4/30/13: Silver Linings Playbook, Shelter Me, Manborg, The Guilt Trip, The Details, Not Fade Away, Broken City

Silver Linings Playbook (R, 2012, Anchor Bay)
“Silver Linings Playbook” shows its hand the instant Pat (Bradley Cooper) meets Tiffany (Jennifer Lawrence), and it pledges kinship with a thousand romantic movies that came before it and a thousand more that surely will follow. And that doesn’t even matter, because the difference between this story and most of those is just how exhilarating it is to get from where we stand at that moment to the inevitable outcome “Playbook” is almost obligated to provide. Pat isn’t just a boy: He’s a bipolar boy fresh out of a psychiatric hospital who is married to an estranged wife he wants back despite her restraining order against him. And Tiffany isn’t just a girl: She’s a widow, she lost her job because of reckless promiscuity, and she has a temper on par with Pat’s and an equal sensitivity to things that can set it off. Throw in some friends and two families (Robert De Niro, Chris Tucker, Jacki Weaver, John Ortiz, Julia Stiles, Shea Whigham) with their own trials and maladies, and “Playbook” is a myriad of fragility and emotional eggshells on which to walk. And two hours of that would prove unbearably tiresome were nearly every minute not such a raging, honest, darkly funny and altogether furious shredding of all those weird feelings and the things they make people say and do. It’s hard for a movie to descend into dreariness when its heart is racing this fast. As the name implies, a happy ending is “Playbook’s” prime objective, and its characters will bare their teeth and wreak all manner of havoc until that goal is within lunging distance. It’s hard not to be at least somewhat predictable with a premise like that and pieces like these, but it’s even harder for that to matter when watching “Playbook’s” gameplan come together is this much fun.
Extras: Deleted scenes, Q&A highlights, four behind-the-scenes features.

Shelter Me (NR, 2013, Virgil Films)
Anecdotal evidence would suggest that public sentiment is increasingly on its side, but misconceptions still abound regarding the act of rescuing a shelter dog versus adopting one from a breeder or pet store. For those who approach it with mind open, “Shelter Me” wipes just about all that uncertainty away within an hour’s time, and it does so without a drop of unnecessarily passive-aggressive guilt-tripping. Effectively divided into three parts, “Shelter Me” not only charts the paths to adoption of two stray but wonderfully sweet pit bulls, but also looks in on a pair of service dog industries that help rehabilitate prisoners, homecoming soldiers and the disabled. The stories are remarkable, as is the proclamation that neither program needs to breed dogs to shore up its ranks because there are so many smart, well-mannered and trained dogs in shelters who make a natural and wildly enthusiastic transition into service dogs. But “Shelter Me’s” overwhelming takeaway is the two-way street that connects dogs who need a home with people who need a friend like them every bit as badly. Dog lovers already are well aware of the void a dog can fill in exchange for a loving home. But that messaging often gets lost amid a sea of guilt-tripping and self-righteousness that risks alienating those who express any curiosity about the rescue process. There’s a better way to discuss this, and “Shelter Me” does a heartwarming, funny and inspiring job of showing the way. No extras.

Manborg (NR, 2011, Dark Sky Films)
In the battle between man and Hell, Hell won running away. Among the casualties were two soldier brothers. One perished. The other (Matthew Kennedy) should have, but instead was preserved and rebuilt into the Robocop wannabe whose new name provides “Manborg” with its namesake. In case you’re wondering: No, “Manborg” does not take itself seriously. About the only thing it does take seriously is the nearly endangered experience of walking into a video store, finding the strangest VHS tape on the shelf, and devouring it whole. From the effects — bad green screen, casual uses of makeup, clashes between computer and stop-motion animation, color where color doesn’t naturally go — to the amazing “Bio-Cop” trailer that plays at the end of the “tape” following the credits, “Manborg” dots every i and crosses every t in its meticulous love letter to the small window of time when finding homemade independent movies was a special event instead of an hourly occurrence on YouTube. As for the story itself? “Manborg’s” titular character’s delivery is more leaden than a pencil and paint factory in the 1950s, his sidekicks include a 1980s punk rock caricature (Conor Sweeney) and a martial artist (Ludwig Lee) with built-in voice dubbing, and his story includes powerful lines like “Hey bro. It’s me, your brother.” The story gets along famously with everything else happening here, and at roughly 62 minutes long before Bio-Cop takes over and steals the show, it’s just compact enough not to overstay its welcome.
Extras: Short film “Fantasy Beyond,” director commentary, director/writer/producer commentary, deleted/alternate scenes, three behind-the-scenes features, interviews, bloopers.

