It’s that time of year again when you need to figure out what to buy your dad for Father’s Day. Ties, sweaters, and gift cards are good ideas, but they’re also a little predictable.
Why not switch things up this year and give you pop a DVD or Blu-ray?
We’ve rounded up 14 new boxed sets and special editions designed to satisfy every taste. The selections range from Westerns and war classics to comedies, action extravaganzas, and must-see TV collections. Read on for a rundown of this year’s most father-friendly releases:
John Wayne: The Epic Collection (1932-1976, Warner, unrated, $149): Here are 40 of the Duke’s best films from his days at Warner Bros. and Paramount. It’s a bonanza of riches, stretching from Wayne’s early ‘30s oaters like “Big Stampede” and “Allegheny Uprising” to John Ford’s trailblazing “The Searchers” and “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance” to Howard Hawks’ autumnal masterpieces “Rio Bravo” and “El Dorado.” Also riding tall in the saddle is “True Grit,” which netted Wayne his one and only Best Actor Oscar. Yee-haw!
True Detective (2014, HBO, unrated, $60): The solving of a murder with occult overtones becomes an obsession for two Louisiana homicide detectives (Matthew McConaughey, Woody Harrelson) in this addictive HBO miniseries. The show unravels in a series of flashbacks after McConaughey and Harrelson are called in to help a pair of cops with a crime very similar to the one they investigated back in 1995. Even though it’s too self-consciously arty at times, “True Detective” is a wonderful gumbo of grit, testosterone, and bayou weirdness.
The Bob Newhart Show: The Complete Series (1972-1978, Shout Factory, unrated, $129): Part of CBS-TV’s classic Saturday night lineup back in the ‘70s, this sitcom is something of a valentine to second bananas. Sure, Newhart underplays beautifully as Chicago psychologist Dr. Robert Hartley, but the show works thanks to the way he bounces off the supporting players, including his sharp-witted wife (Suzanne Pleshette), wacky receptionist (Marcia Wallace), flaky neighbor (Bill Daly), and neurotic patient (Jack Riley).
The Man With No Name Trilogy (1964-1966, MGM, R, $40): Sergio Leone’s Spaghetti Westerns were issued on Blu-ray back in 2010, but there’s a reason to track down this set and that’s the stunning, newly remastered edition of “The Good, The Bad and The Ugly” (1966), a fast-draw classic which Quentin Tarantino called the best-directed movie of all time. Clint Eastwood, who became a superstar thanks to these horse operas, stars in all three films, including “Fistful of Dollars” (1964) and “For a Few Dollars More” (1965). Come for the nihilistic violence and stay for the cigars, the ponchos, and Clint’s beady-eyed stare.
Invasion Europe: World War II Collection (1967-1980, Warner, PG-R, $30): It’s the 70th anniversary of D-Day and Warner Bros. has made it easy to celebrate that milestone with this three-film Blu-ray collection. On tap: “Where Eagles Dare” (1967), a breathlessly paced action thriller starring Richard Burton as a commando charged with freeing a U.S. general from an Alpine fortress; “The Dirty Dozen” (1968), a rip-snorting adventure about 12 no-good prisoners given a shot to redeem themselves on D-Day; and “The Big Red One” (1980), director Sam Fuller’s account of a veteran sergeant (Lee Marvin) trying to keep his riflemen alive as they fight from North Africa to Sicily to Omaha Beach.
Blazing Saddles: 40th Anniversary Edition (1974, Warner, R, $25): Comedy fans will get a big kick out of revisiting Mel Brooks’ classic parody of westerns with Cleavon Little starring as a newly-appointed African American sheriff. It’s offensive, vulgar, outlandish, chaotic, and also very funny, especially the late, great Madeline Kahn’s send-up of Marlene Dietrich. The newly issued Blu-ray includes 10 collectible cards as well deleted scenes, commentary by Brooks, and a making-of featurette.
Rollerball (1975, Twilight Time, R, $30): Even if your budget is not big enough for a mammoth box set, you can impress your dad with a limited edition Blu-ray of this underrated actioner. Set in a dystopian future in which corporations rule the world, the film follows a champion athlete (James Caan) who is being forced to retire thanks to his growing status as a folk hero. Caan excels at rollerball, a gladiatorial crisscross of hockey and roller derby dreamt up by the corporate bigwigs to emphasize the futility of individual effort. Something of a “Network” on roller skates, “Rollerball” asks still-fascinating questions about greed and the role of violence in sports. Available exclusively from screenarchives.com.
