short circuits

New and noteworthy experiences among home video, games, gadgets and the Web.



‘Impossible’ vividly re-creates tsunami

The catastrophic nature of the 2004 tsunami in the Indian Ocean that opens the fact-based drama “The Impossible” is rendered with nightmarish realism by Spanish director J.A. Bayona.

The wall of water looks harrowingly real as it slams into the Thai resort where the film is set and where tourists Henry and Maria (Ewan McGregor and Naomi Watts) are spending the holidays with their three young sons. Equally realistic looking is the shocking aftermath: Maria’s bloody wounds from slamming into underwater debris; piles of human and animal corpses; uprooted trees and uprooted lives.

But what is rendered even more convincingly is the anguish of separation experienced by Maria, who’s swept away from the others with her eldest son, Lucas (Tom Holland), and by Henry, who also miraculously surfaces, with no one nearby but sons Thomas (Samuel Joslin) and Simon (Oaklee Pendergast).

After the intense opening sequence, the rest of the film tracks the efforts of these two halves of a family to reunite in the chaos and confusion left in the giant wave’s wake. It’s not a momentous story about heroism writ large, but an intimate tale of the small acts of kindness and connection that can occur when people are most desperate.

The DVD and Blu-ray (Summit, $30-$40) include commentary and deleted scenes.

Washington Post


Stay in touch easily

It’s hard enough to remember to get in touch with people in one-off situations, but when you have to remember regularly — whether it’s your mother once a week or a monthly phone meeting — you often need reminders. Luper ($1 for iOS and Android) reminds you and makes it easy to act on those reminders, as well.

Luper begins with big, colorful buttons labeled with different intervals: weekly, monthly, quarterly, every six months and yearly. Choose the one you want, and add someone to your Luper queue. You’ll then set a regular contact date for that person and decide if you want to call, text or e-mail them.

When that date arrives, so will a notification reminding you to make contact. Upon tapping that notification, you’ll be prompted to call, text or e-mail (whichever options you set).

Luper simplifies repeated contacts.




Help with phone photos

The MirrorCase for iPhone 4S ($50; is designed to let you use the phone in a more natural horizontal mode when taking photos.

In addition to acting as a case, it has a mirror on the front end just below the power button, which you aim toward your subject. With the case, you can put the phone on a flat surface to aim it with more accuracy if you want to jump in the photo.

A newer version is available for pre-orders for iPads ($80) and the iPhone 5 ($60), where the mirror rotates out in both landscape and portrait modes. When you’re not taking photos, the mirror folds back into the case.

McClatchy News Service



Luigi brings fun scares

“Luigi’s Mansion: Dark Moon” ($40 for Nintendo 3DS; rated Everyone) gives our green-clad hero a chance to shine over Mario, and for the most part he does the family name proud.

Equipped with a flashlight and a “Ghostbusters”-like backpack featuring a powerful vacuum rather than particle streams, Luigi must canvass mansions to locate items, solve puzzles and capture pesky specters.

In all, the game presents a playful tone but unravels at times due to questionable gameplay choices. The lack of save checkpoints means that if you get 90 percent through a particular level and then get defeated, you must restart the entire level.

For a game aimed at younger players, this wouldn’t seem taxing, but several of the later levels are actually quite challenging and lengthy, and the act of replaying long, arduous sections repeatedly drains your patience and enjoyment.

Still, “Dark Moon” remains a welcome change of pace that allows Luigi to hog the spotlight for a spell. He certainly holds his own when called upon to clean up a situation without the aid of his more popular brother.

Scripps Howard News Service