The following article was written by my friend and colleague Alonso Duralde. You can learn more about him HERE.

Whether you’re stuffing the stocking of a physical-media fan or just building up your own holiday home-video library, there’s an eclectic selection of media guaranteed to spice up your Christmas.

Holiday Horrors and Thrillers

The 4K release of 2022’s sleeper hit Violent Night (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment) – starring David Harbour as an exhausted Santa who has to face off with a team of criminals headed by John Leguizamo – is one of several new releases that color way outside the lines of what has traditionally been considered holiday entertainment. Also getting 4K reissues are two classics set at the holidays but not always considered “Christmas movies”: Sydney Pollack’s 1975 espionage thriller 3 Days of the Condor (KL Studio Classics), starring Robert Redford as a CIA agent who discovers his entire division is being eliminated with extreme prejudice, and Charles Laughton’s still-creepy The Night of the Hunter, which offers a sweet holiday capper to a brilliantly unsettling story.

Perhaps the greatest combination of the Christmas holiday and horror is Disney’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, celebrating its 30th anniversary with a 4K Ultimate Collector’s Edition that has hi-def fans swooning. Leaning even more into the spooky side is Christmas Bloody Christmas (RLJE Films), starring Abraham Benrubi as a Santa robot that goes berserk, and The Mean One (DeskPop Entertainment), which takes a decidedly unsettling look at a beloved Christmas-stealing hermit.

Deck the Ha-Ha-Halls

Defuse your holiday stress with some Christmas comedy: Richard Donner’s beloved 1988 Scrooged (Paramount Home Entertainment) makes its 4K debut with new special features (including a commentary from the late filmmaker), and if that’s not enough workplace hilarity for you, The Office: Complete Christmas Collection (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment) compiles every Dunder Mifflin holiday episode from this long-running fave. Shaun the Sheep: The Flight Before Christmas (Shout Factory) sees the Aardman Animation icon coming to the rescue while his American counterpart cuts a rug in Sesame Street: Elmo’s Holiday Spectacular: The Nutcracker and Other Tales (Shout Factory).

The very strange French-Canadian kid’s movie The Christmas Martian (Canadian International Pictures) gets a Blu-ray that seems guaranteed to bulk up the film’s cult following. Legendary comedy writer Bruce Vilanch and actor-impersonator Michael Airington team up to give audiences the holiday extravaganza that never was with Making the Yuletide Gay: A Very Special Paul Lynde Christmas (Cinephobia Releasing), with a triumvirate of legendary drag-queen guests: Jackie Beat, Lady Bunny, and Jack Plotnick as Evie Harris.

The ultimate holiday rom-com, Love Actually (Universal Pictures Home Entertainment) celebrates its 20th birthday with a new 4K release (and a week-long theatrical reissue), and the long-awaited sequel A Christmas Story Christmas (Warner Bros. Discovery) makes its physical-media debut, lest you worried Ralphie’s return would be governed entirely by the whims of streaming.

Hallmark and Lifetime and Company

Over the last decade or so, no single player in the realm of Christmas movies has changed the game as much as the Hallmark Channel, whose hugely popular holiday romances has carved out a whole new (and massively popular) sub-genre. And while the network reruns their holiday films 24/7 from the week before Halloween to New Year’s Eve, they also release DVDs for cord-cutters and film-library keepers alike.

This year’s releases include the channel’s 2022 highest-rated hits, Haul Out the Holly and Three Wise Men and a Baby, along with A Royal Christmas Crush / Take Me Back for Christmas (Hallmark’s two Christmas in July features for 2023), Time for Him to Come for Christmas, The Gift of Peace, Five More Minutes: Moments Like These, A Maple Valley Christmas, A Magical Christmas Village, and A Christmas Cookie Catastrophe. If you’re in the mood to binge, they’ve also got 3-Movie Collections – Lights, Camera, Christmas! / Undercover Holiday / A Cozy Christmas Inn, Our Italian Christmas Memories / Long Lost Christmas / We Need a Little Christmas, Holiday Heritage / All Saints Christmas / Inventing the Christmas PrinceVolume 2 and Volume 3 of their 6-movie collections, and even a 9-movie collection. (The latter features some of Hallmark’s most charming recent titles, including the LGBTQ+-inclusive The Holiday Sitter as well as Christmas at the Golden Dragon, In Merry Measure, and ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas.)

Not to be outdone, Lifetime offers Volume 5 and Volume 6 of their A Very Merry Movie Collection, each featuring a dozen titles, including the first two installments of their popular Merry Liddle Christmas franchise. Dolly Parton, a one-woman Christmas franchise all to herself, returns with Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas (Warner Bros. Discovery+). Shout Factory offers the Christmas in the Country Double Feature, featuring Colorado Christmas and The Great Christmas Switch, while Mill Creek Entertainment presents a Holiday 3-Film Collection (Christmas with the Knightlys, Christmas in Big Sky Country, Christmas in Maple Hills) as well as An Angelic Christmas.

Finally, the TV classic Babes in Toyland (KL Studio Classics) takes another crack at this holiday chestnut, with the once-in-a-lifetime pairing of Drew Barrymore and Keanu Reeves (alongside Richard Mulligan and Pat Morita).

Film-Nerd Fun for Kids and Adults

The folks behind the delightful card game Cinephile have also been publishing children’s books for budding cinephiles, and this holiday season they return with three new one: My First Hollywood Musical, My First Spaghetti Western, and My First Yakuza Movie. Get those young’uns started on genre early, and they’ll never look back.

Leonard Maltin is one of the world’s most respected film critics and historians. He is best known for his widely-used reference work Leonard Maltin’s Movie Guide and its companion volume Leonard Maltin’s Classic Movie Guide, now in its third edition, as well as his thirty-year run on television’s Entertainment Tonight. He teaches at the USC School of Cinematic Arts and appears regularly on Reelz Channel and Turner Classic Movies. His books include The 151 Best Movies You’ve Never Seen, Of Mice and Magic: A History of American Animated Cartoons, The Great Movie Comedians, The Disney Films, The Art of the Cinematographer, Movie Comedy Teams, The Great American Broadcast, and Leonard Maltin’s Movie Encyclopedia. He served two terms as President of the Los Angeles Film Critics Association, is a voting member of the National Film Registry, and was appointed by the Librarian of Congress to sit on the Board of Directors of the National Film Preservation Foundation. He hosted and co-produced the popular Walt Disney Treasures DVD series and has appeared on innumerable television programs and documentaries. He has been the recipient of awards from the American Society of Cinematographers, the Telluride Film Festival, Anthology Film Archives, and San Diego’s Comic-Con International. Perhaps the pinnacle of his career was his appearance in a now-classic episode of South Park. (Or was it Carmela consulting his Movie Guide on an episode of The Sopranos?) He holds court at Follow him on Twitter and Facebook; you can also listen to him on his weekly podcast: Maltin on Movies. — [Artwork by Drew Friedman]

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May 2024