"World's Greatest Dad" (R, 2009, Magnolia): Spoilers are called spoilers for good reason, and this is a spoiler-free zone. Every now and then, though, something like "World's Greatest Dad" comes barreling along and thoroughly complicates the moralistic integrity of sending innocent viewers into a film unspoiled. So let's just put it this way: "Dad" starts off under modest pretenses as a drily, somewhat darkly funny comedy about poetry teacher Lance Clayton (Robin Williams), whose inability to publish a novel matches well with his respective failures to cultivate enthusiasm from his students and raise a teenage son (Daryl Sabara as Kyle) who isn't an abrasively poison-mouthed pervert. But then, something pretty major happens, and "Dad" migrates from darkly dry comedy to a pitch-black farce that will doubtlessly be too dark for some to rationalize as comedy at all. If you're prone to offense, there's a chance the events that transpire here will have you reaching for the stop button. You've been warned, if not spoiled.
Extras: Writer/director commentary, deleted scenes, two behind-the-scenes features, outtakes, music video.
"The Cove" (PG-13, 2009, Lions Gate): The insurmountable irony surrounding documentaries that advocate the well-being of endangered animals is the stigmatic burden they present to viewers who don't already support their intentions in the first place. But here's the thing about "The Cove," which lifts the veil on the horrific practice of trapping, capturing and killing dolphins in Taiji, Japan: It isn't designed to make you feel lousy about the fact that you just bought a box of fish sticks the day before. It can't really afford a high horse, anyway: The crew tasked with infiltrating Taiji is led by Richard O'Barry, who takes responsibility for popularizing dolphin captivity through his work as a dolphin trainer on the television show "Flipper." His crisis of confidence, and the resulting scramble to make it right and absolve his guilt, is the linchpin around which "The Cove" tells its story, and the crew's attempts to duck authorities without any protection whatsoever makes for engrossing drama regardless of message.
Extras: Director/producer commentary, "The Cove: Mercury Rising" documentary short, deleted scenes, two behind-the-scenes features.
"Julie & Julia" (PG-13, 2009, Sony Pictures): For those unfamiliar with the book of the same name, the "Julia" in "Julie & Julia" represents world-renowned chef and author Julia Child, who scratched and clawed her way to a book deal that eventually resulted in the atomically successful publication of "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Julie Powell, on the other hand, is a New York City government employee who has never finished a project she started until, one day in 2002, she decides to execute all 524 recipes from Child's book inside of a single year and blog about the experience. Both women's respective ventures and all they entail provide the basis for "Julia," which jumps between timelines and naturally uncovers numerous parallels between the two despite the difference of a few decades and the fact that neither has been in the same room as the other.
Extras: Writer/director commentary, behind-the-scenes feature.
- McClatchy-Tribune News Service