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Christmas Movies and TV on Amazon

Christmas can be pretty overwhelming. On Amazon.com, it can be a real hassle sorting out the wheat from the chaff when it comes to decent holiday movies and TV specials, and picking between the many different versions available for some of the titles.

Below, for your convenience, are links to what I think are among the best of all the Christmas movies and TV specials available—and to what I think are likely to be the best and most appropriate of the various versions and editions. I have also created an Amazon store containing most of the same entries.

Holiday Movies on DVD from Amazon:

Classics / More Traditional

White Christmas, with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye

White Christmas (Anniversary Edition)—the classic. Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are buddies serving together in the army. After WWII ends, they go into show business together, and are a big hit.  Too big. Danny Kaye wants to set Bing up with a woman so he can have a rest.  And then they meet two Vera Ellen and Rosemary Clooney…

Holiday Inn (3 Disc Collector’s Set)—Bing Crosby starts an inn that only opens on holidays, each time with a special, thematic floor show. Fred Astaire is his best friend. And they’re both in love with the same girl.

Cary Grant in The Bishop's Wife

The Bishop’s Wife—with Cary Grant, Loretta Young, and David Niven. Hard to go wrong with a cast like this. Cary Grant is maybe typecast—as an angel—but he brings restraint as well as charm, and a level of mystery and seriousness to his performance.  One of my favorite Christmas movies.

Miracle on 34th Street (Special Edition)—Santa Claus goes on trial.  A bit over-rated—the slightest of the old Christmas classics—a bit too sappy, but Edmund Gwenn is charming.

It’s a Wonderful Life (60th Anniversary Edition) / It’s a Wonderful Life [Blu-ray]—Zuzu’s petals!  It’s Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed and Frank Capra. One of the mega-classics of the season. It can get old after too many viewings, but give it a few years… The sequence with the school dance is still a knock-out.

TCM Holiday Collection: Christmas in Connecticut 1945 / A Christmas Carol 1938 / The Shop Around the Corner / It Happened on 5th AvenueShop Around the Corner is the film on which You’ve Got Mail was based, but the original, directed by the great romantic comedy director Ernst Lubitsch and starring a very young James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan, is infinitely superior.

Meet Me In St. Louis (Two-Disc Special Edition)—Vincente Minnelli directs Judy Garland in this integrated music, one of the finest, about the World’s Fair coming to St. Louis. The Christmas scene is a real tear-jerker and has long justified its inclusion in the canon of Christmas movies.

The Sound of Music (45th Anniversary Edition) (Two-Disc Blu-ray/DVD Combo)—I’m not entirely sure how this became a “Christmas classic,” but it did, and while it has its weaknesses, it is charming, and of course Julie Andrews is radiant and almost always worth watching and listening to. In one of my households, the tradition was to watch this while wrapping presents and drinking heavily.

TCM Greatest Classic Films Collection: American Musicals (The Band Wagon / Meet Me in St. Louis / Singin’ in the Rain / Easter Parade)—These are all very good musicals, Singin’ in the Rain, obviously the greatest… and Easter Parade perhaps the weakest, in part I think because Fred Astaire is playing a role originally meant for Gene Kelly.  All fine and must see viewing for anyone interested in the musical.  Musicals in general seem particularly festive, particularly suited to the holiday season, and the inclusion of a “Christmas classic” in Meet Me in St. Louis gives extra weight to the appropriateness of including this here.

Modern Classics/Favorites

Bill Murray in Scrooged

Scrooged—Bill Murray is a TV exec who schedules a live musical version of “A Christmas Carol” for Christmas Eve, has his secretary send his brother a present, and fires a guy. Then this ghost shows up.  Bill Murray is… Bill Murray and the movie is surprisingly charming in parts, even touching. I actually never get tired of this movie.

The Polar Express (Widescreen Edition)—Tom Hanks gives an interesting performance, and it is technically quite impressive. It’s not without its touching moments, but overall it feels a bit cold to me. Still, for many people a very good Christmas movie.

