When giving the gift of DVD (or Blu-ray, if you're there yet), the easy rule of thumb is to always get something you'd want to watch with the person you're giving it to. Or if you can't stand the person you're giving it to, get something you'd want to borrow from that person and never return. Below, some recent-to-brand-spankin'-new releases worth considering.
Bottle Rocket (R)
By now, Wes Anderson's ornamental Salingerism is its own indie-movie brand; it all began in his heartfelt, hilarious feature debut, with Luke Wilson, Owen Wilson and Robert Musgrave as very petty thieves on the run from Johnny Law, and James Caan as their highly reluctant mentor. The long-awaited Criterion edition brings an extras goodie bag: commentary from Owen and Wes, deleted scenes, a making-of and the original 13-minute black-and-white movie.
Irma Vep (NR)
Zeitgeist Films / Release date: Dec. 9
All the opinions you thought you had about vampire movies, remakes, the French, Sonic Youth and Maggie Cheung will be put to the test in Zeitgeist's Essential Edition of director Olivier Assayas' 1996 cult hit, a sassy movie-biz satire with Cheung as her (Latex cat-suited) self.
The Godfather: The Coppola Restoration Giftset (R)
You really can't go wrong with The Godfather. Well, you can if you never invite him to your house for a cup of coffee, even though his wife is godmother to your only child, and now you come to him and you say, "Don Corleone, give me justice," but you don't ask with respect or offer friendship or even think to call him Godfather; instead you come into his home on the day his daughter is to be married and you ask him to do murder for money. That would be a way to go wrong with him. But you knew that. Go right with this handsomely restored, remastered, special-feature-laden set of all three Godfather films. Sure, Coppola's just out to make another buck. But he's earned it. Does he have your loyalty?
Walt Disney Video
The best animated feature ever, according to six gazillion critics, Pixar's latest embodies all that cinema has been and all that it might be in the romantic adventure of an anthropomorphized trash compactor. Assuming you and your giftee don't have a full-size movie screen between you, the DVD release is necessarily a downgrade. But what it lacks in magnitude, it makes up for in studyability, or, to use an official technical term, the "Whoa, cool, rewind that!" factor.
Three Short Films by Werner Herzog (NR)
New Yorker Video / Release date: Dec. 9
Before Encounters at the End of the World, before Grizzly Man, there had to be Precautions Against Fanatics. New Yorker's new (and second) collection of Herzog's short-form documentaries also includes Ballad of the Little Soldier and The Dark Glow of the Mountains, proving again the wily, wanderlusting Bavarian's wise understanding that a little titular grandeur goes a long way.
Casablanca: Ultimate Collector's Edition (NR)
Warner Home Video
Which is to say, Casablanca: The Yet Another Edition. But just look at all that fancy-pants "gift me" packaging. Besides, surely the 1942 Bogart-Bergman mainstay, an American classic of political and romantic melodrama set in an Islamic city whose name in English means "white house," must have something important to tell us about today's world.
A Colbert Christmas: The Greatest Gift of All! (NR)
You were wondering what the hell he would do with himself after the election? How about a gooftastic variety show/Christmas-song extravaganza, with musical guests including Willie Nelson, Feist and Elvis Costello? Do note the two stockings above the fireplace, labeled "Stephen" and "Colbert."
TV series: mucho manly
Catch up on all the best in testosterone-intensive television: The Sopranos: The Complete Series (33 discs), The Wire: The Complete Series (23 discs / Release date: Dec. 9), and Deadwood: The Complete Series (19 discs / Release date: Dec. 9). Duuuuuuude.
TV series: perhaps less so
OK, maybe that's a little mucho. Throw in Fraggle Rock: The Complete Series Collection (20 discs), and the beloved, short-lived show that begot today's Judd Apatow movie-comedy empire, Freaks & Geeks: Yearbook Edition (eight discs), and your sensitivity shall be restored. Stay away from My Little Pony: A Very Minty Christmas, though. That's going too far.