Cinema Sentries 2023 Holiday Gift Guide

Gift buying for others is not always so easy. That’s why we here at Cinema Sentries have compiled a holiday gift guide to offer readers suggestions about what to get that movie-lover in your life. And don’t be shy about getting something for yourself because who knows you better than you? It would be appreciated if you clicked an Amazon link before shopping to help us keep the lights on. Revisit this post as more items and more reviews get added over the next few weeks.


The movie event of the year was the unintended double feature many filmgoers created when Greta Gerwig’s Barbie and Christopher Nolan’s Oppenheimer were released the same weekend this summer. Both are shoe-ins as contenders during awards season and are available, separately, to bring home. Gordon S. Miller says, “Barbie should be considered the film of 2023″ and Oppenheimer is “a standout film of the year and of his [Nolan’s] career.”


In his review of Looney Tunes Collector’s Choice Vol. 1, Gordon S. Miller says it’s “a good start to becoming a cartoon collector.” He eagerly awaits cracking into Vol. 2, which is out next week. He also finds Wallace & Gromit: The Complete Cracking Collection, which presents the four Aardman Animations’ short films [A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers (1993), A Close Shave (1995), A Matter of Loaf and Death (2008)] and ten segments that aired on BBC One under Wallace & Gromit’s Cracking Contraptions (2002), to be “charming, entertaining, and imaginative.”

Steve Geise says Ralph Bakshi’s American Pop is “a fascinating look at a master animator delivering a moving, multigenerational tale,” and reports Shaun the Sheep, The Complete Series now available on Blu-ray, “is beautifully animated and makes especially clever use of its virtually speechless format.” And in regards to Masaaki Yuasa: Five Films, Steve informs readers “Whether you’re new to his films or a long-time fan, it’s time to ride the Yuasa wave with this exceptional box set.” Kent Conrad considers Batman: Mask of the Phantasm, now on 4K UHD, “one of the best original Bat stories made for the movies.”


The Sentries have enjoyed many a book over the past year that would great gifts. There are books that showcase two creative geniuses in their respective fields, Charlie Chaplin and Ernie Kovacs. Books that explore the making of films, such as Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan and The Art of Marvel Studios’ Iron Man, which is the first of the 24 Marvel Cinematic Universe Infinity Saga film titles being published as a complete set. Books that explore the phenomenon of a film, Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas: Beyond Halloween Town: The Story, the Characters, and the Legacy, and of a studio’s centennial, Warner Bros. 100 Years of Storytelling, which Gordon S. Miller calls “a fun trip down movie memory lane.”

Fantagraphics showcases the past and present of comics. Kent Conrad found Atlas Comics Library No. 1: Adventures into Terror Volume 1 “stories fun, and occasionally pretty creepy.” Steve Geise writesDauntless Dames is a fascinating collection of little-known Golden Age comic strips [starring adventurous women] presented in a stunning oversized format. Fantagraphics published another volume of The Complete Carl Barks Disney Library with Walt Disney’s Uncle Scrooge “Cave of Ali Baba” and Gordon S. Miller finds the stories starring Scrooge and his nephew Gyro Gearloose to befun, nostalgic reads.”Jack Cormack designates Daniel Clowes’s new graphic novel, Monica, “a modern classic.”


Flicker Alley has followed up their Laurel or Hardy: Early Solo Films of Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy with Laurel & Hardy: Year One, which presents the early days of the men working together in films, although it took a few shorts before they became a comedy team. Gordon S. Miller wrote it’s “one of the funniest collection of films released in 2023 thanks to those in front of and behind the camera.” The movies of the four Marx Brothers were recently released on Blu-ray and reviewed by Greg Hammond. They are The Cocoanuts, Animal Crackers, Monkey Business, Horse Feathers, and Duck Soup. Gordon S. Miller enjoyed but warns “dogs take an outrageous walk on the wild side” in Strays. And celebrating its 70th anniversary is the unintentionally funny Robot Monster.

Documentaries About Writers

Greg Hammond wrote Joyce Carol Oates: A Body in Service of Mind “offers wonderful insight into the career and personal life of one of the world’s greatest writers. If you have not read her yet, it is recommended that you get a copy.” First Run Features releases the Director’s Cut of The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg. Gordon S. Miller states “both [The Life and Times] were fascinating because the choices Ginsberg made in the former made an impact upon the latter.”

Davy recommends three documentaries about movies. He declares Desperate Souls, Dark City, and the Legend of Midnight Cowboy as a “deep dive for fans of Midnight Cowboy, cinephiles in general, and people interested in cultural history;” Only in Theaters is “a compelling story about the Laemmles’ complicated history;” and often entranced by The Storms of Jeremy Thomas.

Released by Milestone Films, director Marcel Ophuls’ The Sorrow and Pity is an account of France’s occupation under the Nazi regime, acclaimed as one of the most moving and influential films ever made. Jack Cormack called it “an incredible document.”

Film Noir

Hard to argue against Force of Evil when both Martin Scorsese and Mat Brewster sing its praises. Mat also thinks Friz Lang’s Human Desire, which sees the director “once again teamed up with actors Glenn Ford and Gloria Grahame,” is definitely worth a watch. When it comes to the KL Studio Classics Film Noir: The Dark Side of Cinema line, he claims the trio of titles in Volume XV are “a welcome addition to any collection.” KLSC has also released The Lady from Shanghai, a classic noir by and starring Orson Welles that concludes with a shootout in a Hall of Mirrors that is such an iconic sequence the idea has been repurposed many times, ranging from films by Woody Allen to Bruce Lee. Gordon S. Miller finds it “an engaging film noir reminiscent of Howard Hawks’ The Big Sleep.


