New DVD releases this week include stories of people facing overwhelming challenges.
• “The Impossible,” Grade A: Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor embrace their emotionally challenging and physically draining roles in this account of a family’s effort to survive after the Indian Ocean tsunami in 2004.
If this film hadn’t been based on a true story, it would seem impossible. There are some events that seem outlandish, but the only changes director Juan Antonio Bayona made to the story – other than not making the family Spanish – is the condensing of some of the timelines for dramatic effect. Even if the timelines had played out longer, there’s enough power in the story that there wouldn’t have been a dull moment.
Bayona gets a terrific performance out of 16-year-old Tom Holland that reflects the perfect tipping point of a boy becoming a man, and that’s where the heart of the film lies.
• “Jurassic Park,” Grade A: The film’s being re-released because 3-D was added. Even without the visual gimmick, it pulls together all of the themes and big ideas that director Steven Spielberg’s used in previous films to make it one of his greatest cinematic accomplishments.
• “Promised Land,” Grade B: Matt Damon and Frances McDormand try to convince residents of a small community to lease their land to a gas company for deep drilling, while an environmental activist (John Krasinski) shows up with evidence of the disasters of past drillings.
The film casts a relatively even light over the unwinnable choice many farmers face when they have to decide between two evils. What makes this movie is Damon, who effortlessly slips from a man of conviction to a man of the people.
• “Gangster Squad,” Grade C-plus: A group of police officers try to stop organized crime from taking over Los Angeles in the 1940s. Josh Brolin stars.
Director Ruben Fleischer breathed new life into the zombie genre by infusing comedy into his weird and quirky “Zombieland.” He successfully fused the contradicting elements of horror and hilarity. He’s not so successful with a similar attempt to blend genres in “Gangster Squad.” His decision to take a modern approach to a 1940s-style gangster story gives the film a jumbled feel.
The modern touches seem out of place while the mob story lacks energy and tension.
Also new on DVD:
“A Haunted House”: Marlon Wayans stars in this spoof of scary movies.
“Car’s Life 3: The Royal Heist”: Sparky returns for more animated adventures.
“Assassins Run”: A ballerina must use her skills to save her daughter.
“A Haunting”: Anthology of horror stories.
“Cold Prey II”: A woman realizes her nightmare ordeal isn’t over.
“Iron Man Armored Adventures: Season 2 Vol. 4”: Animated series featuring Iron Man, Nick Fury and other Marvel characters.
“Touched By An Angel: The Seventh Season”: Roma Downey stars.
“The Central Park Five”: Ken Burns film on the five black and Latino teenagers wrongly convicted of raping a white woman in New York City’s Central Park in 1989.
“The Great Gatsby”: The film version starring Robert Redford is re-released.
“Thale”: Crime scene cleaners discover a mythical female creature in a concealed cellar.
“The Killing: The Complete Second Season”: Cable murder mystery series.
“Marvel Knights: Inhumans”: Animated tale set in the city of Attilan.
“Nova: Who Killed Lindbergh’s Baby?”: A look at the famous kidnapping story.
“Any Day Now”: A gay couple take in a teen with Down syndrome.
“Cheech & Chong’s Animated Movie”: Film based on the comedy team’s albums.
“Family Weekend”: An overachieving teen has grown frustrated with her parents’ lack of support and guidance.
“Happy People: A Year in the Taiga”: Werner Herzog’s look at the tiny village of Bakhta in Siberia.
“Maverick: The Complete Second Season”: James Garner plays a card shark traveling the Old West.
“Mr. Selfridge”: Jeremy Piven plays Harry Gordon Selfridge, father of the renowned London department store that bears his name.
“Pawn”: A cop walks in on a robbery in progress.
“Magic Journey to Africa”: A visual trek across the mysterious continent.