It really seems to be a matter of attitude. Critic Roger Ebert, writing for the Chicago Sun-Times described The Impossible as a “searing film of human tragedy,” while A. O. Scott of the New York Times was left unimpressed, saying it was “less an examination of mass destruction than the tale of a spoiled holiday.” Directed by Juan Antonio Bayona, and featuring performances by Naomi Watts and Ewan McGregor that have won rave reviews from critics for their intensity and nuance, this is a disaster movie that tells a remarkable story of survival in the wake of the tsunami that devastated coastal areas around the Pacific Basin in 2004. Watts and McGregor are a couple holidaying at a Thai beachside resort with their three children. The flood waters leave family members injured and separated, desperately seeking each other in the chaos left behind when the waters recede.
Josh Radnor’s second venture as writer-director, following on from his coming of age dramedy Happy Thank You More Please in 2010. Once again, he is looking at college-aged kids facing the adult world. It tells the story of Jesse (Radnor), a 30-something who returns to his alma mater for a professor’s retirement party, where he falls for Zibby (Elizabeth Olsen), a college student. Olsen has won huge praise for her intelligent, innocent-yet-sophisticated performance, and the dialogue has plenty of nice zippy lines, but the whole project seems to be running on slightly less than a full tank. There is a nice supporting part played by the always-reliable Richard Jenkins as Jesse’s professor, and an absence of cynicism that is refreshing. Despite its lack of heft, there is charm and intelligence to spare.
A documentary from 2009 about rock photographer Robert Knight, who has the distinction of being one of the first photographers to photograph future legends Jimi Hendrix and Led Zeppelin. As a self-effacing young man from Honolulu, Knight worked his way first into the press pit, and later became a close friend of many of the rock and roll legends he photographed. In the course of the film, Knight revisits the likes of Jeff Beck, Slash, Carlos Santana, and extends his role as photographer to promoting young musician Tyler Dow Bryant. The mesmerizing movement expressed through his images, and the cinematography, combine to create an impressive visual effect, but it’s Robert’s life-long love for the music, and his genuine excitement about the artists he photographs, that really provides the film with its emotional power.
A British-made documentary that follows eight people who are taking part in the World Over 80s Table Tennis Championships in Inner Mongolia. Filmmakers Hugh and Anson Hartford have captured something truly inspirational in people such as Terry, aged 81, who despite a battle with cancer and a prognosis of just weeks to live, gives his all to the tournament and has his sights firmly fixed on winning gold. Dorothy deLow, aged 100, does not give anything away to the striplings in their 80s. Age does not wither them, and in the competition, the Hartfords create a tale not about winning or losing, but about looking the problems of old age in the eye and then getting on with life and its many pleasures.