Wednesday, May 18, 2011

On DVD: "Vanishing on 7th Street"

Brad Anderson is a gifted filmmaker, equally adroit at comedy (Next Stop Wonderland), drama (The Machinist), and suspense (Session 9). God knows why he’s wasting his time with a piece of horror hack-work like Vanishing on 7th Street, a thriller as dull and generic as it is forgettable. Anderson mates the expected elements—darkness, solitude, unreliable lights, things hiding in the shadows, a soundtrack of half-heard whispers and screams—with a kind of secular Left Behind plotline, then plants the entire enterprise squarely on the shoulders of two leads who seem locked in a competition to see who can be less convincing.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

On DVD: "ESPN Films 30 for 30 Gift Set Collection, Volume 2"

When ESPN’s documentary series 30 for 30 premiered in fall of 2009, the premise was irresistible: stories from the 30 years since ESPN’s inception, told by esteemed documentarians like Al Maysles, Hollywood big-shots like Barry Levinson, and rising talents like Brett Morgan. Critics raved; audiences slowly discovered and converged around the documentary films. The first fifteen titles were collected in last winter’s invaluable 30 for 30 Gift Set Collection, Volume 1; the rest of the collection is now assembled in Volume 2. That the series is now available in its entirety is the good news; the bad news is that the back half is altogether more uneven than its predecessor.

Monday, May 16, 2011

On DVD: "The Rite"

The first big scare of The Rite is provided by a screeching cat, who jumps up as our hero peers through a window. That should serve as a barometer for the originality on display here. Yet another warmed-over rehash of The Exorcist, The Rite has the thrills and intelligence of a third-string direct-to-video thriller; it is distinguished only by the presence of Anthony Hopkins, in the kind of role Rutger Hauer would usually play. (Hauer instead appears in a minor supporting role.) Hopkins’s performance isn’t terribly good, but it’s fun to watch; he provides about the only diversion in this mediocre picture.