DVD Picks & Passes 10.25.2009

Munyurangabo (2007)

Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs (2009)

Saturday Morning Cartoons – 1960’s, Vol 2

Saturday Morning Cartoons – 1970’s, Vol 2

New from Film Movement, Munyurangabo is a revelation in many senses: a vision of an unknown Rwanda unlike that of previous films; a surprising first film from a talented Korean-American filmmaker, Lee Isaac Chung; a moment of illumination for its title character, Ngabo for short, a young Tutsi boy on a mission of vengeance.

Filmed over two weeks while Chung worked as a teacher at a Christian relief camp, the film uses nonprofessional actors to create an authentic vision of post-genocide Rwanda.

Where Hotel Rwanda and Beyond the Gates offered a picture of Rwanda seen through guilt-ridden Western eyes and even Sometimes in April told its story in English, Munyurangabo is the first film ever shot in the Rwandan language.

Language becomes absolutely critical in a key scene late in the film in which Ngabo unexpectedly encounters an older boy who notices the machete handle in Ngabo’s backpack and responds in a wholly unexpected way. This exhilarating scene, a long single take, transforms the movie from a story of alienation and tragedy into something that is grieving but hopeful, open to grace.

New on DVD, Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs is a disappointment: not only another unworthy sequel to the 2002 original, but the first film from Blue Sky Studios to indulge in the sort of crass suggestive humor more associated with DreamWorks animation.

Another new family offering this week might be worth a rental if you have fond memories of Saturday mornings: Saturday Morning Cartoons, 1960’s, Vol 2 and 1970’s, Vol 2. Like the first volumes released back in May, it’s a whirlwind tour of old Hanna-Barbera standbys — Magilla Gorilla, Tom & Jerry, The Banana Splits — augmented this time out by various iterations of “Bugs Bunny/Road Runner” and “Batman and Robin,” among others.

A lot of this stuff isn’t great — did anyone ever really like “Grape Ape”? — but there’s nostalgic appeal to the best of it, and occasionally even some educational interest (“Valley of the Dinosaurs” works in siphoning and leverage). I still want “Clue Club” and more “Tarzan”!

Content advisory: Munyurangabo: Some strong language, domestic violence and other mature content. Mature viewing. Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs: Recurring crude and/or suggestive humor; cartoon slapstick and action violence; a scene involving an intoxicating helium/nitrous oxide type gas; a few rude words. Saturday Morning Cartoons: Slapstick violence and various other issues. Mostly okay family viewing.