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Blu Christmas . . . without DVD

By BRETT MICHEL  |  December 18, 2009

Some classic ’toons for the holidays
The anime studio behind Blood, Production I.G, is best known for producing the animation for director Mamoru Oshii’s seminal cyber-thriller that inspired The Matrix; GHOST IN THE SHELL 2.0 ($29.97; $24.97) is a remastered version of the legendary Ghost in the Shell, complete with new voice recordings of the original cast, updated 3D-CGI and a re-recorded, higher-fidelity score and a 6.1 DTS-ES surround mix courtesy of Skywalker Sound, plus a re-fashioned color palette that brings it in line with the sepia-tinted sequel, GHOST IN THE SHELL 2: INNOCENCE ($39.98; $19.99), a ponderous murder mystery with tenuous ties to the original that gradually tighten. Completists should also take flight with THE SKY CRAWLERS ($34.95; $27.96), Oshii and Production I.G’s most recent collaboration, a ponderous meditation on the endless cycle of war, featuring stunning aerial dogfights and combatants too young to understand the meaning of their battles.

The young adversaries in AKIRA ($49.98; $27.49) — which is related to Kurosawa in name only — fight not with airplanes, but with their minds. The telekinetic battlegrounds of Neo-Tokyo explode, as juvenile delinquent biker gangs tear up the streets in Katsuhiro Otomo’s landmark 1988 cyberpunk masterpiece that set the stage for the Ghost in the Shells of the anime kingdom.

Disney, that other animated Magic Kingdom, has also started supporting Blu-ray in a major way, beginning with last year’s release of a 50th Anniversary Edition of the classic SLEEPING BEAUTY, released in both a value-added BD/DVD combo pack ($35.99) and DVD-only edition ($29.99). This year, they’ve reached further back into their beloved catalog, putting out gorgeous editions of the 1937 SNOW WHITE AND THE SEVEN DWARFS, also released in both a BD/DVD combo pack ($39.99) and DVD-only edition ($29.99), and a 70th Anniversary Edition of PINOCCHIO, available in both a BD/DVD combo pack ($35.99) and DVD-only edition ($29.99).

Meanwhile, Disney and their partner Pixar have continued to put out superb editions of their peerless modern masterpieces of computer animation. Joining the initial releases of RATATOUILLE ($34.99; $29.99) and CARS ($34.99; $29.99), followed by last year’s releases of PIXAR SHORT FILMS COLLECTION: VOLUME 1 ($34.99; $29.99) and WALL-E ($40.99; $39.99) — one of 2008’s very best films — are A BUG’S LIFE ($39.99; $29.99), MONSTERS, INC. ($40.99; $29.99), and UP ($45.99; $39.99) — arguably their finest film to date.

Disney doesn’t corner the market on American animation, though. Not when an animator like Henry Selick is producing his stop-motion magic with movies like 1993’s Tim Burton–produced THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS ($39.99; $32.99) and this year’s eye-popping CORALINE ($39.98; $34.98) and its trippy trek through a secret door to an other-world, based on Neil Gaiman’s dark novella of Alice-like wonderment.

From the other side of the pond comes WALLACE & GROMIT: THE COMPLETE COLLECTION ($29.99; $29.98), which includes British animator Nick Park’s four short films featuring the eccentric inventor and his faithful canine companion in all their stop-motion glory. Of course, the adventures of the plasticine-limbed duo wouldn’t actually be complete without their feature-film entry, WALLACE & GROMIT: THE CURSE OF THE WERE-RABBIT (DVD only, $12.99).

Bring on the blockbusters
If mainstream movies are their favorite fare, you can stuff their stockings with some of this year’s huge hits. By far, the biggest would be TRANSFORMERS: REVENG OF THE FALLEN ($39.99; $34.98), a lumbering, mechanical, confusing ride with an edit (and an explosion) occurring every couple of seconds. In other words, a Michael Bay movie.

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