Love Actually (DVD)—and, you know, actually I do love this movie – just a little, but still. The cast is truly stellar: Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant… and of course Bilbo Baggins, porn stand-in.

A Christmas Story — I avoided this for years because of the picture of the kid on the cover/poster and the description, which made it sound a bit like a cheesy, low-budget Hallmark special. I was stupid. It’s great, and has a very Christmasy feel without being overly treacly and twee.

Bad-Santa

Bad Santa — Has to be seen. Billy Bob Thornton plays a conman who takes a job as a mall Santa to rob the place with the help of an elf. But they run into a troubled kid and… Kind of genuinely heartwarming in the end.

Die Hard — Weirdly, for many people, this has become a sort of Christmas classic… It’s set during Christmas time, and has a happy ending and all that. And I think lots of us appreciate the change of pace the automatic gunfire provides…

Gremlins — Like Die Hard, a movie set during Christmas that has become a quirky alternative classic.

Holiday TV Specials on DVD from Amazon:

How the Grinch Stole Christmas—The original, one and only. Directed by the great Chuck Jones, narrated by Boris Karloff (aka The Mummy, Frankenstein’s monster – in one of the most inspired and deeply weird bit of casting of all time) and a theme song sung by Tony the Tiger (no kidding—actually the voice of Thurl Ravenscroft, who did the original Tony in the TV ads).

A Charlie Brown Christmas (Remastered Deluxe Edition)—You might get tired of Charlie Brown’s tired tree, but it is impossible to ever grow tired of the dance sequence. And of course the music is terrific. And the way the adult voices are handled is smart, funny, and apt.

olive

Olive the Other Reindeer—The “Christmas classic” is a tough market to break into, but for me at least, Olive the Other Reindeer jumped straight into the category.  I can’t wait to share it with people who haven’t seen it yet.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964 Rankin/Bass version on DVD)—Is this a classic? I’m not sure. But for people who saw it as kids, it might seem like it from pure nostalgia. Try watching it with your kids and see if it still can cut it after Shaun the SheepToy Story and Polar Express, etc. Maybe the animation is too dated.  And of course the story was always suspect, being a made-up marketing ploy.

Santa Claus Is Comin to Town—A 1970 claymation TV special that tells the story of Santa’s origins. Like Rudolph, it’s possible that its charms are primarily those of nostalgia and it won’t do as well with the sophisticated tastes of today’s 8 year old. But it is narrated by Fred Astaire and features the voices by Mickey Rooney and Keenan Wynn, and at times reflects the “hip” values and imagery of the late 60s/early 70s. I might have to watch this again.

The Original Christmas Classics (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer / Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town / Frosty the Snowman / Frosty Returns) [Blu-ray]—a grab bag including some of the best of the old TV specials—Rudolph, Santa Claus. With Frosty Returns thrown in, I suppose out of some need for completeness or a round number; despite the voice of Jimmy Durante, skippable..

The Original Christmas Classics (Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer/Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town/Frosty the Snowman/Frosty Returns/Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol/Little Drummer Boy/Cricket on the Hearth)—a non-Blu-ray grab bag with the same good ones, and Mr. Magoo. I was never a fan of that guy.

Tchaikovsky: Nutcracker – San Francisco Ballet (DVD)—not exactly a TV special, but a great performance of a traditional “perennial holiday tradition” that I think most people have never actually seen, and which these days, in the live version, is beyond most people’s budget.

 

Filed under: Movies, TV,

Entertainment Weekly celebrating 50 Years of Doctor Who

Cover-EW-1252-Clara

‘Doctor Who': This Week’s Cover | PopWatch | EW.com.

Filed under: TV, ,

The Best Doctor Who Scene Ever (an update)

The Doctor Who clip I wrote about earlier was taken down, but here is an even longer, better quality version of the same scene from “The Unicorn and the Wasp” – quite possibly the best scene ever in the Doctor Who reboot (though I am sure some would pick a scene with the young Amelia Pond, such as ‘fish fingers and custard‘):

And you can watch the whole episode online through Amazon instant video.

