DVD Tuesday: Holiday movie picks

by W. Andrew Powell

The Polar Express

The holidays are almost here, so this week I take a look at some of the best Christmas, seasonal movies, and TV shows out on DVD. From classics, animated films, and comedies, these are a few of my favorites to get you in the holiday spirit.

The holidays just aren’t the same without the classics, and there is no shortage of those films on DVD. Although it’s a close one for me, topping the list has to be Frank Capra‘s It’s A Wonderful Life, starring James Stewart as George Bailey. A new package was released earlier this month that includes the film in colour or the original B&W, but either way this is a beautiful story that is sold by Stewart’s inspired performance.

A close second would be the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim as Ebenezer Scrooge. There are literally dozens of versions of Charles Dickens’ classic tale, including a musical from 1970 that stars Albert Finney, but Alastair Sim’s portrayal is chilling and heart-warming. The pay-off in the final scene, with the giddy Scrooge dancing through his bedroom, is also an all-time great movie moment.

This list wouldn’t be complete without mention of Bing Crosby‘s two great holiday films – White Christmas with Rosemary Clooney, and Holiday Inn with Fred Astaire – not to mention the original Miracle on 34th Street. All of these films predate the 1950s, and represent some of the best holiday films ever made.

If there are dozens of Scrooge-related movies and TV shows, there are probably hundreds of animated holiday shows out there, and it gets difficult to narrow the list down to just a few. In terms of family-loved classics though, there are few TV specials as cherished as A Charlie Brown Christmas. This is a beautiful story with warmth, and laughter throughout.

The other all-time great has to be the original 1966 cartoon How the Grinch Stole Christmas! Starring Boris Karloff as the Grinch, and in the role of the narrator, this is an endearing tale by Dr. Seuss that transcends the years. Ignore the horrific movie redux from a couple of years ago and aim straight for this classic cartoon.

A recent entry into this category is Robert ZemeckisThe Polar Express. Starring Tom Hanks as almost all of the key male characters, the film is based on the children’s book of the same name. It also happens to be one of my new favorite must-sees of the season, thanks to the great story, music, and playful visuals.

There are also some great collections available, that include some of the other animated greats. My top pick would be The Christmas Classics Gift Set, which includes Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town, Frosty the Snowman, and The Little Drummer Boy.

This is a bigger category that encompases a lot of films, but I had to be a bit picky. For the children of the 80s, you can’t get any more festive than A Christmas Story. It’s silly and funny, and just one of those films that reminds most of us Generation Xers of our childhoods.

Bill Murray‘s Scrooged is another hilarious entry from the 80s that still gets me every time. The cast is incredible, the story is smartly modernized for the time, and I still laugh out loud when Carol Kane says the line, “It’s a toaster!”

As recent comedies go, Elf is a surprisingly great film that offers a lot more heart and wit than you might expect from a Will Ferrell movie. Trust me though, this one is hilarious and sweet.

For The Kids
Last, but certainly not least, I have two quick picks for the kids at home. It’s hard to pick just two, but The Muppet Christmas Carol and Christmas Eve on Sesame Street are excellent kid-friendly movies that will keep adults amused too.

DVD Tuesday is a weekly syndicated column from The GATE that appears in newspapers across Canada.

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