Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut

Continuing with the Pi Day activities of Saturday, our second choice of movie was Donnie Darko: The Director’s Cut, as selected by David.  Most everyone, including me, had not seen it so we settled in for it.  I did not know what the plot was supposed to be, but I remember it being one of those “cult” favorites that many did not understand the first time around watching it.

The story centers on a high-schooler who has visions of a bunny after a jet engine crashes through his room – sort of a demented Harvey.  What follows is his journey to understand the messages being delivered and to see if he can figure out why the world will end in 28 days.  The movie is supported by good casting (Jake and Maggie Gyllenhall, Mary McConnell, Drew Barrymore, Noah Wyle) and interesting visuals.  The director’s cut included transitional pages that explained some of the phenomenon that were not present in the theatrical release – or so I was told.  While I know it is a 2-disc set, we only watched the movie.  While I could tell it was made well, I didn’t care for it by the time it was finished.

My advice: check it out if curious or are interested in time/space paradoxes….

Clash of the Titans (1981)

Some movie experiences you have as a child stay with you forever – seeing Star Wars on the big screen; watching Ferris Bueller’s Day Off on your first date; and having Regarding Henry play in background while your girlfriend cries about the fact that you have broken up and this time it is for good.  Well, Clash of the Titans holds a special place in my heart.  This was one of the first movies that my parents let me go to by myself while they went to watch something else; what made it even better was that my dad gave me money to buy my own concessions – of course I got into trouble for spending way too much and eating too much junk, but it was worth it.  I was blown away by what I saw on the screen and could not wait to see it again.  With it being 1981, I knew it would be years before I would get to see it on TV, my only option.  Imagine my joy when I found it on DVD and was able to relive a story based on Greek mythology once again.

Saturday found me celebrating Pi Day (3/14) with friends over at Lisa’s house.  I brought over some DVDs and this was deemed to be nerdy enough to be played.  Of course, I was the only one who had seen it in the theaters since it was before most were born that were present.

The story is about Perseus, played by a then-unknown Harry Hamlin, who is the mortal son of Zeus.  He finds his destiny intersecting with that of Andromeda, who is in need of rescuing.  What follows is a story woven with scenes of Hades, Medusa, and the mighty Kraken.  As a nod to the “Star Wars” crowd, one of the gifts from the gods is a mechanical owl that looks like a miniature C-3PO, but not as whiny.  The effects were extremely obvious given today’s capabilities, but it is a brilliant showcase for Ray Harryhausen’s abilities with stop-motion creations.

The DVD only had the trailer as an extra, which is a shame – I hope they give this one special treatment sometime soon.

My advice:  check it out one afternoon – you might believe that a horse can fly…

No Way Out

Say what you will about Kevin Costner, but there was a time when he actually made good movies that you wanted to see.  While the 90s and 00s have not been that great for him, he still has the glory of the late 80s.  Between The Untouchables and Bull Durham, he appeared in a thriller with Gene Hackman and Sean Young.  With it coming out in the height of the Cold War, the plot centered around a love triangle and the pursuit of a Russian spy.  I remember coming out of the theater, loving every second of the movie.

The main thing the writer and the director did was keep it simple with a twist.  They focused on the plot points and made sure to make every detail count for something – very few, if any, wasted scenes.  The interesting thing is how well the movie holds up over 20 years later.  Knowing the story does not ruin my enjoyment of it.  It should be noted that the first part of the movie is parodied in Hot Shots, Part Deux.

The DVD only had the trailer as an extra – just a quickie DVD release to have it out there.

My advice:  Grab this one the next time you want a good thriller – Yuri is out there…

Empire Records

We’ve all done it – found ourselves on a Saturday afternoon, feeling lazy and flipping channels when something catches our eyes and we get hooked in.  Then, over the next couple of years, you end up running across that item again and again.  The first time this happened was with the original Ocean’s 11 and then again with The Rat Pack.  I first discovered Empire Records back in 1996 in this manner and it became one of my go-to “veg” movies for a long time.

The story is fairly simple: a day in the life of the employees of a record store.  With most of them being teenagers, you get the typical teen angst problems interwoven with pining romance.  Casted by the people who brought you Dazed and Confused, Empire Records enjoys the talents of Renee Zellweger and Liv Tyler before they shot to super-stardom.  The movie also has a great soundtrack of 90s alternative rock.

My advice:  Give this one a spin; after all, they are open till midnight where Sinead O’Rebellion will shock you with her deviant behavior…

Wonder Woman

Warner Brothers and DC have enjoyed an 18-year relationship in producing quality superhero animation.  With the release of Batman:The Animated Series on TV, it was shown that good stories and superheroes could mix.  That success was followed by Superman, some Batman movies, and the Justice League series.  With the winding down of the JLU series and the rise of live-action, DC took a step back to figure out where to go next.  That step back yielded two highly-praised efforts: Justice League: The New Frontier; and Batman:Gotham Knight.

Enter their latest offering:  Wonder Woman

This is an origin story, adapted for today.  While some of the details have been changed, the spirit of the story remains.  An island exists, shielded from the rest of the world by magic and populated only by Amazons, frozen in time.  A US pilot crashes onto the island and is found by Diana.  Through competition, Diana is selected to escort the pilot back and to track down an escaped Ares, god of War.  Action ensues and the world is graced with the heroine, Wonder Woman.

Much like New Frontier, DC and Warners relied on traditional animation versus anime or digital to tell the story.  While the animation is beautiful, it is the story and voice-casting that stands out.  Andrea Romano once again, as she has for over 20 years, delivers a cast filled with recognizable names who are able to craft their voices in such a way as to sound familiar, yet not let their celebrity overpower their character.  Bruce Timm, as producer, ensures that the story holds true to the spirit of the origin and that what is delivered is top-quality.

I bought the Blu-Ray version since it had a digital copy included.  As such, I can not review the extras included on the Blu-Ray part, but there are a number of documentaries on various aspects of Wonder Woman.  The digital copy disc included a copy for the PC, as well as a copy for a portable device.

My advice:  Give this one a whirl – no golden lasso needed to verify that I speak the truth…