For more…

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Women of Star Trek

A trip down memory lane with the original Star Trek.  Dig those groovy interplanetary hairdos…

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

For more…

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Game of Thrones and the severed head of George W. Bush

HBO Yanks Bush Head ‘Game of Thrones’ Episode, Halts DVD Shipments:

HBO is continuing to do damage control after producers confirmed that a model of President George W. Bush’s severed head appeared in the season one finale of Game of Thrones.

The premium cable network has pulled the 10th episode of the drama from rotation on digital platforms — including HBO Go and iTunes — and halted all future shipments of its best-selling Season 1 DVD set, The Hollywood Reporter has confirmed.

In addition, the dramatic end to the freshman season of the series adapted from George R.R. Martin’s books will be edited for all future airings both domestically and internationally, according to a new statement from HBO, which further reprimanded showrunners David Benioff and D.B. Weiss. (via Hollywood Reporter

So do what I just did and order your copy now, while you still can enjoy this politically charged easter egg-ish bit of in-movie humor:

Game of Thrones: The Complete First Season – on Amazon.com

I have to confess – I haven’t watched any of the show yet.  I suppose I was put off by my increasing discomfort with the violence, particularly the sexual violence, in the books, of which I read the first three.  I also “cut the cord” with cable, and that has drastically changed my viewing habits – shifting me from the current trends back to my first and most fundamental love, old movies.  That, plus what I can get through the library, and as you might imagine, “Game of Thrones” has a long waiting list.

If you want to start with the books before watching the TV show, and from what I have heard that’s a pretty good idea, they are available through Powells.com:

Or of course through your local library (eg, the San Francisco Public Library, which has it in both electronic and old-fashioned paper copies).

 

 

You know… It’s possible that putting in the severed head of our last president was a clever plan to boost DVD sales and/or interest in the show, ready to be leaked when needed. In which case, I’ve just been the victim of viral marketing. Oh well.  I can always give it to some Republican friend for Christmas.

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Nerdware: Put a bird on it

Once again, following Hugh Tracy’s 1st Law, if you have to ask… you don’t know.

“Portland Nolympics” T-Shirts & Hoodies by Tom Kurzanski | RedBubble.

Filed under: Nerdware, TV, , , ,

Nerdvana: Space: 1999 reboot in the works

‘Space: 2099′ to Be Revived for Television – The Hollywood Reporter.

ITV Studios America and HDFILMS have announced plans to relaunch Gerry and Sylvia Anderson’s 1970s TV series, Space:1999 — as Space: 2099. (A show called Space:1999 now would have to be about some routine shuttle mission, rather than about a moon base.)

The original series starred Martin Landau as Walter Koenig, Commander of Moonbase Alpha, and Barbara Bain as the base’s chief medical officer.  The moon is blasted out of orbit by cataclysmic explosions at nuclear waste storage depots and the base’s surviving personal must each week cope with new dangers which their wondering home encounters.

The premise was far-fetched, to say the least, but it provided a platform for an often compelling science fiction series that was marked by, at least in the early episodes, a greater realism than Star Trek had provided – interstellar flying moon notwithstanding – and a look that seemed both futuristic and plausible, more indebted to 2001: A Space Odyssey than any other science fiction film or TV series.

It didn’t fare well in the ratings or with critics, though, and in the second season an attractive shape-shifting alien was introduce to liven things up. Unfortunately, she played to the show’s weaknesses more than its strengths, making it seem even less plausible and adding cheesy special effects on top of it.

But I was a huge fan of the first season, and have watched some of those episodes with pleasure in recent years, so I’m pleased and hopeful about this reboot.  What they are going to do about the whole “moon blasted out of orbit” aspect, I have no idea.  Recent discoveries of wandering planets throughout our galaxy might seem to lend some plausibility to the idea, but it’s difficult to imagine any realistic mechanism that would set the moon adrift — at interstellar speeds no less — but not destroy it (not to mention all life on Earth as well).

