Streaming video, we’re repeatedly told, has killed DVD and Blu-ray. That doesn’t mean it should have. Not everything is available online and, thanks to complex rights issues, what’s online won’t be there forever, or even till next week. Sometimes it’s best to splurge on something you know will be there for you — until the disc breaks or corrupts, that is. Here are five splashy box sets to cram into someone’s stocking this consumer season:
‘The Sopranos’: The Complete Series
To be frank, the old DVDs of The Greatest Show Ever looked like crap: washed out, filled with digital hiccups, begging for the loving HD treatment. It finally has it, though re-plowing through the 86 hours means contending with the melancholy of its passed-on star. Then again, James Gandolfini was such a rich performer that rewatching his work is forever like seeing it for the first time.
‘The Wonder Years’: Complete Series
Remember all those golden oldies sprinkled over this nostalgia show? Well, those songs cost a pretty penny to license, which is why 2014 became its DVD debut — not Blu-ray; Digital Versatile Discs. Far scarier, though, is this realization: When it premiered in 1988, the show was looking back on an alien past from 20 years prior. Meanwhile, those looking back on this show are looking at it from 26 years. It’s nostalgia for nostalgia. (The set, crammed into a mini-locker, is currently available from Time-Life.)
‘Pee-wee’s Playhouse’: The Complete Series
A quarter century after an ill-judged porn theater trip killed his crazed Mr. Rogers routine, Paul Reuben’s man-child is back, with an actual new film actually in the works. (If only he and Tim Burton could reunite…) It’s good a time as any to revisit his Saturday morning staple, which tended to be more manic than all of the day’s toons combined. Given the sheer density and clanginess, it defies binge watching, but you’ll have the rest of your life to plow through its 45 nutso episodes.
Stanley Kubrick: The Masterpiece Collection
There are only a handful of filmmakers who ever wielded full artistic control through the studio system, and amazingly one of them was among cinema’s most difficult. Along with new HD transfers of his heavy-hitters — though even a sparkling disc of “2001: A Space Odyssey” pales besides seeing it on super-crisp, super-large 70mm film — it affords you the chance to realize that his best work (or so we think) is really his deceptively tasteful costume drama, “Barry Lyndon,” featuring a perfectly used Ryan O’Neal.
The Complete Jacques Tati
The hip tastemakers at the Criterion have a handful of new, worthy box sets, including ones for Jacques Demy (“The Umbrellas of Cherbourg) and life- and gumbo-loving documentarian Les Blank. But maybe the year’s finest set seizes upon the entire oeuvre of Jacques Tati, France’s most brilliant and radical comic director and performer. There are few belly laughs in his dense films, including “Mon Oncle” and the super-sized “Playtime,” filmed in a mini-city built for the film. But there are so many mini-jokes — some, admittedly, very, very, very amusing — that they may be the funniest films ever made by sheer number of jokes.