Must-have presents for all, whether naughty or nice.
Over the Rainbow Top The Wizard of Oz 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition
Over the Rainbow Top
The Wizard of Oz 70th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition
When Warner Bros. says this is an “ultimate” DVD collector’s item, they aren’t kidding. In addition to the 1939 movie classic itself, nestled in the appropriately emerald-hued goodie box, are possibly every commentary ever recorded about the film, plus “Behind the Curtain” (a 52-page commemorative hard-bound volume with exquisite stills and production notes), a reproduction of the complete “Campaign Book” detailing the film’s previously unmatched “exploitation” budget ($250,000!), and a commemorative watch.
That’s right. This set comes with a friggin’ watch with an emerald green leather strap.
The five-disc set provides a whopping 16 total hours of content, including a sing-along track for the few who don’t already know all the lyrics to the timeless Arlen/Harburg soundtrack. The wonderful actress Angela Lansbury reads The Wonderful World of Oz Storybook. And the deeply, deeply obsessed Oz fan will appreciate the inclusion of six Wizard of Oz features filmed prior to 1939.
And there’s more. Much, much more.
Chances are, readers of this magazine are Friends of Dorothy in either the literal or figurative senses. Both should prepare to swoon when they unwrap this package. Available in DVD and Blu-ray Hi-Def from Warner Home Video (warnerbros.com). —Nancy Ford
Will & Grace & This & That
Love & Marriage, Friends & Foes Collections
Exhausting how Hollywood continues to repackage DVDs just to squeeze more money out of the consumer’s already exhausted wallets. The single seasons, the entire series, the Gold collection, the Platinum edition, the director’s cut. And then after diehard fans shell out for these, they get Blu-raped. So it’s nice when something comes along like a Best Of collection, which is what Lionsgate (lionsgateshop.com) is doing with a couple of Will & Grace sets. Friends & Foes is a perfect little collection featuring some of the legion of famous guest stars like Cher, Michael Douglas, J-Lo, Britney, Matt Damon, and more. At $20 it’s a good little stocking stuffer for even the occasional fan. Skip the Love & Marriage disc, however, which seems more like marketing gimmick than real fan service. —Steven Foster
Ally McBeal: The Complete Series
More than a decade has passed since Ally McBeal first aired and, unfortunately, time has not been kind to her memory. Most culture snobs deride the series as a self-indulgent wacky-fest that made fantasy sequences, cast anorexia, and ludicrously eccentric character traits painful television mainstays. Bullshit. While the show did eventually get lost in its own navel-gazing neo-comedy, Ally began as a powerfully entertaining, charming, and, yes, groundbreaking hour of television. It gave us refreshingly flawed female empowerment, 9-to-5 pencil skirts, unisex bathrooms, dancing Internet babies, and a stunning cast of wonderfully talented actors like then-newbies Portia de Rossi, Lucy Liu, and Jane Krakowski, in addition to saving (again) Robert Downey Jr.’s career and introducing us to the Emmy-winning and often underrated Calista Flockhart. Rediscover the considerable charms of this series, which is available, at last, on DVD from 20th Century Fox Home Entertainment (foxstore.com). —S.F.
Venture Brotherly Love
The Venture Bros. Season 3
Those old enough to remember Jonny Quest remember it as the gayest cartoon ever to air on Saturday morning. There was Dr. Quest, his son Jonny and Jonny’s Indian “friend” Haji, and Dr. Quest’s muscled Anderson Cooper sidekick who was also the boys’ manny. It was rife for parody. And that’s just what Cartoon Network’s Adult Swim did with The Venture Bros. This savvy cartoon series, basically a brilliantly conceived Quest comedy knock-off, was created by King of the Hill and The Tick vet Jackson Publick. It’s a sharp, witty wink-and-nod to all cartoon conventions and fresh send-up of Saturday morning staples with a very adult Saturday Night Live sensibility. And it’s hilarious. From Warner Home Video (wbshop.com). —S.F.
Carrying a Torchwood
Torchwood: Children of Earth
Whether the Dr. Who shadow loomed too large for most people, or because it was buried in the BBC America cable ghetto along with other brilliant series from across the pond, Torchwood never banked Battlestar Galactica-like buzz or ratings. Sci-fi fan or not, do your thrill-seeking self (or loved one) a favor and enter this creepy, suspenseful, and devilishly dark miniseries. Total Torchwood virgins will be shocked to learn the hero Captain Jack Harkness is openly gay, played by smokin’ hot John Barrowman (also openly gay), which is a TV milestone. That’s cool and all, but the real thrill is how slickly produced, well-acted, and heart-stoppingly paced miniseries mind melt is. The sight of every child on the planet freezing simultaneously saying “we are coming” will give you chills that’ll last long past winter. From BBC America (bbcamericashop.com). —S.F.
