New movies on DVD and Blu-ray this week are led by “The Impossible,” “Gangster Squad” and “Promised Land.”
“The Impossible” (Summit, 2012, PG-13, $29.95, DVD and digital versions, deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). This is the extremely intense true story of a family of five separated during the 2004 tsunami in Thailand and their harrowing struggle to survive and reunite.
This was my choice for last year’s best film, and I wouldn’t have minded if Naomi Watts had beat out Jennifer Lawrence for the best-actress Oscar. Watts and Ewan McGregor are perfect as the parents whose foremost thoughts are with rescuing their children, and the special effects and production design are horrifyingly realistic.
If you’ve put off seeing this one for fear it might be too downbeat, don’t let that stop you. While there is, of course, suffering and horror, there is also so much charitable power on display that you can’t help but feel uplifted along the way.
It's an incredible (but true) story of the indomitable human spirit and a very strong testament to parental love. (Also on Blu-ray, $39.99)
“Gangster Squad” (Warner/Blu-ray, 2012, two discs; R for violence, language; $35.99; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted scenes, audio commentary, featuretes). This period thriller depicts events leading up to the arrest of mobster Mickey Cohen (an over-the-top Sean Penn) and plays like a 1930s Warner Bros. picture — you can just picture Bogart and Cagney in the lead roles played by Josh Brolin and Ryan Gosling. And taken on its own terms, it’s a lot of fun. (Although whether it’s accurate is up for debate.) Terrific cast includes Emma Stone, Nick Nolte, Anthony Mackie and Giovanni Ribisi.
“Promised Land” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2012; R for language; two discs, $34.98, extended scene, featurette). Bait-and-switch drama with an environmental message and a routine script gets a tremendous boost from a seasoned cast. Matt Damon stars as the cocky but naïve oil-company salesman who is confident he can sell a rural Pennsylvania community on fracking but is unprepared for the sophistication of some of the people he encounters. Frances McDormand, Hal Holbrook, Rosemarie DeWitt and John Krasinksi nicely flesh out underwritten characters. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“A Haunted House” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013; R for violence, sex, nudity, language, drugs; two discs, $39.98, featurette, trailers). Marlon Wayans co-wrote and stars in this off-the-wall, sleazy, sex-drenched spoof of found-footage horror movies, a la the “Paranormal” franchise. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“It’s in the Blood” (Monarch, 2013, not rated, $24.95). Gruesome horror movie has an estranged father and son attempting to bond over a wilderness trip. But after they are waylaid by an accident that injures dad, they come to realize they may also be the prey for some mysterious creature.
“Assassins Run” (Lionsgate, 2013; R for violence, brief nudity, language; $26.98, trailers). Ballerina Sofya Skya plays, what else, a ballerina who goes all “La Femme Nikita” on the Russian mob when they kill her husband, frame her so she goes to prison and then kidnap her young daughter. Christian Slater co-stars.