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The Fanboy Planet Gift Guide For 2006
Part 3: The DVDs M-Z (Well, Really S)

I didn't want to push it by throwing in Zoolander or something, so we'll end with Superman, as you probably knew we would.

(Part 1 of the Gift Guide) (Part 2 of the Gift Guide)

Monster House:
Unfairly unreviewed by us because it came out the same week as Comic-Con, Monster House was one of the best films of the year. If I had time for a Top Ten list, it would be there. Playing out as if Ray Bradbury wrote a Rankin-Bass special, this doesn't hit a false note anywhere. It's creepy, but in a light-hearted way so that kids can really get into it. The child actors feel real, and their characterizations are dead on, hitting the highs and lows of being at that awkward "tween" stage. Even Jon Heder, rapidly becoming a one-note actor otherwise, creates something that feels different as the town's resident geek. Far enough away from realistic so as not to be as disturbing as The Polar Express, the CG motion capture is freed to present something real, if fantastic. In 3D, which we saw it in at Comic-Con, it works astonishingly well. Unfortunately, the DVD doesn't offer that option, but that's likely because home video hasn't quite captured that feel. Maybe in a couple of years, but for now, it doesn't matter. If you missed this one in the theaters, you won't regret going ahead and buying it now. Monster House will be a perennial.

Monster House (Widescreen Edition)

Robin Hood, Most Wanted Edition:
This one has always had a soft spot in my heart, so I include it for selfish reasons. The second animated feature without Walt Disney's direct input, Robin Hood has been maligned as the first sign of the studio's decline in animation until The Little Mermaid fifteen years later. Yes, it lifts its dance sequence straight out of Snow White, a sin not nearly as egregious as Brother Bear 2 taking a whole fight scene from Tarzan, because it's a minor moment instead of a desperation move. Robin Hood has fun songs from Roger Miller, which this DVD separates out for sing-alongs. Despite it being an English legend with only a few English characters thrown up against a bunch of Western sidekicks, the mash-up works. Phil Harris does little to distinguish Little John from his work as Baloo, but it's still good. So why the selfish reasons? I showed this to my daughter when she was two, and we had to watch it over and over again. I'll never forget the smile on her face as she fell in love with Little John, and so I'll always love this movie.

Robin Hood (Most Wanted Edition)

Just recently thrown into syndication, Scrubs is having a bit of a renaissance as people discover what a damned funny (and poignant) show this is. Even the worst episodes are still good, and I'm saying that as a strange generalization because I have not found an episode that I think is bad at all -- and that's saying something. Each and every season set (four released so far) has had extras worth watching, whether it be interviews with different cast members or highlighting the unusual work environment of the show. For me, the highlight episodes have included Brendan Fraser's guest turns (in Seasons 1 and 3) that served to remind me that he was a good actor before The Mummy and Looney Tunes: Back In Action. But the guest turns wouldn't be half as effective if they weren't in one of the best ensembles in sitcom history. Yes, I've said it. Now you need to get it.

Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition
The Christopher Reeve Superman Collection:
Frustratingly in the Silicon Valley, the Ultimate Collector's Edition sold out well before Christmas. Some of us were counting on using that Christmas money for this Holy Grail of geek outs that included everything you could possibly ever want of Superman in the movies -- except for Kirk Alyn's serials, which are available separately but dipped into heavily for the various documentaries and featurettes in this set. All of it comes packaged in a nice commemorative tin. Most of it, however, is available separately. Only Bryan Singer's webisodic journal and the pilot to Superpup is exclusive to the tin, and I'll be honest -- when it came to a choice of paying a lot more on eBay for that, I realized that Superpup is just disturbing. Elsewhere, we'd reviewed Superman II - The Richard Donner Cut and Superman Returns, so copies of those DVDs were already on my shelf. That left the comprehensive Christopher Reeve stuff, which comes neatly boxed together and, if you shop right, it's cheaper to buy the box and get Superman III and IV than it would be to buy Superman: The Movie and Superman II alone. The Christopher Reeve Superman Collection is why I waited four years or so to get these films on DVD, because in my heart of hearts, I knew this set had to be coming. You get the Fleischer Brothers/Famous Studios cartoons digitally remastered. You get George Reeves' debut in the suit, Superman and the Mole Men. I haven't had time to go through all the documentaries, but leaped right to the Superman's 50th Anniversary TV special. A buried gem that I had taped off of TV in 1988, this hour is absolutely fun. Lorne Michaels produced it, and among its writers are Robert Smigel, better known today as Triumph the Insult Comic Dog. It's sharp, funny and affectionate, hosted by Dana Carvey back when his smirk was amusing. Smigel makes a cameo as Brainwave, proof that the writers really did know their comic books, though the special covers the character in all media. Peter Boyle has a scene as the proprietor of a supervillain supermarket that's just perfectly dry, and a nice little capper to watch in tribute to him. I could go on, but really, you just have to experience this collection for yourself. If you can find the tin, do it, but the smaller box set is no small consolation.

The Christopher Reeve Superman Collection - (8-Disc Deluxe Special Edition)

Superman Ultimate Collector's Edition

Derek McCaw


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