Jesus, Mary, and Joseph! Bill Maher Is Funny
Bill Maher says he honestly believes that religion is “detrimental to the progress of humanity.” With Religulous, now available on DVD, the political, provocative, and (some say) profane comedian goes on the road to self-indulgently, yet hysterically, interview the faithful to see if they persuade him otherwise. (Spoiler Alert: they don’t.) Larry Charles (Curb Your Enthusiam, Borat) directs the notoriously condescending yet supremely insightful Maher as he travels to the Vatican, the Holy Land, a Muslim gay bar, the “Holy Land Experience” theme park in Orlando, the Mormon Temple in Salt Lake City, and even Amsterdam to partake of the smoky sacraments. A visit to the Creation Museum, a $27 million facility, depicts how dinosaurs once frolicked with human beings. But particularly entertaining are the rapid-fire edits of messianic images portraying Pope Benny, Elvis, and Little Richard as objects of worship. The key to gifting someone with this DVD is to know your target audience. Would Religulous be a good item in the pink elephant gift exchange at the Gay Atheists’ holiday party? Absolutely. Would it, with its comparisons of the story of Jesus to the near-identical stories of the pagan Mithra and mythical Horus, be a good gift for your ultra-conservative Southern Baptist neighbor? Not so much. From Lionsgate (lionsgateshop.com). —N.F.
It’s Garry Shandling’s Show: The Complete Series
Showtime was just a blip on the cable landscape. There was no Internet. And the closest thing to reality TV was Candid Camera reruns. The year was 1986 and comedian Garry Shandling turned down a gig as Johnny Carson’s permanent sub to make a little cable series that became the precursor to virtually every comedy since then. Famous for breaking the fourth wall, It’s Garry Shandling’s Show did so much more than that. It expanded the very bounds of comedy, coloring so far outside the lines it practically rewrote the book. Every series from Seinfeld to The Simpsons, from Curb Your Enthusiasm to Modern Family owe a gutbusting debt to this brilliant series. Get ready to cue your own live laugh track. From Shout! Factory (shoutfactory.com). —S.F.
Silver and Is Gold
Anna Sheffield CIF Pendant
Haute jewelry designer Anna Sheffield, whose designs have caught the eyes of the entertainment glitterati as well as the frugal fashionistas at Target, has designed a sterling silver coin-stamped pendant to benefit the promising work of AIDS researcher Dr. Sudhir Paul and the Covalent Immunology Foundation. The imperfect, oval edges of the pendant are rustically evocative, as is the pressed image of a sword and abzyme (antibody and enzyme) symbol on the pendant’s face. It’s kinda cool, a little Celtic, and totally in the spirit of the season. Get it on a chain for under $90 or with a simple silk ribbon for $55. Presents like these truly are gifts that keep on giving. —S.F.
The pendant is available at bigbangnyc.com. For more information on the Covalent Immunology Foundation, visit covalentimmunology.org.
More Hope in the Season of Hope
Broadway’s Carols for a Cure, Vol. 11
For nearly a dozen years, the stage’s top stars have contributed their talents to this ever-changing compilation of traditional and contemporary holiday tunes, and with miraculous results. Since its inception under the direction of singer/actress Lynn Pinto, the project has raised nearly $3 million for Broadway Cares/Equity Fights AIDS. Cast members from Billy Elliot, Hair, Jersey Boys, Mamma Mia!, Shrek, West Side Story, and many other hit shows provide vocals on this latest double CD. Caroling never sounded or did so much good. Available at broadwaycares.org. —N.F.
Queen for the Queen
Queen: The Ulimate History of the Crown Kings of Rock
There never was and probably never will be another band like Queen. Truly one of the pioneers of arena rock, Queen’s signature sound yielded hits that are arguably more iconic than most tunes by the Beatles or the Stones. Listen closely to the classic “Bohemian Rhapsody” and marvel that this song ever made it on the radio, much less became the most idiosyncratic rock hit since Led Zeppelin’s “Stairway to Heaven.” The musicianship was as distinctive as the band’s decadent, outrageous history. But it was all about famous gay lead singer Freddie Mercury, one of AIDS’ most famous early victims. Queen: The Ultimate History (Voyageur Press, voyageurpress.com) is a vivid, exhaustive, orgiastic retrospective including over 400 breathtaking images, along with concert programs, posters, ticket stubs, and other memorabilia. The book is deserving of the band’s lush legacy. Mercury would be proud. —S.F.