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Friday, Dec. 7, 2012

Holiday gift ideas for the film buff you love best


By MARK SCHILLING, GIOVANNI FAZIO and KAORI SHOJI
Special to The Japan Times

As the end of the year approaches and the air is filled with the kerching of winter bonuses and brazen consumerist excess, thoughts turn to our loved ones, and the trinkets that will best pacify them at gift-swapping time. For the cinephile in your life, the JT's film critics suggest the following fine movies and movie-related items. Or you can send us festive booze at the usual address.

Ghibli classics on Blu-ray

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Studio Ghibli, the creative home of animation maestro Hayao Miyazaki, has been releasing Blu-rays of its widely loved hits in a steady stream. Due out Dec. 5 are 1989's "Majo no Takkyubin (Kiki's Delivery Service)" and 1991's "Omohide Poro Poro (Only Yesterday)." The former, about a young witch who goes on a fantastic journey of self discovery, makes an especially fine introduction to Miyazaki's visually soaring if humanly grounded magic; the latter, whose heroine journeys into the countryside and her own past, is Miyazaki colleague Isao Takahata's warm-hearted, realistically drawn paean to natural living. (M.S.)





Scum of the universe

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Give a copy of "Men in Black 3" to a loved one, along with a pair of shades (preferably Ray-Bans), and you can't go wrong. This long-awaited sequel to a much-loved franchise came out in late May and is now available on Blu-ray and DVD, to buy and take home and watch endlessly over the holidays. Since "MiB II" in 2002, the indomitable Tommy Lee Jones has added many more jagged creases to his face, but the man can still move, and his younger self is played flawlessly by Josh Brolin. Swoon. (K.S.)





Cult movie reading

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If you're looking for an education in cinema's more outre pleasures — or better yet, looking to school someone — it's hard to find more bang per buck than Steven Jay Schneider's pithy tome "101 Cult Movies You Must See Before You Die." Of the 101 films on offer, I'd wager at least 80 are must-sees, ranging from much-quoted comedies to midnight movie fare and more. While it's possible to quibble with some choices — "Blue Velvet" instead of "Eraserhead"? — any book that contains "Un Chien Andalou," "El Topo" and "Napoleon Dynamite" is not missing much. (G.F.)



Spider-Man iPhone case

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Don't say you own a dozen iPhone cases already — what's Christmas without another one? An item to celebrate the end of the year while showing your support for a somewhat iffy addition to the "Spider-Man" franchise. OK, "The Amazing Spider-Man" (released in June courtesy of director Marc Webb and new Spidey Andrew Garfield) didn't do that well at the box office. But it's the time of year to root for the underdog, isn't it? Others can flock to buy an "Avengers" file case or "Batman" figurines. This is a chance to say you think differently. Just don't go for the Spiderman suit; good intentions can be taken too far. (K.S.)





Kurahara movie set

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The Criterion Collection's Eclipse series allows Japanese film fans to venture beyond the usual classic or cult titles to overlooked genre gems. Among the newer and better releases is "The Warped World of Koreyoshi Kurahara," a five-disc set that offers the best of Kurahara at his 1950s and '60s peak, when he was the young lion of the Nikkatsu studio lot and his films embodied the hot-blooded, freewheeling, taboo-defying spirit of a new generation of Japanese. (M.S.)









Education in editing

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For the aspiring filmmaker in your family — or for anyone looking to deepen their understanding of the language of film — "Film Editing: Great Cuts Every Filmmaker and Movie Lover Must Know" (Gael Chandler) is a quite accessible coffee-table book that provides a rare glimpse into the editing suite. If you've ever wondered what the difference is between a "jump cut" and a "smash cut," here's your book, and it's copiously illustrated with examples from recent films as diverse as "The Bourne Ultimatum" and "Pan's Labyrinth." Needless to say, techniques gleaned here will help any Avid or ReelDirector boffin. (G.F.)



Ghost of Christmas past

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This time of year, retro is good. Take your loved ones back to a late-1980s New York when the city was grimy and dangerous (and hilarious) with "Ghostbusters" on Blu-ray and DVD. Apart from the fun, cartoony ghosts you will meet: a young, feminine Sigourney Weaver in a comedic mood; a younger Harold Ramis, whose Egon was probably the most datable movie character of the decade; Dan Aykroyd waxing eloquent about a marshmallow; and the great Bill Murray being, well, great — and would go on to be his same deadpan self even now. (K.S.)





Peanuts on the stereo

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Jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi's score for animated TV special "A Charlie Brown Christmas" was thoroughly modern in 1965, bringing a hipster swing, alternately playful and melancholic, to festive staples such as "O Tannenbaum" and "What Child is This," as well as original compositions like "Christmas Time is Here." It's since gone on to become a classic in its own right, and 2012 sees a digital remaster with alternate takes and bonus tracks. A back-to-back comparison leads me to recommend the original; the remaster is a little more "stereo" but way more crisp, whereas the original is mellower and warmer. (G.F.)


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