New to View: 2015 Holiday Gift Guide
By Bob Bloom
If you’re a film buff, you have no reason to pout or cry this holiday season as a bevy of Blu-rays and DVDs are available to satisfy any appetite.
Here are several releases for adults and youngsters and those in between that will help you wile away the winter months.
The suggested retail prices are the manufacturers, and most can be found at discounted prices at various locales:
“An En Vogue Christmas” (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, SRP $9.98) The divas of this popular singing group reunite for a benefit concert to save the club that made them stars.
Challenges, however, impede their reunion, but, in the spirit of the holiday, forgiveness flows like a river and all ends well.
“Best Christmas Party Ever” (Cinedigm, $14.93) is a Hallmark Channel feature about an up-and-coming event planner who discovers her boss is handling over the business to his nephew. Not only that, she is forced to train him and plan the biggest party of the holiday season.
As the holiday nears, the two must find a way to work together — and, of course, love blossoms.
“Christmas at Cartwright’s” (Cinedigm, SRP $14.93) Another Hallmark Channel movie about an unemployed single mom who is battling to afford a nice Christmas for her young daughter.
Luckily, an angel helps get her a job as a department store Santa, with the complication that she must hide her identity, and where she meets the love of her life.
Of course, everything turns out for the best because it’s Christmas.
“Get Santa” (DVD + Ultraviolet) (Lionsgate Home Entertainment, SRP $19.98) finds Kris Kringle hiding in the garage of a father and son after he crashes his sleigh. Not only that, but Santa is wanted by the police.
This is a family-friendly holiday adventure that will keep the kids occupied.
It also features a behind-the-scenes bonus offering.
“Ice Sculpture Christmas” (Cinedigm, SRP $14.93) follows a young woman who, since childhood, has dreamt of being a chef.
A culinary Christmas ice sculpture contest may be the key to opening her door to success.
Her only setback is that she paired with a handsome young man who knows nothing about ice sculpture.
But love prevails and everything falls into place in this Hallmark Channel offering.
“The Nutcracker Sweet” (Cinedigm, SRP $14.93) will enchant the kids in this animated adaptation of the Christmastime story.
Two children, Marie and Fritz, receive a nutcracker from a mysterious relative and soon discover it’s a very special toy.
They enter a world of battling mice, candy forests and several surprises.
The DVD features extras, such as recording sessions, a children’s ballet performance of “The Nutcracker Suite” and an introduction to the cast members.
“Paper Angels” (Cinedigm, SRP $14.93) is an adaptation of the novel by country star Jimmy Wayne about a businessman who picks the name of a teenager from the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree, changing the lives of both people.
The program lets strangers purchase a much-desired gift for a deserving people.
The program embraces the holiday spirit as it tells a story of overcoming bullying, discovering faith and the impact of generosity.
“ ‘Tis the Season for Love” (Cinedigm, SRP $14.93) is another Hallmark Channel entry. This one centers on a young woman who left her small town to seek stardom.
Ten years later, with her goal still eluding her, she returns home for Christmas and sees that everyone is still happy and content. She wonders if she made a mistake leaving, but a magical Santa gives her a glimpse of what life would have been if she had stayed.
Consider the film a reverse version of “It’s a Wonderful Life” and you get the picture.
“20 Holiday Adventures” (Cinedigm-Scholastic, SRP $5.97) features a compilation of stories aimed at youngsters and families, including “The Night Before Christmas,” “Max’s Christmas,” “Seven Candles for Kwanza,” “The Clown of God,” “Too Many Tamales,” “Lemonade in Winter,” “The Snowy Day,” “Little Drummer Boy” and Fletcher and the Snowflake Christmas.”
The set features 20 stories in all that will help pass the time on a cold and wintery day.
“The Best of Elmo 3” (Warner Home Video, SRP $14.98) provides youngsters with Sesame Street moments featuring the show’s favorite and most endearing character.
Elmo uses song and dance to teach kids about letters, words and numbers as he interacts with such friends as Melissa McCarthy, Taye Diggs, Romeo Santos and Drew Brees.
