A Very DVD Obscura Christmas

A Very DVD Obscura Christmas

Nov 21, 2018

A Nightmare Before Christmas

Whether you're gathering around for a holiday favorite, putting on some festive video wallpaper for your Christmas party (or in the background while you wrap gifts or bake cookies or address cards), or you just need to keep the kids entertained, you've got lots of great holiday-themed new releases to make the season bright in your home theater.

Merry Anniversary

It's not just those family get-togethers that remind you how quickly time passes; some of your Christmas faves are celebrating big birthdays this year. For the 25th anniversary of this stop-motion animated classic musical, Disney has released The Nightmare Before Christmas: Sing-Along Edition, so you can chime in on "What’s This?" and "Kidnap the Sandy Claws" to your heart's content. And while your pipes are ready to perform your favorite carols, pop in the Elf: Buddy’s Sing & Cheer Along Edition (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) to celebrate the 15th anniversary of the modern classic starring Will Ferrell and Zooey Deschanel.

Both Scrooged (Paramount Home Entertainment) and Die Hard (20th Century Fox Home Entertainment) celebrate the big 3-0 with new Blu-ray editions. (The latter comes packaged in an "ugly sweater" sleeve, so take that, all you "It’s not a Christmas movie" nay-sayers.)

You can get a jump on Holiday Affair’s 70th anniversary in 2019 by picking up the sharp new DVD release from Warner Archive Collection. And while it's not celebrating an anniversary, Bedford Falls never looked so sharp as in the new 4K restoration of the legendary It's a Wonderful Life (Paramount Home Entertainment, digital only).

Cable Chestnuts

Channels like Hallmark, Lifetime and UPtv – as well as that new contender, Netflix – have stepped up in recent years to take over the Christmas-movie landscape. And whether you want to revisit old faves amidst this year's new crop of titles (or you want to stash some away so you can get a Christmas fix in April or September), there are plenty to choose from.

A Christmas TrainThere's a bevy of Hallmark titles, including last year's Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation The Christmas Train, as well as one of my favorite dramas from the network, A Bramble House Christmas. But hey, if you're a fan of these, you can't go wrong with titles like A Dog Named Christmas, Karen Kingsbury's Maggie's Christmas Miracle (Luke Macfarlane and Jill Wagner are two of the more charming leads in the channel's stable), Christmas Next Door, Debbie Macomber’s Dashing Through the Snow (a fun mistaken-identity comedy), Christmas at Holly Lodge (bonus points for Sheryl Lee Ralph in a warm, witty supporting role), Engaging Father Christmas (the follow-up Marrying Father Christmas premiered this year), and Christmas With Holly. (All titles Cinedigm/Hallmark.)

Lifetime, meanwhile, is working hard to regain its place at the holiday table, and they've offered up two tasty double features: Snowed-Inn Christmas / Wrapped Up in Christmas and A Very Merry Toy Store / Four Christmases and a Wedding (both Lionsgate). Kino Lorber digs into the vault for some small-screen treasures of yore, including Ebbie (Susan Lucci was a trailblazer in the popular "Scrooge is an ambitious career woman" genre), On the Second Day of Christmas (starring Mary Stuart Masterson and a pre-famous Mark Ruffalo), and the period piece Young Pioneers' Christmas. And if you're spending December in a warm climate like I am, you can vicariously enjoy a Snowmance (Monarch Home Entertainment).

For the Grown-ups: Holiday Crime, Horror and Drama

Some folks have a low threshold for seasonal sweetness and light, but fret not: there are plenty of hideous beasts and naughty-listees to keep you entertained as well.

All the Creatures Were StirringIf straight-up horror flavors your eggnog, check out the anthology film All the Creatures Were Stirring (RLJE Films, available December 4), featuring Constance Wu of Crazy Rich Asians and Fresh Off the Boat; a new Collector's Edition of the slasher fave Silent Night, Deadly Night 2 (Scream Factory, available December 11); scream queen Brinke Stevens as a decidedly un-jolly Mrs. Claus (Wild Eye Releasing); and from Uncork'd Entertainment, the prequel (but not to the Michael Dougherty film) Krampus Origins and the sequel Elves (available December 4).

We don't get nearly enough southern-hemisphere Christmas tales, where the sun is blazing and the sweat is palpable, but you’ll get plenty of both in the brilliantly devious Chilean import Cola de Mono (TLA Releasing), a big hit on the 2018 festival circuit. It's a retro queer film that plays like Stranger Things, only for gay men whose early sexuality was shaped by creepy 1980s thrillers along the lines of Cruising and The Fan.

On a more dramatic note, there's the ensemble piece This Is Christmas (Wow Now), about a quartet of male friends facing various life issues as the holidays roll around once again. The distinguished cast includes Corin Nemec, David Moscow, A. Russell Andrews, Chris Mulkey, Keesha Sharp and Janina Gavankar. And Grace Zabriskie stars in the charming Christmas at Rosemont (Strand Releasing Home Entertainment), which sees strangers creating a surrogate family as they gather together at a crumbling resort during a snowy holiday.

The Christmas whodunit can also be lots of fun, particularly if you’re spending the holiday with relatives or co-workers who have you entertaining thoughts of homicide. In the brilliant noir remake D.O.A. (Kino Lorber), Dennis Quaid plays a college professor and blocked novelist who has 24 hours to figure out who has poisoned him; like Cola de Mono, it's set in steamy climes (specifically, Austin, Texas), so there's plenty of perspiration and not a snowflake in sight. And your favorite Canadian sleuth returns with two new collections from Acorn TV: Murdoch Mysteries: Home for the Holidays and the lavish Murdoch Mysteries: The Christmas Cases Limited Edition box set, which also features a behind-the-scenes featurette and a Christmas card from the show's star, Yannick Bisson.

Gather ‘Round the Family

Over the years, holiday specials and reruns of our favorite movies have made the TV as much of a Christmas gathering spot as the hearth of yore. Kids and adults will get a kick out of watching these titles together:

How the Grinch Stole ChristmasHow the Grinch Stole Christmas!: The Ultimate Edition (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment) offers a dynamite, hi-def presentation of one of the greatest Christmas specials ever made, alongside the curmudgeonly character's other small-screen appearances. And unlike the old days when we had to wait for the network schedule, Rankin/Bass Present The Original Christmas Specials Collection (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment) lets you watch the greats – Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, The Little Drummer Boy and Cricket on the Hearth – whenever you want. A 2017 premiere on getTV, A Nashville Christmas (Sony/GetTV) features beloved holiday music performed by legends like Emmylou Harris, Wynonna Judd, Pam Tillis and Lorrie Morgan.

And it's never too early to get young children enchanted with Christmas media: Dreamscape Media, LLC offers up a trio of new titles this year, including a lovely animated storybook version of Miracle on 34th Street, the charming shared-universe cross-over Holiday Heroes Save Christmas – who says the Easter Bunny and the Tooth Fairy have to take December off? – and then cap off their day with Santa World: Christmas Bedtime Stories (Dreamscape Media, LLC).

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