The New Biographical Dictionary of Film (Fifth Edition) by David Thomson. Ridiculously knowledgeable and fiercely opinionated, the film historian and critic has updated his invaluable collection of entries on everyone from Abbott and Costello to Terry Zwigoff (director of Ghost World and Crumb). Thomson on Angelina Jolie: "No one writing about [her] arrival on screen . . . was able to mask sheer wonder at the carnal embouchure that is her mouth." On James Dean: "Although he was vulnerable and sensitive, he never suggested youthfulness or callowness. On the contrary, he seemed older, sadder, and more experienced than the adults in his films."(Alfred A. Knopf, $40)
Douglas Sirk: Filmmaker Collection. "Long live melodrama, and let us stress the quality of Douglas Sirk," says David Thomson, and amen to that. One of the great un(der)sung directors of the '50s, Sirk had a richly cinematic style, a penchant for emotional stories, and the ability to bring out the best in his stars. The four titles in this Turner Classic Movies' "Vault Collection" set represent Sirk at his best: Thunder on the Hill (1951), a mystery thriller with Claudette Colbert; Taza, Son of Cochise (1954), a western with Rock Hudson; Captain Lightfoot (1955), the best of the bunch - and maybe the best of Sirk, period - and The Tarnished Angels (1958), a Depression- era romantic doozy with Hudson, Robert Stack, and Dorothy Malone. ($49.99 from Movies Unlimited, at 800-466-8437 or www.MoviesUnlimited.com)
The Elia Kazan Film Collection. An excess of riches, this 18-disk set by the man who directed Marlon Brando, Montgomery Clift, and James Dean in some of their greatest screen work also boasts a Martin Scorsese tribute film. A Face in the Crowd (1957), with Andy Griffith as a rambling hobo-turned-media icon, seems particularly apt right now; Baby Doll (1956) is gloriously over-the-top Tennessee Williams; On the Waterfront (1954) and East of Eden (1955) are hallmarks of '50s realism. (20th Century Fox, $199.98)
Hail, Hail, Euphoria!: Presenting the Marx Brothers in Duck Soup, the Greatest War Movie Ever Made, by Roy Blount Jr. Blount deftly deconstructs Groucho and company's lunatic farce, set in tiny Freedonia, where Rufus T. Firefly (Groucho) reigns as prime minister. The humorist scribe examines the 1933 Leo McCarey- directed classic with a magnifying glass, making you want to go back and watch it again, and again. In fact, you may want to have the DVD remote in one hand and this great little book in the other! Now, what is it that has four pairs of pants, lives in Philadelphia, and it never rains but it pours? (It Books, $19.99)
Harry Potter: Film Wizardry. A scrapbook
for Potter fanatics, this handsome tie-in not only ties into the release of the penultimate title, Deathly Hallows: Part I, but also to the entire eight-film series. Stuffed with reproductions of letters, maps, potion label stickers, Hogwarts administrative proclamations, a Quidditch World Cup program, and quotable bits from the actors. Sure, it's shameless marketing, but it's also a beautifully designed album of Potter ephemera.
(Collins Design, $39.99)