This is a perfect gift to keep the very young ones occupied Christmas morning after opening presents, so adults can get the holiday meal prepared.
“He’s a Bully, Charlie Brown” (Warner Home Video, SRP $19.97) teaches some valuable lessons as the Peanuts gang heads to summer camp. There, they meet marbles champ Joe Agate, who takes little Rerun’s marbles after what was supposed to be a friendly game.
It’s up to Charlie Brown, Snoopy and the rest of the gang to take on the bully and help their friend.
The story is told in a rather gentle manner without having to hammer home the moral of the tale.
The DVD also includes four other short tales.
“Looney Tunes Musical Masterpieces” (Warner Home Video, SRP $19.97) spotlights Bugs Bunny, Elmer Fudd, Porgy Pig and other character from the Warner Bros. animated stable.
This set features 18 classic cartoons from the studio, including some Merrie Melodies selections. Among the titles are “One Froggy Evening,” “A Corny Concerto,” “What’s Opera, Doc?,” “The Rabbit of Seville,” “I Love to Singa” and “Page Miss Glory.”
These are timeless shorts that never grow old, and will entertain kids of all ages — even the adults who fondly remember them from their childhood.
“Looney Tunes Rabbits Run” (Warner Home Video, SRP $19.98) is an original movie that features Bugs Bunny, Lola Bunny, Daffy Duck, Marvin the Martian, Elmer Fudd, Yosemite Sam and a rare flower that can turn anything invisible.
The flower is used as part of a perfume creation, causing all kinds of havoc and chases.
The kids will laugh at the silly antics.
The DVD also features four bonus cartoons.
“Science & Word Play” (Nickelodeon-Paramount Home Entertainment, SRP $22.98) makes learning fun with Blaze and the Monster Machines and Wallykazam.
The set features four problem-solving adventures that will enchant and delight kids.
“Jeanette MacDonald & Nelson Eddy Collection: Volume One and Volume Two” (Warner Home Video, SRP $40.99 each). Jeanette MacDonald and Nelson Eddy were MGM’s class act in the 1930s, starring in a series of operettas to give the studio a veneer of class.
Now all eight films starring the songbirds are in release in this two-volume set. MacDonald was a fine and versatile actress, while Eddy was rather bland and wooden when not singing.
Volume One features Victor Herbert’s “Naughty Marietta” (1935); “Rose-Marie” (1936), which also features an early appearance by James Stewart; “Maytime” (1937), also costars John Barrymore; and Sigmund Romberg’s “The Girl of the Golden West.”
The films in Volume Two are Victor Herbert’s “Sweethearts” (1938); the Oscar Hammerstein II-Sigmund Romberg musical “New Moon” (1940); Noel Coward’s “Bittersweet” (1940) and “I Married an Angel” (1942).
The releases are video-on-demand DVD-Rs that are available from the Warner Archive Collection. The sets can be found at www.warnerarchive.com or other online retailers.
“W.C. Fields: Comedy Essentials Collection” (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, SRP $99.98) offers 18 classic films the famed comedian made for Paramount Pictures and Universal Pictures during the 1930s and 1940s.
These are timeless treasures that shine a light on Fields’ distaste for the conventions of society, including marriage, children and making an honest living.
The movies in the set are “Million Dollar Legs” (1932); “If I Had a Million” (1932), in which Fields uses $1 million he has been given to teach road hogs a lesson in his own unique manner; “International House” (1933); “Tillie and Gus” (1933); “Alice in Wonderland” (1933); “Six of a Kind” (1934); “Mrs. Wiggs of the Cabbage Patch” (1934); “You’re Telling Me” (1934); “The Old Fashioned Way” (1934); “It’s a Gift” (1934); “Mississippi” (1935), which features the crooning of Bing Crosby; “Man on the Flying Trapeze” (1935); “Poppy” (1936); “The Big Broadcast of 1938” (1938); “You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man” (1939); “ My Little Chickadee” (1940), which he co-wrote and co-starred with Mae West; “The Bank Dick” (1940); and “Never Give a Sucker an Even Break” (1941).
