The real images of tsunamis surging across landscapes — sweeping buildings, vehicles, even trees before them — have been terrifying enough, especially when you focus on how steadily and relentlessly the water rolls.
But making those images even more powerful is the realization that people are in the waves’ path — and it is some of those people who give The Impossible its dramatic force.
The movie (Summit, $29.95 DVD, $39.99 Blu-ray), based on a real incident, stars Naomi Watts as Maria, a woman who has gone with her husband (Ewan McGregor) and children on a holiday trip to Thailand. The location is idyllic, and it appears that all is right for the family in this luxurious, peaceful setting. But, without warning, a tsunami strikes, putting everyone in peril, inflicting unexpected pain and forcing an intense fight for survival.
Especially on Blu-ray, the tsunami is as vivid and inescapable as a classic screen villain — and as lacking in remorse as such villains are. That puts an even greater burden on the actors to convey the terror of the moment, and their determination to endure it. Watts is the centerpiece, and quite marvelous; she was nominated for an Academy Award for her performance.
Extras include audio commentary by the movie’s writer, Sergio G. Sanchez; director J.A. Bayona, producer Belen Atienza and Maria Belon, the inspiration for Watts’ character. There are also brief segments about the casting and the making of The Impossible.
It did not seem possible that Gangster Squad could be a bad movie when you looked at some of the people involved. Sean Penn as mobster Mickey Cohen. Ryan Gosling and Josh Brolin as crimebusting cops. Emma Stone — who made such a good match with Gosling in Crazy, Stupid, Love — as the love interest of both Gosling and Penn. A supporting cast including Nick Nolte and Cleveland’s Robert Patrick. Not to mention the snappy wardrobe.
Only Gangster Squad (Warner, $28.98 DVD, $35.99 Blu-ray/DVD/digital combo) is a disappointment. As I said when it was in theaters, the movie is a second-tier variation on the Kevin Costner version of The Untouchables, more violent but far less surprising as it strikes the familiar notes of a cops-vs.-crooks saga that is basically a cartoon-like series of action sequences.
Extras on DVD include a segment called “Tough Guys With Style.” The Blu-ray combo adds commentary by director Ruben Fleischer, deleted scenes and other elements.
Lacking any extras, and I don’t care, is Maverick: The Complete Second Season (Warner, 26 episodes, $39.98), the DVD continuation of the series starring James Garner as gambler-adventurer Bret Maverick and Jack Kelly as his brother Bart. Some episodes star Garner, some Kelly and some find them in tandem. The series as a whole was well-written and amusing, but it’s more fundamentally the show that made me a Garner fan.
The new set includes several before-they-were stars moments with Martin Landau, Robert Conrad and Clint Eastwood. And Roger Moore, who later joined the show as a Maverick cousin, can also be seen in one episode as a man who switches identities with Bret.
Down video road: The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, the sitcom classic starring Dwayne Hickman (and another favorite show from my youth), will be presented in a complete-series DVD set on July 2.
The Last Stand with Arnold Schwarzenegger comes to DVD and Blu-ray on May 21. The Last Ride, a drama about music legend Hank Williams, will be on DVD and Blu-ray on June 4.
Rich Heldenfels writes about popular culture for the Beacon Journal and Ohio.com, including the HeldenFiles Online blog, www.ohio.com/blogs/heldenfiles. He is also on Facebook and Twitter. You can contact him at 330-996-3582 or email@example.com.