(KUTV) Looking for a Christmas themed film to help get you into the holiday spirit? Here are five titles that recently made their way to Blu-ray.
Arthur Christmas (DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo and 3D Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
Produced by Aardman Animations (the people behind the Wallace & Gromit and “Chicken Run”) “Arthur Christmas” tells the story of Arthur, Santa’s youngest son who is tasked with answering all of his father’s mail. Steve, his older brother, runs the delivery aspects of Christmas with military precision from his super-sized sleigh the S-1. When it is discovered that one misplaced gift hasn’t been delivered Steve refuses to do anything about it forcing Arthur to set out on an adventure to make sure that no child is forgotten at Christmas.
I love the Aardman films partly because I’m an anglophile, but also because they have a unique look and sense of humor. “Arthur Christmas” is a charming, highly enjoyable film that will appeal to adults and children. I’d also recommend checking out their “Pirates! Band of Misfits” from earlier this year.
Babes in Toyland (Blu-ray)
Disney’s “Babes in Toyland” from 1961 starring Roy Bolger, Tommy Sands and Annette Funicello arrives on Blu-ray with a gorgeous transfer that really shows off the film’s Technicolor origins. While not strictly a Christmas film, it’s more of an excuse to gather Mother Goose and her nursery rhyme friends together in one narrative, the movie’s final act does feature a toymaker is desperate need of some help to make his Christmas deadlines and an epic battle of miniature proportions involving an army of toy soldiers.
I haven’t watched this version of “Babes in Toyland” since I was a child and I was surprised by how well the film holds up. The special effects don’t feel nearly as dated as you’d expect, the songs are brimming with nostalgia and the performance, while stylized, are wholly effective in a vaudevillian sort of way. Sands’ performance of the song “Floretta” is an all-time classic.
The Muppet Christmas Carol (DVD and Blu-ray)
There are a handful of films that I try to watch every Christmas season including “Christmas Eve on Sesame Street” from 1978, Rankin-Bass’ 1964 “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” “A Christmas Story,” “Elf” and at the top of the list “The Muppet Christmas Carol.” It’s my favorite adaptation of the Charles Dickens story and Disney’s recent Blu-ray release looks and sounds wonderful (even if it is the theatrical cut that is missing the “When Love Is Gone” segment). Michael Caine is perfect as Ebenezer Scrooge and the film was the perfect tribute to Jim Henson, who died two years earlier.
Prep & Landing: Totally Tinsel Collection (Blu-ray/DVD Combo)
The “Totally Tinsel Collection” features the original “Prep & Landing” along with “Naughty vs. Nice” and the two animated shorts “Operation: Secret Santa” and “Tiny’s BIG Adventure.” The stories focus mainly on a pair of Elves, Wayne and Lanny, who are members of the prep and landing unit, who are tasked with preparing the various homes around the world for Santa’s arrival. You can watch all four stories in an hour, which makes this collection perfect for those with a limited amount of time between celebrations.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (DVD and Blu-ray)
In 1964 director Nicholas Webster unleashed this bizarre story about how Earth television programs have had an adverse influence on Martian children. Turning to their 800-year-old sage, Chochem, the Martian leaders are told that the influence cannot be undone and kidnapping Santa Claus and bringing him to Mars is their best course of action because Santa is the only man who can properly teach the children the meaning of freedom and fun.
“Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” is a goofy film with silly special effects, corny dialogue and scenery-chewing performances from the entire cast. It’s a terrible and wonderful film that has been featured on “MST3K,” “Cinematic Titanic” and ran as part of “Elivra’s Movie Macabre.” But those programs used prints that were faded and made the Martians appear to be copper in color rather than green. Kino’s new Blu-ray release presents this monstrosity as it was meant to be seen and while it doesn’t improve the narrative it does give the film the nostalgic (and somewhat naïve) sheen it deserves. I could try to tell you that the film is also a wonderful exploration of Cold War tension between the U.S.A. and the U.S.S.R., but I think that would be giving the film more credit than it is due.
(Copyright 2012 Sinclair Broadcasting Group)