If you've got a house full of family next week and want to keep everyone in the same room together for just a little while, picking a movie can be complicated. Pacific Rim may be the best movie of 2013 for showing off your home theater setup, but that one's going to scare off the little kids and the old people. The same goes for NBA games or whatever marginal college football bowls games are happening.
The kids might go for new releases like Despicable Me 2 or Planes, but you should really save those for a moment when you need to distract them. Man of Steel is really long and really dark. The selection of holiday movies on Netflix is truly awful.
Here are some new releases that should keep everyone entertained. Raiders of the Lost Ark, Mary Poppins and The Lone Ranger should all be available (and maybe on sale) at Amazon, Best Buy or whatever big box store you visit on your final holiday shopping trips.
Raiders of the Lost Ark is available for the first time as a single Blu-ray. Previously, you had to buy a (still available) box set with all four movies. Raiders is the best of the Indiana Jones movies and Harrison Ford actually looks like he's having a blast being a movie star, something that really stands out after recently watching him grump his way through his two Jack Ryan movies.
You know the plot, the kids probably haven't seen the movie yet and the Blu-ray transfer looks great. There's not much in the way of bonus features, but you're not going to watch bonus features with a house full of relatives. This release comes with a digital copy that you can only redeem via iTunes.
Mary Poppins gets a Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack release with an all-new digital restoration in honor of the 50th anniversary of its release and as a tie-in to Saving Mr. Banks, the new movie about the making of Mary Poppins.
This move featured state-of-the-art effects for 1964 and the live-action-meets-animation techniques hold up remarkably well for a high-def transfer. The movie is one of Disney's most loved classics for a reason and no one will complain if you end up watching this.
There's a great bonus feature on the Blu-ray that features actor Jason Schwartzman interviewing songwriter Richard Sherman about his role in creating the songs for the movie. Schwartzman plays Sherman in Saving Mr. Banks and the piece creates a nice bridge between the two movies.
(If you enjoy behind-the-scenes Hollywood pictures, Saving Mr. Banks is a great holiday movie for adults and older kids but little ones will be bored out of their minds. Even if you don't think you're interested in Disney, Tom Hanks and Emma Thompson's performances as Walt Disney and author P.L. Travers are worth a trip to the theater.)
The Lone Ranger reunited Johnny Depp with director Gore Verbinski from the first three Pirates of the Caribbean movies. The two had also collaborated on the Oscar-winning animated western Rango, so there were high hopes. Unfortunately, the movie wasn't exactly a big hit in theaters this past summer but that doesn't mean the new release on Blu-ray/DVD/Digital combo pack isn't worth a look.
Johnny Depp's performance as Tonto is even more mannered than his take on Captain Jack Sparrow, the whole thing is pretty long and Armie Hammer gives an awkwardly stiff performance as the Lone Ranger. That the white man is a dork is part of the joke here, but sometimes you wish Hammer wasn't so uncomfortable.
The action sequences are loud and noisy in the best possible way, William Fichtner makes a great villain and there's nothing here that's going to piss off Grandma. If you've got any 8-year-old boys hanging around, they're going to want to see it five or six times so it's not likely to be a bad investment.
The digital copies for both Mary Poppins and The Lone Ranger are available for your choice of iTunes, Amazon Instant Video, Vudu and Google Play.