Further details on the reboot can be found on io9Why Space: 2099 Won’t Be a “Dark and Gritty” Reboot of Space: 1999.

For more…

Filed under: TV, , ,

At last: an Amy Pond Action Figure

BIG Chief Studios Ltd. is proud to announce the Amy Pond 1:6 Scale Collector Figure, officially licensed and authorised by BBC Worldwide. Featuring a fully realised character portrait of “the girl who waited” as portrayed by actress Karen Gillan, authentically styled hand-tailored detailed costume, signature accessories and a partial TARDIS display base. (via Big Chief Studios.)

Given some of the comments on my previous post on the “pornification of Amy Pond” – not to mention the fact that this pose looks awfully close to that of a lady of negotiable virtue – I expect to see some interesting DIY outfits and accessories emerging pretty quickly.

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It’s Saturday morning, fool

Filed under: Pop Culture, TV, , , , , ,

Nerdware: Flippin’ Awesome

Moss is the Boss

Moss: T-Shirts & Hoodies | RedBubble.

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A bad day for Netflix

Netflix stocks took a big hit from two significant changes to the company’s service today. First, their controversial new pricing structure went into effect. Customers who want both DVDs through the mail and unlimited streaming will see a 60 percent price increase. Perhaps worse was the other news of the day: premium cable channel Starz announced that it will not renew its distribution deal with Netflix, which will expire in February 2012. The cable channel supplies Neflix with both Sony and Walt Disney films so the blow is significant, though Netflix says that Starz only accounts for about 8% of its subscribers’ viewing.

The news about Starz pulling out of its deal with Netflix comes as uncertainty continues to swirl around the other online streaming film and television service, Hulu.  Hulu is a joint venture of NBC Universal, Fox Entertainment, and ABC, which is part of Disney. But early this year both Fox and Disney discussed pulling their content from Hulu and the company is up for sale.  Most recently, Fox started holding back new episodes of its TV shows from Hulu—resulting in a surge of pirate downloads of those shows, but also making Hulu look even shakier.

It’s clear that even as more and more companies move “into the cloud”—with Amazon, Google and Apple all launching cloud music services, and even the Federal government committing to working in the cloud—the film and TV industry is becoming increasingly wary of streaming video services like Hulu and Netflix, seeing potential revenue streaming away under new models of viewership in which they have less control.

No doubt they are investigating new models that will give them a greater share of the revenues, just as magazines and newspapers (such as the Financial Times) are doing in relation to Apple’s iTunes pricing schemes. That may mean going it alone. In the short term, though, what it will probably mean for viewers is being stuck with the old models, and in particular with cable television.

For more…

Filed under: Movies, TV, , , , ,

Nerdware: Now more than ever, with The Big Bang Theory

With the continuing success of The Big Bang Theory and the popularity of everyone’s favorite über nerd, Sheldon Cooper – whose wardrobe consists largely of comic book superhero t-shirts and old-school golf slacks – it seemed long past time to return to the subject of nerdware…

Contrary to the overly familiar icons and images on Sheldon’s t-shirts, I think it is of the essence for the true nerd t-shirt to be obscure, the image only recognizable by a proper fellow nerd – like these, maybe:

Read the rest of this entry »

Filed under: Fashion, TV, , ,

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zerode

is an over-caffeinated and under-employed grad school dropout, aspiring leftwing intellectual and cultural studies academic, film buff and occasional reviewer, and former private detective. Raised in San Francisco on classic film, radical politics, burritos and soul music, then set loose upon the world. He spends his time in coffee shops with his laptop and headphones, caffeinating and trying to construct a post-whatever life.

 

What's in a name... The handle "zerode" is a contraction of Zéro de Conduite, the title of Jean Vigo's 1933 movie masterpiece about schoolboy rebellion.

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