Love on the rocks – ‘THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS’ and ‘THE HANDMAIDEN’ lead this week’s Blu-ray and DVD releases

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Preston Barta // Editor

THE LIGHT BETWEEN OCEANS
Rated PG-13, 132 minutes.
Director: Derek Cianfrance
Cast: Michael Fassbender, Alicia Vikander, Rachel WeiszFlorence Clery and Bryan Brown
Available Tuesday on DVD, Blu-ray and various digital platforms.

What a remarkable filmmaker Derek Cianfrance has become. From a bittersweet study of a fading marriage (Blue Valentine) to a sweeping epic about fathers and sons (The Place Beyond the Pines), he has proved himself to be one of cinema’s most astute and honest artists.

His latest film, gracefully adapted by his own hand from M.L. Stedman’s novel of the same name, The Light Between Oceans is a life-affirming parable of parenthood wrapped in the clothing of classic tragedy.

Set in the early 1900s, the story focuses on a World War I veteran (Michael Fassbender) who accepts a temporary position as a lighthouse keeper off the shore of Western Australia with his wife (a should-be awards nominee Alicia Vikander). All seems happy with their new, isolated life, until they learn they cannot have children of their own. However, after discovering a baby in a shipwrecked boat, the couple decides to raise the child as their own.

The rest of the film almost seems like you could write it yourself, but the themes the film explores — such as duality, doing what you feel is right, and the consequences that follow the decisions we make — make the predictable quite visceral.

While Cianfrance is arguably a master of modern tearjerkers and has crafted beautifully tragic narratives with his last three films, hopefully The Light Between Oceans marks the closing chapter in his sad trilogy. It’s difficult for anyone to keep their composure in a theater when Cianfrance digs up deeper wellsprings of emotion with each new feature.

Extras: An in-depth audio commentary with Cianfrance and his film studies professor Phil Solomon, “Bringing the Light to Life” (a documentary that chronicles the making of the film) and “Lighthouse Keeper” (cast, filmmakers and experts share the history of the lighthouse).


THE HANDMAIDEN
Rated R, 144 minutes.
Director: Park Chan-wook
Cast: Min-hee KimKim Tae-riJung-woo Ha and Jin-woong Jo
Available Tuesday on DVD and various digital platforms.

Filmmaker Park Chan-wook (Oldboy) adapts Sarah Waters’ novel Fingersmith and builds on it in a way that not only captures the spirit of the original text but also aptly translates it into the language of cinema.

The Handmaiden sets the stage by turning back the clock to 1930s colonial Korea. It centers on two con artists — Count Fujiwara (Ha Jung-woo) and a personal servant named Sook-hee (Kim Tae-ri) — who try to seduce and abandon a wealthy Japanese heiress (Kim Min-hee) who’s under the thumb of her erratic, sex-obsessed Uncle Kouzuki (the haunting Cho Jin-woong). What’s initially presented as simple is anything but, however, as each character in turn gradually unveils their own agenda hidden up their sleeve.

What’s most admirable about The Handmaiden is its structure. It’s divided into three parts to allow a full rendering of the story as it’s filtered through varied perspectives of its characters. Even if you are shown the same act twice, there’s a sense of novelty and a subtle difference of tone that keeps the film moving and your interests on the top shelf.


INFERNO
Rated PG-13, 121 minutes.
Director: Ron Howard
Cast: Tom Hanks, Felicity Jones, Irrfan KhanOmar Sy and Ben Foster
Available Tuesday on DVD, Blu-ray and various digital platforms.

Tom Hanks playing Robert Langdon in these Dan Brown adaptations for the screen seems more like a contractual obligation rather than true artistic choice. Whether you liked the previous two installments or not, here be another: Inferno.

Ron Howard makes the mistake of directing another one of these movies by having Langdon track down the roots of another historical secret that could shake the world as we know it if it got out. So if that sounds familiar, you’re not alone in thinking so, as it’s essentially the same premise as every Brown novel and subsequent movie.

I suppose since we don’t have Indiana Jones returning things to the museum or Nicolas Cage stealing the Declaration of Independence, Hollywood feels the need to have that sense of historical adventure. Only thing is the wrong franchise is cranking them out.

Extras: Includes over 25 minutes of deleted scenes and six behind-the-scenes featurettes.


THE MONSTER
Rated R, 91 minutes.
Director: Bryan Bertino
Cast: Zoe Kazan, Ella Ballentine, Aaron DouglasChristine EbadiMarc Hickox and Scott Speedman
Available Tuesday on DVD, Blu-ray and various digital platforms.

While the trailer and plot summary may hint at another horror trip into the woods, The Monster has real teeth. Zoe Kazan (Ruby Sparks) stars as a mother who must protect her daughter (Ella Ballentine) and confront a terrifying beast when their car breaks down in an uninhabited location. It may not offer anything new to horror genre, but it sure leaves some emotional scars.

Extras: “Eyes in the Darkness” (a 7-minute behind-the-scenes featurette).

Also available on DVD and streaming: Black Girl (1966): Criterion Collection, I’m Not Ashamed, The Man Who Fell to Earth (1976): Limited Collector’s Edition, Sherlock: Season 4, USS Indianapolis: Men of Courage, and The Vessel.

About author

Preston Barta

Hello, there! My name is Preston Barta, and I am the features editor of Fresh Fiction and senior film critic at the Denton Record-Chronicle. My cinematic love story began where I was born: off planet on the isolated desert world of the Jakku system. It's there I passed the time scavenging for loose parts with my good friend Rey. One day I found an old film projector and a dusty reel of the 1975 film JAWS. It rocked my world so much that I left my kinfolk in the rearview (I so miss their morning cups of green milk) to pursue my dreams of writing about film. It wasn't long until I met two gents who said they would give me a lift. I can't recall their names, but one was an older man who liked to point a lot and the other was a tall, hairy fella. They got me as far as one of Jupiter's moons where we crossed paths with the U.S.S. Enterprise. Some pointy-eared bastard said I was clear to come aboard. He saw that I was clutching my beloved shark movie and invited me to the "moving pictures room" where he was screening the 1993 film JURASSIC PARK to his crew. He said my life would be much more prosperous if I were familiar with more work by the god named Steven Spielberg. From there, my love for cinema blossomed. Once we reached planet Earth, everything changed. I found the small town of Denton, TX, and was welcomed into the Barta family. They showed me the writings of local film critic Boo Allen. He became my hero and caused me to chase a degree in film and journalism. After my studies at graduate of the Hogwarts School of Witchcraft and Wizardry, I met some film critics who showed me the ropes and got me into my first press screening: 2011's THE GREEN LANTERN. Don't worry; I recovered just fine. MAD MAX: FURY ROAD was only four years away.