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Holiday classics make their way down the chimney again

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Preston Barta

Each year we see a few festive holiday classics in entertainment restored for modern consumption, and this holiday season sees some cheerful releases for the whole family to enjoy.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

Rated PG, 120 minutes.

Available today on Blu-ray, DVD and Digital HD.

3.5 of 5 stars

Most probably consider 1990’s Home Alone a holiday favorite. There’s just something so fun and humorous about watching a young, clever boy named Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin) terrorize a couple of crooks (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern) trying to rob his neighborhood while he’s home by himself for Christmas. Because when we’re young, naturally, we like to fantasize about the idea of freedom and all its possibilities. But since this is real life and not a Hollywood movie, we lived that scenario out in movies like Home Alone and its equally entertaining sequel.

Home Alone 2: Lost in New York admittedly takes a lazy route to forming its story, but the change of setting (New York), new characters (the pigeon lady, goofy hotel staff and toy store owner) and inventive debauchery toward the crooks, who, again, rob another place under Kevin’s nose, are good enough to keep us in the game. Because really, this isn't a movie to hold in as high regard as most sequels, like the new Star Wars film.

Turning 25 this year, Home Alone 2 is simply more of the same, but it's a pleasing second helping. Kevin hurts some people who have it coming, you laugh and, at the end of it all, you get a warm and toasty message about the importance of family.

Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (2.5 stars) - Whether we like it or not, most of us have been dragged to a Nutcracker performance. Lord knows I've seen quite a few of them at Texas Woman's University — and truth be told, I look forward to it. However, 1986’s Nutcracker: The Motion Picture, which has been restored through Olive Films (available today), is a ballet with no legs. It's quite literally like watching a live-taping of the classic story, only the film never uses its medium for anything worthwhile.

Just in time for Christmas comes 'The Nutcracker: The Motion Picture.' Sugar Plum Fairies, toy soldiers, and combative mice bring the famous ballet to life and on your television screen.Hyperion Pictures
Just in time for Christmas comes 'The Nutcracker: The Motion Picture.' Sugar Plum Fairies, toy soldiers, and combative mice bring the famous ballet to life and on your television screen.
Hyperion Pictures

I give it points for some colorful handcrafted backgrounds and committed performances, but honestly, I can just go watch another local performance and make a better evening of it. The only good use the film has is its soundtrack, which my newborn son appreciates before nap time.

Rated G, 86 minutes.

CBS Christmas Specials (3.5 stars) - Whenever we watch television around the holidays, our favorite series tend to play holiday-themed episodes. Whether it's Friends or The Office, it's nice to see TV characters celebrate and share the same stresses as we do in comical fashion.

Though sold separately, CBS has released a Christmas collection of their network shows on DVD.

Frasier: Christmas Episodes - Personally, I was never much a fan of this show growing up. I don't know if it's because I was a kid at the time of its airing and didn't relate to its adult issues, but the whole mood of show didn't do it for me. 

