Monday, December 17 2012, 02:19 PM MST
Holiday Gift Guide 2012 Part 3: Family
Picking out the perfect gift can be a daunting task. To make things a little easier on you I’ve compiled a list of recommended films that have come out in the past couple months. This section of the guide covers the Family genre.
A Cat in Paris (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
“A Cat in Paris” is French animated film (with an English language dub for those who don’t speak French) that is more adventurous than most children’s movies are these days. The story is about a kind-hearted burglar, a mischievous cat, a little girl, an unsolved murder and an art thief. There’s suspense and a hint of danger, but the film is less frightening than other animated films like “Sleeping Beauty” or “The Secret of Nimh” (which I loved as a child and still enjoy today).
Brave (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo and 3D Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Pixar’s first princess story feels a little conservative for the typically atypical studio, but the animation is extraordinary, the celebration of Scottish heritage is long overdue and the story isn’t as predictable as you might expect from a coming-of-age princess tale.
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Steven Spielberg’s classic tale of a young boy’s friendship with a homesick alien comes to Blu-ray and it looks and sounds astounding. I’m completely biased, the film had an immeasurable impact on me, but there’s absolutely no excuse for not having this film in your collection.
Finding Nemo (DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo and 3D Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Pixar’s classic fish tale about a father’s tireless search to find his abducted son makes its way to Blu-ray. The film is fantastic and while I’ve only seen the 2D version it looks spectacular.
Ice Age: Continental Drift (DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo and 3D Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
The fourth film in the “Ice Age” franchise isn’t quite up the standard of “Ice Age: The Dawn of the Dinosaurs” (which is my favorite in the series), but it does offer plenty of the sort of antics you’ve come to expect from Manny and friends with a few pirates thrown in for the sake of variety.
Looney Tunes Platinum Collection: Volume Two (DVD and Blu-ray)
The second volume in the “Looney Tunes Platinum Collection” features 50 classic Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons produced between 1936-1959 (the Blu-ray features an additional 30 or so). Included are classic short films with Porky Pig, Bugs Bunny Elmer Fudd, Daffy Duck, the Road Runner, Tweety and more. Warner Bros. has included a healthy selection of bonus features that probably won’t interest children, but for those of us that grew up watching these films a little bit of history into the process of creation and those who were responsible for the animation is fascinating.
Madagascar 3: Europe’s Most Wanted (DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo and 3D Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
While in Africa, Alex and his cohorts grow homesick for New York City and embark on a journey that requires them to sign up with a traveling circus to have any hope of getting home. I enjoyed the way the circus aspect of the plot gave the film a certain amount of energy that I wasn’t expecting. It does feel a little too much like “Dumbo” from time to time (only with less heart and more pop culture references), but I’ve yet to meet a kid who didn’t enjoy it.
ParaNorman (DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo and 3D Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
“ParaNorman” is an animated horror film for kids with a taste for zombies and ghosts and adults who’ll pick up on all the references to horror films that their children (presumably) haven’t seen. Produced by Laika, the same company responsible for “Coraline” (which I prefer), using stop-motion and featuring the voices of Casey Affleck, Anna Kendrick and John Goodman “ParaNorman” is clearly a labor of love for the filmmakers (the same can’t be said for “Hotel Transylvania”) and a recommended purchase for fans of creepy-crawly family films.
Pixar Short Film Collection: Volume 2 (DVD and Blu-ray)
Part of the fun of going to a Pixar film is getting to see the short films that always accompany them. This release collects 12 shorts released between 2007-2012 including classics like “Presto” and “La Luna” as well as shorts featuring characters from “Toy Story,” “Wall•e” and “Ratatouille” (the Blu-ray adds a few student films from John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton and Pete Docter that show off the directors’ budding potential). Think of it as bite-size brilliance.
Scooby-Doo! Mystery Incorporated: Danger in the Deep (DVD)
These 13 episodes from the second season of the latest Scooby-Doo! series are almost as entertaining as the original series. I was surprised by how many pop culture references there and was even more shocked by how obscure many of those references were. If you liked the classic originals you’re likely to enjoy these as well.
Secret of the Wings (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo and 3D Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Disney continues its “Disney Fairies” series with another film dedicated to Tinker Bell and her fairy friends. Whereas some of the early Disney direct-to-video releases felt more like a cash-in, rather than an artistic necessity, the Tinker Bell films have been decent to above average (in fact this film had a fairly successful theatrical release in various parts of the world). If you have, or are, a Disney princess you’ll want to pick this title up for your collection.
Secret World of Arrietty (DVD and Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
The most recent US release of the Japanese animation house Studio Ghibli film is a strikingly gorgeous movie based on Mary Norton’s “The Borrowers,” a children’s book about a world of tiny people who live beneath the floors and within the walls of any given house. “Secret World of Arrietty” is easily the most accessible film the studio has done and serves as a wonderful introduction to their diverse catalogue of critically aclaimed titles like “Howl’s Moving Castle,” “Spirited Away” and “Princess Mononoke.”
Family Box Sets
Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Ultimate Edition (DVD and Blu-ray)
The last two films in the Harry Potter franchise get the Ultimate Edition treatment with extended bonus features and collectables. I expected Warner Bros. to release each film separately, but they’ve kindly included both in this one box set. If you really want to splurge you could always pick up the massive “Harry Potter Wizard’s Collection” that includes all of the Ultimate Editions of all eight films plus exclusive bonus content.
The Magic School Bus: The Complete Series (DVD)
All 52 episodes from the four seasons of the educational series “The Magic School Bus” are gathered together for the first time. Produced between 1994 and 1997 the series examines a variety of subjects, some more difficult than others, in a very approachable way that is entertaining for both adults and children. When I first sat down this box set I planned on watching two or three episodes to get a feel for the series and found myself spending a few afternoons and evenings working my way through the entire collection. If you’re going to spend time in front of the television you might as well learn something while doing it.
My First Collection: Volume 4 (DVD)
For those with very young children Scholastic has put together a series of short films that are aimed at children between the ages of 2 and 4. Their most recent release features three discs from the series including “Robot Zot!,” “Too Many Toys,” and “The Curious Garden.” The series’ purpose is two fold: to entertain and to inspire youngsters to want to read. Quite honestly I’ve never been disappointed in any of the collections Scholastic has released.