The Impossible (2012) Is the Pick of the Week

Sometimes it seems that we are constantly engulfed in tragedy. If it isn’t a school shooting, it is an earthquake in China; if someone isn’t bombing Boston, then God is washing away half of Asia in an enormous tsunami. Sometimes it is all too much. It is easy to get overwhelmed by the sheer enormity and regularity of so much tragedy.

This is especially true of big natural disasters. They wreak so much damage it is difficult to really grasp what has happened . This is why news shows so often tell the story of one business, family, or person. We can understand the singularity of one person’s story and then apply it to the larger whole. This is why books and movies need to tell the (somewhat true) stories of these tragedies. It helps us understand the sheer devastation that occurred.

In 2004, a tsunami hit the Indian Ocean. It killed over 200,000 people and left many millions more injured and homeless. It was widely covered by the news, and yet its true impact is still a little fuzzy in my mind. Asia is so far away; its culture so foreign. Hundreds of thousands of deaths is too abstract for me to really understand. I don’t want to belittle the tragedy, for to be certain it was a horrible, terrible thing. I also don’t want to state that I need a Hollywood movie to make me care, for my heart already aches for such events. But films like The Impossible help me to grasp the horrors of such events.

It helps that the film stars Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts whom I adore, had a very big budget, and was generally enjoyed by critics. Or is that too cynical to admit? Is the fact that I want to watch a true-life disaster film because I like the stars a sad comment on my own existence? Maybe so, but it seems that if film can help us to understand a tragedy better it can also just as easily exploit it, and I’d rather watch something with a generally positive reception than some Pearl Harbor tripe. The film was reviewed by Kristen Lopez.

Extras include commentary with the director, writer and producers, two featurettes on the actors and special effects, plus some deleted scenes.

Also out this week that looks interesting:

Gangster Squad: It got pretty lousy reviews but I’m a sucker for gangster pictures. Add in Josh Brolin, Sean Penn, and Ryan Gosling and I’m all set.

Promised Land: Directed by Gus Van Sant and starring Matt Damon and John Krasinski (the actors also wrote it) stirred up a bit of controversy over its subject matter – fracking – got pretty lame reviews, and was mostly ignored at the box office. Still, I like the leads and the director so I’ll give it a shot sometime.

Ken Burns: The Central Park Five: Burns’ documentaries are always interesting and this one centering on five wrongly convicted teenagers sounds fascinating. Gordon S. Miller reviewed the film during its film-festival run.

Richard III (Criterion Blu-ray): Laurence Olivier was the master of Shakespeare adaptations, and with the Criterion treatment I’m all over it.

The Great Gatsby (Blu-ray): Just in time for the new adaptation of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s celebrated novel this 1974 Robert Redford/Mia Farrow production gets a high-def release. It generally got poor reviews at the time but it might be a good way to brush up on the story before seeing the new one.

Grapes of Death: Jean Rollin made a string of gothic horror films featuring lots of buxom, naked women. I’d write him off as just another b-roll T&A man if the movies weren’t also so bloody stylish. He often shot in these grand gothic castles with an artist’s flair for camera angles. I won’t say his films are great, but in a genre filled with too much gore and not enough style, Jean Rollin is a breath of fresh air.

Mat Brewster

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