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Happy Holidays Collection DVD Review - Page 2

Happy Holidays Collection DVD cover art - click to buy from Amazon.com Happy Holidays Collection

4-Movie Set Contains Trading Places (1983), All I Want for Christmas (1991), Surviving Christmas (2004), and Last Holiday (2006)

Movie Running Time: 411 Minutes (6 Hours, 51 Minutes)
Extras Running Time: 97 Minutes (1 Hours, 37 Minutes)
Release Date: November 1, 2011
Suggested Retail Price: $19.99
Closed Captioned; Extras Captioned
Four single-sided discs (3 DVD-9s & 1 DVD-5)
Black Keepcase in Embossed Cardboard Slipcover
See Below for Cast, Writers, Directors, Release Dates, and Other Film and DVD Details

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The rented Valco family does not share Drew's enthusiasm for a picture with Santa Claus in "Surviving Christmas." Famed French chef Didier (Gιrard Depardieu) shows Georgia Byrd (Queen Latifah) a Czech food market in "Last Holiday."

VIDEO and AUDIO

All four films are presented in widescreen and enhanced for 16:9 displays. Paramount might not have always gone the extra mile for DVD bonus features, but at least they usually did an admirable job on the feature presentations. Trading Places (1.78:1) looks very good for its age, though it surely lacks the luster of the Blu-ray that arrived a year later.
All I Want for Christmas (1.78:1) is underwhelming visually, looking older than the early '90s production that it is. The element is plagued by an unusual amount of debris, unlikely to be corrected anytime soon (this DVD isn't even in print on its own anymore). Both films are given Dolby Digital 5.1 remixes in addition to Dolby Surround 2.0 mixes more faithful to their original exhibitions. Neither provides much surround activity or power, but the crisp tracks mix the components clearly and with both subtitles and closed captioning.

The more modern films mostly meet their higher expectations. Offered in both 1.85:1 and 1.33:1 (open matte with cropping), Surviving Christmas is a bit drab and soft, but fine enough. And appearing in 2.35:1, this widescreen edition of The Last Holiday treats the set's most recent movie to the sharpest and most vibrant transfer. Naturally, the Dolby Digital 5.1 mixes on these two comedies from last decade have a little more activity and directionality to them, though neither offers a truly remarkable sound experience.

Director John Landis is among those looking back at the making of "Trading Places" in "Insider Trading." A young Eddie Murphy bites his nails while candidly answering a reporter's questions in 1983.

BONUS FEATURES

Represented by its 2007 "Looking Good, Feeling Good" Edition DVD, Trading Places boasts the most bonus features of the four. They are mostly presented in letterboxed widescreen, with featured film clips in 1.33:1.

The fine slate begins with "Insider Trading: The Making of Trading Places" (18:27), a solid featurette that gathers reflections from director John Landis, writers Timothy Harris and Herschel Weingrod, executive producer George Folsey, Jr.,
and actors Dan Aykroyd and Jamie Lee Curtis. They chart the film's journey, beginning with its conception as Black and White, a vehicle envisioned for Richard Pryor and Gene Wilder, and then turning attention to major characters and favorite scenes. Some of the more memorable topics touched upon are Curtis' nude scenes and Don Ameche's profanity reservations. We also hear from the elusive Eddie Murphy in a few licensed clips from an NBC interview.

"Trading Stories" (7:57) offers clips of Jamie Lee Curtis, Eddie Murphy, Dan Aykroyd, and John Landis answering questions from British press back in 1983 about their contingency plans, idols, and characters. Murphy has some interesting answers.

Clarence Beeks (Paul Gleason) shoots along with "Sunset Blvd" in this deleted scene. Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman recalls her "Trading Places" work in "Dressing the Part." New York Board of Trade Roger Corrado talks business in "The Trade in 'Trading Places.'"

"The Deleted Scene" (3:08) finds Clarence Beeks (Paul Gleason) catching the end of Sunset Blvd. while he drugs a security guard to rip off inside information. It is joined by video comments by executive producer George Folsey, Jr. (1:46), who explains why it was cut, where it was intended, and how it was restored for some TV airings.

