The first batch of movies designed to get you into the holiday spirit is out Oct. 29 on DVD and Blu-ray.
"A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish"; 3 stars: Katherine "Kat" Decker (Laura Marano) dreams of becoming a famous singer-songwriter, but she is being held back emotionally by a cruel stepmother and professionally by her job as a department store elf. This could have been the end of her story. But she meets a charming young man, Nick (Gregg Sulkin), who is working as the store's Santa Claus. Little does she know, he has a very rich secret life.
It takes a little coaching -- and some very fun musical numbers -- but Kat and Nick end up on their way to living happily ever after.
This is the fifth film in the "A Cinderella Story" movie series, with previous offerings starring Lucy Hale, Hilary Duff, Selena Gomez and Sofia Carson. Casting is the key to making the films work; the basic storyline rarely wanders far from the original tale.
Marano plays the most endearing department store elf since Zooey Deschanel's work in 2003's "Elf." Marano plays the role with such a deep and honest sweetness that she can win over the hearts of almost anyone around her. She and Sulkin have a nice chemistry that makes it easy to want them to find true love.
It is an added bonus that Marano is an accomplished singer, which adds another layer of enjoyment to the direct-to-DVD production.
The offering also distinguishes itself from the other tales of evil stepfamilies in the series by taking place during Christmas. The time frame sets up both a film that can be enjoyed by those who are fans of Cinderella or those who just like sweet holiday movies. And "A Cinderella Story: Christmas Wish" is as sweet as a sleigh full of candy canes.
ALSO NEW ON DVD AND BLU-RAY OCT. 29
"A Discovery of Witches": Modern love story set in a world where witches, vampires and demons secretly live and work alongside humans.
"The Swan Princess": Animated film that looks at a beautiful princess who is transformed into a swan by an evil sorcerer's spell. It is being rereleased to mark the 25th anniversary.