Tarantino has borrowed from Spaghetti Westerns often enough that it was high time he made his own — and Django Unchained ($25) is the result. Winner of two Oscars — the second Original Screenplay trophy for QT, and the second Supporting Actor award for Christoph Waltz — this nearly three-hour tale takes a look at slavery through the lens of pre-Civil War America, with Jamie Foxx in the titular role, and supported by Waltz, Leonardo DiCaprio as an infamous plantation owner, Kerry Washington as his lost wife, and Samuel L. Jackson (of course) as a house slave. Expect lots of action, lots of dialogue, and gratuitous use of the N-word — but most of all, expect to be entertained.
Celebrate of one of Bruce Lee's most beloved films with this Enter the Dragon: 40th Anniversary ($35) Blu-ray release. Making its second appearance on Blu-ray, this collectors edition features new cover artwork, three new featurettes, commentary form producer Paul Heller, and a re-mastered video and soundtrack that will hopefully have this classic looking and sounding better than ever.
Normally when a well-known series arrives in a special Blu-ray package, true fans already own all of the films — but that's not the case with the Mad Max Trilogy ($35). This long-awaited post-apocalyptic set includes the original Mad Max, Mad Max Road Warrior, and — making its debut on Blu-ray — the Tina Turner-packing Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome. Other details, such as potential bonus features and audio formats, are scarce, but word is that it will arrive in premium tin packaging, so at least that's something.
When we first brought you news of National Lampoon's Vacation on Blu-ray, it was with a heavy heart, knowing that the Amazon reviews said the soundtrack was in mono, the picture sucked, the cover art "looked stupid," and generally "pathetic". We're hoping that the National Lampoon's Vacation: 30th Anniversary ($16) release will fix all of that. If nothing else, you'll get new bonus content like the A&E special, "Inside Story: National Lampoon's Vacation". And let's face it — if you're thinking about buying it and have held off this long, you might as well take the plunge.
Unbeknownst to most common folk, many of rock's greatest albums came from a not-so-glamorous part of the San Fernando Valley. Sound City ($10-$13) is dedicated to the studio of the same name, and the rare sound board held within — sound featured on albums by Tom Petty, Nirvana, Fleetwood Mac, Rage Against the Machine, Neil Young, and many more. Directed by Dave Grohl, this full-length documentary features interviews and performances by some of the rockers who held court there, and is a must-watch for true music lovers.
And here you thought just watching the killing of Bin Laden was exciting. Zero Dark Thirty ($30) takes you through the entire ordeal, from the inception of the idea to the execution in a room in Pakistan. While we could watch Jessica Chastain torture our own mothers for hours on end, the payoff of the real-time mission at the end was nothing short of amazing. The fact that it's directed by Titanically big director James Cameron's ex-wife probably doesn't matter. But the fact that she won Best Director for The Hurt Locker probably does.
It's not just another Bond movie — it's one of the best ever. And as it turns out, Skyfall ($25) was one of the best action movies of the year, as well. Once again starring Daniel Craig as the British agent, it finds Bond and M facing a complete exposure of MI6. Forced underground, 007 and a single field agent follow the trail of clues to find Silva, played brilliantly by Javier Bardem. Directed by Sam Mendes, it's set the bar awfully high for the inevitable Bond 24.
Yes, it's about a pair of cops, and yes, it's set in a bad part of Los Angeles. But just because End of Watch ($25) was written and directed by the scribe behind Training Day doesn't mean it's a rehash. In fact, it just might be better. All-time bros Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Peña serve as upstanding police officers who get more than they bargain for over the course of a few days (it gets weird, people), and thanks to plentiful use of first-person, hand-held cameras, it conveys a sense of excitement and visceral terror like few cop films before it. A must-see.
It might seem silly now, but back in the day Universal more or less invented the horror genre — and by horror, we mean the iconic baddies that have spawned a million remakes. Universal Classic Monsters ($80) celebrates this legacy by packing eight of their best known monster films — each of which has been painstakingly cleaned up and remastered in 1080p — as well as over 12 hours of bonus features and an exclusive collectible book all into a single package. Included are Dracula, Frankenstein, The Mummy, The Invisible Man, The Bride of Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, Phantom of the Opera and Creature From the Black Lagoon, or more than enough creepy content to keep you busy this winter.
It might be too late for a traditional Christmas viewing, but grab the Die Hard 25th Anniversary Collection ($40) now and you'll be all set for the holidays in 2013. This box set includes all four films on Blu-ray — Die Hard, Die Hard 2: Die Harder, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and Live Free or Die Hard — as well as an all-new fifth disc packed full of bonus content. Yippie ki yay indeed.
Only in the movies can Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Bruce Willis be the same person. Looper ($25) pits the pair against one another, as the older version is sent back in time 30 years — time travel exists, but is illegal and controlled by the mob — and it's up to the younger one to kill him. There's obviously more to it than that, but all you really need to know is that it's the best sci-fi flick we've seen in quite some time. Watch it.
Although any collection like this should really say "Best 50 films we have home video distribution rights for and were released early enough to be included in this set", the Best of Warner Bros. 50 Film Collection ($540) is impressive nonetheless. Spanning the years from 1932 to 2010, this premium set includes 16 Best Picture Academy Award winners, two all-new documentaries, plenty of commentaries and special features, a limited edition poster, a series of movie poster postcards, and the requisite upscale packaging.