Christmas gift guide: Cream of the cinematic crop


Lavish period pieces, rampaging killer arachnids, indie gems and barmy sci-fi: the best TV and film DVDs of the year

Source Code (12)

This loopy sci-fi thriller makes little sense, but is such fun it doesn't really matter. Jake Gyllenhaal wakes up on a train opposite Christina (Michelle Monaghan), who calls him Sean. Only he isn't Sean: he's a military pilot called Colter. Eight minutes later, the train blows up. He awakens again - this time in a battered module. A shadowy controller informs him he's part of a "time reassignment" programme, and that his mind will be projected into the body Sean repeatedly until he finds out the train bomber's identity. An absolute blast.

How much: £12.49

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The Hour (15)

The most enjoyable TV drama of the year, The Hour centres mainly on Ben Whishaw's quick-witted reporter and his determination to unearth the truth about the supposed suicide of a friend. His investigations compromise his boss Bel (Romola Garai), who he happens to be in love with. Smarmy news anchor Hector (Dominic West), is also rather keen on ambitious Bel. Set in 1956, the action encompasses the Suez Crisis, a lot of boozing and smoking, some sex - and a host of terrific performances.

How much: £15.93

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The Social Network (12)

Aaron Sorkin's whip-sharp dialogue pings like a Rafael Nadal forehand in David Fincher's compelling and droll look at the rise of Facebook and the demise of the founders' friendships. We begin as Jesse Eisenberg's socially inept Mark Zuckerberg creates a website that allows students to rate females by their "hotness". It's a big hit and Zuckerberg quickly twigs that social-networking sites are the way forward. He enlists his (only) friend Eduardo Saverin (Andrew Garfield) to supply the finance. Lawsuits ensue...

How much: £5

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Monsters (12)

Bowie was mistaken: it turns out the spiders are from Jupiter (not Mars), specifically one of its moons, Europa. And they're 50ft tall, menacing and have "infected" half of Mexico. Cynical photographer Andrew Kaulder (Scoot McNairy), must escort his boss's daughter (Whitney Able) out of the country, through the infected zone, to the US border and safety. Gareth Edwards' ingenious sci-fi makes wildly inventive use of his shoestring budget, applying terrific use of natural, unnatural and creepy strings to increase the suspense of this beastie/romance hybrid.

How much: £5

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True Grit (15)

Jeff Bridges bagged a long-deserved Oscar for last year's Crazy Heart, but he's better in this far superior film, the Coen brothers' straightforward and faithful take on Charles Portis's genre-bending Western novel. Bridges is Rooster Cogburn, a sozzled, one-eyed marshal hired by Mattie Ross (Hailee Steinfeld), a whip-sharp 14-year-old girl, to avenge the slaying of her father by Tom Chaney (Josh Brolin) and his grubby gang. True Grit benefits from repeat viewings, and exquisitely captures the severity and melancholy of the old West.

How much: £6.99

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Winter's Bone (15)

Chances are that Missouri's tourist board won't be endorsing Debra Granik's nerve-racking slice of Midwest gothic anytime soon. Jennifer Lawrence plays Ree, a resolute 17-year-old saddled with her two siblings and a near-catatonic mother. She desperately needs to find her missing father, who has signed over the family's homestead as bail bond collateral- otherwise they'll be made homeless. The teen scours the vexing terrain of the Ozark Mountains, where the locals are far from helpful. A gripping, taut drama.

How much: £5.99

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Mildred Pierce (15)

Kate Winslet delivers a powerhouse performance (when doesn't she?) in Todd Haynes's faithful and relatively restrained adaptation of James M Cain's novel. Winslet's put-upon Mildred (her husband has left her, it's the Great Depression and her daughter Veda, is proving to be cruel), develops beautifully in HBO's immaculately composed five-hour mini-series. After traipsing the streets for work, Mildred swallows her pride and becomes a waitress. And because she's smart and a great cook, she blossoms. However, two things keep holding her back. The vile Veda ("You're such a sap mother") and Guy Pierce's feckless Monty ("I don't do anything, I loaf"). Brilliant.

How much: £14.99

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Submarine (15)

Bookish, duffel-coat-wearing Oliver (Craig Roberts), who is bullied at his Welsh comprehensive, is smitten by acerbic Jordana (Yasmin Paige). He defends her honour in the playground, refusing to call her "a slut", and gets walloped for his troubles. He also, briefly, gets the girl. However, his gloomy home life, with his neurotic mother (Sally Hawkins) and glum dad (Noah Taylor, excellent), is impeding his happiness. Richard Ayoade's debut film, adapted from Joe Dunthorne's novel, is very stylistic and references "400 Blows", "Harold and Maude" and "Rushmore". It's not terribly funny – in fact it's rather sad – but Roberts and Paige are good together and there's some tangy dialogue.

How much: £8.99

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