Plentiful Christmas movies, TV shows on DVD this week
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Movies and cartoons with holiday themes have been coming out since early October, but who wants to watch Christmas shows before Halloween? So, with November now upon us, here are some of the newly released Yule viewing choices on DVD.
“Toy Story That Time Forgot” (Disney/Pixar, 2014, audio commentary, deleted scenes, featurettes, music video). After Christmas, Bonnie takes her toys to a play date, but Woody (voiced by Tom Hanks), Buzz (Tim Allen) and the gang run into trouble with new dinosaur action figures that don’t know they’re toys (shades of Buzz in the first Toy Story film). When Woody and Buzz are taken hostage, it’s up to Trixie the Triceratops (Kristen Schaal) to save the day. This amusing 22-minute TV Christmas special ran on ABC last December.
“Elf: Buddy’s Musical Christmas” (Warner, 2014, featurette). This animated TV special (44 minutes here) was also shown last December, on NBC. It is essentially a retelling of “Elf” in stop-motion animated form with songs from the Broadway show “Elf: The Musical,” as oversized elf Buddy (voiced here by Jim Parsons) sets off to find his father in New York. Other voices include Mark Hamill, Fred Armisen, Gilbert Gottfried and Jay Leno. Only Ed Asner as Santa reprises his role from the original film.
“Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (Universal, 2000, PG, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes, music video). This live-action adaptation of the beloved Dr. Seuss book and subsequent TV cartoon is overblown, cluttered, unnecessarily vulgar and occasionally creepy. But it does have Jim Carrey in a truly amazing, full-on performance as the Grinch, and it is narrated by Anthony Hopkins. Look for Bryce Dallas Howard, director Ron Howard’s daughter and future “Jurassic World” star, as a Who.
“Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special” (Shout!, 1988, audio commentary, featurette). This prime-time TV special has Pee-wee Herman (Paul Reubens) and the gang singing, dancing and celebrating the holiday season as a bevy of celebrity guests drop by: Frankie Avalon, Annette Funicello, Dinah Shore, Zsa Zsa Gabor, Whoopi Goldberg, Magic Johnson, Charo, Grace Jones, k.d. Lang, Little Richard, Joan Rivers and Oprah Winfrey.
“The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour: Christmas Specials” (Shout!, 1969/1970, two episodes). These two holiday specials are hosted by Campbell and include plenty of music, from traditional holiday tunes to such Campbell hits as “Wichita Lineman” and “Galveston.” Guests include Andy Griffith, Cher, George Gobel, Jerry Reed and Shecky Greene.
“Christmas at Cartwright’s” (Cinedigm, 2014, trailer). This Hallmark Channel movie gets a boost from the presence of the ever-charming Alicia Witt as a single mom who is desperate for a job and manages to worm her way into becoming a department store Santa, thanks to a Christmas consultant who may actually be heaven-sent. Naturally, she falls for a guy in the men’s department, much to the jealousy of another employee who discovers her secret and angles to get her fired. Wallace Shawn co-stars.
“Christmas Trade” (Cinedigm, 2015). This straight-to-video comedy is “Vice Versa” or “18 Again!” or “Freaky Friday” (with echoes of “Big”) with a Christmas backdrop as workaholic single dad William Baldwin magically switches bodies with his teenage son, who’s the target of a bully and cast in the lead role of the school Christmas pageant. Co-stars include Denise Richards, Tom Arnold and Jennifer Grant (daughter of Cary Grant and Dyan Cannon).
“Best Christmas Party Ever” (Cinedigm, 2014, trailer). Another Hallmark Channel TV movie, this one is about a New York event planner vying with the boss’ nephew for the firm’s top job. But their adversarial relationship gives way to cooperation when they discover that a major toy store is intending to pull the plug on the annual community celebration, and that, naturally, gives way to romance. Torrey DeVitto and Steve Lund star.
“Paper Angels” (Cinedigm, 2014). An abused wife who has escaped to another town, her son who is bullied in his new school and a businessman whose company is about to tank offer each other a helping hand in this straight-to-video faith film that promotes the Salvation Army’s Angel Tree Program and is based on the titular country song.
