taking the parody even further, Ferrell himself played Eric Jonrosh, the author of the book on which the series was based. Jonrosh returned in The Spoils Before Dying, a jazzy murder mystery with its own share of soapy twists and turns.

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15. All My Children Finale, SNL

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SNL‘s final celebration of one of the biggest soaps of all time is interrupted by a relentless series of revelations from stage managers, lighting designers, make-up artists, and more. All of whom seem to have been married to or murdered by (or both) each other.

Spotting Hitch: Where Can You Find Hitchcock’s Famous Cameos in the New Blu-ray Box Set?

Alfred Hitchcock

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With the November 23 theatrical release of “Hitchcock” and the recent release of Universal’s fantastic Blu-ray box set Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection: Limited Edition, the legendary director is back in the news and experiencing a resurgence of popularity. Not only does the new Blu-ray collection feature tons of excellent bonus material, but the films looks simply stunning and better than they ever have before. In honor of the release, we decided to give you a rundown of just where, in each film, you can find Hitchcock’s famous, albeit brief, cameos. We call it “Spotting Hitch,” but it’s a bit more like a less colorful game of Where’s Waldo?


“Saboteur” (1942) – 01:04:28

Hitchcock can be seen standing in front of the “Cut Rate Drugs” store window as the car pulls up and stops at the store.


“Shadow of a Doubt” (1943) – 00:16:39

Hitchcock can be seen playing cards on the train to Santa Rosa. His back is toward the camera, but you can’t miss his famous profile.


“Rope” (1948) – 00:55:22

Hitchcock’s signature silhouette appears on a red neon sign outside the apartment window. This is the only place you’ll spot Hitch in the master’s first color feature.


“Rear Window” (1954) – 00:26:13

Hitchcock is seen winding the clock through the window of the songwriter’s apartment. Although the audience doesn’t hear him speak, Hitch clearly says something the songwriter during the brief scene.


“The Trouble with Harry” (1955) – 00:22:22

Outside the shop window there’s a man in front of a parked limousine, looking at paintings. Hitchcock can be seen walking past the limousine.


“The Man Who Knew Too Much” (1956) – 00:25:20

Hitchcock can be seen watching the acrobats in the marketplace. His hands are in his pockets and his back is to the camera, but there’s no mistaking him.


“Vertigo” (1958) – 00:11:11

Hitchcock can be seen swiftly walking past the Shipbuilding Co. building. He’s wearing a grey suit and carrying a trumpet case.

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Eli Roth & Rosanna Arquette remember Tarantino collaborator Sally Menke in this exclusive Blu-ray featurette

Quentin Tarantino and Sally Menke

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As we await the December 25 bow of “Django Unchained,” next week brings the release of “Tarantino XX,” an 8-disc collection packaging eight Quentin Tarantino films on Blu-ray. Included in the group are “Reservoir Dogs,” “True Romance,” “Pulp Fiction,” “Jackie Brown, “Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2,” “Death Proof” and “Inglourious Basterds.”

Along with the groundbreaking films, more than five hours of brand-new bonus material was created for the collection. One of these, a remembrance of longtime Tarantino friend and editor Sally Menke, we have for your exclusive viewing pleasure. In the video, Eli Roth and Rosanna Arquette remember Menke, who tragically perished during a hike in the L.A. mountains in 2010. The 56-year-old Hollywood vet was extremely close with Tarantino, having edited all of his films and often acting as a sounding board during the filmmaker’s many productions.

Check it out below. “Tarantino XX” hits Blu-ray on November 20.

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Five reboots that worked, in honor of “The Amazing Spider-Man” on Blu-ray

Andrew Garfield in The Amazing Spider-Man

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The “reboot” has become the new go-to term for Hollywood to use when they decide to remake a film that’s either not really that old or they want audiences to believe they’re taking a fresh take on the material. Sometimes it’s true. Sometimes it’s spin. Either way, movie fans have seen a whole slew of reboots in recent years as the number of wholly original films coming out of the dream factory gets smaller every year.

Perhaps this year’s most high-profile reboot is Marc Webb’s The Amazing Spider-Man, a “fresh take” on the character and the films Sam Raimi established as canon only a few years back. While it’s certainly debatable that The Amazing Spider-Man actually “worked” as a reboot, it’s undeniable that the film includes some stunning visuals, a fantastic bit of chemistry between leads Andrew Garfield and Emma Stone, and a bend on Spidey’s origin that audiences hadn’t seen before. It also boasts a pretty astonishing Blu-ray (in stores now) with an exhaustive documentary crafted by Charles de Lauzirika. It’s a must-buy for any fan of the webslinger.

Feel free to argue yourself into oblivion about how well Webb’s film actually holds up but, if anything, it gives us the chance to delve into five reboots that did work. It’s like déjà vu all over again.