The Guilt Trip (PG-13, 2012, Paramount)
Eventually, “The Guilt Trip’s” true colors shine through, and those colors form a movie that’s sweet, funny and genuinely lovable. It just takes a while to get there. “Trip” begins with Andrew (Seth Rogen), an inventor struggling mightily to sell his creation and, among other things, find love. His mom Joyce (Barbra Streisand) pays a visit, tells him a story of a long-lost love of her own, and Andrew books a road trip during which he can pitch his product and secretly track down this lost love. Between here and there, though, “Trip” takes two descents — first into cliched “mom nags son and embarrasses him by saying the darnedest things” territory, then deeper into a swarm of ill will, fighting and comic relief that, save for a funny line or two, feels like it isn’t even trying. This goes on long enough to make it a safe bet that this is all “Trip” is. But then, following the inevitable low point that was etched in stone numerous scenes earlier, things turn around. “Trip” very nearly gets whiplash in doing so, but the mood shift doesn’t feel contrived or heavy. To the contrary, the movie’s best and funniest scene also is the one that guides the film around this hairpin turn. There’s even a good surprise or two waiting in the last act, which was unfathomable during the uninspired first half. It’s still too bad all that time goes mostly to waste, but if we’re only getting half of an excellent movie, much better it be the second half than the first.
Extras: Deleted scenes, three behind-the-scenes features.

The Details (R, 2011, Anchor Bay)
Jeff (Tobey Maguire) and Nealy (Elizabeth Banks) have been married for what we can presume are 10 pretty good years. And that’s something of a miracle when “The Details” reveals just how ready that wall was to wobble and fall down. All it took were some raccoons, an unstable next door neighbor (Laura Linney), a shoulder to cry on (Kerry Washington) and two people (Ray Liotta and Dennis Haysbert) who want to return favors for diametrically different reasons. That a collapse of some kind is imminent isn’t a spoiler: A narrating Jeff comes out and says so — and admits everything that happens next is his fault — right at the top. Naturally, the surprises lie in the details, and perhaps the biggest surprise is that a movie called “The Details” isn’t always mindful of them itself. As dark comedies go, “The Details” offers plenty to like, and that likability starts with Jeff, whose Boy Scout face and mannerisms fly gloriously in the face of nearly everything he does, good intentions or not. Without naming names and spoiling spoilers, similar kudos go to his supporting characters, whose own doings give Jeff a chance to achieve the sympathetic character status he probably doesn’t deserve. But a story that starts strong and spirals magnificently out of control eventually finds itself backed into a corner with a lot of loose ends and a weird mood that splits the difference between dark comedy and something genuinely flirting with detestable. An extremely limp ending is the price “The Details” pays for not minding the little things more carefully, and while it’s not so bad as to undo the fun of the first two acts, it’s a buzzkill all the same.
Extras: Alternate beginning and ending.

Not Fade Away (R, 2012, Paramount)
The best, strangest, most I-don’t-care-who-is-watching-or-what-they-think scene in “Not Fade Away” happens at the very very end, wherein the story’s closing moment morphs into a thesis hypothesis and then a spontaneous dance number that loops back around to “Fade’s” earlier moments and the promise they held for both the characters and us. In between, “Fade” is the story of Douglas (John Magaro), the music he wants to play, the rock ‘n’ roll dream he chases in lieu of college, the girl (Bella Heathcote) he can’t get out of his mind and the people (namely his father, played by James Gandolfini, who inadvertently steals every scene he’s in) he angers and defies along the way. All of it is set amid the backdrop of the 1960s, because of course it is. When was the last time you saw a story about a rock ‘n’ roll dream painted atop the romantic landscapes of the 1980s or 2000s? Few movies would attempt something that weird, and outside of its last few minutes, “Fade” is no exception. Douglas’s story is blessed with reverence, attention to detail, strong writing and a strong cast carrying it out. But we’ve had this dream umpteen times already, and there’s nearly nothing “Fade” does that sets it apart from the similar and often fresher stories that preceded it. No extras.