"Dressing the Part" (6:31) considers the film's costume design, an unlikely topic to single out. Costume designer Deborah Nadoolman recalls the film's needs, her meeting of which Landis, Aykroyd, and Curtis celebrate.

"The Trade in Trading Places" (5:24) focuses on the film's treatment of commodities trading, with various figures from the New York Mercantile Exchange explaining their calling and commenting on its relevance in the movie.

The Trading Places Trivia Pop-Ups track dishes out a Jamie Lee Curtis fact for those interested in actor ages during productions. Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy promote their film from a bathroom for the annual ShoWest exhibitors' convention in Las Vegas.

"Trivia Pop-Ups" are supplied in a graphically appealing subtitle track overflowing with fun facts pertaining not only to the film but whatever is on screen or on the soundtrack. This presentation is chockfull of information, dishing out significant credits (or lack thereof) for every actor, identifying sets and real filming locations, adjusting monetary figures for 2006 inflation, pointing out continuity errors, and just shedding much light on production and inspirations. You'll come away learning more about the film than any audio commentary could teach you, from the objections of Watergate operative G. Gordon Liddy (who was sought for the Paul Gleason role he inspired) to Dan Aykroyd's days of sorting mail in Canada. The graphics even use arrows to direct attention to certain parts of the frame. It is very well-done.

John Landis introduces the final item, labeled "Industry Promotional Piece" (4:17). Halfway into production, Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy recorded this short address for the annual ShoWest exhibitors' conference in Las Vegas, making an earnest pitch for the movie with humor and funny voices. It's a fascinating bit of tomfoolery.

The menu offers access to the same three trailers that play at disc insertion, promoting Dreamgirls, Norbit, and other Eddie Murphy Paramount comedy DVDs. Sadly, Trading Places' own trailer is not included.

All I Want for Christmas contains no bonus features whatsoever. Not even the trailer? For shame.

Ben Affleck has fun with director Mike Mitchell in the HBO First Look special "Surviving Christmas: Unwrapping Comedy." In storyboard form, Ben Affleck and Christina Applegate's toboggan ride is almost charming.

Surviving Christmas gets a handful of extras, starting with the HBO First Look special "Surviving Christmas: Unwrapping Comedy" (11:32). Like other installments in this promotional mold, this features a lot of film clips, some cast and crew interviews, and a bit of B-roll footage. Highlights include talk on the challenges of filming in below-zero Chicago cold (and having to add fake snow anyway), Christina Applegate regretting referring to Ben Affleck as "Mr. Cool", and a repeated use of the same 30 seconds of Mark Mothersbaugh's Rushmore score.

There is an alternate opening (2:16) which adds a few new bits to the dark montage with which the film still begins.

Next comes what everyone wants to see: a storyboard gallery. In fact, six storyboard galleries representing different scenes. They run anywhere from 14 to 68 images and are not the quickest or easiest to navigate. Still, it's interesting how some of the film's more obnoxious material seems tolerable in cartoonish comic strip-like sketch. Also, you'd never expect this much foresight to have gone into this movie.

The menu also supplies the two short DVD ads with which the disc opens, promoting fellow 2004 DreamWorks films The Terminal and Anchorman. Surviving's ineffective trailer is a no-show.

See the great director Wayne Wang at work in "Last Holiday: Packing Light." Sean Matthews (LL Cool J) struggles with the Czech language in this "Last Holiday" deleted scene. The ingredients for crepes are included as part of this Food Network Bananas Foster recipe.

Last Holiday's slate starts with three making-of featurettes. "Last Holiday: Packing Light" (15:25) covers the project coming together, singing the praises of director Wayne Wang and leading cast members. There are a lot of cast and crew members talking this up like it's something really special.

"Last Holiday: Last Look" (7:46) discusses filming locations and production design in the Czech Republic.
Probably not something the average person will care about, but a nice acknowledgement of the technical side of filmmaking.

"Last Holiday: 23 Years in the Making" (7:14) details this remake's long development process, which reshaped it over the years from a John Candy vehicle.

