In keeping with my policy of not writing about holiday DVDs until November at the earliest, here is a passel of Blu-ray upgrades and new releases that have been cluttering my desk — some since late September.
“Miracle on 34th Street: 70th Anniversary” (Fox, 1947, b/w, audio commentary by Maureen O’Hara, featurettes, short promo film, poster gallery). This funny and warm classic charmer — which begins on Thanksgiving and ends on Christmas — is about the struggles in a very cynical world of an elderly gentleman who claims to be the real Santa Claus (Edmund Gwenn, who won an Oscar). The result is first-rate, joyous entertainment from its opening sequence to its very satisfying conclusion.
“Planes, Trains & Automobiles: 30th Anniversary” (Paramount, 1987, R for language, deleted scene, featurettes). Steve Martin is a low-key introvert trying desperately to get from Manhattan to Chicago for Thanksgiving when he finds himself tangled with bombastic salesman John Candy. Many of the episodic set pieces here are hilarious, and Candy is more controlled than usual with John Hughes’ clever script and confident direction. The R rating is for a single scene when Martin’s character loses it at a car rental desk.
“Home Alone 2: Lost in New York: 25th Anniversary” (Fox, 1992, PG). This blockbuster sequel to the blockbuster 1990 comedy follows the established slapstick formula, except that this one is set in Manhattan (with a cameo by Donald Trump). Macaulay Culkin uses the same household items to set intricate booby traps for the same two crooks (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern) — and this one’s a half-hour longer! This marks the film’s Blu-ray debut, also available in two-film and five-film sets. (Did you know there are five Home Alone films?)
“Home for the Holidays” (Shout Select, 1995, PG-13, audio commentary, trailer, photo gallery). Jodie Foster went behind the camera to direct this shrill, obnoxious comedy about a dysfunctional family gathering for Thanksgiving, as secrets and lies are revealed during a most unpleasant gathering — for the audience as much as the family. A great cast — Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Claire Danes, etc. — is wasted in this film.
“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (Universal, 2000, PG, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, music video, trailer, bloopers). Jim Carrey throws himself into the title role of this frantic live-action adaptation of the Dr. Seuss holiday classic, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the book or the 1966 animated TV special. Ron Howard directed but lost control of this overproduced, chaotic and unfunny cacophony.
“A Puppy for Christmas” (Monarch, 2016).
“Christmas with the Andersons” (Monarch, 2016). These two made-for-TV movies weakly mimic the soft, feel-good holiday flicks produced annually by the Hallmark and Lifetime cable channels. The first has a young woman losing her job and apartment because of her undisciplined dog, but hey, he’s lovable. The second has a family putting Christmas on hold after Dad loses his job — until wacky Aunt Katie shows up to save the day.
"Red Christmas” (Artsploitation, 2017, not rated/probable R for violence, deleted scene, audio commentary, featurettes, bloopers). What says Christmas better than a gory splatter picture set in the Australian outback? Dee Wallace (most famous as the mother in “E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial” but also a horror veteran of “Cujo” and “The Howling”) is entertaining her squabbling adult children on Christmas Eve when a slasher shows up.