Under the Radar

2016 Home Video Gift Guide

If you're way behind on your holiday shopping and staring down the deadline, here are a few great home video gift ideas that can bail you out and they're all available online.

Bob Hope - Hope for the Holidays

Talk about an entertainment spectacular: Jack Benny, Redd Fox, Red Skelton, Bing Crosby, Naomi and Wynonna Judd, The Muppets and First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt join Bob Hope in Hope for the Holidays, a collection compiled from his Christmas TV specials dating back to 1950.

Highlights from this collection include:

  • A compilation of Bob's monologues from his many holiday tours for the USO
  • Bob and Red Skelton (Freddie the Freeloader) experience a small Christmas miracle
  • Jack Benny visits Santa at the North Pole for a holiday stickup
  • Former First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt delivers a Christmas message of historical note
  • Naomi and Wynonna Judd sing "Beautiful Star of Bethlehem"
  • Lily Pons, Robert Cummings and Bob examine a large, mysterious package under the tree
  • Bob and Dolores Hope sing "Silver Bells" over a montage of him performing the song with an array of female costars from 17 holiday specials
  • Clips of the most hilarious Christmas sketches throughout the years 


The Marx Brothers Silver Screen Collection


This restored Silver Screen Collection features the only five Marx Brothers films that star all four brothers. Groucho, Harpo, Chico and Zeppo and they're on Blu-ray for the first time ever. You get The Cocoanuts (1929), Animal Crackers (1930), Monkey Business (1931), Horse Feathers (1932) and Duck Soup (1933). There's a commentary track from a different film historian for each movie. They definitely look better than they did on DVD but you shouldn't expect the kind of epic restoration given to titles like Citizen Kane.

The Marx Brothers approached film as an extension of their vaudeville stage act. There's always an element of barely-contained chaos onscreen and the kind of off-the-cuff silliness that should be familiar to Will Ferrell fans.

Zeppo (the least goofy one) retired after Duck Soup and the Groucho, Harper and Gummo went on to make the classics A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races, but they were never really the same without Zeppo as their straight man.

These are the first great comedy talkies. Anyone too young to remember the Marx Brothers will be shocked and delighted by these movies.


Gregory Peck - Centennial Collection


In honor of the 100th anniversary of Gregory Peck's birth, Universal has repackaged two of his finest movies in the 2-disc Centennial Collection. Both To Kill a Mockingbird and Cape Fear were released in 1962 and it's hard to imagine two movies will less in common; watch them back-to-back and you'll realize what a powerful screen presence Peck was at his peak.

Cape Fear is a pulpy thriller. Peck plays Sam Bowden, a small-town lawyer whose family's life is turned upside down when Max Cady (Robert Mitchum) is paroled. Bowden's testimony put the violent criminal is prison and Cady is out for revenge. The movie is really a boilerplate for all the (more violent) slasher movies that came in the '70s and '80s. Peck and Mitchum both realize they're in an over-the-top melodrama and they play off each other in a spectacular way. There's a "making of" documentary on the disc. Martin Scorsese remade Cape Fear in 1991 with Nick Nolte in the Gregory Peck role and Robert De Niro as Max Cady, but that later version failed to match the menace found in the original.

Peck won a Best Actor Oscar as Atticus Finch in To Kill a Mockingbird and the movie, based on the Harper Lee novel, remains one of the best-loved Hollywood movies about the American South. Yet another small-town lawyer, Finch stands up to local prejudice and tries to mount an effective defense for a man falsely accused of rape. This disc includes the full-length documentary A Conversation With Gregory Peck, several short featurettes and commentary from director Robert Mulligan and producer Alan J. Pakula.

Both movies come with your choice of iTunes or Ultraviolet digital copies and the set includes a folder with reproductions of the movie posters and set photos.


Chicago Cubs - 2016 World Series Champions


This is a spectacular gift for the long-suffering Chicago Cubs fan. At this point, their World Series victory is a once-in-a-lifetime event and the 2016 World Series Champions: The Chicago Cubs and 2016 World Series Collector's Edition: Chicago Cubs are an essential pair of mementos.

The first set is a documentary about the season available on either Blu-ray + DVD combo pack or DVD. Both versions come with a downloadable digital copy. Actor and longtime Cubs fan Vince Vaughn narrates the excellent documentary. During game 2 of the World Series, Vaughn was gamely participating in a Hacksaw Ridge event in New Orleans at the WWII Museum, so it's a relief that he got to narrate the official film when his favorite time finally broke through and won a championship.

Huge fans will also want the 8-disc Collector's Edition. The set includes the complete broadcasts of Game 6 of the NLCS and all seven games of a thrilling World Series. You can watch all eight games with the original TV audio, go back and watch them again with audio from the Chicago Cubs radio broadcasts. Just for fun, watch it all a third time with the Cleveland Indians radio announcers so you can hear their confidence when their team is up 3-1 and their despair as it all comes unraveled.




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