Whether you’re looking for stocking stuffers for others or a nice little gift for yourself, we’ve got a roundup of some of the best new Blu-rays and DVDs for the holidays.
Warner Bros. Home Entertainment offers up four of their holiday favorites in 4K for the first time this holiday season: “Elf,” “A Christmas Story,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “The Polar Express” all get shined up for your library. Whether you’re giving (or getting) a 4K system this Christmas or already have one ready to go, this quartet of titles represent the apex of holiday classics for a wide audience. (Whether or not the sequel “A Christmas Story Christmas” will eventually merit its own schmancy physical release remains to be seen.)
“The Apartment” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Billy Wilder’s bittersweet, Oscar-winning holiday tale made its 4K debut earlier this year.
Girls Rule: The Holidays Collection (Paramount Home Entertainment): This set of women-centric, holiday (or holiday-adjacent) comedies includes “Mean Girls,” “Last Holiday” and “Serendipity.”
“Nobody’s Fool” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): One of my favorite Christmas-ish movies, featuring one of Paul Newman’s finest latter-day performances (as well as exceptional turns by Bruce Willis and Melanie Griffith, and early appearances from the likes of Margo Martindale, Pruitt Taylor Vince and the late Philip Seymour Hoffman) gets released in 4K for the first time. (out Dec. 27 — maybe a little late for this Christmas, but worth rewatching at any time of year)
“Planes, Trains and Automobiles” (Paramount Home Entertainment): OK, yes, it’s a Thanksgiving movie, but that’s part of “Happy Holidays,” especially now that you can view it in 4K.
Anna Margaret Hollyman — even her name says “Merry Christmas” — gives an unforgettable performance in the 2013 dark comedy “White Reindeer” (Factory 25). Hollyman stars as a widow who spends the holiday season wrestling with grief over the recent death of her husband, until she learns some surprising and shocking facts about the man she thought she knew, sending her hurtling into a decadent underworld she never imagined. Written and directed by Zach Clark, this outrageous holiday tale deserves to find a wider audience.
“A Christmas Karen” (FilmRise): In this 2022 comedy, Scrooge would like to speak to the manager. (out Dec. 13)
“Scrooge & Marley” (Dark Star Pictures): This queer twist on “A Christmas Carol” — starring David Pevsner as a modern-day LGBTQ misanthrope — gets a 10th anniversary DVD re-release that includes a cast reunion, making-of doc and director commentary.
“See You Next Christmas” (Chrissiemas Productions): An unlikely couple (played by Elizabeth Guest and AJ Meijer) fall in and out of love over several years’ worth of their best friends’ holiday parties in this charmingly low-key (and low-budget) rom-com. (out Nov. 29)
“Some Girls” (Kino Lorber Studio Classics): Finally, a Blu-ray release for Michael Hoffman’s sexy and engaging 1988 comedy about a college student (played by Patrick Dempsey) who travels to Quebec to spend Christmas with his girlfriend (Jennifer Connelly), only to have her announce upon his arrival that she no longer loves him.
Holiday for the Family
With the recent passing of legendary animator Jules Bass, all the more reason to include The Complete Rankin/Bass Christmas Collection (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment) in your home library. Bass and partner Arthur Rankin, Jr., helped invent the Christmas TV special as we know it — their “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “Frosty the Snowman” make up half of genre’s Mount Rushmore (alongside Charlie Brown and the Grinch) — and this compendium includes their many holiday favorites, from “Rudolph” and “Frosty” to “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town,” “The Year Without a Santa Claus,” “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” and many, many more; it’s a total 18 specials featured on nine discs.
“8-Bit Christmas” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): While not an official sequel to “A Christmas Story,” this 80s-set comedy features a similar blend of snark-sprinkled nostalgia and one child’s desire for an unattainable present (although this time it’s a video game and not a BB gun).
“Dolly Parton’s Christmas on the Square” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): This Emmy-winning musical features Parton as an angel who tries to prevent a cruel millionaire (Christine Baranski) from selling an entire town to developers.
“Prancer: A Christmas Tale” (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment): In a follow-up to the 1989 fave, James Cromwell stars as a grandfather whose belief in a magical reindeer threatens to have him sent to a home. (out Nov. 29)
“Santa & Pete” (Questar): James Earl Jones plays a widowed grandpa who spins a yarn for his young grandson as they prepare for a Christmas alone together; Hume Cronyn co-stars as St. Nick.
“Tom & Jerry: Snowman’s Land” (Warner Bros. Home Entertainment): The legendary duo bring a snowmouse to life, but keeping him from melting will set them off on a wintry adventure. (out Nov. 29)
Cord-cutters have many options if they want a never-ending cascade of holiday movies on their TV, from various streaming services to hefty home collections like Lifetime’s Ultimate Holiday Movie Collection and Lifetime’s A Very Merry Movie Collections, Vol. 3 and Vol. 4 (all Lionsgate). The “Merry Movie” sets feature a dozen movies each, and “Ultimate” boasts a whopping 50 titles, making it the perfect gift for someone who doesn’t stop watching Christmas movies just because the calendar has flipped over.