An array of interesting films got an upgrade to 4K UHD. Greg Hammond proclaims, “If you love Titanic, you will love this specially boxed set filled with extras throughout.” He also reveals Marathon Man is safe for those who enjoy “superb performances” and notes Nicholas Ray’s Rebel Without a Cause “concerns itself with children learning how to be adults and their parents who never grew out of being children.” Jack Cormack found the reunion of director Brian De Palma and Al Pacino in Carlito’s Way “a moving, suspenseful gangster flick.” Kent Conrad dubs Ferris Bueller’s Day Off “a perfect movie.” Two titles to watch for from KLSC are The Train and Thunderbolt and Lightfoot, the former Jack Cormack recommends because it’s “an exciting, thoughtful action film and the latter he describes as “a combination road movie and rich character piece that masquerades as a heist film.” Jack also gave Point Break a spin, calling it “a slick, fast-paced action film that aims to entertain us.”


For those who don’t limit their Halloween celebrations to October, the Paramount Scares Volume 1 set is “an embarrassment of riches,” according to Greg Hammond, who also finds The Dark Power “a solid creature feature.” And if “a stylish horror anthology made with obvious care” is your cup of tea, Jack Cormack wants you to know “Black Sabbath…has much to recommend it.” And Davy says, “horror lovers should definitely get a lot out of” Horror Unmasked: A History of Terror from Nosferatu to Nope.

Martial Arts

Clearly distributors think there’s a huge segment of martial arts fans as a torrent of titles of hit the marketplace. Shout is the main culprit with three volumes of Shaw Brothers Classics. Mat Brewster dubbed Vol. One “a fantastic set of films,” and found Vol. Two to be “fabulous”. For Vol. Three, Steve Geise feels, “the ‘Classics’ designation is wearing thin as the included titles become less and less essential. Still, there’s plenty of the legendary Shaw house style to enjoy here.”

A year after Volume 1, The Sonny Chiba Collection, Vol. 2 has hit the shelves featuring titles from the latter half of the ’70s: The Defensive Power of Aikido, 13 Steps of Maki, Karate Warriors, The Great Okinawa Yakuza War, Karate for Life, Golgo 13: Assignment Kowloon, and The Okinawa War of Ten Years.

Jackie Chan fans are in luck. Not only is Shout Select releasing 15 titles across two collections, The Jackie Chan Collection, Vol. 1 (1976-1982) and Vol. 2 (1983-1993), the Criterion Collection offers six titles from 1978-1985 on Jackie Chan: Emergence of a Superstar, their second Jackie Chan title after the first two Police Story films.


For the music fan, Criterion offers two compelling titles. Gordon S. Miller recommends you “follow White Rabbit Brett Morgen into the audiovisual wonderland that is Moonage Daydream.” In La Bamba, Joe Garcia raves about director Luis Valdez “telling a universal story about brothers on different paths” through this biography of Ritchie Valens. David Wangberg had “forgotten how well-crafted a film [School of Rock] really is until he watched the Blu-ray Steelbook release. Gordon also raves about the Deluxe Edition of R.E.M’s Up, which is celebrating its 25th anniversary and was packaged with a live 11-song set from a Party of Five taping.


The Venture Bros. is an Adult Swim animated TV series from the minds of Jackson Publick and Doc Hammer who unleashed “an imaginative menagerie of mad scientists, magicians, and monsters, as well a seemingly never-ending collection of costumed heroes and supervillains” upon a devoted following over seven seasons. While the series was cancelled in 2020, the powers that be allowed them to create a series finale, The Venture Bros.: Radiant Is the Blood of the Baboon Heart, which was released this summer. Fans and for those curious, the Complete Series and the Finale make for an amazing story.

Francophiles might be curious about the first season of Spin, a story of political intrigue when a Presidential election is set in a few weeks after the president is killed in a suicide attack. Steve Geise writes, “the cast is great all around, crafting memorable characters tasked with the unimaginable burden of national power.” The Office: Complete Christmas Collection presents seven holiday-themed episodes featuring the gang from Dunder Mifflin, which contains “plenty of laughs throughout thanks to the talented cast and writers”.

For fans of detective stories, the first two seasons of Monk are hitting Blu-ray before year’s end. Davy noted Season One “changed the formula for the typical police procedural and gave it a refreshing (and mostly family friendly) makeover.” Tony Shalhoub stars as a widowed, former homicide detective who solves cases in spite of his suffering from OCD and numerous phobias. Just one more thing, one of the most popular and longest-running TV detectives gets a high-definition upgrade as Columbo: The 1970s presents the first seven seasons of the series

Farscape: The Complete Series 25th Anniversary Edition – The definitive release of the hit cult classic sci-fi TV series, the 22-disc Blu-ray set includes all 88 episodes from the show’s 4 seasons, the 2-episode miniseries The Peacekeeper Wars as well as previously existing extras and the NEW “A Look Back At Farscape” with Executive Producer Brian Henson and series creator/writer Rockne O’Bannon, hosted by Adam Savage. Kent Conrad raves that it’s “an incredible series.”

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