- The Washington Times - Friday, December 5, 2014

Here’s a selection of top gift ideas for the ho-ho home entertainment watcher in the family.

Holiday Inn (Universal Home Entertainment, Not Rated, $22.98) — The 1942 movie musical that debuted one of the most well known holiday songs every written arrives digitally remastered and restored in the Blu-ray format.

Bing Crosby’s belting out Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” proved to be a historic chart topper just as the United States was entering World War II.

The film’s story revolves around the Ted Hanover and Jim Hardy, friends and part of an established night club act. When Jim decides to retire to Connecticut to manage first a farm and then an inn, Ted continues to mess up his life by stealing or attempting to steal his love interests, both Lila (Virginia Dale) and Linda (Majorie Reynolds).

Throughout, viewers get a steady stream of clever romantic banter, song and some impeccable dance routines from Astaire tied to many holidays, not just Christmas, though we still get to see plenty of snowy scenes.

Besides getting both a black-and-white and colorized version of the film (stick to the black-and-white version), the best extras include an optional commentary track from film historian Ken Barnes and a featurette looking at the careers of Astaire and Crosby with even Astaire’s daughter Ava offering some memories.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: 50th Anniversary Collector’s Edition (Classic Media, Not Rated, $17.99) — The most famous reindeer of all returns to home entertainment centers in this special Blu-ray release.

Famed stop-motion animators Rankin and Bass brought the origin tale of Rudolph to life, debuting on the NBC Network in a one-hour special way back in December of 1964.

The cartoon remains a classic thanks, in part, to Burl Ives as the narrator and Sam the Snowman; the reindeer’s visit to the Island of Misfit Toys; an encounter with a not-so-scary Bumble, the Abominable Snow Monster; and songs such as “Silver and Gold,” “A Holly Jolly Christmas” and, of course, “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer.”

The disc offers not only remastered version of the Animagic production but video sing-alongs, lessons on drawing some of the characters, a version of the story as a virtual pop-up book and a bundle of 50 facts about the production and its lore.

Irving Berlin’s White Christmas: Diamond Anniversary Edition (Paramount Home Entertainment, Not Rated, $27.99) — The quintessential feel-good holiday movie returns to the DVD and Blu-ray format in this four-disc set honoring its debut 60 years ago.

Viewers get a simple story about a Broadway musical producer team (Bob Wallace and Phil Davis) surviving World War II and eventually helping their former commander with his bruised ego and a struggling bed and breakfast in Pine Tree Vermont. The musical comedy starred Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney.

However, the real stars were often the tunes with Bing singing “White Christmas,” the girls (and guys) belting out “Sisters,” the quartet pining for “Snow: and Kaye singing and dancing through the Avant-garde “Choreography.”

The extras are bountiful. Highlights new to this release include an optional, sing-along subtitle track; the 1955, Kaye-hosted documentary “Assignment Children” featuring the work of UNICEF; photo galleries; and classic televised holiday clips from the two male stars such as Kaye singing “Jingle Bells” with Nat King Cole in 1963.

Additionally, Paramount tosses in a 12-song CD offering such Yuletide nuggets as Rosemary Clooney singing “Winter Wonderland” and “Santa Claus Is Coming To Town” and a powerhouse performance of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” from Bing Crosby and Judy Garland.


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