Plus 12 more new releases to watch at home this week on Blu-ray/DVD.
Welcome to this week in home video! Click the title to buy a Blu-ray/DVD from Amazon and help support FSR in the process!
Pick of the Week
What is it? A young man in the Filipino town of Baler suspects he may have been fathered by a certain American director who filmed a Vietnam war epic in town several years prior.
Why buy it? The identity of finding the truth about his father is a catalyst of sorts here, but it’s far from the focus of Mario Cornejo and co-writer Monster Jimenez’s beautiful, raw, and affecting film. Instead it’s the idea of escaping one’s past through self-deception and distraction that pervades the screen alongside gorgeous visuals and performances. You can’t look away no matter how much you may want to. There’s a story here, a few actually threaded in and out of each other, but the film’s as much of a character study as narrative piece. We watch them struggle, both with the past and in the present, and we can’t help but go along for the journey – sometimes willingly, sometimes by force. Credit for that powerful pull is shared equally by cast and crew as everything about this movie is just so damn beautiful.
[DVD extras: None]
Donnie Darko [Arrow Video]
What is it? A troubled teenager sees visions, has an imaginary (and very non-human) buddy, and believes the end of the world is coming soon.
Why see it? Richard Kelly’s fascinating blend of teenage angst and genre elements remains a darkly compelling descent into madness and sci-fi infused concerns. A strong cast compliments Kelly’s intense and striking visuals and themes, and the result is a film that feels wholly unique. The director’s cut is also included, but it has little to offer beyond mere curiosity as its additions actually subtract from the film. Arrow Video has done their usual outstanding job with the presentation here with newly remastered editions of both versions getting their own cases alongside a hardcover book featuring new writings on the film. It’s a beautiful package for a beautiful film.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Theatrical/director’s cuts, new 4k restorations, commentaries, new documentary, short film, featurettes, deleted scenes, interviews, infomercials, music video, hardcover book]
Donnie Darko (4-Disc Limited Edition) [Blu-ray + DVD]
The Fortune Cookie [Twilight Time]
What is it? A nice guy is convinced to pull a scam for a big payout, but the cost may be more than he can handle.
Why see it? Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau onscreen together are always worth watching, and while The Odd Couple and Grumpy Old Men get most of the attention this Billy Wilder gem deserves every bit as much love. The dialogue and banter here are blisteringly fast and wicked, and while the laughs remain the film shifts gears to explore hard choices and moral quandaries with insight and wisdom. There’s a race element at play here too, but it’s allowed to sit naturally rather than artificially enhanced. It’s a funny, rapid ride, and it’s one you’ll be watching more than once in admiration of the talents on display.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
How to Steal a Million [Twilight Time]
What is it? A woman enlists the help of a burglar to help save her forger father from going to jail.
Why see it? Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole headline this lightly effervescent caper comedy that blends romantic inclinations, illegal shenanigans, and a bubbly sense of humor to great effect. Director William Wyler guides his cast and crew with a steady hand ensuring they all take full advantage of the city of Paris. Banter, deception, and brief bouts of “action” keep things hopping along at a giddy pace. Light but highly entertaining pictures like these aren’t all that common these days, but thankfully Twilight Time is doing the good work of enshrining some of them onto Blu-ray for us to enjoy for many more years to come.
[Blu-ray extras: Commentary, featurette]
Tales from the Hood [Scream Factory]
What is it? Four tales and a wraparound focused on three thugs who visit the wrong mortuary.
Why see it? Great horror anthologies are hard to come by these days, but luckily there are still plenty to be rediscovered thanks to home video labels like Scream Factory. 1995’s Tales from the Hood is a highly entertaining blend of horror and social commentary from director Rusty Cundieff (who co-wrote alongside Darin Scott who also co-wrote an earlier horror anthology From a Whisper to a Scream), and it holds up extremely well in its stories, presentation, and themes. Some of the effects are dated, but there’s an undeniable charm in the way they balance the film’s heavier aspects and ideas.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Making of, commentary, featurette]
Tales from the Hood (Collector’s Edition) [Blu-ray]
Another Woman [Twilight Time]
What is it? A woman pauses to reflect on her life and is distracted by the lives of others.
Why see it? Woody Allen’s dramatic films are typically better than his comedic ones – for my money at least – and this short look at a life in disarray captures a lot of what Allen does best. Gena Rowlands gives a tremendous, albeit brief performance across an engaging eighty minutes, and she’s joined by the charismatic and talented likes of Gene Hackman, Mia Farrow, John Houseman, Martha Plimpton, and others. There’s depth to Rowlands’ character despite the short running time, and it makes for an affecting watch.
