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Curl up with a good DVD

Movies are one way to stay entertained on cold winter nights

The Place Beyond the Pines DVD & digital, $24.79.

Here’s a perfect stocking stuffer for the terminal mope on your list: The Place Beyond the Pines, director Derek Cianfrance’s follow-up to his sleeper debut Blue Valentine. Teaming up again with Ryan Gosling, here Cianfrance creates a domestic crime drama that is at once surreal and hyper-real, like reading the Old Testament through a kaleidoscope. Gosling plays a mysterious and possibly psychopathic stunt rider, Eva Mendez plays his one-night-stand baby mama and Bradley Cooper is the conflicted cop with blood on his hands — blood that is indeed thicker than water, and which trickles down to stain the children of both these disturbed men. Gosling and Mendes, as usual, are fantastic, but the film belongs to Cooper, who bucks his preppy image in a performance that itches with anxiety and mangled morality. Perhaps no modern movie better exemplifies that biblical adage about the sins of the father being visited upon the son, and how: a deep, dark and very powerful movie about the legacy of bad choices. — Rick Levin

 

Breaking Bad: The Complete Series Blu-Ray & digital copy, $225.

Just released in November, any fan of the Breaking Bad series will definitely appreciate this package of the complete five-season television show. It may seem expensive (hey, you could start selling meth to earn the money …), but it’s loaded with extras. The Complete Series Collector’s Set includes a never-before-seen two-hour documentary, more than 55 hours of special features spanning all seasons, a 16-page booklet with letter from show creator Vince Gilligan, a commemorative coin designed by Gilligan and a Los Pollos Hermanos apron. There’s also a three-minute alternate ending — yes, a completely different ending than what aired on AMC — a gag reel, commentary on every episode and all sorts of awesome deleted and extended scenes. Plus, it’s all packaged in a sturdy replica money barrel that’s almost a foot tall. — Vanessa Salvia

 

Double Feature: Fruitvale Station DVD & digital copy, $25.99; Spring Breakers DVD & digital copy, $19.99.

Mom and Dad are confused by the modern world, and what especially confuses them is the kids. What’s up with the kids these days? Have we completely lost our way? The answer is a resounding yes, but there’s something you can do for Mom and Dad during this season of giving and compassion: You can help them understand. 

Two movies this year offer a sort of ad-hoc double feature on our contemporary generation gap, and the combined viewing of them will peel every last scale from your eyes when it comes to comprehending the infernal conundrum of what it means to be young in American society. Writer/director Ryan Coogler’s Fruitvale Station is a heartbreaking film based on the true story of Oscar Grant, the young black man shot and killed on New Year’s Day 2009 by a BART police officer in Oakland; Michael B. Jordan, as Grant, gives a tour-de-force performance. And Spring Breakers, by Harmony Korine (Kids), offers a hellish, fish-eyed view of the homicidal debauchery that takes place among college-age kids during spring break in Florida. These two films, viewed together, provide differing perspectives on the violence and despair that surrounds Generation Y. Cheers! — Rick Levin

 

The Awful Truth DVD, $8.99.

Leo McCarey won a Best Director Oscar in 1938 for The Awful Truth, an absolutely lovely film that provides a veritable blueprint for how to construct and cast the perfect romantic comedy. Cary Grant and Irene Dunne play the Warriners, an upper-crust couple caught in a hilarious duel over their impending divorce, which includes a custody battle over their dog Mr. Smith (the legendary wire fox terrier Skippy, who was Asta in the Thin Man movies). The chemistry, sexual tension and kinetic energy between Grant and Dunne crackles on screen; Grant has never been better (just watching him fall out of a chair is worth the DVD price), and Dunne is a revelation, all kittenish smarts and sassy charm. Ralph Bellamy is hilarious as Dunne’s new love interest, Daniel Leeson, a good-hearted knucklehead with Oklahoma oil money. The dialogue whips and snaps with all the grand innuendo and sharp repartee of Old Hollywood, and every punchline and pratfall is delivered with immaculate timing. It’s a gem, and a perfect feel-good gift for the holidays. — Rick Levin

 

Mary Poppins: 50th Anniversary Edition DVD & digital copy, $30.

Brand new as of Dec. 10, it’s the 50th anniversary of this classic movie. Though the time and place are vintage (1910 Edwardian London), it’s a timeless story of a dysfunctional family and how they all learn to love again. Dad is obsessed with money and his banking career. Mom’s a bit of a ditz who’s obsessed with demonstrating for women’s rights (luckily she has a gaggle of maids, nannies and cooks to help out). Naturally, the children are terrors who have chased out every nanny they’ve had. Dad, of course, wants a no-nonsense disciplinarian in charge, and the kids want someone they can have fun with. When Mary magically answers the children’s advertisement for their ideal nanny, the outcome is not at all what the family expected, but it’s just what they needed. It’s a gift that’s practically perfect in every way. — Vanessa Salvia

 

The Wizard of Oz: 75th Anniversary Limited Collector’s Edition Blu-ray 3D/ Blu-ray/ DVD/ UltraViolet & Amazon-Exclusive Flash Drive, $105.

Pretty much everyone over the age of 30 has likely watched this show dozens of times. Somehow, though, it never gets old. Toto, Dorothy, Glenda the Good Witch, the Wicked Witch of the West, the Tin Man, the Scarecrow, the Cowardly Lion, the Wizard and the Munchkins have become part of our collective psyches. This remastered and restored version is even more visually sharp, clear and rich in Technicolor color, and comes with some awesome extras such as a ruby slippers sparkle globe, 52-page hardcover photo book, collectible pin, a journal and a frameable map of Oz. Of course, there are also the new making-of and documentary featurettes, including the six-hour MGM documentary When the Lion Roars (exclusive to Blu-Ray). This is a great way to introduce the next generation to a classic movie they’ll enjoy as much as we do. — Vanessa Salvia