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Fueled by Kaye and Keanu

Yu Hai (left) and Tiger Chen in Keanu Reeves’s “Man of Tai Chi.”
Yu Hai (left) and Tiger Chen in Keanu Reeves’s “Man of Tai Chi.”

Call us stodgy, but when it comes to yuletide ghosts, we’d much rather pass the holiday season with “A Christmas Carol” — any adaptation — than with this week’s highest-profile DVD, “Insidious: Chapter 2.” Other alternatives: a couple of recent releases that complement movies hitting the multiplex on Christmas.

Danny Kaye’s “The Secret Life of Walter Mitty” (1947) is the more obvious disc, pulled from some long overlooked vault to tie in with Ben Stiller’s update of James Thurber’s beloved daydreamer portrait. Don’t look for Stiller to replicate any of his predecessor’s signature patter numbers, one of the ways the Technicolor oldie is seen as being more about Kaye showmanship than Thurber whimsy. Still, some of the original film’s most worthwhile material doesn’t fall under either heading. A scene with villainous shrink Boris Karloff trying to convince our hero that he’s delusional is edgy before its time, from the twisty setup to the surreal glimpse of Whistler’s Mother in lingerie.

Meanwhile, with the Keanu Reeves samurai fantasy “47 Ronin” also opening, you could take a look at the star’s recent, similarly influenced directorial debut, “Man of Tai Chi” (2013). “Matrix” trilogy stuntman Tiger Chen plays a humble martial arts student lured into a Beijing underground fight club by Reeves’s enigmatic tycoon. It sounds like a skit — bloodsport with that meditate-y stuff they do in the park? — but Reeves bolsters a slight story with kinetic action. He and Chen supply commentary. (“Mitty,” Warner, $14.97; “Tai Chi,” Anchor Bay, $24.98; Blu-ray, $29.98.)




James Gandolfini is sure to be right at the top of year-end remembrance lists, stirring wistfulness all over again in “Sopranos” fans who still haven’t gotten over saying goodbye to the star, or the show. But Steven Van Zandt does what he can to keep the memories alive with this Netflix series, playing a mob underboss who requests a witness protection placement in Norway. (He was a fan of the ’94 Olympics coverage from Lillehammer, even if he couldn’t quite pronounce the name.) Not life with Tony, but a welcome diversion, anyway. (Cinedigm, $19.95; Blu-ray, $29.95; available now)

”The I Love Lucy Christmas Special.”



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It’s been a “Lucy” revival of sorts: first the Colonial Theatre’s live salute, and now the DVD encore of this resurrected clip show (aired recently on CBS), in which the Ricardos and Mertzes trim the tree, reminisce, and count their Little Ricky blessings. (The distributor justifies a colorized viewing option by saying they’re just trying to “bring joy to kids of all ages.” That famed, flaming-red hair doesn’t clash with the holiday aesthetic, at least.) The disc also includes “Lucy’s Italian Movie,” a.k.a. the grape-stomping episode, and “Lucy Goes to Scotland,” in which she visits the McGillicuddy clan’s ancestral home. (Paramount, $16.99)

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Tom Russo can be reached at