The latter four, made for Universal, are considered Fields’ best and funniest movies.
The set also features a tribute to the comedian by the comedy team of Wayne & Shuster.”
“Bad Boys I & II: 20th Anniversary Collection (Blu-ray + Ultraviolet) (Sony Pictures Home Entertainment, SRP $26.99) contains enough high-powered antics, explosions and humor to entice any action junkie.
Will Smith and Martin Lawrence star as Miami detectives battle drug dealers, killers and kidnappers in these two high-octane thrillers directed by Michael Bay.
The set contains more than two hours of bonus offerings including scene breakdowns, commentaries, deleted scenes, music videos, a look at the stunts and visual effects and trailers.
“Edward Scissorhands: 25th Anniversary Edition” (Blu-ray + Ultraviolet) (Fox Home Entertainment, SRP $19.99) stars Johnny Depp in one of his earliest collaborations with director Tim Burton in this fairy tale-like story about what it is to be human and different.
Edward, the creation of a lonely scientist, has razor-sharp scissors instead of hands. He also is lonely and has a giving heart that he tries to share with people when he is taken to suburbia.
Winona Ryder and Dianne Wiest co-star in this charming feature that includes the final screen appearance of the great Vincent Price.
The Blu-ray does include extras such as behind-the-scenes featurettes and a commentary track.
“How the Grinch Stole Christmas: Grinchmas Edition” (Blu-ray + Ultraviolet) (Universal Studios Home Entertainment, SRP $19.98, Rated: PG) Jim Carrey stars as Dr. Seuss’ iconic character in this reissue of the classic tale.
This new edition features additional bonus features that take you behind-the-scenes for the making of the movie.
“Paper Towns” (Blu-ray + DVD + Ultraviolet) (Fox Home Entertainment, SRP $27.99) would make a fine gift for the teenage film buff.
This adaptation of a John Green novel, follows the success of the screen version of his “The Fault in Our Stars.”
The story centers on Quentin who, since childhood, has been smitten by his neighbor, Margo. One night, she recruits him for a prank-filled adventure.
The next day, though, Margo is gone, leaving cryptic clues for Quentin and his friends to follow, which leads to an epic road trip and a lesson in the meaning of love and friendship.
The Blu-ray contains extras including deleted and alternate scenes, a gag reel and a making of featurette.
“A.D.: The Bible Continues” (Blu-ray) (Fox Home Entertainment, SRP $49.99) is a four-disc set featuring all 12 episodes to this faith-based follow-up series that begins with the crucifixion and resurrection of Christ and follows his early disciples as they risk their lives to spread his message.
The set contains extras on the making of the series, the casting, the sets and recreating the past.
“Agatha Christie’s Miss Marple: The Julie McKenzie Collection” (Acorn Media, SRP $99.99) is a 12-disc set that offers 12 delightful mysteries that McKenzie’s Miss Marple solves in her own unique manner.
Titles include “A Pocket Full of Rye,” “Murder Is Easy,” “The Secret of Chimneys,” “The Blue Geranium,” “The Pale Horse,” “They Do It With Mirrors,” “A Caribbean Mystery” and “Endless Night.”
The thrillers are loaded with great guest stars including Benedict Cumberbatch, Brian Cox, Rupert Graves, Fiona Shaw, Edward Fox, Toby Stephens, Joanna Lumley and Joan Collins.
The set also includes various bonus offerings.
“The Carol Burnett Show: The Lost Episodes: Collector’s Edition” (Time Life, SRP $59.95) is a six-disc set that features 16 of the best episodes from the series’ first five seasons that were never rerun or transferred to DVD.
Included in the set is the first episode in which Lucille Ball was a guest star as well as the debut episode with Tim Conway.
Other guests include Burt Reynolds, Flip Wilson, Bing Crosby, Phyllis Diller, Don Adams and Jim Nabors, as well as some classic sketches such as “As the Stomach Turns” and “The Old Folks.”
The set also includes about five hours of bonus materials including a backstage tour of CBS Studio 33, outtakes and Burnett’s question-and-answer sessions.