Broken City (R, 2013, Fox)
Though not convicted of murder or even brought to trial, NYPD detective Billy Taggart’s (Mark Wahlberg) fatal shooting of a man was politically hot enough for Mayor Nicholas Hostetler (Russell Crowe) to stifle some evidence and take Taggart’s badge away to keep it buried. Seven years later, Taggart is teetering as a reformed alcoholic, a struggling private detective and the boyfriend of the woman (Natalie Martinez) whose sister was murdered by the man he killed. That, sadly, is the kind of ludicrous “Broken City” covets. Mayor Hostetler enlists Taggart to investigate his wife (Catherine Zeta-Jones), whom he suspects is having an affair, and once Taggart takes the case, he’s quickly embroiled in a much uglier and dangerous mess than he originally anticipated. Not surprisingly, the same mayor who buried evidence seven years ago isn’t on the level this time either — and did we mention it’s an election year? “City” throws so many balls in the air that it would seem able to just coast into some sort of entertaining finish. Instead, all those balls just crash into each other and create a maelstrom of muddled storytelling that manages to be both ridiculous and completely ravaged by cliche at once. Pretty much no one outside of Taggart’s assistant (Alona Tal) is all that likable, and even she pushes her luck when the obnoxious low-rent-cop-drama dialogue gets too cute for anybody’s good. “City” regularly tries obscuring its vanilla storylines with diversions, be it cute dialogue, political messaging that culminates in a painfully long mayoral debate scene, or girlfriend/alcohol melodrama that falls almost comically flat. But all these diversions do is pile unappealing layers onto a tired, derivative core that’s unappealing enough on its own.
Extras: Alternate ending, deleted/extended scenes, behind-the-scenes documentary.

4/23/13: G-Dog, Any Day Now, Happy People: A Year in the Taiga, The Impossible

G-Dog (NR, 2012, Docurama)
So much ink and air is spent daily on theories about how to curtail gang violence and turn young people’s lives around, which makes it all the more incredible that a working model exists and remains generally unknown by many of the folks wringing their hands. Father Greg Boyle’s Los Angeles-based Homeboy Industries has honed its rehabilitative efforts to the tune of a staggering 70 percent success rate, job and business creation, and imitation models around the world. So why does an effective solution to a seemingly unstoppable worldwide problem have to struggle to keep its doors open? Good question, and one even “G-Dog” nor Boyle himself can completely answer. But “G-Dog” isn’t really here to bemoan the realities of operating a 300-employee operation that’s free without strings to those willing to take a chance on it. Boyle, whose sense of humor and wit are as exemplary as his ability to turn kids’ lives around, is not one for self-pity. Neither are the employees, many of whom are former cases who revere Boyle like a father while emulating his work and stepping into leadership positions of their own. Homeboy Industries’ fight to stay afloat is a large part of “G-Dog’s” narrative, but it’s the people fighting for it — and the amazing model that turned them into fighters — that easily is the film’s most gratifying takeaway. No extras.