Breaking Bad: The Complete Series (2014, Sony, unrated, $160): Heisenberg rides again! It’s been less than a year since the brilliant AMC series ended its five-season run, but it’s never too soon to start all over again with Walter White (Bryan Cranston) as he transforms from a meek chemistry professor into a ruthless drug kingpin named Heisenberg. In Cranston’s hands, Walter is always relatable, no matter how sinister he becomes.
Red River (1948, Criterion, unrated, $40): Howard Hawks’ first western is also his most epic and action-packed as John Wayne and Montgomery Clift lead a grueling cattle drive from Texas to Missouri. Along the way, Wayne turns tyrannical and clashes with adopted son Clift, prompting a “Mutiny on the Bounty”-style uprising. Up for grabs are the very codes of masculinity that helped define the American West. There are indelible performances, frivolity from the always wonderful Walter Brennan, and a stampede sequence still capable of making your eyes pop and your pulse quicken.
Cosmos: A Spacetime Odyssey (2014, Fox, unrated, $50): Seth MacFarlane, of all people, is behind this terrific resurrection of “Cosmos,” Carl Sagan’s PBS science series from the 1980s. Now hosted by astrophysicist Neil deGrasse Tyson, the show excels at making hard-to-explain scientific information understandable and even enjoyable. There are special effects that allow Tyson to board a “ship of imagination” that he rides through the galaxy, as well as fascinating animated sequences, like one about Giordano Bruno, a Dominican monk whose revolutionary views on astronomy got him in trouble with the Catholic Church. “Cosmos” is TV at its mind-blowing best.
The Nutty Professor: 50th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition (1964, Warner, unrated, $55): Jerry Lewis’ comic riff on Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde finds him morphing from the bumbling Julius Kelp into hipster Buddy Love. With his boozy manner and Rat Pack lingo, Buddy is a dead ringer for Lewis’ old partner Dean Martin. “Nutty Professor” is jam-packed with funny moments, but what really distinguishes the film – now on Blu-ray – is how dark and twisted it becomes after Buddy starts romancing one of Kelp’s students (Stella Stevens). The set is worth the $55 price tag thanks to the inclusion of extensive making-of extras, two additional Lewis films (“The Errand Boy,” “Cinderfella”), and a CD of Jerry’s prank phone calls.
The Inspector Lavardin Collection (1985-1989, Cohen, unrated, $40): If your father is a mystery fan, he’ll appreciate how many secrets and lies Inspector Lavardin (Jean Poiret) has to uncover before he can get down to the business of solving crimes. Lavardin is faced with not only a pair of murders in the Claude Chabrol-directed “Chicken with Vinegar” (1985) but also shady real estate moguls and a mother/son duo who’d give Norma and Norman Bates a fright. “Inspector Lavardin” (1986), the follow-up film, finds the wily copper trying to solve the slaying of a religious author with a double life. The set also includes two rare Chabrol-directed Lavardin mysteries that originally aired on French TV.
William Shakespeare Collector’s Edition (2014, PBS, unrated, $40): Fans of the Bard will flip for this treasure trove of a boxed set that features both a terrific 2010 production of “Macbeth” starring Patrick Stewart as well as Michael Wood’s “In Search of Shakespeare,” a documentary series which digs deeply into the life and times of the playwright. Also included are reproductions of rare Shakespeare memorabilia, including handwritten notes, baptism and death notices, and maps of Warwickshire and London.
Cimarron Strip: The Complete Series (1967-1968, E1, unrated, $80): It’s the first time on DVD for this western series about U.S. Marshal Jim Crown (Stuart Whitman), a tough hombre tasked with keeping the peace in Cimarron, the last plot of homesteading land between Kansas and the Indian territories. Produced by the creators of “Gunsmoke,” the series tags along with Crown as he busts bank robbers, discourages lynch mobbers, and tracks down Jack the Ripper, of all people. Guest stars include Tuesday Weld, Jon Voight, Warren Oates, and Robert Duvall.