If you saw Quarantine and thought, 'Hey, that wasn't so bad,' have I got a movie for you! The best moments of the Hollywood remake were all done first (and better) in the Spanish original, which is more intense, more grueling, and more graphic. (Scott Weinberg and William Goss agree with me.) A light-hearted news reporter accompanies firefighters on a routine call that quickly turns deadly when they're trapped in an apartment building with something far more terrifying than burning furniture. Buy it.
The Haunting in Connecticut
If you like your horror much less intense, this haunted house tale is more spooky than scary. Supposedly "based on true events," Virginia Madsen stars as the mother of a very sick teenage boy who comes to regret her decision to rent a place with an unsavory past. It offers no big surprises (as William Goss scoffed), but I thought it trod familiar territory with a fresh eye. Available as a Single-Disc Edition, Unrated Special Edition, and on Blu-ray. Rent it.
Dennis Quaid stars as a cop on the trail of a serial killer somehow inspired by the Biblical 'Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse.' With Zhang Ziyi and Lou Taylor Pucci. Horsemen received only a token theatrical release from Lionsgate, which isn't a good sign, but possibly in its favor: the cast, the very Seven-ish premise, and the lack of much else new. Rent it.
Also out: Mad Men: Season 2, The State: The Complete Series, Grey Gardens, Van Wilder: Freshman Year - Unrated, The Bracelet of Bordeaux.
After the jump: Keira Knightley, Blu skycraper on fire.
The Edge of Love
Keira Knightley stars with Sienna Miller in a romantic tale about the famed Welsh poet Dylan Thomas (Matthew Rhys). "The story here, plucked from Thomas' life and embellished, proves almost entirely devoid of interest," according to Manohla Dargis of the New York Times, reflecting the general critical consensus. With Cillian Murphy. Directed by John Maybury. Also on Blu-ray.
"A revamp of 12 Angry Men that takes place in post-communist Moscow," wrote Michelle Orange in the Village Voice. Director Nikita Miklahkov "keeps 12 tops spinning at all times in the school gymnasium that serves as their deliberation room, and though the speech/conversion pattern grows a little pat, the movement toward consensus raises the further, richly complicated question of how to decide not only what is right, but what is best." Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign-Language Film.
"An Altman-esque indie drama that has something to say about poverty, health care, and the importance of basic human kindness," Scott Weinberg observed in his review for Cinematical. "This is a film that wants to speak out (loudly and clearly) about some of our nation's most obvious maladies, and it does so in an impressively honest, angry, and semi-hopeful fashion." With Rosario Dawson, Paul Dano, Naomie Harris, and Lou Taylor Pucci. Directed by Mark Webber. Also on Blu-ray.
The Towering Inferno
Warning, warning, kitsch factor is high! Actually, that's unfair, because The Towering Inferno is anything but kitschy. (It was nominated for Best Picture and ultimately won three Academy Awards.) I was thrilled when I saw it during its original theatrical release, but that's also when I thought natural disasters were "cool." Paul Newman and Steve McQueen star as a guilty architect and a resolute fire chief, respectively, who must deal with a San Francisco skyscraper on fire. As much as the film is a soap opera, the very real challenges of fighting a high-rise blaze lend dramatic heft to the sometimes overwrought proceedings.
Produced by Irwin Allen and based on not one but two novels, this all-star spectacle also features William Holden, Faye Dunaway, Richard Chamberlain, Robert Wagner, Fred Astaire, Susan Blakely, Jennifer Jones, and O.J. Simpson. Directed by John Guillermin. The Blu-ray includes an audio commentary by film historian and critic F.X. Feeney, 32 extended and deleted scenes, alternate opening sequence, featurettes, a 1977 interview with Allen, storyboard comparisons, galleries, and trailers.
For All Mankind
Forty years ago, man first walked on the moon, and the Criterion Collection celebrates with a new edition of Al Reinert's stunning 1989 documentary. "Director Reinert was allowed to pull from NASA's entire vault of original space footage, making precise 35mm blow-ups of 16mm film shot both in the Apollo Command Module and on the surface of the moon," says Glenn Erickson at Film.com. "Instead of jamming twelve missions into a chronological account of the Apollo program, Reinert depicts a single composite moon voyage, drawing from the best film from all of the missions."
Both the Blu-ray and standard-def DVD include an audio commentary by Reinert and astronaut Eugene Cernan, a new "making of" doc, interviews with astronauts, NASA audio highlights and liftoff footage, and a booklet featuring essays by Reinert and film critic Terrence Rafferty.
Also out: I Still Know What You Did Last Summer.