Any Day Now (R, 2012, Music Box Films)
When Rudy (Alan Cumming) barges into his neighbor’s unlocked apartment to chew her out after another full night of her stereo playing on blast, what he finds instead is her teenage son Marco (Isaac Leyva) huddled in a corner by himself, where he presumably has been all night after his drug-addled mom (Jamie Anne Allman as Marianna) skipped out to go who knows where. Rudy watches over Marco that morning, and when the inevitable day comes when Marianna is jail-bound and the state comes to retrieve Marco, Rudy launches an endeavor to adopt him and keep him out of the system. Were “Any Day Now” set today under vanilla conditions, Rudy would have an uphill fight on his hands. But Marco has Down syndrome, which makes him both a special case and that much tougher to match with capable and willing parents. Rudy, meanwhile, is a gay drag queen, and the district attorney (Garret Dillahunt as Paul) with whom he wants to raise Marco is compelled to hide their relationship while providing navigation through this bureaucratic minefield. And because things aren’t difficult enough, “Day” is set in the 1970s, when attitudes about gay parents’ ability to raise any child — never mind one with special needs — were 40 years more antiquated than they are now. Were “Day” not based on a true story, it might come off as so unbelievably loaded as to flirt with self-parody. But no one would recount this story if that’s all there was to it, and “Day” handles all that gravity with the complex care — some heartache for sure, but plenty of fury, elation and adoration of the purest kind as well — it deserves. What so easily could have been a tale of abstracts instead is a captivating story about Rudy, Paul and especially Marco. They inherit those abstracts, but those abstracts don’t define them, and they certainly don’t dictate where their story goes.
Extras: Isaac’s audition, two behind-the-scenes features.

Happy People: A Year in the Taiga (NR, 2010, Music Box Films)
Werner Herzog is a wonderfully unique documentarian, in part because he’s extremely gifted in the art of asking questions that are both compassionate and wincingly blunt. In “Happy People: A Year in the Taiga,” Herzog proves just as graceful at simply listening, providing interstitial narration for the viewer while letting professional trapper Gennady Soloviev speak for himself and stoically, gracefully take over the movie. “People” documents a year in the life of a Siberian wilderness village that’s accessible only by boat or helicopter, considers negative 33 degrees to be a “mild” winter day, and holds roughly 300 people whose way of life (need it be said) is markedly different than ours. At some point before long, though, this becomes Soloviev’s movie, and “People’s” view of the Taiga threads as much through his eyes as through the movie’s own. The view is partially obstructed as result — Soloviev spends considerable time with no one but his dogs, who arguably get second billing in this story — and there probably was a more democratic way to spread the storytelling around and get a wider picture of the entire village dynamic. Whether that would have made a better movie, though, is easily debatable, and that’s entirely a credit to Soloviev and the elegant way he parses his words and closes the bridge between his life and that of most who will see his story. There’s lots to learn about the Taiga by watching “People,” but the wisdom doesn’t end there by any stretch.
Extras: “Chasing Spring in West Siberia” documentary, Herzog introduction, Siberia fact sheet.

The Impossible (PG-13, 2012, Summit Entertainment)
It’s all right to feel anywhere from slightly to completely uneasy while watching “The Impossible” and still accept that it arrives with the best of intentions. “The Impossible” is based on a true story, wherein the vacationing Maria (Naomi Watts), Henry (Ewan McGregor) and their three children are ravaged by a tsunami, separated in a foreign land, and potentially left for dead. That tsunami, as it happens, is the one that struck Indonesia the day after Christmas 2004 and killed more than 200,000 people. In a vacuum without context, “The Impossible” is a stirring, if occasionally stylistically overwrought, story about the attempt to overcome some fierce and terrifying odds. Peripherally, it’s a story about the kindness of the Thai people who came to the aid of vacationing strangers while their entire world was falling apart. But because “The Impossible” doesn’t exist in a vacuum, it’s a little striking just how peripheral that is, particularly when perhaps the most doted-on good deed of all goes to a fellow tourist who lends out his cell phone despite the battery running low. “The Impossible” never pretends to be the end-all, be-all story of the tsunami, so it’s unreasonable to completely judge it on that standard. The Belón family has as much right as anyone to tell their story (even if the actors playing them look nothing like them, their last name is inexplicably changed to Bennet and Henry’s name was actually Enrique), and “The Impossible” hits its intended target as gratifying entertainment with roots in truth. But even with all that said, it’s just a little strange — not unconscionable, not necessarily even wrong, just strange — to root a quintet of tourists onto safety while those who either didn’t survive or couldn’t leave are rendered mostly invisible.
Extras: Filmmakers/Maria Belón commentary, deleted scenes, two behind-the-scenes features.

