Gifts for the Film Lover

Critic's picks.

Nov 26, 2013 at 8:48 pm

Guillermo del Toro Cabinet of Curiosities: My Notebooks, Collections and Other Obsessions
By Guillermo del Toro, Marl Zicree, James Cameron (foreword), Tom Cruise (afterword)
List price: $60 ($36;

Want to earn major geek cred with the nerdiest member of your family? This is the must-get movie book of the season. For the uninitiated, Guillermo del Toro is the man behind such movies as Hellboy, Pacific Rim, Blade II and Pan’s Labyrinth. He’s celebrated for his fanciful embrace of all things horror, sci-fi and fantasy — often merging all three in his work.

An accomplished artist and aficionado, del Toro’s book offers up a feast of 300-plus photos, sketches, storyboards and illustrations, most of which center around early concept drawings and notes from his various films. It’s a fascinating journey into the restless and imaginative inner workings of a fantasist’s mind.

Each section is framed by engaging interviews with the filmmaker where he waxes poetic about his influences, including symbolist painters such as Arnold Bocklin and Odilon Redon, and writers such as H.P. Lovecraft and Mary Shelley. You’ll even get a photographic peek into del Toro’s Bleak House, his collection-cluttered home away from home.

Pan’s Labyrinth and the two Hellboy movies make up the lion’s share of the design entries, but there are some insights into del Toro projects that never saw the light of day, including At the Mountains of Madness, a project he has been working on for 20 years. Pacific Rim fans probably will be disappointed with the book’s stingy presentation (there are no Jaeger or Kaiju drawings), and anyone looking for a glimpse at del Toro’s two-year pre-production work on The Hobbit before leaving the project, will be doubly so. Still, with its wonderfully detailed sketches and journal entries, it’s the kind of book you can lose yourself in.

Saul Bass: A Life in 
Film and Design
By Jennifer Bass, Pat Kirkham, 
Martin Scorsese (foreword)
List price: $75 ($49.53;

For the true cinephile, Saul Bass is an icon of graphic design. He created unforgettable movie posters and title sequences for movies that include Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, Otto Preminger’s Anatomy of a Murder and Martin Scorsese’s Casino and Cape Fear. This book contains more than 1,400 images of Bass’ work, topping 400 pages in all, displaying an astonishing range of creativity and composition. This is a coffee-table tome for movie-lovers who want to declare their dedication to cinema loud and proud.

Breaking Bad: 
The Complete Series
List price: $299.99 ($199.99;

Imagine the pride you’ll feel cooking Christmas dinner in a Los Pollos Hermanos apron? All five seasons of the TV show that inspired more than few critics to dub this the “Golden Age of television” are collected in this 16-disc Blu-ray collection that comes in a cheeky black plastic storage barrel. It includes 55 hours of special features, a three-minute alternate ending, a two-hour documentary, deleted scenes and various other collectables. All that sounds nifty enough, but the real reason to own this set is to experience (or re-experience) the harrowing rollercoaster ride that is Walter White’s descent into criminality. Shakespearean in scope, Breaking Bad was a masterful blend of black comedy, social commentary and character exploration. It could tie your stomach up in knots, subvert your expectations and challenge your moral empathies. I don’t know if we really are in a Golden Age of TV, but I do know Breaking Bad was a pretty damn amazing show.
Jeff Meyers

Zatoichi: The Blind Swordsman

When it comes to film presentation, you can’t beat the Criterion Collection. With brilliant packaging, digitally restored audio and video transfers, and plenty of extras, the company is the gold standard for physical film media. Its latest release is a box set of the 25 Zatoichi films that were produced between 1961 and 1973 with new subtitle translations.

This immensely popular series of Japanese movies followed Zatoichi, a blind masseur who doubled as a lightning-fast, justice-seeking swordsman. With his superhuman hearing, Zatoichi battled with nefarious gangs of criminals. For years, fans of his furious fights with criminal gangs were forced to collect low-grade copies of the films on piecemeal DVDs. Now everything has been brought together in one high-quality package.

If Zatoichi isn’t your film fan’s cup of tea, Criterion offers many other great selections. Why not consider the recently released John Cassavetes: Five Films box set ($99.96 on the Criterion site) or a new restoration of Robert Altman’s masterpiece Nashville ($31.96)?
Jeff Meyers

Death Star Ice Sphere Mold
$7.99, ThinkGeek

There must, of course, be stocking stuffers … those amusing little appetizers that provide a pause before the gift wrap-tearing, box-mutilating storm that follows. Whether it’s your favorite cocktail or a glass of Coke for Uncle Pete, the teetotaler, other ice cubes will cry out — then suddenly be silenced — by the terrifying force that is a Death Star ice sphere. Yes, the mold only makes one but, let’s face it, one is all you need. And there are no thermal exhaust ports to worry about.

Trip to the Moon, George Méliès Throw Pillow Cover

Don’t know who George Méliès is? Get thee a copy of Hugo pronto and learn a little about this silent-film pioneer while Martin Scorsese dazzles you with his 3-D prowess. Trip to the Moon is French filmmaker Méliès’ best and most famous flick, and it’s most memorable moment is immortalized on this splendid throw pillow cover — destined to adorn the couch of any cinephile worth his salt. 

Moss Studios Film Reel Wine Rack

Yeah, it’s a bit pricey, but what film-lover wouldn’t want a wine rack made from authentic film reels that sport vintage MGM celluloid to cushion the bottles on display?

Super 8 Camera/Film/Processing/Digital Print Package
$695 at

There are film lovers and then there are filmmakers. Maybe you’re out to win the love of a budding Steven Spielberg or Quentin Tarantino. Well, what says, “I want to raise 2.1 children with you” more succinctly than a ready-to-shoot film production package in a box?

Super 8 is the film stock of choice for those hoping to re-create the gauzy, color-saturated films of the 1970s. Order before Dec. 13 and you can outfit your would-be auteur with the well-reviewed Pro814 Super 8 camera, a carrying case, light meter batteries, two rolls of HD film and all-inclusive processing and HD scanning services for the above price.