From the Big Screen:
This Week's Highlights:
Heading up this week's highlights are three off-beat films, including a limited editin of "Donnie Darko" and the Blu-ray debuts of "The Handmaid’s Tale" and "Tales From the Hood."
Fifteen years before "Stranger Things" combined science fiction, Spielberg-ian touches and 80s nostalgia to much acclaim, Richard Kelly set the template — and the high-water mark — with his debut feature, "Donnie Darko" (2011). Initially beset with distribution problems, it would slowly find its audience and emerge as arguably the first cult classic of the new millennium. Donnie is a troubled high school student: in therapy, prone to sleepwalking and in possession of an imaginary friend, a six-foot rabbit named Frank, who tells him the world is going to end in 28 days 06 hours 42 minutes and 12 seconds. During that time he will navigate teenage life, narrowly avoid death in the form of a falling jet engine, follow Frank's maladjusted instructions and try to maintain the space-time continuum. Described by its director as "The Catcher in the Rye as told by Philip K. Dick," "Donnie Darko" combines an eye-catching, eclectic cast — pre-stardom Jake and Maggie Gyllenhaal, heartthrob Patrick Swayze, former child star Drew Barrymore, Oscar nominees Mary McDonnell and Katherine Ross, and television favorite Noah Wyle — and an evocative soundtrack of 80s classics by Echo and the Bunnymen, Tears for Fears and Duran Duran. The "Donnie Darko Limited Edition" features brand new 4K restorations of both the Theatrical Cut and the Director's Cut from the original camera negatives produced by Arrow Films exclusively for this release, supervised and approved by director Richard Kelly and cinematographer Steven Poster, with original 5.1 audio. Extras on the four-disc DVD/Blu-ray combo include audio commentary by writer-director Richard Kelly and actor Jake Gyllenhaal on the Theatrical Cut; audio commentary by Kelly, producer Sean McKittrick and actors Drew Barrymore, Jena Malone, Beth Grant, Mary McDonnell, Holmes Osborne, Katharine Ross and James Duval on the Theatrical Cut; audio commentary by Kelly and filmmaker Kevin Smith on the Director's Cut; new interviews with Richard Kelly and others; "The Goodbye Place," Kelly's 1996 short film, which anticipates some of the themes and ideas of his feature films; "The Donnie Darko Production Diary," an archival documentary charting the film's production with optional commentary by cinematographer Steven Poster; 20 deleted and alternate scenes with optional commentary by Kelly; archive interviews with Kelly, actors Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Drew Barrymore, James Duval, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Holmes Osborne, Noah Wyle and Katharine Ross, producers Sean McKittrick, Nancy Juvonen, Hunt Lowry and Casey La Scala, and cinematographer Steven Poster; three archive featurettes: "They Made Me Do It," "They Made Me Do It Too" and "#1 Fan: A Darkomentary"; storyboard comparisons; B-roll footage; "Cunning Visions" infomercials; "Mad World" music video by Gary Jules; galleries; trailers; TV spots; illustrated collector's booklet containing new writing by Nathan Rabin; reversible sleeve featuring original and newly commissioned artwork by Candice Tripp. From Arrow Video/MVD Entertainment.
"The Handmaid’s Tale" (1990), helmed by the great German director Volker Schlöndorff and starring Natasha Richardson, Faye Dunaway, Robert Duvall, Aidan Quinn and Elizabeth McGovern, is based on Margaret Atwood's controversial and critically acclaimed best-selling novel. In the not-so-distant future, the strong-willed and beautiful Kate (Richardson) possesses a precious commodity that most women have lost and most men want to control… fertility. Having committed a crime by trying to escape the country, she is sentenced to life as a Handmaid. Leaving a brain-washing bootcamp that turns fertile women into surrogate mothers for elite men and their infertile wives, Kate thinks she's made out well when she's assigned to an eminent party leader (Duvall). But when she learns that he's sterile, she's faced with the impossible choice: produce him an heir or die. In a Blu-ray/DVD Combo from Shout! Factory’s Shout Select.
The cult horror anthology"Tales From the Hood" (1995) from director Rusty Cundieff and executive producer Spike Lee was lauded for its take on complex social issues like police brutality and domestic abuse. Stack, Ball and Bulldog arrive at a local funeral parlor to retrieve a lost drug stash held by the mortician Mr. Simms (Clarence Williams III). But Mr. Simms has plans for the boys. He leads them on a tour of his establishment, introducing them to his corpses. Even the dead have tales to tell and Mr. Simms is willing to tell them all. And you better listen — because when you’re in the ‘hood, even everyday life can lead to extraordinary terror. On Blu-ray Disc from the Scream Factory.
Rarely seen outside of Japan, "Ocean Waves" (1993) is a subtle, poignant and wonderfully detailed story of adolescence and teenage isolation. Taku and his best friend Yutaka are headed back to school for what looks like another uneventful year. But they soon find their friendship tested by the arrival of Rikako, a beautiful new transfer student from Tokyo whose attitude vacillates wildly from flirty and flippant to melancholic. When Taku joins Rikako on a trip to Tokyo, the school erupts with rumors, and the three friends are forced to come to terms with their changing relationships. "Ocean Waves" was the first Studio Ghibli film directed by someone other than studio founders Hayao Miyazaki and Isao Takahata, as director Tomomi Mochizuki led a talented staff of younger employees in an adaptation of Saeko Himuro’s best-selling novel ("Ocean Waves" was also a rare Studio Ghibli made-for-TV film). Full of shots bathed in a palette of pleasingly soft pastel colors and rich in the unexpected visual details typical of Studio Ghibli’s most revered works, "Ocean Waves" is an accomplished teenage drama and a true discovery. The film received a limited US run in 2016. On DVD, Blu-ray/DVD Combo from GKIDS/Universal.
And, last but not least, Sony has for us a Blu-ray versiob of "A League of Their Own 25th Anniversary Ediiton" (1992), directed by Penny Marshall and starring Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, Lori Petty, Madonna, Rosie O'Donnell, Megan Cavanagh, Tracy Reiner, Bitty Schram, Ann Cusack andAnne Ramsay. Extras include the new "“Bentonville, Baseball & The Enduring Legacy of A League of Their Own” featurette that includes a visit to the annual softball game at the Bentonville Film Festival, featuring all-new interviews with Geena Davis, and more; 15 deleted scenes; nine-part documentary featuring interviews with the cast and filmmakers; Madonna’s “This Used to Be My Playground” music video; filmmaker commentary; theatrical trailer.