Iron Lady (PG-13, 105 minutes, The Weinstein Co./Anchor Bay): Meryl Streep disappears so uncannily into former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher that her performance overpowers the movie.
Filmgoers who come to see Streep in action will see only that: an actress delivering a bravura performance but not a thoughtful, provocative portrait of one of the most consequential figures of the 20th century.
Framed as a sequence of flashbacks Thatcher reflects on in late retirement, the result might be a more vulnerable, sympathetic portrait than the title suggests, but it also forces the filmmakers to leave far more vital aspects of her life and career on the cutting room floor.
We get a version of Thatcher's life that's one part Oprah and one part Wikipedia. As adamantly un-intellectual as The Iron Lady is, it's still undeniably entertaining. The Iron Lady leaves viewers with the sense that its subject has been both lionized and punished, but in neither case fully or fairly understood.
The Darkest Hour (PG-13, 89 minutes, Summit Entertainment): Sean (Emile Hirsch) and Ben (Max Minghella), Americans on a business trip to Russia, join with three others to fight aliens who are attacking the Earth through the power supply.
Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey (PG, 76 minutes, New Video Group): Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, the film follows puppeteer Kevin Clash from his earliest attempts at homemade puppetry -- including a monkey stitched from the lining of his father's winter coat -- through stints on Baltimore TV and Captain Kangaroo and on to his current position as Muppet Captain.
It's a job that entails traveling to, say, France, to train a crew of puppeteers working on the French version of the global conglomerate known as Sesame Street.
Clash's success is shown as the result of a combination of talent, gumption, pluck, misadventure, supportive parents, following your dreams, luck and, yes, love.
A Hollis Frampton Odyssey (24 films from 1966-1979, Criterion Collection): Icon of the American avant-garde, Hollis Frampton made brainy yet thrilling films, leaving behind a prestigious body of work.
A poet and photographer, Frampton in the 1960s became fascinated with the possibilities of filmmaking. In works such as Surface Tension, Zorns Lemma, (nostalgia), Critical Mass, and the enormous, unfinished Magellan cycle (cut short by his death at age 48), Frampton turns his captivating cinema into something by turns literary, mathematical, sculptural, and beautiful.
This collection of works marks the first home video release of its kind.