[Blu-ray extras: None]
What is it? The true story of the man who turned McDonald’s into America’s church.
Why see it? There are some interesting details in the story of Ray Kroc’s takeover of the McDonald’s brand and subsequent building of an empire, but the main reason to watch the film is Michael Keaton. He’s a whirling blend of charm, mania, and prickishness, and he energizes the tale more than anything else. Like seemingly all biopics of “great” men the film of course includes Kroc’s decision to dump his old wife and replace her with a younger model, but anyone who listens to NPR will know that’s coming before it hits. There are some laughs alongside the information and mild dramas too.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Featurettes]
The Handmaid’s Tale [Shout Select]
What is it? Births plummet, and men shape a new world to suit their needs and desires.
Why see it? Margaret Atwood’s acclaimed novel positing a religiously fueled dystopia is getting the limited series treatment from Hulu soon, but for now the feature film from 1990 offers up plenty of commentary and criticism for a patriarchy that doesn’t feel as far removed from reality as it should. It’s a bleak tale, albeit one with slightly more hope than the likes of 1984, but those seeking expected genre thrills should temper those hopes. More drama than thriller, the film suggests a path that the real America could too easily tread, and it’s unsettling.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: None]
What is it? A couple takes a vacation hoping fix their relationship, but they find terror and murder instead.
Why see it? Tricia Helfer (Battlestar Galactica) is one half of the innocent couple trying to relax but faced with threatening figures in the form of Stephen Lang and Dominic Purcell. Not everyone’s as bad as they first appear, but things play out roughly as you’d expect all the same. It’s a harmless, forgettable thriller, but attractive locales and an appealing B-grade cast make it watchable.
[DVD extras: None]
A League of Their Own – 25th Anniversary
What is it? While the men are away the women will play (baseball).
Why see it? Penny Marshall’s modern comedy classic is now a quarter century old, but it remains as wonderfully acted, terrifically funny, and pitch perfect as ever. There’s not a bad note to be found here. The only reason I’m including this reissue under “the rest” instead of “the best” is that the film hit Blu-ray just five years ago. This new anniversary edition is something of a double dip cash grab as it adds only a mild featurette to the previously available supplements. Pick this up if you don’t already own it, but if you have the earlier Blu just re-watch that one instead.
[Blu-ray extras: Featurette, commentary, deleted scenes, documentary, music video]
What is it? Two best friends find their own relationship change with the arrival of a girl.
Why see it? This decade-old Studio Ghibli film gets an overdue release here in the US from the fine folks at GKids, and fans will be pleased. It’s a beautifully-drawn coming of age tale about friendship’s beginnings and ends and the shifting winds of who and what appeals to us as we grow. It feels at times like a YA version of a Haruki Murakami novel, and that’s not a bad thing.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Short film, featurette]
What is it? A seemingly dirty cop is under pressure to rescue his son, prove his innocence, and take down the bad guys in the course of one night.
Why see it? This remake of the French thriller Sleepless Night follows most of the same beats, but it never finds its own pulse. Action is a mixed bag of gun play and brawls, none of which stand out as memorable, and while it’s great to see Michelle Monaghan onscreen in an action-oriented role her detective is a poorly written excuse for a cop.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, making of]
What is it? A disturbed man abducts three teenage girls and then has debates with himself as to what to do with them.
Why see it? What frustrates about the film and about its two big issues below is that James McAvoy is absolutely terrific and impressively committed with a performance that entertains and excites in equal measure. He crafts unique personas here through mannerism and expression, and in one of the personalities delivers some genuine laughs and levity amid the supposed terror. Some minor beats offer feigned suspense, but anyone who’s seen more than a few thrillers will know where its going well before it gets there as both big and small story turns feel expected. The bigger issue though, the one that drags the film down from passable entertainment to highly disappointing misfire, is its oddly misguided view on women. Perhaps it’s an issue of an economy of characters, but every female character here is, for lack of a better term, worthless under pressure. They accomplish nothing, and with only a single exception they exist only as unavoidable victims.
[Blu-ray/DVD extras: Deleted scenes, making of, featurettes]
Also Out This Week:
The Assassin [Arrow Academy], Bigger Fatter Liar, Buena Vista Social Club [Criterion], Punching Henry, Teen Titans: The Judas Contract, Woman of the Year [Criterion]
Related Topics: Home Video