There are two deleted scenes (2:22), one with story implications for Georgia's neighbor and the other a language barrier joke for LL Cool J.

Two recipes from Emeril Lagasse and Food Network are provided for Poulet Tchoupitoulas and Bananas Foster. Ingredients and detailed directions are provided over several text pages along with a photo of what the finished dish should look like.

Finally, Last Holiday's theatrical trailer (2:33) is kindly preserved. One out of four got it right!

"Previews" repeats the same auto-played trailers for Elizabethtown, Neil Young: Heart of Gold, Failure to Launch, All You've Got, and "The Oprah Winfrey Show": 20th Anniversary DVD Collection. It does not, however, replay the formerly widespread anti-piracy spot that precedes them at disc insertion.

The animated Trading Places DVD main menu takes its design from money. The green and red Surviving Christmas DVD main menu tries to be festive.

MENUS, PACKAGING and DESIGN

Trading Places' main menu drops dollar bills while clips and stills are displayed on picture frames while Mozart's "Marriage of Figaro" plays. The money theme is upheld in the secondary menus, which use a double-lined $ as cursor. The static, silent All I Want for Christmas menu merely reformats that deceptive cover art. Surviving Christmas tries to be festive with equal parts red and green and a montage of circular clips and stills. Last Holiday takes the standard scored montage approach.

The four discs claim opposite sides of two swinging trays inside a standard-sized DVD keepcase topped by an embossed slipcover. Even the disc labels are unchanged from the standalone releases.

Louis Winthorpe III (Dan Aykroyd) has seen better Christmases than the one that finds him eating stolen salmon out of a filthy Santa Claus costume beard. Despite his prominent cover placement, Leslie Nielsen makes only a special appearance as a department store Santa in "All I Want for Christmas."

CLOSING THOUGHTS

Paramount's Happy Holidays Collection is sure an eclectic compilation, bundling three of the least sung Christmas movies around and Trading Places. With this DVD set, the studio must be counting on an appreciation of one or two of the featured films and a hope that the low list price will encourage a buy from those scrambling to find a last-minute gift that isn't already owned.

Trading Places is a fun film that any fan of '80s comedies will enjoy. Kids of the '90s should at least somewhat appreciate All I Want for Christmas. As for Surviving Christmas and Last Holiday, you'll have to be a pretty huge fan of Ben Affleck and Queen Latifah to forgive the crass stylings and bad decisions of those modern comedies. I cannot at all recommend those two newest inclusions or offer more than moderate praise for All I Want. Still, if you think of this as a solid DVD of Trading Places with three bonus movies, it's not such a bad set for the price. But you might be just as well getting Trading in its own DVD or Blu-ray.

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Buy the movies individually on DVD:
Trading Places (also on Blu-ray) • All I Want for Christmas • Surviving Christmas • Last Holiday (also on Blu-ray)

Related Reviews:
It's a Wonderful Life (Blu-ray Gift Set) • White Christmas (Anniversary Edition) • Elf (Ultimate Collector's Edition)
Scrooged • Planes, Trains & Automobiles • Arthur (2011) • Mickey's Christmas Carol
Holiday Treats: T.V. Sets • Christmas Treats: T.V. Sets • Eloise at Christmastime • Mrs. Miracle
Peanuts Deluxe Holiday Collection • Alvin and the Chipmunks: Classic Holiday Gift Set • Prep & Landing
The Santa Clause • Jingle All the Way • I'll Be Home for Christmas
Deck the Halls • Fred Claus • Four Christmases • Unaccompanied Minors
One Magic Christmas • Santa Claus: The Movie • The Parent Trap • The Apartment

Featuring the Cast of the Happy Holidays Collection:
Eddie Murphy: Shrek the Halls | Dan Aykroyd: Yogi Bear | Ethan Embry: A Far Off Place | Thora Birch: Hocus Pocus
Ben Affleck: Glory Daze • The Company Men | Queen Latifah: Ice Age: A Mammoth Christmas Special • Chicago

<< Back to Page 1
for Reviews of All Four Movies

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Reviewed December 25, 2011.



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