“Flowers in the Attic: The Complete Saga” (Lionsgate, SRP $29.98) contains all four Lifetime made-for-TV movies based on the books by V.C. Andrews that tells the modern gothic tale of the Dollanganger siblings.
The set, which includes Ultraviolet digital downloads of the films, includes “Flowers in the Attic,” “Petals on the Wind,” “If There Be Thorns” and “Seeds of Yesterday.”
If you did not get these titles when they were released individually, this would be a good chance to collect them in one fell swoop.
“Foyle’s War: The Complete Saga” (Acorn Media, SRP $199.99) follows DCI Christopher Foyle, played by Michael Kitchen, who investigates crime on the home front during World War II.
Foyle later uses his talent at MI5 during the Cold War to keep the Soviet Union at bay.
Great Britain may be battling the Axis or, later, the Russians, but criminals are continuing to stir up mischief in this 29-disc set that features 28 episodes as well as hours of bonus materials.
A plethora of top-name talents are foils for Foyle including Rosamund Pike, James McAvoy, Charles Dance, Robert Hardy, Tim Pigott-Smith, David Tennant, John Mahoney, James Wilby and Amanda Root.
The extras include a retrospective of the series, interviews and making of documentaries.
“Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season” (Blu-ray) (HBO Home Entertainment, SRP $79.98) and “The Complete Second Season” (Blu-ray) (SRP, $79.98) are being reissued in new steelbook collectors sets that feature collectible sigil magnets and have been upgraded to Dolby Atmos audio.
If you have not followed the battles, romances, betrayals and deaths in the Seven Kingdoms of Westeros, where royal families battle to win the right to set atop the Iron Throne.
These new sets also include the extras featured in earlier Blu-ray releases.
So, if you want to start or catch up with this wonderful HBO series, here is your chance.
“The Hee Haw Collection: 3-DVD Set” (Time Life, SRP $39.95) returns to Kornfield Kounty where the folks, headed by Buck Owens and Roy Clark, are pickin’ and grinnin’, singin’ and spinnin’ tall tales that are knee slappers.
The episodes feature performances by Hank Williams Jr., Tammy Wynette, Merle Haggard, Loretta Lynn, Charlie Rich and Conway Twitty.
Extras include bonus interviews with Clark, George Lindsey and Jim and John Hager among others.
“Mr. Warmth! Don Rickles: The Ultimate Collection” (Time Life, SRP $59.95) spotlights Rickles’ zingers in an eight-disc set that includes his hilarious barbs at everyone from Johnny Carson to Don Adams to John Wayne.
The shows include movie spoofs, Rickles teaching Wayne how to tell a joke and a dramatic scene with Jack Klugman from “Inherit the Wind.”
The set includes four specials as well as all 37 episodes of Rickles’ sitcom “CPO Sharkey.”
The set also includes several extras, including outtakes and unedited scenes, new introductions by Rickles, a “Tonight Show” clip with Carson on the set of “Sharkey” and Rickles receiving the TV Land Awards Legend Award from Jimmy Kimmel.
“The Wonder Years: The Complete Series” (Time Life, SRP $199.95) is a 26-disc set featuring all 115 episodes of this beloved series that aired from 1988 to 1993.
Set in the late 1960s, the series follows the life of young Kevin Arnold (Fred Savage) and he navigates adolescence and the evolution from childhood to teenager.
The series also looks at the ups and downs in the life of the Arnold family.
The set features more than 23 hours of bonus materials including interviews with cast members Savage, Danica McKellar, Josh Saviano, Alley Mills, Dan Lauria, Olivia d’Abo and Jason Hervey, a cast reunion, magnets, outtakes and several featurettes.
Bob Bloom is a member of the Indiana Film Journalists Association. He reviews movies, Blu-rays and DVDs for ReelBob (ReelBob.com), The Film Yap and other print and online publications. He can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org. You also can follow Bloom on Twitter @ReelBobBloom and on Facebook. Movie reviews by Bloom also can be found at Rottentomatoes: www.rottentomatoes.com.