Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Holiday 2010 Discs

Disney's A Christmas Carol (Disney Blu-ray) - The motion capture process, which director Robert Zemeckis pioneered with The Polar Express, looks like an ungainly hybrid of live-action and animation: even with the over-proliferation of CGI in seemingly every movie nowadays, it's still preferable. That being said, Zemeckis does conjure some magical moments in this adaptation of Dickens' holiday classic, even if the liberties taken (including an idiotic chase sequence) relegate this to the “nice try” category despite obvious visual panache. Actually, the performances by Jim Carrey (Scrooge and the ghosts) and Gary Oldman (Bob Cratchit and Tiny Tim) are good enough to make one wonder how'd they be in a “normal” Christmas Carol.. Extras include Behind the Carol, a picture-in-picture feature where one can watch the actors being filmed without the stop-motion machinery, deleted scenes and an interactive Christmas calendar.

Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection (Warners Blu-ray) - A trio of Peanuts holiday classics—It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown; A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving; and A Charlie Brown Christmas—finally receives the deluxe hi-def treatment. Each of the specials, which look better than ever before, has its own disc, which it shares with another related (and less good) special and a making-of featurette. Although Pumpkin and Thanksgiving are amusingly memorable in their own right, it's A Charlie Brown Christmas that's the main draw here, and A Christmas Miracle, the making-of featurette, recounts the interesting journey that Charles Schultz, director Bill Melendez and others made on the way to quickly creating the most beloved of all television holiday specials.

Charlie Brown's Christmas Tales (Warners) has none of the emotional resonance of the classic A Charlie Brown Christmas, instead showing five brief, amusing vignettes of the kids preparing for the holiday (lone extra: another story, IsThis Goodbye, Charlie Brown?); A Christmas Musical Tour (Naxos), to a soundtrack of well-known sacred music by Bach and Handel, takes the viewer on a trip through Austria, Germany and Switzerland, showing off the best of the holidays in Vienna, Salzburg, Bavaria and picturesque Swiss towns; despite the best efforts of The Daily Show’s Samantha Bee and Jason Jones, Coopers' Christmas (Anchor Bay) can’t get past its sophomoric humor and ends up neither particularly funny nor Christmassy (best extra: behind-the-scenes featurette); the by-the-numbers romantic comedy-drama A Nanny for Christmas (Anchor Bay) is made watchable by its lead actresses: Emmanuelle Vaugier as the nanny and Cynthia Gibb as the mom (lone extra: audio commentary); the latest talking-dogs-save-the-day movie, The Search for Santa Paws (Disney Blu-ray) is a relentlessly cutesy but ultimately irresistible adventure that kids of all ages will enjoy (best extra: deleted scenes); Surviving the Holidays with Lewis Black (History) features everyone‘s favorite comedic curmudgeon taking viewers through the commercial craziness that inhabits the holiday season today, with the help from fellow comedians like Craig Ferguson and Bob Saget (lone extra: additional footage); The Year Without Santa Claus (Warners Blu-ray), although not quite on par with other Christmas animated classics, is a satisfying special, which is more than can be said for the other, less good programs on this hi-def disc: Rudolph’s Shiny New Year and Nestor, the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey (best extra: School of Stop Motion featurette).

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