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Top Picks

The LAPD before it got confidential

Wilson Webb/Warner Brothers Pictures

“Gangster Squad.”

Sure, there’s obvious back-catalog hawking going on when “Gangster Squad” (2013) wraps a gallery of featurettes with a segment on the film’s ties to Warner’s crime-picture legacy. The clip parade points out what “Squad” has tried to recapture: the spirit of James Cagney and Edward G. Robinson, of “The Public Enemy” and “Little Caesar” and all the gamely lurid underworld titles that were Warner’s lifeblood in the 1930s (“All available now on DVD!”). Funny thing, though — the comparison isn’t such a reach, never mind what the new movie’s tepid first-run reviews might lead you to believe. There’s some good, darkly glossy escapism in this dramatized look at a post-World War II LAPD outfit unofficially appointed to crack down, hard, on the city’s organized-crime epidemic. Josh Brolin plays real-life figure John O’Mara, the resolute police sergeant leading the fight against ruthless crime boss Mickey Cohen (effects-schnozzed Sean Penn), with help from jaded fellow cop Jerry Wooters (Ryan Gosling), and other untouchables. Director Ruben Fleischer (“Zombieland”) doesn’t shoot for anything as operatic as Brian De Palma did (although Penn always has a way of echoing Robert De Niro in thug mode). Instead, this one is all down-and-dirty crimebusting, with a touch of throwback smolder between Gosling and Cohen’s arm candy, Emma Stone. Extras: Routine Blu-ray featurettes offer snippets with a Gangster Squad vet, O’Mara’s daughter, and Wooters’s son. O’Mara is interviewed in an archival clip. Deleted scenes correctly bypass a movie-theater sequence cut following last year’s Colorado theater shootings. (Warner, $28.98; Blu-ray, $35.99)

A scene from "The Impossible."

AP Photo/Summit Entertainment, Jose Haro

A scene from "The Impossible."

DRAMA

THE IMPOSSIBLE (2012)

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Oscar nominee Naomi Watts is indelibly moving as a woman caught along with her vacationing family in the catastrophic 2004 South Asian tsunami. Director J.A. Bayona skillfully dramatizes the true ordeal of Spanish survivor Maria Belon, but he can push too hard for suspense when tracing the family members’ desperate search for each other in the wave’s aftermath. Watts, Ewan McGregor, and Tom Holland, as the couple’s oldest, are all strong enough that it’s unnecessary. Extras: Belon shares a live-for-the-moment outlook in filmmaker’s commentary. “Every time I see these scenes,” she says, “I realize there is no ‘later’ in our lives.” (Summit, $29.95; Blu-ray, $39.99)

DRAMA

PROMISED LAND (2012)

Dusting off his writer’s hat, Matt Damon teams with John Krasinski on a script about an energy conglomerate point man (Damon) pitching a rural town on signing over natural-gas drilling rights. Frances McDormand is his even slicker lobbying partner, Rosemarie DeWitt and Hal Holbrook are locals clouding Damon’s corporate thinking, and Krasinski is an equally shark-like environmentalist. (For a documentary look at the territory, check out the 2010 DVD release “GasLand.”) Extras: A featurette delivers less than a Google search in connecting the collaborative dots among Damon, Krasinksi, director Gus Van Sant (“Good Will Hunting”), and first-draft contributor Dave Eggers. (Universal, $29.98; Blu-ray, $34.98)

Tom Russo can be reached at trusso2222@gmail.com.
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