Under the Radar

Under the Radar's Holiday Gift Guide


If you've been messing around and haven't gotten around to your holiday shopping with less than two weeks to go before Christmas and only a couple of days left in Hanukkah, we've got you covered. Here's a list of things we've covered this year here at Under the Radar with links back to the original post if you need more details. Everything on our list is available through either Amazon or Best Buy, so you can make your orders without ever leaving your computer.

DVD & Blu-ray:

Let's start with one we we haven't covered before: Columbo: The Complete Series. For less than $100, you get 34 DVDs with almost 100 hours of Peter Falk's schlumpy detective.  The set includes both of the TV movies that inspired the series, all 43 episodes that ran on NBC between 1971-1978 and 24 made-for-TV movies that ran on ABC when ABC revived the between 1989-2003. Anyone you know who's recently retired can have a daily dose of Columbo for over two months.

Some highlights from the set include Season One's "Murder by the Book," one of Steven Spielberg's first Hollywood directing credits; Season Three's "Mind Over Mayhem," which features Forbidden Planet's Robby the Robot as the creation of a 10-year-old genius called "Steve Spelberg" and "Swan Song," where Johnny Cash sings plays a gospel-singing music star who's trapped in a blackmailing marriage with a much older lady evangelist. What's fascinating is how little things change over 35 years: all the tricks and ticks are fully developed in the very first TV movie. Some arrogant rich or powerful (or rich and powerful) person thinks they've committed the perfect crime and the seemingly dumb detective traps them in their lies. If you go for that sort of thing, no one's ever done it better.

If you're shopping for a mystery fan and have a bit more cash to spend, the new Alfred Hitchcock: The Masterpiece Collection box set includes 15 of the master's most iconic films restored for Blu-ray. It's available for around $200 online. If you're feeling especially generous, you add the new Blu-ray restorations of two films not included in the box set:  To Catch a Thief  and Notorious for less than $20 each. Finally, if you're really looking to show off, you can throw in Alfred Hitchcock: A Legacy of Suspense, a collection of 20 of Hitchock's earliest films for $5 online or in the bargain bin at most Best Buy stores. There's quite a few silents and he's not yet the master he'd later become, but then your gift includes 37 of the 53 feature films he made with less than 5 that anyone really cares about missing from the package.

Universal also released Universal Classic Monsters, an outstanding horror collection that features excellent restorations of famous movies featuring Dracula, Frankenstein, The Wolf Man, The Mummy and the Creature from the Black Lagoon. The Universal 100th Anniversary Blu-ray Collection features 25 movies from the studio's first century, starting with All Quiet on the Western Front and going all the way up to Despicable Me. It's an impressive and varied collection but it's not a cheap gift.

If you're looking for movies that have a more specific military theme, Act of Valor turned out to be a powerful (if slightly controversial) depiction of how SEALs do their jobs. The Blu-ray is loaded with extras, so anyone who enjoyed it in the theaters will appreciate a copy to watch at home. Battleship was better than we'd expected it would be and the Blu-ray has a lot of details about the movie's awesome special effects.

Barbarella almost qualifies as a military-themed movie because it has Jane Fonda in it. If you want to provoke a rant from the Vietnam vet in your life, naked Hanoi Jane should do the trick. If you're planning to take someone to see Django Unchained on Christmas day, they'd probably appreciate a copy of the Tarantino XX: 8-Film Collection, an elaborately packaged collection of Quentin's seven pictures plus the Tony Scott-directed, Tarantino-scripted True Romance. Finally, the WWII historian in your life might appreciate Nazi Collaborators, a DVD set of the Military Channel series that offers a new angle on Hitler's rise to power.


The Spike TV Monster DNA Hire a Veteran headphones look snazzy, sound good and raise $$$ for some excellent veteran charities. The pair we reviewed last month are getting regular use around here.


If you know someone who hasn't read No Easy Day, the "Mark Owens" memoir about the raid that killed bin Laden, then go ahead and get them a copy. If you're looking for another (and less controversial) take on SEAL culture, we recommend our old friend (and former Kit Up! editor) Brandon Brandon Webb's The Red Circle. Alternate history novels are always interesting and we found to really good ones this year. Francine Mathews' JFK the Spy imagines a young John Kennedy spying for FDR in Europe just before WWII and David Kowalski's The Company of the Dead tells of a world where the USA stayed out of WWI, allowing Japan and Germany to become the dominant world powers.


The gamer in your life wants Call of Duty: Black Ops 2 if they don't already have it. If they've been playing CoD eight hours a day for the last month and are starting to get burned out, Medal of Honor: Warfighter offers an interesting take on the modern world of Special Operations. It's also the game that inspired controversy in Washington after word got out that EA had paid real-life special ops guys to advise them on how to make the game more realistic.

That wraps it up for 2012. Everything here can be delivered to your door in a couple of days, so get at it and get your shopping done.

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