Film and TV

Today's DVDs: Vanishing on 7th Street, The Other Woman, and Diabolique

Horror seems to be the theme for today's DVDs as Art Attack looks at two horror films - the entertaining Vanishing on 7th Street and the sublime French classic Diabolique - and one horrible film, The Other Woman.

Vanishing on 7th Street stars John Leguizamo, Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton and Jacob Latimore and was directed by Brad Anderson .

The set-up: Vanishing on 7th Street, by director Brad Anderson, has a simple plotline. A blackout hits Detroit one night and the darkness starts swallowing people, and by dawn there are just four people left - John Leguizamo, Hayden Christensen, Thandie Newton and Jacob Latimore. Everyone else has been swallowed by the darkness. Huddled in a bar with a cranky generator, the group knows as soon as the lights go out, the shadows will come for them.

Here's what our critic Chuck Wilson said about the film: Early on, director Brad Anderson (Next Stop Wonderland, The Machinist) and first-time screenwriter Anthony Jaswinski signal their storytelling influences by having [a] character steps on a pair of wire-rimmed reading glasses, an homage, surely, to the final shot of "Time Enough At Last," the unforgettable Twilight Zone episode in which Burgess Meredith portrayed a bookish bank clerk who becomes the last man on Earth.

Here's our take: Come on, John Leguizamo as one of the last people on Earth?

What perfect casting. Nobody does scared and hopeless better than Leguizamo. He jumps every time he hears himself breathe. It's worth the price of the DVD just to see him go further and further into "We ain't gonna make it, man, we ain't gonna make it!" mode.

Yes, there's that whole Twilight Zone thing and even a nod to Roanoke, but the story is more about how fear and panic take hold of a small group of people than it is about trying to deal with the end of the world.

DVD/Blu-ray extras: Alternate endings, commentary by the director, interview with the director and actors, a Making of Vanishing on 7th Street documentary and a photo gallery. Vanishing on 7th Street is available from Netflix today.

The Other Woman stars Natalie Portman, Scott Cohen and Lisa Kudrow and was directed by Don Roos.

The set-up: In The Other Woman, a lawyer, Jack (Scott Cohen), divorces his wife Carolyn (Lisa Kudrow) and marries his mistress Emilia (Natalie Portman). As the new wife, Emilia quickly gets pregnant, but the baby dies, leaving her grief-stricken and faced with an absent husband, a terror of a step-son (8-year-old Charlie Tahan) and a very, very angry Carolyn.

Here's what our critic Melissa Anderson had to say about the movie: Though lazily mocking hyper-vigilant parenting, the film treats the moldiest clichés--"We all end up marrying our fathers anyway"; "It's the people who love you you're the hardest on"--as gospel. Portman, neither courageous nor complex enough to fully embody an often unlikable character, succeeds merely in enervating us.

Here's our take: Yawn. Yes, losing a baby is one of the most difficult experiences a couple can go through, but the fact that we don't really care about the couple in question makes it hard to care about their loss. Kudrow is perfect as the shrieking, vile ex, but watching Portman mope around being sad and lonely isn't very interesting.

DVD/Blu-ray extras: Who cares? If you must know, yes, The Other Woman is available on Netflix today.

Diabolique stars Vera Clouzot, Simone Signoret and Paul Meurisse and was directed by Herni-Georges Clouzot.

The set-up: Vera Clouzot and Simone Signoret star in the 1955 thriller Diabolique by director Henri-Georges Clouzot. It's the story of a woman (Clouzot) married to an abusive man (Paul Meurisse). She finds an unlikely ally in her husband's disgruntled mistress (Signoret), and the two plot to kill him. They drug and then drown him, disposing of the body where it's sure to be found. That's when things get complicated - the body disappears. The two women get desperate when they start finding evidence that he's still alive.

Here's our take: Diabolique is a delicious mystery, full of plot twists and surprises.

Clouzot, who is said to have snatched the rights to the story away from Alfred Hitchcock, keeps things tense and pulls stellar performances from his three leads. There aren't any monsters (unless you call two women who plot to kill the man they supposedly love monsters) in Diabolique, but this is truly one of the best horror films ever made.

DVD/Blu-ray extras: The French language film has been digitally restored and reissued on DVD and Blu-ray by the Criterion Collection with several extras such as commentary by French film expert Kelly Conway, a new introduction by a collegue of Clouzot, a video interview with film critic Kim Newman and the original theatrical trailer. There are English subtitles for those of us that don't parles-tu francais. Diabolique is available on Netflix now.

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Olivia Flores Alvarez