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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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The Nutty Professor Eddie Murphy 1996

Weird Science

10 Weird Movie Substances That Had Hilarious Consequences

Catch The Nutty Professor this month on IFC.

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Photo Credit: Universal Pictures/Everett Collection

If you’ve ever opened your refrigerator to find some seriously gnarly days-old potato salad, then you know that sometimes the most harmless-seeming things can turn freaky. Movies have conjured up some truly bizarre stuff, often the work of crazed scientists. Before you catch The Nutty Professor on IFC, check out some of the icky-est, gooey-ist and just plain weird substances on the big screen.

10. Flubber

Flubber
Walt Disney Studios

Professor Brainard’s “flying rubber” increases its speed every time it bounces, and increases the chaos, destruction and unlikely basketball-dunkage of anyone who uses it. Thankfully the movie ends before its thermodynamic impossibility cause the incineration of the entire universe.


9. Quantonium, Monsters Vs. Aliens

Monsters Vs Aliens
DreamWorks

In Monsters vs. Aliens, both action-packed parties are battling over Quantonium, an exotic material which massively empowers anyone who holds it. Literally in the case of Susan Murphy, whose exposure turns her into Ginormica and enables her to fight against Gallaxhar’s invasion force.


8. Sustengo, Little Fockers

Sustengo
Universal Pictures

After finally finding favor with his hard-bitten father-in-law, Greg Focker (Ben Stiller) finds himself strapped for cash and starts promoting Sustengo, an erectile dysfunction drug. Which means leaving boxes of ED drugs lying around a family who can’t even use a toilet without triggering a series of hilarious misunderstandings.


7. Iocane, Princess Bride

Iocane
20th Century Fox

Iocane is a deadly poison with no odor or taste that dissolves instantly in any liquid. The perfect tool for murder isn’t usually hilarious, but The Princess Bride makes everything funny. Hero Westley (Cary Elwes) tricks cunning Vizzini (Wallace Shawn) into drinking the poison in a game of wits. Vizzini lost, not knowing that the answer is “Don’t drink anything offered by someone who just talked about how awesome their poison is.”


6. PX-41, Despicable Me 2

PX41
Universal Pictures

The mutation compound engineered by PX-Labs turns anything into a purple, fluffy, indestructible killing machine. And when Despicable Me‘s famous Minions are dosed with it, look out. Dr. Nefario (Russell Brand) crafts an antidote, PX-41 Antidote, proving he’s much better with chemicals than he is with names.


5. Mood Slime, Ghostbusters II

Mood Slime
Columbia Pictures

When the Ghostbusters came back for their 1989 sequel, the slime they encountered was sillier and scarier. The “Mood Slime” was a special form of ectoplasm utterly saturated in the emotions of everyone and everything around it. And while our heroes energize some positive vibes with Aretha Franklin tunes, the entire city of New York’s psychic outpourings are filling the sewers with something distinctly less positive.


4. The Stuff

The Stuff
New World Pictures

A science fiction soft-serve satire, The Stuff is about an oddly organic treat which is utterly delicious and zero calories. In fact it’s negative calories, because if you eat enough it’ll take over your brain and hollow you out from the inside.


3. Miracle Weight Loss Serum, The Nutty Professor

Buddy Love
Universal Pictures

The core component of The Nutty Professor‘s plot is a miraculous weight loss serum, a simple fluid which re-engineers human DNA all by itself. This allows sweet but sizable Sherman Klump (Eddie Murphy) to transform into the tight, toned and turbocharged Buddy Love (Murphy again). The serum is revealed to be fatally dangerous, but anything which allows Eddie Murphy to play himself cranked up to the max is pure comedy gold.


2. Cobalt Thorium G, Dr. Strangelove

Dr Strangelove
Columbia Pictures

Dr Strangelove or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love The Bomb is about a bomb built with Cobalt Thorium G. It’s a doomsday device designed to annihilate all human civilization and is, slightly worryingly, based on the least fictional materials on this list. Cobalt and thorium both have applications in nuclear weapon design. Luckily we haven’t got them up to G yet.


1. Ectoplasm, Ghostbusters

Ghostbusters
Columbia Pictures

The Ghostbusters live in a world where ghosts are real but physics is still in charge. So while the ghouls are flung around with proton packs, they get the boys in grey back with their appalling ectoplasm, or slime, trail. As Venkman says, getting covered in the stuff will make you feel all funky.

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Fast Times Jennifer Jason Leigh

Retro Grades

The 11 Best Movie Comedies of the ’80s

Catch Fast Times at Ridgemont High during IFC's '80s Weekend.

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Photo Credit: Universal/Everett Collection

The ’80s gave us so many great things (Tab, anyone?), but when it comes to movie comedies, the Reagan years were a golden age of funny. In honor of IFC’s ’80s Weekend, we’ve selected the best big screen comedies from the decade that gave us Bill Murray, Eddie Murphy and other comedy greats. And like one of the movies featured below, this list goes to 11.