“Norman Rockwell Presents: A Christmas Tail” (Cinedigm, 2015; 4×6 Rockwell print). This Canadian TV movie has two single parents vying for the same dog, at first competing for it and then gradually forming an alliance, which opens the path to romance.
“Shelby: A Magical Holiday Tail” (Anchor Bay, 2015). Really? Another Christmas movie about a dog with “Tail” in the title? This is a straight-to-video farce about a talking dog (courtesy of Rob Schneider’s voice), an “escape artist” mutt that is adopted from the pound by a spoiled rich kid and then runs away to the basement of a 10-year-old aspiring musician. Chevy Chase and Tom Arnold co-star.
“An En Vogue Christmas” (Lionsgate, 2014). This Lifetime Channel TV movie is about a young woman trying to save her father’s club, called the Opera House. She eventually manages to book three members of the singing group En Vogue — Terry Ellis, Cindy Herron and Rhonda Bennett — to perform and save the day. David Alan Grier co-stars.
“The Nutcracker Sweet” (Cinedigm, 2015, featurettes, trailer). On Christmas Eve, a brother and sister, Fritz (voiced by Karen Strassman) and Marie (Alicia Silverstone), see their enchanted Nutcracker (Drake Bell) become involved in a battle between toy soldiers and a platoon of mice led by the Mouse King, and then they journey through the Kingdom of Dolls, the Christmas Forest, the Almond Milk Sea and the Palace of Marzipans. This is a straight-to-video animated retelling of the familiar “Nutcracker Suite” story. Ed Asner voices Owl.
“Odd Squad: Reindeer Games” (PBS Kids, 2014, three episodes). This live-action kids show aims to teach lessons in mathematics through fanciful stories about young agents who apply math to unravel mysteries. The title episode has Olive and Otto helping Santa deliver gifts on Christmas Eve after his reindeer run off. Also here are “Party of 5, 4, 3, 2, 1” and “Mrs. O. Uh-Oh.”
“Peg + Cat: A Totally Awesome Christmas” (PBS Kids, 2014, three episodes). This animated show for preschoolers is also about solving math problems. In “The Christmas Problem,” Peg and her cat travel to the North Pole to help Santa fix his Big Present Machine. Also here are “The Penguin Problem” and “The Blockette Problem.”
“Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles: Cowabunga Christmas!” (Nickelodeon/Paramount, 2003, three episodes). The heroes in a half-shell take on bad guys in holiday-oriented episodes: “The Christmas Aliens” sees Michelangelo taking on the Purple Dragons when they steal toys intended for an orphanage; Raphael is kidnapped in “The Way of Invisibility”; and in “Fallen Angel,” the team tries to stop Angel from joining a gang.
“Peppa Pig: Cold Winter Day” (eOne, 2004-07, 10 episodes — or, as the box says, 10 “peppasodes”). An amusing animated pig teaches preschoolers about kindness with gentle lessons built around building a snowman, throwing snowballs and racing sleds.
“Caillou’s Christmas” (PBS Kids, 1997-2005, 12 episodes). Four-year-old Caillou is the star of this Canadian animated series for preschoolers. All 12 episodes are holiday/winter in nature as Caillou visits Santa, decorates trees, goes caroling, imagines building the world’s largest snowman, etc.
“WordWorld: Merry Christmas” (PBS Kids, 2007-10, five episodes). Teaching word building and reading are the goals of this animated series that features animals that resemble the words they represent. Episodes are “The Christmas Star,” “A Christmas Present for Dog,” “Bear’s Bed Sled,” “V is for Vacation” and “Think in the Rink.”
“20 Holiday Adventures” (Scholastic, 2015, 20 episodes). The 20 animated stories here are holiday-themed and aimed at children ages 3-8, including “The Night Before Christmas,” “Max’s Christmas,” “Lemonade in Winter,” “Seven Candles for Kwanzaa,” “Giving Thanks,” etc.
Chris Hicks is the author of “Has Hollywood Lost Its Mind? A Parent’s Guide to Movie Ratings.” He also writes at www.hicksflicks.com and can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Thanks to Fat Cats in Rexburg for providing screenings for movie reviews on EastIdahoNews.com.