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The Fanboy Planet Gift Guide For 2006
Part 2: The DVDs A - L

Yes, Christmas is over, but some people still have the tradition of Little Christmas on January 6. Or, as has been noted in the media, you've got Christmas money or gift cards that are burning a hole in your pocket. So how about these?

Doctor Who: The Complete First Season:
Forget what you think you know from PBS syndication in the seventies and eighties. That was fun, but this is now. Perhaps unbelievably, the BBC still considers this a children's show, but maybe it's better to consider it an adventure show the whole family can watch. Except there are episodes there is no way I would let my kids see - there's some really creepy stuff going on here. Christopher Eccleston plays the Doctor with an edge of mania which unfolds as survivor's guilt, a far more mature idea than ever went on in this show before. And Billie Piper - well, we'll see if she breaks into a movie career as she allegedly hopes, but she's perfect as the Doctor's companion, Rose Tyler. This DVD set throws in insightful commentaries from a variety of talent connected with the show. It also includes Doctor Who Confidential, a series of half-hour programs broadcast on the BBC that illuminate behind-the-scenes of the first season and the past of the show's previous incarnation. It's all very cool, but really, this show is so good that the main reason to buy it is simply so you can have these episodes at your command. Unless, of course, you do the other sensible thing and insist to your friends that they'd really like it, loan them the DVDs and then get them hooked. (The second series, starring David Tennant as the Doctor, hits DVD in January. To be honest, it's even better.).

Doctor Who - The Complete First Series

Doctor Who - The Complete Second Series

The Frank Capra Collection:
Every year you hear a lot of moaning about how stale Capra's It's a Wonderful Life is; most focus on what they perceive as its treacly message and ignore how brutal and dark some parts are. Capra's work does veer toward the sentimental, but only after being honest about human nature. This collection brings together some of his best films from the thirties: the Oscar-winning It Happened One Night, the screwball You Can't Take It With You, the political drama turned newspaper cliché Mr. Smith Goes To Washington and the source of an Adam Sandler remake, Mr. Deeds Goes To Town. All have been referenced like crazy by popular culture since; you owe it to yourself to go back and see what the fuss is about. In particular, it may be depressing to see how accurate Mr. Smith… still is. To make the set more comprehensive, it includes a lesser-known 1932 Capra film, American Madness. It doesn't quite have the balance of social message and entertainment that his later work does, but it's still interesting and, unfortunately, timely in its mix of cynicism and hope. Putting it all in perspective (maybe), Ron Howard - who would like to be Capra - hosts a documentary. Amidst all the flash of bigger, more recent movies released on DVD, this one got lost in the shuffle, but it's a perfect unexpected treasure for you or a film fan you know.

The Premiere Frank Capra Collection

Hustle: The Complete First Season:
The only downside to this one is that it's only six episodes. Hustle hits unexpectedly and the sheer fun of it will stick with you for a while. I reviewed it more in-depth here, but it's worth mentioning again.

Hustle - Complete Season One

Justice League Unlimited, Season One:
What can be said about the best superhero animated series ever done? The first few episodes struggled to find a tone beyond "hey, we can use anybody we want!" But it gets so much better. High points that coincidentally also feature commentary from Bruce Timm and company are "This Little Piggy" and "The Return." The former episode plays up the possibility of a Batman/Wonder Woman romance and features Kevin Conroy (Batman) singing. As a bonus, Red Tornado goes hog-calling. In "The Return," the creative team started tying it all together, reaching back to the previous Justice League series and even further, to the Superman and Batman shows. All true fanboys should have this in their collection, and that's not hype. They stand up to rewatching, and you can bet it's all part of my indoctrination method with my kids. Also fun and still available are Mattel's action figures from this show, which range from the popular heroes to some really obscure ones like Aztek and Kilowogg, just like the show.

Justice League Unlimited - Season One (DC Comics Classic Collection)

The Little Mermaid Platinum Edition:
Okay. So back when this movie first came out, we didn't care that she was animated, a mermaid and underage. Ariel just breaks your heart. One of the few movies that lived up to Disney's instant self-anointing as a classic, The Little Mermaid finally got the classic treatment from Disney this fall. Completely comprehensive in tracing the development of the film (and its reviving Disney animation), the two-disc set offers two extras that you can sit through again and again. First, a short "The Little Match Girl," which helped convince studio execs to pour money into making The Little Mermaid something special. It's a beautiful telling of the Hans Christian Andersen story (though, man, he just does NOT believe in happy endings), with no dialogue, just powerful imagery. Then the second disc offers a ride through a non-existent Little Mermaid ride. Imagineers had proposed an attraction based on the movie, but it has not been built (yet?), so with CG they lay it all out here. Get a big-screen TV and put a couch just a little too close to it, and you've got yourself your very own Disneyland ride. As usual, this Disney DVD comes with a threat that it's out for a limited time, but Amazon still has plenty in stock.

The Little Mermaid (Two-Disc Special Edition)

Derek McCaw


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