4/16/13: Django Unchained, A Monster in Paris, A Whisper to a Roar, Save the Date, Sugartown

Django Unchained (R, 2012, Weinstein Company/Anchor Bay)
At two hours and 45 minutes strong, “Django Unchained” — a spaghetti western of sorts about, for lack of spoiler-enabling specifics, a slave (Jamie Foxx), the bounty hunter (Christoph Waltz) who rebuilds him and the men (Leonardo DiCaprio and Samuel L. Jackson) standing between him and the woman (Kerry Washington) he loves — is unarguably long and perhaps needlessly so. With bullets and N-bombs flying with comparable abandon from nearly every mouth and gun that gets any screen time, it’s unquestionably fearless. And were such a cocktail left in the care of a tone-deaf bartender, the whole production might have amounted to a misguided, career-staining disaster. But Quentin Tarantino seems to understand the merits of getting taboo and farce to not simply cooperate, but conspire against everything we’re so sure we know so well. “Unchained” doesn’t simply engage in loaded imagery and language: It bathes in it with the bathroom door open, and it does so as much in the spirit of comedy as that of gravity. And yet, because of how much attention is lavished on the makeup of characters who often loom larger than life in spite of their grimy, gloomy backdrop, the effect of those words and images never feels like the point of it all. “Unchained” is unabashedly violent, but it only fleetingly is gratuitous with its display of violence, and it pins its language and imagery so tightly to its characters’ chests that they, rather than the movie as a whole, proudly own everything they say and do. The line between shocking and farcical is paper-thin, and through that line crashes a wildly exciting western that is at once simpler and more thoughtful than a momentary glance at that running time and sensational baggage would ever suggest.
Extras: Three behind-the-scenes features.

A Monster in Paris (PG, 2011/2012, Shout Factory)
It would require too many words to explain how and why, but there’s a monster — a gigantic flea, specifically — loose on the streets and in the skies of Paris. The residents are terrified, and an ambitious wannabe mayor has vowed to kill it. And the monster? Not only is he more docile than a house-trained puppy, but — as a beloved singer discovers after encountering him, fainting, screaming, fleeing and spying from the other side of an open window — he’s a surprisingly gifted musician. Again, the computer-animated “A Monster in Paris” explains all, and it’s best to let it do so, because the road from mystery to explanation is gridlocked with pleasant surprises. “Monster” isn’t spotless, particularly when it has to bring this odd story — of a would-be mayor, a singer, the delivery guy who adores her, his best friend, the girl he loves, a monkey and a flea named Francoeur — to a neat climax and conclusion. In a scramble to do so, “Monster” leans on formulaic action that ever so modestly dilutes the charm of all that precedes it. Fortunately, that aforementioned roster of characters provides so much charm that even a diluted solution is incredibly potent. “Monster’s” character and setting design are a grandiose but subtle shade of gorgeous, and those characters embody their visual personas brilliantly. Even in that imperfect last act, the film never tries too hard to be funny, crazy or cloying. It is funny, silly and incredibly sweet, but it gets there naturally, cleverly and seemingly effortlessly. If you never thought you could love a giant flea, you might be shocked just how easily and effectively this film makes it so. Worth noting: This version of “Monster” includes only the English voice track. It’s an excellent track, but if you want the original French audio as well, fair warning. No extras.

A Whisper to a Roar (NR, 2012, Virgil Films)
A feature film isn’t the best medium through which to present five instances around the world — Egypt, Ukraine, Venezuela, Malaysia and Zimbabwe — of oppressed citizens finally having enough and striking back against their governments. But as a primer or some kind of democracy-in-action starter pack, “A Whisper to a Roar” pretty much gets it perfectly right. “Roar” cycles periodically between countries as if to present five smaller three-act films at once, with each scenario getting a who’s who and what’s what before the film returns later to dig deeper and present each populace’s discontent in more personal detail. If that doesn’t sound dry on paper, it certainly sounds repetitive. But tedium never stands a chance against “Roar’s” storytelling approach, which mixes the empirical and personal so thoroughly as to make them one. These aren’t current events lessons so much as stories about what’s going on out there, and while “Roar” leaves most of the talking to others — there’s no narrator, only the occasional text blurb providing context — it takes special care to give faces to every name on both sides of authority. The real stories begin where this ends, because the best way to follow a revolution in 2013 is live and from the mouths and keyboards of those on the ground as things unfold. But for those who need a crash course first, “Roar” is as productive a 90-minute class as you’re likely to find.
Extra: Extended interviews.

