An independently produced family Christmas film leads these titles that are new to DVD, including two of the year’s biggest hits, “Despicable Me 2” and “Fast & Furious 6.”
“Angels Sing” (Lionsgate/Blu-ray, 2013, PG, $24.99, Blu-ray and digital versions). Harry Connick Jr. stars in this family movie set around Thanksgiving and Christmas, which would look right at home on the Hallmark Channel. (And maybe next year it’ll be there.)
Connick plays an Austin, Texas, college professor with a loving wife (Connie Britton) and son (Chandler Canterbury) who doesn’t like Christmas because it dredges up memories of a family tragedy that occurred when he was a child. But when they buy a new home they discover they are living on Live Oak Lane’s “Trail of Lights,” a neighborhood that has become world famous for lighting up every house during the holidays, complete with live nativity scenes (including real sheep and camels).
There’s a bit of “It’s a Wonderful Life” here and a dash of “Miracle on 34th Street” there, and the Christmas lights would make Clark Griswold envious in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” But the film benefits from an able cast, which also includes country singers Lyle Lovett as a goofy neighbor, Kris Kristofferson as Connick’s dad and Willie Nelson as a sort of guardian angel named “Nick.”
The first half of the film is very good and exhibits a sharp sense of humor that quickly engages us and demonstrates the chemistry between Connick, Britton and Canterbury. But when it goes all serious in the second half it threatens to sink into gooey sentimentality. If only they had kept up the quips.
Still, it’s better than most of the many new holiday films that show up each year, and the cast is more than game. Authentic Austin sites help and the film takes full advantage of the city’s music scene. (Also on DVD, $19.98)
“Despicable Me 2” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013, PG, $34.8, deleted scene, audio commentary, featurettes, three mini-movies). This animated sequel is sort of hijacked by Gru’s little yellow minions (similar to what the penguins did to the “Madagascar” franchise). But it’s pretty funny as the reformed-master-criminal-turned-single-father is recruited to take down a bad guy, unaware that a traitor is in his midst. This film is the second biggest hit of the year, after “Iron Man 3” (although “Catching Fire” is catching up). (Also on 3D Blu-ray combo, $49.98, and DVD, $29.98)
“Fast & Furious 6” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, $34.98; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; theatrical and extended versions, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). The late Paul Walker, along with Vin Diesel and the rest of the franchise’s team, including recent addition Dwayne Johnson and returning Michelle Rodriguez, star in the latest crash-and-dash car-chase epic with some of the most ridiculous stunt work you’ve ever seen (thanks to digital-animation enhancement). This one isn’t quite up there with No. 5, easily the best in the series, but it’s fun for adrenalin junkies. Ranks at No. 7 among the year’s top 10 moneymakers. (The title on the screen is “Furious 6.”) (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“Battle of the Year” (Sony/Blu-ray, 2013, PG-13, $35.99, Blu-ray and digital versions, featurettes). Dance movie released in 3D has B-Boy teams hitting the stage to compete in the title tournament. The American team is the underdog, of course — but can they overcome the odds and win? Gee, I wonder. (Also on 3D Blu-ray, $45.99, and DVD, 30.99)
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