ICE AGE: A MAMMOTH CHRISTMAS SPECIAL
DVD Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: ** (out of 5 stars)
One of the coolest things about modern animated films, particularly of the CGI variety, is the revival of holiday specials with these characters on the small screen. “Madagascar” has done this with a holiday special, and “Monsters vs. Aliens” gave us a neat Halloween special a few years ago. Throw in some “Shrek” specials and “Kung Fu Panda” spots, and you have a whole new slate of holiday-themed short films that can entertain beyond the Peanuts shows I remember from my childhood.
DISNEY’S PREP & LANDING
One of the most recent holiday specials was “Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special,” which wasted no time getting into our homes for the season, considering it aired on Thanksgiving weekend on Fox. Now, it’s available as a stand-alone DVD to watch again and again with the kids.
Running only 25 minutes, there’s no need to find a subplot for every character in the “Ice Age” backdrop, which has been an ongoing problem for the film series. This story is relatively simple, with Sid accidentally landing on the Naughty List and having to make a trip to the North Pole to make good with Santa. After more shenanigans, the “Ice Age” critters must help get Santa’s sleigh flying so Christmas isn’t canceled.
Don’t try to make too much sense from this film and how it fits into the chronology of the movies (considering the concept of Christmas hadn’t been invented yet since Christ shouldn’t be born for 20,000 years or so... or that the ice age is supposedly ending but the ice never quite melts). Just enjoy it with the established characters.
We get some interaction with Manny’s daughter, who is trying to help Sid get back on the Nice List, and the kids should enjoy the ride. As long as the kids aren’t too confused with the conflicting Christmas stories from this and other specials, it’s a cute film to enjoy with the family.
And let’s not forget the real star of the “Ice Age” movies: Scrat the saber-toothed squirrel. He gets some choice scenes in this film, and that’s what I love.
The DVD comes with a sneak peek at the new film “Ice Age: Continental Drift,” which leaves me cold because it apparently has Wanda Sykes as a lead character. There’s also a musical spot with the mini-sloths singing “Swingin’ Jingle Bells.” It’s not loaded with special features, but it’s only a 25-minute movie after all.
DVD Review by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: ***1/2 (out of 5 stars)
DVD EXPERIENCE: *** (out of 5 stars)
Another great new holiday special franchise is the Emmy award-winning “Disney’s Prep & Landing,” a computer generated short film from several years ago about the elves that prep the landing site for Santa to bring presents to the kids each year. Now the special has hit DVD with a handful of special features.
RARE EXPORTS: A CHRISTMAS TALE
The special follows Wayne, one of the Prep & Landing elves that thinks he’s destined for bigger and better things. After getting assigned a new, overly excited partner, they go on a mission only to see it start to go awry. They must use their wits to keep the secret of Santa safe and allow Christmas to come without a hitch.
John Lasseter headed this production, and while it’s not a Pixar short, it carries that same sense of wonder and fun. With another special on its way, “Prep & Landing” is a fun, witty and high-energy spot that will get the kids ready for the Christmas spirit. It adds a level of technology to Santa’s workshop that hasn’t been done as well before, and only since in “Arthur Christmas.”
The DVD comes with two “Prep & Landing” bonus shorts: “Operation Secret Santa” and “Tiny’s Big Adventure.” There’s also some cute “Kringle Academy: Elf Training Videos” as well as “North Pole News” and “North Pole Commercials.”
by Kevin Carr
MOVIE: **** (out of 5 stars)
BLU-RAY EXPERIENCE: **** (out of 5 stars)
As much as I love Christmas movies and getting into the Christmas spirit, I also love a great dark tale about Christmas. This is what you get when you check out “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale.”
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: THE ENCHANTED CHRISTMAS
This Finnish film follows a young boy Pietari, whose family raises reindeer for a living. Near their farm, an American company is digging something up from the ground. Pietari starts to research what they might be digging up, and he discovers it might be the original Santa Claus... only this isn’t the benevolent Santa most people know. Instead, it’s a demon that would punish naughty kids in the past. When Pietari’s family discovers a mysterious old man in a wolf trap, he wonders if they caught the demonic Santa.
I had heard about “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” for a while before I had a chance to see it, and I’d been told it was one of the great dark versions of a Christmas movie. Like “Gremlins” and “A Nightmare Before Christmas” to a degree, “Rare Exports” is a holiday movie for the horror movie fan.
There are genuinely creepy moments with the supposed captured Santa, who has a glare that will give you chills. Plus, considering how legends evolve, this movie makes you wonder about the evolution of the Santa legend.
“Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” is based on two short films that had generous play on the festival circuit, and both movies are included on the DVD and Blu-ray. However, the film itself holds a little too closely to these movies to deliver a somewhat substandard punch line to the feature film.
The first 95 percent of “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” is a fantastic and chilling jaunt through a dark fantasy of Christmas. The last five percent tries to keep the tradition of these short films and shoots itself in the foot. We never get the full pay-off we expect if we’ve never seen the original shorts. Knowing about them makes the ending understandable, but it could have been so much better.
But don’t let a softball ending stop you from checking this movie out... just put the kiddies to bed first.
The Blu-ray includes the two short films, a making-of documentary, a look at the concept art, animatics and scene-to-scene comparison, behind-the-scenes photo gallery and the original Finnish trailer. There’s also a bonus film included, the 1964 cult classic “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” for more family-friendly viewing.
BEAUTY AND THE BEAST: BELLE’S MAGICAL WORLD – SPECIAL EDITION
In time for Christmas and the whet the appetite of Disney fans for the 3D release of “Beauty and the Beast” in theaters this winter, the Mouse House has released two direct-to-video movies from the 90s following Belle’s stay with the Beast over the year of the feature film.
“Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas” is available on special edition Blu-ray with the 1997 direct-to-video sequel. The story is told from Mrs. Potts’ point of view about how a scheming court composer is trying to keep Belle from finding love with Beast.
The Blu-ray comes in a combo pack with the DVD. There’s a sing-along story included with the message for kids to keep trying. The movie is also available in sing-along mode or with the song selection. There’s also a behind-the-scenes featurette and a music video for “As Long As There’s Christmas.” Plus, to get into the warm holiday spirit, the Blu-ray also features “Enchanted Environment,” which brings the crackling fireplace into your living room.
The second film, sold separately, is “Beauty and the Beast: Belle’s Magical World,” which hit the home video market in 1998. The story follows Belle as she works with all the enchanted characters in her new home to fix up the gloomy castle into a charming place to live. Running about 20 minutes longer than “The Enchanted Christmas,” “Belle’s Magical World” is only available on DVD.
Bonus features on the DVD include another “Sing Me a Story” feature which teaches the kids to look beyond people’s outside appearances. There’s also a set-top game “Belle’s Delightful Dinner Game” and a song selection mode. Finally, like “The Enchanted Christmas,” there is an “Enchanted Environment” mode to bring the warm fire into your home.
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