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Monday, December 8, 2014

2014 Disney Movie Gift Guide

Article first published as 2014 Disney Movie Gift Guide on Blogcritics.

Every December holiday season, there are numerous Blu-ray titles from which to select gifts for your loved ones. Although I mainly watch television shows, I’m far from immune to the draw of a good film, and Disney had a pretty solid lineup of choices this year among its offerings. This guide serves as a short summary of some of the best choices from “The Mouse.”

SBSleeping Beauty Diamond Edition (Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Combo) ~ I already had Sleeping Beauty on DVD, but this new edition is pretty sweet anyway. One of the old Disney classics, the story is timeless, if not quite as relatable as some of the studio’s other films. There’s a magic to it, enhanced by Tchaikovsky’s score. Older viewers will love the nostalgia, while the young should appreciate a movie that isn’t as dated as they might think. There’s a reason Sleeping Beauty got a new, fancy release, packed full of extras, and it’s deserved.

The picture and sound quality on this thing are remarkable! If you already bought the Platinum Edition Blu-ray from a few years ago, this is the same presentation, so there’s no need to shell out again. But if you’ve only watched this film on DVD or (shudder) VHS, I recommend taking the opportunity to upgrade. It’s well worth it, as clearly much time and effort has been spent making a remastered version to be proud of. This is also the first edition offering a digital copy, so that’s worth noting if you want to protect your physical discs from the kids.

MalefMaleficent (Blu-ray / DVD / Digital Combo) ~ You’ve seen Sleeping Beauty, so now check out the other side of the story. This live-action movie stars Angelina Jolie, spectacularly playing the titular “villain.” I recently did a full review of the movie, but suffice it to say, despite some issues with the story, the effects are mostly terrific, and the core performance makes this picture worth checking out. Plus, if you’ve already viewed the original, why not go a little deeper into what make Maleficent tick? It’s an interesting take on motivations and back story. And yes, Sleeping Beauty put in an appearance!

FrozFrozen Sing-Along Edition (DVD / Digital Combo) ~ Frozen has swept the country, if not the world, by storm. If you’re around kids at all, you’ve heard lots about it, as well as its famous song, “Let It Go.” The best Disney animated feature in years, it is the story of two sisters, one with a power she doesn’t know how to control. It’s sweet, full of positive female role models, and amusing to boot. Even some of my peers, in their twenties and thirties, enthusiastically count themselves among the fan base.

This edition, sadly, has no Blu-ray disc. That’s OK, though, because it’s really for the kids, who will love it, and probably won’t notice the quality difference as much as the older folks would. It offers two options: play the full film, with lyrics appearing on screen during the musical bits, or play just the songs from the movie, which is equally popular with the young crowd. Even if that child you’re shopping for already has the regular release, this is something to consider, given that latter feature.
 
CACaptain America: The Winter Soldier (Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / Digital Combo) ~ In my opinion, this is the best of the recent Marvel slate of movies. Besides being action-packed, it’s also a political thriller co-starring Robert Redford, which might raise the opinion of anyone who has unjustly dismissed it as a simple popcorn flick. Follow Captain America (Chris Evans), Falcon (Anthony Mackie), Black Widow (Scarlett Johansson), and Nick Fury (Samuel L. Jackson) as they take on a figure from the Cap’s past in a battle that forever completely changes the franchise. It’s really, really good stuff.

As with other Marvel titles, the best way to experience this is in 3D. If you have a 3D television available, I recommend taking full advantage of it to get the most out of the visuals, which are finely detailed and quite impressive. If not, the regular Blu-ray is included in the box, which pack quite a punch all on its own.

GotGGuardians of the Galaxy (Blu-ray 3D / Blu-ray / Digital Combo) ~ While Captain America is dramatic and serious, Guardians of the Galaxy is loads of fun while being a little dramatic and serious. The movie introduces a whole crop of new superheroes, set away from the Earth. It has an excellent retro soundtrack that helps lock the tone and style of the piece. August theatrical releases aren’t usually as big as those earlier in the summer, but because this one is so well-crafted, Guardians succeeded in the box office and as a quality film.

Like Captain America, I do recommend watching this in 3D if you can. It has even more impressive effects, with the often-present CGI necessary for a space-setting rendered naturally. Not once did I question the believability of the piece, grounded with authentic characters and a moving climax, and  I look forward to Marvel’s continued expansion if this is the type of direction they will be going in.

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