Lifetime’s rivals at Hallmark, meanwhile, aren’t sleeping on the job when it comes to physical media; their 2022 offerings include (alphabetically) “Cheerful Christmas”/”Double Holiday”/”It’s Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas“; “Christmas at Castle Hart”; “Christmas CEO”/”Christmas Together With You”/”An Unexpected Christmas“; the LGBTQ-inclusive “The Christmas House 2: Deck Those Halls”; “Christmas in Harmony” (directed by indie legend Rusty Cundieff); “Christmas in My Heart”/”My Christmas Family Tree”; “Christmas on My Mind”/”A Homecoming for the Holidays”/”Holiday Hearts”; “The Christmas Promise”/”Christmas for Keeps”; “Coyote Creek Christmas”; “Debbie Macomber’s A Mrs. Miracle Christmas”; “A Dickens of a Holiday!”/”Boyfriends of Christmas Past”; the charming holiday-but-not-Christmas-for-once romance “Eight Gifts of Hanukkah”; “Five More Minutes”; “A Godwink Christmas: Miracle of Love”; “Jingle Bell Bride”/”The Christmas Doctor”/”Deliver by Christmas”; “A Kiss Before Christmas”; “Next Stop, Christmas”; “The Nine Kittens of Christmas”; “Open by Christmas”; “Time for Them to Come Home for Christmas”; “A Very Merry Bridesmaid”/”Tis the Season to Be Merry”; “You, Me and the Christmas Trees” and the Hallmark Countdown to Christmas 9-Movie Collection, which includes “Check Inn to Christmas,” “Christmas Comes Twice,” “Christmas Land” (the first of “Bros” star Luke Macfarlane’s Hallmark Christmas movies), “12 Gifts of Christmas,” “Christmas in Love,” “With Love, Christmas,” “Window Wonderland,” “Looks Like Christmas” and “Christmas List.”
(My personal pick from the Hallmark bunch? Since there’s no physical release for “Crashing Through the Snow,” I definitely recommend Ashley Williams and Kimberly Williams-Paisley in the double feature
“Sister Swap: Hometown Holiday”/”Sister Swap: Christmas in the City,” two charming (and interlocking) rom-coms designed to be watched back to back.)
And if this genre is your bag, you can also check out “Christmas in Rockwell,” “Christmas in Wolf Creek,” “Country Roads Christmas” and “A Ring for Christmas” (all Imagicomm) for more holiday hugs and kisses.
Bob Clark’s 1983 “A Christmas Story,” as mentioned, has become a cornerstone of holiday cinema, but he already entered the pantheon a decade or so earlier with “Black Christmas” (Scream Factory), now making its 4K debut. This influential holiday slasher — it’s hard to imagine John Carpenter wasn’t at least partially influenced by it when he made “Halloween” — still holds up as one of the all-time great chillers, and the Yuletide setting just adds to the tension. This release features a new 4K scan of the original negative and restorations of both the mono and 5.1 soundtrack, along with commentary tracks featuring Clark or actors Keir Dullea and John Saxon. (There’s a separate commentary from Nick Mancuso, who provided the unforgettable voice for Billy, the obscene phone-caller.) (out Dec. 6)
“Christmas Craft Fair Massacre” (Wild Eye Releasing): As if crocheted-owl plant-hangers weren’t terrifying enough. (out Dec. 13)
“Christmas Cruelty” (Unearthed Films): This Scandinavian import follows a serial killer who’s out to ruin some holidays.
“Christmassacre” (Wild Eye Releasing): All is neither calm nor bright in this 2015 chiller.
“Don’t Open Till Christmas” (Vinegar Syndrome): Holiday horror meets disco sleaze in this 1984 video nasty from director-actor Edmund Purdom (who, back in the day, starred in Michael Curtiz’s “The Egyptian”).
“Silent Night” (RLJE Films): There’s no place like home for the apocalypse, as Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode and Roman Griffin Davis lead an ensemble of Brits gather for one last holiday before the end of everything.
“Silent Night, Deadly Night” Collection (Lionsgate): Draw your own conclusions about the third through fifth chapters of any franchise, but that’s what this holiday box set provides. Fun fact: Mickey Rooney spoke out against the first “SNDN” movie, only to turn up in Part 5 as an evil toymaker. (out Dec. 13)
Holiday Books and Calendars
The makers of the delightful Cinephile game return with the “My First Movie” book series, introducing young film-lovers to genres like film noir and giallo and the French New Wave. Oh, to be a youngster and introduced to the likes of “Gun Crazy” and “Deep Red” and “The 400 Blows.” Be the cool aunt/uncle at this year’s family get-together.
“Batman Returns: One Dark Christmas Eve” (Insight Editions): I’ve said for years that this superhero sequel was one of our great contemporary Christmas movies, and now there’s a children’s storybook to shore up its status as a holiday favorite.
When’s It Gonna Be Christmas Again? (Primedia): Two of the hosts of the Deck the Hallmark podcast — with whom I collaborated on the essential Hallmark-holiday-film guide “I’ll Be Home for Christmas Movies,” which makes a perfect gift — return with a new storybook about impatiently awaiting the holidays.
Enjoy your favorite pop-culture obsessions all December long with Dragonball Z: The Official Advent Calendar, Dungeons & Dragons: The Official Countdown Gift Calendar and Star Wars: The Life Day Pop-Up Book and Advent Calendar (all from Insight Editions).