“Dawn of the Dead” (2004)

George A. Romero fans (myself included) are rabidly protective of the man’s work, and for good reason: he’s the Godfather of the modern zombie film. If it weren’t for Romero’s 1968 classic “Night of the Living Dead” you probably wouldn’t be seeing the type of popularity that zombies are enjoying now. Things like “The Walking Dead” probably wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for Romero’s work.

So fans were skeptical at best when they heard that Zack Snyder was planning to remake one of the master’s most loved films: “Dawn of the Dead.” Not only that, but he planned to employ fast-moving zombies. What? Yes, that’s right. Snyder’s zombies are quick little buggers hell-bent on eating brains and tearing flesh. It was a major change that hardcore zombie fans had a very hard time coming to grips with. Yet, despite all the misgivings and nervous Romero ‘shippers out there, Snyder’s 2004 “Dawn of the Dead” actually works. It’s certainly not the original, and it’s a wholly new take on the film’s zombies-in-a-mall concept where the social satire doesn’t quite hit as strongly as Romero’s take, but it’s a hell of an entertaining film and still stands up as one of the best zombie flicks of the last decade. Packed with a quality cast, tightly directed, and jammed with plenty of winks to Romero’s original, “Dawn of the Dead” is one reboot for which I’m happy to be a fan.


“21 Jump Street” (2012)

Nobody, and I mean nobody, except for the folks making 2012’s “21 Jump Street” thought this reboot was going to work. And I don’t blame them. The odds were certainly stacked against the film. The original TV series that it’s based on really wasn’t very good (aside from giving the world a glimpse into the mind of a very young Johnny Depp), the casting seemed off (who knew Channing Tatum could pull off comedy, right?), and concept itself seemed to be reaching. The final product, however, is completely badass and hilarious. Fans began to have hope when that first poster came out with the hilarious tagline (which I won’t repeat here) and early trailers backed up their suspicions that “21 Jump Street” just might have a chance at working. And work it does. The team of Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum is way funnier than anyone expected, the fresh take on the concept is surprisingly adept, and the clever cameos and inside jokes turn “21 Jump Street” into one of the year’s best comedies and one that I’ll watch again on Blu-ray plenty of times. Who knew?


“The Fly” (1986)

When the master of flesh-based horror, David Cronenberg, decided to remake the 1958 Vincent Price-starring film of the same name he not only made the decision to reboot the original concept, but he actually took the film’s basic premise of a scientist merging with a housefly and blew it up in only the way Cronenberg knows how. The results are not only better than the original film, but they’re also astonishingly original, completely horrific, and totally Cronenberg. “The Fly” is often regarded as the director’s best film, but even that might be selling it short. Jeff Goldblum and Geena Davis both deliver career-best performances, the effects are just as effective two decades after the film’s release, and the subtext of “The Fly” holds up extremely well. If you’re looking for the definition of a true “reboot” look no further than Cronenberg’s film. Not only is it absolutely creeptastic, but it’s also smart, well made, and wholly original. Oh, and it’s also often pretty damn gross.


“Disturbia” (2007)

Now’s the time when all the Shia LaBeouf haters will take out their pitchforks and come running after me. Go ahead, folks. Bring it because I still watch “Disturbia” to this day and I still get a hell of a kick out of it every time. Based on Alfred Hitchcock’s classic film “Rear Window,” D.J. Caruso’s 2007 film might not be a true, full-on “reboot,” but it definitely has enough elements of the original film to call it one. There’s a guy (in this case LaBeouf) holed up inside his house and he can’t stop staring out the window watching life happen outside. Then he sees what he believes to be a murder occurring. From there, “Disturbia” strays quite a bit from Hitchcock’s film, but it’s the same basic premise with similar results. The film is clearly no “Rear Window” but it is a damn fine film with some truly suspenseful moments and excellent performances from Shia LaBeouf and Sarah Roemer. “Disturbia” is one of those films that, if it pops up on TV, it’s nearly impossible to turn it off. That alone, in my opinion, is enough to call it a reboot that works.


“The Thing” (1982)

John Carpenter’s 1982 classic “The Thing” just might be the greatest reboot of all time. Based on the 1951 Howard Hawks-Christian Nyby film “The Thing from Another World” (and possibly more so John W. Campbell Jr.’s novella “Who Goes There?”), Carpenter’s film is an ice-cold slice of paranoid perfection. Similar to what Cronenberg does with “The Fly,” Carpenter takes the original premise and blows it up to create a wholly new film in the director’s signature style. Starring Kurt Russell, Wilford Brimley, Keith David, Donald Moffat, and Charles Hallahan, “The Thing” is exactly what you’d expect it to be… until it isn’t. It’s a film that will have you questioning who you trust and why, who your friends and enemies really are, and just what might lurk under the surface of every conversation, action, and moment of solidarity. It’s also, arguably, Carpenter’s greatest film and that’s saying a whole lot. If you’ve only seen the 2011 prequel version of “The Thing” get your butt over to Amazon now and pick up the excellent Blu-ray version of Carpenter’s film. You won’t regret it. Trust me.

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