ORG XMIT: NBC108 NBC108 11/14/95 -- 'CHRISTMAS IN WASHINGTON' - 'NBC Special' -- TELECAST DATE: Wed., Dec. 13 (10-11p.m. ET)  --- PICTURED: (l-r) David Mahoney, Jane Leeves, Kelsey Grammer, Peri Gilpin, David Hyde Pierce --- CAST OF NBC'S EMMY-WINNING 'FRASIER' HOST YULETIDE SPECIAL FROM NATION'S CAPITAL --- The cast of NBC's multi-Emmy Award-winning comedy series -- John Mahoney, Jane Leeves, Kelsey Grammer, Peri Gilpin and David Hyde Pierce -- hosts 'Christmas in Washington,' an all-star musical celebration of the Christmas season from Washington, D.C.  This year's roster of award-winning music artists features a variety of celebrated performers including country artist Clint Black, popular vocalist Gloria Estefan and the talented Al Green.  NBC will telecast this 14th annual holiday special featuring traditional carols, gospel songs and contemporary seasonal music performed before an invited  audiences of dignitaries -- expected to include President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as many of the nation's lawmakers and other top government officials. -- NBC PHOTO: Andrew Eccles.NBC
ORG XMIT: NBC108 NBC108 11/14/95 -- 'CHRISTMAS IN WASHINGTON' - 'NBC Special' -- TELECAST DATE: Wed., Dec. 13 (10-11p.m. ET) --- PICTURED: (l-r) David Mahoney, Jane Leeves, Kelsey Grammer, Peri Gilpin, David Hyde Pierce --- CAST OF NBC'S EMMY-WINNING 'FRASIER' HOST YULETIDE SPECIAL FROM NATION'S CAPITAL --- The cast of NBC's multi-Emmy Award-winning comedy series -- John Mahoney, Jane Leeves, Kelsey Grammer, Peri Gilpin and David Hyde Pierce -- hosts 'Christmas in Washington,' an all-star musical celebration of the Christmas season from Washington, D.C. This year's roster of award-winning music artists features a variety of celebrated performers including country artist Clint Black, popular vocalist Gloria Estefan and the talented Al Green. NBC will telecast this 14th annual holiday special featuring traditional carols, gospel songs and contemporary seasonal music performed before an invited audiences of dignitaries -- expected to include President Bill Clinton and First Lady Hillary Rodham Clinton, as well as many of the nation's lawmakers and other top government officials. -- NBC PHOTO: Andrew Eccles.
NBC

Watching its eight Christmas specials today, however, it goes down smooth as eggnog. It features the usual suspects (Kelsey Grammer, David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Jane Leeves and Peri Gilpin) in some dilemmas during Christmas time. They poke fun at Christmas movies we know and love and still manage to be playful and funny in their own right.

Not rated, about 178 minutes.

The Brady Bunch: A Very Brady Christmas - For the first time on DVD, the lovely 1988 Christmas movie featuring the wild Brady family (Florence Henderson, Robert Reed and Ann B. Davis, to name a few) is being released. Fans of the show will definitely want to revisit this above-average reunion TV movie, while newbies will appreciate its grand sense of familial love.

Not rated, 93 minutes.

The Honeymooners: Christmas Laughter - Jackie Gleason is an absolute joy to watch. His 1955 Christmas episode sees his character, Ralph Kramden, looking for the perfect gift for his wife Alice (Audrey Meadows). However, he kind of spends his entire budget on a gift for himself. Sometimes we get selfish during the holidays, and this Christmas special understands that and shows how to avoid those bad thoughts.

Not rated, about 156 minutes.

In this 1955 file photo, the cast of "The Honeymooners" from left: Jackie Gleason, Audrey Meadows, Art Carney and Joyce Randolph, appear in character as, respectively, Ralph and Alice Kramden and Ed and Trixie Norton. SAP
In this 1955 file photo, the cast of "The Honeymooners" from left: Jackie Gleason, Audrey Meadows, Art Carney and Joyce Randolph, appear in character as, respectively, Ralph and Alice Kramden and Ed and Trixie Norton. S
AP

Sabrina the Teenage Witch: The Christmas Episodes - This collection is two hours of, dare I say, spellbinding episodes of Sabrina Spellman (Melissa Joan Hart), her aunts (Caroline Rhea and Beth Broderick) and her cat Salem (voiced with hilarity by Nick Bakay) unwrapping a series of predicaments during the holidays. One key episode features Sabrina stepping in for Santa. It's nothing truly extraordinary, but it's solid family entertainment with a magical kick.

Not rated, 127 minutes.

FEATURED IMAGE: Joe Pesci, left, Macaulay Culkin, center and Daniel Stern, right, in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. 

PRESTON BARTA is a member of the Dallas-Fort Worth Film Critics Association. Read his work on FreshFiction.tv. Follow him on Twitter at @PrestonBarta.