1. Back to the Future

“A high school slacker goes back in time, takes his mother to a dance, and gets dangerously close to becoming his own father.” The elevator pitch for Back to the Future doesn’t sound so charming, but the 1985 flick starring Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson and Crispin Glover is declared by many as being the perfect movie. (Though we can’t officially say if the Eric Stoltz version would’ve been better.)


2. Ghostbusters

The sheer number of childhoods that were professed to be ruined by the recent reboot should tell you how beloved the original film is. A perfect blend of comedy, horror and fantasy, Ghostbusters has an indelible cast at the top of its game and a heap of one-liners worthy of countless casual references. They have the tools, and they have the talent.


3. Airplane!

Speaking of one-liners, it doesn’t get much more quotable than the 1980 Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker classic Airplane!. Almost a one-to-one parody of the 1957 disaster film Zero Hour!, Airplane! works so well because of how straight faced the zaniness is played — which is something its many imitators fail to notice.


4. This Is Spinal Tap

Rob Reiner, Christopher Guest, Michael McKean and Harry Shearer created the de facto mockumentary film with the hilarious 1984 rock diary This Is Spinal Tap. Heralded as one of the most accurate depictions of backstage life by actual real-life bands, the movie showcases an aging glam metal band struggling for the spotlight while keeping the group intact (especially the spontaneously combustible drummers).


5. National Lampoon’s Vacation

While Caddyshack and Fletch are quintessential Chevy Chase films, nothing beats the bumbling patriarch of the Griswold clan losing his mind en route to Wally World, America’s favorite family fun park. Yes, the sequels saw diminishing returns (aside from Christmas Vacation), but the one that started them all is endlessly watchable. Amen, let’s go!


6. Fast Times at Ridgemont High

Director Amy Heckerling and writer Cameron Crowe managed to capture exactly what high school life was like in the early-’80s. The awkwardness, the frustrations, the scares, the search for purpose and gratification, Fast Times presents its young characters as fully fleshed-out individuals (even the designated stoner shows nuance) and doesn’t talk down to its audience like many teen movies do. (Click here to see all airings of Fast Times at Ridgemont High on IFC.)


7. Beverly Hills Cop

A reminder of the days when Eddie Murphy was the edgiest comedian in showbiz, the one-two punch of Beverly Hills Cop and 48 Hrs. set the template for modern action comedies. We wouldn’t have the Rush Hour franchise and every Kevin Hart film without Axel Foley.


8. Trading Places

A treatise on the Nature vs. Nurture argument at the height of Reagan-era excess, Trading Places depicts the lives that are held in the balance when the mega-rich make friendly $1 wagers and just how joyous the retribution can be. Dan Aykroyd, Eddie Murphy and Jamie Lee Curtis are terrific as the leads, the Duke Brothers are delightfully evil, and in all seriousness, that is a nice purse.


9. Better Off Dead

This 1985 Savage Steve Holland movie is teen angst at its most surreal and affably goofy. John Cusack stars as Lane Meyer, a high schooler still reeling from the loss of his girlfriend to a cocky champion skier. (Is there any other kind in an ’80s movie?) With bloodthirsty paperboys, foreign-exchange street races and stop-motion hamburger interludes, Better Off Dead doesn’t let realism get in the way of accurately portraying pure teen heartbreak.


10. Midnight Run

Of all the critically acclaimed pairings that actor Robert De Niro has had through the years, few are as entertaining as his reluctant team-up with a persnickety Charles Grodin in 1988’s Midnight Run. Perfect foils, the bounty hunter and mob accountant race against time, the Feds and mafia hits until mutual Stockholm Syndrome kicks in and the partnership stops becoming merely professional. (The counterfeit bill scene alone is worth the watch.)


11. Heathers

Heathers is the kind of pitch-black comedy that would never get a major release in 2016. Unflinching in its satire of school shootings, teen suicide and the tragedies that come with the need to fit in, the movie remains relevant to the kids currently growing up in a cruel and judgmental world. And the fact that it’s laugh-out-loud funny while also making a sharp point about youth culture is a testament to how great the movie really is.

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Bill Hader in Conan Star Wars Audition Sketch

Acts of Wars

Watch Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy and More Audition to Play Young Han Solo

The Documentary Now! star shows off his best Han and Chewie.

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Photo Credit: TBS/YouTube

Thanks in large part to The Force Awakens not sucking, the Star Wars universe is about to get a lot more expansive. Sequels, spin-offs, TV shows, and more are underway — which means a helluva lotta casting calls. Fortunately, Conan O’Brien got his hands on a few audition tapes of celebrities trying out for a role as a young Han Solo.

Check out Documentary Now!’s Bill Hader, Melissa McCarthy, Portlandia favorite Jeff Goldblum, Todd Margaret star Will Arnett and other funny folks offering their takes on what that younger, brasher space swashbuckler would be like.

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