Save the Date (R, 2012, IFC Films)
On paper, Sarah’s (Lizzy Caplan) life sounds potentially obnoxiousnly idyllic. Her sister (Alison Brie as Beth) is about to marry a seemingly good guy (Martin Starr as Andrew), and Sarah herself is gearing up to move in with Kevin (Geoffrey Arend), who also is Andrew’s bandmate and a seemingly good guy himself. Double dates for life, right? You bet, at least until Kevin impulsively attempts a public marriage proposal and the backfire is fierce enough to rattle way more than his nerve. Turns out, Sarah’s early quips about being a bit of a mess wasn’t just her self-depreciating sense of humor on display, and she isn’t the only one who needs a moment right now. So what’s “Save the Date’s” angle? It’s never so dour as to completely surrender the comedy tag, but it also seems conscious of the notion that a descent into romantic comedy formula would be as bad as or worse than a happiness death spiral that at least manages some honesty on the way down. The plain name suggests banality, but perhaps that’s self-conscious ironic banality? “Date” itself may not be completely sure, and that isn’t necessarily a knock. What sometimes feels like an adherence to feel-good formula turns quickly into a rejection of that very notion, but while “Date” sometimes wobbles during the course of these sharp turns, it stays on its feet with the consistent reminder that nobody in this likable but messy story has had it completely together at any point since the story began. It takes a special touch to end a movie on a note that feels transformative and square-one familiar at once, and “Date,” a well-crafted mess from start to finish, does that nicely.
Extras: Writer/director commentary, deleted scenes, outtakes, making-of mini comic, music video.

Sugartown (NR, 2011, Acorn Media)
Once upon a time in happier days, Sugartown was a bustling and aptly-named resort town renowned for its dance studios and candy confections. But those days are nearly fully gone, Jason’s (Shaun Dooley) candy factory is in danger of shutting down, and Jason’s brother Max (Tom Ellis) — who left Sugartown years ago in search of bigger and better things — has returned not to save the factory, but to exacerbate its shutdown so he can turn Sugartown over and rebuild it. As a bonus, Max has his eye on Jason’s now-fiancé Emily (Miranda Raison), which should surprise pretty much nobody once “Sugartown” offers a glimpse of all three characters and the broad, familiar strokes that place their personalities perfectly in line with their presentation. “Sugartown’s” roster of town residents runs the gamut of pedestrian and quirky. For better or worse, the show takes on the same quality, with extremely predictable story turns splitting shifts with a wacky dance number here and an unabashedly eccentric character or two there to give it some flavor. In the world of light entertainment, they rarely come lighter than this. That isn’t necessarily a bad thing for those seeking exactly that plus a few laughs, and “Sugartown” never does anything to completely grate on anybody’s nerve. But the tepid totality of its three one-hour episodes never much challenges or enthralls either, and the show’s eccentric and sincere halves never satisfactorily mesh into something that inspires any strong feelings about the town in the title.
Contents: Three episodes.

