Holiday Highlights 2001

Holiday Event Lisitngs

Anchor Bay Entertainment seems to have cornered the market in 80s teenage cult films. Their catalog includes classics like Emelio Estevez and Harry Dean Stanton in Repo Man, Wynona Ryder, Christian Slater, and Shannan Doherty in the mass-murder black comedy Heathers, and Kentucky Fried Movie, Jerry Abrahams and the Zucker Brothers' spoofy warm-up to Airplane!Under-thirteens might be too young but you can't be too old for this stuff. Edgy and raunchy, dark and silly, fart jokes and f-words. Hey, they could be watching Tom Green.

Other box sets and collectors editions include The Alfred Hitchcock Collection, history and military sets from A&E, The George Carlin Collection, The Bruce Lee Gift Set, Classic Steve Martin, Peanuts Classic Holiday Collection, The Honeymooners, collectors sets of SF's finest Dirty Harryand Bullitt, and BBC series such as The Avengers, The Prisoner, The Saint, and Monty Python. Packaging propers go to Artisan Entertainment for the Mars-shaped tin encasing the Total RecallDVD, and the inclusion of an ice pick pen with the Basic Instinct unrated version.

Choosing movies to give to kids requires a delicate balance between your two audiences--the kids who watch them again and again to the point of memorization-- and the parental recipients of the ad nauseam second-hand repetition. Breeders of all kinds will appreciate something like Fantasia or Yellow Submarine because they loved them as kids, or Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory's anti-brat message, while a gift such as the Home Alone Collection will bring pressured invitations to baby-sit and other curses. Movies that can be watched together once, much less several times, ought to be gold-plated.

The Incredible Adventures of Wallace and Gromit

Before the chickens ran, Wallace and Gromit were getting into plenty of their own claymation calamities. Compiled on one disc are the short films A Grand Day Out, The Wrong Trousers, and A Close Shave, where we're introduced to creator Nick Park and his unique sense of humor. Wallace's well-intentioned inventions bring the spirit of Rube Goldberg to life, and the silent but resilient Gromit is his foil. In A Close Shave, the object of his affection is Wendolene Ramsbottom--until Wallace learns she doesn't like cheese. All the stories are clever and cute, and each has a big finish.

The Hobbit

Correct children to know that prequels come out before the rest of the story. Like an army of orcs, an onslaught of hype lies just over the hill. Be prepared for the live-action Lord of the Rings movie by finding out how the hobbits got the darn ring in the first place. This animated telling of J.R.R. Tolkien's fantasy introduces us to Bilbo Baggins, Gandalf the Wizard, and the inhabitants of Middle Earth. If you can answer the riddle "Box without hinges, key or a lid, yet golden treasure inside is hid," you can proceed to the nearest multiplex on Dec. 19 for the blockbuster. If not, you need a refresher course in Gollum-speak.

It's a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World

G-Rated, harmless, time-consuming, slapstick fun. This is the Who's Who of 50's television comedy, brought together to chase after 1963 money. "Three Hundred and Fifty Thousand G's!" You can explain to the young viewers who Jonathan Winters, Buddy Hackett, Phil Silvers, Milton Berle, Sid Caesar, and Jerry Lewis are. Cameos by Carl Reiner, Buster Keaton, the Three Stooges, Don Knotts, and Norman Fell.

*The Adventures of Baron Munchausen

SA silly, somewhat psychedelic farce. The official onscreen credit goes to Ray D. Tutto, but the King of the Moon would appear to be our own Robin Williams in truly fine manic form. There's eye candy in the form of early Uma Thurman, and the perennially over-budget Terry Gilliam does a great job with the look of the rest of the film as well. That man can spend, but with good results.

The Princess Bride

It's inconceivable that anyone hasn't seen this all-ages classic. It's got Andre the Giant before we all learned to Obey, Wallace Shawn as Vizzini, the self-aggrandizing philosopher, Mandy Patinkin as the vengeance-driven Inigo Montoya, Billy Crystal and Carol Kane as the not-at-all subtly Jewish magicians, and it introduced Robin Wright before she was introduced to Mr. Penn. All this and Rob Reiner too? Believe it.

Music DVDs

With the advent of home theater systems, music-oriented movies are the best-served of any genre. Listening to the Doors out of your television's crappy speakers really minimized the Lizard King's power. But watching The Buena Vista Social Club on DVD through your amplifier is a spiritual experience. Now it makes sense to collect concert films, because the sound is as good as the compact disc and they can be played in bits and pieces or as background stimulus. And rock "n' roll movies make for some of the best late-night vegetation sessions.

Roy Orbison and Friends

I want friends like these. Guest musicians, in alphabetical order because the egos were checked at the door for this one: Jackson Browne, T Bone Burnett, Elvis Costello, k.d.lang, Bonnie Raitt, Bruce Springsteen and Tom Waits. Filmed at the Cocoanut Grove in 1987, this is the only commercially available live recording of Roy Orbison, and he sounds as amazing as ever. In an era of effects and autotuners, the throwback look of black-and-white film (not manipulated video) and Orbison's stunning vocal control hark back to the golden age of rock and roll.

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