DVD reviews: 'Promised Land,' 'The Impossible' and 'The Central Park Five'
“Promised Land” (2012, R, 106 min., $29.98). This past year was a busy one for Western Pennsylvania, as far as the film business goes. A movie that slid under the radar was “Promised Land,” which starred Matt Damon, Frances McDormand, John Krasinski and Hal Holbrook. Directed by Gus Van Sant, off of a script from Damon and Krasinski, “Promised Land” explores the natural gas boom that has spurred so much talk in Pennsylvania. Damon plays Steve, a guy employed by a large energy company to buy up land for drilling in a small Pennsylvania town. Some are happy to see Steve because he might hold a payday if the energy company is interested in their land. Others are quick to reject Steve because of the environmental concerns that come with drilling for natural gas. While Steve works hard to buy up land, he also learns much about himself and the company for which he's working. “Promised Land” is an OK film, but it falls short of its potential and never drives home its stance in the heated drilling debate. Character problems — especially with Damon's Steve — also are worrisome. Special features aren't too good. A making-of featurette is OK, but it doesn't go too deep into the filming of “Promised Land.” 2 Stars.
“The Impossible” (2012, PG-13, 114 min., $29.95). If there's a film from 2012 that is going to make viewers weep, it's “The Impossible.” Director Juan Antonio Bayona, who previously made the phenomenal 2007 picture “The Orphanage,” is responsible for this picture about a family of five vacationing in 2004 in Thailand when a violent tsunami crushes the area and separates them. This is the true story of this amazing family attempting to survive a horrible tragedy and find each other amid the rubble. Wonderfully shot, the film finds its strengths in three major areas: cinematography, great performances (Naomi Watts, nominated for an Academy Award for her work, and Ewan McGregor) and strong storytelling. “The Impossible” loses a few points in overdramatizing a few sappy moments, but, for the most part, this is a strong film. The package does a good job with special features, and there aren't any differences between standard DVD and Blu-ray. Two fun featurettes look at casting and special effects. Deleted scenes and commentary also are available. 3 Stars.
“The Central Park Five” (2012, NR, 119 min., $24.99). Ken Burns is one of the best documentarians working today, but “The Central Park Five” just doesn't feel like one of his films. For one, it's only a couple hours long. Secondly, there's no narration. It's possible Burns' daughter, Sarah, was calling all the shots, as they worked together on this remarkable movie about one of the greatest miscarriages of justice in American history. In 1989, a group of five black and Latino teens were arrested and convicted for raping a white woman in Central Park in New York City. The teenagers were innocent, of course, but ended up serving between seven and 13 years in prison. This is their story. The picture's laid out like a great novel, collecting most of its info from interviews and TV clips. There aren't many extras on standard DVD and Blu-ray, but they are good. Separate interviews with the filmmakers offer some additional strong points on the case and a featurette lets the viewer in on what the free men are doing today. It's a fascinating story. 3.5 Stars.
“Wuthering Heights” (2011, NR, 129 min., $29.99). Talented British filmmaker Andrea Arnold penned the screenplay and directed this latest adaptation of Emily Bronte's 1847 love story, following up her successful 2009 film “Fish Tank” with another strong film. James Howson and Solomon Glave lead a strong cast.
“Gangster Squad” (2013, R, 113 min., $28.98). “Zombieland” director Ruben Fleischer brings to life the story of mobster Mickey Cohen and his battle with the authorities in Los Angeles. The highly stylized picture stars Sean Penn, Ryan Gosling, Josh Brolin and Emma Stone.
“A Haunted House” (2013, R, 86 min., $29.98). With the flood of found footage films out there these days, it was only a matter of time before someone spoofed the genre. Michael Tiddes directs this film about a young couple moving into their dream house, and realizing it's haunted. It's all laughs after that. Marlon Wayans stars.
“Pawn” (2013, R, 88 min., $24.98). Forest Whitaker, Michael Chiklis and Common lead a tremendously good cast in an intense film about a cop walking in on a robbery at an all-night diner. What comes next is a dramatic hostage situation with lots of twists and turns. David A. Armstrong makes his directorial debut.
“G-Dog” (2012, NR, 92 min., $29.95). Documentaries don't come any more inspirational than “G-Dog,” a picture about Father Greg Boyle — better known as G-Dog or Father G — a white Jesuit priest who has spent close to 30 years in the tough part of East Los Angeles trying to turn around the lives of lost souls.
“God's Country” (2012, NR, 96 min., $27.97). A successful businesswoman goes through a spiritual transformation in this family film. Meghan is a talented investment banker tasked with finishing a foreclosure on a Christian retreat, but when she finds out what the camp has to offer, she changes her ways.
NEW ON BLU-RAY
“Jurassic Park 3D” (Sam Neill and Jeff Goldblum, 1993, PG-13, 127 min., $49.98)
TV ON DVD
“Touched By an Angel: The Seventh Season” (Della Reese and Roma Downey, seven discs, 25 episodes, $61.99)
“Maverick: The Complete Second Season” (James Garner and Jack Kelly, six discs, 26 episodes, $39.98)