4/9/13: Planet Ocean, We Are Egypt, Woochi the Demon Slayer, Into the Cold, Hyde Park on the Hudson, Howdy Kids! A Saturday Afternoon Roundup, Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War, Cary Grant Film Collection

Planet Ocean (NR, 2012, Universal)
Hey, you tired yet of feeling completely powerless to save the oceans while yet another piece of media tells you how urgent it is that we correct our behavior and do so? Because “Planet Ocean” — which immediately dives, whole body first, into a declaration about the grave threat human industry and overpopulation pose to countless undersea species — is not. Following that opening salvo, “Ocean” pulls back and assumes position as the nature special one probably expects it to be, focusing particularly on the incredible social structure that allows so many diverse species to survive, thrive and even form alliances amongst one another. Between the stories and images, there is no shortage of means with which to inspire awe — and that remains the case once human beings crash the party a second time. Following a brief respite in which nature gets to be nature, “Ocean” weaves its opening statement and everything that followed into a single thread, with breathtaking images of the deep sea alongside comparably staggering images of gargantuan fishing operations and energy conglomerates that overwhelm the ocean’s inhabitants by the thousands and without discrimination. “Ocean’s” second assault offers no apologies to the weary, and where other films gingerly dabble in the matter of humanity’s threat to nature, this one just fires away — heart on sleeve, images of cargo containers stretching for miles in its holster, with magnificent visuals of whales dreaming and fish playing like children to inspire galvanization instead of ho-hum helplessness and a premature lunge for the stop button. So what to do? “Ocean” doesn’t exactly know, either, and its final-scene suggestions read like an admission that a film’s power stretches only so far. But if the best it can hope to do is provide the spark, it gives itself every chance to do so. For the weary and rested alike, the discomfort felt here is bound to stick long after memories of more mild-mannered specials have faded.
Extras: Three making-of features.

We Are Egypt (NR, 2012, Disinformation)
The 2011 Egyptian Revolution was an extraordinary revolt that captured imaginations worldwide, so it stands to reason that documentaries about that time would eventually follow. It also stands to reason that many who suddenly were consumed by the events of January 25 and thereafter didn’t know much of anything about Egypt’s situation on January 24. Fortunately, journalist and filmmaker Lillie Paquette was on hand and rolling camera a full 14 months before the dam broke. “We Are Egypt” documents an Egypt before the tide turned, with a populace feeling spurned not only by its own leadership, but also an American government and a charismatic president who made promises in 2009 but stalled in delivering on them in the months that followed. Government employee hands block Paquette’s camera, terrified underlings profess that they love Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak like a father, and in pockets off the main road, citizens who have had enough await the coming election while anticipating the moment when public discontent becomes too hostile to silence. As a primer, “Egypt” is handy, with Paquette explaining the situation’s whos, whats and whys while accompanying footage does its own talking. But as a prelude to a revolution, “Egypt” is extraordinary in its ability to lay bare the roots of that discontent in personal, intimate detail instead of simply discussing and alluding to it in retrospect. Somewhat ironically, Paquette leaves Egypt right as the final straw falls. But there’s a mountain of documentation about what happens after she leaves, and “Egypt” provides lasting value by sticking to the side of the story few others can convey on this level.
Extras: 11 additional short features and interviews.

Woochi the Demon Slayer (NR, 2009, Shout Factory)
Five centuries ago, a gifted but arrogant wizard named Jeon Woochi (Dong-won Kang) tripped over that arrogance and found himself accused of killing his master. Long story short — though not really, because “Woochi the Demon Slayer” devotes more than a third of its 136 minutes to it — he was accused, convicted and condemned, along with his dog, to live indefinitely inside a scroll. That leads us to now, where monsters from the past are descending on modern-day Seoul and the three Taoist wizards who sentenced him — now living peacefully and sort of goofily as retired regular guys — decide to bring Woochi back to stop them. The young wizard, having not really learned from his missteps, is just glad to be back until he runs into a girl who looks exactly like the girl he fell for 500 years ago but who has no idea who any of these people are. Woochi’s dog also turns into a person while frequently reminding anyone who will listen that he is a dog. There’s a lot of stuff swirling around the legend of Woochi, and if the film presented it with any self-seriousness at all, we’d likely have a mess on our hands. Fortunately, while “Woochi” takes its story seriously enough to pour all this detail into it, keeping it all straightened out is practically optional (encouraged, perhaps, but optional) in order to enjoy everything that happens. With respect to the legend, the real draw here are the lively characters, the sense of humor they inadvertently provide, and some wonderfully clever action that bounces between exciting, funny, fantastical, fish-out-of-water silly and — particularly during a wild and lengthy final sequence — all above the above at once. In Korean with English subtitles, but a slightly manic English dub is available as an option.
Extras: Deleted scenes, interviews, eight behind-the-scenes features.

