By Jim Schutze
By Rachel Watts
By Lauren Drewes Daniels
By Anna Merlan
By Lee Escobedo
By Eric Nicholson
Catch a Fire (Focus)
In his commentary for the underrated, undervalued Catch a Fire, director Phillip Noyce discusses the inspiration: witnessing the terror attacks on the World Trade Center in 2001. He wanted to comprehend "the terrorist's mind," so he found a story that accomplishes such a difficult thing: the true-life tale of Patrick Chamusso (Derek Luke, wonderfully sympathetic), a hardworking South African accused by the secret police of bombing a power plant. Chamusso's brutalized by thugs in the employ of Colonel Nic Voss (Tim Robbins, way scary); they pound on him till the victim feels no choice but to become victimizer. The movie (accompanied here by three useless deleted scenes) works as more than modern-day metaphor, though; it's a rare South African story not told through the white man's perspective, which makes it valuable enough. --Robert Wilonsky
The Gathering (Genius)
A brief history of Christina Ricci: creepy and funny (The Addams Family), creepily sexy (The Opposite of Sex), funny and crazy (Pecker), crazy and sexy (Prozac Nation), crazy and creepy (Monster), and crazy, creepy, and sexy (the forthcoming Black Snake Moan). Here is a girl with some specialties, none of which get used in this waste of film. It starts with a classic horror-movie trope (two teens sneak away from a party in the woods . . .), followed by a car slamming into Ricci, followed by . . . well, not much. There's something about witnesses to Jesus' crucifixion, and hey, that little kid Ricci's caring for sure has something strange going on. But yeah, The Gathering has been shelved for six years and only escaped now to hype Black Snake Moan. How good did you think it would be? --Jordan Harper
The Silence of the Lambs: Collector's Edition (MGM)
Hannibal Rising is very likely to be very bad, following as it does the very bad Hannibal and lacking Anthony Hopkins. But this special edition of the original Lecter flick -- surfacing now as a blatant tie-in to the new movie -- is certainly worthy of one of the all-time best thrillers. It piles doc on top of doc, covering everything from the writing of the original novel to the collaboration of director Jonathan Demme and Jodie Foster. There's also 22 deleted scenes, outtakes, photo galleries -- the second disc is so crowded that it's hard not to notice how bare the first one is, lacking even a single commentary track. Maybe they're saving them for the next Hannibal movie, which makes them more optimistic than me. --J.H.
Farce of the Penguins (ThinkFilm)
This oughta be a slam-dunk. Penguins? Funny-looking, if culturally oversaturated. Bob Saget? Funny and dirty, as proved by his turn in The Aristocrats. Animals having sex? Hi-larious, each and every time. So it's too bad this March of the Penguins spoof feels a little lacking. Oh, it's got some big laughs -- how could it not, with characters voiced by Lewis Black, Gilbert Gottfried, Jason Alexander, and Samuel L. Jackson? Problem is, writer-director Saget -- who also plays a penguin searching for true love -- spends too much time developing the straight-man plot to hang the jokes on. (Okay, maybe "straight" is the wrong word, given that a major twist involves Black's character having anal sex with Saget's beloved.) But the linear plot should have been scrapped to make room for more weirdness and stock footage of animals humping. Oh, that animal humping! --J.H.