Documentaries about our planet and life thereon arrive on DVD and Blu-ray this week, and it’s no coincidence that Earth Day is right around the corner, on April 22.
“The Blue Planet: Seas of Life” (BBC/Blu-ray, 2001, not rated, three discs, $39.98, eight episodes, five bonus programs, featurettes). Awe-inspiring series of documentaries narrated by David Attenborough about Earth’s oceans and the various forms of marine-life flora and fauna supported therein.
Quite stunning in Blu-ray, these episodes were filmed in nearly 200 locations around the world over five years and chronicle aquatic life and behavior that is fascinating to see and in some cases never before captured on film.
“Planet Ocean” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2013, not rated, $26.98, featurettes). Equally stunning is this French documentary (with American narration by actor Josh Duhamel) that focuses on man’s encroachment on the ocean, urging that we learn to live in harmony with the sea and its varied forms of life. (Also on DVD, $19.98.)
“The Great Barrier Reef” (BBC, 2012, not rated, $24.98, three episodes). Australia’s Great Barrier Reef, described as “the largest living structure on our planet,” is the subject of these three hour-long programs. (Also on Blu-ray, $29.98)
“One Life” (BBC/Blu-ray, 2013, not rated, $24.97; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; audio commentary, featurettes). This nature documentary focuses on the life cycle, filmed over 3,000 days across every continent and habitat, and on the bonds between generations of a variety of earth’s creatures. Narrated by Daniel Craig.
“Into the Cold” (Shelter Island, 2011, not rated, $24.98, featurette). This beautifully photographed documentary follows two explorers as they trek on foot to the North Pole. It takes two months to cover 400 miles and each is dragging a 200-pound sled, hoping to raise awareness of global warming.
“We Are Egypt: The Story Behind the Revolution” (Disinformation, 2012, not rated, $24.98, in English and in Arabic with English subtitles, featurettes). This documentary was filmed during the 18 months leading up to the 2011 revolution in Egypt that ousted Hosni Mubarak, following key opposition figures and essentially chronicling the back story of the uprising before anyone knew what would happen.
“The Girl” (HBO, 2012, not rated, $17.95). This cable-TV movie purports to tell the “true” story of Alfred Hitchcock’s obsession with Tippi Hedren during the making of “The Birds” and “Marnie,” and it paints a pretty ugly picture of the master of suspense. So is it really true? Who knows? Toby Jones and Sienna Miller portray the key roles but can’t lift this from a level of grungy tabloid journalism. (Available at Warnerarchive.com.)
“Hyde Park on Hudson” (Universal/Blu-ray, 2012; R for sexuality; $34.98; Blu-ray, DVD, digital versions; deleted scenes, audio commentary, featurettes). But if Hitchcock looks bad in “The Girl,” how about the way this film depicts the sexual proclivities of Franklin D. Roosevelt? Bill Murray is quite good in the role, and when the film focuses on FDR hosting the King of England as World War II looms, it’s great. Unfortunately, that is a subplot, as the film concentrates on the alleged lurid relationship between FDR and his cousin (Laura Linney), and the entire film is told from her viewpoint. (Also on DVD, $29.98)
“Goodnight for Justice: Queen of Hearts” (eOne, 2013, not rated, $19.98, deleted scenes, featurette). This third in the series of Hallmark cable Westerns about circuit judge John Goodnight (Luke Perry) finds him rescuing a damsel in distress (Katharine Isabelle) who is on the run from a wealthy aristocrat (Ricky Schroder).
“The Sorcerer and the White Snake” (Magnolia/Blu-ray, 2011, PG-13, $29.98, in Mandarin with English subtitles, featurettes). This fantasy is based on the white snake legend that has been the source of several Asian films. In this one, Jet Li is a sorcerer who tries to rescue a man that has been bewitched by the snake in human-female form. (Also on DVD, $25.98, and DVD/Blu-ray combo, $34.98.)
“The Four” (Well Go, 2013, not rated, $24.98, in Mandarin with English subtitles, deleted scenes, featurette). Here’s another Hong Kong martial-arts period-fantasy extravaganza. This one with super-powered characters that owe more than a little to the Marvel Comics universe. The shaky-cam opening may put you off, but the film gets better and is packed with action. It’s also a bit overstuffed with plots and subplots, making the two-hour running time feel a bit long. Based on a series of Chinese wuxia novels, this is the first in a trilogy. (Also on Blu-ray, $29.98.)
“Sexy Evil Genius” (Lionsgate, 2013; R for language; $26.98, audio commentary, 15-minute documentary: “Jujitsu-ing Reality”). A group of strangers is lured to a Los Angeles bar by a former girlfriend (Katee Sackhoff) they have in common. Stars include Seth Green, William Baldwin, Michelle Trachtenberg and Harold Perrineau.