A few good reasons to stay in. -- Curt Fields
The nine-disc set "Viva Pedro: The Almodóvar Collection"
($117.95) brings to vivid life his world of over-the-top characters. It contains eight of the Spanish director's best ("Law of Desire," "Matador," "Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown," "Talk to Her," "All About My Mother," "Bad Education," "The Flower of My Secret" and "Live Flesh"), plus three informative featurettes. His characters inhabit bizarre situations, but his deft touch makes you believe, and feel, their truth.
You can cover all their bases with "The Coen Brothers Movie Collection" ($49.98), featuring some of Joel and Ethan Coen's best work: "Fargo," "Raising Arizona," "Blood Simple," "Miller's Crossing" and "Barton Fink." The Coens can create noirish dramas laced with bloody violence and then turn around and create a wacky comedy. In some cases they do both in the same film. Whatever style they're mining at the time, they do it well. Most of the movies have decent extras ("Blood Simple" and "Raising Arizona" being the exceptions).
"The Oceans Trilogy" ($51.82), with "Ocean's Eleven," "Ocean's Twelve" and "Ocean's Thirteen" and their elaborate heist plots, quick-paced one-liners and themes of loyalty, will show him there's a modern-day crew as slick and cool as the Rat Pack of old. And your aunt will like it if for no other reason than the cast is a virtual roll call of "Sexiest Man Alive" winners thanks to George Clooney, Brad Pitt and Matt Damon. Note: The standard DVD is lacking in bonus features, but the HD-DVD and Blu-ray versions have several.
Give them the godfather of quirky and complicated TV with "Twin Peaks: The Definitive Gold Box Edition" ($99.99). It has all 29 episodes of David Lynch's groundbreaking series plus the original pilot (both U.S. and international versions), a remastered picture with deleted scenes, a feature-length documentary, an interactive map of Twin Peaks, actor Kyle MacLachlan's monologue on "Saturday Night Live" and much more. But do warn your gift recipients that it's nearly impossible to watch just one episode at a time.
The "Scholastic Treasury of 100 Storybook Classics" ($99.95) offers some of the best-loved tales in children's literature. These (mostly) animated stories feature the talents of such authors and illustrators as Maurice Sendak, Ezra Jack Keats, H.A. Rey, Kevin Henkes, Doreen Cronin and Robert McCloskey. The familiar voices of James Earl Jones, Forest Whitaker, Cyndi Lauper, Sarah Jessica Parker and other stars add depth and warmth. A helpful read-along option lets youngsters read the words with the narrators.