New releases for home entertainment include Bill Murray as the President, a real-life disaster film that was all but ignored on the big screen, and a good-looking gangster film that overdoes the violence.
Note: To order any of the following films, click on the poster.
On December 26 2004, a devastating Indian Ocean tsunami hit the coastline of Thailand. Everyone who was there and survived the terrible tragedy has a story of their own to tell.The Impossible tells the true story of a certain Spanish family – here portrayed as British middle-class – who experienced and survived the coastline wipeout. The matter of their survival is no plot spoiler – the trailer and the marketing hype already tells us the outcome – but what the film centers on is how they survived and the absolute hell they each had to experience before reuniting against all impossible odds, hence the meaning of the title. Both Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor are quite remarkable in gut-wrenching situations adding depth to their characters enabling the impact of the disaster to appear all the more distressing. It was largely ignored on the big screen. Make sure you catch it on the smaller screen. Available on both DVD and Blu-Ray.
Loosely based on a true story, though seemingly inspired by other movies more than anything else, Gangster Squad tells of how a small band of street-wise cops – a kind of unofficial West Coast version of The Untouchables – worked together to bring down a psychotic hoodlum. The setting is 1949 Los Angeles, and ex-music video director Ruben Fleischer has the look and feel of Hollywood of the time right. In the way that L.A. Confidential evoked a genuine spirit of the period in both its design and its story-telling technique, Gangster Squad succeeds in getting only the visuals correct. There’s an element of satisfaction when seeing the tough cops actually succeed in bringing the gangster down, and actors like Josh Brolin and Sean Penn are eminently watchable, but the violence is ugly and Emma Stone as the gangster’s moll and Ryan Gosling as an all too casual police sergeant have no spark together. Available on both DVD and Blu-Ray
Based on a series of letters and private journals written by Franklin D. Roosevelt’s sixth cousin, Margaret Suckley, Hyde Park on the Hudson has two running events. One is the visit of King George Vl of England and his wife, the Queen Consort Elizabeth who visited FDR’s country estate in Hyde Park, New York in the hope of bolstering American support as World War ll approached, and the other is about the love affair between FDR and his cousin. If you think of storytelling as a three act play – in other words, something that has a beginning, a middle and an end – Hyde Park on the Hudson feels like a two act production; it has a beginning and a middle, but the third act is missing. Just when you think there’s perhaps another twenty minutes to go, the film just stops. It’s as though writer Richard Nelson forgot to include an end. Available on both DVD and Blu-Ray.