Into the Cold (NR, 2011, Shelter Island)
It would take almost willful ignorance to be unaware in 2013 that there’s a high level of concern surrounding the rapid deterioration of the Arctic. But few of us have the means — to say nothing of the courage-slash-death wish — needed to see that deterioration up close. As Sebastian Copeland readily admits during the narration of his and Keith Heger’s attempt to do exactly that, there’s no effective way for their cameras to convey just how alarming things are at the North Pole, which, even with the rising temperatures, remains the arguable most dangerous place on Earth. Short of that, though, “Into the Cold” is a stunning document of a journey to a corner of the planet precious few of us will see any other way — a place that’s both magnificent and terrifying, and one that needs humanity’s help despite its ability to cripple and kill any human who ventures to do so up close. “Cold” doesn’t hide its message behind any curtains: Copeland is a self-described environmental advocate and isn’t making this journey for no reason. But “Cold” keeps its messaging reasonably in check, winding it up but mostly leaving it to intertwine inside the journey and the incredible images the pair capture of the Arctic. Given how thrilling that story and those images are, little else needs saying beyond what “Cold” says. No extras.

Hyde Park on the Hudson (R, 2012, Universal)
Without question, Abe Lincoln — both as Commander in Chief and as a vampire slayer — ran the dramatized-president-on-film table in 2012. But even Honest Abe’s parallel-universe vampire-hunting adventure has nothing on the bizarre energy emitting from “Hyde Park on the Hudson’s” portrayal of Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bill Murray). “Hudson” opens on the brink of World War II, with FDR trying to drum up overseas support by inviting King George VI (Samuel West) and Queen Elizabeth (Olivia Colman) to stay at his country house. That stay — which marks the first-ever American visit by a reigning British monarch — is of peripheral importance to “Hudson,” which takes a slightly stronger interest in the affair FDR allegedly had with his sixth cousin Daisy (Laura Linney). Her diaries, discovered after her death, form the basis of the film, and for better or worse, it certainly feels that way. As entertainment, “Hudson” is a movie with moments, particularly when Murray is given a wide berth to take on FDR at his most charismatic. Daisy, despite or perhaps due to authoring this story, only fleetingly gets the same favor, while George and Elizabeth are mostly reduced to a bickering couple under which little solid ground forms. Not much solid ground forms anywhere, really, with “Hudson” tethered to two storylines that are at once too timid and too distracted to embody the significance of two renowned world leaders breaking bread while modern history’s most significant war looms immediately ahead. It takes a pair of monumentally shaky feet to make a major motion picture that hypothesizes about a popular president’s alleged affair and garner nearly no attention for doing so, and “Hudson,” likable though it sometimes is, is as unsure as they come.
Extras: Director/producer commentary, deleted scenes, two behind-the-scenes features.

— “Howdy Kids! A Saturday Afternoon Roundup” (NR, Shout Factory): Provided the digital revolution doesn’t get here too quickly, Shout Factory could produce a monstrous gift set that truly recaptures the complete experience of watching Saturday afternoon westerns in the 1950s. If all you need is a taste, though, this 10-hour, 24-episode collection — which includes one or two episodes each from the likes of “The Lone Ranger,” “Red Ryder,” “Annie Oakley” and more — should suffice fine. No extras beyond the episodes.
— “Vietnam: The Ten Thousand Day War” (NR, 1981, Time Life): The 26-episode, 702-minute documentary series, a legitimate copy of which has been nearly impossible to find since its original DVD printing more than a decade ago, is easy to find once again. No extras.
— Cary Grant Film Collection (NR, Fox): It isn’t the first Cary Grant film collection, nor is it likely to be the last one. But for those keeping score, this one contains “Born To Be Bad,” “I Was a Male War Bride,” “People Will Talk,” “Monkey Business,” “An Affair to Remember” and “Kiss Them for Me.” No extras.